Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Cranes and Red Tide. 1,500 Yr.Old Trees. Bird Seed. Parenthood. Cargo Trailer. RAIN!

Red tide a concern as whooping cranes land at Aransas National Wildlife Refuge
CORPUS CHRISTI —"As the first whooping cranes of the season arrive at the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge, biologists there are worried that ongoing red tide may affect the endangered birds, which are sensitive to any changes in their environment.

It's unclear what effect red tide, a toxic algae bloom that causes respiratory symptoms in humans, will have on the flock, but red tide is known to be fatal to birds, said Dan Alonso, manager of the refuge.
The red tide toxin tends to accumulate in razor clams, one food source for the birds, Alonso said.
Even if there is a harmful effect on the flock, there's little wildlife officials can do because red tide is a natural occurrence, he said.

The persistent red tide bloom has lingered for weeks in the Coastal Bend and proved resistant to the weekend's cool front.

The toxic algae seems to have regrouped and settled in Corpus Christi Bay, said Meridith Byrd, a harmful algae biologist with Texas Parks & Wildlife. Red tide in high concentrations can kill and particles of the toxin spread through the air can cause eye and throat irritation and coughing."
More at:
Current Status.  Red Tide Update.  November 7, 2011

"TPWD has tentatively scheduled an overflight for Thursday, weather permitting. The flight will cover Matagorda/Lavaca Bay to the Rio Grande.

Galveston area: No new fish kill reports have come in for the Galveston area. TPWD Coastal Fisheries were in the Gulf of Mexico offshore of Galveston last week and did not see any visibly discolored water.

Mustang Island: Visitors report light aerosols and dead fish washing ashore along Mustang Island.

South Padre Island area: Large numbers of striped mullet are washing up on the town’s beaches this morning and red tide can be seen in the surf. An additional fish kill has occurred in the west end of the Brownsville Ship Channel. Coastal Fisheries staff were in the Gulf offshore of South Padre Island on Saturday but did not see any visibly discolored water. Red tide is present in the Long Island area of Port Isabel, causing aerosols and dead mullet to wash in over the weekend."

Birds live in trees, but lost these:

"I had never seen a giant sequoia before. As we set out on the Trail of a Hundred Giants of the Giant Sequoia National Monument, I found my eyes searching skyward, my neck craning as my steps quickened. What I quickly learned is that you don't have to search for a sequoia.

About 10 steps down the path, and smack dab in front of me rose a trunk so massive that my first thought was, "This can't possibly be real." Twenty feet wide and more than 300 feet high, it looked like something dreamed up at Disneyland. But as we ventured into the cool forest, in the shade of the giants, it’s quickly apparent they’re anything but fake. They're the world's largest living organisms, shading the hillside and standing sentry in that exact spot for more than 1,000 years.

Think about it. These same trees were here while the pharaohs ruled ancient Egypt, as King Arthur and his knights sat at the Round Table, and well before Christopher Columbus sailed the ocean blue. They've lived through an ice age and survived countless wildfires.

But on Sept. 30, a pair of 1,500-year-old giants (middle-aged in sequoia years) crashed to the ground. A German tourist was there at that very moment and  kept his composure as the ground must have started to rumble. He recorded the scene as the twin trunks toppled through the forest. (Make sure you check out our video!)"     NBC News


ABC Announces Findings in Bird Feed Contamination Tests

"ABC has announced the results of its study to test the risk to wild birds posed by pesticides in bird seed. The ABC study involved seed samples randomly taken from four sources across the country: Wal-Mart, Home Depot, Lowes, and Target.

Bird seed was then shipped to the California Food Safety Laboratory at the University of California, Davis, where the detailed analyses were conducted. The studies specifically looked for harmful pesticides, such as organophosphate and carbamate insecticides.

“The potential for birds to be unwittingly poisoned by the very people who feed them was something we felt it important to know, so we could either raise the alarm bell or put people’s minds at rest,” said Darin Schroeder, ABC’s Vice President for Conservation Advocacy.

“I am pleased to announce that all the tested bird seed was either free from pesticides or contained residues below levels that would threaten bird health. So, in continuing to buy their favorite seed, America’s bird watchers should feel assured that the birds they love are getting a healthy food product,” Schroeder said.

The ABC studies were the first of their kind, and resulted from previous, sporadic wild bird seed contamination incidents.
“We wanted to make sure that past poisoning cases were behind us, and as far as we can tell, that is the case.

The bird seed producers seem to be doing a good job of producing a safe product,” he said.
Schroeder also announced that this round of tests may not be the last. “These tests produced favorable findings, but some form of periodic analysis may be warranted to make sure that we can all continue to buy bird food products with peace of mind, and to ensure that people’s money is spent helping birds, and not unintentionally harming them.”

All birds lay eggs; most lay them in nests

Part 2 of  "Parenthood"

"Finding a place to safely place and hatch their eggs, and raise their young to the point of independence, is a challenge birds have solved in many clever ways. They use artistry, intricate design and complex engineering. The diversity of nest architecture has no equal in the animal kingdom.

In many species the male bird's skill at nest building is a sign of his suitability as a mate; he invests huge effort in the task. Males of the European house wren build up to 12 nests to attract females. They will continue to build new nests until a female is happy with the construction.

Many birds build isolated, inconspicuous nests, hidden away inside the vegetation to avoid detection by predators. Some of them are so successful at hiding their nests that even the all-seeing eyes of man has hardly ever looked on them - birds like hummingbirds and manakins, for example. One secretive nester, the marbled murrelet, locates its nest high in the canopy of ancient Douglas firs over 300 years old.

One of the most remarkable ploys of placing its eggs out of reach of most predators is demonstrated by the African palm-swift. It uses its own saliva to glue its nest, a little pad of feathers, to the vertical underside of a palm frond. The two eggs are also glued to the nest and the parents incubate them by turns, clinging to the nest.

The edible-nest swiftlets of South-East Asia make a most unusual nest - entirely from their own saliva. The swiftlets build their nests high up on the roofs of a cave. The hard basket-shaped cups are made of concentric rings of a protein-rich goo secreted during the breeding season by the male's enlarged salivary glands. He dribbles long sticky strands, using his beak as a shuttle to weave a cup-shaped bracket onto the cave wall. (Unfortunately for the bird, the nests are a delicacy to some people.)

Birds employ the most astonishing strategies to conceal their young from predators. The female hornbill seals herself into the nest and stays inside the tree cavity throughout incubation, leaving only a tiny aperture. But she was careful to spend a few days testing the male's ability to provide her with food before she committed herself to laying.

Birds will use any available material that they can carry away to build their nest - leaves, sticks, mosses, lichens, feathers. The Australian Yellow-faced honeyeater sometimes filches the thick fur from the back of a koala, a large bear-like mammal, to line its nest.

Ovenbirds are some of the finest nest building craftsmen. They make a variety of nests, ranging from clay domes to stick nests, with intricate tunnel entrances and even underground burrows.

In many species females will carefully peruse the design and quality of the nest the male has build. If she likes it, she will move in; if not, the nest may be discarded or destroyed by the male.

The hammerkopf builds what must be the most extraordinary construction in the bird world. The huge, domed nest up to six feet high and across, is made of sticks, reeds and grass and can weigh up to 50 kg. The nest is placed in a tree fork, on a cliff or on the ground. The whole structure may take 6 weeks to build. There is so much room that many other species, such as weaver birds, mynas and pigeons, attach their own nests to this ample frame.

The sociable weaver in Africa constructs the largest and most spectacular of all communal bird nests. The enormous structure with its multiple nest chambers looks like a large haystack in a thorny tree. Up to a 100 pairs may nest in it.

Oilbirds in Venezuela nest in the pitch dark of caves. The ledges behind the mile wide Iguacu Falls on the Brazil-Argentina border are among the most secure nesting places of all. In the permanent damp inches from a constant deluge the great dusky swifts have found the last word in safe houses.

Some birds actively cooperate with other species. By nesting close to animals better equipped to deter predators, the birds are inadvertently protected by their neighbors.

A very unusual cooperation in breeding has evolved between members of two different bird species. The small red-breasted goose breeding on the Siberian tundra is extremely vulnerable to predation by arctic foxes. The geese have established a working relationship with another inhabitant of the arctic tundra. The peregrine falcon nests on the tundra at the same time, and this small but fierce bird of prey is able to ward off the hungry arctic fox. Red-breasted geese nest in tight knots around the nests of peregrine falcons, benefitting from the protection that the bird of prey offers. The peregrine does not prey on the geese and their young.
In return, the loud alarm calls of the geese alert the peregrine, which has its own chicks to protect. The swooping vicious attacks of the peregrine falcon soon deter the fox from coming any nearer.

Another ploy is to employ insects as "guard dogs". The rufous naped wren builds next to wasps' nests for protection. The rufous woodpecker [different species, despite the similarity of names] nests in the middle of an ants' colony. The ants' fury soon subsides and is transferred to any intruder that tries to steal the eggs Some birds do without a nest altogether. The Emperor penguin, which breeds in the middle of the Antarctic ice cap, where temperatures drop as low as -40C, is the only species of bird to lay its eggs directly on to snow. "

Wandering Albatross Courtship Display
"See the Wandering Albatross try to woo its mate. Albatrosses are accidentally killed by long ling fishing boats. This mortality can be stopped when bird conservationists and fishermen team up to prevent these accidental deaths. Learn how you can support this and other efforts to conserve seabirds at "



Misty and I went to get Jay, and when we returned Ray came over to work on the cargo trailer, too. 
Ray's car was still in the shop.  I had loaned him the Puddle Jumper the night before to take Shay around, as her bad spine discs were hurting and she could hardly walk.  She is still house and dog sitting two blocks away and they usually walk back and forth.  So he had the spare key in his hand to give back to me.  More about that later.

Jay and I worked on the cargo trailer's dinette table.  The sliding part of the table needed shimming as it was making the table rock a bit.  That steadied it up.

I took some more pictures:
Storage with the closet and other cabinet doors open.


Table slid to the left, taken from rear door.

How to stow bed and mattress when toy hauling.

We could have put a sunken through-the-floor-type table pole holder instead of the raised one, but I didn't want to cut a hole through the floor.

Ray was working on some white overspray, that he didn't do, on the black screen door of the trailer.
Before I started to tape everything up for spray painting, Ray tried Goof-Off, Paint Thinner, and denatured alcohol on it. 
The overspray still wouldn't come off.  Then I got some Comet, and a scrubbie, and it came right off.

Ray had just opened the paint can to do some touch-ups inside the trailer, and even had the brush in the paint, when the mechanic asked Ray to help him with the car.  The mechanic just had two knee replacements, so we try to help when we can.

Jay and I were working on the little Bio-Gel toilet, making some blocks so that it couldn't slide around, when it started to sprinkle.  No, not the toilet…the sky.
When it started sprinkling a little bit harder, we rolled up the tools, and I took Jay home.  Of course, then the rain stopped.

Then I started looking everywhere for the spare key to the Puddle Jumper.  I knew that if I had put it in my pocket with my other keys, that the spare key ring would probably get tangled up in them, and fall to the ground.  But I couldn't find it anywhere.

After lunch, there was a sudden deluge, so I had to quit looking for it.  Then it suddenly dawned on me that there was no way I would have put it in my pocket with my other keys, as I have been through that before.  (With two cars, I already have a set of keys in each side pocket)  I had told Ray to keep it, in case he needed to use the Puddle Jumper again.   Senior moment!

His car had more problems than he thought.  It went in for a sensor, and found out that it needed a water pump, thermostat and housing, brakes and a motor mount, but he finally got it back in the afternoon.

Well, we are thankful for any precipitation that we can get, but the heavy rain only lasted about 40 minutes, and it was only 0.31" even though rain was forecast for all day. 


Dizzy-Dick said...

Got the best rain we have had all year, but like you said, it only lasted a short time. When I first moved to this area it rained every afternoon for about 15 to 20 minutes and then the sun came back out. Of course that was 30 years ago.

Brenda Brown said...

I just love what you have done with the trailer. Do you have a before picture you can put next to this one?

LakeConroePenny,TX said...

Hi Brenda, good to hear from you.

I have been taking pictures as we have been working on it.

There is a whole album of 'before' and 'after' in the side bar.

Happy Dog and Horse's Tails, and Happy Trails, to you. Penny.

LakeConroePenny,TX said...

Thanks for your comment, Dick.
You must have arrived in the Conroe area about the same time as I did.
I escaped from Houston, after living there for 7 years. I had a peaceful little country place here, and would come up here even just for a few hours to decompress.

Then I made the decision to move up here, and I would never go back to Houston.

Happy Tails, and Trails, Penny.