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Hawks, Heavy Metals, and Good People

Sunday, October 5, 2014

What a treat to stay with David and Diane Husic, to walk their field in Kunkletown, which is chock-full of goldenrod, with them. To be with people who have the same feelings and care for their land as we do. Who see it not as a potential cash crop of timber or something to level and scrape, but as a living thing. 

This meadow is managed for wildflowers and butterflies and those who appreciate them. There are paths winding in through the clumps of goldenrod so you can get closer to the bugs. 

Diane's looking at the Endless Mountain, the Kittatinny Ridge, as she and David do every day, in its ever- changing moods.

Walking back to the house

where David will soon be incapacitated by Zyzzy's need to nap right on his lap. Cats are good for that. And we could all use a little incapacitating now and then.

Diane and I went to Hawk Mountain to attend a luncheon for special friends of the sanctuary, and pick up a whole mess of original artwork I loaned to illustrate a beautiful new book commemorating Hawk Mountain Sanctuary's 80th anniversary. I'm excited that my paintings and drawings will grace this important book. And it's always fun working with Director Jerry Regan, the Human Tsunami!

photo (off a projection screen) by Diane Husic

photo by Diane Husic

While we were there Hawk Mountain's Sarkis Acopian Director of Conservation Sciences Keith Bildstein watched some hawks with us, and gave me a tour of their gorgeous new library, offices, labs and intern housing, also courtesy of the late, wonderful supporter, Sarkis Acopian. Wow. Hawk Mountain has certainly changed for the better since I'd been there! And the hawks still pour over.

photo by Diane Husic

I was amazed how rusty my soaring raptor ID skills had gotten. A young bald eagle hove into view, and when someone called "Osprey," I looked at it long and hard and thought, "Wow. That has a really big head for an osprey." And assumed they just knew better. Get with the program, Zick. It's every Science Chimp for himself out here on the rocks.  It was an eagle. I then completely failed to ID a broadwing with its wings reefed in until I swallowed my pride and asked Keith what it was. Um, thank you. This is me, trying. You can put binoculars on her, but don't rely on her for raptor ID's...

The fabulous Lee and Courtney Peterson were there for the meeting and Lee's talk that evening. He, being the son and spittin' image of Roger Tory Peterson. She, an amazing artist and jewelry creator.  I was playing it cool, hangin' with them; they're fun, creative and lively folks. And besides, I knew his dad.

Leaning into a distant raptor...she's cool she's cool in her fancy pants
photo by Diane Husic

But inside, I was all geekin' out at being next to some fabulous Peterson DNA once again.

The real Zick. Awful, rambunctious and shameless. Photo by Diane Husic, who knows.

Diane, loving the scenery at the South Lookout, Hawk Mountain, PA.

 I'm proud to know her. She told me the story of a huge section of the Kittatinny Ridge that was ravaged by almost a hundred years of toxic fallout (heavy metals, mostly) from a smelting plant in the Lehigh Gap just a half-hour away. The aerial fallout, tons per year, had killed all the plants and rendered it miles of rocky moonscape. Diane initiated a study of plants, determining that trees were taking up the heavy metals, which stunted and killed them. But warm-season grasses don't take them up and can grow and flourish there. So with her work, she was able to guide revegetation efforts, and the ravaged ridge is coming to vibrant life. It will probably be a savannah, studded with a few hardy trees, which opens up interesting possibilities for breeding birds, as that habitat type is very scarce. Already there are prairie warblers, and it is being colonized by blue grosbeaks, a southern species that needs this rare savannah habitat. 168 species have been counted so far!  She told me of lifelong residents of the Gap in tears, seeing that poisoned ridge greening up again, or possibly for the first time ever. Just after I left, Diane was to join the reclamation crew at Lehigh Gap Nature Center to accept an award from the EPA for their stellar work on reclaiming the largest Superfund site in the nation. Their work is only beginning, but it's hugely promising.

What an honor to stay with people who are leaving the planet a better place for their being here. One of my favorite moments was falling asleep on their couch, belly full of grilled salmon, while David, awesome musician,  Salmon Griller, Head of Chemistry and Professor at Lafayette College in Easton PA, played old-time fiddle tunes. I'd wake up at the end of each one, murmur, "What's that one called?" and then drop back off. Mmm. 

Another thrill of speaking at Lehigh Gap Nature Center and Moravian College was meeting people who had watched Corey Husic grow up, who are his mentors. It was hallowed ground for me. I think a lot of this couple and their boys (Corey's younger brother Joren is a dryly funny, brilliant jewel!)

photo by David Husic. Only a daddy could take a photo like this.

Corey at two. His favorite book? A Peterson field guide. Nooooo. The cute is killing me. Put that boy on a bun with some yaller mustard. Somehow it doesn't seem fair. I didn't get a Golden Guide to Eastern Birds until I begged for it at eight. No wonder he's so much sharper than me.

That little boy grew up, met Phoebe on Hog Island, Maine in the summer of 2012

and then a lot of other stuff happened.



Wonderful how you always make us feel like we're right by your side on these travelogues!
...and when will we get an update on Phoebe's life-away-from-home... or just as importantly an update on Chet's reaction to suddenly being Phoebe-less? (can hardly wait for their 1st reunion)

Lovely series of photos.

Such memories you are bringing back. I studied at Muhlenberg College, in Allentown, a Biology major with an emphasis on Environmental Science (before they had a major in it). We hiked Hawk Mountain, and did a water study in the "moonscape" you mention. So nice to know it is being brought back to life!

Ditto what Cyberthrush wrote. I add that I'd like to hear how Liam is doing sans older sister. And this countryside you are in is fabulous. You are all angels. And to be in the company of the Petersons and that picture of little Corey & his first bird book! Astounding.

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