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April 22, 2008

My Favorite Bird

By Marcus Peacock, Deputy Administrator.

I prefer some birds to others. I like the Black-capped Chickadee for example. They're attractive, gregarious, and hardy enough to withstand a Minnesota winter. English Sparrows, on the other hand ... here we have an invasive species who bullies poor wrens and is only slightly less successful at depositing droppings on my car than the only slightly less revolting Starling.

My favorite bird is the Lesser Scaup (rhymes with “stop”). They are not particularly large or unusually beautiful (see picture) and I only see them once a year when they are blowing through Washington DC on their way to Canada. (I have yet to catch them on the return.) But that's why I like them. They are my harbinger of spring.

Lesser Scaups - Credit: Fish and Wildlife Service
two Lesser Scaup birds swimming in a marsh

This year I spotted a pair of Lesser Scaups on February 23. That's within a week of when I saw one last year and the year before that. I could see my breath that morning. It felt like January, but there they were, oblivious to the temperature.

I like winter, but nothing can compare to the riot of spring in Washington DC. Within two weeks of a Scaup's fleeting visit the daffodils emerge and not long after that all hell breaks loose: cherry blossoms, Virginia Bluebells, flox, vinca, dogwoods, tulips. Of course the flowers coincide with returning armadas of birds that overwhelm the tired survivors of winter. Red-winged Blackbirds quickly raise a racket in the cattails and you can't walk a residential block without getting pinged by a full-throated Cardinal.

But when the Scaups show up, that's all in the future. The marsh lies silent. It's all a promise to be fulfilled. It's all potential.

This blog started last summer as an experiment run on a shoe-string. That experiment was a success. Fittingly, today, on Earth Day, EPA becomes only the second federal agency to open up an Agency-wide public blog. It's called “Greenversations.” Unlike Flow of the River, Greenversations will cover everything we do. It will be home to a flock of EPA bloggers (including me). You'll hear from permit writers and scientists and lawyers and everything in between. It will create multiple ongoing avenues of communication. It'll be a riot.

This morning I saw a petal drop from a tulip stem. Can the heat of summer be far off? There is plenty of spring left, but nothing compares to the anticipation introduced by a small and scruffy Lesser Scaup: the herald of unlimited potential.


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Regular readers of "Flow of the River" will surely miss logging on to read your latest blog entries. We'll just have to check out the new "Greenversations" to see what's happening there. Meanwhile, if you hear bells ringing, make sure to go feed poor Haggis!

The head line feed for this entry says " . . . end of blog . . ."

The body of the post ambiguously implies that this is the last post on this blog.

If this is the last post, how about one more short simple post to the effect of "Last post on this blog was 4/22/08. I am now contributing to "Greenversations" with a link. " ??

Joan, I know Haggis greatly appreciates your comment. However, the vet says he's still two pounds overweight.

Dave, you read our minds. We didn't want to do that too quickly and have people skip reading the last post while it is still fresh. But such a notice will be going up very shortly.

Sorry to see this is the last post here as I have just discovered this blog. I will however be going over to greenversations to keep up with what is going on. The last post really describes what I saw in D.C. when I visited a few weekends ago (the Cherry Blossom Festival was going on). I definately fell in love with D.C. in the spring.

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