( Friday, September 12, 2003 )

Brighton attracts huge numbers of coastal gulls. And huge. Biggest I've seen, fed on a healthy diet of tourist trash. They're everywhere and they're loud. The local football club is called the Seagulls.

There's been calls for a cull, but it's a moral dilemma. Taking the rational view point does feel cold.

Taking the bus, spotted a guy violently hitting something on a sidewalk. Getting closer, there's a gull on its back, half dead, still alive. What a spot! What do you do, with a gull, spread on is back on your doorstep?
1:42:21 PM   


Pretty little river, towards the Sussex Coast and Seven Sisters. Nice hike, lots of herons.
1:41:04 PM   


Heading south from Alicante, you come to a massive salt operation. Salt pools stretch in every direction. And flamingos. On migration from Africa, they filter feed on various plankton .. a diet which leads to the bright pink hue. There were thousands on our visit, not even the peak time of year.
1:39:18 PM   


Albufera de Valencia, Spanish for "lagoon". Large fresh water lake and coastal wetlands, minutes from sprawling Valencia, Spain. For centuries, the flow of water into, within, and out of this lagoon has been modified to maximize aquaculture opportunities. The local speciality is fresh eel, possibly in butter.

Major restoration has been undertaken recently. The visitors center is adjacent to several small ponds, very busy with birds. They had built an excellent bird blind for observations. A very busy road was with 20m, but the birds didn't mind -- they seem to realize the safety of the place despite the close proximity.
1:37:05 PM   


A random London stroll. A large circular group in Russell Square, quite possibly an aggressive public display of piety. Oh no, silly American, it's a countryside display of birds of prey.

A living exhibition, living "specimens" were arrayed across the lawn. These owls and hawks had been injured, and nursed back to health, for falconry and educational displays like this one. Amazingly beautiful, especially the owls. And huge. Not often you can get so close to birds like that.

Discussed a bit with the falconer, and learned of the movement to save hedgerows in the UK.
1:35:12 PM   


Skansen is a Swedish original. Part amusement park, part zoo, part historical landscape. Late 1800s, houses from throughout Sweden were relocated to an island in Stockholm, and used to recreate the quickly disappearing agrarian lifestyle. Add to the mix native Swedish animals -- this was the only place I got to see an elk; also wolves, wolverines, bears. Also rollercoasters.

Trana are huge birds, who summer in Sweden, related to cranes. We saw one on the kanal, but also got to see a couple close up at Skansen.
1:33:21 PM   


Göta Kanal links several lakes across southern Sweden. Roxen is near Linköping, and the west side of the lake has several nature reserves decidated to migratory birds.

The area had been used for cattle grazing for centuries. This modified environment had become a stopover point for many species, notably geese. When cattle were moved from the area some decades ago, the wildlife left too. At that point, the modified landscape was recognized for its ecological significance, and a regime of moving begun to reconstruct that landscape.

This shows the core palce of values in environmentalism. Nature, as an undistrubed landscape, doesn't exist in many places in Europe, or in many parts of the human inhabited world. Though wild looking, North America pre-European was highly regulated and influenced by tribes. To view nature as seperate from human endeavor is very misleading. And the amazing power of evolution, the flexibility of life is always astounding.
1:32:17 PM   


Linköping is an old cathedral town, not far from the Göta Kanal. We cycled its length in June, along the tow path and nearby roads, in not quite always awful weather.

In Linköping, we took a Sunday morning cake break. Walking in the central square, outside the shut Burger King, was a waddling little duck, quacking in a lost craze, not quite developed enough to fly. Obviously very out of place, we had to do something. He wasn't interested in our snack offerings, and ran. And ran. This duck ran. Ran past the cathedral into a park. At this point, we decided we had to capture him and bring him, somewhere, a wet somewhere. Grabbed a sleeping bag sack, and its pretty damn hard to catch a duck.

Chasing him through bushes, spotted a small pond, over a fence, in a posh looking location. Anna started an approach from another direction, and finally he was caught. This duck's little heart was poounding madly, and it was quite a privilage and responsibility to handle it. Hopped the fence and let the bag loose. After a terrifying second-long delay ("oh no, we killed it"), it sprang loose into the pond.

A mother duck and ducklings were already resident. There were some territorial squabblings, but we think in the end they came to a truce.
1:23:29 PM   


Heron's Head Park, back in San Francisco, was a stopover for many specie sof migratory birds, and home to many shore birds. Egrets, herons, ducks, dowitchers, avocets, plovers, sandpipers. It's a narrow wedge of land, jutting into the Bay, originally built for an approach for a planned, but unbuilt second SF-Oakland bridge. It sits in a heavy industry site, behind the notorious Hunter's Point power plant. Yet, with a restoration funded by SFO, a fine for some other environmental violation, it has become a success. As long as the birds feel safe, that don't seem to mind the proximity.
1:14:48 PM   


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