My friend Ana De La Torre and her family own Pacoche reserve in Ecuador. Please visit the link above. She bought this reserve about 5 years ago with the intent of saving this 'portion of the world'....a unique area to Ecuador that is the 'dry rain forest' region of Ecuador on the coast in the providence of Manabi. I know, it makes little sense, being a 'dry rain forest' but it is.
I visited this area during mid-July with Pete Mooney and with our friend Steve in Ecuador, we saw howler monkeys, and various birds too numerous to mention.
But Ecuador is a country, while they value the environment....have little money to provide for and protect reserves such as Pacoche Reserve. Please help this reserve out. Give a few bucks...a hundred, or whatever you feel like...
Notice how this guy stuffs his stuffable jacket. Just think now, pretty remarkable. I think George Washington would have loved this jacket. Wouldn't you love to see the expression on his face as he removed his heavy wool jacket uniform and replaced it with this. I think the war would have continued, just so they could have worn the jackets and shown them off to all of the pretty colonial coeds as they gathered around Indian King Tavern in Haddonfield. 'Oh look at me, as I strut my nylon repair, reuse, recycle jacket by Patagonia. Little do you know how the Patagonia name is going to be in fashion years from now ladies".
Now George was a pretty big guy too as I hear over 6'2", so he would have needed an XL I am betting since he also brewed his own beer. None-the-less, he would have fit into that jacket, even though it stuffed down to nothing. Even in the winter, as a backup or just an added layer, he would have had this attached to his breeches. Sailing across the Delaware with my trusty and yet, so stuffable nylon, repair, reuse, recycle Patagonia.... Ladies...oh ladies.
So...birds, yes...birds. Well, I was walking the neighborhood the other day looking to eek out my 10,000 steps when I came across a small blue egg. It was only half an egg, but an egg shell. So what type of egg? Too small for a robin, and while other birds do have blue eggs, I narrowed it down to the Eastern Bluebird. Actually, I didn't narrow it as much as Cornell Labs. They stated the egg was rather small....being 2.4 cm in length and this one as you can tell from below, is just spot on.
So, this got me thinking. This isn't really that big. What can really fit in that shell, given there was another side to this egg remnant. I mean, come on, if a bluebird was in that egg, it had to be pretty small, right? It turns out it is. Pretty small and scrunched and tiny, well...almost 'stuffable'. Yes, that's it, stuffable. The bird was stuffed in that egg, somewhat.
But the process of being stuffed was in reverse. In the jacket You Tube, notice how the jacket is large and big and kind of 'all over the place' and thru some careful hand manipulation, there is a process that actually 'stuffs' the jacket into a small pocket shell. Yet the process in the birds case is opposite. The bird doesn't start out big, but starts small and essentially grows to stuff itself in this egg. Now the question of which came first comes into play. So was the bird actually a bird and had the shell already encased around or did the shell morf from a liquid sack and hardened as the bird put on the 'days' ....or well, that is besides the point. The point is that a small living creature found itself stuffed in the egg and thru careful manipulation of it's body, 'unstuffed itself' from the egg.
The nylon repair, reuse, recycle jacket by Patagonia goes to being stuffed, while the bird moves in the opposite as it becomes unstuffed. Pretty amazing all this technology stuff is but nothing less amazing than Mother Nature herself.
Today during our last birdwalk of the Audubon Spring season.....a young man named Kevin who had 'fine ears'......(not in an aesthetic manner mind you, but in an auditory one), pointed out a few birds that he heard, but "I" being of lesser auditory quality, failed to hear. I think they call that 'hearing loss' to a degree. Although to be fair, I do hear quite well, with the exception of some selective hearing with Deb.
But Kevin picked up the call of Marsh Wrens, House Wrens.... and to get at 'trees'....a Willow Flycatcher. Actually later on in the walk as we just entered Gull Pond Road, we had the pleasure of one posing naturally for us as it flew back and forth over the road. A cute little guy.
Now I have seen both...somewhere or another in the states but here we first picked up the call and labeled the species even before we got into any debate as to what type of flycatcher it was. Either a fee-bee-o OR a fitz-bee. This one was a fitz-bee or a Willow Flycatcher. The fee-bee-o belongs to it's sibling flycatcher; the Alder Flycatcher.
Without hearing them you have no idea who they are. They look the same. So how does a species who looks as if they are identical twins to the other become a separate species? I have no idea but obviously the DNA is separate.
In the old days, these two species were combined into one. It was labeled the Traill's Tyrant Flycatcher and was given that name by none other than John Audubon. John's good friend was a Brit chap named Thomas Stewart Traill, so, there you have it. Here is a British fellow who has not only a bird named after him but also a mountain in Nigeria and an island off the coast of Greenland. Who does that? I know that locally, Dr. Ed Bristol now has a trail named after him here at Forsythe Reserve but this Thomas Traill has a few 'up on him'. A bird, a mountain and an island. Remarkable, eh? The funny thing is that Thomas Traill was not even a birder. He was a friend of John Audubon, who at the time was attempting to publish his book "Birds of America'. Traill helped him find a publisher in Liverpool, England and in thanks, Audubon named this particular flycatcher species after his friend....just to say thanks for helping me 'get this damn book published and now, I can go home'...
But along came a spider and the species was separated and now instead of knowing exactly what type of species it is, we are left in a quandary of attempting to figure it out. If a jet plane is overhead and we see the species, chances are we are not going to hear it. If we are surrounded by 'talkers' or a dog barking or have earphones on or whatever, ....we are not going to be able to ID it. So, if you find yourself in that position, the proper thing to do is to simply label it a Traill's flycatcher. That is official birding etiquette in the Flycatcher world. Remember that. DO NOT jump to conclusions....if you cannot hear it, call it a Traill's.
But let me pre-suppose an idea, so hang in there. Lets just suppose, for a brief moment that we can take the two names and attempt to figure out 'who is who among these 'sibling flycatchers'. Lets see.... an Alder Flycatcher. Hmmm, what comes to mind? An Alder tree perhaps? A Willow flycatcher....hmmmm, a Willow? By god am I on to something. Can it be as simple as that?
Were not the 'makers of names' actually on to something when they figured out that Alder flycatchers prefer Alder Trees and Willow Flycatchers just love Willow Trees? Yes....by gosh, that appears to be correct. So if I see an olive covered flycatcher with a few wingbars, a white eye-ring, a split bill color and even if a jet plane is flying by preventing me from hearing any small chirpy song, but yet I view this bird in an Alder tree, why can't I say it is an Alder Flycatcher. Or if it is in a Willow tree, it is a Willow Flycatcher. By jove...bingo....the cat's meow and all rolled into one. I have figured it out.
Yet I do have my amateur misgivings on my thinking, I must admit. Today for example....there was no Alder Tree or Willow, or perhaps there was and I didn't pick up on that fact until I find myself blogging today. If the case was that the tree was 'anything' but an Alder or Willow and I have no idea of the call due to my 'Rolling Stones/hard rock/Led Zeppelin / excuse for bad hearing, than I today...I today would have seen just a mere Traill's Flycatcher. But thanks to Kevin...the man with remarkable hearing ability, I saw a Willow's Flycatcher in some type of tree, any tree.
From my youngest years as a human, (.....I believe in reincarnation so 'take that'...)... my mom talked of Robins. Now, my mom just turned 100 and yet, she still talks of robins.
When I was a lad of 2-3 .....this was in the late 1950's (Theodore Cleaver was my role model)... I can remember my mom pointing out to me the robins. The robins have returned, so spring is here. She turned me on man,....she made me appreciate birds just because of the robin.
So for the past 60 years I have followed robins. While Pete Dunne loves chickadees (for his own reasons for I love them too but....) my love is robins. I was sitting outside tonight and far off in the tree perched a robin, chirping away. I just saw a silhouette but knew it was 'my bird'.....
Robins know a lot.... they know how to find worms when I can't find them to go fishing with. You see, they have this innate ability to hear or feel or sense ground vibration. I wouldn't think that a worm makes much vibration in the ground as, after all, it is a worm. How much vibrating can a worm do? I don't understand it from a worm's perspective how it can be in the ground and somehow find itself pushing soil up. How does it know which way is up? If not for air bubbles, I would probably drown in the pool and yet, here is a worm knowing which was is 'up'. But even though they have that ability, how does a worm find itself in the middle of a parking lot? How far must it go, and yes...quite the laborious task of moving on the pavement....for what must seem like miles. Right in the middle of a parking lot at Walmart, is a worm. Hey worm ....why didn't you turn back? What happened to your sense of direction? You know how to go 'up'...in the soil with no air, no light...and the pressure of soil upon you, but for some reason you can't take the easiest of tasks and know that 'man, you are in a parking lot for goodness sakes, turn back...I say...turn back..
But this blog is not about the worm, it is about the robin..... My bone of intellectual contention with the robin is, what are YOU doing on the pavement in the first place. I have a doctorate....in fact I strived for years to write that dissertation using the correct APA and cites and research and god knows what else I managed to pull from my horse's ass to complete that, but ...I have a doctorate and I still wonder....what are you doing on a pavement in the middle of the street?
You of all birds have this keen sense of knowing and being aware of worm vibration and hearing and yet...here you are on the pavement of a busy road waiting for my car to be within ten feet of you before you fly away with a chirp, like man.... WTF? Don't run me over. Well ....get out of the dang road bird.. I am not purposely trying to run you over. In fact I pull over for turtles...I press the breaks for any creature in front of me. I purposely go below the speed limit at dusk to avoid deers...... But really bird, get off the road.
Let's move back a bit. The worm finds itself in the middle of the parking lot and it makes sense that the robin is looking for a worm, (who cares how stupid it is) and so perhaps the best place to find 'easy pickings' is on the road, is pavement...is the parking lot. But I never find a robin, not in my entire life....finding and eating a worm found on pavement.
For just today on a 4 mile walk ...I found countess worms as they attempted to find 'soil' before they dried up under the sun.... and yet, not one robin came to pick away at these easy pickings.
So obviously the worm is stupid....the robin, albeit not stupid...absolutely refuses to go after the 'easy catch' and yet continues to find itself on the pavement. How come? WHY ARE YOU ON THE PAVEMENT? YOU DONT EAT THE WORMS WHICH ARE ON THE PAVEMENT SO I QUESTION YOU AGAIN, WHAT ARE YOU DOING ON THE PAVEMENT. TELL ME...ENLIGHTEN ME.
According to Melissa and Doug this shape sorter to is meant for the ages of 2 and up. If you don't know what they are, you either have (a) No kids , (b) No grandkids, (c) No nephews and nieces or (d) Never babysat any kid in your entire life. I think that covers it. Realistically, being 2 isn't that difficult except anytime you cry or whine, someone tags on the fact that you are going thru the terrible 2's. That age is stuck with that label. Kind of like a man going thru a mid-life crisis. Anytime a man around 35-45 rebels in any way, they are going thru a mid-life crisis. Why is it that women never go thru a mid-life crisis? Perhaps because they are involved in that process their entire life (I have been married a few times so am a bit jaded here in this aspect of it all). ......
Anyhow....this shape sorter isn't that difficult for most adults although I have seen older kids (near 10) in third world countries who couldn't do this shape sorter. But for the most part here in America, or at least with my own kids and grandkids, I feel that 2 is an age where it might be a challenge, ...they might cry a bit, but eventually they will succeed. Sometimes guidance is needed and additional encouragement. By the time they are three, they master this. Their cognitive ability has kicked in.
Cognitive ability is funny. Being an educator for 35 years, I know a few things about this skill. Cognitive ability can be defined anywhere from 'shape sorting' to geometry and beyond, but it really depends on the concept and age. Obviously there is a difference between a shape sorter and geometry but the same concept of cognitve thinking applies, but the age level differs.
So.....given that extensive background information, let's move to birds. In my backyard I have this box nest which we purchased for birds. I think this is going on 3 years for this nest and in all cases 'wrens' have occupied the nest. They like it. They are not particularly good at paying their rent, but they do provide intrinsic rewards such as watching them, listening to their song...observing the young grow thru the month etc....
Yet, here I was today thinking of the nest and that dang shape sorter. As I watched a wren bring in a twig, it was obvious that the twig was a bit larger then the hole. But that 'larger' aspect only applied if the twig was attempted to be added to the nest, from 'long way into small circle. It ain't fitting little bird. Turn it...no, the other way....okay, close but too much of a turn. Now see if you can get the tip of the twig into the hole first and just walk on it with it. All right...you did it. Now, go out and find another.
This continued for 3-4 twigs as I just observed. I find myself keen at observing. I love observing people in parking lots, animals or birds etc... For they offer a comedic relief to life at times. Heavens...we all need that given Trump.
But each time the twig was brought to the nest, it was 'wiiiddddeeee'.... Real wide. Wider than the hole. Each time though, the wren used some cognitive skill to maneuver the twig so the tip went in first. It essentially placed the round peg in the round hole, as opposed to square end into the round hole. How does it know how to do this cognitive function?
I know from my own kids...and my four grandkids....that this shape sorter is not easy. I can attest that yes, it is around the age of 2 that this occurs. So by my own observance I can see that this wren....a wren of all things....has equal or more cognitive ability at this tender age of 2-3 than a human creature has. I googled breeding/mating of house wrens and while I found not a lot of information, I did find that the Bluebird reaches maturity to breed at around 9 months. Given that a wren has a life span of at most....at most...7 years, it makes sense that they would be breeding around the same time of the Bluebird (9 Months).
But you see, this is where the problem is. If a bird can breed and I am thinking they can create a nest before they are even one year old, they are beyond the capacity of a human to solve the 'shape sorter'. A human,...which has the capacity to use a 'thumb'...to think and ponder and reflect ahead, can plan....can can can can can....etc.. and more can's.... Yet at a young age the tiny bird that some poet must have written about, is actually cognitively superior to that of the human.
Amazing.....animals of all species and kinds amaze me. We naturally think of ourselves as being the king of the jungle and yet the shape sorter puzzle proves we are 'king' only because we live longer.
It makes me wonder, if a wren had a life span of human, where would we be as a civilization? Well, it is obvious that the idiot we have for president, wouldn't have been elected.