“Toads come on it’s spring!”


Spring has sprung across most of the USA  now and flowers are everywhere. My roses abound after the freeze gave them a rest this winter in the Tucson desert. So much beauty and so little time in the desert to enjoy spring.

Time to invite those frogs and toads to the party of insects beginning to emerge in and around your garden. In Tucson generally we see lots of Colorado river toad around monsoon time in the summer, but where it is cooler frogs and toads will be heard croaking through the spring and  summer into the fall.

Happy spring everyone. Remember to plant those flowers that the pollinators love to visit like the herbs, flowers, and flowering trees and bushes.

Gardening with the family helps the whole family and the planet.

Video courtesy of  youtube.com and  Cindy Hoffman of Defenders of Wildlife

Toads just love to eat plant-destroying insects, making them a great addition for any garden. In this video, Defenders’ Cindy Hoffman demonstrates how to attract these amazing amphibians to YOUR backyard.

Image courtesy of   http://bit.ly/gZJxPP

“Audubon Xmas Bird Counts” (CBC’s) -new holiday tradition-help Mother Nature”


Host a CBC 4 KIDS in your community during Christmas and New Years…Anywhere!
CBC 4 Kids! (In Tucson, AZ)

“If a child is to keep alive his inborn sense of wonder, he need the companionship of at least one adult who can share it, rediscovering with him the joy, excitement and mystery of the world we live in.”  Rachel Carson

Every year for over a century, “Christmas Bird Counts” (CBC’s) have been organized across America through Audubon, mainly for adults, during mid-December and early January. Young kids with their families are often not included with this important 24 hour rigorous “citizen science” effort…so we created the CBC 4 Kids…and families… a stand alone half day event instilling some of the important basic ingredients of this grand old Audubon tradition. The objective is to have fun and potentially create a “hometown team” of birders and conservationists for the future while encouraging families to enjoy and respect nature together.

Start simple…It only takes 2-3 teams to get started! Target a date over Christmas and New Years between the 2nd weekend in December and  the 3rd weekend in January while the winter birds are settled. It is a wonderfully simple, healthy, holiday celebration for almost any school, youth group, Audubon Chapter or nature center, wildlife refuge or local community…Anywhere!

Getting Started!

1. FIND A GOOD HOST – Find a good facility & fun partner to support a simple half day event that could provide a comfortable space, volunteers, snacks, water, bathrooms and basic supplies. Examples that might work – Audubon Chapter, Audubon Sanctuary, Ducks Unlimited, National Park, local community center, park & rec. department, a national wildlife refuge with a visitor center, nature center, civic clubs like Rotary, 4H, Boys & Girls Club, Scouts…any organization that wants to encourage the family to get out in nature.

2. Set Date & Time – The half day event (approx – 8:30AM-2:00PM) can take place on any day you choose from the 2nd weekend in Dec. through the 3rd weekend in January.  Birds are mostly settled into their winter habitats. This is a very busy holiday season for families and the traditional Audubon CBC which is a totally separate adult event used for science and research. So if your community offere the traditional CBC work around their dates.  You can also learn from their efforts.

3. Birding Leaders Are Needed – Connect with local Audubon Chapter or birding organization, nature organization or individual birders for several experienced adult birding team leaders that enjoy working with kids and families.
 Junior leaders with birding experience can be very helpful.

4. Establish Birding Routes In Advance - Define good safe (90 minute) birding routes in multiple locations in advance with defined “start and finish” points. Use Google Maps. Half mile walking routes work for this age group. Diversifying the habitats to enrich the variety of birds discovered.  Encourage birding leaders to scout out their birding routes before the event day. If you back track on the same route only add new species not already seen.

5. Target Age Group (Ages 8-15 Works) Middle school or junior high is ideal. Note: Younger family members (very young birders) are invited to the brown bag lunch celebration at noon with adult supervision to enjoy the festivities and kids presentations. Some events choose to offer a “special” program for young birders while the teams of older kids with an adult are actually out birding. The activity works well for bilingual kids and underserved kids. This is not about dropping kids off and babysitting!  A parent or adult family member must attend the event with each child in the field.

6. Birding Team Size – (Ideally, 4-6 kids per team) Observing parents are not considered “birding team members”. Parents come along to help with logistics and to be “quiet observers” facilitators and drivers. The birding team need to work together in the field with their birding leaders to get optimum safe and timely results.

7. Press Release & Public Meeting - We suggest writing a press release and offer a helpful public information meeting 3-4 weeks before the actual event date. Get the word out early!

8. Sign Up & Key Elements for Organizers - Advanced sign up helps.  Be prepared in advance with the rules with birding routes, disclaimer forms, safety issues, one common bird check list (25-50 local birds) for each team and begin team sign up asap. Allow for any organizations, classrooms and individuals to have their own small team if they choose to come as a group. Pre-assigning birding teams, routes and leaders before the day of the event helps. There will be new people showing up on the event day.

9. What to Bring & Wear:

binoculars, scope, field guide, water, snacks/lunch. comfortable shoes, hat, sunscreen, etc.  Always dress for the weather. Local Audubon Chapters, ecology and nature centers and schools often have a supply of binoculars.

For more details and to join or start a team:

In Tucson, AZ. contact.

Resources

Excerpts courtesy of   http://bit.ly/ftgApM

Excerpts courtesy of  http://bit.ly/g37PgV

Image 1. courtesy of    http://bit.ly/fYaywx

Image 2. courtesy  of   http://bit.ly/gozUmn

“Saving hundreds endangered reptiles + birds -Malaysia”


It was a good week for saving endangered species with the help of Malaysian officials who seized hundreds of endangered radiated tortoises, tomato frogs and chameleons days after a major wildlife bust of thousands of rare birds.

Customs officials at the Kuala Lumpur international airport in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia on July 17, 2010, found endangered wildlife in the hand luggage of two Madagascan. Found were 369 radiated tortoises, five Madagascar tortoises, 47 tomato frogs and several chameleons.

“The tortoises were bound with masking tape to prevent them from moving, while the chameleons were stuffed into socks to prevent detection,” he told the Star, adding that the animals were worth 250,000 ringgit (78,000 dollars).

The Radiated tortoise (Astrochelys radiata) is a species in the genus of the Astrochelys tortoises. This species is native to Southern Madagascar and , and has been introduced to the islands of Réunion and Mauritius. As the Radiated Tortoises are herbivores, grazing constitutes 80-90% of their diet, while they also eat fruits and succulent plants. These tortoises are, however, endangered, mainly because of the destruction of their habitat by humans and because of poaching

The Madagascan flat-tailed tortoise is known locally as Kapidolo (ghost turtle) and is currently one of the most threatened and ancient of all the world’s tortoises. Kapidolo is a forest floor-dwelling species found only in a small area of western Madagascar.

The endangered Tomato frog is any one of the three species of genus Dyscophus and originally came from Madagascar. The common name comes from the frog’s bright yellow orange to deep red color. When threatened, a tomato frog puffs up its body. If a predator grabs a tomato frog in its mouth, the frog’s skin secretes a thick gummy toxin that can irrritate the predator’s eyes and mouth, causing it to release the frog.  They tend to eat small insects and invertebrates, but have been known to eat mice!

Two days earlier, Malaysian police stumbled across a massive haul of endangered wildlife, including a pair of valuable birds of paradise, as they raided a warehouse of stolen cars. More than 20 protected species were found in the “mini zoo” in the capital’s suburbs.

The researchers said that with proper law enforcement and protection, the restoration of turtles and tortoises could boost ecotourism, providing income for local people.

“Thank you Malaysian authorities for for dedication to saying the most endangered species on the planet so future generations can enjoy their unique beauty.” -Mother Nature

Resources

Excerpts courtesy of     http://bit.ly/ddlxRl

Excerpts and Image radiated tortoise courtesy of    http://bit.ly/czs4Zb

Excerpts and Image  tomato frog courtesy of   http://bit.ly/cK6FLH

“The picture BP doesn’t want you to see-Contractor’s view”


Stained black it’s all black now – a contractor’s personal story.

dead dolphin oozing oil

Never shown to our President – a dead dolphin rotting in the shore weeds.

Filled with oil. Oil pouring out.

BP cover up cover up everything with oil a contractor’s view

BP uses the police to keep these oily images of the dead animals out of the news.All the life out here is just full of oil.

BP never showed the President.”

The grasses by the shore littered with tarred marine life, some dead and others.

“No living creature should endure that kind of suffering.”

Queen Bess Island endangered Louisiana brown pelicans rookery little white heads stained black stood sentinel. They seemed slow and lethargic-dying.

Birds trying to clean themselves, but they are unable. Oil kills.

A caring contractor attempts to save birds and turtles struggling hard to survive…

Green Reed grass mow half  black..

Five turtles drowning in oil -two dying not dead yet, but they will be.

A pod of dolphins showed up to swim with the vessel and guide it to land.

“They know they are in trouble. We are all in trouble,” the contractor said. …

BP spends 10 thousand dollars a day to major media to keep a positive image.

On Monday, a Daily News team was escorted away from a public beach

on Elmer’s Island by cops who said they were taking orders from BP.

Resources

Excerpts and Image 1. courtesy of  floridaoilspilllaw.com

Image 2. (laughing gull) courtesy of  google.com

“Louisiana’s oil spill came at the worst time”


Louisiana’s oil spill came at the worst time possible nesting season.

This is migration, spawning and nesting time for migratory song bird, endangered brown pelican and upwards of 25 million birds a day transit the region in their northern migration. More than 70 percent of the country’s waterfowl frequent the gulf’s waters, including the brown pelican, which is in its nesting season on Breton Island, in the spill’s projected path. That population of birds is still recovering from a previous oil spill that devastated the population.

How many will animals will we lose this time?

Federally protected marine mammals including the endangered whales, dolphins and all species of sea turtles are at the greatest risk. A pod of sperm whales has been sighted near the spill but has so far avoided the area. Endangered sea turtles are more vulnerable to nest they swim to shore to lay eggs on protected beaches.

No animal is safe from being coated with oil as they rise to the surface to breathe. Unable to breathe or by eat uncontaminated sea food they and their young are doomed. If feathers are covered in oil birds will starve, they will fly no more.

There seems to be way too many of these “accidents” of late.  Now BP Oil has waited far too long to begin clean up especially since 5,000 barrels of oil are pouring out into the Gulf daily.  Gulf is on fire 1800 degrees manmade fires with 1800 feet plume of toxic gases polluting even the air of the Gulf after a rupture in the well over one week ago.

Tonight (without divine intervention) it will invade the coastal wetlands.

Our government wants to open more of this drilling off the shores of our most pristine lands along the coast of Alaska and in our national parks like the Grand Canyon.

Tell your senators to forget it and develop clean sustainable energy instead or your children may not know much of the wildlife we have grown to love and admire.

Resources

Excerpts courtesy of   http://bit.ly/aAIi35

Excerpts courtesy of   http://bit.ly/aZeT7T

Video courtesy of   http://bit.ly/9N6azh

Video courtesy of  http://bit.ly/9iNrHB


“Wooing a female takes hard work+ sweetness for caribs”


One of the smallest birds-the purple throated carib must work very hard to cultivate and defend his territory.  Successful male caribs maintained and defended the nectar

supplies in his territory. These supplies were two to five times greater than their daily needs plus part of its nectar crop must contain a stock of heliconia flowers for visiting female to dine on.

Male and female purple throated caribs are alike in plumage, but males are considerably larger and have longer wings than females. Females, however, have bills that are 20 percent longer and 30 percent more curved than the bills of the males, allowing them to feed from flowers that males cannot.  Seems that male and female energy needs match the energy derived from the flowers they sip.

Male caribs feed from the Caribbean heliconia

(Heliconia caribaea)(image left),

while females feed primarily from the lobster claw heliconia

(Heliconia bihai)(image at the right).

Heliconia b. used by female carib

Purple-throated Carib [Eulampis jugularis] plumage is largely black. Its throat is purplish red with its tail and upper tail feathers colored bluish green. Wings are a metalic green. The Purple-throated carib is a hummingbird species native to the mountainous islands of the Eastern Caribbean where John Kress and Ethan Temeles, an ornithologist and biology professor at Amherst College in Massachusetts, have spent several years researching purple throated caribs in the wild on the island of Dominica.
Resources

Excerpts courtesy of   http://bit.ly/a4hAPW

Image 1. courtesy of    http://bit.ly/bthiW2

Image 2. courtesy of   http://bit.ly/bbO25F

Image 3. courtesy of  http://bit.ly/aA1FMD

“Female mosquites love the delicious odors given off by humans”


Back in the days of my high school science project, my most memorable one was on mosquitoes. Culex pipien pipiens was the species. My mission was to find out whether they laid more viable (more to hatch) eggs with or without a human blood meal. As I reported the findings in front of an auditorium full of people in Champagne Urbana, Illinois, an unusual reaction spread through my audience. One row at a time each person began scratching as I described how I feed the mosquitoes a human blood meal-my arm stuck in their cage. At the height of the mosquito population, it numbered about 300 hungry females. Research has advanced significantly since my days with the mosquito abatement service. The Culex p.p. did lay more viable eggs on human blood if you are interested.

Why  did all these mosquitoes prefer a human blood meal to the gerbil or guinea pig meal?

Well it seems researchers now understands why humans are such a delicacy. It seems we give off more carbon dioxide and nonanal odors than these other animals. This combination is irresistible to female mosquitoes.
How do they detect these odors?
We give them off through  our skin. Nonanal molecules are an end product of fat digestion and when we breathe our skin exudes the combination of these odors. When it is hot, we sweat and give off heat, CO2 and nonanal odors. These odors are sensed by the receptor sense cells on the antennae of the head of the mosquito and it can hone in on that essence from many feet away. They will land and where ever the concentration of the odors is the strongest they will drill through clothes including jeans to suck the blood that carries the desired chemicals to the surface of the skin.
The UC Davis research on the nonanal odor was funded in part by the National Institutes of Health; a cooperative research agreement with Bedoukian Research, a supplier of specialty aroma and flavor ingredients headquartered in Connecticut; and the National Science Foundation.
Resources

Excerpts courtesy of   http://news.yahoo.com/livescience/whyhumanblooddrivesmosquitoeswild
Excerpts courtesy of   http://www.news.ucdavis.edu

Excerpts courtesy of  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sensory_receptor

Excerpts courtesy of   http://www.springerlink.com

Image mosquito mouth parts  courtesy of  http://www.vanderbilt.edu/maxpalp.jpg
Image mosquitobloodmeal  courtesy of   http://www.biolib.cz.jpg

“The stork cometh and baby does live!”


The African Shoebill storks are first time parents! Congratulations to everyone involved!

On December 25, 2009, in Tampa Florida at the Lowry Park Zoo the first baby African Shoebill stork was

The Stork cometh!

hatched. Thus Lowry became the first wildlife institution in the North America to hatch a rare African shoebill stork chick, and just the second institution worldwide.
So far the parent birds are involved parents who are sharing in the brooding responsibilities.  Aviary zoo keepers have conducted “dawn to dusk” watches to document feeding by the parent birds and response by the chick. It is thought that the chick will remain in the nest for about 120 days.

There are few Shoebills in captivity. Only 12 adult shoebills live in North American wildlife institutions, four of which are housed at Tampa’s Lowry Park Zoo. The population of wild Shoebills is thought to number 8,000-10,000 with the species listed as vulnerable.  “The shoebill population is uncommon in the wild, and rarely seen in zoos.

“Congratulations on this historic achievement in conserving  this rare species.” -Mother Nature

The African Shoebill (Balaeniceps rex)or Whalehead belongs to the pelican family.

Known as one of the great bird species of Africa, the Shoebill is a very large bird. The adult is 115-150 cm (45-64 in) tall,  230-260 cm (91-125 in) across the wings and weighs 4 to 7 kg (8.8-15.5 lbs). The adult is mainly grey while the juveniles are browner. It lives in tropical east Africa in large swamps from Sudan to Zambia. darkly colored birds (blue-grey) with unusually large bills up to 12 inches long and 5 inches wide that resemble the shape of a wooden shoe. A broad wingspan and long, strong legs give this rare bird a stork-like appearance.
Common names for Shoebills include shoe-billed stork, whale-headed stork or bog bird, because they are known to nest on the ground near water where they forage in shallow, aquatic environments. preying on fish, frogs, reptiles, such as baby crocodiles, insects and small mammals. They lay 2 eggs in their undisturbed papyrus reed beds in highly vegetated areas.

A unique adaptation for hunting

A shoebill stork will often live in waters that are poorly oxygenated so the fish their prey will have to go to the surface more often for oxygen. This increases their higher chance of getting pleny of fish to eat.
The population is estimated at between 5,000 and 8,000 individuals, the majority of which live in Sudan. BirdLife International have classified it as Vulnerable with the main threats being habitat destruction, disturbance and hunting.

Resources


Excerpts
courtesy of  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shoebill_stork

Excerpts courtesy of  http://www.zandavisitor.com/forumtopicdetail-29-Tampa_Lowry_Park_Zoo

Image 1 and 2. courtesy of   http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Balaeniceps_rex_-San_Diego_Zoo.jpg

“Nature’s Gallery of blue wonders – really true blue” part 3″


The Blue penguin Eudyptula minor is the smallest of all penguins on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. It weighs in at 2.2 lb/1 kg and is only about 18 inches/45 cm in height. Unlike all other penguins, the male is a little larger than the female, although their plumage is similar. The head and upper parts are indigo in color, with slate-grey ear coverts fading to white underneath, from the chin to the belly. The flippers are indigo above and white underneath. The dark grey-black bill, the irises pale silvery or bluish-grey or hazel, and the feet whitish above with black soles and webbing. An immature individual will have a shorter bill and paler upper parts.
These birds feed by hunting fish, squid and other small sea animals, for which they travel and dive quite extensively. They are generally inshore feeders. The use of recording devices has provided information of the diving behavior of Little Penguins. Fifty percent of their dives go no deeper than 6.6 ft /2 m and the mean diving time is 21 seconds.
Little penguins in air had insulative values similar to the emperor penguin. Penguin feathers provide the major component of insulation and their function as a waterproof barrier implies relatively high rates of heat loss on land.

The extent to which the muscles powering swimming in the little penguin utilize aerobic and anaerobic metabolism was investigated by examining oxygen stores, muscle ultrastructure shows that the muscles used to power swimming in the little penguin are basically aerobic (oxygen needed for maximum functioning) with limited capacity for producing ATP during muscle anoxia (oxygen deprivation). This suggests that these birds do not rely extensively upon short bursts of rapid swimming or indulge in prolonged deep diving to a point where oxygen stores available to the swimming muscles are exhausted. hey could not maintain body temperature at water temperatures below 5°C. Their small size,muscle physiology and metabolism has limited their range to a southern distribution primarily to the coastlines of southern Australia and New Zealand.


The female Blue Dart frog fights for her mate. Then lets the male raise the the young

The Blue Dart Frog Dendrobates azureus is blue through and through and listed as a threatened species.
It is native to southernmost part of Suriname in a region known as the Sipaliwini Savannah in South America.
Weighing about 3 grams, it is about 1.2 to 1.57 in/3 to 4.5 cm in length with four toes each has a wide, flattened tip and a suction cup pad.  The intensely bright coloration tells potential predators to stay away because its skin hosts poison glands all over it that secrete alkaloid poisons capable of paralyzing, even killing some predators.

D.azureus has an azure-blue hue on the limbs, a sky-blue on its dorsal surface, and a darker blue on its ventral surface. An irregular pattern of dark blue and black spots of various sizes cover this background coloration with the majority of the spotting located on its back as well as head. Sometimes, the ventral surface of the body has a dark blue or black midbelly stripe. Its skin is generally smooth, but often portions of the posterior ventral surface and thighs have a granular texture.  This species is also characterized by its hunch-backed posture.
During the breeding season,  Blue Poison Dart Frog  the males sit on a rock and produce quiet calls, which the female follows and tracks down the male. The females then physically fight over the male. The male takes the female to a quiet place by water to mate, which becomes the site of the egg-laying.
Between five to ten offspring are produced, and eggs are laid in the male’s territory, which he defends. The male takes care of the eggs most of the time, but sometimes the female does as well. The eggs hatch between fourteen and eighteen days, and after anywhere from ten to twelve weeks, the tadpoles are fully mature.

The only natural predator of most of the poison dart frog family is a snake called Leimadophis epinephelus, which has developed a resistance to the frogs’ poison.

Resources

Excerpts courtesy of  http://www.springerlink.com/content/t96417446t26571g/

Excerpts courtesy of  http://www.jstor.org/pss/30156056

Excerpts courtesy of  http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/Dendrobates_azureus.htm

Excerpts courtesy of  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dendrobates_azureus

Image courtesy of  http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/Little_Blue_Penguin.jpg

Image courtesy of   http://animals.nationalgeographic.com/blue-poison-dart-frog-two.jpg

“Nature’s Gallery of blue wonders – really true blue” part 1


Nature’s wonders

a variety of colors, but these are really true blue year in and out.

The blue-crowned motmot has a large head with down curved, short, broad beak, which is serrated along the upper edge. Their tarsi (feet) are unique in that they are particularly short with a middle toe almost completely fused to the inner toe and only one rear toe.  The center tail feathers, which twitch like the pendulum of a clock when the motmot is perched, have bare spines at the tip. This makes them easily recognizable. The plumage of the blue-crowned motmot is shades of green and blue. They have red eyes, a turquoise crown and black face.

The blue shark, Prionace glauca, is a carcharhinid shark which is found in the deep waters of the world’s temperate and tropical oceans. They prefer cooler waters and are not found, for example, in the Yellow Sea or in the Red Sea. Blue sharks are known to migrate long distances, from New England to South America for example. Although generally lethargic, they are capable of moving very quickly if the need arises. Blue sharks are viviparous and are noted for their large litters of 25 to over 100 pups. They feed primarily on small fish and squid, although they are perfectly capable of taking larger prey should the opportunity present itself

O Christmas tree

Colorado blue spruce trees

have  silvery-blue needles are prickly to the touch and aromatic. The pyramidal shape of Colorado blue spruce trees makes them a classic choice for Christmas. Height: 90 to 135 feet Spread: 20 to 30 feet.

Blue ice

occurs when snow falls on a glacier, is compressed, and becomes part of a glacier that winds its way toward a body of water (river, lake, ocean, etc.). During its travels, air bubbles that are trapped in the ice are squeezed out, and the size of the ice crystals increases, making it clear.
In some areas, earthquakes have raised the blue ice above the ground and created formations much like large frozen waves. Ice is blue for the same reason water is blue: it is a result of an overtone of an oxygen-hydrogen (O-H) bond stretch in water which absorbs light at the red end of the visible spectrum
Blue ice is exposed in areas of the Antarctic where there is no net addition or subtraction of snow. That is, any snow that falls in that area is counteracted by sublimation or other losses. These areas have been used as runways due to their hard ice surface which is suitable for aircraft fitted with wheels rather than skis.

Glory-of-the-Snow

begins blooming Zone 8 in mid-March in the snow,  by first produced two or three slender basal leaves per bulb, with a single flower stalk no taller than about six or eight inches and these beautiful blue and white flowers.

Resources

Excerpts and Image 1. courtesy of  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blue-crowned_Motmot

Excerpts courtesy of  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Picea_pungens

Excerpts courtesy of  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blue_shark

Excerpts courtesy of  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Motmot

Excerpts courtesy of  http://www.webexhibits.org/causesofcolor/5C.html

Excerpts courtesy of    http://home.howstuffworks.com/glory-of-the-snow.htm
Excerpts courtesy of   http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chionodoxa_luciliae

Image 2. courtesy of  http://www.conservationplace.com/Tree2009/images/coloradospruceXS.jpg

Image 3. courtesy of  Maria Stenzel  and National Geographic

Image 4. courtesy of   http://upload.wikimedia.org/Glory_of_the_Snow_in_the_snow.JPG


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