Sunday, February 06, 2011

What Did You Learn Today?

Most people go on vacation to have fun, right? As a nature nut, I also try to learn about birds, rocks, etc. when we go on vacation. For example, lots and lots of little birds were flitting between the trees, either in bad light, or just setting speed records from tree to tree. Many were Yellow-rumped Warblers, but some were little brown birds with stripes near their wings. Eventually, one of them held still long enough for us to see the yellow spots. This is a juvenile Yellow-rump! One mystery solved!
Dick and I enjoy our Gentle Yoga classes at the YMCA, and I have improved over time. I still have terrible balance though, and absolutely cannot balance on one leg. I have to do a pose called Kickstand, instead of Tree. This Willet is doing a perfect tree pose, and I'm jealous.
This Ring Billed Gull seems to be wearing a rubber band around his bill, as though someone wants him to keep a secret. But that look in his eye.... must be the super spy among gulls!
Juvenile gulls go through several molts before adulthood, and really really good birders can tell how old the juvie is just by the feather patterns. Not me, sorry. However, I now know that juvenile Herring Gulls have pink legs with brown feathers on tail and secondary flights.
Although the beach is not a place to hurry, these birds all seem to be in a rush this afternoon. It's a great opportunity to compare the sizes of the largest Herring Gull, medium size Ring Billed Gull, and small Dunlin, all in a hurry to get somewhere or other.
Remember, I volunteer with Raptor Rehabilitation of Kentucky, Inc., and every shift, we gather the pellets coughed up by every bird. Pellets, of course, contain the bones, fur and other non-digestible parts of their rodent dinner. Today, I started seeing these blobs of shells up and down the beach, something I've never seen before, despite many beach walks. As an experienced raptor worker, I immediately recognized these blobs as pellets! When gulls eat small animals, they swallow them shells and all, but later cough up crushed pieces of shell which can't be digested, like the raptors. The tide washes them away, so I haven't seen them before. It just makes sense!
Grackles are funny birds -- shiny irridescent black, bright yellow eyes, and really loud! A flock lives here at the hotel, and today we found one snacking on a bananna peel. Well, I guess that's healthier than the potato chips I usually picture them eating.
A good vigorous shake after your bath works well when you don't have a towl to dry off with!
Since Dick and I volunteer with nature preserves, we usually don't have time to go on vacation during the summer. Plus, we try to go someplace warm when it's cold in Louisville, but lately we have trouble finding warm places in January and Febuary at all! Anyway, we are used to seeing shore birds in their winter plummage, and wouldn't recognize them in breeding colors. Sanderlings are little gray birds, running down to the sea and back. But we've been seeing little brown birds near the water's edge instead. Have the Sanderlings started into their breeding plummage this early? No, we've now determined that these are Dunlins. Mystery two solved.
Have you ever seen gulls dancing in the shallow tidal pools? It looks like a really fast Mexican Hat Dance, moving their feet up and down. However, this stirs up the mud and little animals which the gull then eats. Watch this movie to the end to see the Gull Dance.
Superbowl? Are you watching it or not? It's halftime, and the group called Black-eyed Peas is on. Oh My! I guess they won't have any wardrobe malfunctions unless the batteries die on the lights for their suits, and those extras doing aerobics. Maybe this is actually a group from the 23rd Century, time traveling back to appear in the Super Bowl!

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