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Categorized by genus/species, placed chronologically by common name

    American Coot

    American Crow

    American Flamingo*

    American Goldfinch

    American Kestrel

    American Oystercatcher*

    American Robin

    American Tree Sparrow

    American White Pelican

    Bald Eagle

    Baltimore Oriole

    Barn Swallow

    Barnacle Goose*

    Belted Kingfisher

    Black-and-White Warbler

    Black-Bellied Whistling-Duck*

    Black-Capped Chickadee

    Black-Headed Gull*

    Black Vulture*

    Blue Jay

    Blue Tit*

    Blue-Winged Teal



    Broad-Winged Hawk

    Brown Creeper

    Brown-Headed Cowbird

    Brown Pelican*

    Brown Thrasher


    Canada Goose


    Cape May Warbler*

    Carolina Chickadee*

    Carolina Wren

    Cedar Waxwing

    Chipping Sparrow

    Common Gallinule

    Common Goldeneye

    Common Grackle

    Common Gull*

    Common Merganser

    Common Moorhen*

    Common Pochard*

    Common Redpoll

    Cooper's Hawk

    Dark-Eyed Junco


    Double-Crested Cormorant

    Downy Woodpecker

    Eastern Bluebird

    Eastern Goldfinch - See American Goldfinch

    Eastern Kingbird

    Eastern Meadowlark

    Eastern Phoebe

    Eastern Towhee

    Eastern Wood Pewee

    Eurasian Blackbird*

    Eurasian Collared Dove

    Eurasian Coot*

    Eurasian Jackdaw*

    Eurasian Magpie*

    Eurasian Tree Sparrow*

    European Serin*

    European Shag*

    European Starling

    Fox Sparrow

    Golden-Crowned Kinglet

    Golden-Fronted Woodpecker*

    Gray Catbird

    Graylag Goose

    Great Black-backed Gull*

    Great Blue Heron

    Great Cormorant*

    Great Egret

    Great Grey Shrike

    Great Spotted Woodpecker*

    Great Tit*

    Greater Flamingo*

    Greater White-Fronted Goose*

    Green Heron

    Hairy Woodpecker

    Harlequin Duck

    Hermit Thrush

    Herring Gull

    Hooded Crow*

    Horned Lark

    House Finch

    House Sparrow

    House Wren

    Indigo Bunting

    Ivory Gull


    Laughing Gull*

    Lesser Black-backed Gull*

    Lesser Scaup

    Lincoln's Sparrow

    Magnolia Warbler

    Mallard (Domestic)

    Mallard (Wild)

    Mourning Dove

    Mute Swan*

    Neotropic Cormorant*

    Northern Cardinal

    Northern Flicker

    Northern Rough-Winged Swallow

    Northern Shoveler

    Northern Shrike - See Great Grey Shrike

    Orange-Crowned Warbler

    Painted Bunting*

    Palm Warbler

    Red-Bellied Woodpecker

    Red-Breasted Nuthatch

    Red-Headed Woodpecker

    Red-Legged Thrush*

    Red-Tailed Hawk

    Red-Winged Blackbird

    Ring-Billed Gull

    Ring-Necked Duck

    Rock Pigeon


    Ross's Goose*

    Royal Tern*

    Ruby-Crowned Kinglet

    Ruddy Turnstone*

    Sandwich Tern*

    Scarlet Tanager

    Smooth-Billed Ani*

    Solitary Sandpiper

    Song Sparrow

    Spotted Sandpiper

    Swamp Sparrow

    Syrian Woodpecker*

    Tricolored Heron*

    Tufted Duck*

    Tufted Titmouse

    Tundra Swan*

    Turkey Vulture

    White-Breasted Nuthatch

    White-Cheeked Pintail*

    White-Crowned Pigeon*

    White-Crowned Sparrow

    White-Eyed Vireo

    White-Throated Sparrow

    White-Winged Dove

    Wild Turkey

    Wilson's Warbler

    Yellow-Bellied Sapsucker

    Yellow-Legged Gull

    Yellow-Rumped Warbler


    American Beaver

    Common Raccoon

    Eastern Chipmunk

    Eastern Cottontail

    Eastern Fox Squirrel

    Eastern Gray Squirrel

    Groundhog - See Woodchuck

    Ground Squirrel - See Eastern Chipmunk

    Red Fox

    Striped Skunk

    Virginia Opossum

    White-Tailed Deer


Nature Blog Network
Monday, October 1, 2007

I’ve got a love/hate relationship with my environmental magazines. I love them because I’m a fan of the environment, especially the birds, and the articles and issues discussed therein interest me. I hate them because I feel like 90% of the time I’m being preached to or talked at by a group of individuals that are out-of-touch with the realities of working and living in today’s world. The editors and writers expect so much more from the casual reader re: conservation than is practically feasible. Sometimes I wonder whether or not I’d have my subscription canceled if the editors knew I drove an SUV.

I also get irritated with the magazines on occasion because I often find the articles starting from a premise that I don’t think is a “given.” They’ll assume a conventional wisdom that I don’t think is fair to assume. One of my biggest such pet peeves is ethanol. Conventional wisdom says corn-based ethanol is the future “alternative” to big oil and that we should all be pumping tons of money and resources into the corn-based ethanol industry. It’s especially the rule here in Iowa, where farmers stand to make a lot of dough on the increased demand for corn. But, truth be told, corn-based ethanol is only marginally better than gasoline. And in less some unforeseen breakthrough in technology hits us in the near future, corn-based ethanol will never be able to supplant big oil.

And therein lies the reason why I like Audubon magazine the most. They don’t just accept the “conventional wisdom” and pander to those readers who subscribe to the “everything is a crisis so we should pretty much do anything that seems like it’s a good idea and there is no time to think about it and don’t you disagree with me or you obviously aren’t serious about the environment” meme. Obviously, I’m saying the above with a bit of tongue-in-cheek going on there, but I think you catch my drift. As an example, last month Audubon ran a well-written and thoroughly researched article on why we should not be running out and planting trees all over God’s green Earth (despite the fact that most Big Green companies espouse tree planting as a way to curb global warming, etc.). Not planting trees, I must admit, was news to me. I had assumed tree planting was all hunky-dory.

Now, Audubon has come out and basically said that we shouldn’t be putting our eggs into the corn-based ethanol basket. I’ve believed this for years, and have posted about it on previous blogs, but never have I seen it so eloquently put, nor have I seen all the facts laid out so well in one place. Audubon’s alternative? Perennial grasses. But almost as important as suggesting an alternative to corn-based ethanol is thoroughly critiquingand considering the problems of corn-based ethanol (which should encourage people to keep working on finding a solution). For example:

“Since almost everything we eat can be converted into fuel for automobiles, including wheat, corn, rice, soybeans, and sugarcane, the line between the food and energy economies is disappearing,” writes agricultural economist Lester Brown in a report by the Earth Policy Institute. As that line disappears, corn ethanol’s limitations become clearer. Consider that filling a 25-gallon SUV gas tank with corn ethanol requires enough grain to feed one person for an entire year.

Big problem. Corn-based (and other food-based) ethanol products increase the demand for food products, making them more expensive. We have already felt the impact here in Iowa where milk and dairy products are more expensive than I can ever remember (cows feed on corn, you know). And how about the fact that it takes a year’s-supply of the stuff just to fill up one tank? Are we really willing to make basic food stuffs more expensive and more difficult to purchase, especially considering the marginal effects and abilities of ethanol to supplant oil?

…[A]ccording to recent research described by the University of Minnesota’s Dave Tilman and his colleagues in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, dedicating the entire U.S. corn crop to ethanol production would meet just 12 percent of gasoline demand.

If dedicating our entire corn crop to ethanol would only meet 12% of gasoline demand, is it really a solution? And, consider that “dedicating the entire corn crop to ethanol ” means that there is no corn left for eating or feeding animals. Again, that’s some expensive milk! As the article asks: Should we be growing energy or growing food?

Corn lives on solar energy, but fertilizing, harvesting, transporting, and distilling ethanol require lots of fossil energy. Some research suggests that the fossil energy used to produce corn ethanol actually exceeds the energy it provides. Most research, however, shows a positive, if modest, energy balance—25 percent more energy out than in.

That’s pretty inefficient.

The other interesting thing about the article is the discussion of cellulose-based ethanol and its advantages. I won’t belabor them because you can read them in the article. But, basically, ethanol from grass is more efficient than corn-based ethanol because it doesn’t disrupt the food supply, the planting of perennial grasses actually locks more carbon below the soil than annuals like corn and soybeans, it only needs to be replanted every 10 – 15 years (at the earliest) so it needs far less fertilizer (if any, at all), and, almost best of all, grasses will return Iowa to a more natural state and provide cover for native birds and other animals. Bottom line: it’s better for everyone and every thing.

Update: Jane Goodall is not a fan of food-based ethanol, either.

Posted by: Mike in: Iowa,Plants at 6:00 am

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  • http://dendroica.blogspot.com/ John

    Lately I have seen boosterism for corn-based ethanol coming more from politicians and agribusiness than from green organizations. But maybe that just reflects the stuff I read.

  • http://www.iowavoice.com Moe

    I definitely agree that politicians are pushing many of these “green” ideas more than the environmental groups. I mentioned that when I discussed the harms with tree planting, too. I’m just glad to see Audubon actually take a look at the “popular” approaches and examine them.

  • http://dustyd-flyawayhome.blogspot.com sandy

    I totally agree with your sentiments. I heard a long discussion on this very subject on a talk radio show out here in So Cal.


  • http://waterwhendry.blogspot.com Aiyana

    Interesting info, and something to think about.

  • http://newhanover.blogspot.com Russ

    This is one of the most intelligent discussions on corn-based ethanol that I’ve seen. Thanks for the information. There was also a good discussion of it in Consumer Reports a few issues back that was also very skeptical. It basically came down to the fact that ethanol simply doesn’t have the same BTU value as petroleum, so it really isn’t saving energy when it comes to cars and mileage.

    Anytime an idea becomes very popular and a bunch of people automatically start jumping on the bandwagon (especially politicians and big business) without any honest examination or healthy skepticism is when I start becoming skeptical myself because it usually means someone wants to make money or is pandering for votes. As with many things, the truth lies somewhere in the middle and it must be ferreted out somehow. Again, thanks for the intelligent examination of this issue. Also, thank you for your kind comments on my photoblog. I appreciate it.

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Categorized by family, placed chronologically by common name

    Ants (Formicidae)

    Assassin Bugs (Reduviidae)

    Bee Flies (Bombyliidae)

    Blow Flies (Calliphoridae)

    Brown Lacewings (Hemerobiidae)

    Brushfooted Butterflies (Nymphalidae)

    Bumble Bees, etc. (Apidae)

    Carrion Beetles (Silphidae)

    Cellar Spiders (Pholcidae)

    Centipedes, House (Scutigeridae)

    Cicadas (Cicadidae)

    Common Sawflies (Tenthredinidae)

    Crane Flies (Tipulidae)

    Emeralds (Corduliidae)

    Ermine Moths (Yponomeutidae)

    Fireflies (Lampyridae)

    Flower Flies - See Syrphid Flies

    Funnel-Web Spiders (Agelenidae)

    Ground Beetles (Carabidae)

    Honey Bees - See Bumble Bees, etc.

    Hornets - See Yellowjackets, etc.

    Hover Flies - See Syrphid Flies

    Ichneumon Wasps (Ichneumonidae)

    Jumping Spiders (Salticidae)

    Katydids (Tettigoniidae)

    Ladybird Beetles (Coccinellidae)

    Leaf Beetles (Chrysomelidae)

    Leaffooted Bugs (Coreidae)

    Leafhoppers (Cicadellidae)

    Lightning Bugs - See Fireflies

    Longhorned Beetles (Cerambycidae)

    Mantid Flies (Mantispidae)

    Mantids (Mantidae)

    Minettia Flies (Minettia)

    Narrow-Winged Damselflies (Coenagrionidae)

    Orb-Weavers (Araneidae)

    Paper Wasps - See Yellowjackets, etc.

    Picture-Winged Flies (Ulidiidae)

    Plant Bugs (Miridae)

    Primitive Weevils (Brentidae)

    Robber Flies (Asilidae)

    Scarab Beetles (Scarabaeidae)

    Scentless Plant Bugs (Rhopalidae)

    Short-horned Grasshoppers (Acrididae)

    Signal Flies (Platystomatidae)

    Snout and Bark Beetles (Curculionidae)

    Soft-Winged Flower Beetles (Melyridae)

    Soldier Beetles (Cantharidae)

    Soldier Flies (Stratiomyidae)

    Sphinx Moths (Sphingidae)

    Spittlebugs (Cercopidae)

    Stink Bugs (Pentatomidae)

    Swallowtails (Papilionidae)

    Sweat Bees (Halictidae)

    Syrphid Flies (Syrphidae)

    Tiger Moths (Arctiidae)

    Tiphiid Wasps (Tiphiidae)

    Yellowjackets, etc. (Vespidae)


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      Sweet Alyssum


      Whorled Tickseed

      Wild Pansy



      American Toad

      Common Garter Snake

      Eastern Box Turtle*

      Green Frog

      Long-Tailed Salamander*

      Northern Fence Lizard*

      Painted Turtle


      Giant Sea Star*

      Nassau Grouper*

      Puffer Fish*

      Scrawled Filefish*

      Sergeant Major*

      Spanish Hogfish*

      Spotted Grouper*

      Stoplight Parrotfish*

      Yellowhead Wrasse*

      Yellowtail Snapper*





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