Saturday, October 28, 2006

The Mystery Plant Identifier Reveals Himself plus Dot

Photo: Donegal Browne

The birdie "Shroud of Turin" or Dot smacks into the window

Photo:Donegal Browne

Dot, who finally stopped whacking me with his wing and attempted to menace me with a look long enough to have his photo taken.

The mystery plant identifier's name is out, as he dropped me a line. A big bravo for Mark Upton for Boston Ivy. Who also had a question about Dot, the bird who collided with my kitchen window.

Mark wrote:
I've been wondering what species of bird Dot is. If she is a big owl, which she seemed to be from the birdie "Shroud of Turin", it's probably difficult to keep her with all the other critters. How do you handle that?


The imprint does look quite owlish, I agree. Something to do with size and Dot's trajectory. As to Dot, it's not an illusion, he is actually bigger than a lot of owls but in reality he's a bumper sized Rock Dove. (Yes, yes, I know they've changed it to Rock Pigeon, but I'm holding out. Considering all the revilement pigeons get, I somehow feel that a common name that includes "dove" might help their rep.:-)

As to how we handle him with all the other critters, he is only let out of his cage when everyone else is in theirs. Originally all the males came out of their cages at the same time. Blue, another Rock Dove, who can fly but as he'd fallen from the nest and broken his shoulder as a squeaker, he's not perfect. The wing healed but with a bit of a crook that might make competing with all the tough NYC street birds a bit of a problem. Then there is Pinkie. He is a Laughing Dove, or White Ringneck who we rescued from a snow bank in the Bird Park. He seemed to have just walked himself in and huddled in the snow waiting for aid as his wings were clipped.

BAck in the days when we had group male flight, Blue would fly about a bit then stand on his cage territorially and circle and coo, like any well socialized guy. But Dot when released would make a beeline for Blue's cage and either try to get in it at which time Blue would just have to go in after him or Dot would just skip that part and muscle into Blue and grab him by the neck. No one ever got damaged but the feathers would fly with Blue giving as good as he got. So that settled that, no communal flight time for those two.

Then there is tiny Pinkie, slim, all white with little pink eyes, who is at most a fifth of Dot's weight, still with clipped wings at the time, and pushing his luck in a major way.

I don't know if you're familiar with Laughing Doves but they are a domesticated species, who display by puffing up, spreading their tails, making an irregular cooing noise, then several, hop, hop, hops forward. At which time they begin the "laugh", Tee heee heeee heeee heee, auk, Tee heeeheeeheee, auk, making little bows, head level with feet, tail in the air, the entire time. This is so weird to the other birds that if Pinkie shows up in their proximity, they just look at him, "Whoa, that is really strange.", and fly off.

Pinkie quite enjoys this sense of power. He can keep EVERYONE, and everyone is bigger than he is, out of the bath bowl if he wants to. Quite satisfying. Then he goes over and perches on the edge of the cat's water bowl, I think, in hopes they'll show up for a drink, and he can do his number on them.

Needless to say, I haven't tested my theory. He's far too small and flitty for the cats to resist.

At any rate, one evening Pinkie decided to keep Dot out of the bath. And instead of doing a studied retreat this time, Dot stood and watched him get closer, hop, hop, hop, teeeheeeheeehee, closer, bow, bow, bow...And on the third bow, Pinkie's neck was so inviting Dot went for it. Sorry, boys, no more free time together for you guy's either.

And where was Quicksilver the top bird of the house during all this? Well, usually in the bedroom watching television with the cats. But at times before the episode I'm about to recount, if he were having a snack in the dining room, he has a perch on a high chair that makes him the right height to eat off a plate at the table. Just like the rest of the "flock" that speaks English. He'd stay munching away while the other birds had flight time. That is until the evening Dot came out of his cage like a bolt of lighting. He smacked his chest into Silver's, who was casually just finishing up a scrambled egg, napkin in foot about to wipe his beak, and BAM! Dot knocked Silver for a loop, right off his perch and onto the floor.

Now this may happen once but there is no way Silver is going to let it happen twice. He was now forewarned and like all good parrots, he holds a grudge. Besides he's quick. I once saw him snip a wasp in half that made the mistake of zipping a flight path too near Silver's head. And in a Quicksilver/Dot interaction, Dot really could easily be hurt. So these days, Silver always keeps the cats, Tom, Chekhov, and Bowie, company watching PBS during cage cleaning. Cartoon Network makes them all far too energized for that time of day.

That doesn't even include the antics of the girls, Tip, Edge, Thumper, Star, and Sesame, plus the various birds sporadically being rehabbed in the bathrooms.

And people wonder why my blog tends to go up at 2 or 3 in the morning. :-)

Thanks again,

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Identity revealed by a savvy reader.

Photo: Donegal Browne

These are the leaves of the mystery plant that produces the purple fruit the birds eat with abandon.

And guess what? The answer to the identity question comes from a reader who responded in the comment section. Bravo and great big gold star! Thank you, I'm sure I may well need your expertise in the future-Botany being nearly downright infinite it its variety.

anonymous wrote,
"Your vine is commonly known as Boston Ivy (Parthenocissus tricuspidata)."

Which as it turns out IS in the grape family and a relative of the Virginia Creeper, a native plant often seen in our area. In fact it too, is planted in the Bird Park but as yet has not taken hold in quite the boffo way of the Boston Ivy

Photo: Donegal Browne

A nifty adaptation of the Boston Ivy is its mode of clambering up things. It doesn't use tendrils but rather these cute little suckers. (I know Dr. Galen Smith my botany professor is rolling over in his grave about the word "cute", but they really are.)

See the slim pink strands coming off the stem and ending in those circular structures. The round parts are the suckers and they work extremely well. No need for twining around anything. This vine can do walls, tree bark, metal light poles, or just about anything it comes across.

And by the way, the Grey Catbird was back today eating fruit after fruit and when he was through dining, once again snugged in for an afternoon nap.

Now the question becomes, might the fruits be slightly soporific or is it something about all those nicely filling big seeds inside them?

Donegal Browne

And as I've yet been able to make the "contact" feature of the blogger program work, and I really would love to be able to have more of a personal conversation with readers, without being spammed to death, so how about I write out the contact information.

The first part of the address is palemaleirregulars, next comes that little round symbol we verbalize as "at" , the host is yahoo, then comes the punctuation mark that ends a run of the mill sentence and finally, the first three letters of the word commercial. :-)

Where do turtles go...

Photo: Eleanor Tauber

Where do turtles go to get a nice relaxing duck weed spa treatment?

To the Loch in Central Park, of course.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Remember Those Saw-toothed Ivy Berries? Are they really grapes?

All photos: Donegal Browne

The fruit of this vine is a real bird crowd pleaser. This week everything form Downy Woodpeckers to Catbirds to myriad species of Sparrows have gobbled them down.

When I first saw this plant and asked after it, I was told by an older gardener of the neighborhood that it was called Sawtooth or Saw-tooth Ivy. On close inspection, it really looks a heck of a lot like some kind of a grape vine.

I popped one in my mouth---not to eat---just to taste. Well, quite subtle with big seeds. Does it taste slightly grape-ish? Or is it just the power of suggestion?

On the vine, first an investigation of the fruit in the search for just what to call this huge wall covering clambering stemmed vine.

In inches

These fruits have a glaucous bloom. That haze also found on the skin of plums or on the canes of Blackberries. I've always wondered what advantage it might bring to a plant and so far I've not even found any theories.

Parts of the fruit.

I realized after exposing the different parts that I couldn't remember their names so here's a refresher course.

Exocarp: The outer purple layer, "the skin".

Mericarp: The green part, the juicy pulp portion.

Endocarp: The hard covering inside which the actual seed resides.

It turns out in this case that a larger fruit doesn't just mean a thicker mericarp, a bigger single "seed", or more moisture.
Large fruit= 3 seeds. Medium fruit= 2 seeds. Small fruit= 1 seed.


Berries? Grapes? Could be good.

Ahhh.....I was just looking. Honest...