Malkolm is cycling on! He is now cycling from Alaska to Washington DC, and then continuing on to the UN Climate Change conference in Cancun in December.
It all started with Bird Year, Malkolm and his parents' year-long, fossil-fuel-free journey in search of birds. Cycling a total of 13,133 miles (21,144 km), they identified 548 different bird species and raised more than $25,000 for bird conservation. Bird Year turned them into confirmed cyclists and taught them that climate change was more serious than they had thought.
In 2009, Malkolm biked from Whitehorse to Ottawa as a part of Pedal for the Planet: the project called for the Canadian Government to become a leader in the struggle to come to grips with climate change. The Harper Government did not even meet with the young cyclists.
Malkolm is now 18 and just finished high school. On August 24, he dipped his foot in the Pacific Ocean in Skagway, Alaska. Then headed up and over the White Pass to the Alaska Highway on his journey to Washington and on to Cancun.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

A Bittern-Sweet Moment (Wendy)

“We don’t believe they exist” I said to Dave Fix last September. We were scanning Arcata Marsh in northern California with binoculars, searching for American Bitterns. We had been hoping to see them for eight years, ever since we first visited the Everglades. They are as long as snow geese, but streaky-brown and secretive. “Keep poundin’ the reeds” advised Dave.

“We suspect there is no such bird as American Bittern,” I told Todd Newberry, as we looked over Elkhorn Slough near Monterey. Todd nodded thoughtfully. “Ask local birders as you travel,” he said, “it will be a good way to break the ice.” One helpful birder from southern Florida, Ken Burgener, made a video of our stay with him. He taunted us by peppering it with subliminal glimpses of bitterns.

All fall and winter we asked local birders for advice and pounded the local reeds. Most people told us that they had seen one just last week, standing right out in the open. We visited great bittern habitat: Aransas National Wildlife Refuge, Mad Island, Corkscrew Swamp. Our luck did not change. “I think this bittern thing is a gigantic hoax,” I told Malkolm and Ken.

Late in February we returned to the Everglades. One morning, Malkolm left camp at first light. Ken and I finished our coffee and then followed. Malkolm waved his arms in semaphore fashion as soon he saw us. His eyes told the story. He had seen his American Bittern, but it was a bittern-sweet moment for Ken and me. We were happy that Malkolm had seen the bittern, but American Coffee had come between us and our bird.

Viera Wetland is an engineered marsh, used for the last stage of wastewater treatment. It is a pretty place, and not smelly. Jim Meyer and Eileen Riccio saw 2 bitterns here, two weeks before we arrived. They kindly joined us. I looked out over an expanse of reeds, and thought that there was no need for a bittern ever to show itself. Just then, a large streaky brown bird erupted from the vegetation, and flew quickly to its destination. Just as it landed, I saw its profile, so familiar from the bird books. Immediately, it melted back into the greenery.

“Did you see that?” we all asked each other. I am not sure whose grin was widest.

Now that we knew where it was, we caught glimpses of that bittern from time to time. It moved excruciatingly slowly. The photo at top gives you an idea why these birds are so darned difficult to locate (hint: it is in top right quadrant).

American Bitterns exist! Triumph at last!

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