Sunday, May 25, 2008


Originally uploaded by izzie_whizzie
Just a sparrow, but such a cute one. Back to write tomorrow.

Rather than write about this bird, cute as it is, I want to write about the adventures of a truly unusual night heron, named Nellie. So please look below for that post. Thanks.

Troy Parker Farr

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

The Story of Nellie the Night-Heron

Black-crowned Night-Heron
Originally uploaded by Sylpi
I want to tell the story of Nellie the Night Heron. Night Herons are nocturnal birds, active evening, night, and early morning, and seldom seen during the day when they rest in trees.

In 2005, in Shell Beach, California (part of Pismo Beach), there were five nesting trees, and several trees occupied by fledglings after they have left the nest and start to fend for themselves. From trees near the bluffs overlooking the ocean, they can survey the tidepools and look for food. It was a difficult year for the fledglings due to unusually high waves and tides, and they had a hard time finding food on the reefs where they normally feed on small tidepool creatures at low tide. At high tide they feed along the high bluffs for rodents, bugs, and frogs, but development along the bluffs has shrunk their feeding places considerably.

These difficulties resulted in the eventual death of all of the 15 fledglings that left the rookery on Morro Street that year, except Nellie.

In November, 2005, a resident of Shell Beach, Terry Lilley, a biologist, and his research partner and neighbor, Sue Sloan, observed one of the still remaining night heron fledglings feeding on snails and worms in a neighbor's yard. This was unusual behavior for a night heron, and none of the other fledglings dared to do it, but would watch from nearby rooftops. For a month they watched this behavior, and finally realized the little heron was starving, so they decided to supplement its diet to help keep it alive. They bought night crawlers and threw some out to her every morning as they went on their usual walk with coffee to the beach. They named the heron "Nellie".

After a few weeks of morning feedings, they graduated from night crawlers to fish. They gave her one each morning, and she ate it with gusto. They made it a practice to feed her only a small amount in order not to interfere with her normal feeding.

Ever since first meeting Nellie three years ago, Terry and Sue have seen her almost every day. Although still a wild bird, she has become their friend in the sense that she interacts freely, and comes very close, sometimes even sitting on them. But she is still living a normal bird life, and in the spring of 2007, had her own three chicks. Interestingly, the chicks don't come close, even when their mother is sitting on a human lap getting a treat. This year, she is again showing her mating colors, and, chances are, will be a mother again in 2008.

Nellie was the only fledgling night heron to come down on the ground, the only one to eat worms, and the only one to survive.

In the summer of 2006, Andrews Real Estate hired Bunyon Brothers Tree Trimmers to cut down a mature healthy Monterey Pine at the end of Morro Street, the tree used by Nellie and other herons as their nesting and resting place during the day. Both were informed about the nests and the importance of the tree for all the resident herons, and that taking it down would be a violation of the federal Migratory Bird Act. A film crew came and filmed the realtor promising he wouldn't take down the tree, and aired it on KSBY TV News. In spite of his promise, the realtor had the tree trimming company go ahead, and the tree no longer exists. Nellie and all the other herons were dispossessed.

Shortly after this, Forister Tree Service cut ten long-term night heron nests out of another tree on Morro Street. Such colony nests are also protected under the Migratory Bird Act even if there are no eggs in them, but that was not enough to stop the destruction. The breeding night herons had to leave the tree when the trimmers showed up, and fled down the street to one of the last remaining trees with heron nests. The tree was on city property, but the home owner living near it squirted the herons and some of the nests out of the tree.

(To be continued.)

Monday, May 19, 2008

Chirping Carol

Chirping Carol
Originally uploaded by bogenfreund
I couldn't resist this. I will add comments later. No time now.

Friday, May 9, 2008

Does God Go to War?

How can a leader believe God works through him
When he takes his country to war?
Does God need wars?
Is war God's way of solving problems?

War is immoral
Preemptive war unthinkable
What is it that's unclear to this leader
About "Thou shalt not kill"?

My Friendly Neighborhood Falcon

What an interesting shot! Also by Space Ritual. I think he's located in Canada, maybe Saskatchewan.

What manner of bird is this?Asks Herr Ritual

I'm not sure what this bird is, but he obviously has something to say. This was taken by Space Ritual and uploaded to Flickr. So cute.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008


If we are all connected
Part of the same
Then what is war but self-sabotage?
What I do to my enemy I do to myself
There is no reason big enough
To make a war right
To ask the young to do things and see things
No one should have to do or see

How will those who come back be whole again
After they have been taught to kill
To kill or be killed
To accept it as all in a day's work?

Today's wars kill more than soldiers
Kill the armed and the unarmed
Families at meals
Teenagers on bikes
Vendors in the markets
Mothers nursing babies
Children at play

Think of those faces
Looking at you
Asking you why

What good have we done?

War destroys people in more ways
Than by bullets or bombs
If we who are safe at home
Had to spend one day with our soldiers
Had to see what they see
See what they do
We would say stop!
Nothing is worth this devastation
This savagery
This blood.

Just stop

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

King of the Beach

King of the Beach
Originally uploaded by brunkfordbraun
I am so sad to report that three elephant seals on the beach at San Simeon were shot and killed this last weekend. I can't imagine why anyone would want to kill such an animal. They don't bother anyone, and are so interesting to watch that people come from all over the world to see them.

These animals used to be hunted for their blubber, and in the early 1900s were thought to be extinct, but there were a few left on an island off Baja California. Present day elephant seals are descended from that group. They began to appear on the beaches in the San Simeon area in the late 1990s. The growing rookery was visible from Highway 1, and began to attract the attention of passersby, sometimes even causing traffic jams as people stopped to look.

Now California State Parks owns the land, and wardens and rangers patrol there regularly. Docents provide information to visitors. There are barriers there to keep people from bothering the elephant seals, or vice versa, and a parking lot has been created for interested travelers in order to prevent traffic jams.

A friend and I went up to San Simeon a couple of months ago on a cold, windy, wet day. We were shivering as we approached the fence and saw hundreds of big blubbery bodies laid out on the beach basking in the horrible weather. Only an elephant seal could have enjoyed it.

As we were leaving, we saw a seal out of the enclosure and in the ditch along Highway 1. We wondered about it, and two or three days later we heard on the news that an elephant seal had crossed the road and ventured onto Hearst ranch. A day or two after that there were pictures in the paper of the seal enjoying himself in a little pool. All the powers that be were trying to figure out how to coax him back across the road, and back to the rookery. It took several more days for them to finally succeed in getting the runaway, well, the flopaway, back home safely.

There were no quotes from the miscreant seal, so there was no way to know how he felt about his experience, and whether or not he was glad to get back home. But I do know he looked awfully happy taking his ease in that private pool.