Saturday, September 27, 2008
(Imagine trumpet fanfare.) NINJA CAT!
Plus Katherine Herzog, who originally called me about poor tail-less Trusting Tom in Central Park, emailed a mini-update--
Haven't seen Trusting Tom for over a week. His hangout used to be the Maintenance Meadow (77th St-East Side) and the Ramble.
Did get a report about a "funny looking" turkey near Strawberry Fields (72nd St-West Side). Someone who is a bird photographer added that she's seen TWO turkeys in the park--one with feathers and one who looks "plucked".
Well, well, Tom may be trusting and may not have a tail but he doesn't seem to be the only turkey in CP currently. I hope they'll get together and watch each other's backsides. Four spurs are better than two.
Where are they coming from?
I wonder if they are both as tame as Tom? If so, they have to be a release by someone, and not two wild turkeys who've just come over the bridge to Beau Brummel around being turkeys about town.
Iditarod Dogs' Endurance Secret Revealed
posted: 25 September 2008 02:59 pm ET
Bees Can Count
By Graciela Flores, Natural History Magazine
posted: 26 September 2008 03:55 pm ET
Thursday, September 25, 2008
A Venue of Vultures
Jackie of the Tulsa Forum has now joined the club of those hooked on the collective terms for groups of birds and their derivations. Here are her newest findings--
Just to follow up on the "terms of venery" news item. I had found that term in Wikipedia, but didn't research it any further than that. After reading your comments on the curiosity of it, I was curious, too.
A Google search offers a wealth of information, such as this reader question/answer column in Outside Magazine, February 2003 (website below):Q) Why are there such individualized names for groups of animals: gaggles of geese, packs of wolves, herds of sheep, etc.?
A) IF YOU'VE EVER taken up a sport and suddenly found your vocabulary becoming much larger (abseil, 'biner, belay...), then you may understand how these terms came into being. In the Middle Ages, the collective nouns given to animals were likewise part of the lingo of a sport: hunting. They were dubbed "terms of venery" (from the Old French word vener, meaning "to hunt"), and their use was tied to the Forest Laws, a set of guidelines written to protect the animals on the king's hunting lands.
The first major reference to these words in literature appears in Thomas Malory's 1485 King Arthur classic Le Morte d'Arthur, in which Sir Tristram is said to know "all the good terms of venery and hunting... and of him we had all the terms of hawking, and which were beasts of chase and beasts of venery."
In other words, Tristram knew a clowder from a murder, and therefore he was somebody. Some of the names are more generic (a gang of elk), others are anthropomorphic (a parliament of owls), and some are downright poetic (an exaltation of larks).
While they make for funny dinner conversation now, in days of yore these words were taken very seriously. "Hunting animals and birds was a noble sport," says Allan Metcalf, an English professor at MacMurray College, in Jacksonville, Illinois, "and it was noble to know all of the various terms of the hunt."
I couldn't find a term of venery for Killdeer but a group of Plovers is a "brace" or "congregation". Brace makes me think of rabbits. Congregation is okay, but I think Killdeer should have their own specific term as opposed to just being lumped into all the Plovers. To play off congregation and the fact that they tend to individually call out while in the group. How about a Revival of Killdeer? Though perhaps not quite right either.
Also missing from the lists I examined was a term for Cowbirds. I do have one I like for them, as they must sneak into other birds nests to lay eggs--I'm suggesting a Stealth of Cowbirds.
And here of course, is your basic murder of Crows.
But it was only when I got to the groups that had various names depending on what they were doing at the moment of observation and also were specific to species that I realized that these names were very important shorthand while hunting.
Before a look at the new venery list sent in by contributor Linda Maslin, here is a petition from The Humane Society pertaining to some animal protection amendments that need to come up for a vote. Those of you in Pennsylvania can do a good deed if you agree there shouldn't be puppy mills or captive pigeons or any other animal used for target practice.
Only a Few Days Left to Protect Puppies and Pigeons in Pennsylvania
The Pennsylvania state legislature is about to adjourn and two important bills are still awaiting action.
Legislation (H.B. 2525) to crack down on puppy mills in Pennsylvania passed the House of Representatives last week! This was an historic victory in the "puppy mill capital of the east."
Legislation to stop pigeon shoots is also awaiting action in the legislature. This legislation has been amended on to several related bills that are scheduled to receive a vote in the House of Representatives. The opposition continues to be vigilant against our efforts, so it is critical to keep up the pressure. The Majority Leader of the House, Representative
2. Please make a brief, polite phone call to Rep. DeWeese, Majority Leader of the House, at (724) 627-8683 to urge him to support the pigeon shoot amendments and use his leadership role to bring the amendments up for a vote. When you call, you can say:
"Hello, my name is [your name] and I'm calling from [your town] to ask Representative DeWeese to support Representative Leach's efforts to amend a Title 18 bill to ban the shooting of trap-released or tethered animals for target practice. I urge him to give these amendments a vote. It’s time to finally prohibit pigeon shoots in Pennsylvania.
If you can't call, please send an e-mail or fax ASAP to:
E-Mail: Click here to contact Member
Home Page: http://www.pahouse.com/deweese
Hon. H. William DeWeese<>FONT>
AND FROM BLOG CONTRIBUTOR LINDA MASLIN, A LIST OF MORE TERMS OF VENERY-
Plus a quote for the day from Goethe,
"There is nothing worse than aggressive stupidity."
Photograph Courtesy of Phillip Jones and the South Carolina DNR
Remember Sally of TN and others who asked what happens to hummingbirds in hurricanes? I could only find a few direct observations but Betty Jo of CA knew just who to ask, Bill Hilton of Hilton Pond. He's a regular hummingbird mavin. Here's what Mr. Hilton had to say on the topic and links for more on his work with hummingbirds--
Bill Hilton Jr.
Hummingbirds and hurricanes have been intertwined for hundreds of thousands of years. When bad weather hits, hummers hunker down as tightly as they can in the most sheltered place they can find, often in dense vegetation on the downwind side of a tree trunk. Their feet are very strong and can hold onto a twig very tightly when the wind blows.
Hummers have very little surface area and probably find it easier to get out of the wind than larger birds do.
The majority of hummingbirds will survive hurricanes over land unscathed--as is shown by folks who have reported hummers feeding heavily when the eye of the hurricane passes over, and by those who have observed them feeding as soon as the storm passes by but when winds are still strong.
Some enthusiasts in hurricane-prone areas secure their feeders with wire or duct tape prior to the advance of a storm so the birds can take sugar water whenever conditions allow. (Be sure to remove the duct tape after the storm, lest hummingbirds get stuck to it.)
All said, hummingbirds are not the delicate little creatures some folks perceive and can survive rough conditions. A far bigger danger than hurricanes over land are unexpected northbound winds in the Gulf of Mexico during migration. A bird that heads out into a hurricane is destined to become barracuda food. Many Ruby-throated Hummingbirds probably succumb to the dangers of long-distance migration, of which hurricanes are a major part.
Somewhere around 70-80% of all young Ruby-throated Hummingbirds produced this year will die before next spring; otherwise we'd be up to our eyebrows in hummingbirds. Keep your feeders clean, enjoy the ones that make it, and don't worry about those that succumb to the forces of nature.
-- NOTE: All pages on the Web site for Hilton Pond Center for Piedmont Natural History are permanently archived. The main page has a Search Engine (as does every page on the site).
Plug in your search term and you will find the info you seek. :-)
Hilton Pond Center for Piedmont Natural History at http://www.hiltonpond.org
"Operation RubyThroat: The Hummingbird Project" at http://www.rubythroat.org
And here we have contributor Karen Anne Kolling's photos of scruffy birds. Now I'd seen some bad molts but this Cardinal looked like he might be suffering from something a little more serious so I sent Karen's photos off to rehabber Cathy Horvath for her advice, which follows.
That looks like a weird molt that crested birds like blue jays, cardinals and crows get. They are juvies, they have all their feathers and then they go bald all of a sudden. They grow new feathers on their heads in a few weeks. It doesn't happen to all of them, but it does happen.
Hope this helps... Cathy
(By the way, Karen says the above Cardinal seems to be doing better in the feather department so it looks like Cathy is spot on. D.B.)
And here's a Blue Jay whose neck and head appear to be improving from a worse look previously.
Speaking of which Karen found the "Bald Bird" topic addressed on Cornell's FeederWatch site.
You want to see some bald birds? Take a look. Some of these guys haven't so much as a smidgen of feather on their heads. Their unadorned ears make them look like they have holes in the heads. Which of course they do, but they're currently so embarrassingly bare.
As I let on about my affection for the collective names for different species of birds, Jackie of the Tulsa Hawk Forum, sent in a list. Be sure you check out the last paragraph on birder etiquette.
Given your recent mention that a group of turkeys is referred to as a "rafter," you might be interested in a list of other such bird group names ("terms of venery") which entertained us on our Forum last month (with the summer's slowdown in hawk activity, we make our own fun). Our member Catbird suggested that this might entertain you, as well. The website from which this list and the following quotation came appears now to be no longer accessible:
A bevy of quail
A bouquet of pheasants [when flushed]
A brood of hens
A building of rooks
A cast of hawks [or falcons]
A charm of finches
A colony of penguins
A company of parrots
A congregation of plovers
A cover of coots
A covey of partridges [or grouse or ptarmigans]
A deceit of lapwings
A descent of woodpeckers
A dissimulation of birds
A dole of doves
An exaltation of larks
A fall of woodcocks
A flight of swallows [or doves, goshawks, or cormorants]
A gaggle of geese [wild or domesticated]
A host of sparrows
A kettle of hawks [riding a thermal]
A murmuration of starlings
A murder of crows
A muster of storks
A nye of pheasants [on the ground]
An ostentation of peacocks
A paddling of ducks [on the water]
A parliament of owls
A party of jays
A peep of chickens
A pitying of turtledoves
A raft of ducks
A rafter of turkeys
A siege of herons
A skein of geese [in flight]
A sord of mallards
A spring of teal
A tidings of magpies
A trip of dotterel
An unkindness of ravens
A watch of nightingales
A wedge of swans [or geese, flying in a "V"]
A wisp of snipe
The site continued: "Any of these group names may properly be used by birders who wish to display their erudition, although it is probably linguistically inaccurate (and it certainly is bad manners) to upbraid someone who refers to 'a bunch of ravens' by saying, 'Surely you mean "an unkindness of ravens," my good fellow.' Most of these terms date back at least 500 years. Some of them have been in continuous use since then; others have gone out of fashion and been resurrected in the last century or two; still others only exist on lists.
Most of these terms are listed in James Lipton's An Exaltation of Larks .
Lipton's list is substantially based on very old sources."
Did anyone else pick up on the phrase "terms of venery" in Jackie's email?
The first dictionary I looked it up in, had only one definition, it said, "sexual intercourse".
Terms of sexual intercourse for bird collectives? Something is wrong. I checked my spelling. Yup. Venery.
I looked it up in the Merriam-Webster, which didn't mention coitis until definition 2.Venery \Ven"er*y\, n. [OE. venerie, F. v['e]nerie, fr. OF. vener to hunt, L. venari. See Venison.] The art, act, or practice of hunting; the sports of the chase.
"Beasts of venery and fishes." --Sir T. Browne. [1913 Webster]
I love hunting and venery. --Chaucer. [1913 Webster]
Fascinating, a hunting term of the chase also used for sexual intercourse. There has to be a connection that sprouted the usage, wouldn't you say?
Monday, September 22, 2008
An Eagle Owl at Queen's Farm hisses at a passer-by.
I admit it, the Eagle Owl doesn't show up until later, but I liked the picture and I wouldn't want you to think there were no raptors involved in all this. In fact there are lots of raptors but they don't show up until later so you'll just have to try and be patient during the set-up.
Saturday and Sunday, my daughter Sam, Quicksilver our parrot, and I, along with many other members of the society went to the Queen's Farm County Fair to do a demonstration for the Society of Creative Anachronisms. We go and demonstrate all sorts of things medieval for the folks that come to the fair. The table on the far left is where Silver and I are supposed to be , but we're taking the photograph. The next table is a demo of the lucette. A wooden U shaped item on which cord of all sizes can be made. The next table is food of the time, and then all sorts of wonderful embroidery, and the list goes on. There are demos of long bow shooting, cross bows, heavy weapons fighting, rapier, dancing, singing...
But to tell the truth, I have a hard time staying put between when I shoot the long bow and when I talk about the keeping of parrots medievally. I keep wanting to go look at what all the animals are up to.
In the meantime, a heavy weapons demonstration has just finished and it's time for the Q and A with the crowd.
But look who's followed me home and is hanging out under our tent. Discussion ensues between two people as to whether these are all grown chickens. As in three little chickens and one big one of different varieties. No question it's a mom and three half grown chicks but the people discussing them haven't truly looked at them. They haven't watched their behavior. They've only paid attention to their physical looks which doesn't necessarily answer the question. The answer lies in what they do.
They are sticking to mom like glue and when she scratches the ground for insects they all scurry over to share in the bounty. If they were grown chickens they'd do their own scratching because the "big chicken" wouldn't put up with that kind of theft of effort.
We've got 30 minutes before the Pig Races are over and our next group of demos start so it's decided that some rides are in order. And just like the hen and chicks on a mission, women and the older kids head for them. I'm staying on the ground to guard the hat pile and photograph them. Besides Silver is completely uninterested in riding anything that makes that kind of noise. Interesting to look at though, or so he pretends.
While I use the camera, he sits in a sapling and pretends to be watching. What he is actually doing is eating next Spring's buds off the branches. I suggest he not eat so many of them. He ignores me.
The what-ever-it-is starts up and the pirates scream from the top.
Then it 's back for medieval dances with the kids. Silver and I go back to our table to talk to the visitors and who should show up?
I look up and there are Anna and Jeff Kollbrunner, www.jknaturegallery.com./ They are the chief watchers of the Red-tailed Hawk pair, Mama and Papa. And they're here to watch the falconry demonstrations.
FALCONRY DEMOS! And they are just over the fence.
Off comes the hood and the Harris flies to the peak of the barn. The human begins to swing the lure. The hawk isn't allowed to catch the lure the first few pass through but eventually he gets to nab it. Just like in a real hunt, one isn't always successful.
The "family" that this Harris hunts with are the human and two dogs. Having caught the "prey" the hawk eats the tidbits on the lure. It really isn't a side of beef.
A employee's cart goes by and the already mantling hawk gives him a pointed glare.
Then it's back to the human and back into the box.
Out comes, I think he said, an Arctic Falcon or perhaps it is a hybrid? At any rate, his name is Dynamite and without a doubt his energy and speed are explosive.
Off he goes to the roof of the barn, then looks left. I wonder if that pigeon knows how close to death he is? In fact earlier in the day there was an entire flock of pigeons sitting in the sun on the barn's roof. They aren't there now and evidently this pigeon didn't get the word about the temporary move.
The lure begins to whirl and Dynamite is off the roof and climbing steeply in preparation for one of those famous falcon dives. He too isn't allowed to get the lure first time through so the crowd primly seated in the bleachers gets to see a number of those 200MPH plus dives and they are spectacular.
Then Dynamite grabs the lure with a snap and has a snack.
Back to the human for more and that ends the demonstration. And there is no doubt in my mind that many of the people watching the falconry learned a good deal about raptors they didn't know and will appreciate their prowess in the future. But will they remember that not all raptors are in human care and the wild ones need places saved to live and breed? I don't know.
And that is where we met Oliver. He's a brand new addition to the family we're spending the night with. The pet store who had him had kept him in a back room for nearly a year. Which is quite awful for an animal of intelligence. And besides who will buy him if they don't even know he's there?
Then everyone goes to bed, including Silver, who is one tired parrot. It's very wearing dodging strange hands all day. Why is it that some humans aren't polite? He's not sure but he knows you can't trust the uneducated ones. He knows when an educated one appears and he'll lower his head to be scratched on the neck. But if the others keep it up someone is going to get pinched--hard. Well some people don't listen and only learn the hard way.
Then it's back to Queen's Farm for another day educating the public.
I've done my demos and am heading toward the field next door to check on what Mr. Nasty the rooster is up to in the treeline when...
Goodness, there is a woman falconer with a Red-phase Screech Owl on her glove and a row of raptor carriers, complete with a daughter, perhaps 12 or 13 who seems to be a junior falconer.
This is, if I remember correctly, Grumpy Face, who is wide awake, though it's daytime. In some ways she does remind me of Unmade Bed who lives in Central Park. Though U.B. is a Gray-phase Screech.
I'm completely stunned as almost immediately I'm asked if I'd like to hold her. "How did you know that a Red-phase Screech Owl is one of my favorites?", I asked. Lorrie Schumacher, Master Falconer replied, "Your hair of course." And evidentally Grumpy feels the same as she won't turn to the camera but stares fixedly at me.
Okay, I thought...WOW! I don't know what Quicksilver thought but he looked like a deer in headlights. There was a Harris Hawk sitting on the fence, six feet away, checking out the foliage. Thank goodness Silver didn't scream ARRG! and fling himself to the ground. A common parrot reaction to hawks.
But before long he began watching the insects, eating buds off twigs, and eventually began counting to himself , up to six, over and over. (It must have used up all his counting quota because for the rest of the day he firmly refused to count again until he got home. He would only meow and once or twice, said, "Hairbrush".)
Eventually Silver said, "Tired, tired, wanna go sleep." So he went into his carrier for some peace and quiet. Well, peace and quiet punctuated now and again by a very human sounding sigh emanating from the box.
and Mama is back on the glove as if she'd never left.
Mama is hot so the young man runs and gets some water. Lorrie raises up the water bottle, Mama opens her beak, and some goes in. She stops panting. She's cooled off.
Now it's Anna's turn to hold Mama. My, this bird is very habituated to people. Lorrie talks about the fact that Mama who is three, used to splash around in the bathtub with her daughter Talon.
So that's it. Lorrie's raptors aren't imprinted on people. That can cause problems as they'll only imprint usually on one person, the mate substitute. Nor are they completely on the other end, wild and uncomfortable around people and people's things, so they must wear hoods, but rather they are habituated to people. This bird doesn't know me at all but she is allowing me to stroke her feathers. She doesn't enjoy it in particular but she is allowing it.
I get the hair out of my eyes. Well, that was--surprising and exciting. Look at Mama's "ears". Black Rooster came very close to never picking on anyone again.
My daughter Samantha, yes, she's a pirate, asked if she could pet Mama and was told it was fine to pet her feet. Sam who has had it drilled into her head forever that with a Red-tail Hawk you must watch out for the feet ever so much more than the beak, was a little worried about foot petting.
We are talking a serious pair of feet here. When Sam asked about it, Lorrie told her that currently Mama's feet were busy so she needn't worry.
Hooray, for Eagle Owls and their feet!
I arrive back at the falconry field, see the medieval tent just through the gate, just as Mama finishes up. The young Harris comes out and Mama goes back to her carrier. No lag, good theatrical timing.
I watch and I think.
Living with one's hawk family as well as living with humans, is similar to the circumstances that create urban hawks. Particularly those who come from nests perched on buildings and who fledge into well peopled areas. Mom and Dad don't mind people all that much so why should they?
Speaking of which, did you ever wonder how you recognize a raptor who hasn't been flying very long? He's the one who is, sideways in a tree holding on for dear life, or upside down, or spread winged without a perch swaying in the breeze.
From Lana W from East Peoria, Illinois.
My husband, who is disabled and is at home all the time, said we have a flock/herd/covey - I don't know what you call a bunch of turkeys, but they always seem to follow the same path early
every morning, right past our giant dog Bo's kennel, and off into the woods. Bo doesn't even bark at them.
Lana how did you know I love the group words for birds and look for any excuse to point them out? In this case, a group of turkeys is called a rafter or a militia of turkeys...though flock is just fine too.