Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Uber Urban Wild Life - Take a Look

From our third floor window my toddler and I watched a very healthy cardinal feed its large baby. There is a lot of wild life to be observed in a city. Attracting particular animals to a city yard is not that hard.

Here are some animals that may be in your east cost back yard.

Birds: Cardinals, Blue Jays, House Finch, Yellow Finch, Sparrow, Starling, Robin, Swallows, Turkeys, Warblers, Red Tail hawk, Cooper's hawk

Mammals: rabbits, chipmunks, squirrels, bats

Amphibians: frogs, salamanders, toads

Insects: stick bugs, praying mantis, lady bugs, sulphur butterflies, Karner Blue Butterflies, ants, etc

Wild life is good for the neighborhood...Why?

Well, to start with predators eat pest meaning people have less work to do to remove vermin. If we provide habitation for one brown bat, it will eat 3000 mosquitoes in one night. The insects called praying mantis, stick bugs and ladybugs eat the insects that kill garden plants. The Northern Leopard Frogs eat mosquitoes. These frogs are also an indicator of water and air quality, the worse the quality the lower the number of frogs. Needless to say these animals are low in numbers.

The first year I saw a Coopers Hawk was truly the beginning of my appreciation of urban wild life. The hawk was was sitting just 20 feet above ground in a maple tree. Its long banded tail signaled to me that this was not a typical bird, and the way is was perched signified this was a hawk. The following year it found a mate and raised a baby in a nest three stories up in a neighborhood Silver Maple. I watch all summer long as the two parents fed their offspring rat after rat. There were very few rats that year in our neighborhood. A neighbor saw me and I turned to tell him that this small predator was a hawk. He responded with it made a loud ruckus, the cawing it did was so that the fledgling bird could follow its parents as they swooped and dove between buildings. I responded with, I watched the baby bird eat a half dozen large rats each day and maybe the added noise was a small price to pay for the removal of the rats. (There is always someone like this in a neighborhood.) This photo is the bird eating a pigeon in the Silver Maple that is in my back yard the year after it raised its baby. These hawks are considered rare in New York. So, plant a tree in your front yard that will grow tall, attract nesting birds that eat rats, and be inspired by this jet-fighter-like flying bird.

Nature Balancing Nature

A neighborhood reap the rewards if a few simple steps are taken by each homeowner.

1. Buy predatory insects so they can eat other pest insect.
2. Plant a maple, sycamore, or other large tree for perches for hawks to hunt from or nest on.
3. Do not rototiller a yard. It turns up dormant weed seeds and it kills earth worms.
4. Do not use pesticides on your yard, besides that it causes breast cancer, it kills the insects birds need to eat.
5. Plant bushes and brush. This is for shelter for song birds that eat weed seeds and insects.
6. Nesting boxes for birds.
7. Shelter boxes for butterflies.
8. Shelter boxes for bats.
9. Provide water supply; pond, rain garden, bird bath, etc.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Why are males developing eggs in their testes?

Why are males developing eggs in their testes?

Intersex, endocrine disruptor, thyroid glands, eggs found in testicles, fishing, rivers, lakes, soaps, deodorants, farm run off, lawn care....These are a few components that are part of the web of problems causing male animals to develop female eggs in their testicles and female like behavior. Some females exposed to these chemicals are producing male reproduction organs too.

Endocrine disruptors, found in everything from household cleaning agents to farms, are being found in toxic levels in many of the U.S. water supplies; Chesapeake bay (Virginia and Maryland) and Puget Sound (Washington) are two examples. The sources for the high levels of endocrine disruptor have been traced and tested. The sources are run off from lawns, farms and impervious surfaces such as parking lots and roads. When there is rain (or driveway washed car) the water washes all the chemicals from lawns, farms, parking lots and roads into sewers pipes and drainage ditches. These pipes and ditches empty into rivers, bays and lakes. Then we the people drink and swim in the contaminated water along with fish, lobster, salmon, deer, orcas, seals, dogs, etc. These chemicals cause a host of issues one of the major illnesses is reproduction organ damage. The results can range from undescending testicles, low sperm count, as found in human males to eggs in testes in fish and frogs to stillborn babies. An addition blow is premature onset of breast cancer.

What is even scarier is that when some of these chemicals are mixed together they can work in synergy against humans and other creatures drinking and swimming in the contaminated water.

Here is a definition from Wikipedia

"Endocrine disruptor (sometimes also referred to as hormonally active agents)[1] are exogenous substances that act like hormones in the endocrine system and disrupt the physiologic function of endogenous hormones. Studies have linked endocrine disruptor to adverse biological effects in animals, giving rise to concerns that low-level exposure might cause similar effects in human beings.[2]"

"Food is a major source of pollutant exposure. Diet is thought to account for up to 90% of a person's PCB and DDT body burden.[35] In a study of 32 different common food products from three grocery stores in Dallas, fish and other animal products were found to be contaminated with PBDE.[36] Since these compounds are fat soluble, it is likely they are accumulating from the environment in the fatty tissue of animals we eat. Some suspect fish consumption is a major source of many environmental contaminates. Indeed, both wild and farmed salmon from all over the world have been shown to contain a variety of man-made organic compounds.[37]"

Endocrine disruptor include some of the following chemicals
"Chemicals commonly detected in people include DDT, Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCB's), Bisphenol A, Polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDE's), and a variety of Phthalates.[46]"

"Some examples of putative EDCs are vinclozolin, zearalenone, 17-alpha ethinylestradiol, Dioxins, PCBs, PAHs, furans, phenols and several pesticides (most prominent being organochlorine insecticides like endosulfan, DDT and its derivatives). Substances with estrogenic effects include the xenoestrogens and phytoestrogens."

Though, Wikipedia sites food as people's closest point of contamination besides water, this is a chain event. The food and water would not be contaminated if storm water was not allowed into pipes and ditches that empty into drinking water sources. The pipes and ditches would not be contaminated if farms were organically farmed, and parking spaces, along with roads, were built to be permeable allowing water to seep through the cement or paving and into the ground where it can be filtered.

I am lucky. I found a water filter that takes out all the major contaminants up to 98-99% efficiency per contaminant. I have access to organically grown food. And I am educated on the health issues. But many people, neighbors, parents, sons and daughters are not aware, or have access to defend their health. Our water ways, our lakes, our bays do not have giant filters to clean them. Chesapeake bay has loss its fishing industry, its fish, its life. Puget Bay is losing its orcas, 7 died last year. There is no fishing allowed. Remember this is where many get their drinking water too. Mother's nurse their children can pass these contaminant on.

How do we stop this?

In the home you can buy organic when possible (endocrine disruptor are fat soluble), get a farm share (you save money here too), get a good water filter, refinish old wood floors (remodeled in the 1960's with PCB varnish) with a modern low VOC finish, avoid wild and farmed salmon, increase indoor home air ventilation and avoid house dust.

In your community you can encourage new housing/business developments to use permeable parking space (allows water to seep into the ground under paving), do not wash your car in the driveway take it to a car wash which filters and cleans the water, get a farm share also called Community Supported Farming, be involved in water way clean-ups and vote ! This is your community, family and your own health at stake here.

And always remember "Land use is key to protecting our drinking water and children".

You can watch the Front Line special on "Poisoned Waters" where I got much of the information for this post.