Male turkey acts as crossing guard for his flock

Here’s a video of wild turkeys (Meleagris gallopavo) that appeared on the Cheezburger site, and it’s amazing:

In Litchfield, New Hampshire, a turkey fully stopped traffic and stood guard until all the other turkeys crossed safely! The turkey guard did not cross until the last turkey was passing. Thanks to resident Donald Pomerleau for capturing the incredible footage!

Now my first thought was that this looked like a male herding a bunch of females. I then wondered whether wild turkeys form harems, and it turns out they do. The Cornell website, an authoritative source, says “flocks of young males or a dominant male with his harem of females may number several dozen or more.”

I counted 11 crossers, as well as the big male, in this group. And the others sure look like females.

Note how the big tail acts as a flag to help stop traffic.

h/t: Su

Palestinians distribute more sweets to celebrate the slaughter of Israelis

As is normal in Gaza and the West Bank, when Israelis are killed—be they civilians or soldiers—the locals hand out sweets to celebrate. And those exhibitions of odious largesse are photographed and publicized by Palestinian media.

On March 17, an attack by an unknown terrorist killed two Israelis (a soldier and a rabbi) as well as seriously wounding one.  Here are some photos from MEMRI taken from a Palestinian news video (go here to see the video) of this disgusting celebration of slaughter.

I asked Malgorzata, “Why don’t the Western media pay any attention to these disgusting displays?” Her response:

The only answer to this is what Majid Rafizadeh, an Iranian dissident who now lives in the West wrote: “The only conclusion one can come to is that Europe would evidently still like to kill the Jews and is happy to support those wishing to kill them.”

Note that although the Western press ignores this (the distribution of sweets occurs after every killing of Jews by terrorists), these videos and photos are proudly posted by Palestinian state media. They are happy about the murders and proud to show the pictures.

All I can add is this: Imagine what the reaction in the West would be if Israeli citizens passed out celebratory sweets every time a Palestinian was killed.  I am pretty sure that would appear in places like the New York Times.

A Sarah Lawrence professor describes the cowardice of his fellow faculty

About a week ago I described the situation of Samuel J. Abrams, a professor of politics at the swanky and expensive Sarah Lawrence College in Yonkers, New York. Abrams, a conservative, had penned an op-ed in the New York Times giving the results of his survey of the political leanings of 900 American college administrators. He found that they were overwhelmingly on the Left (12:1 liberal:conservative), more so than college faculty (6:1) and even more so than incoming college students (2:1). Abrams decried this trend as eroding “viewpoint diversity” and leading to programs that indoctrinated college students with Leftist ideology. People have questioned the rigor of Abrams’s survey, but nobody doubts that the trend he descried is real.

The editorial is pretty tame, but of course Abrams was vilified. As I wrote, a group called the Diaspora Coalition immediately took the opportunity to issue a list of demands, some of them reasonable but most unattainable, impractical, or fatuous (the latter includes free detergent and water softener for students to use).

But the most invidious demand was for a review of Abrams’s tenure, even though he’s already tenured:

In the article below from the Spectator (click on screenshot), Abrams described further defamation as well as threats to him and family and nasty signs put on his door (the same thing happened recently at Williams College, which is going down the Evergreen State/Sarah Lawrence road to perdition). Here are some of the signs:

I ask you: what kind of twisted ideologue would put up signs like that, calling a professor an “asshole” and demanding that he quit? This kind of entitled and unforgiving attitude is spreading on American, Canadian, and UK campuses; read Abrams’s editorial if you want to see how disproportionate and unhinged the students are.

And Abrams, expecting some support from his fellow faculty, didn’t get much. Click below:

Because an earlier survey by Abrams showed that 93% of professors supported freedom of academic inquiry, Abrams expected some support against the tsunami of hatred. Instead, he got tepid support. As he describes,

While the college president eventually issued a perfunctory statement noting that I had ‘every right, and the full support of the college, to pursue and publish this work,’ the faculty’s support was minimal.

The college’s faculty ‘Committee on the Conditions on Teaching’ attempted to draft a strong declaration supporting the right of all faculty to free speech, but it was eventually watered down to into a weak message that simply supported the official statement that had already been issued by the president. Only 27 members of the faculty community signed the document, roughly 7 percent of the total faculty. Thus, to my shock, a proclamation in defense of academic freedom, freedom of speech and mutual respect clearly was deemed controversial and not overwhelmingly supported by my own colleagues.

Now, six months later, with the Diaspora Coalition’s latest attempt to attack academic freedom, the Sarah Lawrence faculty could have redeemed themselves and been galvanized to support free expression. Instead, they opted for silence — and, what’s worse, many of them were supportive of the student protesters’ demands.

As of this writing, 40 professors signed on and endorsed the Diaspora Coalition’s demand list. While not a huge percentage, 12 percent of the faculty — more than the number who supported the general statement about free speech back in October — endorsed the students’ demand to challenge my tenure and my right to free speech and the expression of ideas. All this, mind you, because I wrote an opinion piece based on original survey data, which was vetted and published by the New York Times.

What shocked me here is that only 27 faculty members signed a free-speech document tacitly supporting Abrams’s right to say what he wanted, but 40 of them signed onto the Diaspora Coalition’s list of demands, which include a tenure review for Abrams conducted by the Diaspora Coalition itself and at least three faculty of color. Talk about a Star Chamber!

If you’re a student or professor at Sarah Lawrence, and you haven’t defended Abrams’s right to say whatever he wanted (and yes, you are welcome to criticize what he said: that’s what free speech is also about), then you are derelict in your duty.  Too many professors and students are becoming cowed and afraid to speak because they fear repercussions of the type Abrams experienced. It’s shameful.

Nicholas Christakis has a new book

You’ll surely remember Nicholas Christakis of Yale University, a good man who, along with his wife, got ensnared in a net thrown by The Woke.  If you don’t remember that tale, read the New York Times article below or my post on Christakisgate (the NYT piece is largely about his new book; more on that in a second. The NYT:

. . .  to many Americans, he is best known not for what he has accomplished but for what he absorbed: taunts and insults from furious Yale students who swarmed him in a campus courtyard one day. “You should not sleep at night!” one of them screeched, as he miraculously kept his cool, a mute punching bag. “You are disgusting!”

Perhaps you saw the video. It became a viral sensation in the fall of 2015, Exhibit A in the tension, on so many campuses, between free expression and many minority students’ pleas for an atmosphere in which they feel fully respected and safe. Christakis’s wife, Erika, who also taught at Yale back then, had circulated a memo in which she questioned a university edict against culturally insensitive Halloween costumes, suggesting that students could police themselves and should have both the freedom to err and the strength to cope with offense. She wrote that her husband concurred.

And all hell broke loose. Hundreds of students signed an open letter denouncing her and hundreds demanded that the couple be punished. There were protests. And when, in that courtyard, Christakis apologized for any pain that the memo had caused but refused to disavow its content, he was pilloried.

Eventually, both Nicholas and Erika resigned their positions as resident heads of Silliman College at Yale, and Erika Christakis gave up teaching at Yale entirely. The crybully students at that school drove away two accomplished and caring professors.  I summarized the situation as follows, which includes a link to Erika’s memo:

So we have a campus where people are publicly afraid to speak their minds, terrified of student reaction. Yale has indeed allowed a climate of intolerance to grow: a culture of hatred and public shaming.

And so, two great resources for Yale students, and two dedicated teachers, give up a lot of their duties in light of the bullying they faced by students. Shame on the Yale students for their immaturity and Authoritarian Leftist ideology, and shame on the Yale administration for not supporting the Christakises. I urge you to go back and read Erika’s letter to the “Sillimanders”, and see if you find anything in it that would justify such a student response, or anything that would brand the couple as racists. As author [Conor] Friedersdorf says at the end of his [Atlantic] piece, “. . . the couple’s ultimate resignation does nothing to improve campus climate. What a waste.”

And so Christakis has just published a new book (already underway when the Yale fracas occurred) about evolution and society: Blueprint: The Evolutionary Origins of a Good Society (click on the screenshot to go to the Amazon site).

The table of contents:

From the summaries given on Amazon and by Frank Bruni in his piece above, the book appears almost Pinkerian in its optimistic view that humans are inherently virtuous, and that this morality was largely vouchsafed by our evolutionary heritage. As Bruni notes:

The book is a hefty, dazzlingly erudite synthesis of history, philosophy, anthropology, genetics, sociology, economics, epidemiology, statistics and more. It uses everything from shipwrecks to the primatologist Jane Goodall to make its pro-kindness case, and it inadvertently shames you into realizing that while most of us, standing at the buffet of knowledge, content ourselves with a pork chop and rice pudding, Christakis pillages the carving station and the omelet station and the soup array and the make-your-own-sundae bar.

. . .His reasoning, oversimplified, is this: Complex societies are possible and durable only when people are emotionally invested in, and help, one another; we’d be living in smaller units and more solitary fashions if we weren’t equipped for such collaboration; and human thriving within these societies guarantees future generations suited to them.

Yes, there are hideous wars and horrid leaders. But if that were the sum of us, how to explain all the peace and progress? Christakis urges a wide angle and the long view.

“To accept this belief that human beings are evil or violent or selfish or overly tribal is a kind of moral and intellectual laziness,” he told me. It also excuses that destructiveness. “The way to repair our torn social fabric is to say: Wait a minute, that’s not quite right.”

The Amazon summary includes this:

For too long, scientists have focused on the dark side of our biological heritage: our capacity for aggression, cruelty, prejudice, and self-interest. But natural selection has given us a suite of beneficial social features, including our capacity for love, friendship, cooperation, and learning. Beneath all our inventions — our tools, farms, machines, cities, nations — we carry with us innate proclivities to make a good society.
In Blueprint, Nicholas A. Christakis introduces the compelling idea that our genes affect not only our bodies and behaviors, but also the ways in which we make societies, ones that are surprisingly similar worldwide. With many vivid examples — including diverse historical and contemporary cultures, communities formed in the wake of shipwrecks, commune dwellers seeking utopia, online groups thrown together by design or involving artificially intelligent bots, and even the tender and complex social arrangements of elephants and dolphins that so resemble our own — Christakis shows that, despite a human history replete with violence, we cannot escape our social blueprint for goodness.

It’s no surprise that genes affect our social behavior, as we evolved in small social groups and it would be odd if our millions of years of social evolution didn’t affect our behavior. Reciprocal altruism and prosocial behavior would have been part of that mix, but of course so would xenophobia and aggression. I haven’t yet  gotten my copy of the book (the good professor offered to send me one), so I’ll be curious to see how the darker side of human nature is treated.

I was pleased to see that Christakis’s book, out in six days, has already reached the #25 spot on Amazon, and equally pleased (I can’t deny it) that Michael Behe’s book on ID creationism languishes at position 2,648, which must really anger the Discovery Institute. Blame it on my evolved nature.

I get emails

The volume of comments I have to deep-six has increased, and I’m not sure whether it’s because the moon is full or because the volume of traffic has increased over time. Either way, I thought I’d put up two that were especially striking.

Here’s a comment from “The Knot Specialist” whose website is, unsurprisingly, private. Kerissa (gravitar is a female, and she signed the attempted contribution) is commenting on my post “NYT goes soft on astrology” She thinks that I am criticizing newspaper columns on astrology when I actually linked to a paper in Nature that was a double-blind test of the readings of professional astrologers. (They failed.) This is like my posts on theology being criticized because I am not going after the Most Sophisticated Types of Theology. My own comments are in bold.

To wit:

The Knot Specialist

I respect and honor each person’s free will and the accompanying tangents of thought that may spring up in the process, but in this day and age of technology, when one can gather enough information to confirm what they want to be true, I find it terribly sad how many people decide to cement their confirmation bias. I find it sadder still when those same people pass it along like Mono.

(“like Mono” — get it? No? OK: 1) cause the group of tweens that always start the outbreak never seem to know where they got it; and 2) serious cases of Mono have led to terrible, life-changing outcomes. It’s the perfect example here.

I have no intention of raining on your parade [Passive-aggressive; of course she does!], but when WP suggested I check out the astrology tag on this feed, sadly, this was at the top of the results page.

My first reaction was to roll my eyes, shake my head, and move on. But, I don’t believe in coincidences, only synchronicities. OOOOoooooh, yeah, I said that. [I’m sorry for you.]

See, I haven’t been on WP very long, haven’t posted anything or even finished my page, so WP’s suggestion of astrology has no obvious cause. Yet there it was and here this was.

So here I am. Aloha.

I didn’t read your entire post, only the parts where you weren’t referencing someone else’s opinion, research, or – excuse me – bullshit. So it didn’t take me long to get to the comments section.

I don’t have a problem with people who have differing opinions, beliefs, sexual preferences, sexual genitalia, political views, etc., etc. I have a problem with people who don’t do their homework and then proceed to spread, sorry, bullshit. Not just about astrology, I mean half-assed, televangelist-worthy bullshit about anything. But since you brought it up…

If you did your homework you’d know that most serious astrologers think newspaper horoscopes are like a G rated movie (cute, but not really at the top of an adult’s list of Must Sees).

That’s not to say that non-horoscope writing astrologers hate on those that fill the Culture section with 2 sentence entertainment-only prophecies. No, no, the astrology community is a hugely diverse group. You know what has a lot to do with that? No, silly, not voo-doo. [Yes, they are a diverse community, but they’re all peddling bullshit.]

Well, a little voo-doo, but I’m guessing mostly in Louisiana.

The melting pot of astrology is largely due to the sheer volume of it. Did you know that there are dozens of different schools of astrology, from all over the world. There’s traditional, Evolutionary (my fave), Hellinistic, Jyotish, Chinese, Psychological, Esoteric, Neo-classical, Predictive – and that’s only a few of the many. [Again: all bullshit. The motions and positions of stars and planets have no influence on your personality or life.]

You say astrology is harmful…harmful how? Because it what? It “tricks people” into believing something that makes them smile or gives them the motivation or whatever other push they needed to help themselves or find a solution? You’re right, happiness and motivation and reasons to not give up are the real causes of harm in this otherwise perfect plane of existence. [Yes, it tricks people into giving astrologers money for fake predictions. It may give the credulous a useful opportunity to talk to someone, but if you really want to help someone, go into therapy rather than astrology. Oh, I forgot: therapy takes training.]

I just threw up a little in my mouth. But I’m okay. No harm done.

I could point you to an endless amount of places that would blow any of the shit in this post out of the water…but I don’t plan to. [Curious that she can’t even name one site that verifies any form of astrology.]

Although it is objectively, thoroughly, and continuously well-researched, [and continuously disproven] I’m not trying to project my opinion *cough*KNOWLEDGE*cough* of astrology and other topics of a similar nature on you because I respect your right to your confirmation biases and the void that they create.

Rock on with your biases.

So why did I take 20 minutes that I’ll never get back to write this lengthy bit which you may have already tuned out of so you can start thinking of – what are they called – burns? That you could whip back at me? I think of it as my own little PSA [Prostate-specific antigen????]; doing a little to help the lot.

By the way, don’t waste your time with that burn thing, if that’s what you really are thinking of. I meant it when I said that my first response was to just move on and I won’t be baited into a back and forth about something like this. I know what’s real for me and that’s enough.  [Ah, the frequent assertion that “what is real for me” is “real”. That’s what religious people say, too.]

That said, you’re welcome to email me directly to discuss, if you were, say, interested in some objective information and personal experience. [I’ve read enough about astrology, thank you. She doesn’t want a back-and-forth; she wants to tell me why I’m wrong. No, thank you.]

To me? Your post is an example of how social media and the Opining Operatives that feed there can be harmful and obstruct people’s freedom of choice.

It’s like this: wen you represent a poorly researched and marshmallow-filled post like this in a way that implies you know what you’re talking about, when you clearly don’t, you potentially cause harm to someone looking for answers. [Translation: I’m hurting the pocketbooks of professional astrologers and woo-peddlers]

Like, say, someone who followed WP’s suggestion and clicked on that tag for astrology and found this.

Someone who is not a person well-versed in the ENTIRETY (good, bad, ugly, and awesome) of astrology, like me. [LOL]

This post drips with the acid of shaming and I wouldn’t be surprised if that questioning soul, sensitive to such acid, is shamed into not doing more research than just your post; shamed into letting you and your fellow skeptics and this string of half-assed assumptions decide for him or her whether it’s something that speaks to them or not.

You don’t have the right to THEIR opinion. [Yes, but I have a right to give my opinion, which is apparently an opinion you don’t like because you know SO MUCH about astrology.]

To be clear: I’m not here to defend astrology and I’m not offended by your comments about it because I honor and respect your right to your personal opinions.

I’m here to remind you that people have the right to decide for themselves – not just about astrology, about anything. [What kind of nonsense is this? Have I ever forced my opinion on anyone, saying, “You must believe this or else”?]

Go ahead, say what you want, but don’t say it as if you KNOW when you don’t. Leave a door that readers feel comfortable walking through to do their own research. Leave their rights to them. [I will criticize astrological bullshit as much as I want, thank you, and I know more about it than you think, and more than was evinced in my post.]

Basically: Dude, do your homework or stick to things you could actually be an expert about because a passionate opinion does not an expert make. [She’s very close to being a Sophisticated Theologian® here. She apparently knows tests by skeptics that show that astrology works, though she can’t be arsed to cite any.]

And finally, make good choices founded in respect for others and their rights. Maybe you don’t believe in Karma, but she believes in you. [Wow! A Deepity!]



And evolution hater Raegan commenting on my post “More email from evolution-haters.” The “about me” page on his website (I’ve omitted it) notes that he is home-schooled and 12 years old.


why do you think evolution is true? I want to know cause i can prove that evolution is not true are wold is to complex for evolution to be true PS not trying to hate telling the truth and I love your kittens!!!

I think Raegan needs to go to public school. I won’t go after him because he’s so young, but I feel sorry for him and all his ilk who are denied the chance to learn the truth about biology.


Jesus ‘n’ Mo ‘n’ the Gays

Today’s Jesus and Mo strip, called “okay,” came with an email note:

Another one about Birmingham, where more schools are dropping the “No Outsiders” education program because of religious objections. The parents are fighting against homophobiaphobia (sp?).

The BBC story begins:

Four more schools in Birmingham have stopped teaching about LGBT rights following complaints by parents.

Leigh Trust said it was suspending the No Outsiders programme until an agreement with parents was reached.

Earlier this month the city’s Parkfield Community School suspended the lessons after protests were held.

Campaigner Amir Ahmed said some Muslims felt “victimised” but an LGBT group leader said No Outsiders helped pupils understand it is OK to be different.

. . .Mr Ahmed said his community was “respectful and tolerant” of British values but now felt victimised.

He claimed parents who had protested were “effectively seen as homophobes in the wider community”.

“Fundamentally the issue we have with No Outsiders is that it is changing our children’s moral position on family values on sexuality and we are a traditional community.

“Morally we do not accept homosexuality as a valid sexual relationship to have. It’s not about being homophobic… that’s like saying, if you don’t believe in Islam, you’re Islamophobic.”

No, Ahmed’s analogy doesn’t hold. You are “Islamophobic” not if you reject Islam, but if you are bigoted against Muslims. And if you are bigoted against homosexuals, and deny them liberty and rights, as many Muslim countries do, then you are homophobic.

The artist gets it absolutely right:


OMG: Ducks are back!

Two mallards (Anas platyrhynchos)—a drake and a hen—showed up at Botany Pond this morning when it was cold and rainy. I took a few quick photos, and, judging from the hen’s bill markings, she didn’t look like Honey.  I did feed them, as they were hungry, but that might have been a mistake: if they stay and Honey shows up with her drake later on, there could be Duck Wars.

The photos are blurry because of the darkness and rain:

Readers’ wildlife photos

Reader John Harshman sent some photos of bird banding; his notes are indented.

On the fourth Tuesday of every month, Edgar del Valle nets and bands birds at the Oaxaca Ethnobotanical Garden. It happens we were there on one of those Tuesdays and took some pictures.

This is a dusky hummingbird Cynanthus sordidus being removed from the net. In contrast to many birds, hummingbirds seem completely resigned to their fate.

And here he is after removal:

Here’s a rufous-backed robin Turdus rufopalliatus, one of many robin species found in Mexico. And here’s a biogeography conundrum for you: why are there lots of species in the genus Turdus south of the U.S., lots of species in Europe and Asia, but only one species in the U.S. (with minor exceptions close to the southern border) and Canada?

This is a berylline hummingbird, Amazilia beryllina:

And a blue-gray gnatcatcher Polioptila caerulea (finally, a bird you can find in Chicago!) calmly waiting for release:

JAC: If you’ve read this far, and appreciate the photos, please think of donating a few dollars to the Official Website Charity, Feline Friends London.

The captured birds are removed from the net, weighed and measured, given a metal leg-band with a unique number, and released. Here’s the rufous-backed robin having his band crimped around his leg.

And here he is having his wing measured and molt status assessed.

A great kiskadee Pitangus sulfuratus, a flycatcher in the process of evolving into a kingfisher, complains loudly about his treatment.

And he goes into a bag preparatory to being released.

This dusky hummingbird is being released. One odd thing about hummingbirds is that it takes them a while to decide to leave your hand, and it takes even longer if you lay them on their backs. There’s plenty of time to take a picture before they buzz off.

Bronzed cowbird Molothrus aeneus. Like its U.S. congener, it’s a nest parasite, and this is a female.

Finally, this isn’t a bird, but it’s one of my favorite species from the ethnobotanical garden. This unexciting little pod full of seeds is teosinte, Zea mays parviglumis—the ancestor of domestic corn.

Wednesday: Hili dialogue

Only one more day until formal Spring, as it’s March 20, 2019. Duck season (for rearing, not for hunting) will soon be upon us, and I’m crossing my fingers that Honey returns to make another brood. However, the Spring Equinox occurs today—at 4:58 p.m. in Chicago. It’s is celebrated with today’s Google Doodle: It’s National Ravioli Day, World Sparrow Day (they are pretty, you know), and the Great American Meatout Day, on which you’re supposed to pledge to forever refrain from eating meat.

Schadenfreude of the day. It about an Italian politician and was published in The Independent (click on screenshot). The guy is better now but was in hospital for four days. (h/t: David)

On this day in 1616, Sir Walter Raleigh, after being imprisoned in the Tower of London for 13 years, was freed. But it wasn’t long before he was imprisoned again, and then beheaded in October of 1618.  On March 20, 1852, Harriet Beecher Stowe published her abolitionist novel Uncle Tom’s Cabin. Exactly two years later, the Republican Party of the U.S. was organized in Ripon, Wisconsin. Do not forget that Abe Lincoln was a member of that party. It was much better back then.

On March 20, 1915, Albert Einstein published his general theory of relativity, combining the earlier special theory with gravitation and establishing the notion of “space-time”. On this day in 1942, General Douglas MacArthur, having pulled American troops from the Philippines in the face of the Japanese, made his famous statement, “I came out of Bataan and I shall return”. And he did.

On March 20, 1966, Tunisia gained independence from France. In 1985, Libby Riddles became the first woman to win the 1,135-mile Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race, modeled on the 1925 Serum Run to Nome.  On March 20, 1995—and most of us remember this—the Japanese cult Aum Shinrikyo carried out a sarin gas attack on the Tokyo subway, which killed 13 and wounded more than 6,200. Ten men were involved: five released the gas and each had a getaway driver. All ten were either executed or sentenced to life imprisonment.

Finally, it was on this day 15 years ago that the Invasion of Iraq began in the dawn hours when the U.S., along with troops from the UK, Australia, and Poland, began military operations.

Notables born on this day include Ovid (43 BC), Henrik Ibsen (1828), B. F. Skinner (1904), Ozzie Nelson (1906), Vera Lynn (1917, still alive at 102), Carl Reiner (1922, still alive at 97), Fred Rogers (1928), Mary Ellen Mark (1940), John Boswell (1947, lived across the hall from me in my college dorm), Bobby Orr (1948), Spike Lee (1957), and Holly Hunter (1958).

Mary Ellen Mark was a street and portrait photographer specializing in the underbelly of American life, much like Diane Arbus. Here are two of her pictures:

Those who went underground on this day include Brendan Behan (1964), Chet Huntley (1974), V. S. Pritchett (1997), and David Rockefeller (2017).

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili and Cyrus are feeling a bit peckish after their walkies::

Cyrus: Let’s go back to civilisation.
Hili: Yes, we have to eat something.
In Polish:
Cyrus: Wracamy do cywilizacji.
Hili: Tak, trzeba coś zjeść.
And in Honolulu, Pi is enjoying his new box (Pi speaks Hawaiian pidgin):
Pi: Mahalo fo’ da box, brudda, but wea is my kalua pig?

Laurie sent this cat meme:

A cartoon from Science Humor‘s Facebook page:From reader Barry, who exults (with me): “The seal was saved!” This seal had gotten itself entangled in a plastic ring and some fishing line, and you can see how hard it was to rescue. You need a special “seal stick”!

Tweets from Grania. First, a baby badger named Bumblebee.

Grania notes this: “They are trying to re-introduce him to his mother as he seems to have lost her a few nights ago. As far as I know that he is not Mr & Mrs Lumpy’s offspring. I think it may be a grandchild, but I don’t know if they are sure. Anyway, they seem fairly confident they can return him to his mother.” 

And here’s how Bumblebee was rescued:

There’s a goodly crop of kakapo chicks this year!

An oldie but a goodie (clearly the alleles are codominant):

And who can’t use an adorable kitten on Wednesday?

Tweets from Matthew. Did you know there were marine mites? I didn’t, and Matthew calls them to our attention:

I may have shown this before, but it’s still one of the funniest captions I’ve seen:

Here’s a veritable Cunk-o-Rama in which she questions the Expert Men:

I love these animal-reunion videos. Clearly these wild wolves remember this person, and they’ve kept that memory for two years. How lovely!


Funky woodcock courtship

When one thinks of spectacular sexual displays, one thinks of the bowerbirds of Australia or New Guinea’s bird of paradise. But here’s one closer to home. This video, from The Center for Biological Diversity, shows the mating strut of the male American woodcock (Scolopax minor), a cute species that lives in Eastern North America.

This male American woodcock has some glide in his stride and some dip in his hip. Here he is performing an early morning “sky dance” to woo the woodcock ladies in springtime at Moosehorn National Wildlife Refuge in Maine.

Actually, this is only one part of a very complicated courtship. Wikipedia describes it all:

In Spring, males occupy individual singing grounds, openings near brushy cover from which they call and perform display flights at dawn and dusk, and if the light levels are high enough on moonlit nights. The male’s ground call is a short, buzzy peent. After sounding a series of ground calls, the male takes off and flies from 50 to 100 yards into the air. He descends, zigzagging and banking while singing a liquid, chirping song. This high spiralling flight produces a melodious twittering sound as air rushes through the male’s outer primary wing feathers.

Males may continue with their courtship flights for as many as four months running – sometimes continuing even after females have already hatched their broods and left the nest.

Females, known as hens, are attracted to the males’ displays. A hen will fly in and land on the ground near a singing male. The male courts the female by walking stiff-legged and with his wings stretched vertically, and by bobbing and bowing. A male may mate with several females. The male woodcock plays no role in selecting a nest site, incubating eggs, or rearing young. In the primary northern breeding range, the woodcock may be the earliest ground-nesting species to breed.

Of course I had to look this all up. The following two videos show the display flight with the twittering feather sound, and the second video shows the ground call, the “short, buzzy peent.”