I came across this scene the other day. I won’t divulge my reaction to it! Outdoors men and women often search for vistas. Landscape photographers often do the same. But few, except perhaps the occasional nature blogger, seek out anything like this.
This jumbled mess of a trash pile was just feet from an Elizabeth River tributary. And that’ll be its destination following a rainstorm, a higher than usual tide, or some other event. Heck–all this trash could eventually reach the Bay or the ocean. And some, or some parts, may reach the digestive systems of unsuspecting animals–or humans. Remember the Thomas Lovejoy quote from blog #2? I’ll rephrase it. If you make the world safe for birds and other animals (by among other things, sensibly disposing of waste), you make it safe for humans as well.
Always, when I see stuff like this, I ask a question. I don’t (usually) ask it in a critical, judgemental way, but more in the way a child, in a state of curious wonderment, would ask a parent: ‘Why do people do things like that?’ Why do they?? Animals belong here. People belong here. Most everything belongs here. But trash does not. Why is that? Because trash is an eyesore. Trash pollutes. Trash destroys habitat. And trash kills.
Keep in mind those last 4 points. Now look at my closer up, well-photoshopped version of the same scene. You can see the river through the legs of the chair. These are the creatures that belong here–except one. You’ll see a few of our old friends about, like the ‘determined’ Eastern Kingbird, and ‘Mr. Bluejay, full o’ sass.’
As you look at the picture, think about what these animals have to contend with, and the hurdles they face when we pollute the environment. This, like the image of the heron on the tire, is a visual reminder of that. Truth be told, this picture is a picture of ‘the world in miniature’. The world we live in is just like this. It is trash filled. And we wonder why so many animals are in trouble. And we wonder why so many people are in trouble.
If I were still teaching young children, I might present this picture to them and ask them to find all the animals, to give me an accurate count, to list the insects, birds, amphibians, reptiles, mammals, to find the tree frog or the otter, or to find the animal that doesn’t belong. I also might ask them to tell me what else doesn’t belong (like the empty Gatorade bottles, the foam boot liner, or the worn-out lawn chair). I might ask you, dear reader, these same questions.
Cats, #1 Threat to Wild Birds
Now I’d like to zero in on one of the above questions. It’s a very important one. What animal in the picture doesn’t belong? You’re right. The domestic cat. An invasive species more deadly than all the rest. This cat is fully capable of wiping out almost every animal in the picture. I’m especially concerned, as are many others, including many organizations, about the domestic cat/bird combination.
Did you know that domestic outdoor cats are the #1 threat to wild birds, and that they kill an estimated 2.4 billion birds annually in the U.S. alone (per the American Bird Conservancy)? That’s a truly staggering number. There are, of course, many other threats to birds, but outdoor cats top them all. So please, with this in mind–and with the Lovejoy quote from blog #2 in mind–reconsider letting your cat outdoors. Statistically, your cat will remain healthier, stay happier, and live longer if it stays where it belongs: indoors.
The Story, Continued
Let’s move on from domestic cats and images of trash-filled landscapes to images of ‘the flying, chirping, thriving river’ (those words from the Elizabeth River Project Twentieth Anniversary Watershed Action Plan). Let’s end on a positive note–with images that continue to tell the story. The bird photos were taken from the Preserve on the Elizabeth and from the end of Inland Rd. The riverscape was taken from Great Bridge Lock Park in Chesapeake. Here are photos of a Laughing Gull (aptly named for its laugh-like call), a male Mallard duck, Great Blue Herons (one was ‘chirping,’ as you can see) and a Green Heron. The riverscape follows.
Now who can find the chirping bird? Which birds are wading birds? Which bird is a member of the ‘Gulls and Terns’ family? What types of clouds do you see in the photo? Don’t mind me.
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