Saturday, December 17, 2011

When Pets Experiment: Adorable!

Meet Oscar and Felix! Fancy rats, domesticated brown rats (Rattus norvegicus), who we adopted from Heartland Small Animal Rescue in September. We've observed dozens of their experiments as they adjusted to their new home and while earning their trust. By far, their most adorable experiment involves the new bubble! 
I believe they are experimenting because they're adorably committed to methodically testing the nature of reality. Their goal, while they won't articulate it, is to verify the validity of their hypothesis: if they move forward, continuously, then they will be able to adventure around the apartment. They are, with out really knowing it, replicating their evolving hypothesizes. Above are Oscar and Felix testing their first hypothesis: if they lay very, still, then they will adventure. This hypothesis was falsified. Later they tried to adventure while each moved in an opposite direction (falsified) and then by rocking back and forth (also, falsified). 

Today, Oscar was the first to figure out how to rock the ball just enough to gain momentum. Adorable, butt waddling momentum...until he hit the wall. 

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Sandhill Cranes Soar High Over Chicago

What do you mean it's December? It seems like just yesterday I was buying pencils for the new school year, and today I looked up into the sky to see the greater sandhill cranes (Grus canadensis) migrating south from their northern breeding ranges to their wintering area in Florida.

As my friend Leah and I were walking into Foreman High School, on Chicago's northwest side, we heard the sounds of trumpets overhead. We saw about 150 sandhill cranes soaring higher than I've ever seen birds fly. Their height drew attention to their large size (4.5-5 feet tall and 10-14 pounds). Majestic.

My friend Jill reported that the cranes flew over Aurora, IL earlier in the week. As they fly to their stopover at Indiana's Jasper-Pulaski Fish & Wildlife Area through mid-December, you might hear trumpets high above you!

Photo used with permission; International Crane Foundation

Photo used with permission; International Crane Foundation

Photo used with permission; International Crane Foundation

Aldo Leopold's classic A Sand County Almanac which included the essay "Marshland Elegy" was published in 1948, decades ahead of its time. His sobering essay asks us if humanity's progress is progressive if it's short-sighted, wasteful, and results in the displacement of other species, like the cranes. In the 1930s, Aldo didn't hear many cranes soaring over Baraboo, WI despite the abundant wetlands. "For (the cranes), the song of the power shovel came near being an elegy. The high priests of progress knew nothing of cranes, and cared less. Some day, perhaps in the very process of our benefactions, perhaps in the fullness of geologic time, the last crane will trumpet his farewell and spiral skyward from the great marsh." Due to conservation and restoration efforts, the greater sandhill crane's numbers have made a remarkable recovery, but the biggest threats to the sandhill cranes are the loss and degradation of riverine and wetland ecosystems. Below is the ~13 minute trailer for the documentary Green Fire: Aldo Leopold and a Land Ethic for our Time that is, in a word: indispensable.

“We abuse land because we regard it as a commodity belonging to us. When we see land as a community to which we belong, we may begin to use it with love and respect." ~Aldo Leopold, A Sand County Almanac