Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Red-bellied Grackle. Starlings Non-native. Gunnison Sage Grouse. Not Birds of a Feather. Collision Deaths. Collateral Damage. BirdNote: Eagles, Kingfishers, and Bullet Trains ... Bees and Butterflies. Black Death.


For “Winged Wednesday”:

Red-bellied Grackle

Red-bellied Grackle by Murray Cooper

“The Red-bellied Grackle is an uncommon and distinctive blackbird found only in the Colombian Andes. It is large, long-tailed, and heavy-billed, with a bright red belly and glossy black plumage; adults also have a light yellow eye.

It is usually found in noisy groups of up to 50 birds in the forest canopy along edges, often in mixed flocks along with other large bird species such as oropendolas.

The continuing decline of this species is due to extensive clearance of its forest habitat through logging, agriculture, and human development. Although the Red-bellied Grackle tolerates modified landscapes to some degree, they seem to require mature forest for at least part of their life cycle. Brood parasitism by Giant Cowbirds could explain the local disappearance of the species in some areas; it is also sometimes persecuted as a crop pest, and trapped for the cage-bird trade.

ABC and Colombian partner Fundación ProAves are protecting habitat for the Red-bellied Grackle and other rare species such as the Chestnut-capped Piha, an AZE-listed species, at their Arrierito Antiqueño reserve, a 5,300-acre property with a lodge and trails for visitors and an ongoing reforestation program.”

Help ABC conserve this and other birds and their habitats!

Photo: Murray Cooper; Range Map, ABC


European Starling Nightmare

“From a hundred pairs in Central Park .... to a nightmare!   You can find European Starlings in huge flocks from coast to coast, and from Northern Canada deep into Mexico. Yet not one of these iridescent-black, yellow-billed starlings is native to the Americas. One hundred starlings were released in Central Park in New York City in 1890. From that small, misinformed beginning, starlings have now multiplied into more than 200 million birds across the country.

You can find starlings in huge flocks from coast to coast, and from Northern Canada deep into Mexico. Yet not one of these iridescent-black, yellow-billed starlings is native to the Americas.

Back in 1890, a man named Eugene Schieffelin had a dream. A resident of New York City, he wanted to be able to hear all the birds mentioned in Shakespeare’s plays. So he brought about 100 starlings from Europe and released them into Central Park. Today, those first 100 starlings have multiplied into more than 200 million birds.

It was the starling’s ability to mimic human speech that prompted Shakespeare to include the starling in his play Henry IV. Here are the lines that inspired the invasion of European Starlings: “The king forbade my tongue to speak of Mortimer. But I will find him when he is asleep, and in his ear I’ll holler ‘Mortimer!’ Nay I’ll have a starling taught to speak nothing but Mortimer, and give it to him to keep his anger still in motion.”  More at:


Newly Discovered, Nearly Extinct

images[10] “SEVERAL springs ago some friends and I arose before dawn in Moab, Utah, to witness the sunrise mating dance of the Gunnison sage grouse: a surreal display of nine ornately plumed, chicken-size birds tottering about amid the sagebrush like windup toys, fanning their spiky tails and uttering a magical sound — “pop ... pop-pop!” — as they thrust yellow air sacs out of their snow-white chests.

Now as I look back, I realize I might have been inadvertently paying my last respects. For the Gunnison sage grouse, only recently known to science, is going extinct, right before our eyes.

The Gunnison sage grouse received its common name in the year 2000, after several astute scientists recognized that its long crown plumes and elaborate mating display were completely different from other sage grouse. It was the first new bird species to be described in continental North America in a century, and it was already in trouble, its range having almost entirely shrunk to within the Gunnison Basin of western Colorado.”  More at:


How Birds of Different Feathers Flock Together

“The unified behaviour of bird flocks has puzzled scientists for hundreds of years.  The researchers discovered that birds prefer to fly close to members of their own species, and that the larger and more dominant rooks take the lead by flying near the front of flocks. Additionally, the lifelong, monogamous pair bonds that are characteristic of both species seem to be reflected in flight, as birds often fly particularly close to a single, same-species partner.”  More at:


Precedent-Setting Verdict Should Reduce Bird Collision Deaths in Canada

”Ripples May be Felt Elsewhere as Other Cities Grapple with Similar Issue.   A Canadian judge has recognized in a ruling the need for building owners to take action to reduce migratory bird deaths from lethal collisions with the highly reflective windows of office buildings.

“This is a significant development in an increasingly serious issue that is gaining more attention worldwide – the impact of man-made structures on wildlife, especially birds, and the need to modify existing buildings, as well as incorporating bird-friendly design into new construction.”  More at:


Clean Power Collateral Damage: Of Birds, Tortoises And The Transition From Fossil Fuels

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“Is kickstarting a clean-energy industry and accelerating a movement away from fossil fuels worth the expense of, say, a few desert tortoises or a collection of piping plovers? If so, how many of these threatened species would you be willing to sacrifice to build a commercial wind farm, or a utility-scale solar array?

It’s a stark and oversimplified way to frame things, of course, but the exercise helps to highlight the reality that renewable energy has environmental impacts, too. It’s a point that was raised with me recently by Eric Glitzenstein, an attorney representing, among other groups, the Alliance to Protect Nantucket Sound, a determined and well-funded coalition of residents in and around Cape Cod who are opposed to the construction of an offshore wind farm in nearby waters.”  More at:


image BirdNote Weekly Preview: Eagles, Kingfishers, and Bullet Trains ...    Upcoming Shows:

SUNDAY Walking on Eggshells by Ellen Blackstone LISTEN NOW

King Rail.   MONDAY Stalking the King Rail by Bob Sundstrom LISTEN NOW

Bald Eagles. TUESDAY Eagles Rebuild by Frances Wood LISTEN NOW

Eastern Bluebird. WEDNESDAY Voices and Vocabularies - Eastern Bluebird by Bob Sundstrom LISTEN NOW

Eurasian Kingfisher. THURSDAY Biomimicry - Japanese Trains Mimic Kingfisher by Chris Peterson LISTEN NOW

Red-winged Blackbird.  FRIDAY Red-winged Blackbird Harem by Frances Wood LISTEN NOW ►

Montezuma Oropendola Nests. SATURDAY Montezuma Oropendola's High-Security Nesting by Bob Sundstrom LISTEN


Our Winged Friends, the Bees:

Groups Challenge Proposed EPA Approval of Dangerous New Pesticide

“The groups are particularly worried about the effects on pollinators. Sulfoxaflor’s mode of action and toxicity present risks comparable to those exhibited by the neonicotinoids, a class of insecticides that are lethal to bees, birds, and aquatic organisms.

In addition, the groups pointed to studies linking Sulfoxaflor to developmental abnormalities in rodents and to benign and malignant tumors. Those tests and other evidence led the groups to assert that Sulfoxaflor’s potential mammalian and human toxicity has not been adequately evaluated.  EPA has stated that “Sulfoxaflor exposure through drinking water alone has the potential to be a relevant acute or chronic exposure route of concern for mammals or birds."

imagesCAS262JH Over the past decade, honey bee colonies nationwide have suffered record losses of 30 percent to upwards of 90 percent in worst case scenarios.  Pesticides have been identified as a primary contributing factor. The groups are astounded that the EPA finds it appropriate at this time to register yet another chemical that is “very highly toxic” to honey bees, especially given the incomplete studies and the lack of real-world data on Sulfoxaflor. The neonicotinoid pesticides have had extremely detrimental effects on honey bee populations, and approving Sulfoxaflor without more information about pollinator toxicity will likely compound these problems.”  More at:


Our Winged Friends, the Butterflies:

Help Save the Majestic Monarch Butterfly

“The Mexican government reported the lowest recorded levels of Monarchs after conducting their annual census in the butterflies' winter home. With Monarchs occupying only 2.94 acres of forest, the latest figures mark a 59 percent decline from just two years ago, likely exacerbated by droughts and high temperatures in the American Midwest, where the Monarch seeks food in the summer. Urge the EPA to intervene before it’s too late!”

Goal: 30,000 • Progress: 13,949

Sponsored by: The Rainforest Site

“The monarch butterfly is one of the most recognizable and revered butterflies in all the world.

Each year, the monarchs begin a remarkable journey when they fly north to lay their eggs—some as far as 3,000 miles. For three brief generations, each lasting only one or two months, the monarchs mate and breed. The fourth generation of butterflies then returns to Mexico where they hibernate in a remote forest for six to eight months, until it is time to repeat the process.

It is a process that has continued uninterrupted for 250,000 years, but the last 15 years have seen dwindling numbers. In the US, modern pesticides are killing milkweed, a primary source of nutrition. In Mexico, illegal loggers destroy their habitat.  Don't let this crown jewel slip away.  Urge the EPA to develop a monarch butterfly rescue plan here: "


5 Fun Things to Do With Kids on Learn About Butterflies Day  from Wildlife Promise

butterfly on flower by JF Bruzan

Coffee Filter Butterfly craft“Spring is in the air, and that means that something else is in the air: butterflies! March 14 was Learn About Butterflies Day, so spend some time outside with your kids today and see if you can spot one of those colorful creatures. If you need some inspiration, here are five ways you can celebrate:  More at:


On This Day:

Black Death is created, allegedly, Mar 20, 1345:

“According to scholars at the University of Paris, the Black Death is created on this day in 1345, from what they call "a triple conjunction of Saturn, Jupiter and Mars in the 40th degree of Aquarius, occurring on the 20th of March 1345". The Black Death, also known as the Plague, swept across Europe, the Middle East and Asia during the 14th century, leaving an estimated 25 million dead in its wake.

Despite what these scholars claimed, it is now known that bubonic plague, the most common ailment known as the Black Death, is caused by the yersinia pestis bacterium. The plague was carried by fleas that usually traveled on rats, but jumped off to other mammals when the rat died. It most likely first appeared in humans in Mongolia around 1320. Usually, people who came down with the plague first complained of headaches, fever and chills. Their tongues often appeared a whitish color before there was severe swelling of the lymph nodes. Finally, black and purple spots appeared on the skin of the afflicted; death could follow within a week. Later, a pneumonic form of the plague developed that was less common but killed 95 percent of the people who contracted it.

After the nomadic tribes of Mongolia were devastated by the plague, it moved south and east to China and India. Wherever it went, the death toll was high. It is thought that the disease made its way to Europe in 1346. In one famous incident, the Tatars, a group of Turks, were battling Italians from Genoa in the Middle East when the Tatars were suddenly stuck down by the plague. Reportedly, they began catapulting dead bodies over the Genoans' walls toward their enemy, who fled back to Italy with the disease. Although this account may not be true, it is certain that rats carrying the plague hitched rides on ships from Asia and the Middle East to Europe. In port cities everywhere, the Black Death began to strike. In Venice, 100,000 people died in total, with as many as 600 dying every day at the peak of the outbreak.

In 1347, the disease worked its way to France and Paris lost an estimated 50,000 people. The following year, Britain fell victim. Typically, countries would believe themselves to be superior and immune to infection when their neighbors came down with the plague, but soon found they were mistaken as the Black Death traveled across Eurasia, spreading devastation in its wake. By the time the worst was over in 1352, one third of the continent's population was dead.

Devastation on this scale brought out the worst in people. Often, it was not the movement of stars that was blamed for the disease, but the minorities in the community. Witches and gypsies were frequent targets. Jewish people were tortured and burned to death by the thousands for supposedly causing the Black Death. Preachers claimed that the disease was God's punishment for immorality. Many turned to prayer and those that did survive ascribed their good luck to their devotion, resulting in the rise of splinter religions and cults in the aftermath of the plague's destruction. Alternatively, some resorted to useless home cures to try to avoid the disease, bathing in urine or menstrual blood in an attempt to deter it.

The plague popped up periodically until the 1700s, but never again reached epidemic proportions after the 14th century.”



Another day of Ray and I toting a 220v. Heat/Air unit.  We cut open the box of the new one, and brought it in the house on the four wheel hand-truck.  This time we plugged it in before doing anything, to make sure it worked.  It didn’t. 

Jim the mechanic, came by with his little tester, the same as mine, and ascertained that it was hot on both sides, but he was dubious about the receptacle, as it wasn’t reading right on my ohmmeter.  I knew that we had had trouble with the ground screw, so I thought that might be the problem, too.   Ray and I moved some furniture in my bedroom, and we trucked the Heat/Air unit in there and plugged it into a 220v. receptacle in there.  It worked!

I quickly drove into town and bought another receptacle, but it still wouldn’t work.  Jim gave up.  So I called an electrician here in the subdivision, but he was in the next town and said that he would check it out when he returned.

imagesCAUPTUPP Don the electrician, arrived after lunch, and after testing it again, he said that it was getting 110v. on each side, but it wasn’t making 220v.  So he looked in my breaker box. 

During all the trouble with the defective Heat/Air unit, someone had moved the double-throw 220v. breaker into the wrong slot in the box.  See the maze in the bottom of the box, the 220v. breaker has to straddle in the right place to make 220v.  He moved the breaker down one slot, and all was well. 

Ray and I lifted the unit off the 4 wheel hand-truck and installed this new Heat/Air, so I finally had cool air yesterday.


Dizzy-Dick said...

The news this morning had a kukkabara bird bird on it. I remember a song we used to sing way back in the 1950's called "laugh little kukkabara" or something like that that.

LakeConroePenny,TX said...

Hi DD,

You must mean this one:

Happy Tails and Trails, Penny