Thursday, October 29, 2009

H1N1 Vaccination Hysteria Part 3: Alternative remedies vs. Vaccination

This is the third post in a series about the science and societal impacts of the flu and flu vaccination. Specifically, I emphasize the importance of sound scientific literacy in understanding this important topic. Please read the first posts in the series if you missed them.
Part 1: Is the Swine Flu Vaccine Safe?
Part 2: Should I get the shot?

In today’s post, I’ll address some of the responses commonly heard in response to the vaccination recommendations:

"I'll just take vitamins and natural herbs and I'll be protected from the Swine Flu."
One of the greatest benefits in living in an industrialized nation is our access to well-researched medicines and treatment technologies. These advances in science and medicine have saved countless lives. However, we also have a wealth of knowledge about traditional and alternative remedies at our disposal. Alternative remedies can be useful; and they certainly have their place in your health regime. To this end it is important to understand the science behind these alternative remedies and how these remedies work in your body so that you can make well-informed decisions about your and your family's health.

Getting more Vitamin D
Particular to the Swine Flu, some people are recommending Vitamin D as a preventative to the disease. How does this work? Vitamin D is found in dairy and fish foods but our bodies are also able to manufacture Vitamin D if it sufficiently exposed to UV-B sun rays. Vitamin D is key for calcium and phosphorus uptake to keep your bones strong. Now there is some interesting research suggesting that Vitamin D might also be key in your immune response.

Vitamin D seems to be an important modulator in both your Primary and Secondary immune response. (See post 2 in the series where I define the immune response and immune cells) . A variant of the Vitamin D is apart of the molecular structure of some immune cells - like phages and B & T Memory cells. Without Vitamin D in the immune cells don't function to full capacity, have problem recognizing germs and don't attack and kill germs fast enough. The most compelling evidence shows that people who are deficient in Vitamin D are more likely to get sick from the flu, tuberculosis and suffer complications from Multiple sclerosis. This new research provides some very exciting news about how being adequately nourished is so important to maintaining good health.

What about eating organic foods?
Organic foods are delicious, and if you can afford to eat them then do. However, there is no evidence to suggest they are more or less healthy than traditionally raised and harvested foods. Eating fresher fruits, veggies, and whole grains is better for your general health than not eating fruits and veggies at all or eating processed foods. These foods provide vitamins and essential elements used by your immune cells to fight germs.

But I would like to make it clear, there is no evidence that Vitamin D or simply eating healthier foods alone are effective at preventative against any disease, including the Swine Flu. Simply, the results of the Vitamin D study and the benefits of eating organic foods reinforce the importance of a healthy, well-balanced diet. Eating well means getting all the nutrition you need to keep your body and your immune cells in tip-top shape.

Can't I just take care of myself in more natural/less invasive ways to avoid the Swine Flu?
The short answer is yes. Eating healthy, taking vitamins, getting some sunshine, exercise, a good night's sleep are perfect for keeping your body in its best condition to fight off any germ. Plus, nothing beats hand washing (but not with anti-bacterial soap) and sanitizing your home for killing germs and preventing exposure. And if you do get sick, then the routine regiment of rest, fluids, vitamins, seeing the doctor, and taking the prescribed medicine does the job. These are general precautions to any disease.

However, public health officials are adding an extra precaution this season because of the Swine Flu and here is why.
1. The Swine Flu is widespread and pervasive. It's only late October - still 2 months away from the peak flu season - and cases are a popping up everywhere. This is very odd, most seasonal flus don't show up so early and spread so quickly.

2. The Swine Flu doesn't pick on the usual suspects. This strange diseases is dealing its worst hand to teens and young adults. Typically, these are the healthiest people in the population and always the group people worry the least about when every pandemics come around. But the reports all indicate that these people are getting sick more. Most diseases pick on the weak -from an immune system perspective, this means the elderly, the very young, and people who are chronically sick - like cancer, diabetes, asthma, and heart disease . Their immune system is either slow or still too new to respond to serious germ, so swine flu could really do some harm to such people.

That's why the doctors and public health officials recommend vaccination for the most at-risk groups: babies, toddlers, mommies (including pregnant women), the chronically ill, and young people (25 and younger). It seems the elderly have some immunity to swine flu due to previous exposure to the germ in the 1950s. But that still leaves a large number of people in the middle. If you are like me between the ages of 30-55, and in relative good health, you might not need the shot; and if you get the flu the odds are you will come through it just fine. However, you might want to get the vaccination to protect your family, especially if you spend time with anyone from one of the risk-prone groups listed above.

So, yes it is okay to wash your hands religiously, sanitize your home, school, and office space, cover your mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing, eat lots of fresh fruits and veggies, and take vitamins. But I still encourage you to seriously consider the Seasonal and Swine Flu vaccination for your family.

Vitamin D, Wikipedia
Swine Flu Hospitalizing Mostly Young People In The US, Medical News Today October 2009
Organic food is no healthier, study finds, Reuters July 2009
AP Photo/The Post and Courier,
Alan Hawes
CDC 2009 H1N1 Flu US Situation Update, October 23, 2009

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Wordless Wednesday: Contrasting Colors

Fall creates such beautiful contrasting color arrangements, especially when the leaves of a tree or bush are in transition.

Friday, October 23, 2009

H1N1 Vaccination Hysteria Part 2: Should I get the shot?

This is the second post in a series about the science and societal impacts of the flu and flu vaccination. Specifically, I emphasize the importance of sound scientific literacy in understanding this important topic. Please read the first post in the series if you missed it.
Is the Swine Flu Vaccine Safe?

Vaccines can be really scary and intimidating, so I completely understand if you're nervous; but your doctor, the news, and the public health departments advise you to get vaccinated. Today, I address the question on many people's minds:
Do I really need to get the Swine Flu Shot?

What I'm hearing from many people is "I’ll be fine. I don’t think I need the Swine Flu or Seasonal Flu vaccine." Perhaps. But think about this way: How can your body fight a disease-causing germ it has never come into contact with?

Your Immune System and Immune Response
Your best line of defense is to avoid contact with a germ. Stay away from sick people, wash hands, and keep germs from inside of your body - via mouth, nose, and eyes. If the flu virus does get inside it's going to do its best to get to a warm moist organ like your lungs and wreak havoc.

When germs get into your body, your Primary Immune Response gets to work. It is a non-discriminating attack system on anything foreign. There is an inflammation response or fever to kill the germs with heat. White blood cells attack and kill. Phages swallow germs whole. Neutrophils blow up germs.

(Inflammation Response)

(White Blood Cells)



Next up is the Secondary Immune Response. It is a specific attack system that memorizes, hunts down, and attacks specific germs. Special Memory cells (B-cells and T-cells) are created that memorize signatures of every germ that you've have come into contact with and if it comes back into your body they go after the germ and destroys it. Vaccines are medicines derived from disease-causing germs that are intentionally introduced in your body to activate your immune response to create memory cells. Now, if or when you come into contact with the real live version of the germ, your immune system is ready and can fight it off. For some diseases like the flu and swine flu, catching the full-scale flu may cause you to get so sick that it may take a long time to recover or cause death.

Why certain people are recommended for vaccinations
Babies & Young Children. Your immune system is a little less than perfect when you are young. Your body is a blank slate. Babies have only primary defenders and no secondary defenders - unless they are breast fed. Breast milk provides some of mom's defense cells but they provide only temporary assistance. As kids become exposed to germs - getting sick all of the time - they are actually building their Memory Cell army. Vaccinations help out in the same way, but without getting sick.

Older people. As you age, your defenders aren't as swift and handy as they use to be. Especially if you have health problems, your Memory Cells might need a help remember who the germs are. Vaccinations help maintain your Memory Cell army is its best possible condition.
These two groups are the most vulnerable becoming sick, especially from life-threatening diseases.

Moms and caretakers. As I hinted to above, mom can pass on some immune help to her baby in breast milk. But more importantly when mom gets the vaccine, she's protecting herself from getting the flu, and a healthy mama can't pass the flu onto baby and toddlers. The same thing for other adults who take care of young kids, older people or sick people.

Actually, between the ages of 17 and 22, you are at your peak immune response defense. Things decline after 22, but if you're healthy, eat right, and do all of the preventative things recommended by doctors, you're actually in pretty good shape to fight off non-lethal germs. This doesn't mean you may never get sick, but you should be fine. Typically, young adults and adults are not usually highly recommended for Flu shots - unless they are caretakers.

However, Swine Flu is breaking all of the rules - it's a Young Person's Disease. Otherwise healthy people 25 and younger are getting ill from this disease, being hospitalized at higher rates and dying from it. Frankly, that concerns me about this virus and that's why people 30 and younger are being recommended for vaccination. Moreover, both the seasonal and H1N1 (Swine) flu are already widespread and we are still 2-3 months from the peak Flu season. For these two reasons I think vaccination is worth serious consideration.

Deciding what to do
It's important to assess your risk for catching the flu. Right now, with the flu hitting early, I think it's a good chance many people will come into contact with.
You also need to assess your own and your family's health. Could you handle catching the swine flu? Could you handle the other things that come with it, like pneumonia and dehydration.
Finally, you must weight the side-effects of getting the shot to getting to flu. First and foremost, the vaccine is safe. Second, you will not get the flu from the flu shot, though many people believe they do. What usually happens is a immune response to the
weakened germ or a cold you were harboring to the shot.

But my take home point is that vaccines offer a way for your body to confront a serious disease without actually having to risk dying or becoming seriously ill. Ultimately, it's up to you to decide, but it's important to note that vaccines are only made and manufactured for very risky, life-threatening highly communicable diseases, not the less-threatening ones.

2009 H1N1 Influenza Vaccine Questions & Answers, CDC
Flu Vaccine Fact Sheet, CDC
Experts say H1N1 vaccine is safe and time-tested

Flu Shot reactions
Why did I get sick after I had the flu shot?
Flu Symptoms including a zip-code tracker

Thursday, October 22, 2009

H1N1 Vaccination Hysteria Part 1: Is the Swine Flu Vaccine Safe?

Over the next few posts I’ll discuss the importance of sound scientific literacy in understanding the science and societal impacts of the flu and flu vaccination. Many people are rightly concerned about their health and the health of their family. Yet, we get so many messages that warn us to beware of vaccines or of the science behind them as if there are battalions of faceless sinister people in lab coats who want to do harm to the general public. It is this latter sentiment, of fear and mistrust, especially among people from minority communities, that I want to address. Though there are accounts from history that have abused helpless and oppressed peoples, it is important to know that today science is a transparent process consisting of many diverse peoples. Everyone is watching – other scientists, the community, independent professional overseers, and government regulators. And everyone is participating – people of color, people of pallor, people from wealthy nations and poor nations, people with children, parents, pets, and concern for the environment. “Scientist” is not a universal term to describe uncaring, reckless persons without regard for others.

In today’s post, I’ll address the concerns most people express:
“The H1N1 (Swine) Flu vaccine was made too fast and it can’t possibly be safe to administer.”

Selecting which flu viruses will go into the vaccine
The flu season coincides with the cold period, for us in the Northern Hemisphere, that’s means November – May, the worst is January-April. We spend more time indoors and in closer proximity to each other – the perfect social situation to share diseases.
The UN World Health Organization (WHO), along with our own Centers for Disease Control (CDC) tracks the worldwide prevalence of every kind of flu all year round. In February, WHO makes recommendations to Public Health Agencies of nations in the Northern Hemisphere. They say
“Hey, virus X, Y, Z are really causing some trouble in the world. Here are some strains of the virus. I suggest y’all get to cracking and making some vaccine.”
The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) gets in on the discussion and they actually decide which strains will be developed and get word (and virus) out to contracted vaccine makers to get the ball rolling. Some manufacturers may already be cooking up early batches, in January, of virus if they have the strain with their fingers crossed that those strains will be selected by the FDA. If so, then they have a jump start.

How long does it take to manufacture seasonal influenza vaccine?
Directly from the CDC website:
“It takes at least six months to produce large quantities of influenza vaccine. For vaccine to be delivered in time for vaccination to begin in October and November (prior to the start of the flu season), manufacturers may begin to grow one or more of the virus strains in January based on their best guess as to what strains are most likely to be included in the vaccine.”

To make the vaccine, the first thing that must be done is to make copies of it – millions of them – which happens in chicken eggs. Next, scientists remove the viruses, purify them – taking away the parts that will make you deathly ill but keeping enough of the virus’ signature elements to mount an immune response in your body. (I’ll discuss the immune system and immune response tomorrow). Stuff the vaccine in syringes or tubes and send them off to the places they are needed.

Companies were well under way making seasonal flu vaccine - to be distributed early August through October - when the first death from the swine flu was confirmed in the US in April 2009. The alarms were raised, and public health officials starting saying out loud, “We might want to be ready for this one. It’s the big, bad virus on the block for the Southern Hemisphere Flu season.” By all accounts, the US acquired the seed stock of the virus this spring, in April/May 2009 and production began immediately. Presumably, they’ve been working overtime to get it done with promises then to supply vaccine in October – which is now, a little shy of the 6 month period reported by CDC.
Vaccine Safety
The Swine Flu Vaccine is made and tested the exact same way our seasonal flu vaccine is made. In fact, had WHO made the recommendation and the FDA had access to a reference strain of the virus, it would have been included in the routine seasonal flu shot. There wouldn’t be a distinction between the varieties. In fact, H1N1 is also the name of the seasonal flu virus in the routine flu shot. They are related viruses, but vaccination against the routine version does not automatically protect you from the swine version. So, in my opinion the Swine Flu Vaccine and the Season Flu vaccine are safe.

Interestingly, many people’s conflict about taking the swine flu vaccine may not materialize. You may come into contact with the virus before vaccine is available. Already, the 2009 H1N1 Virus (Swine flu) is widespread across the US – and this is NOT, repeat, NOT the height of the official flu season for our region. That means people are getting it and dealing with it the old-fashioned way: rest, liquid, volunteer quarantine, and medical intervention ASAP.

The brown means widespread coverage of the Flu. Click on image to enlarge.

Moreover, to address the concerns of people who might think that there are boxes of ill-prepared vaccine out there because of the rush job, you can sit down for a moment. The most recent reports indicate that Swine Flu vaccination production is way behind and falling short of the numbers promised by manufacturers. From a scientific literacy point of view, this means that the process is working. There is no rush or by-passing of the approved methods for getting medicine out to people. Yes, I think it would be great to have more, but this all we have for now.

Isn't the real threat the Flu?
Among the general public there seems to be more concern for the vaccine than the strain of the flu itself. From a historical perspective, the flu has been a very important character shaping world events. The widespread use of vaccines has really quieted the flu in recent times. And like the saying, “those who do not know their history are doomed to repeat it”.

I hope not to re-live the lessons of Flu epidemics of the past. Perhaps our society’s less-than-impressed attitude with vaccines is because unlike our grandparents and parents before them, we don’t know what it is like to lose scores of relatives and neighbors from communicable diseases like they did. We don’t know what it’s like for school to be dismissed or factories closed for a disease only to find that when they re-open many of our classmates or work mates are forever gone. People use to drop like flies from the flu other flu-like illnesses e.g., Spanish flu, Hong Kong flu, Asian flu, yellow fever, and malaria. The 1918 Influenza Pandemic killed more people than World War I. No, we don’t realize how deadly the flu can be and how so many lives can be affected by a disease we think of as just a bad version of the cold. The fact is the success of vaccination in preventing severe epidemics is also its failure in helping people to remember why vaccinations are so important.

Selecting the Viruses in the Seasonal Influenza (Flu) Vaccine
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, updated August 1, 2009

More information about Swine Flu and Seasonal Flu vaccination production:
How Fast Could a Swine Flu Vaccine Be Produced? TIME, April 2009
Companies starting work on H1N1 vaccine- CDC Reuters, May 2009
Swine flu: why does it take so long to make a vaccine? Effect Measure Public Health Scienceblog, May 2009
Swine Flu Vaccine production way behind schedule Healthcare Digital October 22, 2009

More information about Influenza and its impact:
The Influenza Pandemic of 1918 M. Billings, Stanford University
Swine influenza, seasonality, and the northern hemisphere Virology Blog, April 2009
Influenza Pandemics of the 20th Century E.D. Kilbourne, New York Medical College

In tomorrow’s post I’ll address another concern: “I’ll be fine. I don’t think I need the Swine Flu or Seasonal Flu vaccine.”

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Wordless Wednesday: Beautiful Decay

an artichoke flower
purple coneflowers

unknown flower

These are pictures I had taken while in the Netherlands in August. I was attracted to the crisp brown dying stalks and petals with hints of life and color against the tall strong stalks and green foliage. I was actually quite proud of my little Samsung S760 and my developing eye.

I was inspired to share these pictures of decaying flowers by two of my fellow nature photogbloggers - Lisa's Dead but still lovely pictures of a rose and Ratty's The Sad Part of Nature post about a dead garters snake.
Death and decay are a part of natural cycle. I have a host of pictures of dead wildlfe - plants, bugs, birds, and mammals. In time I will share these pictures with you - but they won't be nearly as beautiful as this. I'm giving you an early warning.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Carnivals: It's a celebration of science!

Carnivals are like online Zines, you know, those independent creative publications you created in high school or college. Carnivals are a collection of blog articles about a topic. Like a magazine, there is a publication date – some are published quarterly, monthly, or weekly ; an editor – which usually rotates among interested parties; and a theme.

I participate in a few Carnivals (see my bottom side bar). It helps me share my work with larger audiences. It’s also a great way for non-bloggers to get into blogs and see how informative and entertaining they could be. So if you new to reading blogs or not sure what it’s all about, that’s fine. Carnivals may be just the right for you. Check out great posts on interesting topics – all in one place for you to read at your leisure.

Here are some great carnivals in which I have submitted posts my Urban Science Adventures! © posts.

Book Review Blog Carnival #26: A collection of book review blog posts. Check out the books bloggers are reading, including the children’s books about nature and animals I recommend.

Scientia Pro Publica 13: Nobel Prize Edition: A collection of blog posts about science, nature, and medicine for the masses. It’s a perfect way to get your dose of science without all of the headaches of heavy language.

Festival of the Trees #40, the benefits of trees:A collection of blog posts all about trees – in words and pictures.

Diversity in Science Carnival #3: Celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month: This carnival is my personal project. Here is my related blog post on George Melendez Wright. It is a collection of blog posts that introduce and discuss issues (the celebrations and the obstacles) of diversifying Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) disciplines. It was born out of a similar discussion at the ScienceOnline09 (Science Blogging) Conference.
The upcoming editions of the carnival will discuss Broader Impact programs in STEM in preparation of a follow-up panel on Diversity in Science at ScienceOnline 2010 in Research Triangle, North Carolina. The discussion session is titled “Casting a wider net: Promoting gender and ethnic diversity in STEM” moderated by me and Anne Jefferson.

This is an official call for submissions for the upcoming carnivals and an initiation to the discussion to be held in January.

November DiS Carnival: STEM Diversity and Broad Impacts I: Highlights of successful, ambitious STEM diversity programs such as REUs, mentoring programs and scholarships for college under-graduates, graduate students, post-doctoral associates and early career scientists and engineers.
Submission Deadline: November 15th
Carnival Post date: November 20th
Hosted by: Yours truly at Urban Science Adventures! ©

December DiS Carnival: STEM Broader Impacts II: Highlights of successful, ambitious and inspiring diversity programs for youth and general audiences such as after-school programs, summer institutes, and citizen science programs sponsored by museums and universities.
Submission Deadline: December 15th
Carnival Post date: December 20th
Hosted by: (insert your blog here)

Stay tuned for more carnival announcements, but we’re already looking forward to February – Black History Month, and March – Women’s History Month and accepting carnival hosts for those editions, too.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Wordless Wednesday: Me & the Field Mice

Checking my bag. I caught something.

A prairie vole, Microtus ochrogaster (my study animal).

Palpating the vole to see if she is pregnant. Depending on how far along she is, I'll have to release her back in the field.
A Deer Mouse, Peromyscus (not my study animal).

Releasing the mouse back to the field. Click on picture to enlarge.

I caught a Least weasel, Mustela nivalis, too. Definitely NOT my study animal. They prey on other two guys above. After hissing at me, and baring scary teeth, he released himself back into the field. LOL!
Don't let the size or cuteness fool you. This is the world's smallest carnivore, and all Mustelid.

More pictures of my field site here and here.

If only writing the dissertation were as much fun as this part. But I've got 7,766 words for Chapter 2 and I have prelimanary results for Chapters 3 & 4. Writing continues.

Thursday, October 08, 2009

George Melendez Wright- Father of Natural Resource Management with the National Parks Service

A couple of weeks ago,while watching the PBS special by Ken Burns, America's Best Idea, I learned about the history of the National Park Service including the political challenges facing the lands,monuments, and people involved with perseving these special places for all Americans. I also learned about George Melendez Wright.

George Melendez Wright was the son of a ship captain from San Franciso and El Salvadoran mother. As a youth he enjoyed the northern California outdoors. He earned degrees in Forestry and Zoology from the University of California - Berkeley. It seems only right that he would work for the National Parks Service as a naturalist at Yosemite Park.

However, Mr. Wright, with his scientific background did more than blaze park trails - he blazed a new direction for the Park Service. In 1930, with the help of two colleagues he documented all of the plants and animals in the park. The effort took four years, and he funded much of the work out of his own pockets. Visitors were coming in droves, which is a good thing. But Wright also recognized that the amount and degree of human interaction and impact on this wild place could not be good for the local wildlife. It wasn't. Many species were becoming acclimated to people and would come in very close contact. At the time it was perfectly fine to touch animals, feed bears, systematically kill predators and encroach on wild habitats.

He helped forge new the policies that benefited preserving the wildlife for future generations and protect people from their own curiosity. This formative work led to recommendations that were published in 1932 as Fauna of the National Parks of the United States, a Preliminary Survey of Faunal Relations in National Parks. Eventually, all other parks would conduct and publish a survey of the local fauna and flora. While completing a related work along the US-Mexico border he was killed in an automobile acccident. He was 31 years old.

His legacy continues today. The tradition of environmental stewardship has birthed the works of natural resource managers, scientists, and volunteers on national parks areas. Learn more about George Wright and his leagacy at these links:

George Melendez Wright Biography on the PBS National Parks Website.

George Melendez Wright Biology at the National Park Service Website.
The George Wright Society

This post is my submission to the Diversity in Science Carnival #3: Celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month hosted at Drug Monkey's page.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Wordless Wednesday: Autumn & Agriculture

Autumn is harvest time and perfect time for us all to reflect on the importance of agriculture, especially us city-dwellers. Though the city has a lot of exciting amenities, we still depend on agriculture for our food needs; and agriculture is still a mostly rural activity. However, there are some great efforts to shift some food production to urban areas; and I am in support of that.

In the meantime, enjoy my autumn & agriculture adventures.

Pumpkins for decorating.
cute baby calves.

B&B - the Animal Science Club for college students. Yes, I was member of my college chapter many moons, ago. Go Aggies!

Standing next to a Guernsey Dairy cow.
Read more about my Farm-tastic adventures at the Best of Missouri Market here.


Mrs. Boyd's Garden
her cabbage

her cucumbers - which we ate.
My mom's bounty. Moving to Racine from Memphis was great for my mom's gardening efforts. For years, the squirrels ate everything. Now she has a pretty good harvest.
Red and purple Chili peppers. These can be eaten fresh or dried.

Yellow, red, and green tomatoes.

Snap beans and green tomatoes. Yes, we had fried green tomatoes - my mom makes the best.
This post is also apart of Thematic Photograph 69: Transtion. Autumn and Harvest are our season transition time.

Monday, October 05, 2009

Book Review: Sparrows

Title: Sparrows
Authors: Hans Post, Kees Heij
Illustrator: Irene Goede
Publisher: Lemniscaat, a derivative of Boyds Mills Press

This book details the natural history and seasonl life cycle of the House Sparrow, Passer domesticus, in its native home – Europe. These little brown birds live in the countryside, in backyards, near fields, meadows, and woodlands in Great Britian, Europe, and now North America. The delightful illustrations show house sparrows at courtship, building nests, lay eggs, raising young, finding food and avoiding predators. All of these wondrous events take place right under our noses; that’s because House Sparrows have become so close to humans. Anywhere people are, they are, too. This is a great read along book for early readers. The accompanying illustrations enhance comprehension of the written material.
This book is ideal for pre-school - 3rd grad readers.
In fact, these LBJs (little brown jobs - a common nick-name for commonly seen little brown birds) are now more common here in the United States and Canada than they are in their native land.

Sparrows can be spotted in parking lots, near restaurant & grocery store dumsters, and sidewalk cafes. They have built a good livelihood eating crumbs and other light discarded food items. They are also often spotted near shrubs and bushes like the one above. Learn more about House Sparrows at my previous post: Urban Wildlife Watch: House Sparrows.

While I was in Europe I didn’t notice many and I was unable to get a shot of one. In fact, some of my science friends in Europe say the species is in trouble. We certainly have enough here to send them some to re-establish the species in their native land. Birds I saw in Europe but failed to photograph included Jackdaws and Magpies. Interestingly, the birds I was able to photograph were species that now call the Americas home - Pesky birds. So much for me trying to share something new with you all.

Jackdaws. image credit: Dragon Ridge - pest control website

Magpie. image credit - wikimedia

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