Thursday, September 3, 2009

No Analog!

Somewhere beyond the Thunderdome
Someday we just might find a home
Autonomistic paradise
Worth all the world at half the price
And we can all be happy there
Eat Soylent Green, breathe Soylent Air
And never rest our weary heads
We can all sleep when we're dead......

- Quoted by a bay area White-crowned Sparrow from 2070...or....From Star Fucking Hipsters' Immigrants and Hypocrites

Hi nerds! I have to admit, its hard to write about bird stuff all the time, particularly when I don't have face-melting megavagrant pictures to throw at you. Believe it or not, I have other things going on in my life. I know, I know. How can I be a real birder if I'm interested in.....*gulp*......other things? There's a big contradiction there, this is true. But what can I say? I can throw some bird lists at you and brag about all the cool shit I'm seeing (except for that treacherous unidentified warbler I saw today for a brief moment....a hatch-year Pine Warbler maybe? Jesus.), but who wants to read much of that? After all, I'm busy digging the new Paint It Black, Cobra Skulls, and Dear Landlord albums, mastering my guitar wizardry, and struggling to keep from falling into a pit of catatonic depression whenever Fox News comes on.

But in the end, it's all about fresh content, right? The venerable Point Reyes Bird Observatory just published what amounts to a doomsday report, trying to predict changes in California's birdlife as a result of climate change/global warming (read it for yourself here). I haven't gotten through the whole thing yet, but it comes across as some kind of Mad Max/Thunderdome scenario for most of California's birds. 2070 is the magic year, and the study attempts to characterize the shifts California's avefauna will undergo up until that time. It stops short of claiming that cowbirds and starlings will dominate all habitats after violently extirpating the rest of the state's birdslife in a brutal power struggle...but it is troubling indeed.

"Projections of future no-analog communities based on two climate models and two species-distribution-model algorithms indicate that by 2070 over half of California could be occupied by novel assemblages of bird species, implying the potential for dramatic community reshuffling and altered patterns of species interactions."

What does this mean? It means that birds are going to be forced to go new places as old habitat dissappears and make some new bird friends. This is the equivalent of The Grub moving to Compton or myself setting up shop at The Mustang Ranch. Some truly bizarre scenarios interspecies socializing is bound to occur, for good or ill. Maybe hummingbirds will start riding on the backs of geese after all. At any rate, check the various tables and figures for species-specific information, they cover 60 or so.

This Yellow-headed Blackbird from California's Imperial Valley pauses to ponder it's species being completely screwed.

I am a Scientist, but certainly not a climatologist, and I have no solid grasp of the climate models this study was based on and how accurate they may or may not be. I mean, predicting the future is hard. This is uncharted territory. Hell, most predictions about anything are wrong, let alone something as massive and complicated as the global climate 60 years from now. I do hope that in 2070, if I'm even still alive (which is completely possible, with the right amount of whiskey), that California's birds are still something like how it was when I started birding Ventura and Santa Barbara back in 1994, but I think that time's are a-changin'. But hopefully....we won't already be Beyond Thunderdome by then.

If only Marty McFly and Doc Brown were here.

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