Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Lawrence's Goldfinch. Painted Bunting. Scruffy Feathers. A Murder? Prairie Chickens. Drought. Owl Poop. Putin Leads Cranes. President Peron. RIP Orange Glow.

For “Winged Wednesday”:

Lawrence's Goldfinch

Lawrence's Goldfinch by Greg Homel

“The Lawrence’s Goldfinch is a striking little finch, with gray body plumage, yellow and black wing, and a yellow breast patch; males also sport a black face, forehead, and chin.

This bird is known for its wandering ways; it can be common in a certain area one year and totally absent the next. It feeds almost entirely on seeds, particularly those of the common fiddleneck plant. It will also visit backyard feeders for niger thistle seed. During the breeding season, males form small flocks while females nest. Outside the breeding season, both sexes gather in small flocks of fewer than 50 birds, sometimes with other small, seed-eating birds.

Much of this goldfinch’s breeding range is under pressure from rising human populations and development. Since it has a relatively small population, habitat loss may put it at risk.  Its breeding status and distribution is still poorly known; more study is needed to fully understand its population dynamics.”

Help ABC conserve this and other birds and their habitats!

Photo: Greg Homel, Natural Elements Productions; Range Map, NatureServe


Nature Photo of the Week: Painted Bunting

Painted bunting

“Flickr photographer shsober captures the vivid colors of this painted bunting perfectly. What incredible color! Thanks for submitting this photograph through The Nature Conservancy’s Flickr group.

See all of The Nature Conservancy’s featured daily nature images — submitted to the Conservancy’s Flickr group by people like you — at  And get inspired to take your own great nature shots — check out our favorite nature photography features, including amazing slideshows and tips from the pros.”  From:      


Birds' scruffy feathers are only temporary





A house finch undergoes feather molt after the breeding season.  Photo By Kathy Adams Clark

“Some of the birds in your backyard may look unkempt if not downright scraggly, as though their clothes have worn out.

Birds, of course, are clothed in feathers, and feathers do wear out. The gorgeous, eye-catching plumage you saw in spring and for most of summer has begun to fade and look tattered from being bleached by sunlight, scraped against tree limbs and scarred by dust and gravel.

Think of the wear and tear on the feathers of a bird such as a western scrub-jay, which must continuously slip in and out of a nest placed deep within a tough-barked Hill Country shrub. Or a downy woodpecker in Southeast Texas that makes untold trips to a nest inside a tree hole excavated just underneath a vertically leaning limb.

When juvenile birds leave the nest, they look even sloppier than worn adults. The young bluebirds in our backyard are lackluster brown with blotchy spots on their breasts. My wife recently took a photo of a juvenile Virginia's warbler while conducting a workshop in Arizona. The bird was so disheveled it was barely recognizable.

Yet the ratty plumage will change by October as adult birds complete a process called molt, discarding their worn-out feathers and replacing them with a new coat. Young birds born in spring will gradually replace their juvenile feathers with adult plumes.

Although feathers are dead parts like human hair, they do not continuously regenerate. So birds go through the time-consuming process of molting (call it "changing out") their feathers once or twice a year. And because molting consumes a bird's energy, the bird must wait until after breeding season.”  More at:


A Murder, a Party, a Stare, or a Siege? Written by Ellen Blackstone

One crow is just a crow.
Two make a pair. Three might be a crowd, but a group of crows is called “a murder.” A fitting name for this bunch of rascals! How did such a name come about?
According to James Lipton, author of An Exaltation of Larks,  these names—called collective nouns—have been around for hundreds of years. Others believe that the Victorians invented many of these names as a fanciful parlor game. Collective nouns are a mixture of poetry, alliteration, and description. These labels are not used by ornithologists, but they add a bit of fun to the study of birds, don’t you think?
If you’ve ever watched a parade of swans on a lake, you can see why it’s called a “wedge” of swans. Bold, raucous jays make up a “party” of jays. Many names bring an image of the birds instantly to mind: a “stare” of owls, a “company” of parrots, a “spring” of teal.
Now, here’s one that might be misnamed. Do you think all this noise should be called a “murmurration” of starlings?” Article with recordings of the bird’s songs at:


Drought deals setback to prairie chicken recovery efforts

A Prairie Chicken walks out from an acclamation pen at Attwater Prairie Chicken National Wildlife Refuge, Tuesday, Sept. 4, 2012, in Eagle Lake. Photo By Cody Duty/Houston Chronicle

EAGLE LAKE - For a football-size bird with a goofy build, the Attwater prairie chicken flies with astounding grace. As it soars over a late-summer field green with blue stem, yellow Indian and other native grasses, the newly released zoo-bred bird seems ready to take its place among the masters of the sky.

Soon, the prairie chicken is joined by others, each erupting from its chain-link enclosure with the sound of a tiny helicopter.

Last year's drought reduced the Attwater population from 110 to 46, 30 of them at the Eagle Lake refuge. Only two were found at Texas City.

"The Attwater is an endemic Texas species, part of our natural heritage and history, and we don't want to lose things that are part of Texas' natural history."” More at:


Drought limits migrating birds' rest stops

Thousands of migratory waterfowl — including these ducks — call Quivera National Wildlife Refuge in Kansas home every fall as they make the journey to their winter homes. / By Craig Hacker, for USA TODAY

“Millions of migrating ducks, geese and other waterfowl will find fewer rest stops on their way south this fall — more fallout from a drought that has parched marshes, ponds and wildlife refuges on flyways between North and South America.

Hurricane Isaac and its remnants are dumping heavy rains from the Gulf Coast to the Great Lakes, helping waterfowl conditions in the Mississippi and Ohio river valleys, but the storm missed drought-ravaged portions of the Plains and western USA, where ponds and refuges have dried up.

Waterfowl populations are up, and healthy birds are coming off several lush years in prairie-pothole nesting grounds in Canada and the northern USA. The drought hit after robust hatches in the spring, when adequate water was present in the nesting areas, and late-August rains have helped. But conditions are so severe and widespread that migrating flocks have little margin of error, especially if drought continues into spring.”  More at:


Dogs sniff out owl poop in name of science

“A series of forest searches by dogs specially trained to sniff out northern spotted owl pellets – the undigested bones, fur and other bits regurgitated by owls – improved the probability of finding the owls by nearly 30 percent over a series of traditional vocalization surveys.

OwlDetectionDog 225x300 150x150 Dogs sniff out owl poop in name of science“Wildlife managers spent years trying to get good forest practices in place that are contingent on spotted owl presence and now the invading barred owl is hindering our ability to show it’s there,” Wasser said.

“Vocalization surveys have a lot of value and by no means are we suggesting that the dogs should replace the vocalization surveys. But dogs can add value. The dogs have higher detection probabilities than vocalization surveys under some circumstances, can simultaneously detect spotted and barred owls and don’t need owls to vocalize to be detected. The vocalization surveys have the advantage of being able to cover a much, much bigger area. The two together would be very complementary.”  Read more at:


Vladi­mir Putin leads cranes in flight

“The idea of Russia’s leader, Vladimir Putin, donning a fake beak and using a hang-glider to lead captive Siberian cranes to freedom is not unusual for a man accustomed to public displays of avocational skill.

Russia’s president, perpetually on the lookout for the photogenic natural adventure, stopped at an Arctic peninsula on his way to a summit in Vladivostok and used a motorized hang glider to lead a flock of captive-raised red cranes, the Interfax news agency reported early Thursday.

The idea was to start the birds on their winter migration — an undertaking that required Russia’s strongman to don white coveralls and wear a glove that looks like a beak.  That way, the young cranes would think he’s their mother.”  More at:

“Russian President Vladimir Putin, who has tracked a Siberian tiger and posed with a polar bear, has taken his love of wildlife to new heights by flying with cranes - to lead them on a migration route.
Putin has communed with wild animals several times as part of an effort to create the image of a clean-living, nature-loving person during his 12 years as Russia's paramount leader.
This time around, he donned a baggy white costume with a spacious helmet and goggles and flew in a motorized deltaplane light aircraft surrounded by several young cranes that were born in captivity, in order to help introduce them to the wild.”


On This Day:

Peron deposed in Argentina, Sep 19, 1955:

“After a decade of rule, Argentine President Juan Domingo Peron is deposed in a military coup. Peron, a demagogue who came to power in 1946 with the backing of the working classes, became increasingly authoritarian as Argentina's economy declined in the early 1950s. His greatest political resource was his charismatic wife, Eva "Evita" Peron, but she died in 1952, signaling the collapse of the national coalition that had backed him. Having antagonized the church, students, and others, he was forced into exile by the military in September 1955. He settled in Spain, where he served as leader-in-exile to the "Peronists"--a powerful faction of Argentines who remained loyal to him and his system.

Meanwhile, a string of civilian and military governments failed to resolve Argentina's economic troubles. The memory of Peron's regime improved with time, and Peronismo became the most powerful political force in the country. In 1971, the military regime of General Alejandro Lanusse announced his intention to restore constitutional democracy in 1973, and Peron was allowed to visit Argentina in 1972. In March 1973, Peronists won control of the government in national elections, and Peron returned in June amid great public excitement and fighting among Peronist factions.

In October 1973, Peron was elected president in a special election. His wife, Isabel Peron, an Argentine dancer he married in 1961, was elected vice president. She was much resented by millions still devoted to the memory of Evita Peron.

Economic troubles continued in Peron's second presidency and were made worse by the Arab oil embargo of 1973 and an outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease that devastated Argentina's beef industry. When Peron died on July 1, 1974, his wife became president of a nation suffering from inflation, political violence, and labor unrest. In March 1976, she was deposed in an air-force-led coup, and a right-wing military junta took power that brutally ruled Argentina until 1982.”



It was an eventful day.  Claudia called me at 7.30AM to tell me that her son Jay was in the hospital.  He went somewhere drunk, and had been beaten up.  He called Claudia about every two hours during the night, so she hadn’t had any rest.  She was exhausted, and still had to drive all the way to her doctor in The Woodlands that afternoon.  I told her to go back to bed, and that I would go get Jay.  He even called me from the hospital while I was talking to her, wanting me to go get him right away. 

Well, I wasn’t ready for that.  I still had to wrap some dishes in bubble wrap and pack them in a box to get a quote at the Post Office for shipping to Alaska.  I had checked online, but I wanted to be sure. I took Misty for a quick walk, and then went to get Jay in Conroe.

Jay said he wanted to go thrift shopping, but I didn’t have time for that.  But we did stop at the optician’s with my new glasses that don’t ‘see’ right, and they are going to remake them. 

Orange-Glow-RIP.9.18.2012A quick stop at the Post Office, and my guesstimation when weighing the box on my bathroom scales was pretty accurate, then I took Jay home.

In the afternoon, Ray came over and asked me where the water pipes were over by Princess’ grave. (Their black lab who died in 2006) It was his way of telling me that he had to dig a grave for Orange Glow.  Ray had tears in his eyes while he dug it deep.  We wrapped Orange Glow in his favourite pink blankie and tearfully wished him a good trip to Rainbow Bridge. 


Orange Glow after surgery (Small) He was an exceptional kitty, and even stopped a big dog from biting Shay, back in 2009. He had been hanging around here as a stray for a while, and had made this his home.  We were going to hand him over to the pound, but when he protected Shay, we knew he was a real member of the family, and had him neutered.  That is when we found out that he had the deadly Feline Leukemia, and decided to give him a happy, loving life instead of having him PTS at that time.  I took care of him, post-surgery, in my grooming room, and he was the perfect patient.  He loved us all, just as much as we loved him.

We knew he wasn’t doing well, but we didn’t expect him to go so fast.  Even Misty knew something was missing, as Orange Glow would lie under my motor home in the hot weather, and Misty would bark ‘hello’ at him.  She and Blackie keep on looking for him.  At least Orange Glow lived in the comfort of Ray’s house during his final days.


Sandra said...

So sorry about Orange Glow. I'm glad he knew he was loved.

I think you should start charging for your taxi services!

Dizzy-Dick said...

I ditto Sandra on both accounts. Always hate to hear of a beloved pet passing away. The void is terrible, I know.

LakeConroePenny,TX said...

Thank you for your comments, Sandra and DD.

Yes, he knew he was loved, and purred every night when he was being brushed. We will miss him terribly.

I made Jay wait while I did my Wednesday shopping on Tuesday, so that I wouldn't have to make a special trip! That'll teach him!!

Happy Tails and Trails, Penny.