What’s Up? – That time of the Year…

That time of the Year…


Our weather is insane! The temperatures are up and down daily. I do not complaint about it, I’m just reporting what we have weather wise.

  • We are at the time of the year when you hear the crows flying in small groups, early in the morning, making such a ruckus with their ;loud calls., and yes, they love to converse at breakfast time!
  • You can see  a downy woodpecker popping his head from behind objects to stare and I ‘d guess thinking or planning his next move.
  • Or having deputy Mockingbird giving his approval to all the feeders, but of course he would mostly sample the peanuts of his preference.
  • It’s also time of the year when you can see well crafted spider webs appear and disappear every morning.
  • Also, it’s time of the year for Carolina wrens to deliver arias with such vibrant clarity that impress anyone.
  • Let’s not forget the Carolina chickadees working their tails off collecting seeds to keep their provisions for winter up to par.

As you can imagine the bird’s routines continue and there’s always something interesting to make the cold season more entertaining.


Photo Gallery


© HJ Ruiz – Avian101

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H.J.’s Viewfinder – Ruby Falls

Ruby Falls, TN


Ruby Falls is a 145-foot high underground waterfall located within Lookout Mountain, near Chattanooga, Tennessee in the United States.

Geology

The cave which houses Ruby Falls was formed with the formation of Lookout Mountain. About 200 to 240 million years ago (in the Carboniferous Period, at the end of the Paleozoic Era) the eastern Tennessee area was covered with a shallow sea, the sediments of which eventually formed limestone rock. About 200 million years ago, this area was uplifted and subsequent erosion has created the current topography. The limestone in which the cave is formed is still relatively horizontal, just as it was deposited when it was below sea level. The Lookout Mountain Caverns, which includes Ruby Falls Cave, is a limestone cave. These caves occur when slightly acidic groundwater enters subterranean streams and slowly dissolves the relatively soluble limestone, causing narrow cracks to widen into passages and caves in a process called chemical weathering. The stream which makes up the Falls entered the cave sometime after its formation.

Ruby Falls Cave features many of the more well-known types of cave formations (or speleothems) including stalactites and stalagmites, columns, drapery, and flowstone.

The Falls are located at the end of the main passage of Ruby Falls Cave, in a large vertical shaft. The stream, 1120 feet underground, is fed both by rainwater and natural springs. It collects in a pool in the cave floor and then continues through the mountain until finally joining the Tennessee River at the base of Lookout Mountain.

While Ruby Falls Cave combines with Lookout Mountain Cave to form the Lookout Mountain Caverns, the two caves were not actually connected by any passage. Ruby Falls Cave is the upper of the two and contains a variety of geological formations and curiosities which Lookout Mountain Cave does not have.

Location Scenic Hwy., Chattanooga, Tennessee
Coordinates 35°1′9″N 85°20′22″W

35°1′9″N 85°20′22″W

Area 10 acres (4.0 ha)
Built 1929

Photo Gallery


© HJ Ruiz

What’s Up? – Budgerigar

This post is pertinent to a well known bird endemic to Australia but has become a favorite pet bird around the world. My friend Marianne that lives in London is an expert for these beautiful birds, she asked me to post some relevant information about Budgies. I gathered some important facts that will help this bird to get closer to the viewers. ~ H.J.

The Budgerigar (Melopsittacus undulatus), also known as the common parakeet or shell parakeet and informally nicknamed the budgie, is a small, long-tailed, seed-eating parrot. Budgerigars are the only species in the Australian genus Melopsittacus and are found wild throughout the drier parts of Australia where the species has survived harsh inland conditions for the last five million years. Budgerigars are naturally green and yellow with black, scalloped markings on the nape, back and wings, but have been bred in captivity with colouring in blues, whites, yellows, greys and even with small crests. Budgerigars are popular pets around the world due to their small size, low cost and ability to mimic human speech. The origin of the budgerigar’s name is unclear. The species was first recorded in 1805, and today is the third most popular pet in the world, after the domesticated dog and cat.

The budgerigar is closely related to the lories and the fig parrots.They are one of the parakeet species, a non-taxonomical term that refers to any of a number of small parrots with long, flat and tapered tails. In both captivity and the wild, budgerigars breed opportunistically and in pairs.

Anatomy of a male budgerigar

Wild budgerigars average 18 cm (7 in) long, weigh 30–40 grams (1.1–1.4 oz), with an average wingspan of 30 cm and display a light green body colour (abdomen and rumps), while their mantles (back and wing coverts) display pitch-black mantle markings (blackish in fledgelings and immatures) edged in clear yellow undulations. The forehead and face is yellow in adults but with blackish stripes down to the cere (nose) in young individuals until they change into their adult plumage around three to four months of age. They display small, iridescent blue-violet cheek patches and a series of three black spots across each side of their throats (called throat patches). The two outermost throat spots are situated at the base of each cheek patch. The tail is cobalt (dark-blue); and outside tail feathers display central yellow flashes. Their wings have greenish-black flight feathers and black coverts with yellow fringes along with central yellow flashes, which only become visible in flight or when the wings are outstretched. Bills are olive grey and legs blueish-grey, with zygodactyl toes.

Budgerigars in their natural habitat in Australia are noticeably smaller than those in captivity.This particular parrot species has been bred in many other colours and shades in captivity (e.g. blue, grey, grey-green, pieds, violet, white, yellow-blue), although they are mostly found in pet stores in blue, green, and yellow. Like most parrot species, budgerigar plumage fluoresces under ultraviolet light. This phenomenon is possibly related to courtship and mate selection.

The upper half of their beaks is much taller than the bottom half and covers the bottom when closed. The beak does not protrude much, due to the thick, fluffy feathers surrounding it, giving the appearance of a downward-pointing beak that lies flat against the face. The upper half acts as a long, smooth cover, while the bottom half is just about a half-sized cup-piece. These beaks allow the birds to eat plants, fruits, and vegetables.

The colour of the cere (the area containing the nostrils) differs between the sexes, being royal blue in males, pale brown to white (nonbreeding) or brown (breeding) in females, and pink in immatures of both sexes (usually of a more even purplish-pink colour in young males). Some female budgerigars develop brown cere only during breeding time, which later returns to the normal colour. Young females can often be identified by a subtle, chalky whiteness that starts around the nostrils. Males that are either Albino, Lutino, Dark-eyed Clear or Recessive Pied (Danishpied or harlequin) always retain the immature purplish-pink cere colour their entire lives.

It is usually easy to tell the sex of a budgerigar over six months old, mainly by the cere colours, but behaviours and head shape also help indicate sex.

A mature male’s cere is usually light to dark blue, but can be purplish to pink in some particular colour mutations, such as Dark-eyed Clears, Danish Pieds (Recessive Pieds) and Inos, which usually display much rounder heads. Males are typically cheerful, extroverted, highly flirtatious, peacefully social, and very vocal.

Females’ ceres are pinkish as immatures. As they age, they move from being beigish or whitish outside breeding condition into brown (often with a ‘crusty’ texture) in breeding condition and usually display flattened backs of heads (right above the nape). Females are typically highly dominant and more socially intolerant. This behavior is more pronounced around other females than with males.


Photo Gallery


© HJ Ruiz – Avian101

What’s Up? – Molting in Birds

Molting (Moulting) in Birds


In birds, molting is the periodic replacement of feathers by shedding old feathers while producing new ones. Feathers are dead structures at maturity which are gradually abraded and need to be replaced. Adult birds molt at least once a year, although many molt twice and a few three times each year. It is generally a slow process as birds rarely shed all their feathers at any one time; the bird must retain sufficient feathers to regulate its body temperature and repel moisture. The number and area of feathers that are shed varies. In some molting periods, a bird may renew only the feathers on the head and body, shedding the wing and tail feathers during a later molting period. Some species of bird become flightless during an annual “wing molt” and must seek a protected habitat with a reliable food supply during that time. While the plumage may appear thin or uneven during the molt, the bird’s general shape is maintained despite the loss of apparently many feathers; bald spots are typically signs of unrelated illnesses, such as gross injuries, parasites, feather pecking (especially in commercial poultry), or (in pet birds) feather plucking.

The process of molting in birds is as follows: First, the bird begins to shed some old feathers, then pin feathers grow in to replace the old feathers. As the pin feathers become full feathers, other feathers are shed. This is a cyclical process that occurs in many phases. It is usually symmetrical, with feather loss equal on each side of the body. Because feathers make up 4–12% of a bird’s body weight, it takes a large amount of energy to replace them. For this reason, molts often occur immediately after the breeding season, but while food is still abundant. The plumage produced during this time is called postnuptial plumage. Prenuptial molting occurs in red-collared widowbirds where the males replace their non breeding plumage with breeding plumage. It is thought that large birds can advance the molt of severely damaged feathers.

Determining the process birds go through during molt can be useful in understanding breeding, migration and foraging strategies. One non-invasive method of studying molt in birds is through using field photography.


Photo Gallery


© HJ Ruiz – Avian101

My Visitor: Downy Woodpecker

Downy Woodpecker


The Downy Woodpecker (Dryobates pubescens) is a species of woodpecker, the smallest in North America.

Downy woodpeckers are native to forested areas, mainly deciduous, of North America. Their range consists of most of the United States and Canada, except for the deserts of the southwest and the tundra of the north. Mostly permanent residents, northern birds may migrate further south; birds in mountainous areas may move to lower elevations.[9]

Downy woodpeckers nest in a tree cavity excavated by the nesting pair in a dead tree or limb. In the winter, they roost in tree cavities. Downy Woodpeckers forage on trees, picking the bark surface in summer and digging deeper in winter. They mainly eat insects, also seeds and berries. In winter, especially, downy woodpeckers can often be found in suburban backyards with mature trees. There, they may feed on suet and shelled peanuts provided by mesh birdfeeders.


Photo Gallery


© HJ Ruiz – Avian101

What’s Up? Little River Canyon

Little River Canyon National Preserve


I took a visit to this lovely place in Alabama with my family last Saturday. We wanted to see the colorful foliage before the leaves fall. It was a cool day, rainy and gray but that would not deter us from our commitment to go. I have some information about the Preserve and a photo gallery, samples of what we saw.

Little River Canyon National Preserve is a United States National Preserve located on top of Lookout Mountain near Fort Payne, Alabama, and DeSoto State Park. wikipedia.org

nps.gov
  • Location: Cherokee and DeKalb County, Alabama, U.S.
  • Latitude: 34.41664
  • Longitude: -85.71508

Photo Gallery


© HJ Ruiz – Avian101