Redwork Quilt Block: The Hawaiian Po’ouli

My most recent redwork block. This is the Hawaiian Po’ouli, a honey creeper from the rainforests of Mount Haleakalā. Its story is an especially sad one, partly because it was gone so recently and there were frantic efforts to save it in recent years. Discovered in the 1970s, it was estimated then that there were 200 left in the wild. By 1997, there were only five.

In 2004, a last ditch effort was made to capture the last known male and a female for a Hail Mary breeding program. The male was an elderly bird with one eye and they were never able to find a female before he died, stressed, in captivity. The po’ouli was likely driven into extinction by domestic pigs, invasive rats, and mongoose who threatened the birds and their favorite food, snails. (Snails are another issue altogether, in trouble everywhere and less charismatic than their endangered mammalian and avian counterparts.) There is a beautiful article about this bird and efforts to save it in Mother Jones.

This embroidered block will be part of a redwork quilt memorializing the 23 species declared extinct by the US Fish and Wildlife Service in 2021 I’m hoping to raise awareness about the precious things that have been lost and the importance of saving what we have left as we stand on the brink of ecological disaster. You can read more about the project and see more blocks here and here.

Photo Credit: Paul Baker

I believe that memorializing these species is an important part of bearing witness. But I also want to communicate to people that there is hope and there are concrete steps individuals can take to help turn back tide. One thing I’m doing is converting my yard (because lucky enough to have a yard) into a wildlife haven. This means taking out invasives, planting natives and providing lots of food, shelter, water, and nesting areas for wildlife. We still have a ways to go, but I was heartened to see things starting to come to life now that spring is arriving.

Clockwise from the top: Our ferns have settled in and you can see the “crown” of this ostrich fern which is the fiddleheads getting ready to unfurl. You can see some new fronds in the next image and then new sedum growing from a plant I transplanted to the front in the fall. And last we have yarrow starting to grow.

I also called the White House today to ask that President Biden reconsider approval for the Willow Project drilling for oil in the Arctic. Every day I look for ways to stop what is happening to our precious world that gives all of us life.

Ultimately, I think the most important thing for everyone of us to do is to open our eyes and pay attention to what is happening.

Clockwise from top left: The Ivory Billed Woodpecker, the Bachman’s Warbler, Phyllostegia glabra var. lanaiensis, and the Scioto Madtom

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