Where would we be without bees? As far as important species go, they are top of the list. They are critical pollinators: they pollinate 70 of the around 100 crop species that feed 90% of the world. Honey bees are responsible for $30 billion a year in crops.
That’s only the start. We may lose all the plants that bees pollinate, all of the animals that eat those plants and so on up the food chain. Which means a world without bees could struggle to sustain the global human population of 7 billion. Our supermarkets would have half the amount of fruit and vegetables.
It gets worse. We are losing bees at an alarming rate….
Scott Kruitbosch, the Conservation & Outreach Coordinator at the Roger Tory Peterson Institute of Natural History in Jamestown, NY, is asking for help monitoring Rusty Blackbirds during the Spring Migration.
Soott asks: “Please help find Rusty Blackbirds — one of the fastest declining species on the continent — wherever you are during the blitz. Feel free to email me if you have any other questions and good luck finding them.”
It is quite possible that you have already heard about the White-nose Syndrome that is doing terrible damage to cave-dwelling bats in the USA, but what exactly is it!
According to the USGS, “White-nose syndrome (WNS) is an emergent disease of hibernating bats that has spread from the northeastern to the central United States at an alarming rate. Since the winter of 2007-2008, millions of insect-eating bats in 22 states and five Canadian provinces have died from this devastating disease. The disease is named for the white fungus, Pseudogymnoascus destructans, that infects skin of the muzzle, ears, and wings of hibernating bats.”
White-nose syndrome was first discovered in North America in upstate New York in February 2006, in a cave adjoining a commercial cave visited by 200,000 people per year. The fungus appears to have been introduced to North America from Europe. It has been found on cave bats in 12 countries in Europe, where bats appear to be adapted to, and unaffected by, the fungus. Because bats do not travel between the continents, this strongly suggests the fungus was newly introduced to North America by people — likely cave visitors who transported it on their gear or clothing.
An estimated 6.7 million bats have died since 2006 because of an outbreak of white-nose syndrome. It has wiped out entire colonies and left caves littered with the bones of dead bats. The epidemic is considered the worst wildlife disease outbreak in North American history and shows no signs of slowing down. It threatens to drive some bats extinct and could do real harm to the pest-killing services that bats provide, worth billions of dollars each year, in the United States. [Source: Center for Biological Diversity]
The latest news articles on this disease are available from White-noseSyndrome.org, here, and this includes the fact that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is awarding $1.4 million in grants for work on the deadly bat disease, with a further $2 million available in a second round of grants.
What can you do to help?
The key things are:
Avoid possible spread of WNS by humans
Stay out of caves and mines where bats are known – or suspected – to hibernate (hibernacula) in all states.
Take a look at For Cavers on the Service’s website.
Avoid disturbing bats
Stay out of all hibernacula when bats are hibernating (winter).
Report unusual bat behavior to your state natural resource agency, including bats flying during the day when they should be hibernating (December through March) and bats roosting in sunlight on the outside of structures. More difficult to discern is unusual behavior when bats are not hibernating (April through September); however, bats roosting in the sunlight or flying in the middle of the day would be unusual. Bats unable to fly or struggling to get off the ground would also be unusual.
One of my recent posts was about Paul Nicklen’s National Geographic presentation on Tuesday, March 4th, at Kleinhans, in Buffalo.
Today (March 2), I’ve spent quite some time looking at his excellent wildlife photography book: ‘BEAR — The Spirit of the Wild’
The introductory description of the book, inside the dust jacket, reads: “…a powerful visual journey that reveals the private world of the great denizens of the wild north. National Geographic photographer and biologist Paul Nicklen takes readers on a special journey to some of his favorite corners of the planet’s northern latitudes, providing rare and intimate glimpses of bears and portraying them as noble ambassadors of the wild. Through his unforgettable images and personal narrative, Nicklen strives to show us a different side of bears…” Initially, when I first opened to the book to flick through the photographs, I was a little cautious because some of the first half-dozen images have been pushed to the very limit in terms of printing very small sections of the original file and/or filling a double-page spread, but despite some visible ‘noise’ on those images as a result of this, it cannot be denied that they are still very powerful. And the good news is that such issues are confined to those initial images; from that point on the quality gets higher and effectively stays there. Indeed, many of the subsequent images are nothing short of jaw-dropping. Introductory small images of Mr. Nicklen himself, on pages 20-23, show just how close he is prepared to work to bears and — quite literally — the validity of his approach is put into words by the start of his introduction, on page 19, where he writes: “If you have picked up this book hoping to read about a near-death experience with a bear, you will be deeply dissappointed. As you will witness through the images and the stories from these great authors, none of us has a terrifying story to tell. Instead, we have all been greatly inspired by the last true nomads of North America…”
My own favourite images? Well, I’m going to list the page numbers but there’s a very high chance that your favourites would be different to mine, as they undeniably should be, because we all have different likes.
Polar bears: 34-35, 36-37, 40-41, 48, 54-55, 198
Grizzlies: 86-87, 88-89, 104-5, 112-13
Black bears: 152-3
Spirit bears (i.e. white-coloured black bears but they’re not albinos): 166-67, 168-69, 172-73 (same as cover), 178-79
There are some excellent none-bear photographs, too, including several environmental shots — mostly from planes — as well as:
narwhals at a large breathing hole, with polar bears watching
an outrageously good shot of a ringed seal surfacing
Whether or not you are going to Paul Nicklen’s talk in two days’ time — which is not all about bears — you might want to check this book out. (Barnes & Noble on Niagara Falls Boulevard has a copy in the ‘Nature’ section, by the bow window.) It is $35.00 but for any keen wildlife watcher or nature photographer it would be a fine addition to one’s library.
The U.S. is one of the world’s largest markets for both legal and illegal wildlife and wildlife products….
….The strategy aims to reduce illegal trade in wildlife not only in the U.S., but around the world by focusing on three main priorities: strengthening enforcement, reducing demand for illegally traded wildlife, and expanding international cooperation and commitment….
The endangered whooping crane population currently stands at only about 600 in all of North America — and shootings are cutting into that number.
In the past few months, three of the continent’s tallest birds, at some five feet, have been killed: Two were apparently killed in November in Kentucky, and one was found shot dead in southwestern Louisiana on Friday.
The identities of the birds make a “senseless act” all the more “devastating,” says Robert Love of the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries….