Archive for June, 2011

DELAWARE DREAMIN’- WELCOME TO BOMBAY HOOK NATIONAL WILDLIFE REFUGE

Friday, June 24th, 2011

THE SANGUINE ROOT TAKES A RELAXING TRIP TO OUR NEIGHBORING DELAWARE HOPING TO SEE FLOWERS AND BIRDS AT THE MOUTH OF THE DELAWARE RIVER.

Bombay Hook National Wildlife Refuge, Delaware

Bombay Hook National Wildlife Refuge, Delaware

Iris versicolor

We had never seen one of these before. Not even in cultivation. However we knew what it was right away and the brakes were applied. (Bombay Hook is so vast that it is a road trip inside the sanctuary)   Questions:  How come this native Iris is not growing everywhere as an ornamental, while the non-native exotic ones are?  How did this get passed by?  Why isn’t this Iris taught in school? Why is this not the Delaware State flower instead of the native-to-China Prunus persica, the peach blossom?

Bombay Hook National Wildlife Refuge, Delaware

Bombay Hook National Wildlife Refuge, Delaware

What a great discovery, a wild native Iris, growing in its ecosystem.

Bombay Hook National Wildlife Refuge, Delaware

Bombay Hook National Wildlife Refuge, Delaware

Magnolia virginiana

Finding the native Sweetbay magnolia growing in the wild is also a novel sight.  This one blooms in the late afternoon and evening when it fills the air with an enchanting aroma.

Bombay Hook National Wildlife Refuge, Delaware

Bombay Hook National Wildlife Refuge, Delaware

In a wooded area we saw this great patch of Jack-in-the Pulpit (Arisaema triphyllum) growing among its native woodland neighbors, the Enchanter’s nightshade (Circaea lutetiana) and the Virginia Creeper (Parthenocissus quinquefolia).

The woodland areas were full of ferns and lush herbaceous plants, however we were being bitten up by black flies.  Also, there was an emphasis on the birds that could be viewed at this National Wildlife location and most of the other visitors at Bombay Hook were preoccupied with the birds. We decided to see if we could view some of the birds that were getting so much attention.

Bombay Hook National Wildlife Refuge, Delaware

Bombay Hook National Wildlife Refuge, Delaware

This is the place to view birds and we were very pleased at the variety of them.  Off in the distance is the Delaware Bay. We spotted this Egret.

Bombay Hook National Wildlife Refuge, Delaware

Bombay Hook National Wildlife Refuge, Delaware

It was looking for an evening meal.

Bombay Hook National Wildlife Refuge, Delaware

Bombay Hook National Wildlife Refuge, Delaware

It dipped into the water for a fish.

Bombay Hook National Wildlife Refuge, Delaware

Bombay Hook National Wildlife Refuge, Delaware

Bombay Hook National Wildlife Refuge, Delaware

Bombay Hook National Wildlife Refuge, Delaware

After consuming the meal, the Egret was approached by what we believe to be a male Red-Winged Blackbird.

Bombay Hook National Wildlife Refuge, Delaware

Bombay Hook National Wildlife Refuge, Delaware

The Red- Winged Blackbird circled over the Egret and the Egret rose out of the water and opened up its broad wings and flew about 100 feet.

Bombay Hook National Wildlife Refuge, Delaware

Bombay Hook National Wildlife Refuge, Delaware

What a show!  After it landed, it wandered into the tall marsh grasses and settled in.

Bombay Hook National Wildlife Refuge, Delaware

Bombay Hook National Wildlife Refuge, Delaware

Bombay Hook provides every amenity for bird viewing, including built in telescopes, elevated structures, and signage. For beginners like us, these proved very helpful.

Bombay Hook National Wildlife Refuge, Delaware

Just north of Bombay Hook National Wildlife Refuge, Delaware

Driving north through the backroads, we spotted something that at first glance looked like an odd chicken. Oh, no, that would be  a Turkey Vulture.

Bombay Hook National Wildlife Refuge, Delaware

Bombay Hook National Wildlife Refuge, Delaware

Definitely not a chicken.

 The view across the Delaware Bay, Delaware

The view across the Delaware Bay, Delaware

This thing loomed in the back-round all day. Yeah, that would be the Salem Nuclear plant, in New Jersey. It has the same reactor core as the now melted down Fukushima-Daiichi nuclear plant in Japan, A General-Electric Mark I.  This one is puffing away, running all those big flat-screened tvs, among the many other amenities of modern life.

So this is what it has come to.  Just like at the Fukushima plant, all of the radioactive waste is sitting in a pool of water beside the plant, with nowhere to go and a half-life of 10,000 years. If it has no where to go now, it will most likely have no where to go in 200 years or 2000 years. So by running this plant, there is the assumption that there will be a stable technologically advanced society that will be able to watch over this waste made 100 years ago, 200 years ago, 2000 years ago, 5000 years ago.  That is quite a gamble to take, not just on future generations of humans, but all of the other species we live amidst. Since when has there been a stable human society that has lasted at least 500 years?  With nuclear technology so heavily guarded, could it survive the usual turmoil of humanity over the long haul?

Overly optimistic starry-eyed apologists of the nuclear industry imagine that humans will be able to use this waste for something productive. There will be fusion reactors and micro-reactors and all sorts of nifty things going on. None of these pie-in-the sky justifications for nuclear power address the long-term issue.  As if there is an arrogance in the air that is so enamored with nuclear power and a rosy belief in a peaceful global society that is evermore technologically advanced and politically sophisticated that will last for at least 10,000 years, managing nuclear waste and the by-products of the nuclear industry and  nuclear warheads combined.

If there ever is a time to be philosophical or perhaps moralistic about something, that time is 1000 years from now. Thats right, The Staff of the Sanguine Root is not being righteous or overly moralistic here, shaking our fingers at all of the sinners among us. It is true we do not have a television, but that is no reason to be righteous and indignant.

We try to see the picture over the years, the long term, the bigger picture, the long- haul. A species-specific perspective. The Egret we saw today, catching its evening fish and having an encounter with the Red-winged Blackbird, and then retiring to the Marsh grasses for the evening says it all.  That species has been doing the same thing for many thousands and millions of years. Try to imagine Delaware 40,000 years ago.  What species were there?  What did they do? How did they live?  Anyone have any ideas?  Please chime in.  While the exact locations of the salt marshes may have been different, most likely there were Egrets and Red-Winged Blackbirds, Sweet-bay Magnolias, Blue-flag Irises and Red Maples.

Here, these species are still alive.

What about our species?  We have made it complicated for ourselves and every species around us, haven’t we?   Never before, in the billions of years of Earth’s history has uranium been refined to the extent that it has. In less than 70 years!  Nor has the cocktail of carcinogenic and radioactive blend of materials carefully extracted from the earth, and manipulated and exposed in a variety of industrial processes have ever seen the light of day.  Exactly what geological layer are humans creating?  How many species will become extinct as a result?  Exactly why is this happening, and what can be done about it? Just remember, what will 100 years from now be like? If that isn’t convincing, what about 500 years?

Are our societies really that stable?   Just look around. How can Nuclear anything be a viable resource for anything period.  Who are we kidding?  Its 10,000+ years of radioactivity. Hot particles for everyone all the time- all we need is one hot particle in our lung. Fukushima is blowing them out in a hot wind.

TORNADO LEVELS LARGE SWATH OF BRIMFIELD STATE FOREST

Monday, June 20th, 2011

TREES TWISTED, CRACKED AND BROKEN IN PIECES, THE TORNADO LEFT A PATH OF DEFORESTATION IN ITS WAKE.  HERBACEOUS WOODLAND PLANTS GROWING IN THE ONCE SHADY FOREST WITHER IN THE SUN.

Tornado deforestation, Brimfield State Forest, Brimfield, Massachusetts

Tornado deforestation, Brimfield State Forest, Brimfield, Massachusetts

Part II of the special coverage of the Massachusetts tornado by Sanguine Root staff writer Sean Solomon.

Tornado deforestation, Brimfield State Forest, Brimfield, Massachusetts

Tornado deforestation, Brimfield State Forest, Brimfield, Massachusetts

The path of the tornado reached its peak width in the Brimfield State Forest.  To see this was a shocking sight.  This has always been a shady, wooded area, so thick with trees that it was dark and mysterious, and was the quintessential forest for me as I was growing up.  To see this destruction is unsettling. These trees were part of my upbringing, and have created the backdrop for my appreciation of forests. Like the beautiful Victorian houses of the town of Monson, the trees on this hillside  were the example of what forest is to be, like what an elegant house is.  For the trees to have been ripped out like this is disorienting.

Tornado deforestation, Brimfield State Forest, Brimfield, Massachusetts

Tornado deforestation, Brimfield State Forest, Brimfield, Massachusetts

Is this what it has come to?  Are we to expect more and more of these tornados in the future? We know that tornados do occur in this area, but rarely.  Does the dramatic increase in atmospheric carbon dioxide have an effect in this?  This would be a good time to come out and study this tornado.  Now that the bigger trees are down, there will be effects on the land.  The ferns and herbaceous shade plants are yellowing in the hot sun.

Tornado deforestation, Brimfield State Forest, Brimfield, Massachusetts

Tornado deforestation, Brimfield State Forest, Brimfield, Massachusetts

Here, Christmas fern (Polystichum acrostichoides) survived the tornado but is now exposed to so much sunlight, that it is turning brown.

Tornado deforestation, Brimfield State Forest, Brimfield, Massachusetts

Tornado deforestation, Brimfield State Forest, Brimfield, Massachusetts

The woodland herbaceous plant, Smilacina racemosa, False Solomons seal, is also turning brown at the edges. (Top and bottom).

Tornado deforestation, Brimfield State Forest, Brimfield, Massachusetts

Tornado deforestation, Brimfield State Forest, Brimfield, Massachusetts

Change has come to this forest, and how it will manifest itself is up for speculation.  Please feel free to throw in your two cents as to how it will pan out in the next 5 years, ten, and how about 50 and 100!  This tornado’s path will be still evident in 200 years to the close inspection.

Tornado deforestation, Brimfield State Forest, Brimfield, Massachusetts

Tornado deforestation, Brimfield State Forest, Brimfield, Massachusetts

Many of the Oaks and Hickories will probably sprout new branches on top of the trunks and there will be some odd-shaped trees in 10 years, with thick trunks and lots of thin branches coming off the tops. Some of the wind-blown trees that have survived will be trees that have interesting angles and curves in the trunks, with straight tops.  Many young trees have survived this event and they will grow into the new forest.  Species such as birch and white pine may thrive in this new sunny environment, and they make take a more prominent place in the forest in the next twenty years.  There will also be some surprises.  Long dormant seeds may sprout and there  may be species making a presence not seen in many years.  There will also be a possibility of invasive, introduced species gaining a foothold in this disturbed environment, such as the Asiatic bittersweet and Japanese Knotweed.

Tornado deforestation, Brimfield State Forest, Brimfield, Massachusetts

Tornado deforestation, Brimfield State Forest, Brimfield, Massachusetts

This last picture illustrates the amount of dead wood that now sits on the land.  This poses a fire risk in the next few years ahead.  One dry summer with all of this dry wood sitting around and any number of fire possibilities creates a huge potential problem.  What can be done now to have a healthy forest regenerate, and for this to be a safe process?  While the towns and city is re-built, the forest must also be considered.

As difficult as this has been and will be, the re-building and decision-making of the towns and forests presents a unique opportunity for  re-defining our role as citizens in a civic engagement as well as stewards of the natural environment we live amidst.

TORNADO RIPS THROUGH MONSON MASSACHUSETTS: MASSIVE DESTRUCTION TO PROPERTY AND FOREST. LOSS OF TREES AN ANGUISH TO COMMUNITY

Friday, June 17th, 2011

EXTENT OF DEVASTATION INDESCRIBABLE AT THIS TIME.  OVER 70 HOMES COMPLETELY DESTROYED.   THOUSANDS OF ACRES OF FOREST LEVELED.  MASSIVE HABITAT LOSS IN 38 MILE LONG PATH OF DESTRUCTION.  THREAT OF MASSIVE FOREST FIRE LOOMS FROM NEWLY CREATED “FIRE LOAD” OF THOUSANDS OF ACRES OF DEAD LUMBER NOW SITTING IN THE WAKE OF THE TORNADO JUST AT THE BREAK OF THE SUMMER SEASON. NOW IS THE TIME FOR THE ENTIRE TOWN TO RISE AND DEMAND FROM THE FEDERAL AND STATE GOVERNMENTS EVERY BIT OF HELP POSSIBLE TO REDUCE ANY FURTHER RISK OF DAMAGE FROM FIRE AS WELL AS DAMAGE FROM ANY  WEATHER IN THE FORM OF IMMEDIATE AID FOR ALL PROPERTIES, BUSINESSES AND HOMES IN THE EFFECTED AREAS .

 

Special edition to the Sanguine Root-  Staff writer Sean Solomon covers the devastating June 1st 2011 tornado that destroyed much of his hometown of Monson Massachusetts.

Funnel Cloud at 5 pm  by Brian Solomon.  Monson Massachusetts

Funnel Cloud at 5 pm. June 1, 2011 Photo by Brian Solomon. Monson Massachusetts

This is the tornado.  The funnel cloud is clearly captured in Brian’s picture (above), taken just two miles south of the tornado. The funnel is whirling from left to right of the picture, whipping up such that the violent part of the tornado is not as dark as the top portion, as it has a rotation of extreme speed and a force that is unpredictable.  When he took this photo, there was no way of knowing if this extremely dangerous high intensity rotational super-cell was headed his way.  If it was, it would be a matter of minutes before it would tear apart the house and all of the vegetation around it. The path of the tornado remained just two miles north of the family home.

The Aftermath of the June 2011 tornado,  Monson Massachusetts

The Aftermath of the June 2011 tornado, Monson Massachusetts

This is Bethany Street. It was a charming tree-lined street lined with gracious Victorian- era houses.  This one was pulled off of its foundation and left to crumple.  The red placard was pasted on declaring its dangerous state. Unless every part of the house could be safely dismantled, stored and rebuilt on a new foundation with  new structural members, this house is ruined forever.  Much of the historic fabric of Monson is at stake. Ideally, the ruined homes could be re-built using salvaged cornices and door frames, and the size and placement of the windows, the proportions of the roof pitch and the cedar siding could all be replicated.

The Aftermath of the June 2011 tornado,  Monson Massachusetts

The Aftermath of the June 2011 tornado, Monson Massachusetts

This house was right across the street.

The Aftermath of the June 2011 tornado,  Monson Massachusetts

The aftermath of the June 2011 tornado, Monson Massachusetts

Here is a view of the remains of the town.  The path of the tornado  was about 1/4 of a mile wide here. It went up and down steep forested hills for 38 miles.  Its wake of destruction appears more vigorous at the bottom of the hills .  The next hill it climbed, it narrowed a bit and then widened to 1/2  mile at the bottom on its eastward path.

The Aftermath of the June 2011 tornado,  Monson Massachusetts

The aftermath of the June 2011 tornado, Monson Massachusetts

The iconic New England First Church Of Monson, with its steeple pulled right off. The lighting rod of the steeple pierced the wooden sign near the left hand yew.  A volunteer building contractor was going through the rubble, pulling out the  architectural elements for storage and re-use in a hopeful replication of the steeple. I suggested to him that the ‘blueprints’ for the envelope of the new steeple were right there in the pile. He said they hope to reuse as much as possible in the re-construction.

The aftermath of the June 2011 tornado,  Monson Massachusetts

The aftermath of the June 2011 tornado, Monson Massachusetts

The volunteer said that the clock mechanisms they found were intact.  The hour hand remains at the time of the tornado. On my bike rides to school, I would use this clock to see how late I was.

The aftermath of the June 2011 tornado,  Monson Massachusetts

The aftermath of the June 2011 tornado, Monson Massachusetts

My old school.  Since converted to the town offices, the future of the building is still uncertain.  At the town meeting, we were told it awaits engineering reports.

The aftermath of the June 2011 tornado,  Monson Massachusetts

The aftermath of the June 2011 tornado, Monson Massachusetts

A home I visited in childhood.

The aftermath of the June 2011 tornado,  Monson Massachusetts

The aftermath of the June 2011 tornado, Monson Massachusetts

The house across the street from the house pictured above.

Sean on Bethany Road Monson  Photo by Brian Solomon

Sean Solomon on Bethany Road Monson Photo by Brian Solomon

The destruction of homes and property, and lives and livelihoods is impossible to calculate. We must also account for the destruction of the forests of Monson, and the land effected: What are the effects on the forests, and what are the long term effects?   It was said at the town meeting that one of the biggest losses people voiced was the loss of their trees.  Houses can be replaced but mature trees cannot be any time soon.
In the aftermath, there are many immediate things to grapple with, Food, clothing, shelter, mental well-being, Insurance, State and Federal aid.  On accounting for the forests, one looming immediate issue is the fire load.  The thousands of acres of dead brush and trees left behind.  There is a ban on controlled burning, but in the coming months as summer heats up and things dry out, whats to stop a lightning strike, a tossed cigarette or an illegal fire?   Is there a plan in place to minimize the fire load? Is there political will?  Is this a job for a massive entity such as the Army Corps?  If these dead trees and shrubs, the fire load, ignites, what will this conflagration do to the town?  The town will need  to be organized and vocal on a civic and grassroots level and to keep asking for help on this and many other issues.  At this point there are more questions than answers.