Perfect place to raise the family?

Bird's nest in San Miguel, Lima.
27th July, 2008

Imagine you're a bird...

...looking to raise a family, you need to find a safe place for you and your partner to bring up the little ones...

...but where?

In these towns and cities an elevated position is essential - to keep out of the reaches of those whose taste-buds are a touch partial to poor winged creatures.

They'll never find us here...

"Sleeping with the enemy"

Any other ideas for captions?


Random Picture Time

Thought I'd share some of the more interesting photos I've taken this year - although that could be read as 'the ones I took that didn't make it to Mel's blog'! That said, there's some lovely 'hummingbirds' (you'll understand the quotations when you see them) that I think she should have posted.

I'll start with the flowers:

They are all flowers of the Asteraceae family, and although the daisy of the last picture dwarfs the others above (shown in background of photo), it is truly a giant compared to those that I grew up seeing in the UK. If my memory serves correctly, height of 1 to 1.5 centimetres compared to this one of about 1.5 feet! [tommydisclaimer]I may be wrong of course, I've not spent any real amount of time in the UK for nearly three years now.[/endtommydisclaimer]

Now for a few birdies :)

Rufous-collared Sparrow (Zonotrichia capensis)
Tacna, Perú

Turkey Vulture (Cathartes aura)
Arica, Chile

Incidentally, this picture wasn't a split-second capture of the bird spreading it's wings. It actually sat there in that exact position, wings held wide, for at least a few minutes! I don't know the reason for this, unless it was just catching some of the sun's rays! (It was very hot that day) Maybe somebody else could offer a better theory though?

Harris's Hawk (Parabuteo unicinctus)
Lima, Perú

We saw this hawk stalking a group of around fifteen smaller birds (I think they were finches), though I'm not sure if it was for food or just for it's own amusement. Don't think the smaller ones enjoyed it either way :s

Now, the bugs... What?! No hummingbirds?! Not yet...

A random red spider found in the street
Tacna, Perú

This creature (is it a cricket or related?) decided to sneak up and 'tickle' my arm with it's antennae while I was playing around on my laptop. Yes, I jumped rather quickly, as although I don't mind insects, I don't particularly like them if they're around the size of half of my hand or more. Or if they look intent on feeding on any part of me.

Finally, these little beauties:

At first we thought this was a type of hummingbird - it's behaviour is very similar, fast wings, hovering and darting around the flowers - but it's not. It is a moth called the White-Lined Sphinx, also known as Striped Morning Sphinx, and it seems some do know it as the hummingbird moth! The main difference I realise now but didn't know then, is that while hummingbirds fly away when you approach them, these moths didn't seem to mind me standing mere inches away from them. The third picture is a little blurred, but really shows it feeding perfectly!

Well, that's about it. Maybe it's time now for a BIG sandwi's'ch from this place we found in Tacna:

All pics copyright of Tommy (jajaja)


I Think I'm In Love...

...with a book!!

This arrived today - a month early!

Yours truly with his new companion.

So, while I've managed to get extremely lazy already with posting updates on here, I still couldn't resist showing this beauty off before Mel arrives home! (Of course I'm talking about the artistic masterpiece in my humble paws and not myself) I take my invisible hat off to Amazon (US) - I ordered online in the early hours of June 26th and the estimated arrival date they gave was 6th August - so international delivery in just 11 days was both fantastic and unexpected.

First impressions? WOW
Well, when you receive a book containing 1,792 illustrations of birds for the country you're living in, and with 45 years in the making of it, would you start from the beginning and read what the authors have to say? Out of respect the answer should be yes, but I couldn't help myself and jumped right in looking for some of the local species that I know and love. The drawings are superb, and I think both those and the accompanying descriptions will help no end in the identifications for this pair of new birders.

One thing I'm really not sure about though, is the descriptions of bird's calls. For example, for the bananaquit is: 'VOICE Song a variable series of high, thin, sizzling phrases, for example: "szzzzewy-szewy-szewy szzz." Calls high, thin "tsit" and "tseep" notes.' I can connect to everything but the "szzz" parts, which have me somewhat confused! I'll have to go and listen again to them asap. Identifying birds via sounds is my weakest point.

One thing's for sure - it's going to be fun increasing my knowledge of Peruvian birds with this travelling companion!

Until next time - the part time blogger
(aka Tommy)


A Fruity Bird...

A fruit-lovers paradise.

This post is a little late (sorry!), I was meant to publish these pics and comments around the same time as Mel's post, but have been putting things off. However, it should go some way to explaining why she mentioned "the most popular tree we've ever seen", yet only had pictures of the Amazilia hummingbird. Yes, the truth is that Tommy had the rest of the pics... and 'eventually'... they do get uploaded... zzzzZZZZ...

A note for Lynne: I'm sure that you will like the name of this little bird! I was looking through the Yellowthroats at first when trying to id it, as it bears some striking similarities, but apparently it is the only member of it's own family (Coerebidae). It's the Bananaquit! I laughed so much when I found out that!

Who named this bird Bananaquit?!?

Found throughout the Caribbean [except Cuba] and on the mainland from Mexico to Peru, Paraguay, North-eastern Argentina and Southern Brazil. Scientific name is Coereba flaveola, with the sub-species found here being Coereba flaveola pacifica.

Acrobatics? No problem!

They feed mainly on nectar, but also fruits and insects - they even hang upside down to eat! They are very sociable (you know when they're around!) and energetic (no sitting and posing for photos), and gather in large numbers where there is a regular supply of sugar or fruits. So I guess this tree must have been the avian equivalent of a gold mine! There must have been at least 20-30 Bananaquits hopping, shouting and feeding on this one tree!

Plenty of berries for all!

No more for me, thanks!

Hopefully I won't take as long to post next time...



The Vermilion Flycatcher

I noticed how many people liked the picture of the male Vermilion Flycatcher recently posted on my sidekick Mel's blog. So... here's some more!! On friday's visit to the lake, after a couple of investigative trips along the water's edge to check on the fish, I had time to hunt for birds before Yolanda & her friends arrived.

While the female Vermilion Mel posted about long ago is still a daily visitor in our small garden, she is very camera-shy and despite countless attempts to take more pictures she flies at the first sight of me. Luckily, the male at the lake is not so wary, and with his bright red crown/chest and deep black feathers he is very photogenic.

So, without further ado...

Relaxing in front of the lake...

...taking flight...

..."Yes, I do know you're behind me"...

..."Take one of my better side"...

..."You're still taking pictures of me?!"

A great way to brighten up any day!


What A Wonderful World

Nineteen-sixty-seven was a good year. I wasn't born yet, therefore things were easier... On May 25th my football (the one played with feet) team, Glasgow Celtic, won the European Cup - the biggest prize in European club football - defeating Inter Milan 2-1 in Lisbon. And a man they called "Satchmo" - Louis Armstrong - released the song I used as the post title.

Three years later Celtic reached the European Cup Final again, this time losing 2-1 in extra time to the Dutch side Feyenoord in Milan. I was still non-existant, and Louis Armstrong recorded 'What A Wonderful World' again, this time with Oliver Nelson's Orchestra. This version had a spoken introduction from Satchmo himself. Sit back and enjoy:

I believe we have an obligation, as the 'dominant species' on the planet, to protect the balance of nature. As the man said:

"Seems to me, it ain't the world that's so bad, but what we're doing to it..."