Here at the edge of the wood we wish you a happy summer. The squirrels, chipmunks, birds and turkeys are taking a vacation from their modeling and educational work here at the blog. Don’t forget to keep your eyes and ears open. Some creature might have something to teach you. We will see you in September.
At the edge of the wood we always appreciate a good hair day. But the clever Blue Jays actually communicate mood with the crest feathers on their heads. When the crest is erected, making a prominent peak, the bird is excited, surprised, or aggressive. If the jay is frightened, the crest bristled out in all directions. If the bird is relaxed, the crest lays flat on the head. Here we have a relaxed Jay basking in the glow of this squirrel’s admiring gaze. Yes, we wish we could fly like that too.
At the edge of the wood sometimes the feathers fly and not while flying. Here we have a Catbird and a Cardinal having a disagreement. During mating and nesting season Cardinals are obsessed with defending their territory against any intruders. Birds may spend hours fighting these intruders without giving up. Impressive for such a little bright package!
We here at the edge of the wood are head over heels about the many wild turkey chicks in our midst. Zoologist Konrad Loranz argued way back in 1949 that the typical baby face – big eyes, small noses and heads that are large in comparison to the body – turned adults into happy baby-tending machines. So why does that transfer to animals? Well, it turns out our brains latch on to pretty much anything with the same criteria: big eyes, large heads, small noses, unsure gait. Well, here’s to biological cute. How lucky we all are to have it.
Here at the edge of the wood we like a nice cool drink and some AC at the height of the summer, but what about everyone else? Squirrels use their tails for thermoregulation. In the heat squirrels pump cooled blood from the tail directly back into the torso to lower its internal temperature. Pretty amazing. We wish our AC unit could do that.
Sadly no, these wild turkey babies, called poults, have no use for the Encyclopedia Britannica but they do imprint on the first thing they see as newborns. We salute naturalist Joe Hutto who became a mom to an orphaned brood of eggs. His fascinating story is here. Who knew bugs could be so nutritious?
Here at the edge of the wood we have never been good at math. No problem because it turns out our animal friends excel beyond our wildest dreams. Pigeons have shown that not only can they count but they can learn abstract rules about numbers, an ability that had been demonstrated only in primates. But all sorts of animals, including bees, can count. Recent studies have uncovered counting skills in different species, suggesting that mathematical abilities could be more fundamental in biology than previously thought. Here we have a fine turkey showing her chicks how to work it out at the blackboard. We should all be so lucky!
Well, it seems all the time. Paleontologists are now saying that modern birds are actually living dinosaurs. Then came news from China that some dinosaurs seemed to be marvelous four-winged creatures, perhaps on standby at some runway for takeoff in flight as early birds. Other recently excavated primitive bird species had also adopted the four-wing body plan before they ditched the hind-limb feathers and evolved into the, presumably, more efficient feathered forelimb wings. Here are a cardinal, blue jay, grackle, red-bellied woodpecker and catbird discussing their costumes for the next Jurasic Park movie. Maybe they don’t need costumes at all.
The squirrels are headed for Brooklyn Bridge Park! We are one of 40 photographers chosen for The Fence Brooklyn. This one is a 1000 foot long outdoor photo installation. Opening is on June 13 and will be up all summer. If you do come down feel free to take the squirrels on the merry-go-round or out for a ice cool cone of ice cream. Acorn is their favorite flavor.
How do squirrels climb anything anytime anywhere? Darrin Lunde, a member of the mammalogy department at the American Museum of Natural History was asked by a NYT reader how a squirrel he saw at Yankee Stadium could possibly climb the hard smooth foul ball pole. He replied, “Squirrels find a way; they hug the pole tightly with their foot pads. Squirrels can easily climb down trees headfirst because they can reverse their hind feet to point backward, so they can use their hind claws. Domestic cats cannot do that and thus have trouble climbing down trees.” Well, take that Hello Kitty. This wild turkey seems entranced too.