Thursday, November 12, 2009

Bark Sprouts Legs

Yesterday I went to go scrape the white paint band off of an old RCW cavity tree when a piece of unpainted bark got up and walked out of the path of my bark knife. Yeah, I was surprised, too. Do you see it?

Here's a better look:

It turns out this piece of legged bark has a name: the Grizzled Mantis (Gonatista grisea). It kept skittering in a quick crab-walk around the trunk as I chased it in circles with my camera. I did manage a few more pictures:

In retrospect, I should've cornered it and harassed it more. The result is this spectacular display.

I hadn't realized there were such crazy-looking mantids in the US. I'll have to dig out and share some pictures of even crazier tropical mantis species that I used to keep.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Yellow-knobbed Curassow Day!

Today is a tribute to an avian great, the Yellow-knobbed Curassow (Crax daubentoni)! Yellow-knobbed Curassow Day was decreed by Brad Walker, one of the current techs working on the Forpus project that I participated in last fall. Reasons for this decree are unimportant - the magnificence and wonder of these birds overwhelms all. During my time in Venezuela, I repeatedly tried to capture that magnificence on camera but was left crying in abject failure. This was the only image I managed to capture of this species:

That will simply not suffice for Yellow-knobbed Curassow Day, so I am forced to turn to Flickr. For the full extent of the yellow knob, click here.

You cannot compete with this hair, ever.
(Source - Flickr)

The only full-body view this Crax is willing to give you
(Source - Flickr)

So, go out and celebrate. If you are actually in the range of this species and have a chance at seeing it - get outside. If, like me, you are not currently in the range of any Crax species, lament your poor fortunes and start planning your next Neotropical trip. Long live the Cracids!

Monday, November 9, 2009

Sanderlings in Molt

This past August I spent a few days birding Long Island getting my shorebird fix for the year (yes, I am just now putting something together to post). One of the best reasons to visit the Long Island beaches is to see the big flocks of Sanderling playing in the waves.

When taking big flock shots of birds, I like to zoom in afterwards and look for things I missed. When I took a look at the big Sanderling flock, I noticed a large number of birds in primary molt. I thought it unusual for a migrating flock of shorebirds to be molting flight feathers on a staging ground. Upon review of The Shorebird Guide and the Sanderling Birds of North America account, it seems this is not unusual at all. Adult Sanderling should be undergoing a complete prebasic molt into non-breeding plumage, replacing all of their flight feathers in late summer and early fall. Since the staging areas along the Long Island coast are also wintering areas for at least some Sanderling, they are not necessarily even going anywhere. In contrast to the adults, juvenile birds undergoing molt into their first, incomplete, basic plumage retain their juvenile flight feathers and should not be showing this condition in August. So, this neat little factoid I noticed after the fact is actually a roundabout way of aging Sanderling. Fancy that.