Tod and I headed out for Martin, Tennessee, crossing the Mississippi River near Dyersburg. In the early morning light we spotted a peregrine falcon near the river. Beyond the river bluff we saw a bald eagle perched atop a dead tree high above an oxbow lake. Our destination was the 4-H Roundup being held at The University of Tennessee-Martin campus. For one hundred years the 4-H has been training young students in leadership and useful skills. The program teaches agricultural skills, but is expanding into areas not specific to the farm. In Tennessee 300 thousand students participate in 4-H projects. Tod and I were honored to participate in the 4-H Roundup, the competition among the state’s determined participants. We joined John Skinner of The University of Tennessee in judging presentations of the finalists among 17 hundred who participated in the entomology program. These students studied insects, learning how some are beneficial and some are pests. They studied insect control methods using biological controls as well as insecticides. Some in the entomology program are learning to manage honey bees.
The peregrine falcon and the bald eagle both are recovering in the South after their numbers were decimated as the result of the birds taking in persistent insecticides in their diets. Being at the top of the food chain, the birds received a concentrated amount of insecticides, including DDT. The chemicals were often absorbed from the soil by earthworms and passed along to birds and fish which were then eaten by the carnivorous falcons and eagles. The insecticides stopped the birds’ reproduction by making their egg shells thin and subject to breaking. In the photo, I am presenting awards on behalf of the Tennessee Beekeepers Association to the entomology program students at the 4-H awards banquet. A number of students received college scholarships for their efforts. I felt good after the day’s events, knowing that Tennessee is producing new generations of powerful birds of prey and agricultural leaders.--Richard