Hawks and people need green space and water

A Red-tailed Hawk sits patiently waiting for dinner to show itself.One of the many wonderful things about living where I live is I am not required to travel far from my home to see wonderful stuff. Like on the recent afternoon when I went driving with a fellow photographer along a nearby road and found four Red-tail hawks in the space of about a half mile.

One of them clearly was hunting. Eventually, he dove down from his perch, sailed across the grass and flared to land on – dinner. Or, at least, a mid-afternoon snack.

Two days later we went to a different stretch of the same road and found a couple more. And a Bald Eagle. A lone Red-tail became a trio flying in formation. That was a first for me; they usually are solitary hunters. I wonder how far they migrate, whether they’re going away or coming back, or just staying warm. I must study up.

Studying up is a cold and rainy weather occupation in which I regularly watch documentaries, peruse multiple email and web sources, between every opportunity for hunting (with a camera), canoeing, and wandering – anything to bolster my understanding of the marvels presented by this planet we call home, and my effects on it.

This has been a life-time thing, though early on, I didn’t know it would become a career. I have lived and wandered in Maine, California, Alaska and Virginia, and one thing I’ve learned above all else: developers abhor open space. I lived near and swam off the sand dunes south of Jacksonville, Florida in the 1960s, and when I returned for a visit a decade later, new owners had planted rows of McMansions and framed the dunes with “No Trespassing” signs. Now the whole area is at risk of becoming submerged under rising seas in more common hurricanes.

A few miles north of Gettysburg, the housing market appears to be warming. Outside of Bendersville, a development which a few months ago touted prices as low as $180,000, this week boasts $200,000 starting prices for the same homes. And a 2,000-home development has broken ground near Shrivers Corner, just out of sight of U.S. 15. Soon – likely defined as “over the next 10 years,” those new residents will attract new water and wastewater services, expanded police, fire and emergency medical services, and buffers to block the sight and sound of nearby traffic from the new homes.

To the west, plans have been proposed to turn a golf course into a residential golf course, bordered by some 60 homes. While no timeline has been offered, the idea bears watching.

Water managers already are monitoring water supplies. The county’s surface seems to be safe, but the focus is turning to below ground water that will be needed to supply the expected new homes.

The market for journalists pretty much died with the 2008 crash, but it’s coming back. At least weekly I find ads for science writers who know environmental issues and can write to a variety of audiences. Some are more scientific than others, but one thing seems clear — the public is starting to really be interested in Global Warming – contrary to some states, several industries, and a certain national administration making claims to the contrary.   

We need green space the way a newspaper needs white space – to separate the otherwise run-on paragraphs of homes and schools and industries as we travel from hither to yon. To ease our eyes and minds, and in some instances to provide a place for clear thoughts, like clear water We cannot stop development, but we can keep our eyes on it, lest one day we wake to discover the Red-tailed hawks are not all we have lost.

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