[Tweeters] Silence of The Birds
dennispaulson at comcast.net
Sun Jul 19 12:36:52 PDT 2015
Jeff, you have nailed it. I see the same thing. We actually live in a rather nice neighborhood in Seattle, with lots of trees and a big ravine behind us. Seems to be plenty of habitat for birds. And we do have quite a few. But I am gobsmacked by the bird chorus when I go out in the countryside into areas that don’t have any more trees/habitat than we do. Even in neighborhoods full of houses, with lots of human effects around, there are so many more birds. The cities just don’t hack it birdwise, and it’s in part habitat, but I think it’s also distance.
Cities are bird sinks. Birds can breed here, but there are a lot of predators and definitely reduced prey, especially insects. Getting hit from both ends of the food chain takes its toll. I think there is a real effect of the distance between where I live, and I presume where you live, and the abundant birds sources of the countryside, which of course is the bird source. A migrant bird coming in over western Washington sees good habitat and lands there and sets up a territory. Eventually the territories fill up, and members of the same species go out to the perimeter, invading the edges of the city. They don’t do too badly, but if you look closely, a lot of them are young birds, easily detectable in species such as Black-headed Grosbeaks or Brown-headed Cowbirds that have a first-year male plumage. Some of them probably don’t even get a mate, as the females seem to be more discerning about what they consider adequate.
As the suburbs move farther out and mow down more and more of that perimeter, the bird populations just keep thinning out away from the sources. It’s especially pronounced with migrants, and those are just the birds that have disappeared from around our house in the 24 years we have lived here, even though there have been no particular changes in the amount of habitat in the neighborhood. Violet-green and Barn Swallows—gone. Vaux’s Swifts—gone. Olive-sided Flycatchers—gone. Black-headed Grosbeaks—persisted for years but now gone. Brown-headed Cowbirds—virtually gone (actually saw a pair this year for the first time in several years). No migrants now breed in our neighborhood!
The problems don’t seem to affect the resident birds as much, as Song Sparrows, Spotted Towhees, American Robins, Steller’s Jays and Bushtits are still here. But I’m still thinking the city may be a sink, as a good number of the birds in my neighborhood have their nests destroyed by crows and presumably other predators.
The problems presumably affect the hole nesters even less, as their predators are fewer. Both species of chickadees, Red-breasted Nuthatches, and all the local woodpeckers seem to be thriving here.
Any way we can stop that unending influx of new (human) residents in this part of the world? Probably not, so we’ll get to watch this natural experiment go on and on.
Just thinkin’ in Seattle
On Jul 19, 2015, at 12:00 PM, tweeters-request at mailman1.u.washington.edu wrote:
> Date: Sat, 18 Jul 2015 13:03:10 -0700
> From: Jeff Gibson <gibsondesign at msn.com>
> Subject: [Tweeters] Silence of The Birds
> To: tweeters <tweeters at u.washington.edu>
> Message-ID: <BLU185-W318BA0E00C9F0997C78346C9870 at phx.gbl>
> Content-Type: text/plain; charset="iso-8859-1"
> In past posts I have lamented about the diminishing bird chorus here in Everett over the years. I can't prove that scientifically : however my current reality is quite quiet bird- wise today.
> In a totally non- scientific study I've recently accomplished, I find a real dearth of morning bird chorus in my North Everett neighborhood. (soon to be ex neighborhood). It's all part of my Theory of Relativity. Hey, I'm no Einstein , I just like comparing things, places . Sometimes it's real educational.
> You see, I've been spending most of the last 18 months in Port Townsend in my de facto elder care "job", after living in Everett for 28 years. Even moving into the Summer bird doldrums, each morning in PT I am still being regaled by bird song although the chorus is gradually dimming down. This is proof (to me at least) that I can still hear. Waking up here in Everett this morning, I repeatedly stuck my head out the back door from 4:30 until 7 am, and didn't hear a single bird. It was sort of eerie. The silence was deafening. It's not the first time for around here. Sort of sad.
> So that's a Tale of Two Cities (if you call Port Townsend a City. Some do). So what's the big difference? Well, as one of our infamous politicians once quipped, "it's the Habitat stupid!". Oh, wait, maybe he said "it's the Economy stupid!". Yes, that's it. However, what the truly ignorant don't seem to realize, is that the Habitat is the Economy: the real source of everything needed for living all comes from nature. Even dumb ol' birds and bugs know that.
> Yes, it's true, Port Townsend, and other rural, or even "Subirdian" urban areas, have the habitat needed for birds and other animals and native plants. If ol' Jeff Gibson was president of North Everett, I would immediately create a modern version of the CCC (Civilian Conservation Corps) and put people to work eliminating lawns (with their attendant chemicals and water wasting) and replace them with hedgerows of native plants (like bird-rich Port Townsend has). In 5 or ten years, there would be a lot more birdsong around here.
> Oh sure, I know that comes off as some sort of socialist nightmare for many. You have your Lawn Rights Activist's, Real (really?) Estate dollar freaks, lawn and garden chemical company lobbies, etc., whose lives would be thrown into turmoil by my proposals. After all, I am a person that believes creating and maintaining a perfect lawn is a form of mental illness, particularly if the the lawn is not used for anything other than "appearance". In North Everett I'm definitely an odd man out.
> Whatever. I know the birds would agree with my schemes. Tomorrow I'll be back in Port Townsend where I can hear a Towhee again. Just sayin'.
> Jeff Gibson inquiet North Everett Wa
1724 NE 98 St.
Seattle, WA 98115
dennispaulson at comcast.net
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