For "Winged Wednesday":
Snowy Owl, Majestic Northern Nomad
"Feathered from beak to toe tips, the Snowy Owl is well-equipped to survive on the frigid, high Arctic tundra. Its thick feathers make this bird North America’s heaviest owl, typically weighing about four pounds.
“Snowy Owls are one of those birds that really don’t seem like a bird at all—more like a furry white mammal with wings,” observes ABC’s Mike Parr. “Even though they look cuddly, I’m pretty sure they’d be tough customers if you ever tried to pet one!”
Some Snowy Owls remain on their Arctic breeding grounds year-round, while others migrate in winter to southern Canada and the northern half of the United States. In years when food is scarce, Snowy Owls may stage “irruptions,” traveling far south of their usual haunts in search of food, to the delight of birders and non-birders alike."
Wintering Snowy Owl
"New video: check out a beautiful Snowy Owl as it surveys the world from its near-ground perch—it spins its head nearly all the way around."
Snowy Owl Invasion
"Snowy Owls lead nomadic lives and travel vast distances from year to year searching for productive feeding areas. Some years, most recently in the winter of 2011/2012, conditions cause them to come south in great numbers.
Get an intimate look at these white owls from the north through video and photographs captured by the Cornell Lab's, Gerrit Vyn"
Canadian Arctic Expedition.
"Snowy Owls, Ivory Gulls and Sanderlings were the targets on a Lab of Ornithology expedition to collect sound recordings in the Canadian High Arctic. Join Lab staff Gerrit Vyn and Martha Fischer as they trek across barren Bathurst Island recording birds."
From me: BRRRR!!
Central Flyway Stand-out Species: Whooping Crane
"Today, we bring you a species that literally stands out in the Central Flyway: the Whooping Crane! Standing at nearly 4.5 feet, the Whooping Crane is the tallest North American bird. While still endangered, this species is a true conservation success story, having come back from the brink of extinction.
Dancing Whooping Cranes Claire Timm
The largest population of Whooping Cranes migrates entirely within the Central Flyway, from breeding grounds in far northern Alberta - nearly a 1,000-mile drive from the U.S. border - to a wintering range along the Texas coast.
In 1941, only 16 Whooping Cranes in this population remained. Thanks to an effort to protect the Wood Bison in north-central Canada, the land surrounding the last breeding territory of the Whooping Crane was simultaneously preserved 30 years before crane nests were discovered there.
A decades-long recovery effort by public, private, and non-profit entities in the U.S. and Canada has involved both captive breeding and habitat protection. Today, the wild population of Whooping Cranes numbers more than 400." please support BirdNote!
Listen to BirdNote shows about the Whooping Crane:
Sandhill Cranes and Whooping Cranes Dancing Together.
"You can see the Sandhill Crane playfully picking up a weed and tossing it several times."
Big Eyes, Small Brain
AN AMAZING FACT: "Ostriches once flourished throughout Africa; the majority now live in protected reserves on the continent’s east coast. Male African ostriches grow as high as nine feet tall and can weigh a hefty 345 pounds—making them the tallest and heaviest of all living birds.
Ostriches live in family groups consisting of one male and several hens. During breeding season, each hen lays between two and 11 creamy white eggs in a communal nest, which is a hollowed-out crater in the ground about 10 feet across. Eventually, these nests can contain up to 50 eggs each, but only about 20 can be successfully incubated. The eggs of the ostrich are the largest of any bird, measuring from six to eight inches long and weighing between two and four pounds. (The record is over five pounds!) An ostrich egg has the volume of about 24 chicken eggs, and though the shell is only 1.5 millimeters thick, it can hold the weight of a grown man.
They are not the smartest birds, yet the notion that they bury their heads in the sand is actually a myth. Sadly, these tallest, fastest, and biggest of birds also cannot fly, so they are easily farmed throughout the world for meat, feathers, and leather.
God teaches Job that He is Creator over all things, including the ostrich. The description given is all too accurate: “The wings of the ostrich wave proudly, But are her wings and pinions like the kindly stork’s?” (Job 39:13). God decided that the ostrich would not fly and would lay her eggs on the ground. He also decided just how smart to make this bird: “Because God deprived her of wisdom, And did not endow her with understanding” (v. 17).
Interestingly, the Bible also teaches us that the greatest of the angels had his wings clipped because his eyes were too big. So let’s be sure to remain humble with all the talents that God has given us."
Greater Honeyguide SUNDAY Following the Honeyguide by Bob Sundstrom LISTEN NOW ►
Snowy Owl TUESDAY A Year's Worth of Birds by Ellen Blackstone LISTEN NOW ►
European Starling WEDNESDAY First Bird of the Year by Lyanda Lynn Haupt LISTEN NOW ►
Lapland Longspur FRIDAY Sixteen-Year-Old Sets New Birding Record Featuring Aaron Gyllenhaal, Oak Park, Illinois LISTEN NOW ►
A birder SATURDAY The Big Year by Frances Wood LISTEN
On This Day:
New Year's Day, Jan 1, 45 B.C.:
"In 45 B.C., New Year's Day is celebrated on January 1 for the first time in history as the Julian calendar takes effect.
Soon after becoming Roman dictator, Julius Caesar decided that the traditional Roman calendar was in dire need of reform. Introduced around the seventh century B.C., the Roman calendar attempted to follow the lunar cycle but frequently fell out of phase with the seasons and had to be corrected. In addition, the pontifices, the Roman body charged with overseeing the calendar, often abused its authority by adding days to extend political terms or interfere with elections.
In designing his new calendar, Caesar enlisted the aid of Sosigenes, an Alexandrian astronomer, who advised him to do away with the lunar cycle entirely and follow the solar year, as did the Egyptians. The year was calculated to be 365 and 1/4 days, and Caesar added 67 days to 45 B.C., making 46 B.C. begin on January 1, rather than in March. He also decreed that every four years a day be added to February, thus theoretically keeping his calendar from falling out of step. Shortly before his assassination in 44 B.C., he changed the name of the month Quintilis to Julius (July) after himself. Later, the month of Sextilis was renamed Augustus (August) after his successor.
Celebration of New Year's Day in January fell out of practice during the Middle Ages, and even those who strictly adhered to the Julian calendar did not observe the New Year exactly on January 1. The reason for the latter was that Caesar and Sosigenes failed to calculate the correct value for the solar year as 365.242199 days, not 365.25 days. Thus, an 11-minute-a-year error added seven days by the year 1000, and 10 days by the mid-15th century.
The Roman church became aware of this problem, and in the 1570s Pope Gregory XIII commissioned Jesuit astronomer Christopher Clavius to come up with a new calendar. In 1582, the Gregorian calendar was implemented, omitting 10 days for that year and establishing the new rule that only one of every four centennial years should be a leap year. Since then, people around the world have gathered en masse on January 1 to celebrate the precise arrival of the New Year."
First modern Mummers' Parade, Jan 1, 1876:
"In honor of the American centennial, the first area-wide New Year's Day Mummers' Parade is held in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
Mummers' celebrations in America date back to colonial times, when the boisterous Swedish custom of celebrating the end of the calendar year with noise making and shouting was combined with the tradition of the British mummery play. Reciting doggerel and receiving in return cakes and ale, groups of five to 20 people, their faces blackened, would march from home to home, shouting and discharging firearms into the air while burlesquing the English mummers' play of St. George and the Dragon. Philadelphia, which had a sizable Swedish population, was the center of America's mummers' celebrations.
In 1790, Philadelphia became the capital of the United States, and President George Washington initiated a tradition of receiving "calls" from mummers at his mansion. In the early 19th century, the celebrations became so popular in Philadelphia that a city act was passed declaring that "masquerades, masquerade balls, and masked processions" were prohibited with threats of fine and imprisonment. While the celebrations were quieted, they did not cease, and when the law was abolished in the 1850s, there had been no reported convictions.
In celebration of the American centennial in 1876, what had been an uncoordinated group of neighborhood celebrations turned into an area-wide parade featuring various mummers' clubs. In 1901, Philadelphia's city government decided to sponsor the popular parade, and 42 fraternal organizations received permits to stage a parade in which prizes were awarded for costumes, music, and comic antics.
The Mummers' Parade continues to be a popular Philadelphia tradition."
An opportunity to catch up on emails, and blogs.
This cold, overcast weather is getting us all down and keeping us indoors. I just can't get warm. We Texans are used to seeing sunshine at least some of the day, and then we are happy to be outside. Ray has used twice the number of electric units that he did this month last year, and I have used one third more. But I have been trying to be frugal and wearing more clothes to keep the thermostat down, whereas Ray has his sister-in-law staying with them, and she is always cold, but won't put on a sweater.
Now that Peekers is at the Cat Habitat, I cleaned out the big cage where I used to keep him safe when people were running in and out of the house. Also, he had to be in it when the other animals were eating, as he would try to eat their food too.
Nala doesn't seem to miss him, but I did give her the chance to meet Ava, my 'new' old cat. They had seen each other from a distance, but that was all. They were both in my living room and I gently pulled a feathery toy on a string between them, but they wouldn't get close to each other, though they each played with the toy. I hoped that they would become friends, but Ava went back to her territory in my bathroom, and Nala retreated to the top of her kitty-condo. That is until the fireworks started, and then she stayed pretty close to me.
Now that Peekers isn't here, I can leave my bathroom door open most of the time, so that Ava can come and go as she pleases. But she prefers to stay in there and look out of the window or at the TV.
It was too cold to let the cats out on the screen porch yesterday.