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Aug 31, 2017

In Florida's Everglades...

Photo: Alamy Stock Photo
An Everglades Snail Kite (pictured above) rests in Water Conservation Area 3A., in Florida.   The district received nearly twice its average rainfall in June and about 150% of its average rainfall in July. When water levels stay high for too long, it can cause drowning of wildlife and damage to critical parts of the Florida Everglades system. While Hurricane Harvey hit the Texas gulf coast, residual torrential rain could exacerbate the Florida Everglades flooding situation, as might other hurricanes in the new season.
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Aug 30, 2017

Struthio camelus

Photo: Dan Callister / Alamy Stock Photo

The ostrich roams the great Sahara.
Its mouth is wide, its neck is narra.
It has such long and lofty legs,
I'm glad it sits to lay its eggs.
                                                    -- Ogden Nash
The Common Ostrich, pictured above, was photographed in South Africa at Cape Point, the most south western corner of the continent.
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Aug 29, 2017 mother-in-law jokes

Phalacrocorax aristotelis
Apart from having a 2-part Latin scientific name with 24 letters in it, this shag's claim to fame may very well be those piercing green eyes.   This one was photographed on the Farne Islands in Northumberland, England.   The islands are home to 23 different species of birds such as shags, guillemots, puffins, kittiwakes and terns.
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Aug 28, 2017

Butterfly with a bird name...

Photo: Josie Latus / Butterfly Conservancy
The Peacock Butterfly
Pictured above is a Peacock Butterfly, one of many that will be counted in Britain this summer, in what is being called the world's largest butterfly survey.   The total abundance of butterfly species has fallen by a quarter since monitoring began in 1976, with drastic declines for once-familiar butterflies such as the Peacock pictured above.   This phenomenon is similar in many ways to declines in bird species abundance.   As with certain bird species, some butterfly species numbers are changing (up and down) in certain areas.   Global warming is thought to be one of the causes of this.   Results of studies on changing environments may apply to both birds and butterflies.
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Aug 27, 2017

Arctic Terns ~ clever and opportunistic

Photo by David Constantini
These Arctic Terns were photographed by David Constantini, on Norway's Svalbard Archipelago and the photo was 'Highly Commended' in the 2017 BMC Ecology Image Competition. The birds found a clever nesting solution in a human-modified landscape.   They made their nest on an abandoned shovel.
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Aug 26, 2017

The Glorious Twelfth ~ "...killing for the psychopathic joy of it..."

 Photo: Jane Barlow / PA
Ben Quinn, writing in The Guardian Online on August 13, says the start of Britain's grouse shooting season has been overshadowed by protests, marking the growing confidence of animal rights supporters that they are making their biggest breakthrough since the hunting ban in 2004.   The protests took place on Ilkley Moor, the site of the only shoot still taking place on public land.   BBC presenter Chris Packham told thousands of marchers that the days of the West Yorkshire shoot were numbered.   "I think when people now see others killing for the psychopathic joy of it they are increasingly sickened and the reason for that is that our wildlife is running out".

Photo: Jeff J. Mitchell
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Aug 25, 2017

Guillemots are found on all arctic coastlines

Photo by Yuri Smityuk / Tass
This Guillemot was photographed in Avacha Bay, on the southeast coast of Russia's Kamchatka Peninsula. in the north Pacific Ocean.   While this Guillemot appears to be taking a running start to get itself airborne, this waterbirds is quite able to quickly leap into the air, whether on the ground or in the water.   The guillemot is classified as 'Least Concerned' (LC) on the IUCN Red List, however it is susceptible to ingestion and biomagnification of marine pollution because it takes prey from shallow water or at the sea floor.   The Cornell Lab of Ornithology says studies have shown accumulation of mercury, pesticides, and cruse oil residue in body tissues and eggs.   Oiling of feathers from spills at sea usually result in death.

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Barry Wallace

Aug 24, 2017

Hard to tell where bird begins and flowers end

Photo: Alamy
A Rainbow Lorikeet (Trichoglossus haematodus) is a colourful, medium-sized, Australian parrot.   It feeds (in any position, it seems) on the flowers of a coral tree.
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Aug 23, 2017

A rather unfortunate name...

Photo: Alamy
Aphelocoma Californica
A Scrub Jay is seen on Angel Island State Park, in the San Francisco Bay, off California, US.   I've wondered in the past about whether the Scrub Jay was named for the scrubby habitat it prefers or for its sometimes scrubby and dull looks, compared to other beautiful jays.
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Aug 21, 2017

Bullock's Oriole ~ way out of bounds

Photo: Birds and Blooms
Oriole to return to west coast by jet aircraft
Nearly two year ago, a female Bullock's Oriole was seen perched on an apple tree in Ontario.   It was thousands of kilometres from its natural habitat and caught the attention of birdwatchers across Canada.   Now, the Bullock's Oriole who ended up in the Ottawa area is about to finally fly home to western Canada, courtesy of Air Canada.   She was first spotted in late 2015; probably blown off her migration route.   Weeks later, she was found lying in snow and freezing temperatures, and suffering from frostbite, dehydration and hypothermia.   She was taken to the Ottawa Valley Wild Bird Care Centre  and began to recuperate.   After much red tape, it was decided to return the Oriole to British Columbia, the northern most point of the Bullock's Oriole habitat.   Once the bird is rehabilitated by the Wildlife Rescue Association of British Columbia she will be freed to find her way back to her native wintering grounds in the southern US or northern Mexico.
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Barry Wallace

Aug 20, 2017

Blue-eyed Ground Dove rediscovered after 74 years

Photo by Rafael Bessa
The Blue-eyed  Ground Dove (Columbia cyanopis) was re-discovered in Brazil in 2015 after a 74-year absence from the scientific record.   Sarah Gilman has reported in the summer 2017  issue of Living Bird magazine that 12 of the birds were discovered more than 600 miles away from where the previous one was seen in 1941.   Photos by its latter-day discoverer, ornithologist Rafael Bessa, show the bird's back as an unspectacular greenish-brown, while its head, breast and tail were a muted, ruddy orange, blending into a creamy belly and a set of bony pink feet.   Its eyes were arresting pools of spectacular cobalt blues, as were small half moons of the same blue dabbed on its wings.   The story is featured online in the latest Cornell Lab eNews.
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Aug 19, 2017

Woe for owls in southeast Asia

Photo: The Guardian
Harry Potter obsession threat to owls in Asia
Robin McKie, in the UK's Guardian Online newspaper has reported that wildlife experts are sounding the alarm over a sad downside to J. K. Rowling's tales of the troubled young wizard.   The illegal trade in owls has jumped in the far east over the past decade and researchers fear it could endanger the survival of these distictive predators in Asia.
Conservationists say the Snowy Owl Hedwig is fuelling global demand for wild-caught birds for use as pets.   In 2001, the tear in which the first film was released, only a few hundred were sold at Indonesia's many bird markets.   By 2016, the figure had soared to more than 13,000, according to researchers Vincent Nijman and Anna Nekaris of Oxford Brookes University in a paper in 'Global Ecology and Conservation'.   
The issue is of critical concern because the owls being offered for sale are nearly all taken from the wild.   The overall popularity of owls as pets in Indonesia has risen to such an extent that it may imperil the conservation of some of the less abundant species.   As a result, Nijman and Nekaris urge that owls should be added to Indonesia's list of protected birds.
For her part, Rowling has condemned the keeping of owls as pets.
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Aug 18, 2017

Milvus milvus

Photo: Ronald Wittek/EPA
A Red Kite is seen flying in a bird show in the Tripsdill Wildlife Park near Cleebronn, Germany.   Too bad this beautiful creature spends so much of its time in captivity wearing devices like hoods, leashes, anklets and jesses.   Pity.
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Aug 17, 2017

Sagittarius serpenttarius

Photo: Nick Bothma/EPA
One would think living in the World of Birds Wildlife Sanctuary in Cape Town, South Africa, would leave nothing to complain about: lots of good food, the company of other interesting birds, partners for mating, etc., but this Secretary Bird rolls its eyes back as it lets out a mighty squawk.   If you are a wild creature at heart, maybe sanctuaries are not all  that they are made out to be.
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Aug 16, 2017

Surely, one of the 10 most beautiful birds in the world

Photo: Zhou Haijun/Xinhua/Barcroft Images
I suppose there's no such a thing as 'a bad hair day' when you are a spectacular white egret, like the two above, seen at the Qidashun Forest Park in Xuyi County, in east China's Jiangsu Province. 
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Aug 15, 2017

Edinburgh, UK

Photo: Jeff J. Mitchell / Getty Images
Swans, a goose and a pigeon, by the lake shore, are the audience for a troupe of dancers from Tutu, who are performing at St. Margaret's Loch, to promote their dance show with a twist.
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Aug 14, 2017

Small bird ~ big brain

Photo by BarrytheBIrder
Of the 10,000 or so birds in this world, hummingbirds have the largest-sized brain compared to total body weight at 4.2%.   My human brain is a little over 3 1/2 pounds, or about 2% of my total body weight of 175 lbs.   To equal the hummingbird ratio my brain would have to weigh around 7.5 lbs...more than double!   21st century scientists (neuroanamotists) have learned that birds have more neurons in their fore-brains than anyone had discovered previously.   The term 'bird-brain' may have to be revised to indicate a more thought-provoking definition.
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Aug 13, 2017

Red-winged Blackbird lands in Scotland

 Photo by Simon Davies
First ever reported in Europe
Photo by Arthur Morris
A female Red-winged Blackbird (pictured above) from North America has become a must-see sight in Scotland at the North Ronaldsay Bird Observatory on the Orkney Islands. The bird was spotted in late April of this year.   It is the first ever spotted in the United Kingdom or the entire western Palaearctic.   British birders in particular have stampeded to see it and add to their lists.   The photo at left shows a female with her wings spread and displaying the red feathers on its upper wings; a sight I have never seen before in the wild or in photos.
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Aug 12, 2017

Pigeons in a puddle

Pigeons at a local chicken hatchery near the village of Kettleby are pictured enjoying the fresh waters from recent rainfalls.   We've had much rain this summer and all the pigeons are looking quite spiffy.
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Aug 11, 2017

Abeillia abeillei

Photo: Andre M. Chang / Alamy
Photo: Jorge Alejandro Gonzalez Terrazas

A small, short-billed, glittering-bellied Emerald-chinned Hummingbird drinks nectar (above) from a weeping bottlebrush flower in Ansuncion, Paraguay. 
This bird is endemic to the highlands of Central America.

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Aug 10, 2017

A remarkable first...

Photo: Graham Hall / Somerset Wildlife Trust
Photo: Corey Finger
There is recent photographic confirmation that Night Herons have bred in the UK for the first time in recorded history.   Two adults and two recently fledged juveniles now roost at Somerset Wildlife Trust's Westhay Moore Reserve.

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Aug 9, 2017

Phoenicopterus ruber roseus

Photo: Jorge Guerrero/AFP/Getty Images 

Greater Flamingos flock on Fuent de Piedra Lake, 70 kms. from Malaga in southern Spain.   The nature reserve is the most important flamingo breeding ground on the Iberian Peninsula, and more than 170 other birds species have been recorded there.
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Aug 8, 2017

Unusual adoption...

Photo by Shaun Cunningham /Alamy
The members of a Bald Eagle family are seen on their nest with a Red-tailed Hawk (wings spread) which they adopted at Robert's Bay-Sidney, north of Victoria, Vancouver Island, British Columbia.   Authorities say they will probably capture the hawk, after the eaglets and their parents leave the nest, and the hawk is weakened from no fish to eat.   They will then re-habilitate young Red-tail to eat and hunt food other than fish,
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Aug 7, 2017

Taking care of those less fortunate...

Photo by NaveshChitrakar / Reuters
(Acridotheres fuscus) 
A Nepalese woman applies a homemade remedy to an injured Jungle Myna bird, rescued near her home in the ancient city of Bhaktapur, about 10 kms. east of Kathmandu.
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Aug 6, 2017

Most powerfully acute vision in the animal kingdom

It seems road-kill is to be found everywhere in this country, even if it's near James Bay, 1500 kilometres north of the lower Great Lakes.   My sister Denise and her daughter April Dawn Gull (pictured above) live in the Cree village of Wemindji, in northern Quebec.   My neice April is on Facebook every day and that is where I came across the photos you see here.   April spotted the dead Great Horned Owl, pictured here, on the James Bay Highway and stopped to retrieve it. The Great Horned Owl (Bubo virginianus) is also known as the Hoot Owl or Tiger Owl.   April is deeply involved in First Nation's history and spirituality, and her mother says that April will make use of some of this owl's remains, feathers in particular, as artifacts of her native culture and religion.   In a manner of speaking, therefore, the spirit of this big, magnificent, feathered creature will live on, in northern Canada.

I'm so amazed with how the feathers of this owl can be extraordinary examples of the mystery and reality of camouflage, while also being delicate, powerful
and eye-catching.

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Aug 5, 2017

Fishing in Guri, South Korea

Photo:Jeon Heon-Kyun / EPA
Striated Heron
Butorides striatus
A Striated Heron (pictured above) is seen with a fish in its beak, on Wangsuk Stream, near Guri, immediately east of Seoul and approximately 50 kilometres south of the border with North Korea.   The Striated Heron is also known as the Mangrove Heron, the Little Heron and the Green-backed Heron.   It is found in small wetlands of Old World tropics, from west Africa to Japan to Australian, and in South America.   There is a Galapagos Islands colour morph which lacks striation.   It is closely related to the Green Heron of North America.
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Aug 4, 2017

Grackle ~ even the name sounds unfriendly

 Photos by Barry Wallace
Quiscalus  quiscula versicolor
The grackles in our backyard often rule the roost when it comes to all the other small birds (chickadees, sparrows, nuthatches, cardinals, etc.) but especially so when their young offspring are learning to use the feeders.   It's mayhem.   The adults do have a those sleek shiny black feathers to recommend them, but the adolescent grackles are a drab unattractive dun colour.   Nevertheless, they are bullies.  

The only bright spot in the situation is that because the grackles can maintain as much time as they want or need to feed (and they do so religiously) at least they mercifully, if not wittingly, disappear for awhile.   The smaller birds then get their chance.   It all works out I suppose, in nature's grand scheme of things.

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Barry Wallace

Aug 3, 2017

I wonder if honeyeaters ever get stung?

Photo by Robert Wyatt / Alamy
Blue-faced Honeyeater
Emtomyzon cyanotis
There are more than 182 species of honeyeaters in Australia, New Guinea, New Zealand and many south Pacific islands.   In the photo above, a male Blue-faced Honeyeater is seen in Undara Volcanic National Park, in Queensland, Australia.   The photo below shows a honeyeater  typically hanging from a branch while feeding on nectar.   Feeding exclusively on nectar from flowers would minimize getting stung by a bee, I suppose.

Photo by J.J.Harrison/Wikimedia Commons
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Aug 2, 2017

The Curlew ~ Europe's largest wader: "Near Threatened"

Photo: Thomas Hanahoe/Alamy Stock Photo
Population down 64% since 1970 reports there is particular concern among conservationists for the Curlew, the largest wading bird in Europe, which has seen a decline in population of 64% from 1970 to 2014 in the UK, largely due to habitat loss.   27% of the global Curlew population is in the UK, and because of its 'near threatened' global status, a research plan has been established to help understand the causes of the bird's decline.   "Curlews are instantly recognizable on winter estuaries and summer moors by their striking long, curved beaks, long legs and evocative call", said Dr. Daniel Hayhow, conservation scientist at the RSPB.   "They are one of our most charismatic birds and one of our most important".
These days, I constantly read of many bird species in the same predicament, but I also read of other species of birds that are moving into and taking over new habitats.   Does this mean that in the future there will be a net loss of species overall, but bigger populations of fewer species?   Time will tell, but it does seem to be a looming threat of extinction for certain creatures.
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Aug 1, 2017

Dune buggies killing Snowy Plovers

Photo: Mike Thompson
The fight is on to save tiny beach birds from outdoor recreational vehicles, as the Centre for Biological Diversity is heading to court to save one of the most threatened shorebirds in North America, from being crushed by dune buggies.   Last week the Centre for Biological Diversity filed a notice of intent to sue the California Department of  Parks and Recreation and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for allowing ongoing deaths of Snowy Plovers at San Luis Obispo County's Oceano Dunes State Vehicular Recreation Area.   The white-and-tawny shorebirds are federally protected, but their population is still declining.   The state department isn't doing enough to protect plovers - as required by law - and last year alone, six of these charming little birds were found dead in vehicle tracks at Oceano Dunes.   "The sandy beaches and fragile dunes where plovers feed and breed must be protected", said centre scientist Ileene Anderson.   "Letting the dune buggies crush them isn't just illegal, it's indefensible".
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