As we shelter indoors, wildlife is reclaiming our neighborhoods faster than we thought possible. Limpkins in Florida, deer in Pittsburgh, and wild boars in Italy!
Limpkins in Florida:
Now that human activity has slowed in Boca Raton, my sister-in-law says that limpkins have moved into the neighborhoods and are shouting all night to attract mates and establish territories. If you’ve never heard a limpkin you’d think it’s a human in distress and you might call 911. Ooops! It’s a bird. Limpkins are a thrill to birders but annoying if you’re trying to sleep. Here’s what one looks and sounds like from 2012. You can hear other limpkins in the distance.
Deer in Pittsburgh:
Deer are getting bolder and coming out during the day now that Pittsburghers are not outdoors. Yesterday, 31 March, Donna Foyle found a family group right next to a front porch in Brentwood.
The parks have been our solace in these troubled times but EVERYONE must obey the COVID-19 rules or Pittsburgh’s parks will close as they have in other cities.
A message from the Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy, 31 March 2020:
Pittsburgh, it’s in our hands to keep the parks open. We have to follow the guidelines set by the City of Pittsburgh, our national government, and the CDC.
Be safe in #PittsburghParks – practice physical distancing (6-8 feet) – wash your hands before and after a park visit – avoid surfaces: benches, railings, fences, exercise equipment – playgrounds are closed – no contact sports – no playdates in parks for kids – no pavilions – park facilities and amenities will be closed – no restrooms, water fountains, etc. – if you are experiencing symptoms stay home!
I don’t know about you but I am really confused about what day it is. Because of the COVID-19 shutdown there’s no traffic anywhere, few cars are on the street, parking lots are empty and few pedestrians venture out before midday unless the weather is exceptionally good. Every day feels like Sunday.
Pittsburgh’s Strip District, the home of restaurants, international food markets and boutique retailers is normally packed before dawn on Saturday mornings. Yesterday Dave DiCello filmed the emptiness and posted on Twitter.
Happily, Sunday is my traditional day for hiking and birding so I’ve been outdoors every day to see migration ramping up including these Best Birds seen yesterday, 28 March 2020, on a Saturday that felt like Sunday: One Bonaparte’s gull and six female red-breasted mergansers at Duck Hollow, plus eight(!) fox sparrows at Schenley Park.
By the way these photos by Cris Hamilton, Bob Kroeger and Steve Gosser are not the individual birds I saw. See the captions for their locations.
Yesterday the number of COVID-19 cases in the U.S. exceeded the number in China. Those who became infected and contagious(!) 10 days ago are now feeling sick. Now more than ever we must stay at home and wait it out. It’s a very stressful time.
We need a laugh. Parrots are here to help.
p.s. If you have a pet bird you have lots of time right now to work with him on new tricks. 🙂
Around the world the COVID-19 emergency is forcing rapid changes to human society. In Pennsylvania nearly everything is closed; crowds of any kind are prohibited. If we go out at all, we must stay away from others and maintain a safe social distance (six feet). We cannot afford to spread this illness. The number of infections blows up like a bomb.
Birds don’t need to care about the disease — they won’t catch it — but these photos can illustrate social distancing.
Above, two saffron finches display a proper distance.
Below, the pigeons are WRONG! The group is small but they’re too close.
The flock below is spawning a local epidemic. This crowd is NOT ALLOWED. It’s a petri dish of infection waiting to explode in 9-10 days.
In case you don’t believe this is necessary, here’s a message for us from Italy, sent on 15 March 2020. They know what happens if you don’t stay away from each other BEFORE the need is apparent. On 15 March: “It is believed that the US, England and France are 9-10 days behind Italy in COVID-19 progression.”
9-10 days is next week, 24 or 25 March 2020. That’s why things are closed!
It’s like living in a war zone, but there is hope. Italians are singing from their balconies to keep their spirits up and the Chinese are sending encouragement.
Stay strong. Stay well. Stay apart. Stay home.
This too shall pass.
(photos from Wikimedia Commons, videos from YouTube; click the captions or YouTube links to see the originals)
p.s. Birding alone in the woods is a safe social distance, but don’t count on finding a bathroom!
Yesterday was an eventful day for coronavirus preparedness in the U.S. Officials declared national, state and local emergencies, events were canceled everywhere, and public venues including schools closed through at least the end of March. U.S. testing capacity is woefully behind but there’s hope now that a coronavirus relief bill is moving quickly through the Capitol.
Meanwhile, anxious people are panic hoarding. By mid-week there was a sudden rush on toilet paper and bottled water as if preparing for a hurricane.
The Germans have an apt word for this: Hamsterkauf = “hamster” hoards in its cheeks (hamstern) + “buy” (kaufen). The hoarding hamster above is totally stuffing his cheeks despite the overabundance of dandelion leaves.
I haven’t been to the grocery store for a few days so I asked my friends what hamsterkauf looks like in Pittsburgh.
On Thursday 12 March at 5:30p John English reported, “Stopped at the Greenfield Giant Eagle for food. Toilet paper shelves are wiped clean. Paper towels were also flying off the shelves. Bottled water was limited to 4 cases per person. (I guess people never heard of water filters.)”
On Thursday 12 March at 7pm, Terry Wiezorek photographed the frozen food section at the North Hills Trader Joe’s.
On Friday 13 March at 2:30p, Sue Bodziach saw this in the Cranberry Walmart toilet paper aisle.
And on Friday 13 March at 4p, Shannon Platt found little to buy in the toilet paper aisle at Target on McKnight Road.
Sandgrouse (Pteroclidae) are seed-eating birds native to Africa and Asia that are famous for carrying water in their specialized belly feathers. The male sandgrouse flies as much as 18 miles from his nest to a watering hole where he soaks his belly in water. He then flies back to the nest where his young squeeze his belly feathers to get a drink.
The sandgrouse is nothing like a flamingo or grebe but he’s descended from the same extinct ancestor that spawned flamingos, grebes, sandgrouse, mesites and doves. The pink circle around the number 95 in the phylogenomic supertree shows where the birds diversified. (“95” is that ancestor.)
Who’s related to the sandgrouse? An extinct ancestor at “85” in the supertree spawned sandgrouse, mesites and doves (Columbidae).
This is the sandgrouse’s city kin. He’s also related to flamingos. 🙂
(photos from Wikimedia Commons and Steve Gosser; click on the captions to see the originals)