National Bird Day

“Birds are a miracle because they prove to us
there is a finer, simpler state of being
which we may strive to attain.”
Douglas Coupland

National Bird Day

Yesterday was the 14th National Bird Day. Why do we have a National Bird Day? To celebrate the beauty, songs, and flight of birds, because birds have long been a source of human inspiration.

Sadly, today nearly 12 percent of the world’s 9,800 bird species may face extinction within the next century, including nearly one-third of the world’s 330 parrot species. Birds serve as our barometer of ecosystem health and alert system for detecting global environmental ills.

In fact, many of the world’s parrots and songbirds are threatened with extinction due to illegal pet trade, disease, and habitat loss.

We all need to be aware of the physical and behavioral needs of all birds to improve the welfare of the millions of birds kept in captivity. The survival and well-being of the world’s birds depends upon public education and support for conservation.

This is why we celebrate National Bird Day.

Shine On

The Eye of The Beholder

“Since we cannot change reality,
let us change the eyes which see reality.”
Nikos Kazantzakis

When you look into someone’s eyes or an animals eyes, what do you see? We are now able to know if the eyes are from a flight or fight species.

A scientific study recently analyzed the eyes of 214 species of land animals. What they discovered is that pupil shapes are directly linked to an animal’s ecological niche.

For instance, animals with pupils that are vertically elongated, like domestic cats and gators, are more likely to be ambush predators – hunters active day and night who use stealth, not strength or speed, to overcome their prey.

Animals with horizontally elongated pupils, such as goats and sheep are herbivore prey animals, the researchers found. Circular pupils, found in humans and birds, provide good all-around vision and are linked to animals that chase down their prey.

Species that are active both night and day with slit pupils provide the range they need to help them see in dim light yet not get blinded by the midday sun.

In fact the sideways orientation which the horse has, is very important for his survival when he is grazing. When he drops his head to graze, its pupils rotate (in opposite directions) by up to 70 degrees to stay horizontal, the researchers found.

While prey animals need to be able to see all around them, predators need binocular vision to see how far away their prey is. Vertical-slit pupils maximize binocular disparity, and blur, in which objects at different distances are out of focus, the scientists found.

But not all predators have vertical pupils.

What is surprising is that the researches noticed from their study that the slit pupils were linked to predators that were close to the ground. Domestic cats have vertical slits, but bigger cats, like tigers and lions, don’t. Their pupils are round, like humans and dogs.

This amazing research teaches us how remarkable the eye and vision can be for us as well as all of nature. Who knows, maybe in the not too distant future we will be able to simulate and see through the eye of the beholder.

Shine On

Hooting in the House

“When cats run home and light is come,
And dew is cold upon the ground,

And the far-off stream is dumb,
And the whirring sail goes round,
And the whirring sail goes round;
Alone and warming his five wits,
The white owl in the belfry sits.”
Alfred Tennyson

California Great Horned Owl

The California Great Horned Owl

Late every evening, for the past two months I hear the sound of an owl hooting. To hear the owl clearly, you must be outside the front door. The calls from the owl are coming from the roof and echo and bounce off the outside walls of our nine story building.

Like a well tuned clock, the owls hooting begins at ten o’clock each night. Unfortunately, because I have night blindness and have no access to the roof, I have not actually seen this owl.

Being the owl fan I am, everyone I know has heard about this owl. They all look at me like I’m nuts and tell me “that’s nice.” My husband just thinks I have bats in my belfry. (That’s another post at another time.)

Last night when my owl buddy began to hoot, I turned to my husband and asked.

“Can you hear it? Can you hear it?”

“I don’t hear anything.” Said my husband.

I grabbed my husband by the hand, led him off the sofa, away from his car show to the front door and opened the door. We stood at the door for a few seconds, and then the owl gave his distinguished hoot. We both listened as the owl hooted several times.

I was excited as a school girl that my husband had finally witnessed the hoots from my visiting friend. Excited that we had shared the sounds from one of natures most majestic creatures. On the other hand, my husband didn’t share my excitement and just replied “that’s nice”, and returned to the sofa and his car show.

To me its the little things in life that make me happy and give me hope. I love nature and all its wonder. Why has this owl chose our building? Is it because it is the tallest spot facing the ocean? Is it because his hooting echo’s and carries farther for other owls to hear and find him?

I’d like to believe the arrival of this owl and his hooting every night is a sign. A sign of hope. A sign of all the good to come. A sign of wisdom and what knowledge can bring.

But, that is the never-ending romantic in me. For whatever the reason this owl arrived at our building, I’m enjoying all the hooting in the house.

Shine On