Birds flutter about against the backdrop of a clear blue skies of the university, while the springtime tunes are heard by their avian counterparts. Bees and wasps could be zigzagging around students in search of their preferred vegetation. Squirrels frantically search for nuts while their tiny counterparts, chipmunks, nervously run from point A to point B. Countless six-legged, eight-legged creepy crawlies exist in the campus’s nooks and crannies.
The moment students step out of their dorms, the telltale signs wildlife can be seen and heard; if one were to pay attention. With global warming, and the decline of many species, there may come a point in time where students may not see the university’s wildlife visitors.
Wild inhabitants in Urban Oasis
It is not a coincidence that wildlife can be seen in and around campus because the university itself is welcoming to the region’s flora and fauna. Sustainability Coordinator Suzanne Huminski says that places on campus such as Beaver Pond, the community garden near Davis Hall and other areas can be attractive to wildlife.
Huminski says Beaver Pond is a great place to see an animal and the pond particularly is a great place to bird watch.
“I’ve seen lots of different species ranging from Red Tailed Hawk to ducks and geese, to cats and birds, mockingbirds, robins, cardinals.”
She says there is an epidemic facing pollinators such as bees and birds who are critical to our ecosystem. She mentioned “colony collapse disorder” is ravaging bees of all varieties. She also referenced a recent study that found 3 billion birds since 1970 have vanished. With such loses, it is important to maintain these animals and ensure they can thrive, says Humanski.
“We wipe them out. They take us with them. End of story. We have to protect our insects. It’s critical,” she says.
The school participates in the Urban Oasis project. She says the project aims to provide places for pollinators to rest, habitat and exist in an urban environment. Organizations such as The Peabody Museum, Yale’s School of Forestry, U.S. Audubon Society, and New Haven Parks participate in the project which has become known as the New Haven Urban Oasis partnership. Southern’s effort is through the Sustainability Office.
Huminski says she cannot underscore the importance of land stewardship, avoidance of using certain chemical applications, and even allowing one’s own yard to allow certain weeds like dandelions to grow.
“As bad as the dandelions are when we see them and they get in the wrong spot. They are important for ecosystems,” she says. “Planting flowering trees, planting native wildflowers, allowing areas of your land to grow with clovers, or God forbid, dandelions and wild flowers, so that we can provide some habitat for peace is a very, very important thing to do.”
Maintaining these types of spaces is crucial she says as, “Bees and butterflies other insects, as well, are critical for the health of our ecosystem.”
Wild goose chase
In the space between Jennings Hall and the baseball field, a flock of geese grazes in the fields. It is not an uncommon sight seen by passing students all over campus. However, what was unusual was one of the Canada Geese who had a yellow neck collar with blocky black, inscribed with identification. It was the only one with such a tag.
Researchers, according to the United States Geological Survey, use auxiliary markers, such as the one seen on the goose, to identify an individual bird at a distance. They come in various sizes and colors and the neck collar ones are primary for Canada Geese.
According to the “Identification Field Guide to the Geese of the Willamette Valley and Lower Columbia River,” all geese are not alike. They vary in body size, wing shape, body length, color and bill length. The variance in color and code numbers is a way for researchers to track subspecies and measure their distance from the original tagging site.
It is up to the public to take note of the codes inscribed on the collars which can be submitted through a portal on the USGS website. A goose with a neck collar, or another species of bird with a similar tag, can be located by a web search: “Banded Bird Encounter Reporting.” Then input who found the bird, what kind of band, the species of the bird, exact coordinates of where the bird was found. The USGS will email a certificate with information such as the birds age, gender and place of origin.
This Canada Goose, a female, found on campus was approximately hatched around 2016. The animal was collared near Westport on June 20, 2017, and was re-encountered more than three years later.