Matthew’s Musings: May-June, 2014
By Matthew Schaut, MRVAC President
There was love in the room when Laura Erickson spoke about her Big Year 2013 at MRVAC’s March Minnesota River Valley Refuge Headquarters meeting: Love for the birds, and love for Laura, the first woman recipient of the American Birding Association’s Roger Tory Peterson lifetime achievement award. Laura shared many delightful photographs of the birds she saw, shared her personal dos and don’ts about doing a Big Year, and reminded her rapt audience that the best thing about birding isn’t racking up numbers, but spending an afternoon being with a bird. From what Laura shared, the highlight of her trip might have been the several hours she spent with a single black-capped vireo in Kansas. Many in the audience, myself included, remember time spent with Laura on bird walks, listening to her radio show on birds, or reading her columns, with the same kind of joy she described while she listened to her vireo singing.
Laura shared her struggles with the idea of a Big Year, the greenhouse gases she had to choose to use in order to do her big year. She put many miles on her car, took a couple of pelagic trips, and flew many more (although about 100,000 miles less than the person with the most Big Year birds in 2013). It is a struggle I’ve had with myself. I very rarely drive to see a bird anymore, despite the desire, precisely because of the fossil fuel cost. It is both a loss and a gain.
As I write on April 1, surrounded by the songs of robins and dark-eyed juncos, migration is happening. It never ceases to amaze, but birds are coming back. The first (reported) yellow-rumped warbler to return to the state a couple of days ago. The birds will keep doing their thing.
That’s never really in question. The migrants will always try to do their thing. It’s really a matter of if they are able to do it when each year human beings increase the obstacles they must face. The deck is always stacked a little more against them. Added to challenges of last year and the years before that, this year we can add the Galveston oil spill, tens of thousands of acres taken out of conservation easement programs, prairie potholes pumped dry due to farming and fracking operations, and so on. It doesn’t take any effort to come up with a long list of the latest obstacles.
Because we human beings continue to remain unbelievably short-sighted creatures, behaving as if we are not embodied creatures existing within (not transcendent of) an interconnected web of life, we know that next year will be even more challenging. If our activism doesn’t stop or mitigate these potential insults, we might have further habitat degradation in Lebanon Hills, destruction of the forested areas of Veterans Park in Richfield, Polymet mines, pipelines, frack sand mines, more oil spills into the Great Lakes, etc. We do know there will be further progression of the impacts of climate change, pesticide poisoning, human overutilization of the earth’s natural resources, and habitat loss and degradation.
Always a few more challenges in a progressively more impoverished landscape. Actually, I feel this applies not just to the birds but to us as well. Contemplating the prospect of the continued degradation of the natural world by a voracious humankind, I definitely feel my own life is diminished. I put some hope in what we who love birds and the environment can do as activists. And it doesn’t hurt to emulate Laura Erickson either. Her kindness and willingness and ability to share her love of birds, speaks to the only kind of power which might right our relationship with the rest of creation.
2014 Birdathon May 1-14!
Elect board members for 2014-2015
Please join us at the Thursday May 22 meeting to vote on the slate of 9 candidates for the board of directors:
- President: Greg Burnes
- Past President: Matthew Schaut
- Vice President: Steve Weston
- Treasurer: Bob Williams
- Secretary: to be determined
- Members at Large: Becky Lystig, Ken Oulman, Patti Larson, Rick Magee, Dianne Rowse
Potluck Supper & Birding Thursday, June 12 at Hyland Park
The MRVAC potluck picnic will be held the second Thursday of June – June 12th at Richardson Nature Center (8737 East Bush Lake Road, Bloomington) in the Aspen and Bluestem rooms (we’ll have room for 50 people).
Everyone is enthusiastically invited to join in: eat, hike, bird and visit with other MRVAC members and friends. The room is rented from 5pm-8pm, so you may arrive with potluck items any time after 5pm and we’ll plan to eat at 6pm. Birding can be done either before or after supper, whatever works best with your schedule
Please bring a salad, fruit, main dish or dessert to share. Lemonade will be provided. Also, to help make this a minimal-waste event, please bring your own plates, cups and cutlery. Be sure to bring your binoculars for birding before or after the potluck.
Please do not accidentally go to Wood Lake, site of last year’s potluck. This year we’re meeting at Hyland Park – Richardson Nature Center in Bloomington.
Help Protect Habitat at the Refuge
Our spring invasive species pulls have been scheduled at the Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge. We will be pulling garlic mustard, burdock, dame’s rocket, and winter cress. We need as many hands as possible and hope you can join us for any, or many, of these events. Just an hour and a half of your time can improve the habitat for migrant and resident birds.
- Friday, April 25 9:30-11:00 am: Old Cedar, 9500 Old Cedar Ave Bloomington
- Friday, May 2, 9:30-11:00 am: Bass Ponds, 2501 86th St. E Bloomington
- Saturday, May 10, 9:30-11:00 am: Visitor Center, 3815 American Blvd. E, Bloomington
- Saturday, May 17, 9:30-11:00 am: Bass Ponds, 2501 86th St. E, Bloomington
- Saturday, May 24, 9:30-11:00 am: Old Cedar, 9500 Old Cedar Ave Bloomington
If you are available for any of the dates, or if you have questions about this effort, please contact Kristin at email@example.com or 952.858.0715.
Join the Environmental Action Committee
Help MRVAC make a difference for birds and wildlife – and the special places we like to visit. Learn more.
MRVAC in the community
Our chapter has been a proud sponsor of the Audubon Adventures (AA) program for many years. This program provides materials to elementary school classrooms in the area. Read more about the 2013/2014 school year.
Treats needed for upcoming meetings
We always need treats! If you can bring a few dozen cookies, bars or some easy-to-eat snack to share at the September or October meeting, please call Jan at 952-858-8604.
Fire codes affect seating in Refuge Visitor Center auditorium
At upcoming MRVAC meetings (the 4th Thursday of the month, during the school year) you may be asked to fill up empty seats or move in towards the center to allow others to sit down in the auditorium. We cannot bring in extra chairs and sit in the back when the room starts to get crowded, due to fire regulations.
Please help us comply with the rules and allow us to continue meeting at the Visitor Center by switching seats if necessary and by not carrying chairs into the auditorium. Thanks.