Thursday, November 30, 2006

Juncos and moss

On several occasions I have watched, through the window beside my computer, as Dark-eyed Juncos picked something to eat from the clumps of moss growing on the branches of a Vine Maple tree in my yard. It was happening again today. So far I have not been able to determine what they are finding there. Is it part of the moss itself, which is Orthotrichum lyelii, or is it something hidden (or hiding) in the moss? Maybe other observers can help me solve the mystery. Vine Maple is found only in the Pacific Northwest, but I don't know if the moss is found elsewhere.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Pacific Golden-Plover

The Pacific Golden-Plover is one of the most popular and well-known birds in Hawaii, where it is called "Kolea." What makes it especially remarkable, in addition to its beauty, is the fact that it gets to Hawaii by its own power (is not an introduced species) and that it gets there by flying 2,000 miles non-stop from its Arctic nesting areas. During the winter months it is impossible to miss the Kolea in Hawaii, many of them hanging out in public parks and on residential lawns. This one was on the beach near Lihue on Kaua'i.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

White-rumped Shama

Once again, as a birder visiting Hawaii, I had mixed feelings when seeing introduced species, knowing that they are somewhat responsible for the declining numbers of native species. But despite that, in many cases they are very eye-pleasing birds. I had seen the White-rumped Shama previously, in Malaysia, but not as well as I saw this one at Haena State Park on the north shore of Kaua'i.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Wedge-tailed Shearwater chick

One of the special opportunities for a birder in Hawaii is the chance to see nesting shearwaters up close. This Wedge-tailed Shearwater chick, still showing plenty of downy feathers, was preening busily outside his burrow near Kilauea Lighthouse, Kauai, on November 12.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Green Anole in Hawaii

A visitor to my blog informed me of the identity of this lizard. It does appear to be a Green Anole, a species native to North America, but introduced in Hawaii. This one was hunting insects in the jungle along Kauai's north shore on November 12, and almost qualified as a "flyer" by its very efficient leaps from leaf to leaf.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

C.S. Lewis, 43rd anniversary

In my second annual pause to remember this great man on the anniversary of his death, I quote some of his thoughts about Nature:

"If Nature when fully known seems to teach us (that is, if the sciences teach us) that our own minds are chance arrangements of atoms, then there must have been some mistake; for if that were so, then the sciences themselves would be chance arrangements of atoms and we should have no reason for believing in them. There is only one way to avoid this deadlock. We must go back to a much earlier view. We must simply accept it that we are spirits, free and rational beings, at present inhabiting an irrational universe, and must draw the conclusion that we are not derived from it. We are strangers here. We come from somewhere else. Nature is not the only thing that exists. There is 'another world,' and that is where we come from. And that explains why we do not feel at home here. A fish feels at home in the water. If we 'belonged here' we should feel at home here. All that we say about 'Nature red in tooth and claw,' about death and time and mutability, all our half-amused, half-bashful attitude to our own bodies, is quite inexplicable on the theory that we are simply natural creatures. If this is the only world, how did we come to find its laws either so dreadful or so comic? If there is no straight line elsewhere, how did we discover that Nature's line is crooked?"

From Present Concerns: Essays by C.S. Lewis, "On Living in an Atomic Age" (1948).

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Hawaii Amakihi

In Hawaii I did also manage to add six new bird species to my life list. The most satisfying ones are the endemic species that are still holding on in the remaining natural forest areas. This Hawaii Amakihi was with hundreds of others on the western slope of Mauna Kea, but I felt fortunate to get even a so-so photograph. They normally do not hold a pose for more than half a second. I have now managed to see three species of Amakihi, the ones on Kaua'i and Oahu now considered by scientists to be separate species.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Hawaiian Monk Seal

In Hawaii last week I was hoping to spend time in forested areas looking for some of the endemic and endangered species of birds. I had not even considered the possibility that I might see a mammal which fits both of those classifications. This Hawaiian Monk Seal was snoring on the beach along Kauai's north shore, oblivious to the strollers passing by within inches of his sandy bed. Scientists believe there have been only three species of Monk Seals in the world, and the only other one that may still be in existence is in the Mediterranean Sea.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Yellow-billed Cardinal

Just got back from a week working in Hawaii. The last "new" bird I found on this trip I noticed while I was stopped at a car wash on my way to the airport to fly home Saturday. This Yellow-billed Cardinal, a non-native in Hawaii, was building a nest (visible in the photo) in a tree overhanging the entrance ramp.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Red-tailed Hawk

It's been only a little more than a week since I watched this Red-tailed Hawk soaring against the blue sky, but since then the monsoon has set in and I doubt that he's done much soaring since then. It seems too early for these birds to be pairing up and acting territorial, but they must be thinking about it already. He (or she) was sticking close to another Red-tail, and protesting loudly at my presence near last year's nest. That scream is powerful and majestic, and whenever I hear it dubbed into the soundtrack along with images of an eagle soaring, I always think that the hawk is being snubbed and the eagle is getting credit for something he doesn't have. :-)

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Cattle Egret

A closeup view of one of the Cattle Egrets pictured in the previous post. The book says they eat grasshoppers, crickets, spiders and some toads, and they are usually found in fields and pastures away from water.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Cattle Egrets in Oregon, 1984

Cattle Egrets first appeared in the U.S. (Florida) in 1941 and the first one seen in Oregon was in 1965. Since then, during some winter seasons, large groups have appeared briefly in Oregon, but then have soon disappeared. Recently there has been some conversation among Oregon birders wondering why this seems no longer to be happening, but there is no obvious answer. Are there not enough bugs here? The photo above was taken near Logsden in Lincoln Co., Oregon, in 1984. On December 8 that year there were 38 Cattle Egrets in this cow pasture.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Fox Sparrow

This Fox Sparrow popped out of a blackberry tangle today in response to my imitation of a Pygmy Owl's tooting, a first-time sighting for my friend visiting from Massachussetts. It appears to be the "Sooty" form, which is typical here in the Pacific northwest, but found here in the lowlands of Oregon only in winter. There are rumors that it someday may be granted recognition as a full species. (Not that that's likely to make much difference to this bird scratching around in the soggy leaves on a November afternoon.)