Saturday, December 29, 2012

I'd Rather B Birdin: Blue-Faced Honeyeater


A Blue-Faced Honeyeater or Bananabird (Entomyzon cyanotis). It's native to Australia and Papua New Guinea. The bird gets its second name from the fact that it loves to feed on bananas, so much that the species is considered a pest at banana plantations. Apart from bananas, they also feed on other fruits, nectar and insects.


They are quite noisy birds and like to forage in groups of up to thirty birds. A breeding pair may raise its chicks alone, but often immature birds from the last clutch will help them. This is called cooperative breeding - the immature birds may not spread their own genes, but at least those of close relatives and it raises the chances of the chicks considerably.

More birds at I'd Rather B Birdin. Photos taken at Wilhelma, Stuttgart.

Oiseaux Birds
San Diego Zoo
Internet Bird Collection

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Nature Notes: Orange, Blue and Brown


Some more photos from Bryce Canyon. This I think is a Pale Crescent (Phyciodes pallida barnesi)

Greenish Blue (Plebejus saepiolus saepiolus)...maybe

Enallagma spec. Bluet Damselfly...but no idea about the exact species

a spider is as much as I know... It's a female and she is carrying her egg sac below her abdomen. I find her eyes quite adorable.

Nature Notes is hosted by Michelle at Rambling Woods

Wild Utah - a big collection of photos of Utah invertebrates

ABC Wednesday: X is for...

X is for Xanthodont:
Yellow-toothed. Yes, the teeth are supposed to be that colour. Many rodents have yellow teeth, Syrian hamsters for example. This is a Coypu and you can get an even closer look at the teeth here

X is also for Xiphosuran - an order of animals that contains for example horseshoe crabs:

Horseshoe crabs are not crabs, not even crustaceans. They are more related to arachnids, but really they are doing their own thing and have been doing it for a very long time - for the last 450 million years.

See what else X stands for with ABC Wednesday

Photos were taken at Wildpark Schwarze Berge Hamburg, Hagenbecks Tierpark Hamburg and Oregon Coast Aquarium.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Rather B Birdin: Red-Shouldered Macaw


A red-shouldered macaw (Diopsittaca nobilis), the smallest macaw species, not much bigger than a cockatiel. There are two subspecies, Hahn's Macaw (Diopsittaca nobilis nobilis) and the Noble Macaw (Diopsittaca nobilis cumanensis). They can easily be told apart by their beak, Hahn's Macaw has a completely black beak while the Noble Macaw has a light-coloured upper beak.


They live in South America, in Brazil, Peru, the Guyanas and Venezuela and their habitat is threatened by logging. They are also being hunted for the pet trade.


Like all parrots, they are social birds and will fly and forage in groups, vocalising to stay in contact with each other. They feed on palm fruits, seeds and nuts. A pair will nest in tree holes or even move into a termite hill.

More birds at I'd Rather B birdin, photos were taken at Wilhelma, Stuttgart.

Internet Bird Collection

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Nature Notes: Flowers at Bryce Canyon

At first glace, the campground at Bryce Canyon didn't look very colourful. But a closer look revealed a number of wildflowers spread around the meadows and below the shrubs. I found all of these just twenty steps or so from our RV. The one above is a Plantainleaf Buttercup (Ranunculus alismifolius)

Markagunt Penstemon (Penstemon leiophyllus)

Wyoming Paintbrush (Castilleja linariifolia)

Many-flowered Stoneseed (Lithospermum multiflorum)

I'm not 100% sure - might be a Sudrops species (Calylophus spec.)

Blue Flax (Linum lewisii)

Nature Notes is hosted by Michelle at Rambling Woods

Wildflowers of Utah - a colour-coded guide with thumbnails
Dave's Garden excellent for plant ID
Bryce Canyon NP website

ABC Wednesday: W is for Wallfish

A wallfish is a snail - I hadn't heard that name before and I think it's adorable. This one is a white-lipped snail.

And here is a Burgundy snail or Escargot. This is the species that is mostly used in cooking, although there are other edible snail species.
It gives me a sceptical look, but I let it go after the fotoshoot unharmed.

See what else W stands for with ABC Wednesday

Saturday, December 15, 2012

I'd Rather B Birdin: Grosbeak Starling

The Grosbeak Starling (Scissirostrum dubium) live only on the Indonesian island of Sulawesi, where they can be found up in the trees of woodlands and wetlands. A single colony can hold more than fifty pairs of these noisy birds.

They feed on a variety of foods from insects to fruit to seeds and will also take nectar from flowers at times.

Their eggs are a light blue with red spots and there are usually four in a clutch. The starlings nest in tree cavities which they create themselves. Due to logging and mining, their habitat is threatened.

More birds at I'd Rather B Birdin'

San Diego Zoo
Internet Bird Collection - lots of photos and videos

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Nature Notes: Zion Canyon

A couple of Boxelder Bug nymphs (Boisea trivittata) - they are true bugs (Hempitera). Boxelder Bugs usually feed on maple seeds and will gather in great numbers around their host trees, basking in the sun. The nymphs may feed on the occasional insects as well, as these two are doing (I think it's another nymph).

A Eastern fence Lizard (Sceloporus undulatus), note the blue patch in front of the hind leg.

a Ground Suqirrel, but don't ask me which species.

the north fork of the Virgin River

Nature Notes is hosted by Michelle at Rambling Woods

Eastern Fence Lizard
Guide to Squirrels in Utah
Boxelder Bugs

Sunday, December 2, 2012

I'd Rather B Birdin: More Campground Birds


Not the best photo, but here's a Steller's Jay, Cyanocitta stelleri. Again, the photo was taken at the KOA campground in Flagstaff, AZ. The jays were still busy feeding their chicks, who could already fly, but were still begging for food at every opportunity. The whole flock was at least fifteen birds and very, very noisy.



A Mourning Dove (Zenaida macroura), photographed at the KOA in Kingman, AZ.


More birds at I'd Rather B Birdin'

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Nature Notes: Squirrels and a Deer


A Golden-Manteled Ground Squirrel (Callospermophilus lateralis) at Bryce Canyon NP. Note the lack of face stripes that sets it apart from chipmunks. It's also quite a bit larger, up to twelve inches long. During winter, they hibernate in ground burrows.



This guy lived next to our campside and he would go and hide in the hubcaps of our RV ... who knows why. It might just have been nice and cool in there. At least he didn't bring anything to eat with him, that would have made such an awful lot of noise when driving.


Another one, we saw it on a hike through the canyon. Which is a spectacular place:


A Uintah chipmunk (Neotamias umbrinus) also rather charmingly named Hidden Forest Chipmunk, also lived in the canyon. This species is common at Bryce Canyon and while it spends some time on the ground to forage, it lives mainly in trees and has its nest there. Unlike ground squirrels, all chipmunks will be active during winter from time to time and will spend summer and autumn with hiding and storing food for this time. Uintah chipmunks, uniquely among chipmunks, will also fatten themselves up to get them over the winter.


My dad and a mule deer. Click for a bigger version if you can't find the deer. A young buck, not afraid of us at all - he wandered all across the campground and settled down for a nap less than ten yeards from us.


Nature Notes is hosted by Michelle over at Rambling Woods

Golden-Manteled Ground Squirrel
Bryce Canyon NP

Uintah Chipmunk
Bryce Canyon NP

ABC Wednesday: T is for Turkey


Wild turkeys (Meleagris gallopavo) at Capitol Reef National Park - there are many orchards around Fruita and the turkeys foraged there.


They are actually quite impressive birds. I would have liked to see them in flight, but no such luck.


It's not quite clear how they got their name, but it does have something to do with the country Turkey. Theory number one: when imported to Great Britain, the trade route took the turkey first to Constantinople and pretty much anything coming from that direction was bestowed the moniker turkey, whether it came from Turkey or not. Theory number two: the turkey looks a bit like the guinea fowl or Turkey coq, a bird known to the first English settlers and so they continued to use the name.

See what else T stands for with ABC Wednesday

How the turkey got its name
Internet bird Collection

Saturday, November 24, 2012

I'd Rather B Birdin': Western Bluebird


A Western Bluebird at Bryce Canyon NP. The blue throat distinguishes it from the Eastern Bluebird (orange throat) and the Mountain Bluebird (no orange at all).


It's a gorgeous bird, especially when the blue feathers catch the light.

More birds at I'd Rather B Birdin'

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Nature Notes: Rabbit and Hare


A rather adorable desert cottontail rabbit (Sylvilagus audubonii) - at least I think it's a desert cottontail, there are quite a number of species. This one lived at Capitol Reef National Park, Utah. Note the small ears and short legs compared to this

Black-Tailed Jackrabbit (Lepus californicus). A Jackrabbit is not a rabbit, but a hare and hares and rabbits belong to the same family, but not the same genus. so they are related, but not all that closely.

The jackrabbit shows of its long legs and black tail. Hares live out in the open, creating just small indentations in the ground to lie in, most rabbits build burrows and live underground (cottontails don't). Hares give birth to babies that are ready to leave the nest soon after birth, but rabbit babies are naked, blind and helpless for some time.
Oh, and neither rabbits nor hares are rodents!


I encountered the jackrabbit at Valley of Fire State Park, Nevada.
Nature Notes is hosted by Michelle at Rambling Woods

Jackrabbit at Animal Diversity Web
jackrabbit at Encyclopedia of Life
Jackrabbit at Wikipedia
cottontail at Wikipedia
Hares and Rabbits at Wikipedia

ABC Wednesday: S is for Sheep


A bighorn sheep (Ovis canadensis) at Valley of Fire State Park, Nevada. We encountered him a couple of times lying by the side of the road. He didn't seem in any pain or discomfort and he still was alert and able to move, so he was probably just old.

Bighorn sheep had almost been extinct, with only a couple of thousand animals left in the 1930s. Today, there is a healthy population, especially in protected areas like national parks. Habitat destruction remains a problem, though.

The horns, of course, are their most striking feature and the males use them to do battle in late autumn over females.

Our ram probably fought many such fights and his horns still carry the traces. Females have much smaller horns, but with males, they can weigh up to 14 kilos, which is about as much as the whole sheep's skeleton.


Bighorn sheep are rather shy and that's why, despite their growing numbers, many people never get to see them. I also learned that there's another North American sheep species called Thinhorn Sheep, to be found in Alaska and over much of Canada.

See what else S stands for with ABC Wednesday

Bighorn Sheep in the Ruby Mountains