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Just as tree pollen reached its peak for birches, oaks, and maples, thus increasing local allergy reactions, high winds and rough seas provided very challenging conditions for boaters going out to sea for haddock, squid, and flounder last week.What added to fishermen’s frustration was the obvious pileup of haddock schools that just were off their feed. We can cast a perfect line, but if fish aren’t in the mood, we’re going to feel slack lines.In stark contrast, trout stocking in the state's Central District waters continued frenetically this week with rivers the major focus of MassWildlife hatchery crews — and the large number of anglers who follow them for some of the best fly-fishing of the year.Athol’s Millers and Tully rivers; Barre, Hardwick, and Ware’s Ware River; Holden’s Quinapoxet River; Petersham’s East Branch of the Swift; Princeton and Sterling’s Stillwater River; Royalston’s Miller’s River; Rutland’s Long Pond; Spencer’s Sevenmile River and Sugden Reservoir; Sturbridge’s Quinebaug River; and Winchendon’s Miller’s River all received heavy stocking. Tree-lined city streetsIt’s great to see the resumption of tree planting on Boston’s city streets led by arborist Max Ford-Diamond. Forty-thousand trees provide vital greenery, necessitating the planting of about 1,200 each year. Every city in the state needs such stewardship, especially this year when winds took down so many of our trees.Thinking big Just because a country is little doesn’t mean it can’t have big ideas. Lithuania has been promoting potted Christmas trees, and now that it’s spring, a literal forest of them will be replanted outside Vilnius, the capital of this country situated in Europe's Baltic region. We could do the same thing here, watching our Christmas tree grow each year, and celebrating its maturation by planting it outdoors, too.Sage comebackGood news for U.S. bird hunters and environmentalists. Far out west in sage habitat, there’s a bird as magnificent as our wild turkey — the sage grouse. It was on its way to extinction, as 80% of its population had vanished just since 1965. The previous administration ignored and even undermined historic agreements to save this iconic game bird. This week, under President Biden’s wildlife-oriented direction, the Bureau of Land Management announced that it would begin those efforts that were previously sabotaged to restore sage grouse populations.There’s good news from Arkansas, too. The state is allowing public school students to get physical education credit for taking hunting safety courses. This partnership of a state’s fish and game department with its school system is a role model for many other possible environmental initiatives that could benefit wildlife, open space, and the future of our outdoor traditions. Massachusetts should look into these possibilities.More relevant locally, this week Biden approved the first major offshore wind project in U.S. waters right off our state's coast. Vineyard Wind, the first large-scale, offshore wind project in the country, will provide 800 megawatts of electricity from an area 12 nautical miles from both Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket. On the plus side, it will create 3,600 jobs and clean energy power for 400,000 homes and businesses.Alas, the area offshore will never look the same. Boaters will see its 84 turbines from many miles away. They’ll be installed in an east-west orientation, with each one spaced at least one mile away from the next to minimize dangers to ships and boats. We’ll see how they impact fishing, seabirds, and marine life. But one thing we need to recognize as a law of physics — we can’t ever get something for nothing.Recycle those sandalsSome companies are working hard to produce a great product and have a more positive environmental impact. I’ve worn tough, comfortable, and long-lasting Tevas for decades, taking them along from jungle camps in the Amazon to African savannahs and the Galapagos Islands. I’m glad I gave them my business.Most old sole-separating sandals wind up in landfills. Old Tevas can now be mailed to TerraCycle, 1 TerraCycle Way, Trenton, NJ, 08638, at no cost so they can be recycled into new sandals.Simply visit Teva.com to sign up and download a prepaid shipping label to mail in the old sandals.Since just 2020, Teva’s efforts have equated to diverting over 40.2 million plastic bottles from landfills and reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 6.6 million pounds.Since 2017, Teva has saved 348 million gallons of water thanks to packaging improvements, and reduced packaging by 4.1 million pounds.When you’re buying sandals, you might want to give them your business.Russian gun laws America seems to have a mass shooting just about every week now. The last official, comprehensive figures that we have are for 2018, when the U.S. had nearly 40,000 deaths from firearms. Roughly 25,000 of them were from suicides, and nearly 15,000 were homicides. Relatively few murders are committed with rifles. The vast majority are from handguns.Russia recently experienced one of its few mass shootings. Its gun laws are eye-opening. Surprising to many Americans, self-defense and property protection are constitutional rights for all Russian citizens. But not surprisingly, gun control there is much stricter.Gun owners must be over 18, possess a registered permanent residence, and use guns only for sport activities, hunting, and self-defense. Gun licenses are given out by local police departments and are valid for five years — but only after a thorough background check, which emphasizes an applicant’s ability to store guns safely — and have no medical issues that would make ownership a societal hazard. Anyone deemed mentally ill or having a record of substance abuse is disqualified.Licensed Russian gun owners may have up to 10 rifles and shotguns — more if they are collectibles. As for self-defense, gun owners may have guns at home, but they're not allowed to carry them outside. Guns that have more than a 10-cartridge capacity or fire in bursts are illegal. Sporting rifles over 4.5 mm must be kept at shooting ranges.Silencers are illegal as are night vision scopes — except for hunting. First time gun owners have to attend 6½ hours of classes on gun safety and pass tests on safety rules.Even still, Russia has — just like the U.S. — a building problem with more and more guns being illegally purchased.Today, Russians own over 7 million non-military weapons. About 80% of the guns are smooth-bore, shotgun types of guns for hunting. It’s believed that almost twice as many guns are unregistered and possessed illegally, and involved in less than 1% of crimes. The majority of gun crimes in Russia involve firearms that were illegally attained from the black market — especially stolen military or police weapons, and guns sold illegally by law enforcement personnel who confiscated illegal firearms.Noise pollution no goodObnoxiously loud noise isn’t good for people or wildlife. Few of us have never had our ears thoughtlessly pummeled by show-off owners of vehicles or boom boxes wanting to call attention to themselves.The stress has been harshly impacting the animals at the Franklin Park Zoo in Boston. Some have been too stressed to mate. We know from bird song studies that some species have to actually change the frequencies of their songs in areas overloaded with human noise.We know that increased human pollution can lower birds’ egg production. When we’re confronted with punishing noise, we can generally leave it. But wildlife in zoos or other fragmented habitats are stuck — and have to pay the consequences. Those can manifest themselves in altered behaviors, some negative. We’re a smart species, but we’ve never been able to instill consideration throughout our population.Bird songsI love classical music, opera, and bird song. This week, I got a special high-tech Bose speaker that I’ve been wanting to try to conveniently play back local bird song without having to bring out my professional Sennheiser microphone and Sony recording equipment. It conveniently fits in my jacket pocket. The easy to hold Bose SoundLink micro speaker is a technological marvel that can prove a giant in the field.Using just my iPhone and a Voice Memos app, I’ve been able to easily record and play back bird songs — even soft, high-frequency ones — with impressive volume from the battery powered remote speaker. Its simplicity and portability make the Bose speaker most recommendable. If you’re a birder, you need to use it judiciously, though — most suitably back indoors.This time of year, a male’s song is a territorial exclamation of his bedroom limits as well as his intolerance for any other males of his species intruding into that space. Playing his own song back to him — or a recording of any other male of his species — is infuriating to him. He hears a competitor that is marvelously similar to himself. That realization instantly elicits a defensive reaction — often his aggressively flying right up and over the source of the song to display his disapproval — and maybe even engage in combat if necessary.In the past, this record-and-playback strategy was standard modus operandi to get a secretive bird to show himself — especially in tropical jungles where many birds sing but don’t readily display themselves. The birding community has taken awhile but finally considered the ethics of that disturbance.While birding tour leaders trying to show clients paying $5,000 or far more to see rare birds all over the world still employ the technique from Amazonia to Zimbabwe, we should be aware of the stress we can put on those mating birds now.So, go out, learn and enjoy the birds, record their songs, hear and internalize their music at your pleasure — but be careful you make the outdoors better throughout your efforts — respecting our wildlife’s welfare.Contact Mark Blazis at [email protected]
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