Thursday, March 31, 2011

I’m Liking Lichen on a Brick Wall

Zone 1 in our front yard is just a sliver of planter and concrete beneath the entrance stairs, but the biodiversity is amazing. One of my surprise discoveries is this clump of yellow-green lichen growing on an old brick planter.

Lichen are amazing living organisms. The Lichens of North America web page explains that lichen are fungi that do not make their own food so they have found a way to include algae or cyanobacteria in their systems to internally grow their own nutrition.

These joint efforts of life have the ability to live in harsh conditions - on rocks & sidewalks, in deserts or tundra, on cliff faces and human ruins. They survive under snow providing food for caribou and arctic rodents. Some thrive on wet tree bark and create food and nesting materials for forest creatures.

Lichens grow slowly and some may be among the oldest living things on the planet. The lichen on this brick never really caught my eye before. I don’t know how long it has been there. And that is the tricky thing about lichen: small and typically low to the ground, it is easy to miss. But because lichens protect themselves by producing chemical herbicides and even antibiotics, they could provide important pharmacological discoveries for humans. Small life must be mighty to survive. But if they are slow growing, how fast can they adapt to climate change?

Lichen are also beautiful. Check out the Lichens Home Page for some stunning photos. I think I even found my lichen, it may be Caloplaca feracissima.

Something ancient, lichen, and something new, the Internet, working together to help us see the biodiversity in our own backyards.

Lichens of North America

Friday, March 18, 2011

Low Level Radiation Reaches California

Radiation from Japan has reached California in low levels. Can there be a more important time to watch the natural world around us and observe changes to our "canaries in the coalmine" – wild birds and amphibians?

Get to know you wild neighbors and they will help us all to really understand the environmental ramifications for ourselves.

This morning the Allen's hummingbirds are tending to spring. A Spot took a quick bath in the fountain. BIF is drinking at his feeder while his father FIK is moving in on his son's territory and dominating the courtship field with the females. (Hummingbird Territories and hummingbirds and climate change)

The Bewick's wrens are building a new nest in the lariat house. The House and Last Year's Nest.

The rain that has been forecast has yet to arrive. Will it be the life-giving resource that the blooming plants are hungry for or will it bring an unseen radiation taint?

Two weeks from now will the hummingbirds be nesting or will life be greatly altered?

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Shark Fin Soup and CA (AB 376)

Can you image killing a leopard for its ear?  Of course not.  Cutting the fin off a shark and throwing the fish back into the sea to die is basically the same thing. You have a piece of cartilage and the shark forfeits its life.

Shark fin soup is a delicacy in Asia and Asian communities here in California.  Making soup from the fin probably goes back to people using all parts of an animal that was caught because the resource was valuable.  I had shark fin soup years ago at a wedding reception for a Chinese friend of the family.  Unfortunately, the growing number of people wanting to consume this unique dish has seriously impacted shark populations because the fins are cut off of the sharks and the rest of the animal is tossed back into the sea.

This conservation problem has an easy solution. People can make the choice not to eat shark fin soup.

The Monterey Bay Aquarium is supporting the California Bill (AB 376) to make it illegal to import shark fin. You can send a quick note to your state congressman to express your opinion on the matter through the Aquarium's Take Action page.

You also can make the choice to try an alternative recipe, Faux Shark Fin Soup created by chef Peter Pahk.

When we can't moderate our actions, we have to legislate them.  Let's give sharks break for a while.

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

Cooper's Hawk in the Garden

Water is a vital element to a habitat. The fountain that we added this winter has attracted a variety of birds including this adult Cooper's hawk. It stood in the bubbling water for 10 minutes. Later the same day, an immature Cooper's hawk took a turn standing in the exact same location.

Did it observe the older hawk or was there some communication between the two birds about the interesting new water source?