This summer, I was chosen by the Bureau of Land Management as the 2019 Artist-in-Residence for the Snake River Birds of Prey National Conservation Area (NCA).
The NCA contains the largest concentration of nesting raptors in North America, and one of the largest concentrations of nesting prairie falcons in the world. It also boasts the highest recorded density of ground squirrels, which is why so many raptors nest there.
For the residency, I wrote poetry about the sagebrush steppe ecosystem along the Snake River and the birds of prey that live there.
This month, I got to spend a day hiking through some incredible stands of old-growth white pine in Cook Forest State Park. This is without a doubt the finest forest in the Midwest.
The largest trees range from 250-450 years old and are upwards of 200 feet tall. These are the tallest trees in the Midwest.
2014 marked the 100-year anniversary of the extinction of the passenger pigeon. People lauded the species in articles, videos, and celebrations. Nearly 50 articles—found everywhere from NPR, to the Atlantic, to the New Yorker—were published about the death of Martha, the last passenger pigeon, at the Cincinnati Zoo.
In many articles, we learned that R.W. Shufeldt, the man who dissected Martha, left her heart untouched (a fitting tribute), and that Martha’s specimen travels first class with a special handler. We learned there was a memorial launched at the Cincinnati Zoo, a place that has become a reliquary to Martha, with passenger pigeon-themed exhibits and a statue to mark her passing.
The Cabin Idaho asked me to teach a writing camp for kids this summer in conjunction with The Peregrine Fund’s World Center for Birds of Prey. Yesterday afternoon I and two awesome Cabin staff (Katie & Ashley) met with the education coordinator at the center for a tour and planning session.
I mentioned that I found the book A Feathered River Across The Sky about the extinction of the passenger pigeon deeply moving and was planning a writing activity around passenger pigeons and other extinct bird species.
The education coordinator mentioned that though they deal primarily with birds of prey, they had a passenger pigeon in their specimen collection.
Naturally, I got super excited when he mentioned that we also might be able to swing by the specimen collection to view it.