Perhaps you keep the geologic eras and periods in your head. Eras beginning 3.8 billion years ago (Archeozoic), up to the present (Cenozoic) and the most recent period, Holocene, in which mankind evolved. Congratulations, particularly should you not have been trained as a geologist and had to learn them by rote.

We're in what has been considered the Holocene Epoch of the Quarternary Period, but now a few scientists have proposed that mankind's activities are actually propelling Earth into a new geological epoch. Imagine.

In a Nature article titled "Geology of Mankind," Paul J. Crutzen and Eugene F. Stoermer have proposed - if not indeed prophesied - that we have entered into the Anthropocene, a human-dominated geological epoch. (Anthro: relating to the existence of human beings on Earth.)

Commenting on the suggestion, Rudy Baum noted in Chemical & Engineering News that "since the start of the Industrial Revolution, Earth has endured change sufficient to leave a global stratigraphic signature distinct from that of the Holocene. ..."

Or, to put it in current shorthand: global heating.

Climate change, scientists Jan Zalasiewicz and Mark Williams say in GSA Today, a journal of The Geological Society of America, is increasing the rate of species' extinction dramatically, so much so that the  "rate of biotic change may produce a major extinction event analogous to those that took place at the K-T boundary and elsewhere in the stratigraphic column."


Say, you know what? Human beings may be the first animal species to not only make itself extinct but also accomplish that with full knowledge.

Maybe, should there be anyone left, evolution will produce a being more advanced than homo erectus. Not worth the gamble.

I believe that's enough fun stuff for now. On to the Bird Droppings portion of the column.

Field Notes: This morning the catkins on my aspens were glittering in the early sun, covered with another inch of snow. Pretty and all that, but enuf already; it's into May. Lots of spring needs to get done. Birds to migrate and nest, bison puppies to get born, wildflowers to bloom, leaves to burst forth, anticipation of summer.

Of course, that's all happening, despite a cool, albeit dry April/May so far. Swallows appear, then retreat, whenever an insect hatch erupts. Floyd Cooley's tree swallows looked for last year's nest boxes, compelling retrieval of the boxes from iced-in storage. (Swallows have come and gone three times locally.) Debra Patla in Buffalo Valley, welcomed chipping and song sparrows to her menagerie of bird life on May 4.

A great egret was at the Alpine Wetlands of the Palisades Reservoir on May 5, and a snowy egret was there on May 6, according to Susan Patla.

By and large, all the expected waterfowl in this region have arrived and are busy about courting and nesting. Shorebirds a bit slow, but white-faced ibis have made brief appearances (Anna Goudet, Mary Lohuis, Susan Patla) and two black-necked stilts were in South Park on Friday (Alice Richter, Phyllis and Joe Greene).

David Stokes reported a spotted (rufous-sided) towhee on the west bank on May 7. David and Joanne Stokes are relocating, and Jackson Hole shall certainly miss them.

On Friday, ahead of a little weather change, a Bullock's oriole was welcomed back by Diane Hazen, and a black-headed grosbeak was at Loy Kiefling's and at Dick Hobbins'. On May 7, Lewis woodpeckers surprised me and Mary Lohuis in Skyline Ranch.

Susan Marsh noted this showy woodpecker at Camp Creek.

Evening grosbeaks may have begun to return; Jen Hoffman and Ron Gessler; Saturday.

Judy Herman truly enjoys wildflower spotting and has found lots, including spring beauties, fritillaries, steershead, shooting stars and sage buttercup. Deb Patla noticed a green butterfly, a Sheridan's hairstreak, in the sagebrush on May 4.

A grizzly sow and her grown triplets have been almost a fixture at the Oxbow in Grand Teton National Park. The bears have behaved. Not every human has. The bears could suffer. Offending humans ought to know better than a bear does. ...

On Sunday, the Spring Migratory Bird Count was conducted under the auspices of Grand Teton National Park. Weather is promising as I write. No results available yet, in view of my deadline. However, Susan Patla will be conducting another International Migratory Bird Day walk on May 24 in the Wyoming Game and Fish Department Jackson South Park Feedground. Call Susan at 732-2321.

Volunteer help would be appreciated in keeping record of the nesting behavior and success of birds occupying mountain bluebird boxes along the western National Elk Refuge fence north of Jackson. Not onerous or time-consuming. Instructive, actually. Call Phyllis Green at 734-8009.

© Bert Raynes 2008


Bert Raynes writes weekly on whatever suits his fancy with a dash of news on nature and its many ways.

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