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Posts Tagged ‘nature’

Spreading smiles along with hay around newly planted trees on Jamaica Bay. A MillionTreesNYC event with the National Park Service and NYRP. I organized the Earth Day New York contingent.

Spring can bring emotional regrowth to you through exercise in nature. A critical insight illuminating American history is that Jefferson used the word “happiness” as a standard Enlightenment translation for the Classical Greek concept eudaimonia. Today academics translate this as “flourishing,” both in personal potential and value to the community.

Depression and chronic stress (and even severely stressful incidents) kill brain cells, deepening depression in a vicious cycle. The good news is that the brain is much more regenerative than once believed. Both exercise and natural experiences have been shown to alleviate depression, so do yourself and your loved ones a favor — combine those benefits by enjoying outdoor recreation and active volunteer work. These activities also tend to be social. Get started on a virtuous cycle of enjoying nature and sharing the accomplishments of stewardship with other caring people!

A few resources to get you going:

BIKING

PADDLING AND ROWING

CLIMBING

RUNNING

HIKING

GARDENING

TREE PLANTING AND CARE

BIRDING

SWIMMING

WALKING

May you flourish in every season!

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Green heron on the Newtown Creek by Bernard Ente.

Bernie and I became friends six years ago when my work starting the LIC Community Boathouse brought me into the Newtown Creek Alliance. His urban nature photos brought us closer and often inspired Nature Calendar (the photo above helped to inspire this more challenging entry). He also reveled in our working waterfront heritage. He was a crusty Queens guy with a deep sentimentality in the best way, and he had a fine eye. He was kind and intelligent. His natural (or was it hard won?) skepticism never stopped him from supporting the most idealistic endeavors and over-the-horizon dreams. How else could he love a Superfund Site, the creek, as evidenced by this gallery?
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Many times I threatened/promised to spend a day canoeing the creek with him. He brushed the offer away with a laugh, saying that canoes were for the young — he wasn’t too old to canoe by any means. I’m very saddened that won’t happen. If you’re reading this and worry you’re too old to get out on the water this way, please get in touch with your local community boathouse and learn how happily wrong you are.
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Joyful adventures in nature to you, in the company of friends.

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As we get ready for a new season of paddling on the harbor, I’m eternally grateful to Pete Seeger for making this video with Robert DiMaio’s Artist Archive project in support of the LIC Community Boathouse.

I founded the LIC Community Boathouse to share my love of our waterways, and so that people inspired by their new love might nurture urban nature. We put thousands of people on the water each year for free, thanks to a great crew of volunteers and sponsors. As this blog demonstrates, you can enjoy eco-tourism in the company of wondrous plants and animals right here at home if you paddle, row, bike, hike, swim, or climb. You’ll be emotionally, spiritually, and physically healthier for it too! Then take that recreational access a step further with volunteerism and donations to stewardship groups.

One great place to learn about, enjoy, and honor our region’s marine ecology is Pete Seeger’s own Clearwater Festival.

Pete fell in love with the LIC Community Boathouse by seeing us in action at the Clearwater Festival. I enjoyed a wonderful walk with him across the grounds several years ago, introducing him to our work and goals. He was initially astonished. “I don’t call it the East River! I call it the East Express,” he joked, regarding how he had to relearn his Hudson sailing routines in triple time once on our waterway. But our safety success, generosity toward kids, and environmental work won him over. It’s a nearly inexpressible honor to have his blessing.

I hope to see you at the Festival! Be sure to inquire about volunteering, donating, or exhibiting!

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Paddler with porpoise.

Mutually fascinated mammals in New York Harbor.

PLEASE FORGIVE SPACING ISSUES. WORDPRESS PROBLEM.

Neuroscientist and kayaker Vladimir Brezina paddled with a harbor porpoise in New York Harbor recently, and got great photos! Unlike harbor seals, which congregate and bask in the sun, these dark-backed loners are hard to spot and even more difficult to photograph. Fortunately for Vlad and friends, this porpoise seems to have bored with the pensive, hermetic life and so tagged along with a few odd fellow mammals for two miles around the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge.
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Here are write ups from the discovery crew, which included excellent kayak blogger Bonnie (aka “Frogma”):
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Being sociable with other species isn’t always a winning strategy for harbor porpoises, which occupy habitats hugging shorelines and inlets quite near humans and other predators. The species name comes to us via French from compounding two Latin words: porco (pig) and piscus (fish). This name doesn’t hold the promise of reverence.
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Harbor porpoises mate promiscuously but have only one pup per year.  Some researchers argue that the species might be divided into “races” by region in the northern Atlantic and Pacific and the Black Sea.  Despite having such a slow rate of reproduction, the species isn’t endangered. Existence is perilous, however, for individual porpoises. They were once hunted for blubber and are still often ensnared in fishing nets. An ongoing hazard in such close quarters with humans  is poisoning by pollution. Even dolphins slaughter small and often solitary harbor porpoises to eliminate competition for food in lean times. Naturalists have recently witnessed this intra-cetacean ruthlessness along the shores of Scotland.
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New York Harbor, on the other hand, is experiencing a resurgence of marine mammal populations in recent decades. It’s unclear if this is because of local environmental improvements or an unrelated increase in ocean prey stocks that sustain whales, dolphins, porpoises, and seals. Vlad and other paddlers, including myself, first documented the return of seals to New York Harbor in numbers after a 120-year absence. I broke the story is this New York Times article (the editor made the headline, which confuses seals with sea lions).
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The Narrows passage seems to be a unsung hot spot for sighting large creatures. Perhaps this is because migrating fish and tide-riding food sources tightly funnel through this stretch between the Upper and Lower Bays of New York Harbor. Earlier in the last decade I enjoyed a blue shark encounter (rare for inland waters) here and Wildlife Conservation Society marine biologist Paul Sieswerda was once privileged to see a juvenile fin whale between 40′-50′ long swimming toward the bridge and then back out to sea. Sadly, large ships sometimes drag fin whale carcasses into the harbor on their bulbous bows.
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If you ever spot a sea mammal or turtle in New York Harbor (either healthy or in distress), or want to volunteer with rescues and care, please contact the Riverhead Foundation.
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The best way to get out there with the porpoises, whales, seals, and other aquatic wildlife is by kayak, sailboat, or rowboat. To get started, volunteer with the NYC Water Trail Association community boathouse that’s best for you or go for instruction with one of our fine local outfitters. Another option is to bike along one of our greater waterfront greenways.

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After millions of years in the air, birds might be a bit insulted that they’re blamed for downing planes when one of these giant metal leviathans hurtles into their flock. I mean, imagine a whale crash landing into your bicycle parade and then complaining of “bike strikes.”

Still, many people have asked for links to learn more about bird strikes, and the estuary birds of our region. So here’s a quick link list!

BIRD STRIKES:

Nonprofit:

http://www.birdstrike.org/events/signif.htm

FAA:

http://wildlife-mitigation.tc.faa.gov/public_html/index.html

Rotors:

http://www.flightglobal.com/articles/2008/11/21/319198/bird-strike-emerges-as-open-rotor-concern.html

 

BIRDS OF NYC:

NYC Audubon:

http://www.nycaudubon.org/kids/birds/

NYC Birds:

http://www.nycbirds.com/

Brooklyn Bird Club:

http://www.brooklynbirdclub.org/trips.htm

Cornell University Database:

http://www.birds.cornell.edu/

 

And now a hot apple cider toast to the pilot! Let’s hope the authorities focus on better detection and avoidence and not fewer birds!

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Neighborhoodcats.org photo of JFK cat protest.

Neighborhoodcats.org photo of JFK cat protest.

by Erik Baard

Australia is learning that it’s traded one form of “cute overload” for another, and there might be lessons for New York City.

 

As reported in this article, Australia attacked its cat overpopulation problem in the interest of preserving its indigenous bird species. The trouble is, without the feline predators around, a rabbit population explosion ensued, stripping away ground foliage needed for safe bird nesting.

 

The conflict between cat lovers and conservationists, which is often an inner one, spans the globe. In NYC it’s found focus on Jamaica Bay and the JFK Airport. Emotional pleas and conservation science studies have crashed upon walls of bureaucracy in recent years as airport officials cleared out a stray cat population. One ironic twist is that some airport managers have claimed that the cats are attracting birds, with their food and feces, and posing a hazard to planes. While bird strikes are very real, environmental concerns on Jamaica Bay center on ground nesting birds.

 

Cats are the flashpoint where empathy and responsibility crash in on themselves.

 

We feel for the cats, cast off in a breach of our social contract with them as a companion species. Activists might have a point in calling the feral ones, though born outside of human housing, “homeless.” That’s certainly true for abandoned pets. But we also grasp the suffering that attends habitat loss and losing young, as birds and other small species struggle to hold on under assault from feline predators.

 

Our sense of responsibility is weighty because we’ve both marginalized local species to a fringe of habitat and introduced an effective predator.

 

The greatest point of consensus is that cats should be adopted only responsibly (for life, and neutered), and that they should be kept indoors. But in cases where colonies already exist, sterilization and reintroduction seems is the most humane and effective means of dealing with the cat population. Infertile cats will still hold territory, preventing a rapid repopulation of the area by breeding cats from adjacent neighborhoods. With rats, another species that’s forever the subject of population control schemes, denying food helps disperse a population and keep them busy seeking sustenance instead of breeding. When social animals have a central food source, they gather and find mates, and have the surplus energy to breed and bear young.

 

Just ask the rabbits down under!

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East River book cover.

East River book cover.

A good chunk of the East River book is now online for free! Get some hot cocoa and enjoy?

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