Phylogenetic reconstruction of relationships of the Australo-Papuan parrots using the Bayesian criteria and the 27 taxa and eight loci used in the Secondary dataset. Posterior probabilities are indicated above branches; values of 1.0 or 100% are indicated with asterisks and values below 0.7 or 70% are not shown. Images of birds painted by Frank Knight reproduced with permission (see Acknowledgments). The species depicted, from top to bottom are shown approximately to scale, and are: Pezoporus flaviventris, Neophema elegans, Psephotus dissimilis, Melopsittacus undulatus, Loriculus galgulus, Psittacella brehmi, Eclectus roratus (male, left and female, right), Micropsitta finschii.
Sunday, 24 October 2021
Thursday, 30 September 2021
RECOGNITION Instantly identified by its “forked tail” and close association with sycamore. Pale green with broad white dorsal stripe infused with brick-red spots. Head with pair of medial white lines that diverge to follow edges of the triangle and conspicuous, broad reddish band, edged below with white that extends to the antenna. Larva to 4cm.
OCCURRENCE Edges of watercourses, wetlands, and parks from Missouri to Massachusetts south to northern Florida and Texas. At least two generations with mature caterpillars from May to November.
COMMON FOODPLANTS Sycamore; reports from cottonwood and other foodplants may be in error.
REMARKS This interesting caterpillar is anything but drab its moniker is derived from the plebian appearance of the adult. The larva rests with its head partially pulled within the thorax (inset). Look for the Drab Prominent on leaf undersides, positioned over the midrib or a strong secondary vein. I have had consistent success searching saplings and young sycamore plants in late summer. In early instars, the anal prolegs account for more than half of the body length. Alarmed larvae shunt blood (hemolymph) into their anal prolegs, enlarging them further, and flail them about the body. In each successive instar, the anal prolegs become proportionately smaller and lose erectile capacity. The pupa overwinters.
Sunday, 5 September 2021
Seychelles is a group of small islands 1,500 km off the eastern coast of Africa, in the Indian Ocean. It is a luxury tourist destination, offering the romantic tropical island experience with sun-drenched beaches, palm trees, coral reefs, and top-class accommodation. To wildlife enthusiasts and conservationists, however, they are something much more: an example of successful habitat restoration and the recovery of bird populations that at one time seemed doomed to extinction. Seychelles include about 40 granite islands and more than 100 coral or sand islets.
The larger islands have hilly centers covered with montane forest and, not surprisingly, it is these islands that hold most of the endemic bird species. Indeed, Mahe, the largest island, is home to seven of them and one, the Seychelles Scops Owl, occurs nowhere else. This small reddish-brown owl was discovered in 1880 but declared extinct in 1958, having been recorded just once in the meantime, in 1940. Following up on reports of strange croaking calls being heard at night, however, it was rediscovered only a year later, when reports tentatively suggested the existence of 20 birds. It is now known, however, that there are about 360 birds, mostly found in the Morne Seychellois National Park, and it has now been intensively studied, the very first nest having been discovered in 2000.
This back-from-the-brink story is not the only one to feature among the birds of Seychelles. On the nearby island of Fregate, for example, the Seychelles Magpie-Robin has faced a more genuine struggle for survival. Its problems are common to many Seychelles birds, and to many species of birds on small islands generally. Once widespread on most of the major islands, this attractive black chat with a broad white wing-bar fell victim to a catalog of ills; foraging mainly on the ground, it was frequently preyed upon by introduced cats and its tree-hole nest was vulnerable to rats.
This, together with habitat destruction and degradation, eventually limited the magpie robin to just one 2.19-sq-km island, and by 1965 there were only 15 individuals remaining, perhaps making it the rarest bird in the world. Then the conservation agencies stepped in, yet their first attempts at helping the magpie-robin failed. Some birds were translocated to other islands but died out; cats were eradicated from Fregate in 1982, but still, the population hovered in the danger zone.
It was not until 1990, when the habitat on Fregate began to be managed especially for them, that the birds, at last, began to recover, reaching a total of 85 individuals by 1999. Birds were translocated to Aride, Cousin and Cousine islands and the present total from the four populations is well above 150 birds. In 2005, to richly deserved fanfare, Seychelles Magpie-Robin was downgraded from Critical status to Endangered by BirdLife International. Meanwhile, the island of Cousin was witnessing its own drama. At the same time that the magpie-robin was faltering on Fregate, Seychelles Warbler population declined to 29 individuals on Cousin, and it was in severe trouble. However, in 1968 Cousin Island came up for sale and became the first island in the world to be owned by an international conservation organization (the International Council for Bird Preservation, the forerunner of BirdLife International).
The island was promptly purged of its coconut palms and the original scrubby vegetation regenerated. The warbler recovered and its population is now over 2,000 individuals, including birds translocated to Aride and Cousine. Studies have shown that this species lays only one egg per clutch, exceptionally low for a member of its family. The next species that were expected to reach dangerously low populations was the Seychelles White-eye. Until recently it was thought to occur only in Mahe, wherein in 1996 there were thought to be only 35 individuals surviving, all dangerously vulnerable to cats and to nest-predation by rats, and introduced Common Mynas. With no hope of eradicating these threats on such a comparatively large (30 km long) island, things looked bleak until, miraculously, a previously unknown, thriving population of more than 250 was discovered in 1997 on the predator-free islet of Conception.
For once, the bird managed its own recovery. The other Seychelles endemics have spared the conservationists too much trauma, but several are vulnerable to catastrophic events. Magnificent Seychelles Paradise Flycatcher, for example, the male of which is entirely sooty black with a long trailing tail, occurs only on the island of La Digue, where its population numbers about 230 birds. The gecko-eating Seychelles Kestrel numbers about 450 birds, mostly on Mahe, while the Seychelles Swiftlet has a larger population, but many of its breeding caves are still to be discovered. Happily, the Seychelles Blue Pigeon, the Seychelles Bulbul, and the Seychelles Fody are all secure, and the Seychelles Sunbird seems to have positively benefited from man’s alteration of the local environment. It can be seen everywhere. Thus it is that a birder visiting Seychelles can still see a good range of endemic birds.
The other main attraction is the seabirds and the island of Aride has some of the most important colonies in the Indian Ocean, totaling about one million birds of ten species. There are up to 360,000 pairs of Sooty Terns, 200,000 pairs of Sooty Noddies (Seychelles has all the world’s largest colonies of this bird), and 72,000 Audubon’s Shearwaters. Bird Island, an isolated speck 100 km north of Mahe, may hold a million Sooty Terns in the breeding season, of which up to 600,000 pairs may actually be nesting.
This island also provides a habitat for 10,000 Brown Noddies and several other species of tern. Meanwhile, the population of the exotic-looking White Tern, with its snowy plumage and large dark eye, numbers about 14,000 pairs throughout all the islands. Famously, it lays its single egg precariously on a fork in a branch from where, on occasion, it may be deliberately tipped by a badly behaved Seychelles Fody. These two last-named sums up Seychelles quite well, bird-wise. The fabulous White Tern adorns the tourism brochures, but it is birds like the fody that provide lasting and uplifting memories of the Seychelles.
KEY SPECIES Eleven endemic land birds including Seychelles Magpie-Robin and Seychelles Paradise Flycatcher, and a host of tropical seabirds including White Tern. TIME OF YEAR July to October is best when the seabirds are breeding.
Thursday, 2 September 2021
The tamarisk family consists of about 4 or 5 genera of shrubs and trees from Eurasia and Africa. Species are commonly halophytes, occurring in saline or alkaline habitats. Twig Much branched, often green and photosynthetic. leaf Commonly small and scalelike. Flower Usually tiny, often in branched inflorescences; sepals, petals, and stamens each commonly 4 or 5; ovary superior, 1-chambered, with usually 3 styles. Fruit Capsule containing hairy seeds.
TAMARIX: tamarisks or Saltcedars
Of the approximately 55 species of tamarisk native to the Old World (Eurasia and Africa), about 9 have been introduced to North America, and at least 2 have become aggressively invasive. Shrubs and trees with a fine, wispy, often drooping terminal stem that are grayish-green, photosynthetic, and mostly deciduous at the end of a season. Bark Brownish or reddish-brown, smooth at first, eventually becoming grayish brown and furrowed. The leaf is Reduced to tiny scales that have salt-excreting glands and thus are sometimes encrusted with white. Flower Tiny, whitish to pinkish, usually bisexual (when unisexual, male and female on the separate plant), borne in racemes that are either single or in branched clusters. Sepals 4 or 5, separate or joined at the base; petals 4 or 5, separate; stamens 4 or 5, attached to the edge of a central nectar disk with 4 or 5 lobes, or immediately beneath it. Fruit Tiny capsule splitting into 3 or 4 segments, with many tiny seeds, each seed with a tuft of hairs at the tip, resembling a minute whisk broom.
The biblical manna may have come from the excrescence of insects feeding on tamarisk. Honey producers make dark, flavorful honey from the flowers. Tamarisk was apparently introduced to the U.S. in the 1850s for ornamental use, for windbreaks, or to stabilize erosion. It raced across the West as an invasive plant in the early The 1900s, displacing native vegetation along watercourses, overtaking more than half a million hectares. The Northern Tamarisk Beetle (Diorhabda carinulata) and closely related species are now being used for biological control. Tamarisk is deep-rooted, tapping water that other plants may not be able to access, but also has widely spreading roots, which give rise to new plants. The tiny seeds float upon the wind for long distances. Other means of eradication are expensive, requiring chemical and/or mechanical means, and sometimes also the burning of dense stands.
In North America, tamarisks (or saltcedars)occur in places that are wet at least part of the year, such as saline plains, floodplains, roadsides, riverbanks, canyon bottoms, and springs, from low to moderate elevations, in much of the w. and se. U.S. The slender green terminal, often drooping twigs with tiny alternate, scale-like leaves are diagnostic, especially when examined in combination with inflorescences of minute pinkish-white flowers. At first glance, Casuarina, which has not been naturalized in the West, is very similar, but it has scale-like leaves in rings, making a jointed stem, and a small avoid, rough woody fruiting body.
Tamarix species are differentiated by small differences of the flower, particularly the shape of the nectar disk and attachment of stamens to the nectar disk. Also important is the presence or absence of minute teeth on leaves or sepals, though species are practically impossible to identify without flowers. Flower and leaf features require at least a 10×lens to see. To confound the problem, species will hybridize when in contact with one another, and a number of floral parts may vary on any one plant.
Still, with a lens and persistence, one can usually identify a species, or an intergrade between species. Look at the number of stamens per flower (4 or 5) and the junction of the stamens with the nectar disk in the center of the flower. In this treatment, the first species, T. parviflora, has 4 stamens. The second group of species, beginning here with T. gallica has 5 stamens with flared bases of filaments confluent with the nectar disk, and no well-defined disk lobes between the filament bases. The third group of species, headed by T. chinensis, has 5 stamens with slender filaments, and an abrupt junction between the nectar disk and narrow base of the filament, the disk with well-defined lobes between the filament bases.
Tuesday, 17 August 2021
The Flammulated Attila sings two acoustically distinct song types. Dawn songs have up to six elements, four of which occurred in the main phrase and two others in the terminal phrase. Birds sequenced these elements inflexible but predictable ways. Attilas varied the number of repetitions of dawn song elements before going on to the next element or ending the song. They combined elements in different ways by using two different starting elements and three ways of ending songs. Ignoring variable repetitions of song elements, 22 different patterns were observed at least once. Most birds had four or more patterns present in the recorded sample of their singing. Individual birds that were known to have elements in their repertoire often omitted some of these elements from songs.
Day songs seemed to be less flexible than dawn songs, but birds often failed to give the terminal phrase, sang the terminal phrase without first singing the main phrase, or repeated the terminal phrase. Day songs also varied in the number of repetitions of the most common note of the main phrase. Dawn and day songs of a tyrant flycatcher, the Flammulated Attila (Attila flammulatus), were recorded in Costa Rica. Flexible syntax was noted in both dawn and day songs. Attila’s not only varied the number of repetitions of their song elements but also combined elements in various ways. This appears to be the first reported case of combinatorial song syntax in a suboscine species.
Tuesday, 13 July 2021
These majestic tiny birds are extremely fascinating for many reasons. The way they fly, their colorful feathers, and their high-pitched chirping are just a few of the things that make them so interesting to watch. When it comes to diversity in nature, there is no bird as diverse as the hummingbird. The hummingbird family contains more than 310 species divided into two subfamilies: The 28 Neotropical species and the 292 Nearctic species, with each living in different parts of North America (their home continent). These two groups can be further divided into 10 genera with 18 different species that reside in California alone. Hummingbirds live on average anywhere from 2-7 years, but some have been documented living up to more than 10 years.
Friday, 8 May 2020
What is an Invention?
An invention is something that is developed by a person, or by a team of people, usually in response to a need. From paper cups to pencils, good inventions make our lives easier. Other inventions, such as candy bars, make our lives more fun. Some inventions meet an obvious need. The first can opener, invented in 1855, was made almost 60 years after the invention of the sealed tin can; before this, cans were opened with a hammer and chisel. Innovation is the application of better solutions that meet new requirements or needs. For example, the innovations to the light bulb—from incandescent to compact fluorescent to LED—has meant brighter lighting.
What is a discovery?
Discoveries and inventions often complement each other, but they are different things. A discovery is when something that already exists is found. The discovery of lodestone, a magnetic rock, led to the invention of the first compass, which sailors used to navigate.
Who was first?
Many inventions have been developed by different people at the same time. A famous example is the light bulb, first made by Englishman Joseph Swan and by American Thomas Edison in 1878. The two had not worked together.
What is a patent?
A patent is a legal document that grants sole rights to an individual or company to make, use, and sell an invention for a certain period of time. A patent protects an original idea, so the inventor can make money from it.
Thursday, 18 April 2019
Monday, 8 April 2019
Saturday, 6 April 2019
Thursday, 7 June 2018
Monday, 22 February 2016
People believe that the coffins are connected to the killers because of the number. The belief is the 17 coffins represent the victims of Burke and Hare, along with the first body they sold (the man died of natural causes). Many of the figures were lost or destroyed, however, the remaining ones are currently on display at the National Museum of Scotland.