Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Birds: Painted Bunting. Magnetic Field. Bird Poop. Exotic Pet Trade. Birding Apps. Barred Owls. Pretty Boy? Voltaire.

For “Winged Wednesday”:

Painted Bunting  (That’s a pretty bird)

Painted Bunting by Owen Deutsch

“The adult male Painted Bunting is one of the most colorful of all U.S.-breeding birds, with a deep blue head, red underparts and rump, and lime-green back.  In Louisiana it is also called nonpareil,  French for “without equal“ - a fitting term for this gorgeous bird.  The female is a cryptic yellowish-green; first-year males also sport this more subtle plumage.

Its diet consists mostly of seeds and insects, gleaned as the birds forage on the ground or in low brush. Males defend territory by singing from a high perch, often hidden among the uppermost foliage of a tree. Despite their brilliant colors, they can be hard to spot among the leaves!

Breeding Bird Survey data from 1966-2000 show an annual decline of 2.7% across its North American range. Loss and degradation of breeding and migrant stopover habitat are probably the biggest factors. It is a popular cage bird in some countries, and is heavily trapped for that purpose on its wintering grounds, particularly in Mexico, in some places causing its disappearance. The Painted Bunting is also vulnerable to cowbird parasitism.”

Help ABC conserve this and other birds and their habitats!


How Birds Navigate by Magnetic Field

“Birds are famously good navigators. Some migrate thousands of miles, flying day and night, even when the stars are obscured. And for decades, scientists have known that one navigational skill they employ is an ability to detect variations in the earth’s magnetic field.


Pigeons are able to record detailed information on the earth's magnetic field, according to a new study.

How this magnetic sense works, however, has been frustratingly difficult to figure out.

Now, two researchers at Baylor College of Medicine, Le-Qing Wu and David Dickman, have solved a central part of that puzzle, identifying cells in a pigeon’s brain that record detailed information on the earth’s magnetic field, a kind of biological compass.

“It’s a stunning piece of work,” David Keays of the Institute of Molecular Pathology in Vienna wrote in an e-mail. “Wu and Dickman have found cells in the pigeon brain that are tuned to specific directions of the magnetic field.”  More at:


Bird Poo Tower could prove research goldmine.

Droppings in abandoned Queen's University chimney a 'time capsule' on shift population, researchers say.

A researcher takes a sample from the two-metre chimney swift guano deposit inside a chimney at Ontario's Queen's University.

A researcher takes a sample from the two-metre chimney swift guano deposit inside a chimney at Ontario's Queen's University. (Chris Grooms/Queen's University)

“A two-metre tower of bird excrement at an Ontario university has become an unlikely archive that may reveal the reasons for the declining population of the North American chimney swift, according to new research by Canadian scientists.

"What we have is a history book that we didn't think we had before," said Dr. John Smol, one of the study's authors. Smol went on to explain that, to his knowledge, this is the first time anyone has ever measured stratified towers of bird droppings.

With this data, the researchers hope to show a link between the use of the insecticide DDT and the lower numbers of insect-eating birds, in particular, chimney swifts.” More at:


The Scourge of the Exotic Pet Trade, Story at-a-glance

“The exotic pet trade – the business of importing and exporting wild animals to sell as pets – is a multi-billion dollar industry, second only to the drugs and weapons black market.

Infant animals are in highest demand and bring the biggest profits to dealers, so poachers often kill the mother to more easily capture her young. Many exotics become so stressed during transport they die before ever reaching their destination.

In the vast majority of cases, wild animals who wind up as ‘pets’ live short, unnatural existences in inappropriate housing, with inadequate care and poor nutrition. The bigger and more unpredictable the animal, the more likely he will be abused or even killed while in captivity.”  Article at:


Hunt for the Masked Booby Goes Digital

“The Loggerhead Shrike, known as the "butcher bird" because it may impale its prey on thorns, eludes many Shenandoah Valley birders.

But with a smartphone and one of several clever new birding apps, a birder in the gently rolling fields would learn that shrikes had been sighted west of Staunton, Va., last month. Another tap would provide a map to the lane near Buffalo Gap in the Allegheny Mountains where a sighting was last reported. Depending on the app, a birder could also see an image of the shrike, learn about its habitat or even try to attract it by playing its harsh song.”


The Loggerhead Shrike

“Birding apps, listservs and websites have revolutionized a once-simple hobby for the nation's estimated 50 million bird-watchers. The digital tools are a boon for hard-core birders but a mixed blessing for birds. Augusta County farm owner Michael Godfrey says so many shrike-seekers have been showing up that they may have chased the birds into the next county.

As field guides move onto smartphones, birding may change even more, especially with the use of smartphone audio features for "digital playback" of bird songs in the field. Digital playback can attract jewel-like warblers from the high leafy canopy. Males hear the song, sense a rival and rush to investigate. Some people object to the practice because it agitates birds, if only for a short time. National parks and wildlife refuges ban it. While neither the National Audubon Society nor the American Birding Association opposes it, both warn against overuse.” More at:


Barred Owls Released into the Wild

“Humane Wildlife Services and The Raptor Conservancy of Virginia worked together to release two barred owls back into the wild after they got stuck in a chimney.”


Who's NOT a pretty boy, then?

‘Who are you calling ugly? Nelson the parrot chick adapts to life after being rejected by his parents following his birth at Bergzoo in Germany.

It hasn't cracked, yet: Nelson admires his very unique features, described as looking like a cross between an alien and a roast chicken, in the mirror

It hasn't cracked, yet: Nelson admires his very unique features, described as looking like a cross between an alien and a roast chicken, in the mirror

However, he can at least take some comfort in the knowledge that he will one day grow up to be an attractive Kea parrot.  Nelson, who has been described as looking like a cross between an alien and a roast chicken, was born last month at Bergzoo in Germany.  As such, the youngster is now being cared for around the clock by staff and spent the first four weeks of his life in an incubator.

Ugly no longer: Nelson will eventually blossom into a beautiful Kea parrot like this oneKeas are large parrots native to the alpine regions of New Zealand that are known for their intelligence and curiosity.  Adults are mostly olive-green with a brilliant orange flash under their wings.  But his looks won't last forever...

Ugly no longer: Nelson will eventually blossom into a beautiful Kea parrot like this one.” From:


On This Day:

Voltaire is imprisoned in the Bastille, May 16, 1717:

Writer Francois-Marie Arouet, better known as Voltaire, is imprisoned in the Bastille on this day in 1717.

The outspoken writer was born to middle-class parents, attended college in Paris, and began to study law. However, he quit law to become a playwright and made a name for himself with classical tragedies. Critics embraced his epic poem, La Henriade, but its satirical attack on politics and religion infuriated the government, and Voltaire was arrested in 1717. He spent nearly a year in the Bastille.

Voltaire's time in prison failed to dry up his satirical pen. In 1726, he was forced to flee to England. He returned several years later and continued to write plays. In 1734, his Lettres Philosophiques criticized established religions and political institutions, and he was forced to flee again. He retreated to the region of Champagne, where he lived with his mistress and patroness, Madame du Chatelet. In 1750, he moved to Berlin on the invitation of Frederick II of Prussia and later settled in Switzerland, where he wrote his best-known work, Candide. He died in Paris in 1778, having returned to supervise the production of one of his plays.”



Misty and I went to get Jay, as we needed to make the best use of this great weather to work on the cargo trailer. 

A bit more of the plumbing was completed, and now water can be pumped from the tank.  We also installed a switch in the cabinet next to the little 110v. fridge.  Whenever the trailer was plugged in, that little fridge would start running. It has a thermostat, but it doesn’t have an ‘off’ position. That didn’t seem right to me, so we mounted a box, cut the cord, and wired through a regular 110v. light switch marked  “FRIDGE”. 

Oh, how we would like to have this weather stay with us, instead of Summer’s hot and humid days!

1 comment:

Dizzy-Dick said...

Enjoy the nice days while they are still here. It will Bo HOT soon.