Saturday, March 27, 2010

Love to play with toys.

I love to play with toys. Sometimes get too carried away with it.

Love Oranges!

I love oranges, especially when they are NOT juicy. I like them pretty dried up. I also like the white pulp between the peel and the fruit. Because I tend to eat the pulp part mostly, my oranges have to be all organic, which should be good for the environment, too. Yummy!

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Icy Streets

The streets are icy and skiddish early in the morning. But I kind of like such treacherous
and nerve-wracking road conditions. Why? I don't know. Does anyone have the answer?

Mountain Road

Today I went over the mountains to get to the other side of the city. This was taken on the way back. The moutainsides are still in deep snow. But the color of the sky is deeper blue than what we were seeing in February. We should be careful of avalanches.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Fresh Snow

I wanted to take a picture of the snow surface not yet disturbed by car tires, but that seems impossible. Many people start working at very early hours. How many snow falls are we going to get before spring finally arrives?

After a low pressure system passed...

We are left with about 15cm of new snow accumulation. It is sunny right now and really beatiful.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

The River at the end of winter

The ground is messy around this time of the year. Dirt starts show in melting snow. Wet and splashy everywhere. At several snow dump sites along the river, huge quantity of snow is going to be pushed out into the river, which is probably not a very good thing for the health of river ecosystem. Alternative methods to clear the riverside of snow are gradually being implemented.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

River Watching at Night

I got a chance to look over a small stream after dark, which flows through the town. With far fewer cars passing by than during the day, I could hear the river water make literally crackling sounds. The riversides were frozen and covered with snow. The area was brightly illuminated by street lamps, and shining and dancing snow flakes. It was quite a mysterious experience!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Whale Watching (3)

It was lucky that we could see the tail out of water, they being less active with the approach of the migration season.

Whale Watching (2)

This is how close we could get to whales, or rather, they came to us and swam around the boats. The whale-watching boats stop the engine completely when whales are close to them. They re-start the engine very carefully so that the screw won't hurt the whales. Water was really clear so that we could watch 2 adults and 1 young. The guide said they were probably a family.

Whale Watching(1)

I went whale-watching with my younger son last March. It was so difficult to take photos of people on the boat next to ours, with both of the boats bobbing in all directions. Besides, it was rainy... This photo is the best I could manage.
They are waiting for humpback whales to jump out of water.
Unfortunately, it was towards the end of March, when humpbacks' display behavior was subsiding as they were ready for a long journey to the other side of the world. So, we were not able to watch their famous spectacular jumps sometimes as high as 4m above water. But, we all enjoyed being out in the ocean to watch humpback whales.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Can we sex crows? (7)

These differences were also seen in the Hooded Crows which I got a chance to observe in Rome two years ago. The smaller one was observed to solicit courtship feeding from the larger individual, which indicates almost with certainty that the smaller one was a female. As you can see, the female has the thin neck line and less massive wing musculature. Although not a good shot, the male's upper bill had a small hook, while the female's upper and lower bill tips meet like a pair of forceps.
You may not always be able to tell the sexes of crows. But in many cases you can, by looking at the combination of all or parts of the following characteristics: body size, wing musculature, the neck size, bill structure/size, plumage coloration/sheen and of course behavior.
Note: These differences between sexes may pertain only to the crow species which I have had the chance to observe. Thus, they are not necessarily applicable to the other species, although I have the impression that they are, at least in some aspects.

Can we sex crows? (6)

The previous 5 posts were of the Carrion Crows (Corvus corone). The male and female characteristics seem to hold true with other species. This photo is of a known pair of the Jungle Crow (Corvus macrorhyunchos). As indicated by the arrows, the upper bill of the male is hooked and longer than that of the female.

Can we sex crows? (5)

Unfortunately, I couldn't find the best shots of a typical male. The above two photos are of the same known individual. He looks miserable due to molting. He is a much nicer-looking guy in breeding season. Despite his condition, I think you can see the shoulder muscle is well developed.
As indicated by an arrow, his upper bill is slightly hooked and typically longer than that of the lower bill.

Can we sex crows? (4)

This is another photo of a female crow, indivicually recognized by the leucostic primaries. The reason why we can tell it is a female is that she does the incubation. Though not a very good capture, I think you can see that the bill and the wing musculature are typical of females.
It is impossible sometimes to tell the sex of a lone crow without any background information about the bird. But it is often possible if you get used to spotting the male/female characteristecs. Furthermore, the plumage of females is duller than that of males.

Can we sex crows? (3)

This is the closeup of the female I mensioned in the previous photo. From the ruffed-up nostril feathers and partial leucostic tail feathers, we can tell that this is the same female.
Female crows tend not to have a hook on the upper bill. The lengths of upper and lower bills tend to be the same, or with very little difference. This is one of the characteristic of a female crow. A typical male crow has, on the other hand, a "hooked" upper bill, or the upper bill considerably longer than the lower one. But again, you have to be aware of the fact that there are individual differences.

Can we sex crows? (2)

This pair is the one I've been observing for a few years. Despite the general impression that all crows look alike, individual crows are all so different with unique physical characteristics, only if you observe them closely. For example, in the female of this pair, her tail feathers are partially leucostic. And, the feathers covering her nostrils are ruffed up and looking like a rump probably because they have curles. These characteristics seem to be genetic and do not change from year to year.
From this photo, you can see that the male is larger and has more developed wing muscles than the female.
There are of course individual differences in body size and considerable overlap between sexes, so that you may not be able to tell apart a large female from a small male. Size alone is not a good indicator. However, the well-developed wing musculature and thicker neck line are good indictors that it is a male.

Can we sex crows? (1)

As most birders know, only female crows incubate. That is, if a crow is sitting in a nest incubating, it is almost invariably a female. A female corvid stays very close to the nest often brooding over the nestlings, probably until the young gains sufficient thermoregulation ability. The male brings food to his mate and nestlings in addtion to that for himself during this period. Thus, it is presumed that the work load of a breeding male is considerably large. (This is also true with other corvids like magpies and jays)
Based on the observation of a number of breeding crow pairs, I have found it possible to tell apart sexes of crows to a considerable extent. I understand very well that the accuracy has to be limited depending on observation and photographing conditions and that I have to keep in mind that I shouldn't make premature identifications if sufficient observation and supporting evidences/data are not available.
Bearing the above-mentioned limitations in mind, I would like to show you how crows can be visually sexed (with supporting behavioral observations) in some cases.
The photo is that of a female Carrion Crow incubating.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Tree sparrows in the shrub

Tree sparrows were foraging in the shrub. To human eyes, there seem to be nothing to feed on, but they find tiny insects, butterfly and moth larvae/pupae, hibernating spiders, mites and so on.

Hedge and Vines

In urban and residential settings, hedges and shrubby trees attract quite a lot of birds, because they provide food and shelter for them. When I took this photo, there were more than ten sparrows in the vegetation.

Tough and hardy cats

Another cat trail. The snow here is about 3cm deep.

Cats are tough and hardy around here.

Usually cats tend to avoid the cold and stick around the warmest spots in the house. Cats in the snow country are tough and hardy and never hesitate to go out even when snowing. They patrol their territories every single day no matter how cold and snowy it is. They leave foot prints along almost identical patrol routes every day.

Friday, March 12, 2010

The Winter Olympics

Yes. The Winter Olympics was held here. That was more than 30 years ago. To many people, the memory is about to fall in oblivion. Many weren't even born then. The olympic symbol on this bridge fense seems to be connecting the present and the past, both elusive, in a steadfast way.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Our Iron Shovel

That's why our iron shovel is standing idlly most of the time.

Breaking Ice and Snow

Some people cannot wait till snow melts and goes away. So, they break sheets of compressed snow to pieces and let it melt quickly. I myself want to leave snowand ice untouched and let melt only by the power of nature. That way, I think, we can keep the microclimate cooler longer and curve global warming even by just a tiny bit.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Snow continues to fall.

It was snowing along the way home. Snow drifts across the road like blown sand. A sign that the road surface temperature was below the freezing point.

Capture without Intension

I did not intend to capture the birds. I was trying to photograph the snow cloud whirling around the mountain. When I came home and viewed on pc screen, I was surprised to find a Goshalk (middle) chased by crows (right and left) in it.

The Blanket of Tranquility

Snow covers everything with the blanket of tranquility. No bird to sing, no grass blades to rustle, and no man to plough.

Tree Sparrows

A bunch of tree sparrows avoiding winds. The northwesterlies were blowing from the other side of the tree.

A White-tailed Eagle

We came across a total of four eagles. Two of them were a pair. This photo is that of a single individual, perching alone in blowing snow.

River was not frozen!

Though the temperature was below freezing, the river was not frozen, which means spring is just around the corner. This doesn't happen in February.

A Trip to the countryside

We went to the country to see how migratory birds are coming along. It snowed from last night to this morning. So, the landscape looked like the photo.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Rain Drops Dancing

Warm rain drops fell, as if they were dancing. Everywhere!

Sure Sign of Spring

It happened almost overnight! It rained and soil started to appear!

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Hello from my home sweet home!

This is my home sweet home. I'm trying to build a cozy nest space. You know something? The only thing missing is a girl birdie.

It snowed again this morning.

It looks like the season made a step backward. But the way snow clings to trees is a sure sign of spring! The winds are warm and the sun is getting stronger even through the snow clouds.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Snow Flakes

Early morning snow was really fluffy and fresh, so I rushed outside and took some photos of snow flakes. They were really beautiful.

Despite my hopeful expectation for March, it snowed and was rather cold. The temperature never rose over freezing point today. On the other hand, I kind of like the white barren landscape of winter.

My Favorite Perch

Hi, there! This is a really nice spot to perch. I can supervise my human do the dishes. At the same time, I can have a drink of fresh purified water.

Empty Park

A park in our neighborhood. These parks provide the best practice grounds for young people who aspire for the next Winter Olympic Games, don't they? Alas! No one is around. Not even a bird!