|Visit our Website
Support Vineyard Conservation
Find us on Facebook
Save the Date
Saturday, Oct. 4
Fun for all ages! Local food, animals, live music, educational demos, and harvest fest games and activities. For more info, see poster.
Quotes of the Week
Wildlife on TV: Point/Counterpoint
“If we can teach people about wildlife, they will be touched. . . . humans want to save things that they love.”
--Steve Irwin, wildlife expert and TV personality
"Audiences see personalities on shows interacting with wild
animals as if they were not dangerous or, at the other extreme,
provoking them to give viewers an adrenaline rush. Mostly, the animals
just want to be left alone."
--Chris Palmer, film producer, author of Shooting in the Wild
Ecological Landscaping for the Home
Saturday, Sept. 13, 1:00 to 2:00 pm, West Tisbury.
Polly Hill hosts Michael Talbot of Talbot Ecological Land Care for
"Vineyard-'scaping: Bringing Nature to the Home Environment." Learn how
to transform your outdoor living spaces into reflections of the natural
world, while attracting birds, butterflies and other wildlife. $5 (free
for PHA members), call 508-693-9426 or see website
for more info.
West Tisbury Farmers' Market
Saturdays, 9:00 to noon
, West Tisbury.
Fresh picked produce from local farms, flowers, delicious baked goods
and prepared foods from Island kitchens and more. Outside of the Grange
Hall in West Tisbury. For more info, see website
Guided Birding Tours
Saturdays, 9:00 to 11:30 am, starting at MV Reg. High School.
Visit birding hot spots with your guide Robert Culbert. Carpool will
depart from the high school faculty parking lot at 9:00. Cost is $30 per
adult, $15 for under 18. For more details, call 508-693-4908.
FARM Institute Fall Programs
Saturdays, Katama Farm, Edg.
Weekly Saturday programs at the FARM Institute begin in September. Wee
Farmers (age 2-5) from 9:30 to 11:00, $15 per session, must be
accompanied by adult. For older kids, it's "Farmer for a Day" from 1:00
to 3:00, $35, may be accompanied or not. For more info, call
In Season Recipe
Oven Roasted Tomatoes
September's Harvest of the Month
from Island Grown Schools won't come as a big surprise. Rather than
giving us what we might want, they're giving us what we need: a new way
to appreciate tomatoes! In 2012, chef Chris Fischer shared his recipe
for oven-roasted tomatoes
, along with some serving suggestions (try spreading them on fresh toasted bread).
- 6 large ripe tomatoes, cut into thick slices
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1 tsp salt
- 2 tbsp minced garlic
- 2 cups of loosely packed fresh basil
- Preheat oven to 350 F.
- Combine all ingredients in a large bowl and toss well.
- Lay out the tomatoes on a baking sheet or foil-lined tray.
- Bake on middle rack for 1 hour, rotating halfway through.
- Let stand for 10 minutes after removing from oven.
|Monday, September 8, 2014
Got Snakes? New Study of Black Racers Seeks Community Input
Wanted: Black racer sighting information
(Photo from New Hampshire Fish & Game Dept.)
Have you seen a large black snake recently? Black racers (Coluber constrictor)
are important predators in a wide range of ecological communities,
including the grasslands, shrublands, and forest edges that are such
distinctive parts of the Vineyard landscape. They are harmless to humans
but help control rodent populations, including the white-footed mice
that host deer ticks (and thus Lyme disease).
Once locally abundant, for some Islanders these snakes are now more a
memory than a regular feature of the natural world. At six feet and
three inches, one of the largest black racers ever seen in Massachusetts
was caught by a young Gus Ben David in the heart of Oak Bluffs. But for
Gus it’s a bittersweet memory, as it has been many years since he has
seen another in his old neighborhood. Edo Potter remembers being
startled often in her youth by the black racers hanging from tree
branches as she rode horses on Chappaquiddick. Sadly, few people have
experiences like Gus and Edo today.
The Massachusetts Wildlife Action Plan
ranks the black racer as common across the state, but it is declining
in abundance everywhere. There are multiple possibilities for the cause
of the decline. Many are killed by vehicles, as roads are attractive
openings in shrub and forest habitats for basking in the sun. The
proliferation of roads on the Vineyard (and the state in general) over
the last 50 years has certainly increased this problem. In addition to
road mortality, racers have lost habitat (old-fields, grasslands, and
shrublands), and may experience high rates of predation from species
associated with humans – raccoons, skunks, crows, and cats.
A common theme throughout the Mass. Wildlife Action Plan is the lack of
baseline data for historical populations, and black racers are no
exception. To help rectify this lack of information, BiodiversityWorks
is undertaking a study of these snakes. They are seeking your help to
create a database of black racer sightings, both recent and historic, to
map their past and present abundance and distribution. If you have a
black racer sighting to share, please contact BiodiversityWorks via email
with any information, such as the location of the sighting, the date
(or month and year), the number of times you saw it in that area, and
any photos you may have of the snake.
(Many thanks to Luanne Johnson of BiodiversityWorks for this story)
Good News is No News
The California blue whales are back! That’s the news from the science
section of seemingly every media outlet last week. Hunted nearly to
extinction, the largest animal to ever swim, walk, or fly on Earth has
recovered to near historical levels in the eastern North Pacific.
But, at the risk of ruining a wonderful story, let’s take a deeper look,
beneath the big headlines. First, is this really “news” at all? While
the headlines have proclaimed “Blue Whales Recover,” there has in fact
been no meaningful increase in the number of these whales for nearly 20
years. The population bottomed out in the 1930s and gradually recovered
until the 1990s, and has remained steady ever since. The actual news
this week is that a new academic study of the historical population has
come out yielding a new, lower, estimate for the original number of
whales before hunting nearly wiped them out: a number that, if correct,
would mean the population of the 1990s (and today) represents a 97%
To be clear, the recovery (after being nearly wiped out by hunting) of a
huge, long-lived animal from 500-1,000 individuals to nearly 2,200 due
to legal protection, careful management, and changes in public attitudes
is an uplifting story and an important victory for wildlife
conservation. But a downward revision in 2014 of the original number of
whales, such that they actually recovered two decades ago? That does not
have quite the same emotional impact.
In light of that, do these headlines from this week seem appropriate?
California blue whales bounce back from whaling (Washington Post)
U.S. Pacific blue whales seen rebounding close to historic levels (NPR)
Blue whales of California are back to historical levels, study finds (L.A. Times)
The Washington Post headline is just plain wrong, unless it was supposed
to accompany a story from the 1990s. The article then opens with a
repeat of the misleading statement, with a clarification buried in the
last sentence of the third paragraph. The NPR headline is cagey enough
to be technically accurate (“Seen” by whom? Not anyone out there
counting whales, rather the people re-estimating the original
population), but is still misleading. This not-incorrect-but-misleading
pattern repeats in the first paragraph and is never corrected. The L.A.
Times article, despite a similarly problematic headline, is by far the
best at correcting its own headline, and provides a good synopsis of the
whale recovery as well.
Another issue raised in the Times piece is that, given the historically
small size of the California population, the global blue whale
population remains a shadow of itself, regardless of the recovery in the
Northeast Pacific. Currently, the Antarctic population is about as
large as the California one – and about 1% of what it used to be. But
this seems less like bad news than good news that just hasn’t happened
yet. That population is growing about 10% a year, quite a remarkable
feat indeed, even if it will take a very long time to return to
historical numbers. Further, the recovery of the California population
(even if the good news is really no news) gives us reason to believe
that these gains can be sustained and built upon. In fact, this rapid
rate of recovery of the Antarctic population - historically the largest -
from near extinction may be the biggest, most encouraging news in any
of these stories.