Thursday, January 19, 2012

January 19, 2011

Lifeform of the week: The mystery of the monk parakeets

By Alex Reshanov

Feral green parrots are living all over the United States. Where did they come from? How did they get here? And don’t they get cold in the winter?

A friend in Brooklyn, New York, where I was living at the time, first drew my attention to the exotic, bright green birds that occasionally turned up in the neighborhood trees. Various legends fluttered around the misplaced parrots – they’d escaped from the zoo, from a pet store, from a crate bound for a pet store, and had managed to establish themselves in some nook of the Big Apple. The tales portrayed the birds as a single anomalous colony unique to a city itself renowned for uniqueness. Only in New York…

But after moving to Austin, I began to notice suspiciously similar birds, slightly better camouflaged against the greener scenery, but still a bit too tropical looking to blend in with the grackles and mourning doves that dominate the local bird-o-sphere.

It took minimal detective work to uncover that both cities’ green-feathered inhabitants were of the same species – Myiopsitta monachus, or monk parakeet. And they’re not isolated to Brooklyn and Austin either. Monk parakeets have made themselves at home in many parts of the U.S., including Chicago, New Jersey, Connecticut and, of course, reigning invasive species capital Florida. They’ve also been spotted in such far flung residences as Spain, Kenya and Japan, in addition to their original habitat in South America.

Despite being thoroughly adorable, the parrots are considered a nuisance in many of their adopted cities, and owning them as pets is now prohibited in some U.S. states. Who could be so cold-hearted as to find fault with such delightful green birds? The electric company, for one....

Read the full article at link.

Image Credit: Life Lenses


82 snakehead caught by Maryland anglers in eradication contest

By Associated Press

ANNAPOLIS, Md. — Maryland anglers caught 82 snakeheads in a contest sponsored by the Department of Natural Resources to help eradicate the invasive species.

DNR says the 69 anglers were automatically entered into a drawing for prizes donated by contest sponsors....

Read the full story at link.


The Dying [?] Art of Making Ash Wood Baskets

Bangor Daily News

When Roldena Sanipass was a girl she watched her mother weave strips of brown ash into traditional Micmac baskets. She could be seen in the background, pounding ash or cleaning splints while her mother, well-known basket maker Mary Sanipass, demonstrated her craft, but she didn’t have the confidence to weave one herself until she was 20.

“It was something I lived with, grew up with. Mother and Dad did it all for us,” Roldena, 45, told an audience at the University of Maine at Presque Isle in November, explaining that Donald and Mary Sanipass of Presque Isle fed and clothed their family by selling their handmade baskets. “I was brought up with ash wood.”

Today, even though she creates everything from pack baskets to her signature miniature potato baskets, Roldena, an art and photography student at UMPI, does not see herself following in her mother’s footsteps. “The ash wood is dying along with the art,” she said.

One of five basket makers from Native tribes in the region on a Nov. 30 panel, “The Evolution of Basket Making: From Function to Art,” Roldena pinpointed a twin threat to the tradition of making ash baskets. Native basket weavers not only need to pass their skills on to the next generation, but also to protect the ash trees from a pest that has devastated the species in states west of Maine.

Called the emerald ash borer, the beetle hatches in the tops of trees and begins to defoliate them. By the time the damage is visible, the tree is too far gone to save....

Panelist Jennifer Neptune, 42, of the Penobscot Tribe on Indian Island is more optimistic. She explained in an interview that four or five years ago members of the Ojibway Tribe in Michigan warned basket makers in Maine to take precautions before the emerald ash borer reached Maine.

“We have time to plan for it,” she said, explaining that the Maine Indian Basketmakers Alliance is working with the University of Maine, the Maine Forest Service and the U.S. Forest Service to come up with a plan.

“Our goal is to keep [the borer] out of Maine,” she said. “Don’t move wood. Don’t bring firewood from out of state. Buy locally.”

One prevention effort conducted last spring, she explained, involved toll booth operators handing out Maine Forest Service literature about the borer to tourists and travelers entering Maine with wood from out of state.

The visitors at that point were asked to trade their firewood for wood grown in Maine.

“The impact [of the pest] is huge for basket makers, but also for the Maine environment,” she said. “People should be aware.”

Neptune is encouraged by Maine Forest Service tests using native wasps to provide early detection of emerald ash borers. The wasps (Cerceris fumitennis) hunt the beetles and bring them from the treetops to their nests on the ground where they can be identified.

“It’s like an early warning system,” she said, noting that the wasps tend to nest around ball fields. A nest was discovered in Dedham and scientists are trying to locate others.

“It’s definitely scary, but we are hopeful. We have more time than other states. We hope science can catch up with the beetle.”...

Read the full article at link.


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