What goes up must come down: birds and ideas, a natural history | TIDAL LIFE

Sometimes, a column comes together by dint of diligent planning, an awesome idea, some fine-tuned research and first-hand experience.

Other times, like now,

I flounder with no plan, no research, no experience that seems important enough to write about and no idea. A few blips have come across my radar — important things like the passage of the clean water utility measure for Coupeville; tidal turbine projects moving ahead at several places in the world — including one right off Whidbey, in Admiralty Inlet; and the upcoming Sound Waters event. (Everyone should attend Sound Waters because it’s fun, informative and gets you out of the house for a whole February day.)

For some reason, none of these topics quite fit for me this month. Either I wasn’t able to be directly involved (water utility), or I haven’t figured out what I think about the subject (tidal turbines) or they haven’t happened yet (Sound Waters).

For a little while, I seized on that strange string of stories about unusually large flocks of birds dropping dead, right out of the sky, as possible grist for my mill.

That idea lasted until

I learned that these seemingly connected events were but a drop in the bucket of the grand scheme of wildlife die-offs that happen every year.

Harvard biologist E.O. Wilson blamed the fact that this series of bird deaths caused theories about environmental causes to ricochet all over the Internet, on Twitter and smart phones. According to Wilson, what made this group of events significant was not the number of dead birds, but the number of people taking pictures with their mobiles and posting them online.

“The irony is that mass die-offs — usually of animals with large populations — are getting the attention while a larger but slower mass extinction of thousands of species because of human activity is ignored.” Wilson said in the Sun News.

Sound Waters is a great place to go to learn more about alternatives to the damaging human activities Wilson referenced. Planned classes run the gamut from green boating and gardening, to choosing less-toxic toiletries, to that evergreen South Whidbey topic — living with beavers. Not to be missed for techophiles is the class about robots under the sea.

Prospects are better for the next column. Not only will I have lots of new Sound Waters info under my belt, I’ve also just learned about Beachapedia, a Wikipedia- like site of the Surfrider Foundation. It’s full of articles about the ocean and the shore. I’m immersed in this treasure-trove of articles, links, graphics, reports and studies.

I even found a beach manifesto that reminds me of past columns: Beach access would be free and uninterrupted.

You could surf or swim after it rains without the fear of getting sick.

Sand would flow freely to form surf breaks and beaches, and not be captured by dams, blocked by groins or walled up behind seawalls and riprap.

There would be no net loss of surfing (swimming) areas.

Advances in technology would be used to make information readily available to the public.

Beach access sites would be inventoried.

I hope that everyone checks out Beachapedia, and that when the next column comes out, it’s all old news.

For more information:

Beachopedia: click here. Questions or comments for Tidal Life? E-mail: tidallife@whidbey.com. For the Tidal Life blog — click here and to twitter — click here.