The Nature Writers of Texas

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Sunday, December 28, 2003

New Year's Resolutions for Nature Lovers
Ro Wauer, December 28, 2003, The Victoria Advocate, © 2003

Christmas has come and gone, and we all are about to turn the next page to a new year, 2004. Wow! Where did 2003 go? It seems it went faster than any other year I can recall. Of course, I am told that time goes by faster with age, and if this last year was any kind of a sample, I would fully agree. I am not, however, admitting to being older than last year, but it apparently has happened nevertheless.

Last New Year's, or was it the year, or two, before that, when I suggestions a number of resolutions for those of you who had not yet made any commitment. Such an effort is not always easy, partly because even those resolutions that I made in the past only last for a few weeks. Then I drift back to status quo. But I want to try again, at least to provide a few suggestions that you might consider. No, they don't include suggestions on being sweeter to your spouse; I assume we already are about at sweet as possible. It certainly is part of my nature. My wife doesn't read these notes until they appear in the newspaper, so who's to argue?

First, and I suspect that not many of my readers (smart and proper folks that they are) need to consider keeping the roadsides clean and neat. But one of my long-standing pet peeves has been finding garbage along backcountry roadsides, especially in adjacent creekbeds. For the few of you who do "Mess with Texas," grow up and start being a responsible citizen. Take your garbage to the dump.

Second, how many folks that place martin houses and other birdhouses out leave them in place all year? Such inaction is intolerable for several reasons! Most importantly, two nonnative birds - European starlings and house sparrows - will take advantage of the houses to produce more offspring. These two species replace many of our native songbirds, and come the next season they will be greater competition for housing and food. We already are seeing some incremental declines of some of our most attracting cavity nesters, such as bluebirds, martins, and crested flycatchers.

A closely related peeve is leaving feeders unattended. I am amazed at the number of folks who purchase feeders, both seed and hummingbird feeders, hang them out in a suitable locations, stock seed or sugar water once or maybe a couple times, but then totally ignore the feeders thereafter. Why spend the money and effort when they become little more than an eyesore?

And fourthly, what about house cats that are left to fend for themselves or are taken out to some country road and deserted? A few friends with cats claim that their cat never kills birds or any other wildlife. But house cats are marvelous creatures that have evolved into true killing machines. Anytime a house cat is left outdoors, unless it is within a closed yard of course, they automatically revert to what made them so successful. And turning cats out into the wilds is to show absolutely no respect for the natural environment that we all must eventually depend upon for our long-term survival.

Well, those are just a few ideas to consider when deciding on resolutions for 2004. I could come up with lots more, but those are foremost in my thinking as a nature writer. But if you still want more, how about establishing a butterfly garden. Almost any sized garden, from a single tub with flowering plants to an acre or more, would contribute considerably to butterfly's well being. Almost all butterflies must feed at flowering plants, and, like hummingbirds, they benefit our nature world in numerous ways.

Still more? How about selecting one of our more worthwhile conservation organizations and making a donation? My favorites include The Nature Conservancy, World Wildlife Fund, Wilderness Society, and Natural Parks Conservation Association. But whatever you decide, may we in 2004 begin to heal our Earth to where it is not continuing to decline. It is a long road, and your help is essential!

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