African American poet and activist Amiri Baraka dies


This video from the USA says about itself:

8 Nov 2012

Poet E. Ethelbert Miller introduces Amiri Baraka (LeRoi Jones) as one of the most prolific writers of the century in this 1998 edition of HoCoPoLitSo’s The Writing Life.

They talk about the writers that influenced his work: Charlie Olson, the Black Mountain Group, Frank O’Hara and Allen Ginsberg.

Baraka reads his first published poem, “Preface to a 20 Volume Suicide Note.” A discussion on the link between his poetry and music precedes a reading of a section of the poem “In the Tradition,” which touches on the heritage of African-American music.

The conversation concludes with Baraka‘s greatest hope for American poetry — that the great poets will find their voices in a collective way in order to discover literature that speaks against the rules.

From National Public Radio in the USA:

Writer And Activist Amiri Baraka Dies At Age 79

by January 09, 2014 4:38 PM

Amiri Baraka, the writer who was born LeRoi Jones, has died at age 79. Baraka’s career spanned art and activism: He was an influential poet and an award-winning playwright who didn’t shy away from social criticism and politics.

“Baraka had long struggled with diabetes, but it was not immediately clear what the cause of death was,” reports the New Jersey Star-Ledger. The author and activist was a native of Newark.

One of Baraka’s crowning achievements stands as the cataloguing of black culture and history in Blues People, “a panoramic sociocultural history of African-American music,” as Eugene Holley, Jr., wrote for NPR last year.

The book was published in 1963. “In the 50 years since, it has never been out of print,” Holley wrote.

“The book was originally titled Blues: Black and White,” Baraka told Holley. “But I changed it because I wanted to focus on the people that created the blues. And that was the real intent of that title: I wanted to focus on them — us — the creators of the blues, which is still, I think, the predominate music under all American music. It cannot be dismissed, even though you might give it to some pop singer, they change it around. But it will come out. It will be heard.”

As the Los Angeles Times reports: “Baraka led the Black Arts Movement, an aesthetic sibling to the Black Panthers. Although the movement was fractious and short-lived, it involved significant authors such as Gwendolyn Brooks, Eldridge Cleaver, Gil-Scott Heron, Nikki Giovanni, Ishmael Reed and Quincy Troupe.”

A more complete look at Baraka’s life and career is forthcoming, from NPR’s Neda Ulaby.

See also here.

11th Annual World Poetry Festival in Venezuela Pays Homage to Amiri Baraka: here.

Snowy owl vs. peregrine falcon


This video from the USA says about itself:

10 Dec 2013

Remarkable footage of two Peregrine Falcons harrying Snowy Owls on a beach in New Jersey, December 2013. Filmed and narrated by Tom Johnson.

The Cornell Lab of Ornithology in the USA writes:

Snowy Owl vs. Peregrine Falcons

Snowy Owls are flooding into the Lower 48 this winter. But what happens when one raptor takes up residence on another raptor’s turf? Cornell alum Tom Johnson (2010) captured this remarkable footage of Peregrine Falcons harrying Snowy Owls on a New Jersey beach. The birds didn’t injure each other, but the aggravation of the falcons and the catlike intensity of the owls are palpable. … (And see more of Tom’s work via Flickr and Vimeo.)

Find Your Snowy: This winter could be your best-ever chance to see “Harry Potter‘s owl.” Our eBird team breaks down causes and patterns of this year’s irruption—and this live sightings map can help you locate them. If you do find an owl, please remember to keep a respectful distance to avoid disturbing these rare visitors.

Snowy owl on ship: here.

For many birdwatchers the Peregrine is one of those great ‘start of the year birds’, an added bonus to a New Year outing to coastal marshes or inland wetlands, where this large and powerful falcon may be seen to strike at waders and smaller wildfowl. For others the Peregrine is a bird of the open uplands, breeding where there are suitable rocky outcrops, or a master of our western sea cliffs, where Puffin and Guillemot feature alongside Feral Pigeon as prey. Regardless of the manner in which the Peregrine enters your birdwatching realm, there is no doubting its place as a totemic species: here.

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Baby snakes, new research


This is a northern pine snake video from the USA.

From Drexel University in the USA:

Why can’t the snakes cross the road, secret lives of baby snakes and other questions

Drexel environmental science students present at ESA 2013 about Northern Pine Snake research in the New Jersey Pinelands

Why can’t the pine snakes cross the road? Hint: New Jersey traffic might have something to do with it.

Drexel University students will bring to light these and other findings about the plight, perils and peculiarities of the Northern Pine Snake in several presentations and posters at the Ecological Society of America annual meeting next week (ESA 2013), based on their research with Dr. Walt Bien’s Laboratory of Pinelands Research in the New Jersey Pinelands.

Northern pine snakes are charismatic ambassadors for the Pinelands National Reserve, an ecologically important region –designated as a U.S. Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO and as the first National Reserve in the United States. The pine snakes are large, nonvenomous and docile.

The population in New Jersey is threatened, and the next-nearest population of northern pine snakes is in North Carolina. Protecting these snakes from the human-generated perils in the most densely populated U.S. state can go a long way toward protecting the entire ecosystem they are a part of.

Here is a closer look at some of the Drexel team’s research:

Snake surgery is a special skill for conservation

Dane Ward has a rare talent for a graduate student in conservation biology: He is an adept snake surgeon. Many animals are studied using radio telemetry by attaching a radio transmitter to the outside of the body. Radio telemetry is useful for tracking pine snakes because their movements are hard to see through simple observation. But placing a transmitter on the surface of a pine snake’s skin would interfere with the animal’s slithering movements and feeding via constriction. So Ward has learned to surgically implant the transmitters in snakes instead, through a tiny one-inch incision.

The team has radio-tracked more than two dozen adult pine snakes in recent field seasons. The data have helped them learn more about the snakes’ spatial range and behavior and develop population models they hope will be useful for conserving the locally threatened population of pine snakes.

Radio tracking pine snakes gave Ward and Drexel undergraduate Catherine (Katie) D’Amelio an opportunity to take an unusual approach to studying climate change. Because snakes are cold-blooded, and New Jersey is the northern limit of the pine snake’s range, they reasoned that shifts in weather and climate could have an impact on their behavior.

D’Amelio looked at the data from snakes that had been tracked over three seasons, and compared their activity levels with the air and soil-surface temperatures the snakes encountered. At the highest temperatures, snakes’ activity levels dropped off.

Comparing the snakes’ most active temperature range with predictions of shifts due to climate change, the team pointed out that the timing of seasonal activities may shift in the future – which could impact their interactions with other species. And they note that freezing to death could be a danger if early-spring warming periods, followed by cold snaps, become common – something they observed in the spring of 2012.

D’Amelio won a top award at the Mid-Atlantic regional ESA meeting earlier this year for the poster on this work – earning her a trip to present it at ESA 2013 in Minneapolis.

Baby snake mazes and counting tiny tongue flicks

Nesting and early life for a newborn, or neonate, pine snake, are life phases that scientists know the least about. But graduate student Kevin P.W. Smith is deeply involved with changing that. He will give an oral presentation Tuesday at ESA about some of the first work ever done to study the behavior of neonate pine snakes.

Because neonate pine snakes are tiny and hard to see, once again, snake surgery is required.

To find neonates in the first place, the team tracks adult female snakes to their nesting sites and marks the spot with GPS. In the Pinelands, female pine snakes dig out their own burrows over the course of several days, using a specialized scale on their noses to scoop out sand – so a careful observer can catch some females in the act of digging prior to laying eggs. Two months later, the newborn snakes emerge from the marked burrows into small fenced-in areas rigged by the researchers to capture them.

The team implanted eight neonate pine snakes with transmitters last season and they hope to have 10 implanted in 2013. (The snakes begin to emerge in September.)

Smith has been able to make important observations about the neonate snakes’ natural behavior. For example, he learned that young pine snakes begin feeding on adult mammals – small ones, such as mice – within the first two months of life and they shed their skin multiple times within their first season.

He has also been working with neonate pine snakes in a variety of behavioral experiments, including simple maze tests to track migration and dispersal responses to different snakes’ scents. In another experiment, he counts the neonates’ tongue flicks to gauge their interest in the scents of various potential prey items.

Why can’t snakes cross the road?

No joke: Pine snakes in New Jersey tend to get flattened on roads, and scientists speculate that summer shore traffic could be a big contributor to snake mortality. (Some motorists tend to think of the Pinelands not as a rare and special natural environment for plants and wildlife, but as the woods on the way to the Jersey shore.) Just how often and why, and what that means for their populations’ survival, is the subject of intense research.

Two Drexel undergraduates who joined Bien’s lab in their freshman year last year, Jacquelyn Garcia and Rafaella Marano, are working with Ward and other members of the team to address this question, and will present a poster about their road-crossing studies at ESA.

They found that crossing a two-lane highway takes pine snakes about two minutes. When they cross-referenced that time against New Jersey traffic data for the roads crossing their study area, they found that snakes were virtually guaranteed to encounter several cars during any road crossing – anywhere from 3-4 cars crossing the least-used road, to more than 30 cars per two-minutes on New Jersey’s Route 72 during the busy summer season.

They also studied the effects of the type of road surface on snakes’ movement and found that snakes move faster on sand than on asphalt and concrete.

Snake deaths on roads aren’t just a gruesome accident – they can be a real problem for the population dispersal and survival. Roads dividing the snakes’ habitat can effectively fragment the population by preventing interbreeding with snakes on the other side.

(And sometimes snake deaths aren’t an accident: Some motorists target wildlife such as snakes and turtles to run them over intentionally.)

Some of the team’s ongoing work uses biological samples from the roadkill snakes they find, to determine if roads are causing noticeable genetic differences in the population.

They are continuing to investigate whether culverts under the roads can provide safe crossings and will also test whether changing the surface texture of the road can help snakes cross more rapidly.

Fine for feeding birds peanuts in New Jersey


This video from the USA is called Bluejay Birds Fly in to Eat Peanuts, Crow Calling.

By Melissa Mayntz in the USA:

Peanuts Not Bird Food?

July 21, 2013

A New Jersey couple facing fines for feeding backyard birds is heading back to court, but the pertinent issue is not their backyard wildlife, but supposedly inappropriate food. According to NorthJersey.com, the couple faces up to $500 in fines for feeding wildlife, though elevated bird feeders are acceptable under the law. A local environmental health specialist has stipulated that birds do not eat peanuts, and therefore the couple’s peanut feeder was in violation of the law because it could not be for feeding birds.

Not only do many birds eat peanuts – including jays, chickadees, titmice, woodpeckers and nuthatches – but nuts are some of the best summer bird foods to offer as a healthy protein source and a food the birds can cache for winter storage.

What birds have you seen eating peanuts? Share your feeding experiences, and your thoughts on the ridiculousness of this case, in the comments!

Hurricane Sandy and unusual birds


This video says about itself:

A visit to the tropical island of Saba to study the rare and beautiful Red-Billed Tropicbird.

From Reuters:

Besides destruction, Sandy brought lots of unusual birds

By Sinead Carew

NEW YORK | Fri Nov 2, 2012 8:25pm EDT

While superstorm Sandy sent most people running for shelter wherever they could find it, bird enthusiasts rushed outdoors as soon as possible to scan the skies for birds that usually don’t visit these parts.

A powerful storm can take birds far from home or thousands of miles off their migratory course if they are swept up in the center of a storm and carried along until they reach the first spot where it is safe to land.

To greet them, there are often groups of intrepid bird watchers, or birders, eager to spot an extremely rare out-of-town visitor like the Leach’s Storm-Petrel.

Birders were quick to say on Friday that they were very upset by the devastation caused by Sandy, which killed scores of people, ruined homes and left many without power. But they also view dangerous storms as an opportunity.

Because the storm that ravaged the U.S. Northeast this week combined a hurricane from the south and winter winds from the north, it brought in a more peculiar group of birds than usual when it made landfall in New Jersey on Monday night.

“This was a storm that mixed species groups you don’t ever usually see together,” said Andrew Farnsworth, a New York-based researcher for Cornell University’s Lab of Ornithology.

One birder discovered a Red-billed Tropicbird in New Jersey – more typically seen in the Caribbean – and brought it to a wild-life rehabilitator, according to Farnsworth, who studies reports on the online forum ebird.org.

Near Ithaca in Upstate New York, one ebird.org visitor reported seeing an arctic bird, the Ross’s Gull, while another reported a sighting of the same bird near Lake Ontario, Canada.

“The same storm that brought this arctic bird also brought this Caribbean bird,” said Farnsworth, 39.

On Tuesday, as soon as they decided it was safe to go outside, several Manhattan birders headed to the banks of the Hudson River. They were delighted to catch sight of Jaegers, which are typically only found out at sea.

“It’s just exciting to be on the Hudson and see these birds that you’d normally only see out on a fishing boat,” said Dale Dancis, a retired teacher who declined to disclose her age.

Starr Saphir, 73, who leads bird tours in Central Park and appeared in a HBO birding documentary, “The Central Park Effect,” said she saw Forster’s Tern on Tuesday. “They had already migrated south so they got blown back,” she said.

Peter Post, 73, a retired social services worker who has been a birder for 62 years, said he spotted an American Oyster Catcher on the Hudson, far from its coastal habitat.

Post was disappointed he missed the Leach’s Storm-Petrel Farnsworth spotted on Tuesday. “It would’ve been nice,” he said.

Joseph DiCostanzo, 60, an ornithologist who works at the American Museum of Natural History, was lucky enough to see a Red Phalarope, usually an ocean bird, near the river through the window of his Manhattan home before he was able to go outside.

“My wife and I did try to go out. The problem was that they were closing all the parks,” DiCostanzo said.

(Reporting By Sinead Carew; editing by Todd Eastham)

While Hurricane Sandy has ravaged cities and communities across the east coast of the United States, its effect has been equally devastating on wild birds: here.

Hurricane Sandy and the Storm’s Effects on Bird Migration: here.

Where do the birds go for protection during severe weather such as blizzards, hurricanes, and tornadoes? Here.

After Sandy, Staten Island Helps Its Own, but More Relief Still Needed: here.

VIDEO: In Staten Island, hordes of volunteers armed with shovels came out to help those who lost their homes: here.

How Natural Disasters Help Birds: here.