Friday, May 31, 2013

Raccoon Rendezvous

My first raccoon encounter of the season was Tuesday morning.  I thought I was going to work and was all dressed up for the office when I went out to feed the stray cats.  Normally I feed the outside cats before I feed my own inside cats.  I had been out earlier and took out some dry food and fresh water, but Van Gogh was the only cat out there.  So I fed my cats first and then went out to see if Romeo had shown up so I could take out the canned food.  I saw Romeo and Spot coming up the sidewalk but they were a little hesitant.  I looked over where the dry food was to see if there was a strange cat eating.  And in fact there was a VERY strange cat eating - one with a ringed tail and a mask over its eyes!  The first time I had seen the raccoon this spring.  My next door neighbor came out and we both talked to it.  At first the raccoon was a little hesitant too and started to walk away but then got more comfortable with us there and came back and had a little more cat food.  My next door neighbor said that she had seen five babies earlier that morning.  I checked up in my tree but they had gone by then.  I got a couple of pictures before momma raccoon decided it was time to leave.  Momma raccoon came back that evening too so these photos are a combination of the photos I took in the morning and late afternoon on the same day..

My first raccoon encounter last year was almost exactly a year ago to the day!  When mama raccoon finally left and went to the tree she actually lives in when it was starting to get dark, I could see a couple of babies huddled in the crook of the trunk, but they were too high up to take photos.  Can't wait to see them up close and personal!

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Elegant Eagles

There are more than 60 species of eagles, and in all known species, females are larger than the males!  You're familiar, of course, with our national symbol, the Bald Eagle...

and you may know about the only other eagle species found in the United States, the Golden Eagle.

The Bald Eagle may be the most recognized, but in fact, the Golden Eagle is the slightly larger bird.  There are two subspecies of Bald Eagles and while this raptor is the only one endemic to North America and can be found throughout the U.S., the birds living in Alaska, upper U.S.and Canada are larger than the ones living in the southern U.S. and Baja California. The majority of Bald Eagles live in the north and migrate south for the winter when coastal waters and rivers freeze as their diet is mainly fish.. Besides North America, the Golden Eagle is also found in Eurasia and parts of Africa.  There are six subspecies of Golden Eagles, the largest living in southwest China, northern Pakistan and southern Kazakhstan.  The largest female Golden Eagles can have a wingspan of just over 9 feet and weigh up to 27 pounds, while the largest Bald Eagles can weigh up to 17 pounds and a wingspan of up to 8 feet across.  However, a Bald Eagle holds the record of the largest verified load carried in flight of a 15-pound mule deer fawn.  Larger eagles will kill prey that weigh much more than they do, but will eat on the ground and then carry off pieces of its kill. 

The width of wingspan depends on the environment in which the eagles live.  Those that prefer a forest home have smaller wingspans so they can navigate through the trees more effectively.  Eagles that live in open country have larger wingspans.  Eagles are known for riding the thermal air currents rather than actually flapping their wings. Eagles have much better eyesight than humans allowing them to see prey from long distances.  Not only do eagles' eyes have retinas more densely coated with light-detecting cells called cones than human retinas, but they have a much deeper fovea than humans.  A fovea is a cone-rich structure in the backs of the eyes that detects light from the center of the visual field.  Some investigators think this deeper fovea allows their eyes to act like a telephoto lens, giving them extra magnification in the center of their field of vision.  They also see colors more vividly,can discriminate between more shades, and are able to see ultraviolet light — an ability that evolved to help them detect the UV-reflecting urine trails of small prey.

Based on median measurements, the largest eagle by weight is the Stellar's Sea Eagle which lives along coastal northeast Asia...

the largest by body length is the critically endangered Philippine Eagle...

and by wingspan, the White-Tailed Eagle from Eurasia, which is also known as the Sea Eagle and a close cousin to the Bald Eagle.

Other large species include the Wedge-tailed Eagle from Australia and southern New Guinea...

and the Harpy Eagle from Central and South America.

However, it is the Wedge-tailed Eagle that has the longest wingspan ever recorded of 9 feet, 4 inches.

Among the smallest eagles are the Booted Eagle from Europe, southern Africa and Asia weighing only a couple of pounds and a wingspan of under 50 inches...

and the Great Nicobar Serpent Eagle.

Photo by A P Zaibin   Source:  Oriental Bird Club

Some of the more unusual looking members of the eagle family are the Changeable Hawk-Eagle, also known as the Crested Hawk-Eagle from India and Sri Lanka...

from Africa, the Long-crested Eagle...

the flashy Bateleur from Africa and southwest Arabia...

and from Asia Blyth's Hawk-eagle

The larger eagles are considered apex predators in the areas where they live.  Besides fish, prey of various eagle species includes monkeys, sloths, foxes, and small deer and goats, snakes and lizards, rabbits and hare, other birds, and carrion.

By the way, I recently passed 160,000 views on my blog.  Thanks everybody for your interest in my nature musings.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Prismatic Primates

You've already seen the monkey with the orange and blue face - the golden snub-nosed monkey - but here are a few more colorful primate species.

Did you know that 'douc' is the word for monkey in Vietnamese?  The monkey known as the costumed ape is the red-shanked douc.  Here's why.

Source:  Wikipedia

It could very easily also be known as the monkey with the red stockings.  You might not be able to tell from this particular photo, but I will recap with a description of its gray body, white forearms, gray upper arms, and black hands and feet. Above the red stockings are black 'pants', white face ruff, and powder blue eyelids!  As you can also see its tail is about as long as its body.  These doucs, also known as the red-shanked douc langur, are found as you might suspect, in the forests of Vietnam and also in parts of Laos.  They spend the majority of their time in the mid to upper levels of the canopy as they get all the moisture they need from the leaves and other food they eat and don't need to come down to drink.  Their diet consists of about 80% leaves, the balance being fruit, seeds and flowers.  Despite his colorful appearance it has a very sweet face.  For a short video, click here.

Endemic to Brazil, the monkey with the orange 'beard and sideburns', is the Prince Bernhard's titi.

Source:  Wikipedia

This little guy was just discovered in 2002 in the Amazon rain forest so not much is known about it yet.

Another monkey with 'stockings' is the Wolf's Mona monkey from Central Africa.

Source:  Wikipedia

A bit better color coordinated and subtler than the Red-shanked Douc, the Wolf's Mona monkey sports the same color as its stockings on its ears  and slightly lighter underside and cheek whiskers.  And, unlike the douc, this monkey's main diet is fruit, seeds and insects eating only young, easily digestible leaves occasionally.

Known for its long luxurious beard, the Roloway monkey also has an orange stripe on its back and striking white eyebrows.

Source: Wikipedia

Found only in the Ivory Coast and Ghana, this is one of the world's 25 most endangered species.  Another monkey that is not a leaf eater, fruit, flowers, seeds and insects are its main diet.

Another monkey with definite style is the De Brazza's monkey, who also sports a white beard, but not quite as elaborate as the Roloway's, but look at the rest of his 'do'!

Source:  Wikipedia

Also known as the swamp monkey, this species can also be found in bamboo and dry mountain forests throughout central Africa.

Another monkey with a striking face and spiky 'do' is the Gee's golden langur.

Source:  Wikipedia

Also an endangered species, this monkey lives in a very small area in India and Bhutan.

All the aforementioned primates are great contenders, but the award for the most colorful primate goes to the mandrill - being colorful at BOTH ends!

Source:  Wikipedia

Their range is through central western Africa living in groups called hordes.  The male is the colorful one and the brightness of their color depends on their dominance.  The more dominant a male, the more colorful he is.  The males live solitary lifestyles while the 'hordes' are made up mainly of females and their offspring.  The largest horde ever recorded was about 1300 individuals.  A few hundred individuals in a horde is more normal.  Males average around 70 pounds while females average around 25 pounds making mandrills showing the most sexually dimorphism in primates.  The mandrill eats over 100 species of plants, including mushrooms, but also adds some surprising things to its diet including snails, eggs, birds, frogs and rats.  Click here for a video.

Hope you enjoyed your tour of colorful primates!

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Can You Hear Them?

"The waves they murmured gentle songs
Of dream worlds, joy and liberty
An ancient, timeless lullaby
For the lovers of infinity"

(Lyrics from "Ocean's Lullaby" by Transit Poetry)

Can you hear them?

All photos were taken on a trip to Newport, Rhode Island on Friday with my friend, Barbara.  Hope you enjoyed your quick trip to the shore.  I did!

Friday, May 10, 2013

Words of Wisdom

"Stand Tall and Proud
Sink your roots deeply into the Earth
Reflect the light of a greater source
Think long term
Go out on a limb
Remember your place among all living beings
Embrace with joy the changing seasons
For each yields its own abundance
The Energy and Birth of Spring
The Growth and Contentment of Summer
The Wisdom to let go of leaves in the Fall
The Rest and Quiet Renewal of Winter"
- Ilan Shamir, Advice From a Tree

If they breathe, they live,
If they live, they feel;
If they feel, they love
If they love, they are aware
If they are aware, they have a soul.
- Anthony D. Williams
"All things share the same breath - the beast,
the tree, the man, the air shares its spirit          
with all the life it supports.”
- Chief Seattle,  Suquamish Chief
"What is life? It is the flash of a firefly in the night. It is the
breath of a buffalo in the wintertime. It is the little shadow
which runs across the grass and loses itself in the sunset."
- Crowfoot, Blackfoot warrior and orator
"I do not see a delegation for the Four Footed. I see no seat for
 the Eagles. We forget and we consider ourselves superior. But we
are after all a mere part of Creation. And we must consider to understand
where we are. And we stand somewhere between the mountain and
the Ant. Somewhere and only there as part and parcel of the Creation."
- Chief Oren Lyons, Oneida in an address to the Non-Governmental
Organizations of the United Nations, Geneva, Switzerland, 1977

"If you talk to the animals they will talk with you and
you will know each other. If you do not talk to them you
will not know them and what you do not know, you
will fear.  What one fears, one destroys."
- Chief Dan George, Tsleil-Waututh Nation, British          
Columbia, Canada

"We must protect the forests for our children, grandchildren
and children yet to be born. We must protect the forests
for those who can't speak for themselves such as the
birds, animals, fish and trees." 
- Qwatsinas (Hereditary Chief Edward Moody), Nuxalk Nation

"Earth and sky, woods and fields, lakes and rivers, the mountain and
the sea, are excellent schoolmasters, and teach some of us more
than we can ever learn from books."
John Lubbock

“We need another and a wiser and perhaps a more mystical concept of
animals. In a world older and more complete than ours they move finished
and complete, gifted with extensions of the senses we have lost or never
attained, living by voices we shall never hear. They are not brethren, they
are not underlings; they are other nations, caught with ourselves in the net
of life and time, fellow prisoners of the splendour and travail of the earth.”
― Henry Beston

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Two Peas in a Pod

As alike as two peas in a pod - not!  But very cute.

And, no, I did not pose these pictures, Romeo did this all on his own.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Jarring Jays

When I was in Portland, Oregon a month ago visiting my niece, I saw a blue bird out in the yard I wasn't familiar with.  I asked what it was.  She replied, 'It's a blue jay.'  I said. 'That's not a blue jay!'  I'm familiar with the eastern Blue Jay.  I hear them all the time around my house, they come to the bird feeder, and will eat cat food in a pinch.  They really prefer peanuts though.

I'm also used to seeing Stellar's Jays when I lived in Colorado.

Source:  Wikipedia

Technically, the bird I saw in Portland was a Western Scrub Jay.  There are three subspecies of Scrub Jays and their range goes from Washington to Mexico.

Source: Wikipedia

Jays are part of the crow family which may explain the raucous and peculiar calls I hear from MY jays.  One in particular almost sounds like they are yodeling.  They are also known for mimicking hawks.  It is not known whether the intent of imitating a hawk is to warn others a hawk is around or to fake other birds out.  In fact MY jays are the only ones actually called Blue Jay.  They prefer the edge of forest areas where there are oak trees or feeders close by.  They eat insects, nuts, fruit, seeds and grains, and rarely have been known to raid other nests for eggs or nestlings.

Blue is not the only color jays come in.  There is also the Gray Jay...

(also known as the Canada jay or Whiskey Jack)   Source: Wikipedia

black jays known as the Piapiac...

Source: Wikipedia

the Green Jay...

Source:  Wikipedia

the Brown Jay....

Source:  Wikipedia

and various combinations of all those colors.

Black-headed Jay or Lanceolated Jay    Source: Wikipedia

Lidth's Jay   Source: Wikipedia

Biddulph's Ground-jay   Photo by  Bj√∂rn Anderson   Source:  Oriental Bird Images

White-throated Magpie-jay   Source: Wikipedia

Plush-crested Jay   Source: Wikipedia

Beautiful Jay   Source: Wikipedia

Well, you get the idea.  There are over 40 species of jays and, yes, the bird just above is actually called a Beautiful Jay.  As cheeky as they are, I think I still like MY jays the best!