Do You Want to Help Pollinators?

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Sonoran Bumblebee (Bombus sonorus) at a Mystic Spires Plant – © Heather Valey 2019

As you’ve probably heard, over the last couple decades, pollinator species have been having a rough time.  Between loss of habitat and insecticides, their numbers have been teetering on the edge.  As a result, scientists have been urging people to plant milkweed and other native nectar plants for butterflies, bees, beetles, moths, flies, some bats & hummingbirds.  Additionally, there has been a call to reduce the use of pesticides on lawns and yard plants.  But did you know that there is also another thing you can do to help pollinators? You can help by being a citizen scientist and documenting your pollinator sightings in the upcoming Texas Pollinator Bioblitz!

What is a citizen scientist? A Citizen Scientist is an amateur scientist who voluntarily contributes effort toward scientific research under the direction of professional scientists.

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Eastern Tiger Swallowtail (Papilio glaucus) © Heather Valey 2019

On October 4th through October 20th is the Texas Pollinator Bioblitz.  This event gives you the opportunity to help scientists collect data about the pollinators and pollinator plants that you see where you live, work and play.  It’s easy and fun, and folks of all ages are encouraged to participate.

How to join in:

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Female Broadtail Hummingbird (Selasphorus platycercus) – © Heather Valey 2019

    1. Register HERE to be an official member of the Bioblitz and receive cool information on pollinators throughout the challenge.
    2. During October 4th through October 20th take pictures of pollinators and pollinator plants in Texas.  You can take your pictures and videos anywhere as long as they are in Texas.
    3. You can post your pictures or videos into the project in the following ways

Don’t worry if you don’t know exactly what species you are seeing, just take the picture and post it on the platform of your choice.  Scientist and knowledgeable volunteers will help identify it. 

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Unidentified Fly (Diptera) Species –  © Heather Valey 2019

This Bioblitz will not only give data to scientists about what type of pollinators you are seeing, but it will give them more insight into species that have conservation needs such as the Monarchs and around 30 other pollinator species.

This is a great activity to take part in.  Not only is the data contributing to the conservation of these important creatures but it is a fun way to learn about what pollinators you have in your neighborhood.

Happy pollinator hunting!

Post Climate Strike – What Next?

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Climate Strike Austin © Heather Valey 2019

written & photographed by Heather Valey

Just as South East Texas was reeling from the giant tropical storm Imelda, young people and folks from all walks rallied at the Texas Capitol (and around the world) demanding action on Climate Change.  Speakers on the steps of the Capitol led chants and gave passionate speeches about the inaction of our government to even acknowledge, let alone act on Climate Change in recent years.

The strike may be over, but we can’t rest.  We must continue to insist on action.  We also must be insistent on the right action.  I’m tired of being overwhelmed with distracting lists of things I can do to fight climate change: stop eating meat, stop showering, don’t eat organic food, eat more organic food… etc.  I do try to watch my carbon footprint, I drive a hybrid car, we have installed energy saving light bulbs in our house, we try not to fly very much…etc  But these “to-do” lists for the common folk is all a distraction to move blame away from where it belongs.  For example, take the “stop eating meat” mandate,  livestock only contributes to the overall US greenhouse gas emissions by 4.2%, and globally up to 18%.  We need to focus on the biggest cause of the issue and that is our use of fossil fuels.   The biggest offender in the U.S. is the burning of fossil fuels (oil & coal) which accounts for 62.9%  of our Greenhouse Gas emissions in this country. Globally, fossil fuel consumption contributes to 76 % of our Green House Gas emissions.  So if you just can’t give up meat, don’t feel like you are a terrible environmentalist.  

**  The recent fires in the Amazon, Indonesia now and Canada in 2018 aren’t helping either.  
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Climate Strike Austin – © Heather Valey 2019

Our government needs to be participating in the solution, not becoming a bigger part of the problem.  The US is the 2nd largest contributor of Greenhouse Gases in the world.  The UN Climate summit this past week was focused on creating plans and strategies to act now on Climate Change, but sadly produced little but talk.

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© Heather Valey 2019

We must continue pushing until our government starts taking this seriously.   There are things you can do aside from putting down that burger.

  1. Make sure you are registered to vote. If you are not, you can go HERE .  If you think you are already registered, double check.  Your vote matters so make sure you are able to cast it.
  2. Do your homework before voting, look for candidates that support action for climate change.  Look into what their plans are.  Use resources like Vote411 or  League of Women Voters  . USA.gov has some good tips on how to decide who to vote for in any election.
  3. Look for groups in your area working on climate change activism.
  4. Stay in the loop.  Keep up to date on what is happening.
    • By signing up with any of the agencies that are working on fighting climate change they will send you updates
    • Search out information beyond the headlines, the mainstream media doesn’t always show what is happening with a certain issue
    • The Austin Eco-Network is a great source for the Austin area for eco-issues

If you can add to these lists please do in the comments!

sources
https://www.epa.gov/ghgemissions/sources-greenhouse-gas-emissions
https://austineconetwork.com/beyond-the-strike-how-to-actually-do-something-about-climate-change-energy-edition/
https://www.edf.org/energy/texas-clean-energy-economy
https://www.vox.com/2019/9/22/20877222/un-climate-action-summit-2019
https://www.c2es.org/content/international-emissions/
https://www.epa.gov/ghgemissions/sources-greenhouse-gas-emissions

 

Banding Golden-Cheeked Warblers – Photo Essay

I tagged along on a Golden-Cheeked Warbler bird banding session with biologist Julie Murray from the Travis County Balcones Canyonlands Conservation office in Austin, Texas. The endangered birds are banded and re-sighted every year during breeding season to help scientists understand how many birds are returning each year, how long they live and how big their territories are, among other things.

Below is a photo essay of the banding experience.

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For more information on the BCCP and the Golden-Cheeked Warbler, check out these resources below:

  1. The Balcones Canyonlands Conservation Plan
  2. The Golden- Cheeked Warbler