Tuesday, April 6, 2010


There are so many reports of human activity causing declining biodiversity (that's a nice way of saying, extinction of all sorts of plants and animals) everywhere around the globe - it is a tumultuous competition of disasters...impossible to read them all, let alone catalogue or analyze them.The impacts are overwhelming, and are thoroughly covered at the blogs of mongabay (tropical rainforests), apocadocs, and desdemona links to koala bears, seals, whales, oysters, tigers, butterflies and tortoises.
The impacts are overwhelming, but I won't bother to recount them.
At Wit's End though, the bullfrog and petasites japonica are thriving!
I am continuing my struggle to photograph birds. This is a particularly poor example...but this gentleman and his mate return every year to nest on the lantern of the porch at Wit's End (and not coincidentally make a repulsive mess of the floor beneath) that I had to include it.
I have come to the conclusion that I need an even greater version of the telephoto lens,
if I am to be able to focus on these pesky creatures that rarely cooperate.
I know so little about birds, I am really ashamed. Only in a few instances do I know their names, or recognize their songs.
I feel that as my species is poised to eliminate their species, I should show some respect and learn more about them - those that remain.
Not of course that it's any compensation. If they knew, perhaps, they would feel better compensated knowing that my species is wiping out my species as well.
Spring is coming so fast, and so early, I cannot keep up with the pace. I don't want to miss a single blooming, because we will never again see the likes of this, our last spring to speak of.
It is peculiar because a) everything is flowering all at once and
b) petals are falling off trees even as they come into full bloom.

They did used to persist for a couple of weeks.
Now they open and fall to the ground simultaneously.
Lovely as this scene is, there is too much sky to be seen.
And there is extensive damage to trunks that will ultimately kill this beautiful planting of ornamental pears.
Of course, the lichens have arrived to do their job of breaking down dead tissue, and returning the nutrients to the earth, thus expediting the demise of trees - to be oh so much more efficient.

Bulbs and shrubs are blooming with astonishing rapidity, and out of sequence. There are tulips in full regalia before primula, the traditional harbingers of spring - and magnolia already fading before the generally earliest redbud has bloomed.
Daffodils comingle with euphorbia.
The hellebores are in full glory, although the pine in the background is thin.
Every species is confused.
And it's a very bad signal. The exquisitely calibrated relationships, that developed over millions of years, between flowers and pollinators, litter sizes and predators, is hopelessly (HOPELESSLY) disrupted, and will be for millions of years more, as we laboriously plod through this, the Sixth Great Extinction.
Which is entirely, and tragically, caused by human stupidity, greed, shortsightedness, hubris, and vanity.
There is a person who comments here from time to time, with the moniker of Icarus.
How much more perfect could that be, and just think, it was predicted millennia ago.
Every day I struggle with the dichotomy between the exquisite luxury of what I can still find, here on earth...

And the sure knowledge that it is all about to end.
There is no grander plan or higher place, there is no evidence for that.
And so, what is our redemption?
Trees are dying in grotesque numbers in Oregon, and as usual the researchers blame a pathogen. No mention in the report as to whether they considered tropospheric ozone as weakening trees allowing the spread of a fungus; nor whether other species are also in decline. This will require followup!
Certainly, here on the US East Coast, trees exhibit alarming symptoms of poisonous levels of atmospheric toxins. This Shell Bark Hickory has bark literally popping off its trunk. I found loads of fascinating seed casings underneath it. They remind me of the helmets of the thousands of ceramic Chinese horsemen found buried in an archeological treasure.
And speaking of the Chinese, that is the provenance of this Lace Bark Pine. It is sadly thin.
Which is terrible, because it has the most beautiful pattern of bark.
It turns out that despite the expected decrease in CO2 levels from the economic downturn, they are still increasing. Gee, why might that be? Could it be that the carbon sinks that have been absorbing CO2 since humans began the Industrial Revolution are saturated? The forest that ate it up and grew too fast (like humans gaining weight from diets rich with excess sugar and fat who now have heart disease and diabetes) are no longer soaking up CO2, and the oceans which have absorbed over 30% are now saturated as well? Could that mean that temperatures will now leap astronomically upward, unabated? Oh wait, is it 90 degrees F in the first week of April?? I am afraid this degree of bark loss is not what is normal for this species.
The BALDing syndrom (Bark Atrophy Lichen Decline) is becoming quite obvious in every species, in their own special way.
This zelkova serrata is a dramatic but not atypical example.
Asian ozone lands in the US:

"While emissions of nitrous oxide, a precursor compound in ozone, have declined in the United States by about one-third since 1985, the study found that ozone levels had increased by 29 percent over the same period."
Another bizarre tidbit that may or may not be of significance is to be found at a woodworkers blog. These fellows know trees and how they behave, and the loss of liquid could be key to understand why bark is splitting, fraying, curling, and popping off onto the ground.
Flowering trees are a mix of glorious flowers and painful thinning.
This pink magnolia on the right has many flowers, but the one on the left is brown.
So pretty!
But even the branches of the pretty tree are split and damaged beyond salvation.
Here is another source of nitrous oxide, from melting permafrost. I have no idea if this is significant, but I am curious about it because of the lichen spread, which is far outpacing what the Boston Museum of Science exhibit says it should be - a steady 1mm per year - as described at the bottom of this post on March 27.
So this lichen, if measure from the center to the edge, is at least 2.5 inches and so according to the Boston Museum of Science, this lichen must be approximately 65 years old except...that lilac is not 65 years old!
These blossoms are rather grimly icky. It could be from coming out too early and getting frost-nipped. But so many trees, young and old, are sparsely flowering.
These tree peonies are from a local nursery, I don't know where they originate. But they are so gorgeous!
I stumbled across a quote that perfectly expresses the frustrating inability of scientists to collectively focus on an existential challenge:

The sciences, each straining in its own direction, have hitherto harmed us little; but some day the piecing together of dissociated knowledge will open up such terrifying vistas of reality, and of our frightful position therein, that we shall either go mad from the revelation or flee from the deadly light into the peace and safety of a new dark age. -H.P. Lovecraft found here
And last picture, after a poem from Shelley:


I met a traveller from an antique land
Who said: Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. Near them, on the sand,
Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them and the heart that fed.
And on the pedestal these words appear:
"My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!"
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.

News Flash! I have managed to identify the awful growth on fruit tree branches, found at this orchard, and other posts - it is "black knot."

In the context of a Nasty hurricane season predicted, here is my latest comment on the coffee party thread (jump in, the water's just balmy!)

Some very intolerable disasters are guaranteed to hit well before we could or will replace fossil fuels. Crop failure will occur worldwide. Much life in the oceans is already doomed, and thus seafood for humans. Summers will become intolerably hot, and power will fail as wild thunderstorms and tornados knock hundreds and thousands of trees down. When the lights and air conditioning turn off, the cities will be filled with roving bands of dangerous, hot, angry, armed young men. Huge icebergs will calve, rising sea levels, inundating coasts, creating millions of climate refugees. Battles and wars will break out over increasingly scarce fresh water supplies. Insane end-of-times religious cults will preside over mass suicides.

So I think we had really get busy transitioning to clean energy ASAP.


  1. Great post -- thanks for the shout!

  2. catman here:

    Gail, you have such great photographs! Must keep you so busy.

    Here's a little movie taken this afternoon in my neighbor's driveway. Wisteria gone wild!


  3. I loved the wisteria gone wild! It requires severe pruning, difficult to do when the flowers are so gorgeous and smell so spicy sweet.


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