Saturday, February 28, 2009

vegan iron fest

Since I haven't made a food post in a long time, here is my dinner tonight:

Chard, squash and quinoa. I hadn't intended it to be a vegan iron fest, it just sort of worked out that way. I had some squash to use up, and chard was on sale at the co-op, and I wanted some grain on the side that would finish cooking by the time the squash came out of the oven.

Below are the recipes, which don't really have names unless you want to delineate the ingredients (this with that and that). The meal worked out nice in that I could start the squash, and then start the quinoa, and then clean the chard and cook the chard, and everything wound up being done at the same time. I ate alone and have some chard and quinoa left over, so if you double the squash you'd have a meal for two.

1 delicata squash
6 cloves garlic, peeled and cut in half
2 teaspoons brown sugar
sesame oil

Wash the squash, cut it in half and scoop out the guts. Lay the squash cut side up in a baking dish and fill each half with 3 cloves of garlic and a teaspoon of brown sugar. Drizzle with sesame oil. Salt. Roast at 350F for 20-30 minutes, or until squash is cooked through and garlic is soft. Scrape out squash flesh and mash everything together. (The garlic may not fully incorporate itself, but lumps of sesame roasted garlic are very yummy.)

1/2 cup quinoa
1 cup water
1/2 teaspoon veg broth powder
1/2 teaspoon ground anise
1/4 cup dried currants

Bring quinoa, water, broth powder and anise to a boil; reduce heat, cover pot, and simmer until the quinoa unfurls its tails, about 10 to 15 minutes. Turn off heat, stir in currants, cover pot and allow to sit for 5-10 mintes so that the currants plump up a bit.

1 bunch rainbow chard
1/2 onion, sliced
1/3 cup whole raw almonds
olive oil
salt and pepper

Rinse chard and slice stems and leaves seperately. Saute onion in oil and salt on high heat for about a minute, until they just start to soften, then add chard stems and saute a minute longer. Add chard leaves with water still clinging to them, reduce heat, cover pan and allow to steam until done, about one more minute. Turn off heat, remove cover and stir in almonds and fresh ground pepper.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

my un-big day

Usually when birders post their bird lists, it is to boast about seeing 7,000 species in three hours or whatever. Which is all well and good for them, but it can leave the rest of us feeling a little inadequate, like whatever birds we might have seen aren't as "important" because they're common or were only seen in small numbers. (But then, I'm not really much of a lister, and I'm certainly not the kind of birder who's going to go racing through the terrain just to check another bird off the list; I'd rather enjoy the hike.)

So I am posting my lists from the Great Backyard Bird Count last week, even though my lists are very short and fairly paltry. I counted in the yard twice, and this is my Friday morning list:

  • 6 Rock Pigeons
  • 1 Downy Woodpecker
  • 1 American Crow
  • 4 Black-capped Chickadees
  • 1 Red-breasted Nuthatch
  • 1 White-breasted Nuthatch

And this is my Monday morning list:

  • 8 Rock Pigeons
  • 2 Downy Woodpeckers
  • 1 American Crow
  • 3 Black-capped Chickadees
  • 1 White-breasted Nuthatch
  • 3 Dark-eyed Juncos
  • 6 Common Redpolls

I also went out to the bus stop early on Friday so that I could do a quick count there:

  • 1 Merlin
  • 2 Rock Pigeons
  • 1 American Crow
  • 2 Black-capped Chickadees

I was all excited that my redpolls came by for the count, since this is the first time I've had them in the yard at this apartment. Must be a good year for redpolls, though--as of right now there were 18,768 counted in Minnesota (the highest number by far for any bird in the state; second place goes to Mallards with 7,222). However, my three juncos account for more than a quarter of all the juncos seen in Duluth, and not only is my Merlin the only one for Duluth (or at least it will be, once the data goes through) but so far there is only one other one listed for the entire state. So I am very glad that I went out to the bus stop early for that little half hour count. Every bird matters when it comes to citizen science, and even tiny numbers are important.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

birds, climate change and citizen science

A study released by Audubon today found that almost 60% of the 305 bird species in North America have shifted their range to the north as climate change raised temperatures over the past 40 years (average January temperature rose about five degrees Fahrenheit during the course of the study). Birds' ranges moved northward an average of 35 miles, although some have moved a great deal more than that—Purple Finches, for example, now winter on average somewhere around Wisconsin instead of Missouri, a difference of about 433 miles. Meanwhile, tundra species like the Snowy Owl are quickly running out of "north," and grassland species like Meadowlarks have populations that are plummeting since their habitat is getting eaten up by sprawl and they have no place else to go. A quote from the AP story:

"This is as close as science at this scale gets to proof," said Greg Butcher, the lead scientist on the study and the director of bird conservation at the Audubon Society. "It is not what each of these individual birds did. It is the wide diversity of birds that suggests it has something to do with temperature, rather than ecology."

Of course, observant birders have been saying this for years—a friend of mine who's lived in Duluth on and off for about twelve years says that when she first moved up here, cardinals showed up this far north only rarely, and now they are a regular occurrence. But it's great to have a detailed, scientific study to back us up—here's hoping it translates into some real change. Audubon put together a nice website on birds and climate change with the full report, plus maps and species highlights, and it is definitely worth checking out.

The data for this study was collected from Christmas Bird Counts, a citizen science program that is over a hundred years old and is exactly what it sounds like—people go out around Christmastime and count birds. I participated one year, but normally the local count is on a Saturday and I have to work. But it's a lot of fun, nosing around the forest to see what you can see, and then later going to the compilation or reading the report to see what everybody else saw. Trained scientists can't possibly be everywhere to gather this data, and so volunteer efforts like the CBC are invaluable.

Wanna participate but don't want to wait around ten months for the next CBC? The Great Backyard Bird Count is this weekend, February 13th through the 16th. You can define "backyard" however you want (actual yard, local park, nature reserve, office window, etc.) and can count for as little as 15 minutes or as long as you want. Send in your results, and Audubon and the Cornell Lab of Ornithology will compile the data to see how birds are surviving the winter and where they are spending it.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

spring creeping in quicker and quicker

There's been a change in the air recently, and for a few weeks now the days have been getting noticeably longer. Today was a luscious almost-getting-to-be-spring-like day, with the temperature easily topping 30F and warm sunshine all day. This afternoon, a friend and I went walking through the portion of the Superior Hiking Trail that goes through Hartley Park. I'd never been on that portion of the trail before, and even though it's between two buslines and in the middle of the city, it, like much of the green space in Duluth, is astonishingly lovely, with lots of birch and conifers, some so big that your outstretched arms won't even reach halfway around. Th trail here goes up and down a few hills, and this is the view from about 1,300 feet up:

(For locals: the bump on the right is Rock Knob, and the indentation on the left is the marsh.)

One of the highlights of the day, in addition to all the zigzags of I'm-guessing-shrew tracks everywhere in the snow, was the hairy woodpecker who drummed on a hollow tree just a few feet away from us. The drumming echoed through the woods, singing the praises of his big, burly woodpeckerishness to any females within listening distance. We were close enough to easily watch him without binoculars, and when he flew off over our head we could hear his wings slicing through the sky.