Back in July I heard though the grapevine that a friend of mine from the Georgia Sea Turtle Center was attempting to rehabilitate a injured bird that washed up on shore that day.  She sent a moderately pixelated picture taken with her cell phone of a gray and white bird with a bill that superficially resembled a gull, and asked what species I thought it was.  On closer inspection, I noticed a slight protrusion at the base of the bill that narrowed it down to a group of birds known as the "tubenoses," and the length of the bill led me to believe it was a type of shearwater.  After consulting my handy-dandy field guide, I came to the conclusion it was most likely a Great Shearwater.

The tubenose group includes not only shearwaters, but also albatrosses and petrels.  All three of these groups are in the order Procellariiformes, which is derived from the Latin word procella, meaning "a strong wind or storm." This is most likely a reference to seeing these birds frequently in storms on the open ocean.  The nerdy name for the tubes are naricorns, and their primary function is a matter of debate.

Some believe the tubes primary function is to help these wandering sea-farers detect their fishy prey, and it is believed that tubenoses scan the sea breezes by zig-zagging upwind toward the source of an odor.  Their extraordinary sense of smell may also help tubenoses find other individuals, breeding areas, and nest sites.  Whereas most birds do not have well-developed olfactory senses because a large schnoz tends to be detrimental to a bird's aerodynamic properties, the tubenoses are one notable exception.

Tubenoses also have large salt gland housed above their bills.  These glands remove salt from the blood of the tubenoses, and excretes them out of the naricorns, enabling tubenoses drink saltwater right out of the ocean without succumbing to dehydration.   The length of the tubes may have evolved as a way to direct this salty liquid away from the bird's eyes.

The function of the tubes is most likely a combination of things, but whatever the case, the ability of the birds to spend almost their entire lives on the open ocean is remarkable.  In fact, the wing shape and proportions allows most tubenoses to simply glide on the updrafts created by waves without having to flap their wings at all.  But what about sleeping?  Many tubenoses can lock their wings in place and snooze in mid-flight.  The only time these birds touch land is during the nesting season where they seek out remote islands and gather in large numbers to build their nests and raise their 1 egg per clutch.

Unfortunately, this bird passed while I was on my way over to see it.  But as far as the population is concerned, Great Shearwater numbers are high, and are listed as a species of least concern according to the IUCN.  However, this does not mean that this species is not experiencing its own set of problems.  Every year, Tristan islanders arrive on Nightingale Island to harvest this species in the thousands, and there has been no study on the sustainability of this practice. Also, feral cats on the Faulkland Islands may pose a threat to this species as well.

Although this individual died, it did inspire me to learn some more about this unique group of birds, and for that, I am thankful.


Order Aves?

So there we were, in the city of Jacksonville on an overcast day.  Our mission was to explore the MOSH, or the Museum of Science and History, and then attend a Jacksonville Suns minor league baseball game -  all the ingredients to having a good day.

The MOSH had several great exhibits including a native plants garden, which contained a pond with the largest alligator snapping turtle, named Tonca, I have ever seen.  But, by far, the most interesting exhibit was their reptile and amphibian exhibit.

I knew something was different when I first walked in, and in the midst of your standard snakes, lizards, and turtles, there was a Blue Jay in a cage.  My first thought was that this bird must be some sort of rescue animal, and that the museum was acting pro bono on the behalf of this feathered creature.  On closer investigation, the sign for the Blue Jay exhibit did not seem to differ from that of all the critters on display, and on even closer investigation I notcied that right after the scientific name of the the Blue Jay, Cyanositta cristata, were the words "Order: Aves"

Now wait just a minute.  I know that it is a class Aves, and that a Blue Jay is considered to be in the "song bird" order Passeriformes.  And, what is also pretty interesting, is that they belong to the crow family - Corvidae.  "Order: Aves" must be a mistake; a typo.


Unless this small reptile exhibit has accepted what many ornithologists have been saying the past few years.  Birds are reptiles. In fact, the first heading in the Sibley Guide to Bird Life and Behavior's section on the origin of birds is entitled "Birds are Reptiles." As I made my way around the rest of the exhibits, my suspicion was confirmed with several large signs describing the various orders of reptiles in which birds were included.  A side note was made on the bird sign which simply read, "formerly Class Aves."

It was nice to see an interpretive exhibit in which informs the public to a new way of looking at reptile taxonomy.  However, not much was presented on why this change in the classic way we look at reptile taxonomy was made.  To really understand that we have to know something about the history of scientific classification itself.

It all started in 1753 with Carl Linnaeus, who came up with the brilliant idea of classifying every living thing into groups.  These groups start out wide in scope, and get more and more selective until each living thing is assigned an individual Latin scientific name.  You know, King Philip Came Over For Great Spaghetti - Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family Genus Species.

When these groups were first formed, living things got lumped together based on morphological characteristics.  For example, Carl Linnaeus noticed that snakes, lizards, turtles, crocodilians, frogs, salamanders, and the like all crept around on the ground in a way that unnerved him a little bit.  All these life forms were creepy and crawly, and back then, that was enough to lump them all together under the zoological study of herpetology.  Herpeton is Greek for creeping thing.  All birds flew, so they were all grouped together under the study of Ornithology.  Ornithos meaning "birds" - makes sense.

Once the idea of evolution came around, scientist started agreeing that living things should be classified based on their evolutionary relatedness to one another, or their phylogeny.  This also brought about the idea of only grouping organisms together if they shared one common ancestor. The groups are called clades, and the graphical depiction of these clades are called cladograms.  But it was not until recently that humans have developed the technological capacity to actually look at a living things' DNA and compare it to other living things.  This allows scientists to quantify the difference of one organism to the next or even compare entire groups of organisms.  Basically, instead of grouping organisms together based on how they look, we can now compare groups of organisms based on how genetically related they are to each other.  Neat.

Now when we look at reptiles and amphibians, we see that they are very different from one another and should be viewed as being in two different classes - Class Amphibia and Class Reptilia.  But just as our current understanding of cladistics allowed us to separate reptiles and amphibians, it has also allowed us to include a group of organisms once thought to be independent of class Reptilia - the birds.

And, if we look at an even finer scale (click on the image for a closer view), we see that birds and crocodiles seem to have shared a common ancestor in the Triassic pried between 208 and 245 million years ago, and that snakes and lizards branched off from the crocodilians even later in the Carboniferous period between 286 to 365 million years ago.

(Thanks to Science Encyclopedia for allowing other folks to use their images)

Briefly, based on the latest information we have, if we consider crocodiles to be reptiles, then we have to consider birds to be reptiles.  And not only should we consider birds to be reptiles, we should also consider them dinosaurs since they appear to be the only surviving member of the group.  Crazy.

But that's the cool thing about science.  Nothing is set in stone, and this whole idea of classifying organisms into neat little groups is, in a sense, just a way to wrap our minds around the immense diversity of life.  There is still much debate as to where to draw these lines, and I doubt that ornithologists and herpetologists will ever join hands, sing "kumbaya," and consider themselves to be one and the same. And we have not even touched upon the question of what would all the orders of birds become if Aves truly becomes its own order instead of a class.  Maybe, just to keep things simple (or would this just make things more confusing) we could consider Aves a class within a class.  For more info about that, check out Animal Diversity Web's short essay on the subject.

I think a truer understanding of it all is that the diversity of life exists on a spectrum of varying degrees of differences and similarities, and it is all a matter of perspective.  Look at things too closely, and you place yourself in the extreme splitter category where the slightest difference between groups is grounds for a new level of classification.  Look at things in too broad a perspective as an extreme lumper, and all the diversity of life becomes one big group, which is not useful at all.

There is a metaphor for life somewhere in there...


Wilson's Plover

Least Tern


The 'Glades

I could not believe that I was seeing mangroves!  I had only seen these strangely adapted trees on TV, but now I was seeing whole islands of them was we cruised by on a tour boat through a small section of Big Cypress National Preserve.  Our main goal was to look for manatees and dolphins, but my main goal was just to experience the Everglades (and to do a little bird watching).

The reason for this weekend vacation was to visit my sister who works for North Carolina Outward Bound, which is an organization that offers outdoor adventure courses to the public.  Basically, she goes out for up to 28 days at a time with clients and lives on flotilla of canoes.  When she is not "on course" she lives "on base," which is a small community of quaint beach-house like buildings only accessible by canoe.

Now you may be wondering why North Carolina Outward Bound has a base camp in South Florida, but just like many migratory birds, the North Carolina Outward Bound Company migrates south for the winter and returns to North Carolina to run programs in the summer. Not a bad gig.  As my final semester in graduate school gears up, I would be lying if I said I was not just a little bit jealous.

Back on the tour boat, we pass by one of these island of mangroves close enough to see that the roots are covered with thousands of tiny shells.  These living creatures are a testament to the key role mangroves play in the Everglades environment. For without the mangroves, these creatures would have no place to live.  What I am looking at are mangrove barnacles, tiny creatures in the phylum Arthropoda, the same phylum as all the insects.  Although this is not what many tourists have come to see, I find myself amazed at the adaptive ability of these tiny creatures.

When they are born, barnacle larvae are planktonic, meaning they are free-floating, drifting with the tides.  As they become mature, they cement their heads to a suitable surface, like mangrove roots, and begin encasing themselves in a calcium carbonate shell.  Location is imperative to the survival of an individual barnacle!  If the barnacle decides to cement his head at too high an altitude where the high tide only sometimes reaches, then she will dry up and die.  (Barnacles need to breath oxygen dissolved in water, just like fish.)   But, if she decides to glue her head to a place that is constantly submerged, then she has to compete with other creatures trying to make a living in shallow water, not to mention increased exposure to predators.  Luckily, barnacles have adapted to live in what is known as the intertidal zone, or space between high tide and low tide.

But how can these little creatures who stay in one spot their entire adult lives be able to spend roughly have their day out of water when they require water to breathe?  The answer lies in their shell.  Not only is their shell built in such a way as to deflect wave energy as the tides move up and down, but also, their shell acts as water storage for when they exposed to air.  As the water retreats during low tide, barnacles close up their shell and hold enough water in there to breathe until the tide returns.  Thus, these little guys are able to persist in an environment that is underwater have the day, and exposed to the atmosphere half the day. In this constantly changing environment, most creatures, including us humans, would perish.

Plus, since their heads are cemented to mangrove roots, they have to reach out of their shells and grab food with their legs.  And if you are grabbing food with you legs, and your head is stuck to a mangrove root, where do you put the food you just grabbed?  That's right, in your butt!  Ha!

Oh and check out this YouTube video for the more intimate aspects of barnacle natural history.

That's probably more than anyone wants to know about barnacles.  Barnacles are cool.

The mutualism between the barnacle and the mangrove is just one of many that exists in the 'Glades, and although barnacles are by no mean endangered, the habitat they live in is. On top of the multitudes of invasive exotic plants and animals that are encroaching, the Everglades are shrinking, and this is in large part to land-use changes that have resulted in decreased flow of freshwater from the surrounding area.  In fact, the Everglades is less that 1/3 it's original size, and a plan to increase water flow to the Evergaldes has been put on hold.

Luckily, there is an organized group of concerned citizens advocating  the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Program in the face of such setback.  On their website you can view the plan, and they have a bunch of ways for you to get involved.  So get out there and save the barnacles! (and the millions of other species that call the Everglades their home)


Bear Creek Reservoir

Since we knew that the rest of the weekend was going to be cold and miserable, Sarah and I decided to make a quick trip up to Bear Creek Reservoir to do a little birding.  We did not see a whole lot, but we did get a brief look at a red-breasted merganser, which is not too common, and some ruddy ducks, which are downright funny looking.  I tried to get a digiscoped shot of the merganser, but the lighting was poor, and I would always take the shot a fraction of a second too late just in time to snap a picture of nothing but water as the bird dove underwater to chase a hapless fish.  Oh well - you can't win them all.

Anyways, this was a good chance to warm up a little before I started leading the bird walks for the Oconee Rivers Audubon Society, and it was also fun to generate a list to post on eBird.  For those you who don't know, eBird is a citizen science program developed by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and is quickly becoming one of the largest databases on bird diversity ever generated.  For me, it represents a fantastic union of the interests of scientists and citizens.  It epitomizes my general belief that people will not care about conservation unless they can become a part of the process; science must be relevant.  eBird allows a diverse group of people, in part, to be directly responsible for bird conservation by inputing data into an online database that ornithologists can use to monitor changes in bird species frequency and abundance - pretty cool.  

I know not all species can afford this luxury, but it is still unfortunate that only one taxa of organisms has such a large backing of both a large University and citizens.  Georgia did develop a herpetafauna (reptiles and amphibian) atlas, but I was not able to find out much about it, and as far as I know, there is nothing like an eBird for herpetafauna.  There is FrogWatch USA that appears similar to eBird, but there is no way for a person to directly input data online.  Just looking online now, there are many citizen science opportunities designed for short term projects throughout the United States.  So, if anyone knows of an online database system similar to eBird, but for other species,  or just cool citizen science programs in general, please let me know!     

For some reason, I have not been utilizing eBird as much as I could be.  I believe it to be a combination of laziness, and the fact that I do not derive much enjoyment from sitting in front of a computer inputing data (especially after my first shrike field season!)  Somehow, making this fun hobby of mine into a somewhat detail-oriented scientific endeavor takes some of the enjoyment out of it.  In addition, I know many ornithologists take data gathered by non-experts with a grain of salt, and I think they should be cautious as to what conclusions citizen data can yield.  But these are lame excuses.  I also believe that some of it is shortsightedness on my part, with myself thinking that one eBird report will not make a difference in bird conservation.  But isn't this the way of thinking I am trying to dissuade people from using? Not contributing to things like eBird when I have the chance makes me a hypocrite to my own personal cause, whether I can rationalize my way out of it or not.  No, one eBird report will not make a difference, but the total combined effort between citizens and scientists is awe-inspiring if you really think about it.  I know that citizen science is a major tool for conservation, and with that in the back of my head I generated this not super thrilling, but equally important list that will help a little bit in the conservation of a group of critters that I cannot imagine a world without.

Location:     Bear Creek Reservoir
Observation date:     1/29/10
Number of species:     23

Canada Goose - Branta canadensis     15
Red-breasted Merganser - Mergus serrator     1
Ruddy Duck - Oxyura jamaicensis     9
Pied-billed Grebe - Podilymbus podiceps     8
Great Blue Heron - Ardea herodias     2
Black Vulture - Coragyps atratus     2
Turkey Vulture - Cathartes aura     20
American Coot - Fulica americana     30
Red-headed Woodpecker - Melanerpes erythrocephalus     1
Red-bellied Woodpecker - Melanerpes carolinus     1
Downy Woodpecker - Picoides pubescens     1
Northern Flicker (Yellow-shafted) - Colaptes auratus [auratus Group]     1
Pileated Woodpecker - Dryocopus pileatus     1
Blue Jay - Cyanocitta cristata     1
American Crow - Corvus brachyrhynchos     12
Carolina Chickadee - Poecile carolinensis     3
Tufted Titmouse - Baeolophus bicolor     3
Eastern Bluebird - Sialia sialis     3
Northern Mockingbird - Mimus polyglottos     3
Song Sparrow - Melospiza melodia     1
White-throated Sparrow - Zonotrichia albicollis     2
Northern Cardinal - Cardinalis cardinalis     4
Red-winged Blackbird - Agelaius phoeniceus     5

This report was generated automatically by eBird v2(http://ebird.org)


Squirrel Hunt '10

The tradition of Eastern gray squirrel hunting, like most hunting traditions, most likely arose out of necessity. Also, it seems, it arose out of frustration. According an Appalachian history blog I stumbled upon, two men camped in Dickenson County, VA to hunt big game, but had no luck so they went after squirrels. They mockingly named the area "Squirrel Camp," a name which it is still referred to this day.

In these modern times, hunting for sustenance has largely been replaced for hunting for a trophy such as antlers. Additionally, not hunting out of necessity has help lead to the rise of the ethical sportsman. The ethical sportsman sees hunting as a way to connect and as a to establish a relationship with the land. The ethical sportsman is not hunting just for food. Indeed, if one is hunting to fulfill such a basic need as survival, one would probably, in this desperate state, resort to tactics we could not consider ethical. For me, the main qualifier of an ethical sportsman is a sincere attempt to understand and respect the interconnected wilderness where he hunts. The ethical sportsman researches his prey, and by doing so, sees the beauty in the animal. The ethical sportsman is essentially an amateur biologist, exploring and questioning what he sees around him.

Since squirrels do not make good trophies, I propose that, for the most part, it takes an ethical sportsman to hunt this noble rodent. (Really, I think that the previous paragraph was a way to justify why I went Eastern gray squirrel hunting up in the North Georgia mountains. At least it helps me feel better.)

Also, it's pretty dang fun! My buddy has a Parnell's Carolina cur, which is a breed of dog from the mountains of North Carolina that has squirrel hunting in his blood, and I have never seen a dog with more energy than ol' Blaze. Even when this dog is asleep you can see him experiencing REM in which his large eyes search back and forth underneath his eyelids, and periodically his body tenses up as he lets out a low growl at the undoubtedly terrified imaginary rodent.

The basic strategy is simple. Let Blaze loose (equipped with a radio collar in case you have trouble relocating him) within a legal hunting area, such as a national forest, and when you hear him talking,  hurry to that tree and look for a squirrel. Unfortunately, the day I went, the weather was poor, the squirrels weren't moving, there was some bad alignment of the planets, and we saw no squirrels. Blaze treed a couple times, and I know that his nose was not lying. I blame our poor human senses to the inability to find our prey, and I know it pissed Blaze off.

I know that some folks will laugh at our inability to find this common creature that populates most neighborhoods and college campuses is unnervingly large numbers, and I laugh with them, but have they ever tried it? It's not as easy as it sounds. Trekking up and down steep hillsides trying to keep up with Blaze was exhausting, but it was a fun experience, and I hope to do it again.

Plus, I got to see Hutch's Museum of Natural History, which is what I have decided to call his impressive display of specimens including a wood duck, fox squirrels, and a woodcock in his small, smokey apartment.

He also owns a variety of beautifully handcrafted handmade turkey calls, one of which is engraved with a Red-cockaded Woodpecker.  This type of call is a wing bone call.  The larger bone of the call is the humerus of a turkey hen, and the smaller bone is made from the ulna.  There are different variations, and one of Hutch's wing bone calls actually uses a deer antler as partial replacement for the humerus.  Another replacement could be the hollowed out brass tube from a shotgun shell.

The other calls include a box call and a friction call.  The box call is a wooden box with a pivoting lid on top. When the wood of the lid rubs against the rest of the box, it produces the noise of a hen.  The friction call, which may be the most common, consists of a round pad made from slate, aluminum, or even glass where one rubs it with a "striker."  Each of these calls are used to imitate a hen for the purpose of luring in a gobbler (male turkey) within range.

All in all it was a great weekend trip, and probably the last hunting trip I make until Turkey season, so those of you who think my blog is becoming too redneck can rest assured that I will be returning to birding posts soon enough.


View from the tree stand

It all happened so fast...sort of.

I had been sitting in the deer stand for two and a half hours, and I had already seen a fawn and two yearling "spike" bucks, which are young bucks with only two small spikes for antlers.  They were certainly fun to watch and one of the spike bucks got so close that, if I were inclined, I could have dramatically lept from my tree stand, jumped on his back, and ridden him back to the house.  But I decided against that.

There is a big controversy surrounding spike bucks.  Some believe that yearlings with spikes are genetically inferior compared to yearlings with three or more total antler points, and if this is the case, then it may be argued that these bucks should be culled in order to prevent them from passing on their genes to the rest of the herd.  However, a study conducted on wild bucks in South Texas indicates that bucks having spikes their first year may be more a result of environmental conditions than genetic conditions, and, if allowed to mature, spike bucks can have just as high quality antlers as higher point yearlings.  In fact, in another study, the majority of yearlings in the study area were spike bucks one year.  Thus, if a manager adopts an aggressive spike culling policy, they could wipe out many individuals that could have been high quality deer given another year or two to mature.

But I digress...as a steady drizzle started, a doe came splashing though the bottomland hardwood forest.  I was able to field identify her as a doe based on longer nose and larger size compared to a fawn.  This is an important distinction so late in the season as the fawns are getting older and have lost their identifiable speckled coat (great for non-mobile fawns) for a more solid-color adult coat better at camouflaging today's deer on the go.  She was by herself, so if she had given birth to fawns the past breeding season, they were now independent.  Since she was in such a hurry, I decided to wait a while to see if a buck was following her in hot pursuit.

So I waited, and waited, and waited until the doe walked within 10 yards of my stand and then about 35 yards out opposite the direction in which she came.  It was becoming apparent that I was not going to see a buck and that this doe, a beautiful looking whitetail, may be my only chance, and that's when the adrenaline started flowing.  I knew I could not take the shot free handed in my excited state, and I knew that if I hesitated too much longer, she might smell me and take off.  So I quickly knelt on the floor of the homemade stand, propped my left shoulder on wooden board I had been sitting on, propped my rifle on the board that made up one of the walls of the stand, and took the shot.  She stumbled for about 3 seconds, then laid still.

It was one of the strangest feelings I have felt, and as I write, my fingers begin to tremble with memory.  I imagine it is close to the feeling a cowboy out in Wyoming bar explained to me.  He traveled with the herd, and told my friend and I stories of individual cows like someone may tell you funny stories of their domestic pets or young children.  He loved his cows, and his fond recollection was a testament to this.  After one particular story that made him laugh uncontrollably, his demeanor grew solemn.  He said, "But they're gone now.  That is why I am in town: to sell these cows."  He loved his cows, but he knew he was raising them to their death so that he can make a living that literally satisfies the appetites of others.  I don't think anyone, especially myself, has such a connection to the origins of their food.

It is only natural that in this age of specialization, we have lost this connection to our source of nutrition.  Even those of us who don't eat meat, like I did for 5 years, most likely consume genetically modified plants laced with chemicals, and planted in monoculture field devoid of native flora and fauna.  But in that moment, I truly knew where at least a portion of my life sustaining nutrition was coming from in its purist, most organic form.

Some people have the stupid idea that killing a deer "makes you more of man" as if killing an animal proves mankind's ability and right to dominate all other life on the planet because our opposable thumbs have created tools that can blast away anything that stands in our way.  I can truthfully say I have no idea where this notion comes from.  It is true that killing that doe was exciting, but it was also extremely humbling, and as I drug the 105-pound deer through the soggy hardwood forest, I had never had more love and respect for my food and the environment that sustains it.


Bachman's Sparrow netting

I’ve been meaning to write about my experience with netting Bachman’s Sparrows  as part of a long term research program developed at Tall Timbers Research Station for some time, but as the field season wound down, the data analysis season wound up.  Now, as the threat of snow looms over horrified Georgians, I long for those humid summer days in the field.

On the morning before I left Tall Timbers for the season I had the opportunity to tag along for mist netting as I have never seen before.  The morning was unseasonably cool (and by cool I mean only mid 80s) as we bounced along the Redland dirt roads in an ATV, golf cart, and truck hybrid known as “the gator.”  When we arrived at our predetermined destination, we cut off the gas and pumped up some Bachman’s Sparrow jams in the hopes of tricking a jealous male into responding.  After a couple of unsuccessful tries, we finally heard the wispy call of an angry male responding to our playback.

That is when we sprang into action.  Since I had never done this before I obediently awaited my orders.  Luckily, those were to “stay put for now.”  I watched as my friends assembled two 20ft mist nets in less than 30secs in front of the singing bird.  Then they ran a big circle wide enough not to scare the bird, and slowly started to approach our undeniably confused feathered friend from behind.  To escape a threat, Bachman’s Sparrows will leap up, fly just above the understory in a longleaf pine forest, and fall back down.  In a long leaf pine forest, most of the plant diversity is found within 4ft of the ground, and in places that have not been recently burned.  This can be like wading though a prickly, shrubby ocean.  This is especially hard for ill-adapted humans, but great cover for a highly evolved Bachman’s Sparrow.  Despite this, the crew was successful many times in rounding up these often heard, rarely seen gems.

 I have trouble with identifying sparrows.  Most sparrows in Georgia are here in the winter and do not sing, making identification by sound practically impossible.  This combined with the fact that most of the time I only seem to get a 1/8 of a second chance to look at one before it lifts it’s middle feather up in the air and shouts “screw you!” makes sparrows especially frustrating to me and many other birders. 

But this opportunity to see a Bachman’s Sparrow up close redeemed the sparrow clan in my eyes.  In one feather I could see an earth tone rainbow of colors impossible to perceive though binoculars or a scope.  This is certainly the reason why sparrows are able to hide themselves so well from predators and well-intended birders alike.  Golden amber fades into yellow, fades into steel blue, and fades into white all within less than half a square inch of space. 

Before, I appreciated these birds for their rarity.  They are rare because long leaf pine forests are rare.  They evolved with burning forests, and when people suppressed forest fires, their habitat declined.  But now, with managed forests like those around Tall Timbers research station, they luckily have a place to live.

Now, after I have seen one in the hand, I appreciate them for their beauty.  It’s the type of beauty that I imagine would make more people become advocates for Long Leaf restoration, but that’s the idealist in me talking, not the rationalist.