“…in cities, the quality of nearby nature is linked to human well-being and biodiversity”

A very hopeful article landed in my email queue this morning, entitled Six Promising Trends for the New Nature Movement” – by Richard Louv, syndicated from blog.childrenandnature.org, Jan 07, 2015 –  http://www.dailygood.org/story/940/six-promising-trends-for-the-new-nature-movement-richard-louv/

Of course, this bit popped for me:

2. Greater understanding that, in cities, the quality of nearby nature is linked to human well-being and biodiversity.


There’s more than one reason to create a park or preserve open space. Urban parks with the greatest variety of species (emphasis is mine) are the ones with the best impact on human psychological health.


As the new Washburn Center suggests, biophilic design (the creation of living buildings through the addition of green roofs, hanging gardens, abundant natural light and many other features) is beginning to enter the vernacular of mainstream architects, urban planners, health officials, educators and business people. Biophilically-designed workplaces and schools are seeing an increase in productivity and decrease of sick days taken. Across the country, some libraries are assuming a new role as connectors of people to nearby nature and centers of bioregional knowledge.


In recent months, The National League of Cities – an organization that supports leaders in 19,000 municipalities across the U.S. – has taken a leadership position on this issue, and NLC and C&NN will soon announce a major initiative to connect children and families to nature.

Imagine that Springfield were one of those 19,000 municipalities. Someday, the children in Greenwood School could look out back and see flourishing of native plantings ensuring food, cover and homes for wild birds, mammals and reptiles and amphibians. Someday Springfield folks might walk through Van Horn and never be disturbed by earsplitting machinery noise, or choked by vehicle and heavy equipment fumes, because the city would respect such a precious resource for our generation and those to come. – Let’s hope.



The Awesome Things These 6 Cities Are Doing for Wildlife
With little effort, argue conservationists, cities can provide habitat for birds, butterflies, pollinators, and other creatures great and small.



It’s getting closer… Click to find instructions, FAQs, Tally sheet and a List of birds for your region (U.S. and Canada)

Live Fish Trapped on a Tree

As I gazed across the pond at sunrise from the pine shore, I noted fresh trash strewn over the open spot (at one time, a boat landing) and including a bag hanging on a tree, as I figured in the extra time it would take me to clean it up.

On arrival at the far shore, I could see plastic wrap, coffee cups and lids… and that the bag suspended from a broken branch was large, clear plastic, and contained water. The water contained about a half dozen fish, about three inches in length, and swimming. I was too shocked to waste time trying to ID the species. I unhooked the bag and carefully poured the fishes into the pond, hoping only that they might live.


Last Squirrels Seen February 15


I don’t believe the Parks Department has killed them all…yet. There are marks snow at the base of some trees. Chewed twigs with tight red buds lay on the ground in a couple of places. And only bits of shell remain at my raw peanut drop spots. Still, not to record a single squirrel for nearly six weeks is an aberration, according to field notes I’ve kept since 2008.

How many died when the trees were cut down? How many lost their homes and froze to death, or otherwise died of exposure in the cold and snow that came after? How many fled into the neighborhood? – (Where they may be unwelcome house guests and face harm again at the hands of humans.)

Earlier in the week, I encountered a middle-aged man who shared his upset over the city’s latest and earlier attacks on Van Horn Park. He sadly recounted the disappearance of a fox family here, and said he’d seen dead rabbits – victims of the bordering streets.

Wheels of heavy vehicles plow up and scrape off topsoil in a Springfield, MA park.

Wheels of heavy vehicles plow up and scrape off topsoil

Surviving Snow

Spent yesterday digging out of the 30 inches of snow left here in Springfield. I couldn’t push my back door open more than 12 inches and squished myself through onto the deck to commence with shoveling. Several shifts were required to clear paths from front and back doors. Hardest of all, was restoring access to the street after the city plows had passed.

However, I didn’t need the park to observe wildlife behavior. Soon after day broke, cardinals (7), woodpeckers (hairy, downy and red-bellied), and a group of 100 house sparrows, juncos and starlings were busy plucking sunflower seeds from backyard feeders. They worked, despite the overnight coating of snow, despite gusts of wind that swirled snow around, and despite snow that continued to fall until about 10 AM.

I had just reached ground level, after pushing white stuff off the deck stairs, when two poufs of dark feathers danced in the air before me, drifting with the windblown and sparkling snow.  I paused to scan the trees for a suspected raptor.  Seeing nothing, I went back to work.

A little later, during an inside break, the view from the second floor showed three craters in an otherwise pristine backyard. The first and deepest hole in the snow was ringed with dark feathers, – where a starling met an untimely end.

In the afternoon, I was excavating the driveway. Hefting the five-hundredth (or so) shovelful of white stuff, –  high and to the side, – I held my breath while half of it blew back into my face. When my vision returned I was looking at a hawk that was looking me. Sitting on back fence with its chest feathers puffed out, it looked very large, but I recognized the Cooper’s Hawk. It seemed content to continue as it was, so I returned to my task. The bird stuck around a while observing my behavior for a change.

I believe this Cooper’s Hawk has been a frequent shopper at my backyard feeders for two years, now. Its favorite meal is pigeon, and normally, it’s readily available, but the overnight blizzard and heavy snowfall sent the rock pigeons off to parts unknown to seek shelter. A starling had to suffice in the wake of the winter storm.

Snowstorm Imminent

Gray and quiet early walk with the ground still bare. Only the occasional lump of flakes drifted downward. In spite of the dire predictions, crows were hanging around a favored spot and “the littles,” chickadee, titmouse, downy woodpecker, and brown creeper announced themselves as usual.

I left my peanut offerings to the squirrels, hoping they will add them to their larders. The foot or two of snow expected will make foraging near impossible.

During the last month, there has been snow from time to time. My daughter and I enjoyed seeing track-ways made by birds, squirrels, humans with dogs, and the occasional cat.

I was less sure of the identity of a small clawed critter, who was also impressive wanderer. The close-together line of tracks crossed the (often lethal) Armory Street to the park. They veered into the leaves here and there, but invariably came back to the asphalt. They extended fairly deeply into the park, and we found evidence for more than one individual.

Then, this morning, in full light and full public view, a skunk, of considerable size, waddled into the park’s south gate. I’m worried because it was in no rush to disappear, and, I’m sad to say, humans are not universally wise or kind.

The snow has begun, and the birds at backyard feeders (mostly pigeons) are becoming more frenzied. Next post after shoveling out what I hope will be 12, not 24 inches of white stuff.

Bringing Nature to the City

I wanted to share this terrific online piece from YES! Magazine about artist and engineer, Natalie Jeremijenko who says,

“Cities are already islands of biodiversity, critical islands of biodiversity that most people don’t understand.”

Click on over to read a refreshing and uplifting story, -> Robot Dogs and Other Weird Creatures Bring Nature to the City


National Bird Day

Cooper's Hawk

Cooper’s Hawk visiting backyard on January 2, 2013.

Saturday, January 5, 2013 is National Bird Day. To find out more about it click here: http://nationalbirdday.org/

In celebration, I’m sharing a shot of a Cooper’s Hawk I snapped on Wednesday. It was a challenge to get a clear view through the fence. I believe this individual is a frequent shopper at my backyard bird-feeding station.

Then today, my daughter and I watched the flight of a Red Tailed Hawk across the field edging the park, its parting glory on fire in the early morning sun.