Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Birds: Palkachupa Cotinga. Attwater’s Prairie Chicken. Hummer’s Migration. Whooping Cranes. Bird Funerals. Sandhill Cranes. Lascaux Art. JFK and Jackie.

For “Winged Wednesday”:

Palkachupa Cotinga

Palkachupa Cotinga by Juan Carlos Atienza

“This beautiful cotinga has a distinctive long, forked tail, dark mask, bright yellow-orange throat, and pale yellow underparts patterned with black barring and spotting. Males and females appear similar. This species feeds by flycatching in the forest canopy and eating fruits. It nests in trees along forest edges, and even in isolated trees among savannah-type habitat, in loose colonies of up to five pairs.

The species was unrecorded for 98 years until its rediscovery by ABC partner Associacion Armonía in 2000. It was elevated to full species status in 2011 based on evidence presented by Bennett Hennessey in The Wilson Journal of Ornithology (the bird was originally thought to be a subspecies of the Swallow-tailed Cotinga, which occurs 1,400 miles away in Brazil).

Eighty percent of the Palkachupa Cotinga's habitat has been destroyed by clearing and burning forest for firewood and pasture; unfortunately, this destruction is ongoing.  Parts of the cotinga's former range are now completely treeless. Nesting success in remaining habitat is low; predation by jays and severe weather are the biggest causes of breeding failure.

In 2010, a 145-acre reserve was established for the species. ABC has supported Armonía's work to study and conserve the Palkachupa Cotinga and continues to seek additional support for land-use planning and management, with the cooperation of the local community.”

Help ABC conserve this and other birds and their habitats!

Photo: Juan Carlos Atienza; Range Map, ABC


Attwater's prairie chicken on the Texas City Preserve on the Gulf Coast.

Prairie Chicken

“Paradise Lost. The precipitous decline in the Attwater’s prairie chicken population can be traced directly to the loss of their habitat in the tallgrass prairie, a system that once covered six million acres across Texas and Louisiana but that exists today only in patchwork fragments.

For the Attwater’s prairie chicken, partnerships between conservationists and private landowners in the Refugio-Goliad Prairie—and the beneficial fires they create—are the difference between life and death.

The Nature Conservancy and partners are teaming with ranchers to rebuild a diminished culture of fire and restore prairie chicken habitat to its natural state.

Like grassland habitats around the world, the Refugio-Goliad Prairie thrives on regular fire. Conservationists believe the prairie was historically subjected to regular wildfires roughly twice each decade. These fires thinned out mesquite and other woody plant species and created nutrient-rich soil that bolstered the growth of native prairie grasses.”    More at:



Migration Update: August 31, 2012    

Please Report Your Sightings!

“Week #2: Still Seeing Hummingbirds? Let Us Know!
It's the end of August and hummers are on the move! They will soon be disappearing in the north and appearing in larger numbers in the south. This week's slideshow and journal page aid in understanding the month-by-month lives of hummers. We thank YOU for helping us tell this fall's exciting migration story:

Please report weekly as long as hummers are present. Your photos are welcome, too!

See the Animated Migration Map at:

You can read all of the observations people have submitted here.


Young Whooping Cranes Will Learn Migration Route from their Elders

“Six whooping crane chicks arrived Tuesday at Horicon National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) in Dodge County, Wis.  The cranes are part of the Direct Autumn Release (DAR) project conducted by the Whooping Crane Eastern Partnership (WCEP), an international coalition of public and private organizations that is reintroducing this highly imperiled species in eastern North America, part of its historic range.”     Read more >>

Two adult whooping cranes with one young one.


Birds Hold Funerals for Their Dead

“Funerals by definition are ceremonies honoring a dead person, but researchers have just observed what appears to be the avian version of a funeral.”


DNEWS VIDEO: Birds attacking cats! Cats attacking each other!

What's going on in this video?





Teresa Iglesias and colleagues studied the western scrub jay and discovered that when one bird dies, the others do not just ignore the body. Multiple jays often fly down to gather around the deceased. The subsequent ceremony isn't quiet either.

"Discovery of a dead conspecific elicits vocalizations that are effective at attracting conspecifics, which then also vocalize, thereby resulting in a cacophonous aggregation," Iglesias and her team wrote.”

More at:


Colombia Mega Dam Will Destroy Habitat for Threatened Macaw and Newly-Discovered Wren

Military Macaw by Greg Homel

Military Macaw by Greg Homel, Natural Elements Productions.

“Celebrations over the discovery in Colombia of a new species of bird were short lived when it was revealed that much of its habitat – also the habitat for a threatened macaw – is in danger of being flooded by a new hydro-electric dam project.

The July edition of The Auk – a leading, peer-reviewed ornithology journal – announcing the discovery of the Antioquia Wren (Thryophilus sernai) in the Central Andes of Colombia, came one year into a seven-year construction project for what is to become the largest power station in the country. The nearly $5.5 billion, 738 foot tall Pescadero-Ituango hydroelectric dam will flood 15 square miles of habitat, drowning all six locations where the newly identified bird has been confirmed so far.

Of equal concern is the likely flooding by the dam of habitat for the last colony in the region of the threatened Military Macaw. This spectacular green, red, and turquoise parrot has scattered, sparse populations throughout Central and South America, including one colony 15 miles (25 km) upstream from the dam—well within area targeted for flooding.”  More at:


Early bird arrival offers hope for Sandhill cranes' future

Top Photo

Sandhill cranes fly over the Woodbridge Ecological Reserve and Isenberg Sandhill Crane Reserve on Woodbridge Road on Nov. 6, west of Interstate 5. CLIFFORD OTO/The Record

“Sandhill cranes have returned to their winter quarters in San Joaquin County earlier than ever.  And while no one can firmly say why, it might be a good sign for this iconic species nearly slaughtered out of existence during the Gold Rush.

Lodi birder Esther Milnes, a longtime California Department of Fish and Game docent, was driving home Saturday from a Bay Area concert when she spotted eight to 10 cranes in a field of grain stubble just north of Eight Mile Road and east of Interstate 5.  "I was 99.999 percent sure," she said.

Another birder confirmed early arrivals at Staten Island, in the Delta. And Kathy Grant heard them honking as they flew over her Lodi home Monday.  "It was uncanny," she said. "I heard them and thought, 'Man, what was that?' Within three minutes an email was coming saying they're showing up early. I was like, 'I really did hear them. I'm not hallucinating.' 

Gary Ivey, with the International Crane Foundation, confirmed that this was the earliest arrival on record. It's often the second or third week of September before the birds show up, and even later for those winging all the way from Alaska.  What's going on?  "I can only speculate," Ivey said.  But his theory goes something like this:

Before the Gold Rush, sandhill cranes often spent summer months in the Sierra Nevada, where they would breed before flocking down to the Valley for the winter.  Unregulated hunting by gold miners changed all of that. Eventually there were five pairs of breeding cranes left in the entire state, Ivey said.”  More at:


Wildlife-friendly farming practices

Wildlife like these Sandhill cranes forage through crop residue in late spring. No till and cover crops not only protect water quality and improve soil health and productivity, but provide vital habitat and forage for wildlife.

“In my spare time I farm a few acres raising corn, soybeans, and wheat in Wisconsin. Two years ago, when I first purchased this land, I implemented two practices: no till planting and cover crops. No till, besides being defined mostly by what it doesn’t do, involves different planting, nutrient management, and weed control techniques that improve soil health and greatly reduce erosion. Cover crops are typically not harvested, help protect and improve soil health, and provide nutrients for commodity crops to use also resulting in reduced erosion and improved crop production. Both help wildlife by providing habitat and forage and reducing agriculture’s impact on water quality (for more information on these practices see this report).

No till and cover crops increase carbon sequestration, provide more benefits to wildlife, and reduce erosion. It was specifically that last point why I went out in the rain a few weeks back. As I made my way down the road I noticed the water running off of my field was still clear. The soil and nutrients stayed in the field.

But as I crossed the road it was a rather different story which became immediately apparent. Runoff from my neighbor’s field (using conventional tillage practices) was a thick brown color, indicating considerable soil and nutrient loss—contributing to water quality issues for wildlife and downstream residents.”  More and video at:


On This Day:

Lascaux cave paintings discovered, Sep 12, 1940:

“Near Montignac, France, a collection of prehistoric cave paintings are discovered by four teenagers who stumbled upon the ancient artwork after following their dog down a narrow entrance into a cavern. The 15,000- to 17,000-year-old paintings, consisting mostly of animal representations, are among the finest examples of art from the Upper Paleolithic period.

First studied by the French archaeologist Henri-Édouard-Prosper Breuil, the Lascaux grotto consists of a main cavern 66 feet wide and 16 feet high. The walls of the cavern are decorated with some 600 painted and drawn animals and symbols and nearly 1,500 engravings. The pictures depict in excellent detail numerous types of animals, including horses, red deer, stags, bovines, felines, and what appear to be mythical creatures. There is only one human figure depicted in the cave: a bird-headed man. Archaeologists believe that the cave was used over a long period of time as a center for hunting and religious rites.

The Lascaux grotto was opened to the public in 1948 but was closed in 1963 because artificial lights had faded the vivid colors of the paintings and caused algae to grow over some of them. A replica of the Lascaux cave was opened nearby in 1983 and receives tens of thousands of visitors annually.”


JFK marries Jacqueline Bouvier, Sep 12, 1953:

“Senator John Fitzgerald Kennedy of Massachusetts marries Jacqueline Lee Bouvier, a photographer for the Washington Times-Herald, at St. Mary's Church in Newport, Rhode Island. More than 750 guests attended the ceremony presided over by Boston Archbishop Richard Cushing and featuring Boston tenor Luigi Vena, who sang "Ave Maria." A crowd of 3,000 onlookers waited outside the church for a glimpse of the newlyweds, who were taken by motorcycle escort to their wedding reception at Hammersmith Farm, an estate overlooking Naragansett Bay. Kennedy was elected the 35th president of the United States seven years later.”



Another day that we didn’t need AC until the afternoon.  Ray and I wouldn’t have had it on anyway, as we were getting some items that I have for sale out of the house.  I had Prime and Misty put up in my bedroom, as we had the doors and front gate open to facilitate moving the stuff.  Then Ray ran the blower on the pathway and carports.  I was still busy sorting through things, and putting them away.

Maybe, after my doctor appointment, I can get the rest done today.


Dizzy-Dick said...

You are working too hard. How about taking a vacation?

Gypsy said...

I am fortunate to be able to enjoy hummers year around in Sacramento.

LakeConroePenny,TX said...

Thank you for your comments, Gypsy and DD.

DD: I wouldn't know what to do with myself, if I didn't have all these jobs to do! I would just spend too much time sitting at this computer. There are so many things in there that fascinate me.

Gypsy: That would be wonderful to see the hummers all year long.

Even the other birds don't frequent the feeders much in the summer, but we make sure that they are full in the wintertime.

Happy Tails and Trails, Penny