Birds of the North Burial Ground 2013

This video project is part of the evolving Wildlife of the North Burial Ground project of Friends of the Moshassuck funded by the Rhode Island Rivers Council. The project evolved out of observations of tadpoles in the drainage swale, but now will video any animal we can get on camera. Birds are hard to video for an amateur like me. I have not mastered panning with them smoothly or keeping them in focus. Not quite like bullfrogs sitting in the pond or the tadpole cities of the drainage swale where motion is not an issue. Hopefully the 2014 version will be better.

Bullfrogs in the NBG 2013

After several years of observations, with a little funding from the Rhode Island Rivers Council I began a video project to record wildlife in Providence’s North Burial Ground, with an emphasis on the tadpoles in a little drainage swale near the maintenance building.   The Misadventures of an Urban Naturalist tells some of that story. There is also a larger and permanent pond in the burial ground, and it may be the best wildlife watching place in all of Providence The Bullfrogs of the larger pond were always of interest, but in some ways I used them as a back up, something else to focus on in case the drainage swale went dry and produced no tadpoles.  As I noted above, the larger pond has an abundance of wildlife, 3 types of heron, ducks, geese, cormorants, kingfishers, and swifts, as well as songbirds in profusion, muskrats, occasional otters, a growing population (from 6 to 14 over the last few years)  of painted turtles, several varieties of fish, and bullfrogs.

The size of the pond, the inaccessibility of various parts of the shoreline, and the murkiness of the water means that unlike the drainage swale certain parts of the bullfrog life cycle are inaccessible.  The most obvious missing piece is that I have never seen, let alone filmed, the early stages of bullfrog tadpole life.  Fowler’s Toads and Gray Tree Frogs complete their breeding cycle in one season.  They mate, the eggs are laid, the tadpoles develop and the frogs and toads hop away from the pond between May and August.  Bullfrogs overwinter as tadpoles the first year.  Bullfrogs mate later in the season, so the tadpoles are in the water from July until the following July.  I have never seen the newly hatched  tadpoles in the late summer.  They do not appear to swim near the surface close to shore, so I have no idea where they are.
What I do see of tadpoles is the tadpoles that have overwintered in the pond beginning in May, once the water warms up.  They float near the surface, swim around,  jump out of the water, and are generally visible nearly every day.  What gets my attention is the jumping, and the video that accompanies this essay reflects that fascination with jumping tadpoles, including the use of slow motion so the motion can be seen a bit more clearly.
In the spring, in addition to the tadpoles, there are the frogs that have overwintered.  I have a collection of shots of the various frogs that have overwintered, the rogues gallery.  There is nothing systematic about these shots, I take them when I find a frog in range,.  I know there are not very many frogs in the pond in the spring, but it would take a much more scientific approach than I can muster to actually determine the population size.
The transformation from tadpole to frog in early July is fast.  I have found only one shot that shows a Bullfrog tadpole with legs, in contrast to the abundance of footage I have of Fowlers Toads and Gray Tree Frogs with legs,   It seems like one day there is an abundance of jumping and milling tadpoles, the next day there are no tadpoles, but the shoreline of the pond is covered in small frogs.  To give some sort of reckoning of the new abundance I came up with the idea of capturing on film how many take off when I go near them.  I have shots from 2 locations, in the northwest corner of the pond near the outflow and looking north from the peninsula/point in the center of the pond on the western shore.  Slow motion is again used to show more details.
After the new frogs show up the herons become more common (Green and Night as well as Great Blue) and the population slowly dwindles under the predation until they go to sleep for the winter in the bottom of the pond, waiting for spring and the chance to do it again.  I retreat into editing, waiting for spring and a chance to see the pageant of life played out in a pond again.

Rhode map commentary

Question on the Rhode map website:

What is your vision for a new approach to economic development in Rhode Island?

My Response:  only get 1000 characters
The most important thing is to understand current conditions.  And key conditions are climate change, growing injustice, and the end of economic growth for 99% of the population.  We have to throw out the business climate BS and realize that unless we directly address inequality the economy is going to continue to deteriorate.  Another study just came out pointing how rising inequality harms economies.  Even the pope can figure it out, why not Rhode Island?
And unless we heal our ecosystems, our communities will fail.  Climate change is about to drop us off a cliff, so what we need in that case is to stop using fossil fuels and start focusing on food security.  We need to rebuild forests, fisheries, and soils, which means compost and no more food scrap in the landfill.
We need to clearly remember that there is absolutely no correlation between a good business climate and a healthy economy.  As long as business interests reduce taxes on the rich, RI will never work.

The road to prosperity

Originally written as a letter to the editor December 18, 2013  Greg Gerritt

On December 18, 2013 in a remarkable juxtaposition the Providence Journal had an article “Analysts say income gap impedes growth”,  an op-ed by by Steven Frias “Warnings of RI Stagnation go way back”, and an op-ed by John J. Colby “Wage regulation okay for the well to do”.  Mr Frias repeats the tired old cliches about the business climate saying that the only way to move the RI economy forward is to cut taxes on the rich and remove regulations that protect the public health and the environment.  The problem with Mr Frias’s argument is that there is absolutely no correlation between a good business climate and a healthy economy, and that if Rhode Island obeyed the business climate shysters what we would end up doing is increasing inequality further, which even economists and the pope are starting to realize harms the economy, as well as destroying democracy.


Mr Colby points out just how inequality has harmed our economy, the poor are unable to be the consumers our consumerist economy seems to demand.  But considering the state of the Earth, and the likelihood that changes in the climate due to overconsumption are likely to overwhelm the effects of any boost the 1% will get from adopting the greed is good model, a model based on consumerism is unlikely to help our communities.  Even the World Bank knows that ecological healing and economic justice are likely to produce better economic results than anything else in marginalized communities.  Time for Rhode Island to learn that too.

Response to article on November Jobs report

This is actually the new normal. We are unlikely to ever see economic growth large enough to create lots of jobs as technology will destroy jobs faster than it creates them. American workers are going to see a reduction in per capita income as our national economy shrinks.

The real challenge is not to keep it growing, that is an ecological and social dead end, but to shrink it in a way that grows our Gross National Happiness. The way to do that is ecological healing, shrinking inequality, and focusing on community food security and climate resilience.

Comments on ESA article

Read an article on Endangered Species Act success.  Here is what I wrote in response:


Wish the Republicans could remember when they were a party of conservation and how much it benefits communities. The Clean Water Act, the Clean Air Act, The ESA, are some of the most important legislation Congress has ever passed, but every day they are under threat of repeal despite near unanimous support for them from the American public.