Saturday, October 18, 2008

A REAL LIFE THING TO PONDER


I have a gadget on my iGoogle home page; maybe some of you have it, too, called “Things to Ponder.” Every time I go there it shows me another amusing thought to chuckle over. One of my favorites is “What was the greatest thing before sliced bread?” Another one I recall said, “What do you do if you see an endangered animal eating an endangered plant?” Well, around here, life is starting to imitate gadget art, only it doesn’t make me laugh, but seriously ponder the situation.

Just to recap, I currently live near Point Pelee, Ontario, which I have been calling the southernmost tip of Canada. More accurately, it’s the southernmost contiguous part of Canada. The piece of Canada that’s actually the most southern is Middle Island, one of the Erie Islands, a little archipelago that stretches across the Lake from the Pelee Tip in Ontario to Sandusky, Ohio, with the international border threading in between. And something appears to be out of balance. Canada’s Middle Island has a lot of double-crested cormorants. So many in fact Parks Canada deemed a cull was necessary. In the interests of saving space here, I’ll just sum up the Parks decision as determining that the cormorants were having an extremely detrimental effect of the delicate and much-reduced Carolinian forest system. Their abundant guano is killing rare and endangered flora, and the fauna that depend on it.

The only difference between the situation on Lake Erie and the quip on my gadget is that, as it turns out, Cormorants aren’t endangered. They’re not even native to this area. Well, that probably explains the “out of balance” part, but I still felt a pang of sorrow for them, as I saw them migrating back this spring (flying R to L), knowing that several days of sharp-shooting hunters were in their future. Yet when they migrated back again recently (photo, L to R) it didn’t seem like there was much of a dent in their numbers. That stream of birds stretched 180 degrees of my vision, and lasted for nearly two minutes! I’m told the cull will take place again over the next couple of years. Makes me wonder what’s next – a population explosion in scavenging turkey vultures?




Single Cormorant photo from Shutterstock

11 comments:

Sylvia K said...

Wonder when they'll start culling us as being a danger to the enviornment? Lovely picture! You do live in a lovely area!

me ann my camera said...

Since I have become more aware of nature in the past decade, and more focused on the multitude of amazing creatures I share my surrounding area with, I am finding more and more birds species that I had never seen while growing up. Was I such an inattentive child? I don't think so for I spent much time during my childhood summers wandering around, in and through our river and had never until recent years seen such birds here as Osprey, Eagles, Great Blue Heron, and a rather surprising find when I had seen my first sighting of one here just a few years ago, a Cormorant.
I kind of like seeing them around and hope they do not increase to such a nuisance numbers that they would have to have their numbers reduced.

Poetikat said...

I know, I hate to hear about these culls. Apparently there's a big issue with rabbits on Robben Island in South Africa where Mandela was jailed. It seems more and more you hear about the huge populations. What is enabling their growth, I wonder??

Kat

Robert V. Sobczak said...

Funny how life makes its connections. It's interesting with what they call "invasive exotic" plants and animals ... how we lament that they can spread like wildfire. But from an evolutionary standpoint, that is biology in motion. Metaphorically and biologically, to be on the cusp of a frontier, with open territory ahead, all unclaimed, and ready for settlement: That is how nations and species (and ideas) are born. Long live the frontier!

magiceye said...

man decides...

bobbie said...

Yes, "man decides". And man so often makes mistakes. We are not always good stewards.

Sylvia's question makes me ponder. Ann's observation is fascinating. I like the people who comment on your posts. All of them leave mini-posts that are so interesting.

SandyCarlson said...

I have a friend who is a Buddhist priest who often raises the question, What if we just leave things alone?" It's a great rhetorical question. Why do we need to "fix" nature? Food for thought. Thanks for this post.

Quiet Paths said...

I can identify with your reaction. The campus where our son is has decided to participate in a city wide culling of the deer which walk freely through town. I know it's dangerous but it makes me sad they have to do this. Thoughtful post; thank you.

Island Rambles Blog said...

It makes me sad as I love the cormorants...we have them here also, it is a shame when the numbers of one species become unbalanced. I always wish they could just be relocated but with birds it is difficult. We have trouble with Canada geese because they (others not me) think they are too messy. And they (parks department) destroy the eggs of the Mute Swans here...
this was a very interesting post...always good to alert us as to what is happening in each eco-system.

adkRich said...

One comment in your blog has raised my hackles, it is a comment I have encountered many times. I must take issue with the perception that cormorants are not native.

Throughout the archaeological record, cormorant remains have been found across North America, often as one of the most abundant items. So they are, indeed, native to the Great Lakes, the major drainages, both coasts...essentially, they are native to just about anywhere in North American where there has been enough water and an adequate food supply.

The whole issue around the population increase of the Double-creasted Cormorant is complex. Since Europeans first settled North America, they have been persecuting cormorants. They and their eggs have been targeted as food. To a lesser degree, their feathers were sought for the millinery trade. They suffered terribly from the effects of DDT.

And now, in the past 30 or so years, that their population is recovering, they are perceived as a threat.

In the grand scheme of things, cormorants only nest in a very tiny percentage of the landscape. The fact that their guano kills trees should be far less an issue than the number of trees we cut for our own needs.

In the end, I think that the way we treat cormorants is more a reflection of our own unwillingness to take responsibility for our impacts on the landscape, which is far greater than that of all of the cormorants of the world.

Deborah Godin said...

Thanks for your input on this topic. My post was based on info in an article in the local paper, and not my personal expertise - or lack thereof! As for the other points you make, I quite agree, we alter our planetary ecosystem to the detriment of many species, including our own, if we would only realize it.