Raccoon

The columnist is seeing fewer birds and fewer mammals, like this raccoon.

Birds have declined. Certainly there aren’t as many birds as there were when I was a boy.

Every bird count, Christmas bird count, birding big days, breeding bird surveys, indicated fewer birds than there used to be. A scientific report I read states birds of North America have declined by 70%.

Some species have not declined. Some species have even increased. Cardinal and turkey vulture have increased and expanded their range north. Peregrine falcon, bald eagle, osprey and California condor have increased.

Birds aren’t the only wildlife that have declined.

Bats haven’t just declined, they’ve disappeared. I used to see bats in summer when the weather was fair, circling around a yard light on a pole outside our barn, apparently catching moths which were also circling the light. I haven’t seen a bat, or a moth, around that light, or any place else, in several years.

Raccoons have declined. I used to see one, two, as many as three raccoons on the platform bird feeder outside our dining room window, or on the ground under the feeder often. I haven’t seen a raccoon on or under that feeder in several years. I have seen raccoons in the road however, dead. I still see squirrels on that feeder, both red and gray, often two or three at a time, and there’s been a chipmunk now and then.

I still see rabbits, not at a bird feeder, usually in or along the side of a road, but I don’t see as many as I used to. Nor do I see as many woodchucks as I used to.

Insects have also declined, not just the moths that used to circle the security light out by the barn, all insects. There aren’t as many mosquitoes as there used to be. When we moved to our home in the country mosquitoes were so numerous this time of year that I wore a net over my head to protect me from the mosquitoes. It’s been a few years since I wore a mosquito net.

Grasshoppers used to be as numerous in grassy fields in summer as mosquitoes were in the air. I haven’t seen a grasshopper this summer. There aren’t as many ants as there were when I was a boy or flies or crickets or caterpillars or butterflies. As a boy, I netted butterflies, killed them by putting them in a poison jar, then mounted them in a notebook, wings spread.

There aren’t as many worms as there used to be. That’s right, worms, big worms, nightcrawlers. After a rain they’d be scattered across the surface of the ground. My brother and I used to gather nightcrawlers after a rain, then sell them to fishermen. We had a sign out by the street, “Nightcrawlers for sale.”

The world has changed a great deal since my brother and I were boys. Summers we worked on farms, staying on a farm at times, doing chores, milking cows, by hand, carrying grain to pigs, gathering eggs and scattering grain for chickens.

Farm fields in my home state, Iowa, fields of corn and soybeans, were smaller then, most of them no bigger than an eighth of a section, 80 acres. Now many fields are a quarter of a section, 160 acres, or more.

Fertilizer in those days gone by was droppings from the livestock in the barn yard, spread with a manure spreader pulled by a tractor. Now fertilizer is chemicals.

There is less of nature than there was when I was a boy, fewer birds, fewer mammals, fewer insects. We have global warming. Now I read a proposal for home owners to plow up lawns and plant them to vegetation beneficial to birds and mammals and, yes, insects, to wildlife.

Neil Case may be reached at neilcase1931@gmail.com.

(0) comments

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
PLEASE TURN OFF YOUR CAPS LOCK.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.