Jul 182018
 

Smeagull Book Cover

 Smeagull is a wild herring gull and this is indeed a true story

Smeagull the Seagull comes to the house near the shore and knocks on the sliding glass door. He knocks when he’s hungry, and the people who live there feed him scraps (from sustainable fish, of course!). Smeagull rules the roost, and keeping up with his schedule is an exhausting job but when Smeagull disappears, it makes clear what an important family member Smeagull the Seagull has become.

About Mark and Valerie

The book is illustrated in full color by the graphic designer, Valerie Elaine Pettis, with rhyming text by Public Radio’s Mark Seth Lender.

Why We Made This Book

Smeagull the Seagull teaches young children that animals are precious and have needs and feelings and family, just like us. There are few places on earth without seagulls, both on shore and inland, and every child will find Smeagull captivating and yet familiar.

It is a good and moral story that will help jump-start the next generation of conservationists

The planet needs them! Smeagull needs them too.

Buy the Book!

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Jun 222017
 

Gulls Hunting Spider Crabs-1880

 

Field Note:

30,000 years before Athena acquired her owl, birds of prey had already captured the human imagination. The single owl among the cave paintings of Chauvet is solid proof. Falconry was practiced in ancient Mesopotamia, the Japan of the Kamakura Shogunate, Genghis Kahn’s Mongolia and in Medieval Europe. Birds of prey are mentioned in Dante and in Shakespeare.

Seagulls? Not so much (Chekhov notwithstanding).

Gulls Hunting Spider Crabs-0717

We have all heard the epithets: Garbage Gulls, Rats with Feathers. Even the ornithologists, quick to point out there is no such species as a “seagull” call them kleptoparasites (meaning parasitic thieves). In lay terms: Stupid Seagull. Nuisance. Pest. The most annoying of birds…

That’s what we call them.

Gulls Hunting Spider Crabs-1110

This is a failure not of imagination, but of observation. Gulls in general, and Herring Gulls in particular are the brightest bulbs on the shore. Gulls are great hunters. There is no seaborne food source they cannot advantage. Every kind of crab, shellfish, bate fish, scraps of bunker left by ravenous schools of striped bass and blues, the shiners when the pool in close to shore, even insects (including the near-invisible things they catch in late summer, on the wing), all this is on the plate.

Gulls Hunting Spider Crabs-2027

Then, there is the tendency to assume seagulls and certainly those within the same species, are all alike. Also not true. Herring gulls have distinct physiognomies, different personalities and individual voices all of which any human who pays attention can learn to distinguish. Gulls recognize each other, individually, and extend that same recognition to us, as individual human beings. Feed a seagull, be remembered. Harm one? They will remember that, too.

Gulls Hunting Spider Crabs-2111

My favorite time and place for watching gulls is any sand spar at low tide. Black-backed gulls as the name implies have wings and bodies that are black on top. They are our largest gulls. Herring gulls are blue-gray on top and have a pronounced red spot on their bills. Among herring gulls the males are larger, the females have longer necks. Ring-bills are also blue-gray on top, smaller than a herring gull, and have a distinctive black ring on the end of their bills.

Pick a gull, any gull, watch what he or she is doing. Be surprised.

Gulls Hunting Spider Crabs-0727

 

Where is this?

The gulls shown here (adult and juvenile Black-backed Gulls and Herring Gulls) were photographed on the Connecticut Shore.  They live and hunt in and around The Stewart B. McKinney Wildlife Refuge.  The Refuge, which is run by the US Fish and Wildlife Service is one of our great coastal treasures, a major nesting area for many species of birds, and also a breeding ground for horseshoe crabs, spider and blue crabs and sea turtles. Like almost all of USFWS, the Refuge is acutely underfunded.  A new group of volunteers is coalescing to support the Refuge and the rangers who work there.  If you’re interested in participating, let me know.  MSL (at) MarkSethLender (dot) com.

To hear or read my prose poem, “Gulls Hunting for Spider Crabs on Public Radio International’s Living on Earth, click here:  http://www.loe.org/shows/segments.html?programID=17-P13-00024&segmentID=6

Oct 302016
 

working-a-narrow-seam-svalbard
Working a 3-foot Seam

The Svalbard Archipelago hosts the northernmost coal mines in the world. For now, only enough coal is being extracted to run the aging power plant in the largest settlement in the archipelago, Longyearbyen, on the island of Spitzbergen. The others have been closed – but not out of climate concerns. abandoned-coal-car-cableway
Coal Car Cableway (Temporarily?) Shut Down

Rather, it is the dwindling economics of coal that pushed the closure. That the mine owners claim that closure to be temporary only drives the point home. Even 800 miles above the Arctic Circle, in the most fragile climate on the planet, money trumps common sense.
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Glacier in Rapid Retreat

Of late, I’ve been including, in both my Arctic and Antarctic Tweets, the hash tag #NoIceNoUs.

No joke.

thick-billed-murre-in-flight-alkefjellet-20160717_035616_14872016
Alkefjellet Cliffs

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Ivory Gull on Blue Ice, Brepollen

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Female Polar Bear, in the pack ice, 81.36 North Latitude

thick-billed-murre-alkefjellet-20160717_031128_87502016Thick-billed Murre

It is worth seeing for yourself. And it is worth saving. To hear my prose essay on Svalbard coal and see more photographs, layer-up, slip into your kayak, and paddle over to Living on Earth

My fieldwork in Svalbard was supported by One Ocean Expeditions, and I highly recommend them.

Mark Seth Lender
Producer/Essayist/Photographer
Living on Earth
Member: Explorers Club
yeh-lets-do-lunch-20160718_071733_51102016

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