Earth Day, the 50th anniversary. On April 22, 1970, deep in the middle of the Vietnam War, we still had concerns for the natural world … cities thick with smog, pesticides taking their toll on birds, rivers on fire. Senator Gaylord Nelson of Wisconsin had come up with the idea of a national day to draw attention to the problem. 26-year-old Denis Hayes, an environmental activist, agreed to coordinate the project. And millions of people across the US, young and old, stepped out that day, on behalf of Planet Earth.
This Earth Day, we at BirdNote offer this special show to you: close your eyes, and join us as we meander across the United States…
Waves, recorded by J Kessler
Daybreak at the far eastern tip of the US, off the coast of Maine... Atlantic Puffins call from the cliffs…
Atlantic Puffin ML 62361 WWH Gunn
And now, let’s go down the coast and inland to the Appalachians.
Cerulean Warbler ML 85100 and 168301, recorded by WL Hershberger
Changing to bayou ambient and Anhinga ML 36274371, recorded by P Marvin
A bayou in the South … where cypress trees draped with Spanish moss rise from still, dark water. The bayou’s luxuriant wetness supports lush growth of trees and shrubs, which in turn offer secluded nesting for a broad range of birds -- like the striking Yellow-crowned Night-Heron, the slim and sinuous Anhinga, and the Yellow-throated Warbler.
Yellow-crowned Night-Heron ML 167312461, recorded by P Marvin
Yellow-throated Warbler, ML 213713, recorded by B McGuire
In the Lower Rio Grande Valley of Texas, Plain Chachalacas sound their wake-up call.
Plain Chachalaca ML 130903, recorded by G Vyn
Followed by the Great Kiskadee.
ML 216676, recorded by B Mcguire
In the Rainwater Basin of Nebraska, the Snow Geese and Sandhill Cranes are mostly gone for the summer. For 20,000 years, spring rains and melting snow have filled the playas of the basin. Carved by glacial winds at the end of the last Ice Age, the playas are shallow depressions the warmth of spring fills with abundant life, like Red-winged Blackbirds, Blue-winged Teal, and Northern Pintails.
Marsh ambient: a blend of Red-winged Blackbirds, ML57508, and Northern Pintail, ML43082, both recorded by WWH Gunn
In Montana, the Western Meadowlark says it all.
Western Meadowlark ML 195235, recorded by S Sherman
In the arid Arizona desert, the Gilded Flicker carves out a nest cavity in a living saguaro.
Gilded Flicker ML 109052, recorded by GA Keller
The woodpeckers excavate a new nest every year, leaving the old, now empty cavities behind. But they don’t stay empty for long. ...
ML 40636, recorded by GA Keller
Ferruginous Pygmy-Owl ML 105563, recorded by GA Keller
Purple Martin ML 8091, recorded by C Sutherland
and Brown-crested Flycatchers all find the slightly used woodpecker cavities superb nest sites, protected by a spiny exterior.
Changing to marsh birds ML 224482, recorded by GF Budney
California - Carman Valley
Every spring, the Carman Valley, east of the Sierra Nevada Mountains in central California, comes alive with birds... Red-winged Blackbirds, Western Meadowlarks, and American Bitterns. The males of more than a dozen species are staking out their territories and attracting mates.
Carman Valley ambient
Changing to shorebird flock, ML 141079, recorded by B Clock
In Alaska, Safety Sound is an Important Bird Area, protecting Arctic and Aleutian Terns, along with Long-billed Dowitchers and many other shorebirds.
Hawai'i Creeper, Xeno-canto 127667, recorded by B Rownd
And now, to Hawai’i, where three-quarters of the native flowering plants probably came from seeds that hitched rides with birds. The most likely seed-carriers were strong fliers like plovers or tropicbirds, which travel thousands of miles across the Pacific. Or perhaps the seeds hitched a ride on the ancestors of this Hawai’i Creeper, caught in a storm and blown to the Hawaiian Islands.
Wherever you are this Earth Day, we hope you’re able to step outside and appreciate the wonders of our planet.
Listen again, find out what birds you’ve heard, and see photos on our website, BirdNote.org. I’m John Kessler.