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Changes coming for the New Year



The Backyard Birder
Thursday, January 10, 2019 3:38PM

I’m a New Year’s resolution person even if I repeat the same ones most years.

A new year; a fresh start. Exercise every day; practice good energy and a positive outlook. Those are the basics.

This year I feel things are looking up, and it’s not about resolutions.

I hear on the radio that Representative Judith Spang, with co-sponsors, is introducing bills in Concord to restrict availability of single-use plastic bags and plastic straws.

If New Hampshire passes plastic bag restrictions, and the going might be rough, we would join California and Hawaii.

The bills’ language needs to be hammered out with care. California’s ban applies to large franchise stores.

Some cities and restaurants have restricted plastic straws, also being considered by California’s legislature. Straws, rather than automatically being inserted in drinks, would be available by request.

In case the statewide restrictions fail this year, Representative Spang has submitted a bill that would enable towns to enact bans on single-use plastics as they judge appropriate. It’s not clear if NH towns can pass restrictions without that special legislation.

Portsmouth has put an effort on hold for that very reason.

I’ve written about National Geographic honoring 2018 as the Year of the Bird, with relevant articles each month.

Spend time with its June issue, “PLANET OR PLASTICS,” and you might take the offered online pledge to limit your use of plastics. You check off the major categories, and how much you will limit: water bottles, bags, straws, utensils, cups and lids. By the number you reduce, the impact on landfills and ocean is displayed.

I did my own pledge years ago but signed on anyway. We have reusable bamboo utensils in our car glove compartments (and give them as Christmas gifts), and we take glass bowls for Thai takeout downtown—in addition to the usual coffee mug and cloth shopping bags.

In response to objections, and the proposed restrictions will inspire some, it feels good to be mindful, and regular habits (cloth bags, reusable water bottle, etc.) helps keep us mindful.

We also are grandparents. We will be remembered as people who took care of our home planet as best we could at a time when it needs greater care.

Our daughter’s family just completed a year of purchasing only essentials. Our children and grandchildren are role models for us. Mother and Child consignment clothing on Route 101A in Amherst offers an abundance clothing that’s almost “good as new.” For boys and men, too.

Also on the radio, this week’s Living on Earth program led off with “A Greener U.S. Congress,” The new committee chairs of various environmental committees in the House of Representatives were named. They all believe in science, and many of the new representatives cited climate issues in their election campaigns.

In the first week, Speaker Pelosi created a Select Committee on the Climate Crisis. No messing around with that title.

Yes, things are looking up.

As for looking out—the window—as usual one fat squirrel is gleaning seed tidbits under our birdfeeders. It might be the one that chewed a hole in the henhouse door to get at chicken feed.

We’ve never had gray squirrels in the henhouse, some 40 years now. Yes, the squirrel year continues despite all the roadkill.

Tufted titmice continue to be regulars at the feeders, including our Chrismas-gift Belletetes fire-engine red feeder that birds were leery of for weeks.

They reached a new high in the local Christmas Bird Count.

As one curiosity, a trio of cardinals comes by now and again, two females and a male. Despite arriving as a trio, one female consistently is chased off by what I take to be our regular pair.

For years we’ve had a year-round cardinal pair, and the second female is a recent arrival. Why she persists as an apparently unwelcome interloper is a mystery.

Is she an offspring, overstaying the period when youngsters disperse?

Over the years, “our” cardinal pair rarely has shown up with a youngster in tow, reflecting the sad fact that few cardinal pairs successfully fledge young—some 15-37 percent says Cornell’s bird lab.

I recently received an email with a photo of a male red cardinal with a request that I confirm that it is, indeed, a cardinal. I often am surprised by generally knowledgeable people who don’t know some seemingly basic IDs. Monarch butterfly, oak tree, cardinal. But it happens.

There have been efforts to come up with lists of what people need to know for a basic understanding of the natural world around us. The subject would make a good column, so stay tuned.

What bird species and bird behavior should be part of that basic education?

As for cardinal behavior, pairs tend to stay together year-round, and small winter flocks form in prime habitat. They don’t migrate, but will shift territory, breeding to wintering. Dick Estes, when he lived downtown along the Contoocook, reported several pairs in dense thickets along the river.

As I write, six evening grosbeaks show up at the feeders, a rarity.

Things are looking up.

And the light is returning. The “girls” in the henhouse know. They’re laying more eggs these days.