Sunday, April 29, 2012

A question of morality; Ours not theirs

In 1988, I read an article in the Houston Chronicle about Lucy Temerlin, a sign-language using chimpanzee raised as if she were human. The very next day, I began the 15 years of research that would lead to the publication of my second novel, Hurt Go Happy.

A few days ago a friend sent me this TED video. Frans De Waal is renown behaviorist who has been studying chimps at Yerkes in Atlanta for decades. I love TED videos. I've posted others, and I liked this one. It's about moral behavior in animals, specifically the ability of chimps, monkeys and elephants to show empathy, compassion, and work cooperatively. It's amusing in places, and the audience laughs. That's the part I hated. It lets us almost but not quite take the intelligence of animals seriously. I know. I'm overly sensitive about this, but all these strides in understanding how closely our emotions mimic the emotional state of animals were experiments done on captive animals. Caged animals. We are performing experiments that show that animals can suffer just as deeply as we can. Anybody with a pet dog knows that. So how much more testing do we need? THEY HAVE FEELINGS AND A MORAL CODE. SO STOP ALREADY.

Then a few nights ago CNN did a segment on removal of the last of the chimpanzees from the Coulston Foundation in Alamogorda, NM, to their new home at the Save the Chimp sanctuary in Fort Pierce, FL. The Coulston Foundation was where used up circus chimps, chimps from movies and commercials, and all the chimps from our space program were sent, and where, for the next 3 decades, biomedical experiments were conducted on them. (In Hurt Go Happy, the Coulston Foundation is the Clarke Foundation. My publisher made me change the name.)

There are series of videos, including portions of the CNN broadcast on the Save the Chimps site.

Chimpanzees as medical test subjects (source
The United States is one of two remaining countries--the other being Gabon--that legally allow chimps and other great apes to be used in invasive biomedical research, according to the Humane Society of the United States. However, other countries still contract the services of research centers that use chimps, according to Dr. Thomas Rowell Director of the New Iberia Research Center in Louisiana.

There are more than 930 chimpanzees at U.S. medical research facilities, most of them used for hepatitis testing, according to a report by the Institute of Medicine issued in December. The report stated that chimpanzees are not necessary for most biomedical research. The institute recognized two possible uses for chimps: one for cancerous tumors that are already part of ongoing investigations, and the other for a hepatitis C vaccine.

A panel of experts advising the National Institutes of Health on how to implement the the Institute of Medicine's report is expected to issue its recommendations by the end of the year.

A wake for a dead chimp
My question is, if chimps suffer, feel pain, show empathy, work cooperatively, fall in love, and mourn their dead, what kind of society are we to still perform experiments on them?  Human?  Inhumane? Inhuman

Thursday, April 26, 2012

The Birthday Party

When I first started writing, it was by hand on a yellow pad, often in the lower galley of a DC10 flight to London. I was a Pan Am flight attendant and senior enough to hold the galley position away from the passengers.

Recently, I've been entering some of my early stories into the computer, mostly ones I wrote for the now defunct Miami News. Oddly, I wrote these long before it dawned on me that my job was to write about kids and their special relationships with animals.

The Birthday Party

When I lived in Miami, I was on the Board of the Tropical Audubon Society, which sponsored educational programs in the Dade County schools. I often trooped along with our educational director, David Hitzig, to watch him teach the children about our South Florida animals. 
Corn Snakes

In addition to traveling daily to schools throughout the county, Hitzig also turned birthday parties at TAS’ Doc Thomas House into a learning experience. 

The children at one party I attended ranged in age from 4 to 7. Hitzig showed them a Red-eared slider turtle, a corn snake, an alligator, and Misty, the cross-eyed opossum. The children were encouraged to pet all the animals, and loved to put their hands in Misty’s pouch.

This particular day, David was putting Misty back in her carry-cage, when I heard a little boy whisper to the child on the bench next to him, “The bald-headed eagle is next!”

Baby Red-eared Slider

Hitzig told them about eagles being the symbol of our country. He held Peace high above their heads, then lowered his arm so that Peace, for balance, spread her one full wing and the stump of her other wing.
“Did everyone see that she has only one wing?” Hitzig asked.
They nodded solemnly. Peace folded her wing and the stub and glared down at them.
“Not long ago, Peace was soaring high above the Everglades,” Hitzig told them. “On the ground, far below her, a man saw her flying. He raised the gun he was carrying, pointed it at Peace and pulled the trigger. Park rangers found her and brought her to us. I’m here today to show you what that man did to Peace. And I’m here so none of you will grow up to be the kind of person who would shoot and cripple an eagle.”

They all sat quietly for a moment and looked sadly up at the eagle. “Poor Peace,” a child said.
Hitzig thanked them and the children exploded into screams and chasing each other.

Misty lookalike
 AP Photo

One child, a pretty little blonde girl with a long braid down her back, sat very still and watched as David put Peace back in her cage, then glanced at me with sad blue eyes. It was hard for me to believe a 4-year-old  understood what David had said well enough to look as if she were going to cry. I smiled to reassure her, but she looked away.
I saw her again as I was leaving. The other children were running and chasing each other, but she stood quietly and watched. A group rushed past where she stood and one of them tagged her. She laughed, clapped her hands together, hopped a few steps, then dropped her arms, and limped on twisted legs back to her mother. 
I realized then that that little girl understood exactly what it was like to not be able to fly, but forgot for a moment that she couldn’t. She understood that the spreading of a wing and a half is as full of hope as hops on twisted legs.

That was 20 years ago, and I’m hoping that that little girl and those other children, who are now young adults, grew up remembering that birthday party, and are still fighting for the right of eagles to soar.  

Monday, April 23, 2012

Our Hummingbirds by Ron LeValley

Last week Ron LeValley's Outside My Window featured these beautiful pictures of our northcoast hummingbirds, so I thought I'd share them with those of you who might not receive his daily e-mails. How to join this free, day-brightening list is at the bottom of the post.

Pictures and text by Ron LeValley
Male Anna's Hummingbird
Ron LeValley
(The) male Anna's Hummingbirds have red on the throat (which we call a gorget on the hummingbird) and on the crown. The rest of it is colored green and pale gray. At least 10 of them showed up at our feeder during this influx. Check out the tiny feet!

Male Anna's Hummingbird
Ron LeValley
We also had an influx of Allen's Hummingbirds. These are very similar to the Rufous, but have an obvious green back. They are also migratory, but don't go as far north or as far south as the Rufous, (which) nest inland from us, but are not common on the immediate coast.   
Male Allen's Hummingbird
Ron LeValley

Rufous Hummingbirds are smaller than the Anna's and are highly migratory, traveling from wintering in southern Mexico and Central America all the way to as far north as Alaska during the summer.
Male Rufous Hummingbird
Male Rufous Hummingbird
Ron LeValley
Many of you have asked more questions about distinguishing Rufous from Allen's Hummingbirds. (The) Allen's has green on it back. Here is a Rufous with an almost all orange back. But note the tiny flecks of green in the back and on the shoulder. This is not unusual for Rufous to show some green. In fact, there are rare Rufous Hummers that can have substantial amount of green in the back. So how do we identify them? It's tough. Look at the outer tail feather on this bird. It is wider than an Allen's outer tail feather. And the shape of the second from the middle tail feather (the one lying on the wing) is unique. So I am sure that this one is a Rufous. Obviously it is hard to see this mark in the field. So I can't be sure that yesterday's (picture) was an Allen's, I can only make a good guess. If we are not sure, we call them Selasphorus sp. because Selasphorus is the genus of these two species.

(Note of explanation from Ginny. Remember mnemonic Kings Play Chess On Fine Grain Sand from high school biology? Kingdom, Phylum, Class, Order, Family, Genus, Species. Sp. is the abbreviation for species. The binomial, or genus and specific epithet, of the Allen's hummingbird is Selasphorus sasin and the binomial of the Rufous is Selasphorus rufus. Since Ron wasn't sure which it was, he referred to the bird by its genus and sp. indicated a single species (one bird) in that genus. Sp. because there was only one bird at the feeder. If two birds had been at the feeder, neither of which he could identify to species, he would have referred to them as Selasphorus spp. Spp. is plural.)

Ron LeValley
Just to complete the types of birds we had during this invasion, here is female Anna's Hummingbird. They are slightly larger than the Rufous and Allen's hummingbirds, but have no sign of the rusty-orange color on them. Not only did we get the Rufous and Allen's in large numbers, we had as many as 10 Anna's around the feeders as well. So this influx was not just of migratory birds.

To join Ron's Outside My Window group follow this link.
A wonderful wildlife picture arrives daily.

Friday, April 20, 2012

I'm just worried about you and the long, hot summer ahead

Russian Gulch Waterfall
I wish I could count how many times I've been asked, 'what on earth made you move here?' This question comes as a first-time visitor tumbles out of their rental car at the end of the 4 hour drive from San Francisco, or Sacramento, or Oakland. We are equal distance from all of those cities, but it's the curvy, rolling, twisting, two-lane drive that either enthralls or makes them wish they'd never hung a left off the highway 101.

Honestly, I moved here so this Florida native would never be hot again as long as I live. Summer highs are in the high 60s, if the fog's not in, and the nights are in the 50s.

That really is the reason. Mendocino is cute, and the scenery is as breathtaking as it gets, but it's the climate that set the hook. Since then this place has grown on me like a partner in a marriage of convenience. I've fallen in love.

Over the last 21 years, I've done volunteer work for the local Audubon Society, the botanical gardens, College of the Redwoods, and other local non-profits, but there are just three that have had my complete devotion for the last 16 years: Teresa Sholars' Natural History class, Point Cabrillo Light Station

the Mendocino Coast Writers Conference.


The Mendocino Coast Writers Conference will take place July 26-28 at the College of the Redwoods campus in Fort Bragg. The three-day conference features a stellar line-up of agents, editors, and writers in all genres, teaching the craft of writing at beginning and advanced levels, as well as the encouragement of a community of writers in a relaxed and friendly setting. Registrants will participate in an intensive writing workshop with the same teacher for three consecutive mornings, allowing ample time for writing and review in a small group environment. Afternoons will consist of lecture/discussion sessions on various topics from authors, editors and agents, including “You’ve Written the Essay – Now What?,” “Inviting Surprise in Poetry,” and “The Successful Ingredients of Teen Fiction,” with young adult authors Ginny Rorby, Jody Gehrman and Stacey Jay.  

Keynote speaker Robin Hemley, author of eight books of nonfiction and fiction and winner of numerous awards, will lead the morning Master Class in Memoir. Hemley has been widely anthologized and his popular craft book, Turning Life Into Fiction, has sold over 60,000 copies.
Liquid Fusion Kayaks

Kim Addonizio, author of five poetry collections, novels, short stories and Ordinary Genius: A Guide for the Poet Within, will lead the morning poetry workshop. “I believe that a rigorous attention to craft is the best way to achieve your vision in language - but that wildness is essential, as well.” 

Victoria Zackheim has edited five anthologies of personal essays, written for documentary films (Tracing Thalidomide, Where Birds Never Sang), and authored The Bone Weaver.  She will teach the morning nonfiction workshop, focusing on personal essay. Zackheim teaches essay in the UCLA Extension Writers’ Program and is a 2010 San Francisco Library Laureate.

David Corbett, author of four novels including Done for a Dime and Blood of Paradise, has been anthologized in Best American Mystery Stories (2009 and 2011) and nominated for an Edgar. He will lead the morning workshop in novel, emphasizing character development. An experienced teacher at the UCLA Extension Writers’ Program and Book Passage in Corte Madera, he is a mainstay at its annual Mystery Writers’Conference.

Steve Almond, whose short story collections include My Life in Heavy Metal and God Bless America, will teach the morning workshop in short story. Almond has published a novel and two non-fiction books, been anthologized in Best American Short Stories, and appeared in GQ, The Believer, and Tin House.

Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens is
the only oceanfront botanical garden in the country

Elizabeth Rosner, novelist, poet and essayist, will teach the morning workshop for emerging writers. Her first novel, The Speed of Light, was translated into nine languages and won awards in the US and Europe. Rosner, the daughter of Jewish holocaust survivors, has explored the impact of her parents’ experiences on her own life in “emotionally autobiographical” work. She has taught college-level creative writing for thirty years and been published in the journal Poetry and the New York Times Magazine.
Attention Mendocino County Students & Teachers,

Scholarship is open to any High School Student in Mendocino County: public school, private school, homeschool, alternative ed. Applications are due by May 1.
Please pass this on to all young writers 9th - 12th grade. Countywide. Thank you!
For more information on registration, schedule of workshops and lectures, contest entry rules and deadlines, and presenter bios, please visit the conference Website at
or contact staff by phone and leave a message at 707-937-9983.

As long as I'm doing a little self-promoting...



Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Guest Blogger: Steven DeLuca & Roxy

Last week I got the notification for the June 2nd Cancer walk. I have done walks and runs starting out more than 25 years ago. (The) first time I was back from partying in San Francisco and my kids mom said "We are signed up for a run tomorrow to raise money for cancer."  She went 12 miles. I did 20. Bad for me was the travel and partying; good for me was running a marathon a month or two earlier. 

Anyway, I realized when I got that notification that a month or two ago I was technically a survivor which means I've made it five years. That doesn't mean it won't kill me in the sixth. And then today I got an envelope from the Veteran's Hospital with three little packets plus three pieces of wood like Popsicle sticks (Hate to say it but, you have to add another  'o' to the word Popsicle to know what they were really for.  (I was once shy about such things but by the time you get cancer and deal with the issues, well... you get over it.)

So, I get this packet and I ask myself WHY out of the blue are they sending this and I call and a guy, that is a clerk, can't tell me specifically but it has to do with blood tests I took a week or two ago.  Oh sh*t, I think but I don't say that because I don't talk that way, but I did want to know why they would send me that envelop, related to those tests, when I hadn't gotten the test results or an explanation. "I am not in a position of authority to discuss this with you," the clerk said, "but you should have received the test results first. I will have the doctor or the nurse call you ."

The last time that sort of thing happened they said, "Any hoo, it's malignant." Not really. They don't talk that way, but a cartoon I have in my cancer file has a patient on a table hearing it that way from his doctor. Maybe you have to be a New Yorker magazine reader to find that real funny, but I thought it a little funny.

So, my next thought, was sh*t. They want to see if there is blood in my "stool" a silly word for poo, don't you think? And what, pray tell, did they find in my last blood tests that are now making me wonder if, after 25 years of raising money for cancer, long ago and lately, will this be my last cancer march "to find a cure?"

The nurse called, "You have anemia, a little low, we just want to make sure." Well, it's been a little low for five years, so there. But I thought of my friend up the road, fifth time with Chemo, and a friend's son who recently died, and all the others I have known.

So, I am asking YOU, and if you do or don't, I have no emotional attachment to the results. I do know that some of you have your own causes and your own cancer organizations, but I'm asking that IF you have been skipping donating to causes lately, or for awhile, or feel moved to donate, I don't want to commit to X number of miles and then track you down... if you want to give, send a check to:
Cancer Resource Center of Mendocino County P.O. Box 50 Mendocino CA 95460

Roxy DeLuca

Say you are sponsoring Roxy DeLuca, Steven DeLuca's service dog. (I'm not sure if she gets
double credit for four legs or not, or triple credit for all the short little strides.) There is a prize for the person who raises the most. It's never me. But for her second year walking, or kayaking, I want her to be the only animal that raises some money for the Cancer Resource Center (the only one in the group that needs a "poo" bag by the way. Well, the only one that you would see, I'm sure some of the cancer walkers have their own.) Cancer really has hardly any benefits besides making you pay attention to what is valuable in life and ... well, we really do need to find a cure and your five dollars or whatever you want to send will help. For you, for your future great grand children. Thanks.
Steven DeLuca

Roxy & Steven on the front page of the local paper last year. 
"It was windy, rainy, she and I had heavy jackets on."

Friday, April 13, 2012

While we are on the subject of Great horned owls: Hamlet on her eggs by Ronnie James

Hamlet on her eggs threatening Ronnie


Woodlands Wildlife is a small wildlife rehab facility specializing in birds, and is the home of Hamlet, a permanently disabled Great horned owl. This time of year Hamlet is busy responding to hormones stimulated by the changing length of days and nights.

On January 14, the wild Great horned owls started coming up from the canyon to hoot and holler over Hamlet’s cage. They are trying to establish their territory and chase the caged interloper out of it. Hamlet just hoots back—telling the wild ones the same thing. They argue back and forth like that all afternoon and evening, then again toward dawn. 

Despite having been misidentified by a veterinarian 25 years go, Hamlet is a large female Great horned owl with a paralyzed wing and foot. By February 21st she had built a nest in her cage and gotten more aggressive towards me. Though she has adequate nesting material and many places higher up, she always chooses to excavate a shallow depression in a corner of the gravel on the floor of her cage. Eventually 3 eggs appear. They are about the size of large chicken eggs, and she sits tightly on them. She has no mate, so the eggs are sterile—like all animals, including humans, owls produce eggs because their hormones tell them to. Official guidelines tell me to remove the eggs so she will stop being aggressive and get on with her life, but she's so content sitting on them. She coos and clucks softly to them, and defends them fiercely, so I let her keep them. 

In nature her mate would bring her food while she tends the nest, but since she has no male to feed her, the job falls to me. I defrost several mice, warm them, and make the trip to her cage where a tricky little dance ensues as I try to keep my fingers out of her lunging beak.

Hamlet will sit on the sterile eggs for 60 days, then her hormones will change and she’ll suddenly abandon the nest, not recognizing the eggs she defended so fiercely just the day before.

It’s a great sadness to me to see this proud, handsome bird living alone in a cage. I wonder continuously if I have done her a favor by saving her life and giving her a home, but no answers present themselves. 

You can read about Hamlet, Honey Bear, Jacob Otter, Rosie O’Coon and learn how we do wildlife rescue and rehab in our book, Touching Wings, Touching Wild available at our web site:  Written for adults, it is also appropriate for young readers age 9 and up.  

Ronnie James,
Woodlands Wildlife
For more information on Great horned owls visit

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Requiem for a Great Horned Owl by Maureen Eppstein

 I'm so intimidated by poets, especially the ones who seem capable of reaching through your rib cage and playing with the rhythm of your heart. Maureen is that kind of poet.

Requiem for a Great Horned Owl
by Maureen Eppstein

A warm late summer afternoon at Stanford University. I’d found a shady grove to sit and eat my lunchtime sandwich. As I strolled back to my office in Encina Hall, the administration building, I noticed several co-workers clustered under the huge live oak in front of the building, hugging each other and gazing at something on the ground. Uneasy, I hurried to join them. The looks on my friends’ faces confirmed my fears. ”Our” Great Horned Owl, who regularly roosted in the oak, lay crumpled on the ground.

I glanced back at the old sandstone building behind me. That spring, the owl and its mate had nested on a fourth floor windowsill of Encina’s east wing, which had been gutted by fire in 1972, ten years earlier, and was now uninhabited by humans. We delighted in seeing the fuzzy owlets emerge from behind the broken and boarded-up window and perch precariously on the stone sill. Owl parents returned with food, such as gophers and ground squirrels. Interoffice memoranda reported on the babies’ progress in learning to fly.

That year had seen a huge increase in ground squirrels on the university grounds. We learned that the groundskeepers had laid an anti-coagulant poison to try to reduce the damage to trees and bushes. The most likely cause of the owl’s death was a poisoned rodent. Angrily, staff and students demanded that the Grounds Dept. cease using the poison.

They desisted for a while. But fourteen years later, a local newspaper, the Palo Alto Weekly, did a follow-up story. It quotes the Manager of Grounds, who does not recall that there was a clear link between the death of the owl and ground squirrel poison. But whatever was said 14 years ago, one thing is clear. Stanford is once again controlling the ground squirrel population with poison. For nearly a year, Stanford has been killing ground squirrels by giving them food laced with an anti-coagulant, which causes the animals to internally bleed to death over several days. The program has upset campus bird watchers, many of whom remember what happened to the owl family.

This year, I decided to follow up. I read on Stanford’s website that the university had launched an Integrated Pest Management program in 1997, the year after the Palo Alto Weekly article appeared. Since then, the Grounds department at Stanford has been dedicated to using an integrated pest management approach to provide suppression and long-term control of pests on campus, with the least amount of impact to the environment, non-target organisms and human health.

Herb Fong, who was Grounds manager during the 1980s and ‘90s, is now retired, but agreed to inquire on my behalf as to the department’s policies. Today I had excellent news. Herb writes: “I confirmed with staff that they are continuing to use trapping as the means to control the ground squirrels and no baits are used on the campus.”

If an 8,180-acre campus, mostly woods and grasslands, can stop using poisons, so can any other property whose owners care about wildlife.

Friday, April 6, 2012


This is a thank you card.

With the help of my friend, Susan Bono, I started this blog last August. As of today, the site has had just over 10,000 views.

At first I couldn't imagine what I would find to write about even once a month, much less twice a week. As you know, I've had help from others who are also working to help animals--wild and domestic. And I suspect most of the visitors to this site are the choir. You care about what I care about. That's okay. That's a good thing.

When these pictures arrived a couple of days ago, I felt my heart swell. I'm sure many of you have seen them, but enjoy them again as a thank you from me for taking the time to care.


I wish you this kind of bliss,

LOVE, Ginny

Monday, April 2, 2012

Sand Bees

Is it just me?

One of the main industries here in Fort Bragg was forestry. Since 1852, when Jeremy Ford arrived on the Mendocino Coast from Gold Rush San Francisco to salvage what was left after the wreck of the Frolic, (yet another story) which was carrying supplies from China for the miners, our trees have been under siege. San Francisco was growing exponentially, to the point where when a ship arrived in the harbor, the crew would abandon it for the gold fields, and the ship would be dragged ashore for housing. No fool was Ford. He saw our trees and an industry was born. Within two years every cove on the Mendocino Coast had a mill. Our timber built the city of San Francisco--and rebuilt it after the 1906 earthquake.

What has this got to do with Sand Bees?

The Georgia-Pacific lumber mill here in Fort Bragg occupied 400 oceanfront acres. For decades the site was off-limits to the public. (Still is for the time-being, even though the mill itself closed a number of years ago.) This means that in spite of the massively destructive business of milling timber, there are relatively pristine areas left on that site. A couple of years ago, I was lucky enough to be involved in surveying where interpret signs should be placed once it is open to the public. That was the first time I saw sand bees, and was immediately smitten. The friend I was with told me what they were, and that the female lines her underground nest with a waxy substance, and that the burrow is somehow shaped so it doesn't flood. How could you not love that little bee? So when I was trying to think of a subject for this blog, I remember those sand bees, and Googled them. The first site that came up was this one.

  How to Kill Sand Bees | & Garden 

Does it seem odd to you that, if you are the least bit curious about anything, the first thing offered up is a way to kill it? Or is it just me?

Here's more information on the Digger Bee, or Sand Bee: 


Digger Bee is a common name for a group of robust, fast-flying, ground-nesting bees with velvety fur. These bees live throughout the world. There are several thousand species, more than 900 of which occur in the United States and Canada. Digger bees visit a wide variety of flowers and are important in pollination. They are also called long-horned bees due to the exceptionally long antennae of the males.

Digger bees range from the size of a honey bee to as large as a bumble bee. These bees mostly nest in the ground and line their brood cells (compartments for offspring) with a wax-like secretion. In some species, the females construct a characteristic turret, a chimney-like extension of the nest entrance. Digger bees display very interesting nesting and foraging behavior. Many species nest in dense aggregations, and swarms of males cruise around the nesting sites searching for emerging females. In one species, the males can detect the females in the ground before they emerge. These males dig a hole into the ground where the female will emerge and then await her arrival. Other males attempt to take over and fights ensue. The largest bee usually wins.

A species of digger bee called the southeastern blueberry bee specializes on blueberry plants in its pollen-collecting. It is more efficient at pollinating these plants than honey bees or bumble bees. Another species, the pallid bee, puts on spectacular displays of mating behavior in the spring around nests in desert washes in Arizona. The Pacific sand dune bee is a digger bee that nests in coastal sand dunes in California, Oregon, and Washington. The females dig nests 0.9 m (3 ft) deep in compacted dune sand.

Scientific classification: The digger bees comprise the subfamily Anthophorinae, family Anthophoridae, order Hymenoptera. The southeastern blueberry bee is Habropoda laboriosa, the Pacific sand dune bee is Habropoda miserabilis, and the pallid bee is Centris pallida.,16877.0.html 
This by ILoveMyAnts in NJ. A really lovely man. He's got some great pictures of his digger bees.
This is a video of a female excavating her nest.