The first bird on my St. John, U.S. Virgin Islands agenda is the bananaquit. For me, it’s a Life Bird so I’m excited to see one. I fear it will soon become “ho hum,” though, because it’s so common on the island.
The bananaquit (Coereba flaveola) is a small, non-migratory bird — only the size of a black and white warbler — but it moves much faster than the warbler. Can you say hyper-active?
Ornithologists have tentatively placed the bananaquit in the Tanager family but its family relations are often disputed. Scientists argue about where to place this bird; these two argue about where to place themselves.
They were photographed at Campo Limpo Paulista, Brazil by Leon Bojarczuk.
(photo by Leon Bojarczuk via Wikimedia Commons, Creative Commons license. Click on the image to see the original)
p.s. I’ve written and pre-scheduled this week’s blogs ahead of time because Internet access is spotty where I’m staying at St. John, USVI. I might not post/respond to your comments this week but I’ll be very active online next weekend!
But in my bird-oriented brain I thought of this bird when I saw “Nutcracker” on a marquee.
Clark’s nutcracker is a member of the Corvid (crow) family that lives in the Rockies and mountainous West. He’s famous for caching nuts for the winter and remembering where all of them are stashed. He was named for William Clark of the Lewis and Clark Expedition.
I have never seen a Clark’s nutcracker.
Maybe I will in 2015…
(photo by Stephen Pavlov from Wikimedia Commons, Creative Commons license. Click on the image to see the original)
This beautiful YouTube video shows a family of Eleonora’s falcons (Falco eleonorae) at their summer home in Sardinia.
Eleonora’s falcon is an Old World hobby(*) falcon that winters in Madagascar and East Africa and nests on barren islands in the Mediterranean. It was named for Eleonor of Arborea, national heroine of Sardinia. When you know Eleonor’s history you can see the honor of this name.
Eleonor took over Arborea, a sovereign state in west-central Sardinia, in a moment of crisis in 1383. The Crown of Aragon based in Barcelona had conquered all of Sardinia except Arborea and succession to the Arborean throne was shaken by the murder of Hugh III. Eleonor’s infant son Frederick was next in line to the throne so she rushed to Arborea and became regent Judge at age 36. In the first four years of her reign she united the Sardinians in a war against Aragon and won back nearly all of the island.
Eleonor’s greatest legacy was the Carta de Logu, the laws she promulgated in 1395. Advanced for its time the laws were a uniform code of justice, publicly available, that set most criminal penalties as fines instead of imprisonment or death and preserved the property rights of women. The Carta de Logu was so good that it lasted four centuries.
Eleonor passed another important though lesser known law: the protection of this falcon that bears her name.
As the video title says in Italian, this is the Falcon of the Queen.
(*) Hobbies are smaller than peregrines, larger than American kestrels, and were often used by falconers to hunt birds. “Hobby” does not mean amateur pastime. Instead this word comes from Old French, probably derived from Middle Dutch “hobeler” which means to turn or roll.
If our eyes could look deep into space we’d see the clouds in this stellar nursery in the Centaurus constellation, 6,500 light years away.
This pink glowing nebula and clouds of dust were photographed by the European Southern Observatory (ESO) at Cerro Paranal, Chile. The nebula’s formal name is IC 2944. Because it’s visible to the naked eye it has a nickname too: The Running Chicken Nebula.
According to ESO’s description, the clouds are Thackeray globules “under fierce bombardment from the ultraviolet radiation from nearby hot young stars.”
Click here or on the image to find out what will happen to the clouds.
If you know where to look on a clear night, you can see a running chicken in the sky.
This male Eurasian siskin (Carduelis spinus) resembles a pine siskin but his colors are more striking with his black cap and bright yellow and black wings and tail. He lives in northern Europe and northeastern Asia and irrupts southward in some winters, just like our siskins do. (Click here to see North America’s pine siskin for comparison.)
Without knowing his identity you could probably guess “siskin” if you saw him in Taiwan where he was photographed by K.Lin (a.k.a. Hiyashi Haka).
Please click on the image to see the original photo and scroll down to read K.Lin’s description of this bird.
Except for the “jumpy” attitude in her eye, this beautiful bird looks as if she forages slowly on the ground.
Silver-eared mesias (Leiothrix argentauris) are native to Southeast Asia where they live in the forest eating insects and fruit.
DNA testing recently re-classed them into new family (Leiothrichidae) and genus names (Leiothrix instead of Mesia), so it’s confusing when you look them up. The books are hopelessly out of date and the Internet has both names.
At this link to an old name, Mesia argentauris, you’ll find videos, photos and sounds. The birds are so fast-moving that some of the videos are posted in slow motion! Even when standing still, silver-eared mesias rapidly flick their wings and tails. Click here to see a male foraging at a feeding station. Wow!
This female was photographed in Mae Wong National Park in Nakhon Sawan, Thailand. After you’ve seen them move, you realize how hard it was to capture this sharp photo.
(this photo is a Featured Picture on Wikimedia Commons. Click on the image to see the original.)