These high gloss eggs look like ceramic but were actually laid by members of the Tinamou family, native to Central and South America.
Great tinamou egg
Elegant-crested tinamou egg
Thicket tinamou (Crypturellus cinnamomeus) egg
Tataupa tinamou egg
Tinamous are shy, secretive ground-dwelling birds that resemble chickens but are closely related to ostriches and emus. 46 species range in size from the 8’7″ small-billed tinamou (Crypturellus parvirostris) to the 16-19″ grey tinamou (Tinamus tao). No matter where they live, rainforest, savannah or shrubland, all of them lay shiny eggs in a nest on the ground.
One would think that shiny eggs would be easily found by predators, especially after researchers examined the cuticle, the egg’s outside layer, and found:
They quantified its smoothness down to the nanometer scale and measured the shininess of the mirrorlike surface, finding that tinamou eggs are up to 14 times as glossy as the average chicken egg. A spectroscopy test also revealed that the blue eggs were iridescent (the green and brown eggs were too shiny for the spectrometer to accurately measure).
The Steller’s sea eagle in Maine was still near Boothbay Harbor on Tuesday 18 January 2022, as reported by @WanderingSTSE. The bird is 7,000 miles away from his native range and the only member of his species on the continent. What would his life be like if he was at home?
Steller’s sea eagles (Haliaeetus pelagicus) breed in Far Eastern Russia and migrate south for the winter but they don’t leave cold weather behind. One of their favorite winter locations is Hokkaido, Japan where floating ice provides a platform from which to fish. (Blue arrow points to Hokkaido.)
They are joined there by a smaller sea eagle, the white-tailed eagle (Haliaeetus albicilla) of Europe, Asia and western Greenland. White-tailed eagles are very similar to their closest relative, the bald eagle. All three are sea eagles in the genus Haliaeetus.
At Hokkaido the sea eagles have a daily banquet on the ice.
p.s. 18 Jan 2022 UPDATE on the Steller’s sea eagle in Maine:
Jan 18th Update: Early morning sightings around the Maine State Aquarium (West Boothbay Harbor, Maine)!#StellersSeaEagle
A week ahead of today’s snowstorm the predictions were dire. By yesterday morning the forecast called for 6-12 inches in the Pittsburgh area beginning with wet snow on Sunday, possibly some freezing rain, ending on Monday at 1pm.
With that much warning and a national holiday, Martin Luther King Day, the streets are empty in Pittsburgh.
At 6:50am I found a windless place to measure the snow in my neighborhood, 5.75 inches shown above, and it is still snowing at 9am.
Here are more scenes before dawn.
Maintenance crews were already out blowing, shoveling, salting and plowing to keep up with as many as 3 more inches.
The sky was white with snow but I could see lights in the distance.
You may remember this news on 23 December 2021: “Three days before Christmas a 260 pound black bear was trapped behind Boy Scout Headquarters in Downtown Pittsburgh where he’d been living for more than two weeks on a wooded hillside.”
How did a black bear end up in a city that’s nearly surrounded by rivers? Did he walk through the East End neighborhoods?
The clue comes from the bear’s first sighting in the Strip District, a neighborhood built on the Allegheny River floodplain. He probably came from the north and swam across the Allegheny.
The sun was shining and the temperature was in the mid 30s when six of us arrived at Beaver Meadows Recreation Area in the Allegheny National Forest on 12 Jan 2022. We were there to find 40 red crossbills (Loxia curvirostra) reported on 29 December. Just one perched in profile would be enough for me. I had to see the beak.
This one dragged his tail as he bounded across the path, planting his back feet in the prints of his front feet as he hurried from one subnivean hole to the next.
Since meadow voles have relatively short tails my guess is that the print was made by a white-footed mouse, (Peromyscus leucopus) pictured below. Notice the long tail.
We saw many other tracks including:
Fox on the lake ice
Otters slid on lake ice near their den. A local man helped us with this ID and showed us a photo of the otters.
Red squirrels made small highways between trees.
This was my first ever look at snowshoe hare (Lepus americanus) tracks but I recognized the distinctive large hind feet that spread like “snowshoes” to help them walk on snow. (An optical illusion may make the footprints appear to bulge. My boot is at bottom of the photo for scale.)
Here are two sets of snowshoe hare prints, plain and marked up with notes. In the smaller track the hind feet are just less than 4″ long. In the larger the hind feet are about 6″ long.
And here’s the mammal that makes these prints. Snowshoe hares are active at night, dusk and dawn so of course we didn’t see any.
Ultimately we saw 10 species of birds, only 26 individuals, five of which were red crossbills. It was worth the trip for the snowshoe hares. Yes I did see a crossbill beak.
The cultivated avocado fruit and tree looks like this.
Botanically speaking avocados are berries and there are many species.
In Mesoamerica, Persea proliferated into many new species, and the berries of some of them constitute a valuable food supply for quetzals that live in the montane rainforests of Mesoamerica. In particular, the resplendent quetzal‘s favorite fruits are berries of wild relatives of the avocado. Their differing maturing times in the cloudforest determine the migratory movements of the quetzals to differing elevation levels in the forests. With a gape width of 21 mm (0.83 in), the quetzal swallows the small berry (aguacatillo) whole, which he catches while flying through the lower canopy of the tree, and then regurgitates the seed within 100 meters (328 ft) from the tree.
When a bird is extremely rare, very large, nomadic, and easily recognizable it quickly becomes a celebrity. There is only one wild Steller’s sea eagle in North America(*) and wherever he goes birders flock to see him. He lingers sometimes then leaves for parts unknown. Every day the question is, Where is The Steller’s sea eagle?
Meanwhile in Pittsburgh, 300 miles from the nearest ocean, I will probably never see this bird. I can imagine the disappointment and expense of spending a day or two flying or driving to the sea eagle’s last known location and arriving after it had left. Sigh.