Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Distractions from Blogging

I've been too busy to blog much lately, although I've got plenty of exciting things to write about that are just piling up higher and deeper. My chief distraction is all the time spent in the field playing with Florida Scrub-Jays (Aphelocoma coerulescens). What a terribly photogenic species:

Like these photos? I've got a million of them.

My other big distraction is another push towards finishing some of my genetic research. Along those lines, I was just cited for the first time! Okay, so it was for my 'in prep' manuscript and not in a publication, but still... to see for yourself, check out the Gray-crowned Palm-Tanager (Phaenicophilus poliocephalus) account on Neotropical Birds.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Parrotlet Videos: Forpus Riot

Green-rumped Parrotlet (Forpus passerinus) pairs can stick together for years... until death do them part. When that happens, the parrotlet crew finds out about it pretty fast, because all hell breaks loose. All of the lone males in the area somehow notice those suddenly single females remarkably fast, and they descend upon her and her nest looking to woo her. This is the result:

Video courtesy of Rae Okawa. This is the last parrotlet video. Big thanks to Rae!

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Parrotlet Videos: Neighborhood Fights

Green-rumped Parrotlet (Forpus passerinus) pairs sometimes claim nestboxes close to other pairs. This can lead to some intense territorial scuffles on the fence between them.

Video courtesy of Rae Okawa

Up next: It hits the fan

Parrotlet Videos: Intruder Male

Pairs of Green-rumped Parrotlets (Forpus passerinus) that have bonded and claimed a nest box must always be vigilant against intruders. In these videos, a lone male is pushing the limits of a pair at a nest box. He is probably not looking to takeover the box itself, for he is alone, but instead is interested in the female.

In the first video, after the pair drives the lone male away from the box, he retreats down the fence and watches from a distance. When the pair male enters the box and the female is on the perch, he makes his move, working his way down the fence towards her. This is a good video to check out the 'slow lift' wing-flashing behavior, in which males flash their indigo blue wing patches and make certain calls directed at females (Waltman and Beissinger 1992). When the lone male gets too close, the pair drive him away again.

The lone male makes a second attempt while the pair is inside the nest box. He approaches and investigates the nest box, giving head bowing, tail fanning, and slow lift wing flashing displays while calling. The pair once again have to drive him away, although it takes them a surprisingly long time to come up from the bottom of the nest box.

Videos courtesy of Rae Okawa

Up next: Trouble with the neighbors


Waltman JR, Beissinger SR (1992) Breeding behavior of the Green-rumped Parrotlet. Wilson Bulletin 104(1):65-84 (Available as a free pdf via SORA)

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Parrotlet Videos: Duetting

Green-rumped Parrotlet (Forpus passerinus) pairs that are in the courtship and nest prospecting mood have several more distinctive behaviours beyond allopreening. In the following video (courtesy of Rae Okawa), a parrotlet pair is duetting outside their chosen box. Watch for the behaviors identified by Waltman and Beissinger (1992), including 'head bowing', 'tail fanning', and 'nipping bouts'.

Up next: An intruder at the nest


Waltman JR, Beissinger SR (1992) Breeding behavior of the Green-rumped Parrotlet. Wilson Bulletin 104(1):65-84 (Available as a free pdf via SORA)

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Enemies of the Trout - Part 2

The 1884 NY Times article on the Enemies of the Trout that I've posted about previously forgot one predator that really has style. Check out this slideshow of amazing Osprey fishing photographs from Miguel Lasa Photography here.

Parrot Evolution

A long, long time ago, I wrote a short article briefly summarizing what is known about the evolution of parrots (Psittaciformes). You can check it out now at 10,000 Birds:
Parrot Biogeography and Evolution.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

What brings people here?

My frequent posting schedule? Ha! (I am in fact working on more posts, just slowly. Got a lot on my plate) Here's a funny little aside that I thought I'd share. A little over a month ago I signed up with Google Analytics to see what new stats I could track about blog visitors. Well, the funniest thing ever is seeing what google searches lead people to my site. Here are the best searches in the past month:

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In reviewing the best searches, I noticed a trend. People seem to enjoy large dead African mammals, but don't seem to know what to do with them. They've repeatedly found my blog using these searches:

dead giraffe
uses for a dead giraffe
rhino meat
rhino meat pictures
where to buy dead rhino meat
what to do with rhino meat
can you eat black rhino meat?

To all of the people who have crossed through my blog using these bizarre searches, I salute you, and I hope you found the answers you were looking for.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Supporting local conservation: Sharpe's Longclaw

Conservation of natural resources is fundamentally a human problem - we can only save species by convincing the people who live on the land and the people who use the resources that it is worth saving. For this reason, I am always made happy by seeing sincere local initiatives to solve conservation problems. The bird bloggers at 10,000 Birds have taken up this grassroots approach, using their blog to support local education efforts aiming at saving the Kinangop Grasslands in Kenya, with a focus on one particularly cool convergent endangered Motacillid. Check out more information over at 10k.

Parrotlet Videos: Allopreening

After Green-rumped Parrotlets (Forpus passerinus) have selected a proper nest box, they engage in several behaviors to maintain a loving pair-bond. One of these is allopreening. If you don't find this to be the cutest thing ever, you have a cold, cruel heart.

Photo and video courtesy of Rae Okawa.

Next up: More pair-bonding

Monday, March 2, 2009

Parrotlet Videos: Prospecting

As I've mentioned in previous posts about Green-rumped Parrotlets (Forpus passerinus), the first stage in the parrotlet breeding cycle is a pair selecting a nest site. They accomplish this by examining the different boxes we put up. They are very cautious about it at first, prospecting the box without actually entering. Here are several birds prospecting (video courtesy of Rae Okawa):

Up next: Parrotlet love

Sunday, March 1, 2009

He's older than me! - Gopherus polyphemus

I've been at Archbold Biological Station for just over a month now, and I've already accumulated a nice collection of Gopher Tortoise (Gopherus polyphemus) sightings. I've never been particularly excited by tortoises (Testudinidae) - I thought they were ugly and boring. Since seeing my first wild tortoise (there is one Venezuelan exception I'll write about soon), I've come to appreciate them more. Maybe soon I'll even admit to liking them.

Gopherus might be considered a keystone species here in the central Florida scrub. They dig large burrows into the sand that dot the landscape here and end up providing homes for a variety of other interesting creatures, including my highly-desired target species, the Indigo Snake (Drymarchon). Here is a collection of my interesting tortoise observations so far. I'll proceed ontogenetically.

Can you spot the youngling?

This little tortoise is the youngest I've yet found. After shutting himself up for my camera, he went running for his little burrow.

Next up are a series of adults. This first one I found basking in his burrow entrance. In response to my prodding, instead of backing down his burrow, he actually moved forward and rotated, completely blocking the burrow with his shell. I've never heard of this behavior before.

Other adults:

The coolest behavior I have observed so far was a failed mating attempt by two young adult tortoises. I came upon them in the middle of the road, and was able to get within 10 feet to film them. Check out this absolutely hilarious video!

Can you just see the pain of rejection on his face?

He watches as she recedes into the distance:

Evidently the attempt had been going on a while before I got there, there were tracks all over the road:

My final observation of Gopherus is a real winner. It turns out herpetologists at Archbold had been marking tortoises in long-term studies for many years (although it has been discontinued for an unknown number of years). Well, I happened to find one of those marked tortoises, and boy is he a geezer.

It turns out this old man was first marked as an adult in 1972. We have no way of knowing how old he was then, so all we can say about him no is he is old. How cool is that?