Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Reluctance In Conservation

I knew very little about what a decision like being a voice for the birds was going to be. Not only that, but little did I know what it was going to take to be a voice for the birds in Oklahoma. Let's face it, most humans think and base their daily decisions purely on what they want, need or hope to attain. Money, a better job, comfort at home and work and then of course there are the items of pure enjoyment. You know what I mean; I just spent three months paying off my dream guitar. My point is simple; when you decide to speak for things that don't have a voice, you also make a decision to put your needs and wants to the side (not all, but some).  You make a decision to stand, sometimes alone, sometimes with help but most certainly to stand against things that are larger and far more complicated than your simple life should have been.

I have been digging, dredging, call it what you will, in the world of Oklahoma birds and bird conservation for about five years now (give or take).  I've spent time putting together some of the necessary information for Oklahoma's Important Bird Areas Program. I've put myself out there a few times with concern for the dwindling Lesser Prairie-Chicken population, which also put me into the realm of the national energy development issue/crisis. I've trekked through swamps and marshes in the dead of night looking for a little black bird no larger than a sparrow. All of this and more with the intention of learning more, and helping to understand and protect a group of organisms and their habitats, those of which some people couldn't give a damn whether or not they even existed.

About five months ago everything changed for me, I found myself wondering whether or not I could keep doing it or if I even wanted to. I found myself overloaded, confused, and basically struggling far too much for something that I supposedly loved. If I were to identify my big mistakes, the first would being having said yes to far too many projects. Yes, I was told multiple times by friends and colleagues, and by my especially loving and supportive wife, that I was taking on too much; to that I say, "well if I hadn't done it who would have?" Maybe there was or is someone else but I have yet to see a new arrival (and I am waiting).  Don't let me give you the wrong idea, there have been plenty of successes. But truth be told some things haven't changed at all.

In Oklahoma we are still struggling to find a balance between wildlife and energy, and with the current trend taken into consideration, it looks as though wildlife is getting the back seat.  I mean what do you do when your own state Senator supports beating the hell out of our Endangered Species Act and the species it protects? I assure you Tom Coburn and Jim Inhofe are not concerned with our wildlife or wildlands, especially if it stands to slow progress. Even if the progress is ill planned, sides with the wants of a few and stands to change the landscape of Oklahoma for generations to come.

So what's a poor boy to do (using the words from a sad song) when the place you have chosen and the work you have chosen have almost no place in the state, a state that just doesn't want to join the global push to make the world a better place, unless we stand to make one hell of a profit? Well, for a moment I almost folded (truth be told I shut down briefly), I nearly gave up all I had worked for and believed in because, well because I just didn't think it really mattered anymore. I didn't think anyone really cared. Sure I know you are out there: the folks that write letters to the USFWS, the folks that spend their time teaching children how to treat this world with a little respect, the folks that would spend their own money to drive three hundred miles to help the cause for a species of bird that you may or may not get to see in your lifetime.

I know what you are thinking, or at least some of you. It does matter and you are right! Perhaps being run through the wringer was just what I needed. Boughts of insomnia, stomach problems from stress and too much caffeine, tears when I couldn't get enough money together to pay the mortgage, frustration when I was using my own money to get back out in the field even though it should have gone to the electric bill and more. So when I look back at it all, am I sorry about having taken those first steps? Hell no! Have I made errors and mistakes, committed myself to too much, spoken when I should have kept my mouth shut, and generally just ran amuck where and when I felt like it. Your damn right I did, and what have I learned? Well, for one I've learned that having a voice is a gift, if you don't use it you don't deserve to have it. Two, there's nothing wrong with being out-spoken. Three, know when to say no, and when to say yes even if everything inside of you tells you the opposite. Four, well I'll just say be careful and it's very important to take care of yourself. Don't sacrifice your body, because without it you've lost your dream. Five, moderation with everything, unless of course it's really, really good!

I'm still not real sure why I put this tell-all post together, or if I really want people to know some of the truth behind my curtain. But I will say one last thing. Conservation is the most important thing in this modern world, and you had better recognize and think about the truth of that comment. Is conservation work a good place for a person that tends to be a little depressed? Mmm...I guess it depends on who you ask. But one thing's for certain, I'm not going away, I'm reloading the guns and I'm getting back to my business, the business of conservation. Reluctantly? No, with rejuvenated spirit and whole backpack full of lessons learned and all the wiser. Should you be concerned? Not unless you pose a threat to wildlife and wildlands; then I would be very concerned. Am I afraid of the big boys out there, theAlpha Dogs (you know who you are), why should I be?

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Into the Pine Woods

Louisiana hot, that's the answer for the question I've been getting as of late. Is it hot down there? Well, not as hot as Lawton, where I've taken to not even looking at the thermometer, it's become ridiculous. It's Louisiana hot down in McCurtain County, Oklahoma and the Ouachita National Forest. But there's plenty to see and do just the same. My days are filled with heat, sweat, bugs, and of course birds. This is my second season on a project trying to understand the Bachman's Sparrow's that inhabit scattered locations in the forest. No, not Michele Bachman but the Bachman Sparrow, the "Pine Woods Sparrow". 
Shrubby St. John's Wort
(Hypericum proloficum)
The 'Blazing Star" found below is a first for me, I identified it as a "Spiny Blazing Star"
but I believe that name may be a bit out-dated or perhaps something has changed and I just haven't figured it out yet. Nonetheless,  I will do my best to figure it out. If you already know, fill me in.

Blazing Star
(Liatris sp.)
Red-spotted Purple 
(Limenitis arthemis)
I approached this butterfly like a mountaineer. One hand holding steadily to my canoe tie-down rope and the other concentrating on camera functions, all the while teetering of the hood of my truck.  And, there are those who might say I can't multi-task!

Variegated Fritillary
 (Euptoieta claudia)

Well just a few photos to keep anyone who might be wondering where and what the heck I'm up to these days satiated. Until later!