Readers’ wildlife

Reader Tom Carrolan found snowy owls (Bubo scandiacus)! Some of his pictures of eagles will appear next week.

Up in Northern NY surveying Rough-legged Hawks, but…

[JAC: The first one’s either a female or a youngster, as they are flecked with brown, but males are nearly pure white, and you see one in the second photo]

Tom sent this one a few days ago with the caption “Happy Owlidays”:

Reader Peter Jones sent some black swan photos from Australia:

I am not sure if the black swans in Oz (Cygnus atratususe “counter-current heat exchange” in their feet. But, recently I was over in Victoria and at one of its small port towns, Williamstown, on Port Phillip Bay (almost 35 times the size of the more famous Sydney Harbour). A bit of history, the Confederate raider ship, CSS Shenandoah, docked in Williamstown for repairs on January 25, 1865.
The water is pretty cold and I saw these swans standing, sort of asleep, at the water’s edge. I called over to one to ask if they were indeed benefitting from “counter-current heat exchange”. As you can see, in the second image, it indicated they had evolved an even better idea. They were standing on only one leg and automagically reduced heat loss by 50%! [JAC: I can’t see the legs]


  1. ThyroidPlanet
    Posted December 13, 2018 at 7:40 am | Permalink

    Looks like the curve of the swan is up higher than it would be if gravity was pulling it all the way down to the buoyant equilibrium in the water… it’s up higher than expected… ergo, standing…

  2. Don
    Posted December 13, 2018 at 7:58 am | Permalink

    The “tail” is actually a foot.

    • ThyroidPlanet
      Posted December 13, 2018 at 8:21 am | Permalink

      I understand this now!

  3. Randall Schenck
    Posted December 13, 2018 at 8:00 am | Permalink

    Nice photos. That a confederate ship was all the way down there in 1865 is something. Might just as well stayed as the war would be over before the ship made it back.

  4. Michael Fisher
    Posted December 13, 2018 at 8:13 am | Permalink

    Legs in green circles. The right leg is parked like an oar.

    • ThyroidPlanet
      Posted December 13, 2018 at 8:20 am | Permalink

      Wow I completely missed that one!

      So what does this do for counter current exchange? Is it hopping back and forth? How cold is it? I’ll re-read….

    • Peter (Oz) Jones
      Posted December 13, 2018 at 6:36 pm | Permalink

      It was a diet day when I sent in the photos of the swans and I messed up the selection.

      The first should have been one where the swan’s leg was suspended, but hidden from view. The second was with the suspended leg pushed out backwards to show me that it was not in the water after I called over. Coincidence? Shurely not!

      The water temp in the bay at that time of year is about 10°C (50°F), but maybe colder in that shallow part.

      Thanks to the forensic skills of Michael the legs are now more obvious.

    • Posted December 14, 2018 at 4:28 am | Permalink

      Ah, I totally missed that!

  5. Posted December 13, 2018 at 9:36 am | Permalink

    I don’t know about counter-current heat exchange in this species, but this does disprove my hypothesis that all swans are white.

    • philfinn7
      Posted December 13, 2018 at 6:01 pm | Permalink

      No, you are correct MS. All Australian swans are white too. But there is a law stating that all published photos must be doctored, e.g. with Photoshop, to make them appear black. Not sure why – I think it’s just an Aussie sense of humour thing. 🙂

      • Barbara Radcliff
        Posted December 13, 2018 at 7:26 pm | Permalink

        I like your theory! All the ones we see here in South Australia are black. This bemuses our Japanese visitors since the Japanese word for swan is haku cho (white bird). I have even seen swans in South America that are white except for black necks and heads! Maybe more photoshop?

  6. SnowyOwl
    Posted December 13, 2018 at 9:40 am | Permalink

    Interrupting SwanTalk:
    As Jerry brought it up at the top, the first Snowy Owl image is a young male, then we have the adult male.

  7. Posted December 13, 2018 at 9:52 am | Permalink

    Reblogged this on The Logical Place.

  8. GBJames
    Posted December 13, 2018 at 10:57 am | Permalink


  9. rickflick
    Posted December 13, 2018 at 4:26 pm | Permalink

    I remember hearing that the snowy owl’s population is increasing dramatically of late. Anyone know about that?

    • SnowyOwl
      Posted December 13, 2018 at 4:34 pm | Permalink

      Climate change! So, no.

  10. Posted December 15, 2018 at 2:14 am | Permalink

    Owls look cute. To non-rodents at least.

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