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What a Wonderful World

I’ve been busy working for a most important animal cause: The Humane Society is sponsoring a drive to get 650,000 petition signatures for a proposition to mandate minimal humane treatment of calves, chickens and pigs. If successful, it would require that these factory-farmed animals be allowed enough room to turn around in their cages. So very minimal. And yet so hard to achieve in our less-than-compassionate cheap meat economy.

I’ve also been watching the most harrowing videos imaginable about factory farming. It would make you weep. If you are thinking about becoming a vegetarian, this stuff will put you over the edge.

So as an antidote, here’s a beautiful video that reflects a more hopeful side to humanity. Enjoy!

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Animal Crime Wave

In yet another shocking development, Sam, a seagull, is causing a one-bird crime wave in Scotland. Every day he sneaks into a shop and steals a bag of cheese Doritos.

I know from experience how devious seagulls can be. Once I was outside, eating some french fries and gesticulating with a fry. Suddenly a seagull swept down and grabbed it out of my hand, leaving me speechless and my friend howling with laughter.

We are being watched, I tell you!

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Missing Something?

All those times you thought you were going crazy, when you misplaced something and never could figure out where it was! Remember how I inexplicably lost a juggling ball? Judging from the above video, this kind of thing happens more than we know.

Another example: A neighbor of mine was the proud new owner of a fancy bird feeder. I helped her install it securely on her fire escape, three floors up. From her kitchen window, she loved watching the birds feasting.

Then one day the feeder was gone–vanished! She called me and I commiserated. What kind of a person would steal a bird feeder? How low can you get?

A few days later I spotted the birdfeeder, empty and lying on the ground. Aha! So no human had stolen it after all–enterprising squirrels had managed to haul the entire thing away, dragging it off to their secret hiding place!

Now if only I could find my juggling ball…

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Washington’s Critters, Part 2

From my vantage point at work I had a majestic head-on view of the Capitol Building in Washington, DC. Towards sunset in winters I could always count on hundreds of starlings congregating onto one single tree nearby.

It would start with just a few alighting. Then several more would join the group. Eventually there would be hundreds of squeeling, exuberant birds blackening the tree and making a huge racket of whistles, clucks, and songs.

I wondered what they were doing, and why they always picked that particular tree. I found out that in the winter starlings nest together for warmth and to avoid predators picking them off one by one as they return home at night. Once they are all present and accounted for, they fly off to their nest together. Safety in numbers, it would seem.

But this ritual is also a sort of happy hour, where they share stories of their day’s adventures. And they observe one another’s degree of confidence or dejection as they fly to the tree, much as we would as we see people arriving at a bar. Swagger is a sign that a bird found a good food source. The next morning, observant starlings will follow that successful bird!

The miraculous flocking behavior captured on the video above is another order of magnitude altogether–whatever can be the explanation for these bird fireworks?