Wednesday, November 17, 2010

PostHeaderIcon Following BourbonHawk: Birding Away From The Rock


I'll pen another sarcasm laden post soon. Tonight, we're all business.

America's National Park System is an entity with so infinitely many virtues that if you began to list them, you'd just never finish.

The genesis of Golden Gate National Recreation Area, of which Alcatraz is just one facet, came partly through the enlightenment of Congressman Phillip Burton, representing at times, California's fifth and sixth congressional districts.


cool tie, also digging the haircut and those unmatchy pants
Prior to his conversion to the righteous cause, he saw the maintenance and preservation of public land as a distraction from his true mission in government, lessening the economic hardships shouldered by blue collar America.

He only concerned himself with the fate of public lands when it was explained to him that rich folks have their own lakes, their own yachts, their own snazzy houses on the shores of said lakes.

Shouldn't everyone else at least have the pleasure of walking along the shore of a lake? I mean, at the very least? For Burton, that was all it took.

By the way, it was his strategizing and haranguing that gave Alcatraz to GGNRA. If our urban park has a founding father, well... But enough about him for now.

As awesome as the Golden Gate National Recreation Area is, it's not the only name in the public land conservation game.

Adventuring off the reservation
Out of the park
Out of the National Park System

I love BourbonHawk's idea of covering bird life throughout the GGNRA. In the spirit of that temporary journey away from Alcatraz, here's a trip even further afield.

Last weekend, my father and I hiked Rush Ranch, a piece of land on the Suisun Marsh, waaaay over there in Fairfield. It's maintained by a nonprofit called the Solano Land Trust and to be sure, we had a fantastic time. There were raptors
everywhere:



white tailed kite



prairie falcon



red tailed hawk


golden eagle

Seeing all of the hunting sites around Rush Ranch also gave me pause. I'm a huge animal lover and a strict vegan. I've been a vegetarian since I was around 10 or 11, if I remember correctly and I can still remember my last box of Burger King's chicken tenders which had satisfied me so reliably.

I've been a very good liberal about hating guns and hunting, thinking it cruel and unnecessary, not quite seeing the point.

On reflection, however, I think going out and dispatching your own meat is far better than getting it from the factory farm. These hunted birds live their wild lives, enjoy their natural diet in the comfort of a habitat protected from human encroachment. Those that do fall at the guns of hunters may experience brief periods of suffering prior to their deaths, but animals in factory farms endure pain and mistreatment throughout their entire lives.

Sure, if you're a duck, it sucks to be shot. But there are innumerable hawks, eagles and falcons to remind us that when you're a plant eating marsh bird, mortality is part of the equation and every single one of these raptors has to find, attack, kill and eat an animal every single day.

Hunting also seems far more environmentally friendly and sustainable than factory farming. Factory farming is not inextricably tied up in the business of conservation. Hunting absolutely is.

Though I would never, ever, ever go on a hunting trip or kill any animal bigger than a spider, it does at least seem to be a nice day outside with the family, in a country where people spend far too much time in front of screens like this one.

Finally, from my dear father's collection, you can get an even better sense for the ecological richness of this place. You see, he's a better photographer and he's got a snazzier camera. I can promise you an extra cool picture of a red tailed hawk diving on a juvenile golden eagle. So rad.

Next time: back to Alcatraz.

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