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P2070025 yes yes yes variable seedeaters

“The least I can do is speak out for those who cannot speak for themselves.”
― Jane Goodall

P2060815 variable seedeater male yay

Male Variable Seedeater

“Nature doesn’t need people – people need nature; nature would survive the extinction of the human being and go on just fine, but human culture, human beings, cannot survive without nature.”  Harrison Ford

P1500580 FEMALE VARIABLE SEEDEATER EATING SEEDS

‘Seeds! Yum, yum!” – Female Variable Seedeater

“Hundreds of species are facing extinction due to human impacts on the environment.” – Elizabeth Marshall Thomas

Poza Honda Ecuador

“Yum Yum!

“If we pollute the air, water and soil that keep us alive and well, and destroy the biodiversity that allows natural systems to function, no amount of money will save us.” –David Suzuki

0 2018 may 21 seedeaters eating tainted seeds P1910658 AN ARC OF SEEDEATERS

2018 – Variable Seedeaters

“Humans regard animals as worthy of protection only when they are on the verge of extinction.” – Paul Craig Roberts

0 2018 may 21 seedeaters eating tainted seeds P1910651
“This seedeater is a common to abundant bird in lowlands and foothills up to 1,500 m (4,900 ft) altitude in semi-open areas such as forest edges, roadsides, low scrub and gardens. It also flocks with other species of seedeaters in pasture, weedy fields and other grassland…This species feeds mainly on grass seeds but also takes other seeds, berries and some insects.”  Wilkipedia

Poza Honda Ecuador – Last year while participating in the bird census for Global Big Day, friends and I noted the strong aroma of 2,4-D pesticide that had recently been sprayed on the pasture by the road.  The aroma lingered for months, and sensitive broad-leaved plants continued to die or curl for several more months.  The young balsa trees showed lingering effects half a year later.

I’m not sure when I noted the Variable Seedeaters’ absence, but their numbers declined rapidly – and have been almost absent until recently.   It’s been sobering to note the perfect seed heads on the pasture grasses, and to listen for the birds’ sweet songs but find there were none.

P2510981 which seedeater grassquit

Yay! A March 2019 sighting of a Grassquit!

I rationalized: “Perhaps they are nesting.  Perhaps they went elsewhere for seeds.  Or they are molting.”

Month after month, I rarely spotted a seedeater or grassquit.

The cutting of trees, bamboo, the fire that morphed into a larger one – surely all played into the disappearance of those precious little birds.    I wondered if the hotter climate pushed them to cooler areas.  We’ve not had as many cool days/nights as the year before.

I began actively searching for the missing birds, but no. They remained MIA.  Month after month after month I hoped for their return; I was thrilled to spot one or two.

Sometimes it takes a while to notice what’s absent from the normal scene.  Another species was often missing: the Ecuadorian Ground Doves. (featured below and in the header image.)

Poza Honda - Manabi Province- Ecuador

Ecuadorian Ground Doves 2018

Even the most-predictable Puffbird was missing.  No longer did it perch in its easy-to-see preferred seating overhanging the road.  Last year the cutting of balsas affected the termite nest, which was most likely the Puffbird nesting site as well.  Hopefully they relocated to a not-so-disturbed area.

P1820662 where are the puffbirds

The White-necked Puffbird once lived here. The middle (balsa) tree on the right was cut, and the birds relocated.

P1820665 theres a puffbird

P1530467 white necked puffbird

White-necked Puffbird

“The most alarming of all man’s assaults upon the environment is the contamination of air, earth, rivers, and sea with dangerous and even lethal materials. This pollution is for the most part irrecoverable; the chain of evil it initiates not only in the world that must support life but in living tissues is for the most part irreversible.” Rachel Carlson

The abundance of rain produced ample grasses and seeds.  For several months the grass seeds remained ‘perfect,’ which worried me.  Those seeds should be gone; the grass stalks should be bent and altered from the perching birds.   Where were the birds?  The area was too silent.  I yearned for their sweet songs.

Was I witnessing Rachel Carson’s greatest fear?  Where were the seedeaters, grassquits and doves?    Recently a few have returned to the area.

P2570642 which seedeater blue black body y chocolate wingsP2570641 blue black grassquitP2560894 SAME BIRD GRASSQUIT

P2560476 ecuadorian ground doveP2560547 blue black grassquit

P2560481 sick balsa

Yet is is also a new Season for Pesticides..

P2560475 malban packetP2560472 malban packet

P2560548 puffbird curve strip void of birds

A year ago, this was a bird-rich section; 2019- few sightings.

A new  disappearance adds a greater weight of concern.  My neighbor Jorge manages two bee hives; he told me a few weeks ago that one hive has been lost (No obvious dead bees near the hive) and that the other hive is sick.  He is nursing Hive 2 back to health (we hope!)

P2330054 bees y mango

I photographed these bees in December 2018. They were feasting on fallen mangoes near the reservoir. (The mangos have never been sprayed with chemicals.)

It’s easy for many to dismiss the absence of a petite little bird, but when honey bees start vanishing, a greater percentage of people are alarmed.   I now search for honey bees while walking and taking the bird census inventories.  So far, I have seen zero.

P2570547 very small bee wasp

A ‘Bee-wasp”?

P2560322 bright insect on hibiscus

Bright green Insect – Identification?

P2570007 WHITE SHOULDERED TANAGER

White-shouldered Tanager

P2570272 april 12 almost 5 40 pm BEE TIME poza honda

April 12 inspection of Hive 2.

“We have the choice to use the gift of our life to make the world a better place–or not to bother” ― Jane Goodall

Thank you Harrison Ford for speaking up!  David Attenborough’s voice is also respected:

With concern I photographed a discarded packet of dry-powdered pesticide, then pondered what I was witnessing.  I looked across the lovely-to-the-eye green pastures.  What did it look like with the original habitat, and what animals might have lived where I was standing… Those species continue to be squeezed out of areas until there are no new places to go.  Those species, in a way, are immigrants as well.

P2560471 green pastures no birds

Lots of grass, seeds but few birds

I rarely eat meat any more, but I do love cheeses, and milk in my coffee.  I too am contributing to this ‘need for pastures’ as long as I’m a consumer of dairy products.   I wondered how many people knew that we were losing species – and I was witness to it on an intimate level.   I thought about those cattle eating the sprayed grasses, of the chemical going into the meat, the milk, the cheeses.

I didn’t want milk or cheese.  I had zero appetite.  I wanted to cry, then cry more – all because of the absence of the tribes of grassquits and seedeaters that once thrived in that area.

Some people shrug about a 2-degree change in temperature.   Since my fever reached 104 with my first case of Dengue Fever, I easily use that example – what’s the difference in having a fever of 100.8 and 104?  It’s huge.   (2 celcius = 3.6 F)


“We can put solar panels on every house, we can turn every car into an electric vehicle, as long as Sumatra burns, we will have failed.. So long as the Amazon’s great forests are slashed and burned, so long as the protected lands of tribal people, Indigenous people, are allowed to be encroached upon, so long as wetlands and bog peats are destroyed, our climate goals will remain out of reach… and we will be shit out of time.”  Harrison Ford

My favorite Jane Goodall quote is one she often states in her speeches, ” …the-most-intellectual-creature-to-ever-walk-earth-is-destroying-its-only-home

Spend two minutes  to hear this lovely-woman’s words.

Comments are closed; please take a few moments and ponder how fragile our planet is, and what life might be like if you realized that the sparrows or wrens were gone.  Would you miss them?

ww P2490504 SOUTHERN HOUSE WREN  small FILE  watercolor by Lisa Brunetti.jpg

“What is the extinction of a condor to a child who has never seen a wren?”
— Robert Pyle