The Gulf oil disaster

I didn’t want this issue to become political, it was just our intention to see what was happening and help in some way in the Gulf of Mexico instead of watching government driven media telling us otherwise.

© rebecca stewart

Oiled pelican © rebecca stewart

What we saw is now dwarfed by what is happening now and we knew it could only get worse. We saw masses of oil polluting pristine marshes and animals affected by crude oil in the ocean and on the shores.
What we also saw was pristine breeding grounds now polluted with oil and colonies wiped out with nothing to help them beforehand, you just knew the inevitable was about to happen.
We travelled over 100 miles along once pristine marshes and coastline without seeing any helpers employed by BP.
We tried to help in anyway we could but we were shunned away as BP were running the show and you had to have their permission. They had license to drill NOT pollute the oceans and coastlines, how the hell does this work?
Because i was working for the media i could get into places off limits to others and it killed me! the horror was not a nightmare that you could wake up from, this was real…
My wife was threatened with arrest if she touched any animals oiled or dying yet you could not find help if you tried.
As an audio guy, I captured sounds from the disaster and also from untouched habitat, but I did manage to make this short film of our feelings.

I would like to take this time to ask you to distribute this to as many people as you can, friends, colleagues and family. This will only get worse but this will show what it was like at the beginning.

Gulf oil disaster from Martyn Stewart on Vimeo.

Our team consisted of:
Martyn Stewart
Noeleen “Roo” Stewart
Rebecca Stewart (photographer)

© martyn stewart 2010

Martyn Stewart

Desert Tortoise

Tortoises are any of the land-dwelling turtles of the family Testudinidae. The Desert Tortoise is one of four species of the genus Gopherus, known collectively as gopher tortoises. Gopher tortoises are characterized by brown shells 8-15 inches long with flattened front limbs adapted for burrowing. This tortoise was found by me as I was driving towards the Kelso Dunes laying upside down and dying on the side of the busy freeway. With a small crack to the rear of his shell, I believe he had been clipped by a vehicle and flipped upside down. There was no obvious damage to his body, head or legs. I would like to think he will live for many more years.
Ironically, I spole with a Ranger in Kelso who told me that seeing these tortoises now is extremely rare and that he had not seen one for nearly 5 months.
The Desert Tortoise is an herbivore that may attain a length of 9 to 15 inches in upper shell (carapace) length. The tortoise is able to live where ground temperatures may exceed 140 degrees F, because of its ability to dig underground burrows and escape the heat. At least 95% of its life is spent in burrows. There, it is also protected from freezing while dormant, November through February or March. (Info from DesertUSA)

Desert Tortoise

The Cove

For every person that will not watch the cove you have to ask yourselves why? Is it because you want to bury your head in the sand like the vast amount of people in the world and pretend this shit doesn’t happen? For every so called religious person, atheist, buddhist whatever that eats meat, fish or any animal, shame on you! You all have your children’s destination in your own hands, carry on like we are all doing and there will be no future. Fuck Avitor or Sherlock Holmes and watch the cove. If you like, i will buy you all a copy! It sickens me to what my own species does to MY beautiful world, Heaven is a place on earth not somewhere else. Look after what we have here and the rest will look after itself…Wonderful animals and we need them, everyone of them….

the cove

the cove

The movie information

“>The movie at uTube

Black Saturday – a year after

Photo: William West / AFP / Getty Images

Photo: William West / AFP / Getty Images

Australia’s worst natural disaster on record struck the heart of Victoria on February 7, 2009, when the Black Saturday bushfires killed around 173 people, injured over 400 and affected countless thousands more.
Just over one year later, My wife was back in Australia and I asked her to visit the Marysville area to record the biophony (natural sound) for me.

Recorder location

Place of recording 12:20 pm 2/19/2010

10 years previous, I was in the vacinity of Marysville recording the rich sounds of the Bush, The sounds of the forest included everything you would expect to hear, Insects, Birds, Amphibians, Leaf drop, trees cracking under the heat of the day.
The fires had literally destroyed everything in its path, the bush was predominantly made up of eucalyptus trees (Gum trees) Great balls of fire were seen, Eucalypts have a lot of oil in their leaves. Get enough heat to evaporate this and you get an explosive mixture that can ignite a whole valley at a time.

gum tree

Gum trees sprouting after one year of devastation

At the time of the fire, many people thought the trees would not recover. Eucalypts have that very useful facility for producing adventitious shoots from the trunk. If any green leaves remain alive at the top of the tree, it won’t do this, but if all leaves are killed, then the trunk produces shoots if the fire hasn’t been hot enough to kill the trunk too. I’m told that was not the case of the 1939 fires in Victoria, all trunks were killed. I really felt that this would be the case of the 2009 fires.

one year after black Saturday

New growth

I have often been amazed at how well the bushland re-establishes itself after fires. Burnt out tree trunks start sprouting fresh new green leaves which contrast strongly against the blackend trunks, branches and earth. And somehow, amazingly, the wildlife often manages to return and ‘rebuild’. Not always, though.
In this recording, there is practically nothing, the forest now has dense undergrowth and most tress have sprouted, Wattle, everlasting daisy, bracken and gum are sprouting from the forest floor but the sound of silence and the absence of the critters is a painful example of devesstation. I’m sure eventually the fauna will return in splendour and create the cacophony of sounds that were evident just a couple of years ago but sometimes our recordings are all that is left…

Gum Tree

1 year after the fires

Martyn Stewart

Here is a recording of the present soundscape as of February 19th, 2010.
Recorded by: Roo Stewart.
Recorder: Nagra PII+
Microphone: Nagra
Temp: 95f
Winds: Light breeze

TWRA Confirms First Cases of White Nose Syndrome in Tennessee Bats

The Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency has confirmed that two pips
from Worley’s Cave in Sullivan County, TN have tested positive for the
WNS-associated fungus. This is the first confirmation of WNS spreading
south into TN.

White nose syndrome i small bats


TWRA Confirms First Cases of White Nose Syndrome in Tennessee Bats
Released on Tue, Feb 16, 2010 – 12:48 pm

NASHVILLE — The Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency (TWRA) has
received confirmation that two bats have tested positive for White
Nose Syndrome (WNS), a white fungus that is responsible for the deaths
of thousands of bats in the Eastern United States.

This is the first record of White Nose Syndrome in Tennessee. The bats
were hibernating in Worley’s cave in Sullivan County. Three
tri-colored bats were collected by the TWRA and submitted to the
National Wildlife Health Center (NWHC) in Madison, Wis. for testing
last week.

Last spring the state of Tennessee, National Park Service, and USDA
Forest Service and Tennessee Valley Authority closed caves on public
lands in Tennessee in an attempt to slow the spread of the fungus. The
Nature Conservancy also closed caves located on their lands in

Scientists are trying to determine the cause of WNS and its effects.
Once a colony is affected, the fungus spreads rapidly and has killed
at least 95 percent of bats at one New York hibernation site in two
years. Other northeastern U.S. monitored bat colonies affected by WNS
are experiencing similar large fatalities. There have been no reported
human illnesses attributed to WNS and there is currently no evidence
to suggest that WNS is harmful to humans or other organisms.

Preliminary research results recently released by the United States
Geological Survey indicates that the potential exists for WNS to be
transmitted between bat hibernation caves as an unwanted hitch-hiker
upon humans, their clothing, or other caving gear.

“Temporarily staying out of caves and mines is the one thing we can do
right now to slow the transmission of White Nose Syndrome,” said Cory
Holliday, Cave and Karst Manager for The Nature Conservancy in
Tennessee. “We knew the bat deaths in the Eastern United States were
large. Here in Tennessee we stand to lose the last stronghold of bats
like the endangered Indiana and grays. We have hundreds of thousands
of bats hibernating in our caves each winter. With a 95 percent
mortality rate the loss is catastrophic.”

Biologists are concerned that WNS could devastate populations of
endangered Indiana and gray bats. Bats play a key role in keeping
insects such as agricultural pests, mosquitoes and forest pests under

“Bats provide a tremendous public service in terms of pest control,
said Richard Kirk, Nongame and Endangered Species Coordinator for the
Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency. If we lose 500,000 bats, we’ll
lose the benefits from that service and millions of pounds of insects
will still be flying around our neighborhoods, agricultural fields and

The disease causes bats to use up their fat reserves rapidly during
hibernation. This causes the bats to fly out of caves during the
winter in a desperate attempt to find food, but since the insects they
eat are also seasonally dormant, the bats soon die of starvation.

State and federal agency biologists and non-governmental organizations
are currently surveying caves in east Tennessee and other portions of
the state. These surveys are being conducted as annual bat population
surveys and to monitor for WNS.

Links to more information -

Arctic National Wildlife Refuge 50 years

In 2010 we begin celebrating a milestone in American conservation history, the establishment of a landmark wilderness – the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.
(Listen to the 2005 podcast with Ted Kennedy Jr and Hillary Clinton here)
What does the Arctic Refuge represent?

The arctic rally of 2005

Fighting for the refuge

Tucked into a remote corner of Alaska, the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, known by many as ANWR or Arctic Refuge, is a place where the American frontier can be experienced on an epic scale. It is best known for wildness, undisturbed wildlife and ecological processes; unique recreational and scientific opportunities; and the fact these are preserved for future generations. Yet while thousands of people have found adventure, solitude and reflection while visiting, millions more find inspiration in knowing that this unique piece of America can exist unspoiled in today’s world. As the founders had hoped, the Arctic Refuge has become a symbolic landscape, unprecedented not only in its size, but in the range of values its preservation reflects and perpetuates.

Why was the Arctic Refuge established?

The story of the Arctic Refuge begins more than a half-century ago with a group of people concerned with loss of wild places to development; the spread of pollution and pesticides; and the awesome power and destructive potential of the atomic bomb. In the 1950s these visionary conservationists, led by Olaus and Margaret Murie, launched a seven-year, hard-fought campaign to establish the Nation’s first ecosystem-scale conservation area. On December 6, 1960 the Arctic Refuge was established for the purpose of “preserving unique wildlife, wilderness and recreational values.”

What should we celebrate?

The establishment of the Arctic Refuge was a milestone in American conservation history. Today it is the one National Wildlife Refuge that is a household name, yet the Arctic Refuge is not well understood by the public. Over the past fifty years this place has expanded the notion of what a National Wildlife Refuge can be and the range of values the National Wildlife Refuge System holds. To celebrate the 50th anniversary of this momentous achievement, the US Fish and Wildlife Service is working with a network of partners to increase understanding and appreciation of the special values the Arctic Refuge provides and the importance of National Wildlife Refuges everywhere. Read more



A posting from Julie Neighbors Porter

Pileated woodpeckerNature…

I think I may have mentioned once or twice that I live near the woods, and that I roam the pathways through the forest often. I have also waxed poetic about natures’ ability to balance beauty with, well, I wouldn’t call it ugliness, but a dark side, and the knowledge that this is neccesary. What I didn’t mention was that man upsets the balance and it’s extremely annoying to me. And dear reader, eventually there will be a tiny story in this, but I have to just get this out first.

And, okay, maybe I’m being a little selfish, but I wish to hell that once I moved out here (years and years ago), everyone else would have just stayed put. No need to move to the edge of rural life, people. We’re fine without you. Really. But because it’s pretty and bucolic, and because Microsoft is twenty minutes away, we have a new neighborhood going up about every, oh, forty minutes. And we don’t do it like the rest of the country. Oh no, not us. We like things to be interesting. So instead of laying out and building the infrastructure first (like roads ), we build 250 new houses and then smack ourselves upside the head and say “Whoa…damn, dude…better put a road in.” And because every frikkin’ house has a Hummer, a Lexus, and a Jag (oh, that’s right, don’t forget the nanny’s 1981 toyota), our little country roads are clogged as bad as the arteries of a regular at McDonalds.

And I hate the fact that some pretty awesome greenery is being replaced by ugly big-ass houses. If you’re going to clear-cut a forest and displace all the creatures living in it, at least have the courtesy to build something that is aesthetically pleasing! These 8,000-10,000 square foot monstrosities (built on 15,000 sq. foot lots) pugnaciously push up from the earth, sizing up their neighbors like men lined up at a urinal. Because let me tell you, it is all about size. There’s no other way to explain the bad taste that goes into the design. Most of these houses are an appalling jumble of the worst of country French, Mediterranean, and Northwest style.

And so they come…hordes of them. They shop for their homes in the bright light of day when the flowers are blooming, and the hot-air balloons drifting overhead cast an idyllic fairytale glow to the picture. But do your research, folks, and don’t come crying to me when the sun goes down and the bats begin their evening frolic, or you’re pulled out of a sound sleep with the blood-freezing cries of the coyote pack. Don’t grieve for the azaleas that the deer breakfasted on, and really, don’t turn your bleary, red, dark-circled eyes to me and complain about the raucous, deafening sounds of the toads during mating season. And for your own good…stay out of the woods. Walk the streets as the other good residents do; where there are no rocks to trip you, no dirt to sully your shoes, no creatures lurking in the brush, no edge.

(and that would be the segue to my story)

Nature Bites – The Sequel

Bouie-the-wonder-dog and I set off for a walk just before sunset. We like that time because it’s usually quiet in the woods, so he can wander to his heart’s content, chasing squirrels, rabbits, and figments of his imagination. And then there’s the game that we play. Bouie likes to roll in horse crap, and not just any horse crap…it has to be the right age and texture, combining pungeance with the perfect viscosity to adhere to his coat. I prefer him sans horse feces, thus the game. When he finds the perfect pile, he looks to see if I’m distracted and then off he goes, rolling gleefully. A smeared green coat, and it’s another victory for Bouie. The score is about even, on the whole.

On this particular evening, we enjoyed the waning sun and deepening shadows as the earth took on an intensity in color, echoed the vibrancy in the twilight birdsong, and then a hush as the day transitioned toward night. The gloaming. (God, I’ve always loved that word, and that time of day.)

I started watching a beetle of enormous proportion emerge from under a golden maple leaf, scurrying first one way, then another. I walked through a stand of alders, then into a deeper part of the wood. Bouie wandered off in search of something he smelled. I rounded a turn in the path, and a woman waved her arm at me, saying in a high-pitched breathless voice. “Something is following us…I don’t know what!”

She was carrying a shivering miniature Doberman, and on her heels was a handsome, dark-haired man. She was thin, well-coiffed and wearing the latest yoga gear carrying a price tag of about $300.

She was the one in charge…the brooding british husband and dark dobie looked as though they had been ordered from the ‘Sharper Image’ catalogue as the perfect “accoutrements for the upper class business woman.”

“There it is!” she shrilled.

“It’s a barred owl”, I said. “They’re out this time of day.” With a wing span about four to five feet, this creature looks terribly fearsome as it swoops in, even though you may logically know that at only four pounds, it can’t take you anywhere. It landed in a nearby tree and looked at our small group, and the woman said, “Well, what does he want? Why is he following us?” She emphasized her words just as a small child does.

“He wants his dinner,” and I pointed at her dog.

She shrank back from me, horrified. She then sniffed and said petulantly (and I am not making this up), “Why can’t the owl go after the bunnies instead of our delicately bred canines?”

Now, I wanted to laugh, I wanted to explain to her that the owl could not, in all likelihood, distinguish much between her $100 a pound pup and the free-range rabbit, but at that moment, my delicately bred canine appeared, trotting happily to join us. As he came closer, it bacame apparent that there was something amiss. My refined creature was covered head to tail in horse dung. I was never prouder.

She wrinkled her nose and I told her not to worry, the owl would come after my dog, not hers. She looked like she wanted to argue the point…I mean, how could her dog not be the one chosen?

So Bouie and I started on our way, and like the Eye of Sauron, the owl swiveled his head, honed in on Bouie, and took flight towards us. “He’s white!” I shouted in explanation, “the owl can see him!” Relieved that it wasn’t a matter of class, she turned and walked on.

I waved the owl off with both arms as he swooped in. He followed us all the way to the edge of the wood, him swooping at Bouie, me jumping and waving him off, and Bouie dancing around like it was a game – a strange little ballet of predator, prey, and protector.

The woods exit into a meadow with a small pond on one side. (I know you won’t believe sounds made up, but I swear-to-god it’s true) At the pond was a doe standing guard, her two young ones drinking at the waters edge in the waning light.

We just stood and watched, quietly letting them be.

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