The Insect of the Week: The Silverspotted Skipper

In our latest series, Princeton Birds & Nature will highlight a new insect as seen in one of our titles, Garden Insects of North America: The Ultimate Guide to Backyard Bugs, now available in its second edition. From tiny earthworms to creepy cockroaches, and even beautiful butterflies, this new series will thrust bugs out of the backyard and into the spotlight.

Our inaugural post is adapted from pages 138-139 of Garden Insects of North America:

The Silverspotted Skipper is the most commonly encountered skipper, found throughout most of the southern border provinces of Canada and most of the continental U.S., except the Great Basin and west Texas. Adults are light brown, heavy-bodied butterflies with a wingspan ranging from 1. to 2⅝ inches. The overall color of the wings is brown with a yellow-brown band, but the underside of the lobed hindwing has a metallic silver band.

Larvae develop on wisteria and various leguminous plants such as black locust, honeylocust, false indigo bush, soybean, (Amorpha) and Cassia species. A full-grown larva is about 2 inches long. It has a dark reddish brown head with large yellow eye patches. The prothoracic shield is brown and the abdomen is yellow with darker transverse stripes and spots.

A silverspotted skipper (Epargyreus clarus) perched on a leaf, where they tend to create nests of eggs.

During egg laying, females alight on potential host plants to attach single eggs to leaves. The eggs are green with a red top. After hatching, the young larvae make shelters on the apical halves of leaves by cutting a flap on the leaf margin, folding it over and attaching it with silk. Larger larvae often silk several leaves together to form shelters. They leave the shelters only to feed or to make larger shelters. When mature, the larvae pupate inside the leaf nest. The pupal stage gives rise to summer adults, but pupae formed in the fall spend the winter in the leaf nests. In the more northern parts of its range, one generation is normal, but three to four generations can occur in southern states.

Garden Insects of North America: The Ultimate Guide to Backyard Bugs
Second Edition
By Whitney Cranshaw & David Shetlar

This second edition of Garden Insects of North America solidifies its place as the most comprehensive guide to the common insects, mites, and other “bugs” found in the backyards and gardens of the United States and Canada. Featuring 3,300 full-color photos and concise, detailed text, this fully revised book covers the hundreds of species of insects and mites associated with fruits and vegetables, shade trees and shrubs, flowers and ornamental plants, and turfgrass—from aphids and bumble bees to leafhoppers and mealybugs to woollybears and yellowjacket wasps—and much more. This new edition also provides a greatly expanded treatment of common pollinators and flower visitors, the natural enemies of garden pests, and the earthworms, insects, and other arthropods that help with decomposing plant matter in the garden.

Designed to help you easily identify what you find in the garden, the book is organized by where insects are most likely to be seen—on leaves, shoots, flowers, roots, or soil. Photos are included throughout the book, next to detailed descriptions of the insects and their associated plants.

An indispensable guide to the natural microcosm in our backyards, Garden Insects of North America continues to be the definitive resource for amateur gardeners, insect lovers, and professional entomologists.

  • Revised and expanded edition covers most of the insects, mites, and other “bugs” one may find in yards or gardens in the United States and Canada—all in one handy volume
  • Features more than 3,300 full-color photos, more than twice the illustrations of the first edition
  • Concise, informative text organized to help you easily identify insects and the plant injuries that they may cause

 

Bird Fact Friday – Antarctica’s Crested Duck

Adapted from page 90 of Antarctic Wildlife:

The Crested Duck is a large brown and buff duck with a shaggy crest and dark eye-mask found along the Beagle Channel. These ducks are almost always seen in pairs, and only rarely gathers in flocks. They feed quietly on or by the shoreline, usually in pairs or family parties. Plumage is mid-brown with large buff blotches on flanks and scapulars, with a paler brown-grey color on head, which highlights their dark brown eye-mask and crown sides. Their long, droopy crest is often held flat against the rear of their head. At close range, their flaming red eye is striking.

A Crested Duck (Lophonetta specularioides) is usually about 50-55 cm in length.

In flight, the white trailing-edge contrasts with their otherwise blackish wings, and a small chestnut-purple panel in the centre of each wing sometimes catches the light. Instead of migrating north to milder climes, Crested Ducks see out the harsh Patagonian winter by moving to sheltered spots on unfrozen waters.

Antarctic Wildlife: A Visitor’s Guide
By James Lowen

Antarctic Wildlife is the definitive identification guide to the birds and marine mammals of the Antarctic Peninsula, Drake Passage, and Beagle Channel. This easy-to-use photographic field guide enables visitors to this unique region of the world–newcomer and seasoned traveler alike–to identify with confidence the penguins, whales, seals, seabirds, and other stunning wildlife they encounter on their journey. Full-color photographs show typical views of each species of bird or marine mammal, together with the terrestrial plants likely to be seen. Detailed species accounts describe key identification features, give tips on where to look, and highlight interesting facts. This one-of-a-kind guide also includes introductory chapters that cover the wildlife of each Antarctic environment by season, as well as information on tourism and Antarctic cruising that will help visitors get the most from their trip.

Antarctic Wildlife is a must-have photographic guide for travelers taking the standard cruise from Ushuaia, Argentina, to the great white continent, and for anyone interested in the diverse wildlife found in this remote part of the world.

  • Covers the wildlife of the Antarctic Peninsula, Drake Passage, and Beagle Channel
  • Features full-color photographs throughout
  • Describes key identification features and gives tips on where to look
  • Includes an introduction to Antarctic environments and information on Antarctic cruising

 

Big Pacific: Nomura’s jellyfish, the ocean’s drifter

From pages 97-99 in Big Pacific:

Another plus-sized Pacific denizen is Nomura’s jellyfish, a gargantuan grazer that spends most of its life adrift in the Yellow and East China Seas. Starting life as a pinhead-sized polyp, this peripatetic monster mushrooms rapidly — in less than a year — to 2 meters (6. feet) in diameter and more than 200 kilograms (440 pounds) in weight. To fuel this extraordinary growth — up to a 10 percent increase in size per day — the juvenile jellyfish feeds on tiny plankton particles through a mouth which measures just a millimeter (3/64th inch) across.

The ravenous appetite of the burgeoning jellyfish cannot be satisfied by one miniscule mouth, however, so as the invertebrate grows, it develops more mouths of the same size beneath its umbrella-shaped bell. Zooplankton, fish eggs and larvae are pushed up towards these mouthlets by the pulsating action of the jellyfish through the water and the movement of its grasping tentacles. An adult Nomura’s jellyfish is said to be able to filter an Olympic-sized swimming pool of plankton in this manner in a single day.

The Nomura’s jellyfish has no eyes or brain. It can only control its depth in the water.

Once limited to the Yellow Sea, the Nomura’s jellyfish is now regularly found in the Sea of Japan, where mass aggregations of the animal are causing a headache for local fishers. No one is sure why population explosions have been seen there in recent years, but scientists suspect they are linked to the rising sea temperatures associated with global warming. This could be exacerbating population outbreaks already attributed to nutrient build-ups arising from coastal and agricultural development, and to overfishing — the last because of the severe reduction in the numbers of fish species such as swordfish and tuna that prey on the jellyfish and thus help keep a check on their numbers.

Big Pacific: Passionate, Voracious, Mysterious, Violent
By Rebecca Tansley

The Pacific Ocean covers one-third of Earth’s surface—more than all of the planet’s landmasses combined. It contains half of the world’s water, hides its deepest places, and is home to some of the most dazzling creatures known to science. The companion book to the spectacular five-part series on PBS produced by Natural History New Zealand, Big Pacific breaks the boundaries between land and sea to present the Pacific Ocean and its inhabitants as you have never seen them before.

Illustrated in full color throughout, Big Pacific blends a wealth of stunning Ultra HD images with spellbinding storytelling to take you into a realm teeming with exotic life rarely witnessed up close—until now. The book is divided into four sections, each one focusing on an aspect of the Pacific. “Passionate Pacific” looks at the private lives of sea creatures, with topics ranging from the mating behaviors of great white sharks to the monogamy of wolf eels, while “Voracious Pacific” covers hunting and feeding. In “Mysterious Pacific,” you will be introduced to the Pacific’s more extraordinary creatures, like the pufferfish and firefly squid, and explore some of the region’s eerier locales, like the turtle tombs of Borneo and the skull caves of Papua New Guinea. “Violent Pacific” examines the effects of events like natural disasters on the development of the Pacific Ocean’s geography and the evolution of its marine life.

Providing an unparalleled look at a diverse range of species, locations, and natural phenomena, Big Pacific is truly an epic excursion to one of the world’s last great frontiers.

Learn more by watching Big Pacific, available to stream on PBS.

 

Bird Fact Friday — the White-browed Robin Chat

From page 134 of Birds of the Masai Mara:

The White-browed Robin Chat is a thrush-sized bird with a grey back and orange underparts. Common in lodge and camp gardens where there are large and scattered trees and lush undergrowth, the White-browed Robin Chat is generally a retiring bird, but can be easily tamed. With its striking head-pattern, bright underparts and burnt-orange tail in flight, this bird is easily recognised.

A White-browed Robin Chat (Cossypha heuglini). Photo credit: Adam Scott Kennethdy.

The cyclical song starts quietly but increases in volume and pace. Pairs will often engage in powerful duets, especially when rival pairs are nearby, and the noise can be deafening. It is common to see this bird feeding its young, which are similar to the adults but heavily spotted and lack the strong face pattern. If you are very lucky, you may also see adults feeding a dark, heavily barred fledgling that is far larger than itself – this will be a juvenile Red-chested Cuckoo, a species that routinely lays its eggs in robin chat nests.

Birds of the Masai Mara
By Adam Scott Kennedy

Birds of the Masai Mara is a remarkably beautiful photographic guide featuring the bird species likely to be encountered by visitors to the popular Masai Mara National Reserve in Kenya. With an eye-catching layout, easy-to-use format, and no-jargon approach, the book contains more than 300 stunning photographs covering over 200 species of birds and is accessible and informative, rather than purely identification-based. A handy, brief introduction provides visitors with background on the habitats of the national park, and the guide’s habitat-based approach makes it simple to identify any bird species according to where it is found. Based on the firsthand experiences of the author, Birds of the Masai Mara is an ideal companion to all those visiting the national reserve and to bird aficionados interested in learning more about the region.

  • The only photographic guide to focus solely on the bird species of the Masai Mara National Reserve
  • More than 300 remarkable photographs covering over 200 species
  • Accessible text explores bird species behavior and species etymology
  • A brief and handy introduction examines the habitats of the Masai Mara
  • Easy-to-use habitat-based layout makes exciting birdwatching easy

First published in 2012.

 

 

Big Pacific: The Galápagos Tortoise, a roaming reptile

From pages 116-118 of Big Pacific:

Perhaps the best known Galápagos inhabitants are the tortoises after which the archipelago was named — the word ‘galápago’ meaning tortoise in Spanish. Sometimes weighing in excess of 400 kilograms (900 pounds), they are the world’s largest tortoise, and also one of its longest lived.

Galápagos tortoises can survive without food or water for six months or more by breaking down body fat to produce sufficient water and nutrients. This remarkable adaptation helps them endure droughts on the islands’ arid lowlands, but also led to their mass exploitation by whalers and sealers who captured and kept the animals on board their ships as a convenient source of fresh meat for long sea voyages. This led not just to a rapid decline in Galápagos tortoise numbers but the extinction of several sub-species once found on the islands.

[Galápagos tortoises] move regularly from arid lowlands to lusher highlands, over time creating trails across the landscape.

Typically the herbivorous animals’ diet is the product of a daily routine which sees them wander along well-worn paths from the lower slopes of their island homes to the volcanic highlands. Here the tortoises enjoy the abundance of water and plants — including an introduced and highly invasive species of guava that now seems to be sustaining some tortoise populations.

Big Pacific: Passionate, Voracious, Mysterious, Violent
By Rebecca Tansley

The Pacific Ocean covers one-third of Earth’s surface—more than all of the planet’s landmasses combined. It contains half of the world’s water, hides its deepest places, and is home to some of the most dazzling creatures known to science. The companion book to the spectacular five-part series on PBS produced by Natural History New Zealand, Big Pacific breaks the boundaries between land and sea to present the Pacific Ocean and its inhabitants as you have never seen them before.

Illustrated in full color throughout, Big Pacific blends a wealth of stunning Ultra HD images with spellbinding storytelling to take you into a realm teeming with exotic life rarely witnessed up close—until now. The book is divided into four sections, each one focusing on an aspect of the Pacific. “Passionate Pacific” looks at the private lives of sea creatures, with topics ranging from the mating behaviors of great white sharks to the monogamy of wolf eels, while “Voracious Pacific” covers hunting and feeding. In “Mysterious Pacific,” you will be introduced to the Pacific’s more extraordinary creatures, like the pufferfish and firefly squid, and explore some of the region’s eerier locales, like the turtle tombs of Borneo and the skull caves of Papua New Guinea. “Violent Pacific” examines the effects of events like natural disasters on the development of the Pacific Ocean’s geography and the evolution of its marine life.

Providing an unparalleled look at a diverse range of species, locations, and natural phenomena, Big Pacific is truly an epic excursion to one of the world’s last great frontiers.

Learn more by watching Big Pacific, airing Sundays on PBS Guam and CPTV Spirit. Watch the trailer below:

 

 

Bird Fact Friday — The Variegated Fairywren

It’s Black Bird Fact Friday, so let’s celebrate with a look at another beautiful bird.

From page 230 of Birds of Australia:

Australia’s most widespread fairywren. Like males of several other fairywrens, the male Variegated has a blue crown contiguous with a pointed blue ear patch, a black throat and upper breast, a white lower breast, and a large chestnut shoulder patch. The blue markings are not uniform and have a bright, shimmering iridescent quality. There are distinct subspecies, which differ in the intensity of the blue crown colour. The males can be separated from those of Lovely, Blue-breasted, and Red-winged Fairywrens by the light blue edges at the sides of the breast, lacking in those species.

A female Variegated Fairywren (Malurus lamberti). Photo credit: Geoff Jones.

Females differmuch more among subspecies; over most of Australia they are sandy brown above and buff below, with a white-tipped blue tail and chestnut lores and eye rings that create a masked appearance. Superb Fairywren females differ in lacking a fine white tip to the tail. Variegated females from Arnhem Land (NT) and the Kimberley region (WA) are white below and have black wings and beautiful powder-blue upperparts. Small groups of this common bird generally favour undergrowth and clearings within habitats such as open woodlands, eucalypt forests, mallee, mulga, and even rainforest edges in e.Australia. Variegated is found all over mainland Australia except the s. and n. extremities.

Birds of Australia
By Iain Campbell, Sam Woods & Nick Leseberg
With photography by Geoff Jones

Australia is home to a spectacular diversity of birdlife, from parrots and penguins to emus and vibrant passerines. Birds of Australia covers all 714 species of resident birds and regularly occurring migrants and features more than 1,100 stunning color photographs, including many photos of subspecies and plumage variations never before seen in a field guide. Detailed facing-page species accounts describe key identification features such as size, plumage, distribution, behavior, and voice. This one-of-a-kind guide also provides extensive habitat descriptions with a large number of accompanying photos. The text relies on the very latest IOC taxonomy and the distribution maps incorporate the most current mapping data, making this the most up-to-date guide to Australian birds.

  • Covers all 714 species of resident birds and regularly occurring migrants
  • Features more than 1,100 stunning color photos
  • Includes facing-page species accounts, habitat descriptions, and distribution maps
  • The ideal photographic guide for beginners and seasoned birders alike

Big Pacific: Palolo Worms, the sprawling spectacle

From pages 23-24 of Big Pacific:

Mysteriously driven by the moon’s cycle, the mass spawning of Palolo worms leads to a unique annual harvest on many Pacific islands. In Samoa it is an eagerly anticipated, communal event. Equidistant between Hawai‘i and New Zealand, Samoa is part of the group of islands known as Polynesia. Samoans have long been sustained by the Pacific’s bounty, and they regard the protein-rich Palolo worms as an extra-special gift of the sea.

Between midnight and dawn — the timing depends on the exact location — the first few worms emerge from the coral reefs. Soon their writhing forms swirl upwards in the water like a frenzy of animated scribbles.

Harvested epitokes are eaten raw, fried in butter or cooked with egg or onion.

Measuring around 30 centimeters (12 inches) in length, these animals spend most of their lives buried inside the substrate of the ocean floor. Once a year they undergo a remarkable transformation, sprouting an extended tail segment, called an epitoke, that is filled with either eggs or sperm. The epitoke — colored either pale tan (male) or bluegreen (female) — also sports a primitive, light-sensitive eye that guides it to the sea’s surface.

Prompted somehow by lunar phases, all the worms in one area release their epitokes more or less in unison. This simultaneous timing maximizes the chances of fertilization and creates one of the ocean’s greatest mass spawning events.

After fertilization, the eggs drift away on the currents to hatch into larvae. For a time these form part of the ocean’s planktonic biomass, but eventually the maturing worms settle on the seafloor to begin the miraculous and mysterious cycle again.

Big Pacific: Passionate, Voracious, Mysterious, Violent
By Rebecca Tansley

The Pacific Ocean covers one-third of Earth’s surface—more than all of the planet’s landmasses combined. It contains half of the world’s water, hides its deepest places, and is home to some of the most dazzling creatures known to science. The companion book to the spectacular five-part series on PBS produced by Natural History New Zealand, Big Pacific breaks the boundaries between land and sea to present the Pacific Ocean and its inhabitants as you have never seen them before.

Illustrated in full color throughout, Big Pacific blends a wealth of stunning Ultra HD images with spellbinding storytelling to take you into a realm teeming with exotic life rarely witnessed up close—until now. The book is divided into four sections, each one focusing on an aspect of the Pacific. “Passionate Pacific” looks at the private lives of sea creatures, with topics ranging from the mating behaviors of great white sharks to the monogamy of wolf eels, while “Voracious Pacific” covers hunting and feeding. In “Mysterious Pacific,” you will be introduced to the Pacific’s more extraordinary creatures, like the pufferfish and firefly squid, and explore some of the region’s eerier locales, like the turtle tombs of Borneo and the skull caves of Papua New Guinea. “Violent Pacific” examines the effects of events like natural disasters on the development of the Pacific Ocean’s geography and the evolution of its marine life.

Providing an unparalleled look at a diverse range of species, locations, and natural phenomena, Big Pacific is truly an epic excursion to one of the world’s last great frontiers.

Learn more by watching Big Pacific, airing Sundays on PBS Guam and CPTV Spirit. Watch the trailer below:

 

 

Bird Fact Friday — Red-Rumped Parrot

From page 194 of Birds of Australia:

The male Red-Rumped Parrot is a bright green parrot with a red rump, lemon-yellow belly and vent, and a subtle blue wash on the shoulder and forehead. It is told from male Mulga Parrot by its lack of red on the nape and vent and absence of a yellow shoulder patch. Females are dull brownish-green with little colour except some green on the rump. The lack of any strong shoulder mark or reddish nape patch separates this species from female Mulga Parrot.

A male Red-Rumped Parrot (Psephotus haematonotus)

Red-rumped parrot is most likely to be found in pairs or small flocks. It readily perches in the open, is often conspicuous and approachable, and is more regularly found around country towns than Mulga Parrot. Red-rumped is a common species of the south-east, where it occurs in farmlands with scattered trees and grassy and other open woodlands, often around watercourses.

Birds of Australia
By Iain Campbell, Sam Woods & Nick Leseberg
With photography by Geoff Jones

Australia is home to a spectacular diversity of birdlife, from parrots and penguins to emus and vibrant passerines. Birds of Australia covers all 714 species of resident birds and regularly occurring migrants and features more than 1,100 stunning color photographs, including many photos of subspecies and plumage variations never before seen in a field guide. Detailed facing-page species accounts describe key identification features such as size, plumage, distribution, behavior, and voice. This one-of-a-kind guide also provides extensive habitat descriptions with a large number of accompanying photos. The text relies on the very latest IOC taxonomy and the distribution maps incorporate the most current mapping data, making this the most up-to-date guide to Australian birds.

  • Covers all 714 species of resident birds and regularly occurring migrants
  • Features more than 1,100 stunning color photos
  • Includes facing-page species accounts, habitat descriptions, and distribution maps
  • The ideal photographic guide for beginners and seasoned birders alike

 

Big Pacific: The deep diving Marine Iguana

From pages 123-124 of Big Pacific:

With 97 percent of its reptiles and land mammals found nowhere else, the Galápagos archipelago has one of the highest levels of endemism — species unique to one place — on the planet. A prime example is the Marine iguana, a landliving reptile that forages underwater for marine algae and can dive more than 9 meters (30 feet) beneath the water’s surface to do so.

Unsurprisingly, this lizard has evolved adaptations to equip it for this amphibious lifestyle, including long claws and strong limbs that help it cling on to the rocks in coastal currents and wave wash.

The Marine iguana of the Galápagos is the only lizard in the world that dives for its food. The post-swim sunbathing they enjoy warms their reptilian bodies, which have been chilled by the cold Galápagos waters.

Although comfortable in the cool Pacific waters of the Galapagos, the iguanas cannot remain long in the water or their body temperature will drop too low. As reptiles they rely on external heat sources, so in between dips they warm themselves by sunbathing on the rocks, their dark skin helping them soak up the equatorial sun. This period of post-swimming lethargy is when they are most vulnerable to predation, but as the iguanas are characteristically aggressive their natural predators are few.

Their main threats appear to be introduced predators such as dogs and cats, and climatic events, such as El Niño, which increase the local water temperature and impact the growth of the algae on which the iguanas rely.

Big Pacific: Passionate, Voracious, Mysterious, Violent
By Rebecca Tansley

The Pacific Ocean covers one-third of Earth’s surface—more than all of the planet’s landmasses combined. It contains half of the world’s water, hides its deepest places, and is home to some of the most dazzling creatures known to science. The companion book to the spectacular five-part series on PBS produced by Natural History New Zealand, Big Pacific breaks the boundaries between land and sea to present the Pacific Ocean and its inhabitants as you have never seen them before.

Illustrated in full color throughout, Big Pacific blends a wealth of stunning Ultra HD images with spellbinding storytelling to take you into a realm teeming with exotic life rarely witnessed up close—until now. The book is divided into four sections, each one focusing on an aspect of the Pacific. “Passionate Pacific” looks at the private lives of sea creatures, with topics ranging from the mating behaviors of great white sharks to the monogamy of wolf eels, while “Voracious Pacific” covers hunting and feeding. In “Mysterious Pacific,” you will be introduced to the Pacific’s more extraordinary creatures, like the pufferfish and firefly squid, and explore some of the region’s eerier locales, like the turtle tombs of Borneo and the skull caves of Papua New Guinea. “Violent Pacific” examines the effects of events like natural disasters on the development of the Pacific Ocean’s geography and the evolution of its marine life.

Providing an unparalleled look at a diverse range of species, locations, and natural phenomena, Big Pacific is truly an epic excursion to one of the world’s last great frontiers.

Learn more by watching Big Pacific, airing Sundays on PBS Guam and CPTV Spirit. Watch the trailer below:

 

Bird Fact Friday — The Spinifex Pigeon

From page 62 of Birds of Australia:

A handsome, reddish inland species, Spinifex Pigeon is mostly ruddy-coloured and has a pointed rufous topknot and a striking face pattern: Bare red skin surrounds a pale eye, and the face is striped black and white, with some subtle blue markings too. Bold black bars are spread across the wings and sides of the mantle, and some subspecies also show a bold white bar across the chest. It is inconspicuous when it forages on the ground, and is well camoufl aged, as its reddish colouration mirrors the red dirt and the rocky outcrops within the arid landscapes it inhabits: rocky and hilly areas and spinifex grasslands within the north of the Outback.

The Spinifex Pigeon (Geophaps plumifera) is typically 7.5-9 inches tall.

It occurs patchily within the NT, c. and n. WA, far w. QLD, and far n. SA. Spinifex Pigeon is never far from water in its arid environment, and is therefore best located around shrinking water sources late in the dry season, when these nomadic birds become more concentrated.

Birds of Australia
By Iain Campbell, Sam Woods & Nick Leseberg
With photography by Geoff Jones

Australia is home to a spectacular diversity of birdlife, from parrots and penguins to emus and vibrant passerines. Birds of Australia covers all 714 species of resident birds and regularly occurring migrants and features more than 1,100 stunning color photographs, including many photos of subspecies and plumage variations never before seen in a field guide. Detailed facing-page species accounts describe key identification features such as size, plumage, distribution, behavior, and voice. This one-of-a-kind guide also provides extensive habitat descriptions with a large number of accompanying photos. The text relies on the very latest IOC taxonomy and the distribution maps incorporate the most current mapping data, making this the most up-to-date guide to Australian birds.

  • Covers all 714 species of resident birds and regularly occurring migrants
  • Features more than 1,100 stunning color photos
  • Includes facing-page species accounts, habitat descriptions, and distribution maps
  • The ideal photographic guide for beginners and seasoned birders alike

 

 

Big Pacific — The Blue Whale

From pages 77-79 of Big Pacific:

The open expanses of the Big Pacific are home to the largest animal ever known to have existed, the Blue whale. The weight-supporting qualities of water and the bounty of the sea have, together, enabled the evolution of this marine mammal into a gentle giant larger than any terrestrial animal could ever have grown. It is an evolutionary product of our ocean planet. At birth a blue whale can measure up to 8 meters (25 feet) in length and weigh up to 2.7 tonnes (3 tons). Nourished solely by its mother’s fat-rich milk for the first seven months of its life, it can grow up to 90 kilograms (200 pounds) a day so that, by adulthood, it stretches up to 30 meters (100 feet) in length, and weighs up to 200 tonnes (220 tons). Its heart is reputed to be the size of a small car — famously quipped to be a Volkswagen Beetle — although the comparison of such awe-inspiring natural creation with human invention does not, it can be argued, do this miraculous animal justice.

Prized by commercial whalers in the twentieth century, the Blue whale was hunted to the brink of extinction — down to as few as several hundred individuals — until it was formally protected by the International Whaling Commission in 1966. It is still regarded as endangered and scientists are uncertain how well the blue whale populations around the world are recovering.

Blue whales exist in distinct subspecies in the northern and southern Pacific. Largely solitary, they come together in groups for feeding and breeding. They have the loudest, strongest vocalizations of any animal on the planet; their calls, which consist of a series of moans and pulses, can be heard up to 1,600 kilometers (1,000 miles) away. It is thought this communication helps them find each other across vast ocean expanses.

Big Pacific: Passionate, Voracious, Mysterious, Violent
By Rebecca Tansley

The Pacific Ocean covers one-third of Earth’s surface—more than all of the planet’s landmasses combined. It contains half of the world’s water, hides its deepest places, and is home to some of the most dazzling creatures known to science. The companion book to the spectacular five-part series on PBS produced by Natural History New Zealand, Big Pacific breaks the boundaries between land and sea to present the Pacific Ocean and its inhabitants as you have never seen them before.

Illustrated in full color throughout, Big Pacific blends a wealth of stunning Ultra HD images with spellbinding storytelling to take you into a realm teeming with exotic life rarely witnessed up close—until now. The book is divided into four sections, each one focusing on an aspect of the Pacific. “Passionate Pacific” looks at the private lives of sea creatures, with topics ranging from the mating behaviors of great white sharks to the monogamy of wolf eels, while “Voracious Pacific” covers hunting and feeding. In “Mysterious Pacific,” you will be introduced to the Pacific’s more extraordinary creatures, like the pufferfish and firefly squid, and explore some of the region’s eerier locales, like the turtle tombs of Borneo and the skull caves of Papua New Guinea. “Violent Pacific” examines the effects of events like natural disasters on the development of the Pacific Ocean’s geography and the evolution of its marine life.

Providing an unparalleled look at a diverse range of species, locations, and natural phenomena, Big Pacific is truly an epic excursion to one of the world’s last great frontiers.

Learn more by watching Big Pacific, airing Sundays on PBS Guam and CPTV Spirit. Watch the trailer below:

Bird Fact Friday —The Secretarybird, an odd raptor

From page 180 of Birds of Kruger National Park:

The Sectretarybird is a very odd bird of prey in an ancient lineage and its own family. It is a tall, long-legged, crane-like, ground-loving raptor with distinctive quill-like plumes on its head and bright-red facial skin. In flight, the combination of dark trailing edge to the wing, diamond-shaped tail and long spatulate central tail projection is unmistakable. This bird is uncommon in Kruger, numbering about 300 individuals, and is declining throughout South Africa. It prefers open grasslands and savannahs, where it strides about searching for reptiles, small mammals and insects, which it bludgeons with its powerful legs.

The Secretarybird is featured on the South African national coat of arms. Photo credit: Keith Barnes & Ken Behrens.

The strange name of the Secretarybird was once thought to originate from the quills on its head bearing some resemblance to the quill pens used by an office secretary in times past. However, it is more likely that the name is a corruption of saqr-et-tair, the Arabic name for the bird, which translates as ‘hunter-bird’.

Birds of Kruger National Park
Keith Barnes & Ken Behrens

South Africa’s Kruger National Park is one of the largest and most iconic conservation areas in Africa. Habitats range from wide-open savannah and rugged thornveld to broadleaved mopani woodland. This microhabitat variation gives Kruger a phenomenal diversity of some 520 bird species, half of which are resident. From Africa’s most extraordinary eagles, like the scarlet-faced Bateleur, to electric-colored glossy-starlings and jewel-like finches, Kruger offers an avian celebration of form and color. It is also a crucial conservation area, supporting South Africa’s largest viable populations of vultures, eagles, and large terrestrial birds.

This field guide offers a unique window into the world of Kruger’s birds. More than 500 stunning color photographs illustrate the 259 most frequently encountered species, and a habitat-based approach assists in identification. The authoritative text provides key information about identification, habitat, behavior, biology, and conservation. The guide contains information likely to be new to even the most experienced birders, but is written in a nontechnical style that makes it accessible to anyone.

  • An essential guide to Kruger’s birds
  • Perfect for new and experienced birders alike
  • Small, portable format ideal for field use
  • Unique attractive layout with more than 500 stunning color photographs
  • Covers the 259 most frequently seen species
  • Uses a habitat-based approach to aid identification
  • Authoritative and accessible text provides key information about identification, behavior, biology, and conservation