//I added the following metatags
 
May
03
    
Posted (crates) in birding, Birds on May-3-2010
COSTA RICA BIRD SPECIES                  Bold type indicates new life species for me (40 out of 82 total species IDed) San Jose Volcun Poas Hwy to Tortuguera Tortuguera Arenal Volcano area Los Chiles Boat Trip Hanging Bridges Guanacaste  
Rock Dove (Common Pigeon) x                
House Sparrow  x             x  
White Wing Dove x         x   x  
Blue grey tanager x         x      
Great Tailed Grackle x   x x x x   x  
Turkey Vulture x x x x x x x x  
Black Vulture x x x x x x   x  
Violet Saberwing Hummingbrd   x              
Blue wing patch red rump     x            
Road side Hawk     x   x        
Ruddy Ground-Dove     x            
Blue black Grassquit     x   x        
Frigate Bird       x       x  
Red Breasted Blackbird       x          
Northern Jacana       x   x      
Great Blue Heron       x   x      
Little Blue Heron       x   x      
Snowy Egret       x   x      
Great Egret       x   x      
Cattle Egret       x       x  
Summer Tanager       x          
Tropical Kingbird       x   x      
Anhinga       x x x      
Collard Aracari       x          
Green Heron       x          
Bare-Throated Tiger-Heron       x   x      
Great Green Macaw       x          
Great Kiskadee       x x x   x  
Long Tailed Woodcreeper       x          
Ringed Kingfisher       x   x      
Green Kingfisher       x          
Bright rumped Attila       x          
Flycatcher–check       x          
Royal Tern       x       x  
Boat-Billed Heron       x   x      
American Pygmy Kingfisher       x          
Red-capped Manakin       x          
Black-Cheeked Woodpecker       x          
Keeled-billed Toucan       x          
Chestnut-Mandibled Toucan       x          
Palm Tanager       x          
Baltimore Oriole       x       x  
Golden-Hooded Tanager       x          
Purple Gallinule       x   x      
Montezuma Oropendula       x x        
Rufescent Tiger-Heron       x          
Great Patoo       x          
Osprey       x          
Lesser Yellow Legs       x          
Tricolored Heron       x          
Scarlet Rump Tanager     x x x x      
Mangrove Swallow       x x x      
Spotted Sandpiper       x   x   x  
Black-Necked Stilt       x          
Red winged Blackbird         x x      
Orange blue beak         x        
Clay colored thrush         x        
Band Tail Pidgeon         x        
Social Flycatcher         x        
Crested Guan         x        
Black cowled oriole         x        
Neotropical Cormorant           x      
Green-Backed Heron           x      
Olive-throated Parakeet           x      
Rufous tail Hummingbird           x x    
Amazon Kingfisher           x      
Limpkin           x      
Yellow tail Oriole (call)           x      
Black Throated Trogan             x    
White-tailed Kite             x    
Blue-and-Yellow Macaw             x    
Brown Pelican               x  
Sanderling               x  
Black Breasted Plover               x  
Wilson’s Plover               x  
Whimbrel               x  
Squirrel Cuckoo               x  
Common Black Hawk               x  
Laughing Falcon               x  
Black headed Trogan           x   x  
Fork-tailed Flycatcher               x  
                   


 
Apr
12
    
Posted (crates) in biology, Birds, Ecology, nature on April-12-2010

 

Central America is the site of contending crustal plates–notably the Cocos Plate in the Pacific Ocean which is being subducted beneath the Caribbean Plate right off the western coast of central america at a rate of 72-81 mm/yr.  It’s this area where the Central   America Volcanic Arc exists which forms the volcanoes of Guatemala, El Salvador, Nicaragua, and Costa Rica (See photo above of Volcan Arenal).  To the north there is the North America Plate which is moving to the west at about 20 mm per year resultng in further seismic turmoil.  Then to the east the North American plates dives beneath the Caribbean plate as does the South American plate to the south.

     South America was part of the great southern land mass, Gonwanaland.  When it drifted away from the rest of the southern continents it remained in relative isolation for over sixty million years.  Once the link between North and South America was established there was a great influx of North American fauna into South America and vice versa to  a lesser extent.  The great marsupial fauna of South America died off mostly as did other less successful groups.  Some of the South American biota moved into North America.  Central America remains today one of the most biologically diverse areas in the world.

    Costa Rica and the rest of the isthmus has acted as a filter bridge in this great migratory process that really picked up steam only three million years ago when the connection was complete between North and South America.  The diverse topography of Costa Rica has resulted in refugia where species could still live after dying out in other areas.  This combined with the species from the north and from the south has resulted in a tremendous amount of biotic diversity in this small area.

    It is estimated that in this small country there are 500,000 to 1,000,000 species of plants and animals with most remaining unknown.  Insects by themselves make up about half of this diversity, whereas 850 species of birds can be found–about ten percent of all known species of birds.  North America has about half that number.  Others estimate about 160 species of amphibians, 220 species of reptiles and about 10% of all known butterflies.

   And all this in the second smallest Central American Nation (El Salvador is the smallest).  Only 119 km across at the narrowest point in the south and 280 km wide at its broadest point, it is quite easy to drive across the country in about five hours.  Solely in the tropical latitudes it still exhibits a broad range of distinct climate zones (12). 

The eastern Caribbean side is the wettest whereas the western pacific slopes are the driest. When I visited the Pacific coast area of Costa Rica (Guanacaste), the hills and countryside was covered with trees devoid of leaves.  It was strange seeing black howler monkeys sitting in leafless trees.  This was in sharp contrast to the rainforest on the Caribbean coast.   Most areas have a rainy season, or “green season,”  (May-November) and a dry season (December-April) with the rainfall almost everywhere following a predictable schedule.  Usually the highland ridges are wet with the windward sides being the wettest.



 
Jul
01
    
Posted (crates) in biology, birding, Birds, nature on July-1-2009

 

Here’s some birds I saw in Panama.  The page and plate numbers refer to the Birds of Panama.

Common Name

Scientific Name

Panama Area (P=Panama City; T=Bocas;B=Boquete

Pl.no.

Page no.

Egret, Great Casmerodius albus

P, T

2

69

Egret, Cattle Bubulcus i. ibis

P, T

2

71

Heron, Great Blue Ardea h. herodias

P, T

2

68

Ibis, White Eudocimus albus

P

2

74

Frigatebird, Magnificient Fregata magnificens

P, B

4

65

Pelican, Brown Pelecanus occidentalis carolinensis

P,T

4

63

Booby, Brown Sula leugaster estesiaca

T

4

62

Sandpiper, Spotted Actitus macularia

T

5

135

Hawk, Common Black Buteogallus a. anthracinus

T

8

95

Pigeon, Pale-vented Columba cayennensis pallidicissa

T

10

163

 

Dove, Ruddy Ground Columbina talpacoti rufipennis

P

10

167

Dove, White-Tipped Leptotila v. verreauxi

B

10

168

Parakeet, Orange-Chinned Brotogeris j. jugularis

P

11

176

Amazon, Red-Lored Amazona autumnalis salvini

T

11

179

Hummingbird, Rufous-Tailed Amazilia t. tzacatl

T,B

13

217

Hummingbird, Snowy-Bellied Amazilia e. Edward

B

13

216

Violet-Ear, Green (H) Colibri thalassinus cabanidis

B

14

209

Woodpecker, Red-Crowned Melanerpes rubricapillus wagleri

B, P

18

244

Flycatcher, Fork-Tailed Tyrannus savanna monacha

B, P

23

316

Kingbird, Tropical Tyrannus melancholicus chloronotus

B

23

314

Flycatcher, Social Myiozetetes similes columbianus

B

23

311

Pewee, Dark Contopus lugubris

B

23

299

Kiskadee, Great Pitangus sulphuratus guatimalensis

T

23

310

Flycatcher, Boat-Billed (H) Megarhynchus pitangua mexicanus

B

23

310

Flycatcher, Streaked Myiodynastes maculaus difficilis

B

23

313

Elaenia, Yellow-Bellied Elaenia flavogaster pallidorsalis

B

24

286

Elaenia, Mountain Elaenia f. frantizii

B

24

287

Wren, Plain Thryothorus modestus elutus

B

28

343

Wren, House Troglodytes aedon inquietus

B

28

343

 Red-billed Tropicbird   Phaethon aethereus

T

 

 

   

 

 

 

   

 

 

 

   

 

 

 

   

 

 

 



 
Apr
23
    
Posted (crates) in Birds, Consciousness, nature, Personal Stuff on April-23-2009

We are sentient beings. As conscious entities we often look for meaning in what at first appears to be an uncaring universe.  This seems to be the way we are, constantly seeking for meaning that relates to our own lives.

Religion and philosophy are attempts to render meaning to our lives.  People of long ago, living in constant contact with the natural world, often looked to nature for meaning, searching for meaning in the behavior of animals, in the weather, and in other natural phenomena.

We have a rational, logical side to our nature, and we have the great body of information given to us by science, and by that great tool, the scientific method which can give us demonstrable truth, truth that can be demonstrated to others.

But our soul cries out for other truths, truths that are more subtle than that learned by the blunt tool of science, truths that do not lend themselves easily to demonstration.

There have been times of great emotional storms in my life in which I searched for meaning in the small things about me…times in which I tried to quell the storm within and tried to listen to that “still, small voice” that speaks to us all, but often goes unheard in the turmoil of modern society.

At such times I often go for walks and look for insight in the world about me.  And if I am able to still the waters within,  I often hear things.   This morning I heard the small brook speaking to me.  The rains had lessened recently, and the voice of the little stream had changed, become more melodious and fuller as its flow diminished.  It’s gurgle and burble sounded like an ancient voice that spoke a language that hovered on the edge of comprehensibility.

An eagle sounded as I ambled along, a sound that I have heard so often, that it threatens to become commonplace.  I stopped to listen and to appreciate more fully the wild character of the call.

Then I remembered that two nights ago when I stepped from my car about two hours after midnight, I paused for a second and looked up at a rare, clear, night sky at the Big Dipper.  I remembered how long ago my father pointed out to a small boy how the Big Dipper is always pointing to Polaris, the North Star, and showed me where it points.  I checked, and sure enough, it is still pointing to this guide star.

As I paused there in the darkness, I heard the oh-so-soft hooting of the Great Horned Owl.  It was immediately answered by another.  I had often wondered why I seldom heard owls even though my house is surrounded by forest.   The calls were so faint and soft that I know that I could have easily missed them as I rushed from the car into the house.

So I stood there longer in the darkness, wondering if further mysteries were to be hinted at.  Then far off over the Sound, I heard a growing sound that increased until it sounded like the yapping of hounds in the sky.  For a second I thought of the hunting dogs of Diana, or Artemis, coursing through the night sky in pursuit of some unknown prey.  I shook my head, but the sound remained the same.  I told myself that it was Canada Geese on their northern migration, but I have heard these geese many times, and this did not sound the same.  Whatever it was, it gradually faded, growing fainter until I was left standing in the dark listening to the soft hooting.

Perhaps I should pause more often and slow my pace and open my eyes…and ears…and mind.

I loved the way that this writer found meaning in the birds of a walk that he took.  In fact I admire his entire blog.



 
Apr
12
    
Posted (crates) in biology, Birds, nature, Photography on April-12-2008

Three days ago as I walked down my favorite road to the nearby beach, I came across this teeny-tiny little grey creature lying on its back on the side of the road. This little mammal was a shrew, apparently the Wandering or Vagrant Shrew (Sorex vagrans) as far as I could make out. I often find shrews lying dead in a path or a road. They never show any traumatic injury, and apparently they have simply died of some subtle cause. They usually don’t live long in the wild: one year or so, rarelyWandering Shrew surviving the second winter, but in captivity they average 2-3 years. I walked on down the road and found a mole (probably Townsend’s mole, Scopanus townsendii) lying on the side of the road just like the shrew–no mark or any sign of trauma. Both of these creatures had apparently died in the night judging by the freshness of their little bodies. The night wasn’t especially cold or wet, and I couldn’t think of any factor that might account for their dying.

A few minutes later I saw an Anna’s hummingbird. The temperature was in the upper thirties or lower forties and there were few Spring blossoms available for the hummingbird to gather nectar.

All of these creatures are homiothermic (warm-blooded) animals, and becauseTownsends Mole of their small size they face some unusual problems. Homiotherms must maintain their body temperature within narrow limits in order to function properly. If you are very small AND warm-blooded like the shrews, you have a large surface area/volume ratio, and consequently you radiate a great deal of heat through this large surface area. Shrews have to eat almost constantly to replace the energy that is pouring from their bodies like water down an open drain. In one day they can eat their entire body weight. These little creatures are like small furnaces burning at a furious rate. On cold wet days the demands upon such animals are even higher.

When a creature doubles its linear dimensions, say it’s length, the surface area increases by 4x (squares) whereas it’s volume (wt) increases by 8X (cubes)! The ratio between the surface area and volume halves each time the linear dimension doubles.  Thus there is more volume in proportion to the surface area which makes it easier to retain heat.  Likewise these parameters diminish proportionately as the linear dimensions become smaller. There are all sorts of biological ramifications from this physical fact.



 
Feb
06
    
Posted (crates) in birding, Birds, Evolution, nature, Personal Stuff on February-6-2008

       I mentioned before that my daughter is planning to be married in Hawaii on May 21.  It looks that everything is set up with the marriage plan: ticket$ bought, the marriage arrangement$ made, and re$ervation$ made for twenty people at a luau which will take the place of a reception.  It will be held on the Big I$land in Kona.  My daughter and her new fiance were originally planning to honeymoon in Hawaii after the wedding which was going to be held here in the gloomy state of Washington.  I also had been wanting to take a vacation in Hawaii since I had never been there.  So to cut a long story short, everything will be held in Hawaii.  I have done most (all?) of the planning and arrangements which is an experience which I would not want to repeat!   Funny thing is that when I suggested to my daughter that we could hang out and do things together after the marriage, she didn’t really seem that enthusiastic about it.

Never in my life have I had the slightest inclination to visit Hawaii.  I always had the impression that it was one big tourist trap, having gathered most of my ideas concerning the islands from photographs of Honolulu and also from Hawaii 5-0!  I do not care for cities that much, nor do I care for crowded beaches.  I gradually learned that there is much more to the place than the tourist traps portrayed in travel brochures.  I think that one of the things that finally interested me in going to Hawaii was the chance of seeing some the unique endemic birds.  There is an entire group of birds all descended from the original colonizing honey creeper which has undergone an adaptive radiation to fill the vacant niches found on the islands.  Many people are familiar with Darwin’s finches which underwent a similar radiation on the Galapagos Islands, but few are familiar with a similar radiation that occurred on the Hawaiian islands producing some incredibly unique birds.  Unfortunately many of these species are on the verge of extinction.

So hopefully, I’ll be able to do a bit of birding while I am there.  I have found that it helps immeasurably to have somebody who is knowledgeable about the species, so I hope to go on a tour conducted by such a person.



 
Jan
23
    
Posted (crates) in birding, Birds, nature on January-23-2008

     My walks have been quite chilly lately with temperatures around freezing.  Several days ago there was a heavy frost with some fall of ice pellets, and as often happens here after such weather, it became clear and cold with the frost and ice remaining even though it has been sunny.  The frozen gravel cracks under my feet like popcorn and the frozen leaves sound like brittle cellophane.  The little valley that I walk through to the beach is almost constantly shaded and acts as a conduit for the cold air as it flows down it to the Sound.  The water of the Sound is in the lower forties and as the air rises over the warmer water it draws the air down the little valley.  So when I walk down the road to the water, I don’t feel the cold so much, but when I walk back, I am walking against the cold flow of air and my ears and chin get very cold.

I like to look closely at the hoarfrost that covers the leaves, admiring the intricate patterns of the ice crystals.  Sometimes during particularly heavy frosts, the crystals of ice pushes the soil up into little mounds and later after it melts the soil remains soft and springy.  The little brook seems unaffected by the cold, splashing and gurgling along, talking to me and keeping me company as I walk down the shaded road to the beach.

Yesterday as I stood on the little bluff overlooking the water, I saw a sea lion, methodically swimming its way south, rising and falling, its breath throwing little sprays of water into the air.  The birds are all my old friends: Common Mergansers, Horned Grebes, Double Crested Cormorants, a lone Bald Eagle, anonymous gulls, Cassin’s Auklet, Winter Wrens, Ruby-Crowned Kinglets, Stellar Jays, Juncos, Chestnut sided Chickadees, Varied Thrushes (not calling yet), and numerous Song Sparrows whose hormones seemed to have been stirred by the lengthening days and who sing from every suitable vantage point.  I also saw two different unidentified ducks.  One looked just like a Bufflehead, but seemed much larger than these petite little ducks with a larger amount of white on the head.  Another looked very familiar to me and had a reddish head.  Winter plumage can be confusing sometimes!



 
Dec
12
    
Posted (crates) in birding, Birds, nature on December-12-2007

If we decide

to part

Let us not

say goodbye,

but when

holding hands

walking down a

deserted beach,

I will bend over

to pick up a

shell

and when I turn

to show you…

you’ll be

gone.

 

     Tonight I shall go to bed about 5 am and as to when I arise, who can say? No later than ten, more like 9 am, I would guess.  My sleep patterns have been disrupted for years I think, and all this work doesn’t help.   Three nights ago I decided to take some melatonin before going to bed.  So far since beginning to take it, I have slept much sounder and deeper.  Once before when I tried it, I had vivid dreams and that seems to be the case now.  My dreams are longer and much more involved.   I have read that .5 mg taken before bed is about all  one needs, and so I think that I will cut the 3 mg. tablets that I have in two and see how that works. 

     A while back on one of my walks to the beach, I saw a flock of about 18 Common Mergansers swimming in Puget Sound near the bank.  For some reason the female seems much more common, and I only occasionally see the male.  Almost all of these birds were swimming along with their heads stuck just below the water up to the eyes, presumably looking for fish.  They are skittish birds and I stood very still to avoid spooking them.  They swam swiftly by heading north along the bank and were soon lost to sight.  Just recently I had seen this behavior for the first time when I saw the Loon, and now there were all these birds doing the same thing!



 
Oct
31
    
Posted (crates) in birding, Birds, nature, Personal Stuff on October-31-2007

     I had a chance to use my newly acquired Swarovsky binoculars that I mentioned a few posts ago.  These are the 10×42’s.  I agonized over whether or not to get the 8×42’s since they have a wider field of view and are considered by some to be better at finding birds in thick brush.  However, I read several accounts by people who said they preferred the ten power since they had no problems using them in brush and that they were useful at identifying birds far off.   In the past I have always used 7x binoculars and have heard other people claiming that for birding you couldn’t beat 6x!  Like everything else such things are extremely subjective and also depend upon the particularities of the area and conditions, etc.

Anyway I decided upon the ten power binoculars because I didn’t think I would have a problem using them in brushy, woody conditions and also because I often try to identify birds far out on the waters of Puget Sound.  Spotting scopes are good for these far-off conditions of course, and I have a Bausch & Lomb balscope (15X-60X) that I bought for $300 back in 1972 when I was taking an Ornithology course taught by Dr. Mengel at the University of Kansas.  This was an incredible amount for me at the time, and I still have this old classic still marked with my address of the time (2234 Tennessee St., Lawrence, Kansas–stick on strips).  This good friend is very rugged and durable, but I suppose it is considered dated for these times.  I have used my newly acquired Swarovskys down on the Sound looking at birds very far out in the water.  I compared them to a $19 pair of binoculars that I bought last year to replace my Bushnells which were stolen in Panama.  The cheap binoculars had a power of 10X50 and were considerably inferior to the Swarovskys as expected.  The Swarovskys were incredibly brighter even though they had a smaller objective lens (42 mm) as opposed to the cheaper binoculars (50 mm).  Remember that the first number represents the power, and the second number the diameter of the objective lens (the big lens): e.g. 8X42.

I almost didn’t go on my morning walk because my right knee is still hurting, but I thought that I would go slow and take the opportunity to look for birds.  The Swarovskys did extremely well.  The image was very bright even in the dimness of the woods on this cloudy day.  The focusing knob was smooth and quick, allowing me to rapidly focus on the fast moving birds in the trees.  I was able to see details on the birds that allowed for quick and easy identification.  All in all I am very pleased with them.  In my short halting walk I didn’t see that many birds but here is a list:

  1. Chestnut backed Chickadee
  2. Bushtit (Pacific Coast variety)–once called the Common Bushtit.
  3. Red Breasted Nuthatch
  4. Robin
  5. Common Crow–the crows here by Puget Sound may be the smaller Northwestern Crow.  I’ve never made my mind up about them.  As far as I know they both occur here.
  6. Stellars Jay
  7. Golden Crowned Kinglet
  8. Red-shafted Flicker now listed under the Northern Flicker as a subspecies.
  9. Common Raven
  10. Winter wren
  11. Oregon Junco–apparently this is now considered a subspecies of the Dark-eyed Junco (Junco hyemalis) which includes at least six subspecies none of which appear to be actually called the Dark-eyed Junco! Don’tcha just hate the Taxonomists?  (just kidding)
  12. Spotted Towhee (I learned this one as the Western Towhee–more taxonomic reshuffling.

I realize that this is a puny list, but hopefully when I walk down to the water, I’ll see more aquatic species…and remember it was a very short walk!  Hey, why am I defending myself?  Is it a competition?



 
Oct
23
    
Posted (crates) in biology, birding, nature on October-23-2007

Posted 21November2007 For some reason I can’t get this post to save to this date.

I just opened this up preparatory to writing something when the sun came out. I am sitting in the southeast facing windows of Cutter’s point and the appearance of the early morning sun from behind the clouds was like being at the center of a bright spotlight. Other people blinked, squinted and held their hands up to shield their eyes from this manifestation. I have heard one report that claimed that the residents of the great northwestern United States buy more sun glasses than any other part of the country. I find this plausible even though the sun at these latitudes is very weak–when it deigns to show itself from behind the clouds and mist. People act like owls suddenly exposed to the light of day, blinking, squinting, and immediately reach for their sunglasses. Personally I almost never use these things even when I lived in Texas.

Actually the weather during this Thanksgiving holiday is expected to be sunny after the morning clouds. Yesterday morning I took more time on my walk to look at birds, and found myself freezing. Normally the cold doesn’t bother me on these walks even though I wear shorts, except perhaps for the top of my left hand. Yesterday I found that my hands were very cold as I held the binoculars and I found myself shivering. I assume that this was because I stayed out longer, and I was spending more time looking for birds instead of moving fast. I saw the usual woodland species (Stellar’s Jay, Golden-Crowned Kinglet, Ruby-Crowned Kinglet, Chestnut back Chickadee, Oregon Junco, Robin, Red-shafted Flicker, Winter Wren, Downy Woodpecker) and saw some interesting hollow trees.

When I was a kid roaming about the Jim Miller woods in Pleasant Grove (now a suburb of Dallas), I would find these large hollow trees or stumps which appeared charred with fire on the inside. I remember a buddy remarking that there must have been a fire that blackened the interior of the hollow. I remember being skeptical at the time, but I had no other possible explanation. The trees around the old hollow tree were unblemished and there was no indication of a fire outside of the hollow interior of the tree. My skepticism was reinforced in later years as I witnessed this phenomena everywhere that I went. In fact, yesterday I observed this great broken hollow tree whose interior appeared to be charred by a hot fire. Since the outside of these trees show no evidence of fire, I have gradually come to the conclusion that fire has not caused the charred effect. The interior of these trees are dry and are thus not subject to the effects of fungus which will quickly cause the decomposition of any fallen wood. I think that the charred effect has come about by the long slow oxidation of the dead wood in the tree hollow. This is in fact a “burning” albeit much slower than fire. (I just found another site mentioning these types of trees).

When I got to the beach, my attention was captured by what looked like the head of a seal moving along the bank. When I examined this strange object with my binoculars, however, I saw that it was a Red Throated Loon in its winter plumage which was paddling swiftly along with its head stuck in the water. I think that I have seen videos of this behavior in which the loon paddles along with its head stuck in the water looking for fish, but I had never observed it. My first thought was how my eyes burn when they get salt water in them, and I wondered how the loon was able to bear this. I suppose that it moves its nictitating membrane over its eye; perhaps this “third eyelid” is clearer than some that I have seen which wouldn’t cut visibility down so much and would allow the eye to be protected. There was also a Great Blue Heron standing in the water’s edge. These large birds are very shy and it took off down the beach after a couple of minutes of eying me suspiciously. I saw the usual unknown gulls and other water fowl far out on the waters of the Sound. I tentatively identified some Horned Grebes and a Pigeon Guillimot and what appeared to be a Cassin’s Auklet. Double-Crested Cormorants were extremely abundant with flocks of them fishing and diving. I saw one raise its head with what appeared to be a large brown leaf which turned out to be a flounder, or flat fish, which it somehow managed to swallow.



 
Jun
28
    
Posted (crates) in biology, Birds, Ecology, Endangered Species, nature on June-28-2007

     There was an article in the paper a few days ago talking about how the common birds of Washington State are diminishing drastically in numbers.  Today they took the American Bald Eagle off the endangered species list, but unfortunately many of these common birds don’t have the glamour nor do they occupy public awareness as does the magnificent Bald Eagle.

     According to annual bird counts and an analysis of breedng records, in the past forty years birds such as the Evening Grosbeak and the Bonapart’s Gull have dropped 97%!  The Purple Finch populations have dropped 87%; the Yellow-Headed Blackbird 72%, and the Western Meadow Lark 60%.  See this and related articles here.  The reason most likely is destruction of habitat.  For example as the prairies and open areas are built up the Meadow Lark has no place to live.  Destruction of forests (see post of two days ago) and other habitats are also responsible.

For example, not only the the forests and prairies are disappearing, in Eastern Washington the shrub steppe prairies, wetlands and grasslands are also rapidly disappearing along with the species that depend upon them.

     Of course the factors involved can be quite complex.  Pollution and global warming no doubt is having an effect.   As species such as the herring and crustacean populations of Puget Sound plumet it has an inevitable effect on the species on the uppper part of the food chain, such as the Bonaparte’s Gull.  The delicate web of life is being torn and shredded with unpredictable effects.

    

    One of the shocking things is that these are not the already endangered or rare species, but once common species that we see at our bird feeders.  The disappearance of common species will have a much larger effect upon our ecosystems than if the problem involved only rare species.

     Audubon lists some things that everybody can do to help.

    



 
Jun
18
    
Posted (crates) in biology, Birds, Evolution on June-18-2007

Ever wonder why some organisms occur on all or almost all the southern continents?  Paleontologists noticed that a certain plant fossil, Glossopteris, was found in rock deposits (Permian-Triassic) of  Africa, South America, Anarctica, Australia and India.  This led some to believe that there was once a large southern land mass that was eventually named Gonwana after the district in India where this plant was found. Quite a few species show this southern distribution pattern including the Ratites.

These are the large flightless birds of the southern continents, characterized by the absence of a keel on their sternum (breast bone).  Sternal keels act as attachments for muscle in birds that fly.  Since the ratites are flightless, they have no need for such a structure (ratite: from latin ratis for raft). These Paleognath (old jaw) birds are grouped together based upon their unique palate, and are all flightless, although fossil forms show a keel on their sternum which indicates that the living forms evolved from early Cenozoic ancestors that could fly.  The flightless habit has arisen independently and many other flightless birds such as penguins and rails belong to the NEOgnathae along with most of the flying birds. 

Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Superorder: Paleognathae
Order: Struthioniformes
    

 Families:      

        Struthionidae (ostriches)
Rheidae (rheas)
Casuariidae (emus etc.)
Aepyornithidae
          (elephant birds)
Dinornithidae (moa)
Apterygidae (kiwis)

 Order: Tinamiformes                 (Tinamous) 

Some sources:  Wikipedia article    DNA of ratites     Eating ratites

 

Having nothing better to do, I just took the nerd test.  I mean, I thought that perhaps I was slightly nerdy…maybe…ya know?  Like in a kool sort of way.  Imagine to my surprise when I scored 91% which ranks me as…well look what the results said:

 

 What does this mean? Your nerdiness is:Supreme Nerd. Apply for a professorship at MIT now!!!.

There has to be a mistake…dontcha think?

UPDATE: December 13, 2011:  I took it again:

 

Here is your nerdy image:

How can this be?  I am becoming more nerdy…::sob::

However, when I took version 2 which narrowed the nerd evaluations to subjects, I did better, or worse…

 Looks as if I am not a dumb dork anyways. 🙂

UPDATE: May 12, 2015–this time I got 97 as a Nerd Score: All hail the monstrous nerd. You are by far the SUPREME NERD GOD!!!

Well…I don’t care. I guess that I AM a nerd.  Any nerdettes out there?

I went ahead and took the “advanced” nerd test:

For Dumb/Dork/Awkwardness:

98% scored higher,
2% scored the same, and
0% scored lower.

Does this mean I got a 2? ::counting on fingers::

From this time forward, you’ll hold the title:
Uber Cool Nerd King



 
Apr
07
    
Posted (crates) in Birds, nature, Photography, Plants on April-7-2007


Yesterday morning when I walked out on the porch, it was so slippery that I thought for a moment that it had frosted during the night. I then realized that there was a film of yellow pollen over the porch and steps which acted as as a fine lubricant. Wiping the railing, I found that my finger tips were covered with the powder-like pollen. I had to hold on the railing as I climbed down the steps for fear of slipping. My car and the windshield were also covered with it. This happens every year. This year it coincided with some warm weather that we had for the past two days. I am almost certain that this pollen is coming from the Douglas Fir trees that surround my house, but I didn’t check the male cones. When shaken they produce a great cloud of pollen during this time of year. Luckily, I don’t seem to be allergic to pollen from this species.

I am enclosing some more photos. To the left is the fiddle head from my least favorite fern–the Bracken Fern(Pteridium aquilinum) that I have mentioned before. They are coming up everywhere like weeds–which they are! They occur worldwide and is such a pest in Britain that they initiated a program to control their spread. People eat them like asparagus as I said before, but this fern contains carcinogens, and in areas where they are consumed regularly such as Japan, the occurrence of stomach cancer is among the highest in the world.

I also found that the Horsetails (Equisetum) are coming up in my yard. They used to be used as scouring pads because of the large amount of silicon in their cell walls. These are a primitive group of Vascular Plants (containing tubes) that reproduce by spores instead of seeds. The strobilus, shown here, is the spore producing body which in this area comes up before the photosynthetic stems. The photosynthetic vegetative stems can be quite attractive, especially when they catch the light in shaded areas, but they can be a nuisance because of their tendency to spread.

It is also that time of year for my old friend the Dandelion (Taraxcum sp.) to blossom forth in all its glory. I had very few Dandelions until I disturbed my yard a few years ago in order to empty the septic tank. This disturbance in the grassy lawn was all it took for them to take hold with a vengeance. I just gave in and learned to enjoy their beauty before they go to seed and become all raggedy. The Dandelions in the Northwestern U.S. are the most beautiful that I have ever seen. They seem to be larger and deeper yellow than those I have observed elsewhere.
The birds are also singing their little heads off. Like clockwork on April 1 in open areas, I heard the White Crowned Sparrow (Poor little me, deep!). About my house, I hear the species that are most common to the woods and boundary areas. The WinterWren, the Robin, the Varied Thrush along with the Chestnut Backed Chickadee are all singing loudly. The Spotted Towhee is just getting started and will remain the most vocal bird in the area through July. Also, although I have seen the Song Sparrow , it has barely begun vocalizing. Soon it will become, like the Towhee, one of the most heard bird around my house.