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Snowy Egret, Vol. 75, #1
Snowy Egret, Vol. 75, #1

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A Message from Martha

The Johnson Woods State Nature Preserve comprises about 80 hectares of old-growth deciduous woodland... There is lots of dead wood, and heard lots of birdsong as I walked the boardwalk on this spring evening - as usual I wasn't sure what most of the song was, but a Red-eye Vireo fed its young in a nest near the entrance. Some of the trees are enormous, mostly Red and White Oaks and Hickory, reaching to almost 40 metres with their first branches only appearing 15 metres above the ground. This is not a dark and forbidding forest but a light and airy one with the canopy high above one's head and the large trees spaced widely on the forest floor.

Passenger Pigeon by John James Audubon

Of 130 extinct birds, most (85%) have lived (and died) on oceanic islands, and only around 19 have been continental species...  the loss of the Passenger Pigeon from the Earth removed more individual birds than did all the other 129 extinctions put together. By any measure, this was an exceptional extinction.

A Message from Martha

The Extinction of the Passenger Pigeon and Its Relevance Today
by Mark Avery
University Of Chicago Press, 2013

The most common bird of the 19th century vanished from the Earth in the mid-20th century when the last of its kind perished at the Cincinnati Zoo. The sudden demise of the passenger pigeon is retold in this history published on the 50th anniversary of its extinction.

The opening chapters discuss the natural history of the species, followed by a personal and sometimes amusing chronicle of the author's five-week road trip through the eastern United States visiting places where passenger pigeons were spotted more than one hundred years ago and recording their flight paths, roosts and nesting locations.

The book concludes with a discussion of hypotheses on how and why the extinction occurred.

The Passenger Pigeon, 1907

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The Beeches ny Asher Brown Durand
The main trees of the breeding range of the Passenger Pigeon were American Beech, a variety of oaks and American Chestnut. Both beech and oak have occasional years of producing bumper crops of mast or acorns, and it was these year of plenty that shaped where the Passenger Pigeons nested.

Ecological Ethics
You can now choose what type of world you will live in, and what type of world you create, in a way no other species can. You can choose the level of future ecological devastation, and the excuse of ignorance no longer holds. Whether you do better in the future is a test of your worth as a species. You have the knowledge and ability to live sustainably on this planet but it's a hard road from where you are now. It's no longer a matter of what you know - you know enough. From here on, it's a test of whether you care - do you care enough?