Keep Asking
by: Mike Lushington  

            It goes with the turf, I guess.

            Frequently, people ask me questions about birds, or about things that they have seen and are wondering about. Or, they may have questions about their environmental concerns. I am always pleased, occasionally flattered, and sometimes baffled by the questions, but, at all times, I realise that I want to try to answer as best I can.

            I remember a telephone call from a lady in Listuguj back in the spring. She wanted to report what she thought was a Golden eagle that she had been seeing along a stretch of the river by her home, and was wondering if I might be able to check it out for her. In trying to get down all the details about where the bird was, when it had last been seen and so on, I neglected to note her name. After she hung up, I called a couple of my birding associates in the Campbellton area and, in due course, they confirmed what I suspected, which was that the bird in question was not a Golden, but rather an immature Bald eagle. This is a common identification problem for many people who do not realise that the young of both species are very similar - and that neither of them looks very much like an adult Bald eagle. On several occasions since, I have thought that I would like to get the word back to my original correspondent that I had not forgotten her, or ignored her request for help. Maybe she will read this, several months after the fact and accept my apologies, both for forgetting her name and for the delay.

            More recently, I had a letter from another lady who was wondering why the bird that she had been noticing in her backyard seems to have failed in its summer nesting this year. In part, I addressed that question last week when I wrote about the effects of the weather that we have experienced this summer had on many species of nesting birds. Some of her questions could only be answered if I knew what species we were considering - and I think that this leads to a request on my part. Please, if you have a question, try to have as much information as you can before hand. In this case, the bird was a "black bird"; that might have been a Starling, a Grackle, a Rusty blackbird, a Brown-headed cowbird, or even a Red-winged blackbird, as well as any number of small, darkly plumaged warblers, flycatchers or other species. Identifying the species involved makes it much easier to answer many questions, because different species act in different ways in similar circumstances.

            I have to answer in much the same way when someone stops me at the post office or at the bank to ask me about "the stuff that the mill is ejecting in its effluent that turns the water red". As much as I can do in such cases is to suggest that they direct their questions either to the company itself or to the Department of the Environment. Sometimes I do know the answer, or I know whom they can ask, but there are other times when I am completely baffled.

            The important thing in all of this, and the exciting thing for me, as that so many more people are becoming interested and concerned. This is great; it becomes increasingly important for us to try to learn as much as we can about these things. because it suggests that all of us have to take a greater care in what is happening around us. so, please, even if I can't answer the questions, or if I am slow in getting back to you (or forget your name), keep asking - and asking - until you get the answers that the questions deserve.


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