Nature Notes: 'Tis the Season

Sunrise at the port of Peninsula in Nahcotta was a study in stunning colors last weekend. CRAIG SPARKS photo

Hunkering down in those beautiful golden dune grasses, with Christmas on my mind and the wind ruffling my ears with chilly December air, there is just a brief moment of red-gold low angle sunshine peeking out. I watch a rising column of seagulls as they ride the air currents up and up and up. They talk casually to one another as they soar, and it is easy to see that they are watching one another as they fly, careful not to collide with each other.

Suddenly I realize that there is a termite swarm high overhead, a "flight of termites", and the gulls are flying back and forth and around and around as the whole rising column of warm air lifts the termite swarm, the gulls and a few errant crows higher and higher. And in just a few minutes the whole magnificent flying show dissipates and is over as quickly as it started.

The termites, for their part, were flying as high as their little gossamer wings could carry them to find life mates. The higher they flew, the stronger were the remaining potential mates and after having finally found each other, they would clutch one other in a life grip and fall gently to earth far below where they would then shed their wings and find a place to burrow and begin a new life in a new place. Few of these termite couples however, would survive the "flight of life" because of the marauding seagulls and crows eager for a meal. There is precious little room for romance in Nature's food chain, but despite the tough odds, romance can still flourish. It's just really hard.

Such are the little dramas that play themselves out in the wild, sometimes high above and unseen, sometimes small and unobtrusive, always vital, but often unseen.

Imagine a crab's last days while it is trapped in a crab trap packed with other crabs, all dying, all desperate, clawing to survive. Can we not feel that? Someone said that all the lights on the crab boats just out past the waves are pretty like Christmas lights on the ocean. I think not. Sin barcos es mas mejor!

But if the drama of Christmas is about anything anymore, it must be about birth and beginnings, about token gifts and sparkling lights and family and caring and taking a few moments to reflect on our vast collective wealth of freedom of choice. And perhaps, then, armed with a recharge of eggnog and goodwill towards all people and creatures, we can look out from beyond our own little circles to see all the glory that is wild and free and perhaps, most of all, all that we must protect.

What world is one that has no remaining giant redwoods or monarch butterflies? In what ocean would we allow no blue whales? Who will decide the fate of the last halibut? What thinking person would allow sonar to kill porpoise and turtles and orcas? Ask the children. They know the truth.

If we listen to these unjaded kids, those who do not listen to Fox News, or CNN or MSNBC, who are not yet brainwashed NRA members, we might remember what we have long forgotten: that we are the only ones who can save all things wild. It is up to us to care. From mom and pop, all the way to the corporate towers, to demand caring, demand whales, demand peace and most of all demand the survival of wild places and wild creatures for you and your children and theirs.

From all of us here at the Wildlife Center, "Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night!"

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• Craig Sparks is director of NAWA, a filmmaker, freelance writer and wildlife rehabilitator.

• Found injured wildlife? Questions? Call the Wildlife Center at 665-3595 or send an e-mail to:

• High-quality photo reprints from Nature Notes can be found online at :

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