Wrapping Up National Wildlife Week with Pollinators

In the spirit of springtime, we’ve decided to cap off National Wildlife Week with a look back at the four 2007 Pollination stamps. The stamps’ intricate design echoes and emphasizes the ecological relationship between pollinators and plants and hints at the biodiversity necessary to ensure the future viability of that relationship.

Pollination—the transfer of pollen within flowers, or from one flower to another of the same species—is the basis for fruit and seed production. Insects and other animals, such as birds and bats, provide pollination services for the majority of the world’s food crops and flowering plants. In turn, the plants provide their pollinators with food and other nutrients in the form of energy-producing nectar and protein-rich pollen. Many plants also serve as hosts for the larvae of insect pollinators.

Populations of some animal pollinators appear to be declining. Over the past few decades, scientists and growers—farmers and orchardists, as well as backyard gardeners—have all noted this downward trend. As a result, many concerned organizations and individuals, along with some government agencies, are working to encourage pollinator research, education, and awareness. They are also developing conservation and restoration projects aimed at ensuring measurable and documented increases in the numbers and health of both resident and migratory pollinating animals.

Many things can be done to help promote the health and vitality of pollinator populations. Among them are: planting flower gardens that provide a continuous succession of blooms throughout the season and utilize native plants; using nontoxic methods to control pests and weeds; protecting nontarget organisms such as pollinators from inadvertent exposure to pesticides, insecticides, herbicides, and other chemicals; and setting aside and protecting habitats suitable for wild pollinators.

Pollination is a partnership, and the interlocking design of the Pollination stamps reinforces the interconnectedness of nature.  Strengthening that connection is one goal of The Pollinator Partnership, an outreach program of the North American Pollinator Protection Campaign (NAPPC), a cooperative conservation partnership of more than 120 organizations and individuals working across North America to support pollinators. The U.S. Postal Service and NAPPC recognize the importance of plant/pollinator relationships.

Thanks for sharing National Wildlife Week with us. What kinds of wildlife would you like to see on a future stamp? Let us know in the comments.

Amur Tiger Cub Helps Save the World’s Wildlife

[From guest contributor Laurie]

We can’t let National Wildlife Week go by without celebrating the stamp that’s helping to save wild animals—the Save Vanishing Species semipostal. Many of the stamp’s fans call it “the tiger cub stamp,” because of the gorgeous graphic of an Amur tiger cub.

Digital Color Postmark Keepsake (click to order)

Until recently, this tiger subspecies was usually called the Siberian tiger. (Biologists renamed it because much of its habitat is found near the Amur River in Russia and China.) Amur tigers are not only the biggest subspecies of tiger, they’re also the largest cat in the world, weighing up to 650 pounds and measuring 13 feet from nose to tail tip.

Like human fingerprints, each tiger’s stripes are unique. They act as camouflage, helping tigers blend in with their forest’s surroundings. Although tigers specialize in hunting deer and pigs, they are actually quite fond of eating porcupines, and will even snack on small frogs!

Derry Noyes served as the art director, designer, and typographer for the stamp. She worked with artist Nancy Stahl to develop a powerful illustration to symbolize the plight of imperiled animals.

Notecard Set (click to order)

By purchasing this stamp, you are contributing funds that support efforts to create a future in which threatened animal species can once again thrive. Each Save Vanishing Species stamp is valid for postage at the First-Class Mail®, single-piece, first-ounce rate in effect at the time of purchase.

Bobcat Stalks into 2012 Stamp Program

Later this year, USPS will issue a one-cent stamp featuring a bobcat (Lynx rufus). A member of the feline family found across the United States, the bobcat is a medium-size cat and a proficient hunter, stalking its prey with patience and stealth.

Bobcats are found in a wide range of terrestrial environments, including mountains, forests, and deserts. Their coats can range in color from beige to brown, with dark spots and stripes. Tufts of fur on the tips of their ears and short bobbed tails help distinguish bobcats from other felines. Bobcats are mostly nocturnal and live in solitude, finding dens in caves or rocks. They mark their territory with their scent. In the wild, bobcats can live more than 12 years.

Nationally-known illustrator Nancy Stahl worked with art director Carl T. Herrman on this highly stylized design. The bobcat’s golden eyes and pink nose make a striking contrast with its fur, rendered in shades of brown.

The stamp’s date of issue has not yet been set. When it has, we will post it here.

Wildlife in the Nature of America Stamp Series

In the spirit of National Wildlife Week, I’ve been thinking about the very popular Nature of America stamp series, which ran for 12 years, from 1999 to 2010. The series was meant to teach about the beauty and complexity of major plant and animal communities in the United States. Each sumptuous pane of ten stamps featured original artwork by John D. Dawson:

The 12th and last pane in the series focused on the Hawaiian rain forest. The setting for the pane is a rain forest on Hawaiʻi’s largest island, also named Hawaiʻi. As is typical, the leaves and branches of mature ʻōhiʻa lehua trees dominate the forest canopy. Below, the lush understory is dense with ferns and saplings, as well as flowering trees and shrubs that add bright touches to the countless shades of green. Colorful blossoms attract honeycreepers such as the scarlet ʻiʻiwi, whose long, curved bill allows it to reach the nectar of tubular hāhā flowers. An ʻamakihi sips the nectar of red ʻōhiʻa lehua blossoms, while an ʻākepa glides toward the same tree, where it will glean insects from leaf buds. A Hawaiian thrush known as the ʻōmaʻo prefers fruits and berries.

Small insects and spiders are difficult to spot among the thick vegetation of an actual rain forest, but a few are visible near the bottom and center of the painting. A Koele Mountain damselfly, for example, can be glimpsed clinging to a plant stem as a Kamehameha butterfly lays eggs on the leaves of a māmaki, its primary host plant. In its natural habitat, the cricket at lower left would more likely be heard rather than seen, chirping and trilling from one of its many hiding places. Among the smallest creatures is the happyface spider, shown in extreme close-up at lower right in the painting. Named for a facelike pattern on its body, this spider is less than a quarter of an inch in size (not counting the legs).

The scene on the pane is completely imaginary. Such a dense grouping was necessary in order to show as many plants and animals as possible in the stamp pane format. Even so, every species depicted could be encountered in a Hawaiian rain forest.

Previous panes in the Nature of America series were Sonoran Desert (1999), Pacific Coast Rain Forest (2000), Great Plains Prairie (2001), Longleaf Pine Forest (2002), Arctic Tundra (2003), Pacific Coral Reef (2004), Northeast Deciduous Forest (2005), Southern Florida Wetland (2006), Alpine Tundra (2007), Great Lakes Dunes (2008), and Kelp Forest (2009). You can read all about them, and the history of the series, on Beyond the Perf. And check out the underwater dedication ceremony for the Kelp Forest pane. The kids sound like they had a great time!

Dolphins Make a Splash for National Wildlife Week

We are really loving National Wildlife Week around here! Today we’re focusing on the bottlenose dolphin, a marine mammal noted for its high intelligence and playful behavior. Found mainly in temperate and tropical waters, bottlenose dolphins live in groups ranging in size from two to several hundred. They can often be seen from shore and by boaters and appear to engage in play with other dolphins. Their mostly gray bodies are large and stout, with short, broad snouts. The corners of their mouths curve up, giving the appearance of a permanent smile (so cute!).

This stamp features an illustration by Nancy Stahl of a bottlenose dolphin leaping from the water. Stahl has created illustrations for several stamps, including the Dragonfly (2008) and Florida Panther (2007). She used several photographs of bottlenose dolphins as reference for the art.

The Dolphin stamp was first issued in 2009 and reprinted in 2011 (you can still order it online).