My wife and I built a new home near Bellefonte in 2016 so we could be nearer some of our grandchildren. Situated is a rural area surrounded by three active farms, our development is about half a mile from Buffalo Run. All of the farm fields near us (including our backyard) are bordered by mature tree lines, and dense woods are close by as well. Watching wild birds is a favorite activity, and with this mix of habitat, we anticipated a nice bird community nearby. We erected several nest boxes to attract some of our favorite birds, the eastern bluebird, tree swallow, and house wren, and with these people-friendly species we were not disappointed. But bird seed offered in the cold months seemed to attract few visitors, and other common birds were just not observed.. Many of our facebook friends, as well as some wildlife professionals, mentioned that they were not seeing as many birds as usual. It was in late 2019 that the Cornell Lab of Ornithology reported that, indeed, there were 3 billion fewer birds of many species since some population studies from 1950. Then the Fall issue of Audubon magazine, dubbed the Climate Issue, published an update to its climate change report predicting even more dire results than the initial report only five years earlier.
All of those weird weather events we had been experiencing were recalled. The spring and summer of 2017 were pretty dry, and our brand new lawn got off to a terrible start, even with sprinklers running nearly every day to encourage the grass. The horrible year of fishing in 2018, with high and muddy water due to rainstorms almost every week in the spring, was the wettest year ever in Pennsylvania, surpassing the previous record (in 1889) by nearly five inches. All that rain would not have been good for young birds. There were wild temperature fluctuations, too, with freezing cold followed by a T-shirted sunny day. It came as no surprise when NOAA announced that, globally, 2019 was the second hottest year on record (2016 was the hottest, or that the 2010’s were the hottest decade on record.
A nice walk through Spring Creek canyon is always followed by a thorough search for ticks, an unpleasant but necessary task. Even clearing up the slight run of brush along our property line is likely to find a few unwanted ticks on my clothing. Lots of my friends and family have had to be treated for Lyme disease in the past few years, something we just didn’t have to worry about as little as 20 years ago. I noticed the ticks, but I had no idea the increased population was likely the result of a warming climate.
Another thing I’ve noticed is climate change protest activity by folks a lot younger than me. I see it on the national news, in person on the streets of State College and the Penn State campus, and on the president’s twitter feed. I’m not sure what information they have or where they are getting it, but from what I’ve seen, they are not incorrect. They have the facts straight. They are determined to be heard, that’s for sure, and in a few years their votes will decide who will be running this country and likely the rest of the world. Good.
Dan Alters, Benner Township