While writing about dripping pine cones I learned that mature cones open and close many times and can do so for many years.
They do this in response to wetness — even after they release their seeds, even after they’ve fallen from the tree. In fact the open/closed status of fallen cones is a simple indication of wildfire risk because it shows the dryness of the forest floor.
So what does a wet cone look like? Can you tell which one is wet and which is dry, above?
Here’s a view of the tail end.
And here’s an overhead view.
By now you’ve probably guessed the answer so you’re ready to play Cone In A Bottle.
Put the closed cone in a bottle and wait for it to open. If you want to get the cone out, do you add water or remove it?
In honor of Western Hummer Season I’ve made a quiz with a twist. These recent hummingbird photos were all taken outside of Pennsylvania by former Pittsburghers. Some of these birds can be found in Pennsylvania, one cannot, and one of Pennsylvania’s rarities isn’t pictured here at all.
Can you identify these hummingbirds? (starting with Mystery #1 above)
Experts will know what they are. The rest of us can appreciate the beautiful photos. Don’t feel bad if you can’t identify them — I couldn’t without looking them up. Answers are in the first Comment.
Mystery Hummingbird #2:
Mystery Hummingbird #3:
Mystery Hummingbird #4:
Mystery Hummingbird #5:
Keep your hummingbird feeders full and watch for unusual birds this fall. The hint may be just a slight color difference.
After October 15, any hummer you see in Pennsylvania is a western rarity to report on PABIRDS or to Bob Mulvihill at the National Aviary (412.323.7235).
AND A QUIZ! Identify the other bird singing in the recording. His song is not normally heard in southwestern PA in the summer. The mourning dove lives year-round from Maine to Mexico, from Canada to Cuba. The other bird will give you a hint on the location of the recording.
(photo by Dori on Wikimedia Commons. Click on the image to see the original)
Every time I look at the silhouettes, I find myself trying to identify the birds. There are 26 individuals and 3 flocks in the image. How many of the silhouettes can you identify?
Tips: I’ve numbered the individuals and marked the flocks with letters below. Assume each flock is made up of the same species. Some of the 26 individuals are repeats. If you can’t identify the exact species, name the bird by group, as in “gull.”
Post your answers in the comments. Good luck!
(Inspiration for this Tenth Page is from page 10 of Ornithology by Frank B. Gill.Bird silhouettes from Vectorilla.com. Click on the image to see the original)
Can you recognize the name of a bird in a language you’ve never heard?
Last weekend I found a 2009 New York Times science quiz where you can test this skill.
The quiz is a sample from a study conducted by anthropologist Brent Berlin at the University of Georgia. In it he showed that human names for the natural world usually incorporate qualities of the organisms, so we can tell the difference between a bird name and a fish name even if we’ve never heard the language.
The questions in the study, and the quiz, present pairs of bird and fish names in a very foreign language: the Huambisa language of Peru. Brent Berlin pronounces the words in audio clips.
The original study participants correctly guessed the bird name 58% of the time. My hunch is that birders will score higher than that.
I did amazingly well, correctly choosing 9 out of 10 bird names. This photo shows the bird whose name I missed.
Can you tell if a word names a bird? Click here to take the quiz.
(photo of a male purple-throated euphonia by Dario Sanches from Wikimedia Commons. Click on the image to see the original)