Where in the world is SOIMF* (bird clues)?

Nobody was able to guess from the pictures he posted earlier, so I’m posting some bird photos which will be a clue…let’s see if any bird nerds are reading. And here’s a ridiculously long bird photo list.

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Flamingoes!
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Pelicans
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Verreaux’s Eagle Owl has pink eyelids
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Weaver butt!
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The frumpiest baby pigeon
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Spotted thick-knee
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Crowned Lapwing
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I think this is a white-backed vulture
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I think this is a black-winged lapwing
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Vitelline Masked Weaver
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D’Arnaud’s Barbet
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Hildebrandt’s Starling
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A terrible photo of a hammerkop
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Superb Starling
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Yellow collared lovebird
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Jacobin cuckoo
https://flic.kr/p/ZB7hdN
Jackson’s Hornbill that we nicknamed Mr. Jackson
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Ruppell’s Long-Tailed Starling
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Ring-necked dove
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Great Egret
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Ostrich
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Striated heron
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Three-banded courser
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Slender-tailed Nightjar
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Spotted Morning Thrush
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Pearl spotted owlet
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Fish Eagle
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Malachite Kingfisher
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Black crowned heron
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Pied Kingfisher
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African Darter
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https://flic.kr/p/GKLCzB
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Frumpy superb starling
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Juvenile Fish Eagle
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African Spoonbill
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Long crested eagle
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Helmeted guineafowl
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Hadada Ibis
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Pelicans
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Black winged stilt
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https://flic.kr/p/ZB7jFJ
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Saddle billed crane
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Pied avocet
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Some of the cool spiders…it’s hard to pick just one! From Longest Name to Loudest Sound, Scientists Catalog Over 100 Spider World Records

Where in the world is SOIMF*?

*StandingOutInMyField

Hey all! My travels of late have been a whirlwind of adventure…from Oslo to…a place that couldn’t be any more different to Oslo. See if you can guess! I’m just going for country since we traveled all over. This may be a bit tough unless you’re a botany nerd…

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A new great ape species! and traveling

Scientists have declared this genetic variant of orangutan a separate species, making it the first new great ape species in a century. I don’t get toooooo excited about primates, but this is an intriguing example of the ways in which phylogenetics can change the way we perceive animals and conservation. I heard a talk recently where the speaker said “anything with more than 2.5% difference in the genetic markers is a different species” and proceeded to show how two populations of ants were 4% different and therefore different species. (Who gets to decide 2.5% is a mystery to me, but I felt asking that question would come across as aggressive, so I kept my silence.)

This is interesting to me, because often when we separate something that was considered one species, one of the populations automatically becomes “endangered”. This all harkens back to the complexity of the species concept, which I’ve talked about in great length, although not in some time.

Similarly, this new orangutan species is in danger of extinction because it is represented by a small population of genetic variants. The next question is a conservation question…do we shift resources to save this new and suddenly endangered species? Or do we continue our conservation efforts as before considering these two separate species as one? As Hugh Possingham would say, we need to allocate limited conservation funds where they can be most effective.

You may have an opinion on the morality of prioritizing species conservation, but the reality is that conservation is underfunded and spread too thin to conserve everything.

Deep thoughts for a Friday morning!

I will be traveling for the next while, so in the meantime write me a ten page essay on why conservation of genetic variants is important (or not important). Times New Roman, size 12 font, double spaced and don’t mess with the margins.

Where in the world is SOIMF*?

*StandingOutInMyField

Having a bit of a wander! See if you can guess where I am this week (will be somewhere entirely different next week). 10 points for the country and 100 imaginary points for the city! This should be pretty easy, since the name of the  city and the flag of the country are both in these photos 😉

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Happy Samhain! And some blood-sucking creatures

I’ve never been a super fan of Halloween…I don’t have any problem with it, it just never caught my fancy BUT now that I am living in Ireland, I have recently discovered that Halloween originated as Samhain* in Ireland’s Celtic past. Here is an interesting article on it.** And because I am doing my best to learn as much as possible about Ireland while it is generously hosting me, here’s a post dedicated to Samhain/Halloween (and vampires in nature)!

A lot of cultures celebrate the blurring of the boundary between the dead and the undead, and vampires have always been considered to be a form of the undead. However, there are a lot of vampires in nature that are very much alive. Here are some examples of natural vampires…

We all know about vampire bats, but did you know that there are also vampire moths?

I always believed the oxpecker/ungulate relationship to be mutualistic***, where the oxpecker removes parasites from large grazing mammals, and gets fed in return. BUT it’s been known for a while that oxpeckers are actually VAMPIRES! They open wounds and only eat ticks that are already engorged with blood. They are parasites not mutualists (Weeks 2000).

There are also vampire fish, which actually do look like something out of a nightmare. Many lamprey species eat blood…and they’re being welcomed back into British rivers with open arms****.


Source: The Cosmos News

Of course, we know there are a lot of blood-sucking insects, including mosquitoes, bedbugs, kissing bugs, biting midges, and bat flies (also this), plus non-insect arthropods including ticks and leeches. I should add here that there is a spider that is an indirect vampire…it feeds on engorged mosquitoes (weird, right?).


Source: https://www.earthtouchnews.com/wtf/wtf/excuse-me-mr-bat-youve-got-a-huge-parasitic-fly-on-your-face/

But a useful question is why aren’t there MORE vampires out there? Blood is readily available (especially human blood), but blood feeding habits are incredibly rare compared to other feeding strategies (e.g. carnivory, frugivory, insectivory, omnivory etc.). As far as I know, in the vertebrates, it’s only a couple of bird species (in addition to the oxpecker, the vampire finch), a few bat species, and some fish…no reptilian or amphibian blood suckers at all.

Well, it turns out that blood isn’t such a great thing to live on by itself! It’s fat-free, which though it may sound good to dieters, is not useful in general in the animal kingdom. It also is very high in iron and amino acids that can be dangerous in high concentrations. Animals that consume only blood, such as the lamprey mentioned above, have special adaptations to process these things, but you might expect that there is a processing cost involved and any animal not adapted for consuming blood would not last long on a diet of blood alone.

*Pronounced “sow – en”

**this article also taught me that fairies live in hawthorne trees, so maybe that explains my ethereal goldcrest!

***You know how I feel about mutualisms

****Right??

Native, by Keetje Kuipers

It’s true…nothing is untouched anymore…how do we define native? Wild?

 

Native

In the spring the men come out again to clear

the land, yellow Cat dozers popping up on hillsides

like morels to be collected after the first warm days

of May. In fields studded with the rhinestone glitter

of purple knapweed, trucks nose aside whatever lingers

too long in the path: stones laid down by a glacier’s

swollen body, a rain-washed pair of child’s underwear,

white-spangled fawn fresh from the belly of before-this-world.

Untouched? No such thing. Scoured clean and dirtied up again, laid

to rest only to have the soil peeled back from the jaw bone.

What hasn’t been repopulated by trespassers, colonized

from the inside out? No wonder my body wants to do

the work it was always meant to, spiraling deep within itself

to make from this wildness something that belongs here.

– KEETJE KUIPERS