That’s one way Peter Ross, a contributor to the Scotsman, describes the country in a recent piece pegged to the start of 2013, which the government is calling the Year of Natural Scotland. “One can’t help but be wary of such things,” he writes. “[I]t is never comfortable on the receiving end of a sales pitch.” But, boy, does he sell the place in this essay, where he notes that only 2 percent of Scotland is urban and “30 percent is what we might call wild.” The wild side of the country has not always been appreciated for its beauty. Like so much wilderness, it has been an acquired taste, particularly up through the middle of the 1700s, when sensitive types began to value the sublime that lay beyond safety of home. Among them was J. M. W. Turner, “whose boiling, roiling Staffa oil describes the rough magic of Scottish landscape better, perhaps, than anyone before or since.” Scotland, Ross writes, never bares all; its wonder lies in “something glimpsed.” His meditation leads him to wonder, why does the landscape make us feel the way it does? It could be the landscape, or it could be us.
Drop some food on the ground in New York or Boston and you’ll soon have pigeons fighting for the scraps. It seems pigeons are everywhere in America’s urban parks. But have you ever wondered why you don’t see many dead pigeons lying around? John Metcalfe has an odd but fascinating piece on The Atlantic Cities that strives to answer this question. The article provides a mini-lesson on urban ecology and the many different animals that eat pigeon.
When cars’ and frogs’ paths collide, there’s a clear loser.
By Lisa Speckhardt
During heavy rains between August and November, drivers on Highway 4 in Pacific Rim National Park on Vancouver Island, British Columbia, might spot a handful of people carrying buckets from the east side of the highway to the west. The buckets aren’t filled with water—they’re full of frogs, and their toters are trying to rescue them from certain death under the tires of the cars and SUVs traveling that stretch of Highway 4 between Ucluelet and Tofino. In that same area, the flattened remains of frogs that had tried to cross on their own make the stakes clear.
“We started talking about counting splats,” says the biologist Barb Beasley, leader of the SPLAT Project, an initiative of the Association of Wetland Stewards for Clayoquot and Barkley Sounds and the ringleader of those people carrying buckets in the rain. About a dozen years ago she began surveying where roadkill was happening, and most of it was near a wetland that was half a kilometer off the highway.
The decline of amphibian populations since the 1980s has alarmed scientists—habitat loss is cited as one factor. And even where habitat is preserved, roads may cut through the animals’ territory, leading to the kind of mass roadkill that caught Beasley’s attention on Highway 4. (more…)
New York’s Department of Environmental Conservation is working to contain a pack of feral pigs before they reach Adirondack State Park, the largest area of wilderness in the Northeastern United States. The New York Times reports that the feral pigs are a problem in 35 states, though it seems their presence in the small town of Peru, New York, near Plattsburgh, is a recent phenomenon. “Perhaps most worrisome is their reputation as eating machines,” notes the Times. ”The pigs devour ground-nesting birds and reptiles, fawns and domestic livestock, native vegetation and crops.” The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources has a useful fact sheet about feral pigs and the threats they pose.
Does the variety of species of birds in your backyard affect your house’s value? According to a report by researchers at Texas Tech University, it does, particularly if you have less common birds perching on your fence. The difference between the value of a house with one less common bird species (the researchers mentioned blue jays and kingbirds for the area of Lubbock, Texas, they were studying) and a house with two was $32,028. At least one attraction for birds is a varied ecosystem with different kinds of trees and shrubs.