Sunday, November 29, 2009

Notes on evolution, adaptive radiation and extinction

Our recent expedition up California's Central coast revealed some interesting, as yet undiscovered facts that might change some of the accepted viewpoints of the modern science.

Here is one. It is commonly accepted that zebras naturally occur nowhere but Africa. The photo below is a proof that it is simply not true. Apparently, millions of years ago some prehistoric zebras crossed the land bridge between then connected continents of Africa and South America and had been moving up the coast since, until they found a suitable niche in San Simeon, CA. There they have been observed grazing and keeping company with local bovines for the last 50 years or so.

This could easily be the missing link the scientists were looking for. The photo below proves that the ancestors of modern birds are not dinosaurs, as it was believed before, but mollusks! Right before our eyes the giant clam in Pismo Beach mutated into a giant turkey. What more proof do you need?

And if you thought dinosaurs were extinct, you were just as mistaken as everyone else. A small herd of them can be seen peacefully grazing along highway 41, not too far from Morro Bay. Who knows, what other ancient creatures are lurking by the back roads of the wine country?

Saturday, November 14, 2009

All that screaming wasn't for nothing...

Crested screamers have eggs!

I snapped a couple of (horrible) pictures during the tour today.

Tomorrow I'll post more about who crested screamers are and why it's cool they have eggs. Maybe some better pics, too.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Snow cubs

You can read all about the new addition to the snow leopard family on LA Zoo website ( But watching the mom and the two cubs is a whole another story. Visitors have been glued to the exhibit for weeks, watching in fascination how the growing cubs learn to run, climb, growl and now – hunt. You can see them wrestling, chasing each other and playing, just like any other kittens, but the funniest part, I think, is when they stalk and chase their mom. The female snow leopard is quite a ferocious-looking creature, and the “predatorial” features of her face (narrow irises, dark streaks and a heavy jaw) make it look – to us, humans – very stern. That’s what makes it so hilarious when her playful cubs chase her tail, slap her around or “ambush” her from behind a rock.

Loud, green and exotic

Early one morning, on October 25th to be exact, I was wandering around the Zoo entrance plaza, looking at the birds that frequent the bird feeders. There are some large date palms near the entrance, and there was a lot of commotion going on them because the dates were near ripe and a lot of birds were in haste to feast on them. I recognized the jays and the acorn woodpeckers, but something green and loud up in the tree didn't look like it belonged there at all! Only looking through my zoom lens I recognized the noise makers as parakeets. With some Internet research we later identified them as yellow-chevroned parakeets (Brotogeris chiriri).

Earlier this year Roxy and I were hiking in Temescal Canyon and spotted some black-hooded parakeets (Nandayus nenday). They were too high up in the trees to take good photos, so we took some bad ones just for identification.

My friend reports seeing large green birds at her college campus in Pasadena. There are many other sightings all over LA...

So, what's the problem?

Parrots and parakeets don’t belong in Los Angeles area. Their home is far away in South American jungle. The only reason we occasionally see parrots in our backyards is because sometime, somewhere somebody released their pet parrots into the wild, either accidentally, or because they were no longer able or willing to take care of them. This happens only too often nowadays, and there are many examples of how this irresponsible introduction of new species has led to a disaster. Remember what rabbits did to Australia?

What can possibly be dangerous about such a beautiful bird? Consider this: most parakeets nest in tree cavities. In their native environment, this was their specialization, which allowed them to escape predators and probably no compete with other birds that nest elsewhere. But in Southern California there alredy were birds that nest in tree cavities. Woodpeckers are a good example. So, what happens when a large and agressive birds have already taken over the best nesting sites and are eating the best food? I'll let you figure that out on your own.

So, even though parrots and parakeets are fun, colorful, exotic and loud, having them in our area could be a problem. There are studies going on to determine how they are affecting native species. Here is a link to the one Museum of Natural History is conducting: You may report your parrot sightings there, too.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Here we go!

All the posts on this blog up to this point are old, they were pulled from our family blog, where they were interspersed with our other, non-nature related experiences. From this point on, we will be posting new material, unique to this blog only.