Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Gilded Flicker. Let’s Talk Turkey. Whooping Cranes. Sea Turtle Comes Home. Rare Island Scrub-Jay. Puffin Charmer. BirdNote. Britannic. Holland Tunnel.


For “Winged Wednesday”:

Gilded Flicker

Gilded Flicker by Greg Homel

“The Gilded Flicker is a medium-sized, tan and black woodpecker, with a yellowish crown and yellow shafts on its primaries. It was formerly regarded as a subspecies of the Northern Flicker (along with the Yellow- and Red-shafted Flickers), but was declared a separate species in 1995 based on differences in range, appearance, and adaptations to a desert environment. It is non-migratory.

The Gilded Flicker nests primarily in cavities dug into saguaro cacti, but also may use cottonwoods and willows in riparian woodland. It is primarily a ground-foraging species, feeding on insects (primarily ants), fruits, and seeds.

The loss of nesting habitat and suitable nest cavities in the Sonoran Desert are the primary threats to the Gilded Flicker, especially in Arizona, where human population growth is intense. The conservation of this woodpecker is important to other species, such as the Ferruginous Pygmy-Owl and Elf Owl (another WatchList species), which nest in the holes that the Gilded Flicker excavates. Since the Gilded Flicker's range is already severely restricted, preserving the Sonoran Desert and protecting its large cacti are the two most important conservation issues for this unique species.”

Help ABC conserve this and other birds and their habitats!

Photo: Greg Homel; Range Map, NatureServe


Let’s Talk Turkey: The History of a Wild Icon in America

“The turkey (Meleagris gallopavo) is one of wildlife conservation’s greatest success stories. Unlike the accomplishment of cooking up a delicious stuffed turkey for Thanksgiving, this success story is about wild turkey. In the early 19th Century the wild turkey was reduced to a population of just 30,000.  Today, the population numbers about 7 million in North America.”

Rio Grande Wild Turkey puffing out his feathers. U.S. FWS photo by Robert Burton.

“The domesticated turkey of today bears little resemblance to their wild ancestors. Turkeys are a native North American bird that was a food source for the Native Americans who introduced turkeys to the recently-arrived Pilgrims and Spanish Conquistadors in the 15th Century. 

The Aztec Indians of Mexico domesticated the Mexican subspecies of the wild turkey (called guajolotes) and the Spanish explorers took some of these back to Europe in the mid-16th Century where they became common farmyard animals.  These domestic turkeys eventually completed the circuit and came back to North American turkey farms from Europe.  In fact the domesticated versions  are so much larger and with so much more breast meat that they are unable to fly and have lost the instincts their wild cousins depend upon for their survival.

Original wild turkey distribution in North America (image via Wikimedia).

Wild turkeys can fly and run at incredible speeds. They reach up to 55 mph flying and 25 mph running.  They are also far more beautiful than the white domestic version that becomes the supermarket’s butterball. The wild turkey’s dark feathers are iridescent with shades of red, green and copper that shine when hit by the sun.  The male bird (called a gobbler, or Tom) is the most colorful with a bright red head and neck wattle with a beautiful fan of tail feathers that it spreads out to impress the lady turkeys (called hens).

Turkeys are the largest member of the grouse family and they are the second largest wild bird in North America (after Trumpeter swans).  Males weigh 11-24 lbs and females 5-12 lbs.”         More at:   From Wildlife Promise


Five whooping cranes bed down in Alabama on cross country migration

whooping-crane-migrationjpg-3e8980e2a2e9ba82_large.jpg “A flock of whooping cranes, one of the rarest animals on earth, follows an ultralight aircraft over west Alabama Wednesday afternoon.

The birds, en route from Wisconsin to the St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge in Florida, are coaxed into migrating south after months of training with ultralight aircraft. The planes and birds travel 50 to 60 miles each day. A ground crew follows along in RVs, setting up a pen for the birds to sleep in at each stopover site.” (Courtesy of Operation Migration)

“A flock of five whooping cranes, among the rarest birds on the planet, landed in Walker County Tuesday afternoon.

Unlike the millions of birds migrating south this fall, this small flock of birds is making its way south following behind an ultralight airplane. The birds represent the latest crop of juvenile whooping cranes raised by Operation Migration.

"Frost glistened off the fields below shimmering reflections from the pivot near the pen," read a post from ultralight pilot Richard van Heuvelen describing this morning's take off in Tennessee.

Van Heuvelen refers to his plane as a "trike." He and the birds flew at 70 miles an hour at an altitude of 5,000 feet.

"The chicks hesitantly tumbled out of the pen until they saw the approaching trike. They immediately sprang into the air, coming after the trike. As I circled around, like champs, they formed up on the wing. Once they were on the wing, I turned to head on." Each year, Operation Migration raises whooping cranes that were hatched in captivity and trains them to follow ultralight aircraft. The goal is to help the birds learn to migrate and help reestablish a wild population.

Toward that end, the birds are serenaded with a soundtrack of airplane engines in the nest, beginning before they hatch. By the time the birds begin the migration, they’ve come to think of the airplanes as parents, say scientists. The birds are introduced to the pilots and airplanes five days after hatching to help imprint humans and machines as paternal figures.

Whooping cranes were hunted to the brink of extinction in the 1800s, largely for their plumage, which was used in ladies hats. Destruction of wetlands around the country also hurt the population. The known population today consists of fewer than 500 birds. At one time, the population was believed to have dwindled to as few as 15 birds.”  More at:

Read the Lead Pilot’s Report each day at:


Kemp's ridley sea turtle Flip returns to Coastal Bend on Thursday after washing ashore on Dutch beach

Contributed Photo
Flip, a 4-year-old Kemp's ridley sea turtle, swims at the Animal Rehabilitation Keep in Port Aransas.
CORPUS CHRISTI, TX — “A 4-year-old Kemp's ridley sea turtle is back in the Coastal Bend after a 5,000-mile round-trip from Holland.

Nicknamed Flip by aquatic staff, the female turtle was found cold-stunned in December on a Dutch beach near The Hague.

Native to the Gulf of Mexico, Flip wandered into a powerful Gulf stream which took her up the East Coast and into colder waters in the North Atlantic.

When she was discovered in South Holland, Flip weighed a little more than 4 pounds. Staff from SeaLife, a global aquatic network, nursed her back to health and Flip was brought back to South Texas weighing a healthy 13 pounds.”  More at:


New Study Identifies California Bird as One of Rarest in U.S.

Island Scrub Jay by Glen Tepke

(Washington, D.C., November 16, 2012)  “The current population of the Island Scrub-Jay, a rare California bird, is only one fifth of what experts had previously believed, according to a new study. The Island Scrub-Jay is a brightly colored blue and gray bird that is only found on Santa Cruz Island, which is about 17 miles off the coast of California, directly south of Santa Barbara.

“The bad news is that we only have about 2,500 of these birds left, a very small number for any species,” said lead author Dr. Scott Sillett of the Smithsonian’s Migratory Bird Center.  “The good news is that we are seeing an increasing population trend. It appears that there has been about a 20-30 percent population increase in the last 25 years owing to a series of conservation actions on the island.””  More at:


The Puffin Charmer

By thinking like a social bird, Stephen Kress brought puffins back to the United States.  Decoys and music lure birds back to Maine.

Puffins stands on a cliff top in Inner Farne, England

“First things first: Puffins are adorable. You don’t have to be an animal lover to be charmed by their clownish faces, their waddling walk, and their chubby-dumpling bodies. Their fluffy chicks make even hardened cynics coo. (Really. They’re irresistible.) 

But Atlantic puffins were once driven to near-extinction in the United States by hunting and egg collecting. The busy colonies off the Maine coast today are the result of a long-running restoration project. It took a tremendous amount of time and effort to turn a heretical idea into the noisy, messy, thriving reality of the Maine puffin colonies—and it takes even more work to keep that reality in place.

By 1901, a single pair was left in the state, and only a few pairs had been seen since. Unlike many people in Maine at the time, Kress had a visceral sense of what had been lost: He had recently worked in eastern Canada, which has some of the largest puffin colonies in the world. He started to wonder if Atlantic puffin chicks could be transplanted from Canada to Maine and used to re-establish the population south of the border.”   Read more at:



Upcoming Shows:

Turkeys, Cardinals, and




Northern Cardinal

Feisty Cardinal
by Frances Wood


Black Scoter

The Music of Black Scoters
by Bob Sundstrom


Red-shouldered Hawk

Birding with Grandpa
featuring Dick Ashford


Douglas Squirrel

The Douglas Squirrel
by Chris Peterson


Wild Turkey

The Day of the Turkey
by Frances Wood


Common Redpoll

Common Redpoll
by Dennis Paulson


Northern Shoveler

Hunters' Names for Ducks
by Todd Peterson


On This Day:

Britannic, sister ship to the Titanic, sinks in Aegean Sea, Nov 21, 1916:

“The Britannic, sister ship to the Titanic, sinks in the Aegean Sea on this day in 1916, killing 30 people. More than 1,000 others were rescued.

In the wake of the Titanic disaster on April 14, 1912, the White Star Line made several modifications in the construction of its already-planned sister ship. First, the name was changed from Gigantic to Britannic (probably because it seemed more humble) and the design of the hull was altered to make it less vulnerable to icebergs. In addition, it was mandated that there be enough lifeboats on board to accommodate all passengers, which had not been the case with the Titanic.

The nearly 50,000-ton luxury vessel, the largest in the world, was launched in 1914, but was requisitioned soon afterward by the British government to serve as a hospital ship during World War I. In this capacity, Captain Charlie Bartlett led the Britannic on five successful voyages bringing wounded British troops back to England from various ports around the world.

On November 21, the Britannic was on its way to pick up more wounded soldiers near the Gulf of Athens, when at 8:12 a.m., a violent explosion rocked the ship. Captain Bartlett ordered the closure of the watertight doors and sent out a distress signal. However, the blast had already managed to flood six whole compartments—even more extensive damage than that which had sunk the Titanic. Still, the Britannic had been prepared for such a disaster and would have stayed afloat except for two critical matters.

First, Captain Bartlett decided to try to run the Britannic aground on the nearby island of Kea. This might have been successful, but, earlier, the ship's nursing staff had opened the portholes to air out the sick wards. Water poured in through the portholes as the Britannic headed toward Kea. Second, the disaster was compounded when some of the crew attempted to launch lifeboats without orders. Since the ship was still moving as fast as it could, the boats were sucked into the propellers, killing those on board.

Less than 30 minutes later, Bartlett realized that the ship was going to sink and ordered it abandoned. The lifeboats were launched and even though the Britannic sank at 9:07, less than an hour after the explosion, nearly 1,100 people managed to make it off the ship. In fact, most of the 30 people who died were in the prematurely launched lifeboats. In 1976, famed ocean explorer Jacques Cousteau found the Britannic lying on its side 400 feet below the surface of the Aegean. The cause of the explosion remains unknown, but many believe that the Britannic hit a mine.”


Holland Tunnel appears on the cover of Time, Nov 21, 1927:

The Holland Tunnel, New York's

“On this day in 1927, Time magazine puts the week-old Holland Tunnel on its cover. The tunnel, which runs under the Hudson River between New York City and Jersey City, New Jersey, had opened to traffic the week before, at the stroke of midnight on November 13. (Earlier that day, President Calvin Coolidge had ceremonially opened the tunnel from his yacht on the Potomac by turning the same key that had "opened" the Panama Canal in 1915—Time called it "the golden lever of the Presidential telegraphic instrument"—which rang a giant brass bell at the tunnel's entrances.) On that first day, 51,694 vehicles traveled through the tunnel.

Time presented all of the tunnel's vital statistics: its total length (9,250 feet, the "longest of its kind in the world"), length under the river (5,480 feet), hourly and yearly vehicle capacity (3,800 and 15,000,000, respectively), excavation (500,000 cubic yards of soil and rock) and cost ($48.4 million). It also explained the most significant thing about the tunnel: its sophisticated ventilation system.

Until its engineers could figure out a way to keep carbon monoxide out of the air, building an underground road for cars and trucks had been a foolishly dangerous idea. A team of scientists from Yale, the University of Illinois and the Bureau of Mines discovered that only four parts of the poisonous gas per 10,000 of air could be lethal, and they recommended that the tunnel's builders design a two-duct ventilating system to ensure that people in the tunnel would always have fresh air to breathe. As Time explained: "To prevent disaster absolutely Chief Engineer Holland installed 84 ventilating fans in four 10 story buildings, two on each side of the Hudson. Part of them blow fresh air into the tunnel floor through vents, others suck vitiated air through ducts in the tunnel ceiling. Thus they change the tunnel air completely 42 times an hour and but 56 of the fans are needed to do so." (The other 28 were reserved for emergency use.) It took—and still takes—about 90 seconds to replace all of the air in the tunnel with fresh air.

On the day the tunnel opened, the toll was 50 cents per car in both directions. In 1970, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey switched to one-way tolls. By 2009, the one-way toll was $8.”



It seemed to make sense not to go into town on our usual shopping day, Wednesday.  The day before Thanksgiving would be crowded, so yesterday became shopping day.  I didn’t need much, but I sure didn’t want to run out of anything important like pet food or fresh veggies.  Hopefully, I won’t have to go to town again until a lot of the sales and clamour have died down. 

Jay, all straightened up, went with me, as he hadn’t been out of the subdivision for ages.  We did rush through some thrift shops, but just bought a couple of shirts. 

Ray will be on his own this Thanksgiving because Shay is out of town, so I bought a little turkey and some sweet potatoes.  It won’t be the spread that Shay usually puts on, but I will do my best to make a feast for this thankful day.


Dizzy-Dick said...

I had to pick up my prescription t Was.-Mart today. It was/really busy and the traffic was bad. Got my pills and want home. Too much traffic and crowds.

LakeConroePenny,TX said...

There is no way that I will go near Walmart for some time.

I didn't even want to go near Conroe for a while, but we ran out of paint.