I recently read a review of a controversial book, Weeds, In Defense of Nature’s Most Unloved Plants, by nature writer, Richard Mabey. My biologist and conservation friends should start getting uneasy about now. It made me ask some questions that aren’t very popular in the conservation world.
He defines weeds as plants that occur in the wrong place at the wrong time. So far so good…He made the following case in favor of weeds: they have basic usefulness for stabilizing the soil, curbing water loss, providing shelter for other plants, repairing landscapes shattered by landslides, fires, floods, and development. They serve as food, fuel, medicine, dyes, building material for insects and birds, and certainly weed pulling builds character. And, most of the weeds are the consequence of the activities of humans and civilization.
His ending argument is that we find ourselves in a time of great environmental changes and as a result weeds might be all we have. Ultimately we should learn to tolerate them (my note: except for bufflegrass) and their resilience…changing our perspective because they are basically here to stay. Ok, say what you will, that is his case in a nutshell. He does, however, continue to weed his garden.
Here’s where I started asking the unpopular questions. It has been politically correct for the conservation world, which I consider myself a part, to discourage all non-native wildlife. It bumps native animals out of habitat, nesting areas, food and causes havoc for the native fauna. But if Mabey’s argument for weeds was used for wildlife, what would it look like?
If starlings, sparrows, or love birds became prey items that Cooper’s hawks recognized as potential food, would the Inca dove or masked bob white numbers begin to revive? Would other threatened predators increase in numbers if an increase in non-natives provided an alternative to native birds as prey? Roadrunners have learned to make a meal out of a tasty English sparrow sparing other non-natives. Gopher snakes don’t turn their noses up at a squab or two if they are available…bad news to the pigeon nesting in his turf. Non-native birds can help pollinate, spread seeds, perform the same duties as native birds…so maybe they aren’t all bad….maybe?
Ok, now have I angered all of my friends? I am not saying that I agree with Mr. Mabey’s assessment, but I am just asking questions. Like, how long does a non native weed, bird, turtle, reptile, or fish, have to be in an area before it is considered part of the acceptable neighbors in the hood? I’m just asking….after all my relatives moved to America from Scotland, Ireland and Germany in the formative days of our country, and I am certainly not Native American….am I still a non-native? It’s been a long time.
This Week at Liberty
The intake total for the year is now at 2601. A lot of activity lasy week as we saw some real improvement in some of our longer-term patients, and we continue to work on providing the best care for the orphans in our care. We also took four birds to the Eye Care For Animals clinic in Scottsdale for evaluation of their eye problems. We also had a great release story, thanks to volunteer Holly Hicks and Arizona Game and Fish. Read on…
The clark’s spiny lizard that came in a couple of weeks ago after a dog attack is doing better each day. Near death upon arrival, he was treated by the Med Services team and is now up and about and hunting crickets (inside his terrarium) on his own. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
We are constantly striving to provide the most natural environment for our orphans in order to better prepare them for eventual release. We now have a new, hich-tech brooder for our smaller orphan bunnies which provides them with temperature control and a larger space to grow, plus protection from outside distractions. The enclosure for the little colony of burrowing owls also got a make-over and has a simulated burrow to acclamate them to their future habitat when they are old enough. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Senior R&T volunteer Carl Price is back on duty and appears much happier than the little GHO he brought in last week. What would we do without Carl and Mary…? ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
The raptors are just about to end their breeding for the year (we hope!) but fledglings still trickle in, such as this little female kestrel that was found on the ground this week. Still a fledgling, the foster parents will be on duty for a few more weeks, it appears. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Not all bird problems involve wings. The little screech owl seems to be experiencing “issues” with using her leg although everything else is working nominally. More observation and possibly more invloved testing is in order. And we have a harris’ hawk that has both a broken wing and a broken leg. A Schroeder-thomas aplint is in use to allow the leg bones to mend in a natural way, and in most cases a bird will will use the wing on the opposite side to mainain balance. Unfortunately, this bird’s “balance wing” is aslo broken putting him at a disadvantage. But dispite this cascading problem, the bird is standing and appears to be doing better than we expected. Keep all fingers crossed! ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
A not-so-common visitor at the facility came in recently. A least bittern showed up in need of some help and got the “rock star” treatment while he was here. A secretive little shore bird, he just wound up in an inappropriate place and was lucky enough to be found and transported to Liberty Wildlife. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Last Tuesday Toba and Sharon took the cardinal, a young GHO, a raven, and a kestrel to the Eye Care for Animals clinic just north of Liberty. Dr. Jennifer Urbanz and Dr. Melanie Church conducted some rather complete eye exams on these birds, all of whom presented ocular problems. The cardinal appears to have no sight in the effected eye and impaired vision in the other. He most likely will be placed with a facility in an educational capacity. The kestrel also has no vision in the affected eye and may or may not be releasable as is the case with the GHO who’s eye was punctured by cactus spines. Since ravens don’t rely on binocular vision, his lack of sight on one side probably won’t put him at a disadvantage. He also remains a candidate for eventual release. Many thanks to Drs. Urbanz and Church and their staff and facility for their continued assistance! ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
A few weeks ago, volunteer Holly Hicks brought a baby grey hawk up to us from near Nogales where the little bird had fallen from a nest. We took care of the little hawk until last week when Holly and Kyle from Az G&F dept. took him back down south and placed him back into an active nest for his official fledging. (Read more about the story in next month’s Nature News!)