Wednesday, 22 March 2017

Birds with Attitude?

Well spring is officially here judging be the date, maybe the weather has not quite caught up to the season but the days are getting longer.

Here are a few pictures of Myna (Mynah) birds, they seem to be perpetually in a bad mood. I am taking this opportunity to put a few words in their "becks":

"I don't want to sound like a grumpy old man, but nothing winds me up more than people saying, 'Chill out' to me when I'm irritated!"
 Martin Freeman
"I don't argue with idiots. They will just lower me to their level, then beat me with their experience."

"I don't hate people. I just feel better when they're not around."
Charles Bukowski

"Who ate your bowl of sunshine this morning, thundercloud."

"I am so grumpy I am not even talking to myself!"

"Mynah or myna birds are species in the family Sturnidae, which also includes many species of starlings. The distinction between starlings and mynahs is not always clear, and these common names are sometimes used interchangeably. However, as considered here, the mynahs are tropical, Asian species, the most prominent of which are in the genus Acridotheres and Gracula.

The word mynah is derived from the Hindu word maina, itself derived from the Sanskrit word madana, both of which are names for the hill mynah.

Species of mynahs occur in forests, shrubby woodlands, and in urban and suburban habitats. Mynahs are medium-sized, stocky, robust birds, with a stout beak, strong legs, and a short tail. Their songs are innovative, raucous chatters made up of whistles, squeaks, and diverse, imitated sounds. Mynahs feed on a wide range of invertebrates and fruits. They nest in cavities in trees, and both sexes cooperate in feeding and raising the young birds."
Mynah birds are talented mimics, they can be taught to speak and can copy other animal noises.

Here is a YouTube video called "Morning Talk with my Mynah "Kaleo" "

A more cheerful looking bird and one of my favorite tropical birds is the Red-masked Parakeet, there was a flock quite close to where I stayed in Hawaii so I got a lot of pictures, I will share some of them here.

 The red-masked parakeet is a fairly large green parakeet originally from Ecuador and Peru where the population is in decline due to loss of habitat. Feral populations exist in many parts of United States including Hawaii.

"They have a bright red face, forehead and crown; orbital ring is white; iris is orange. They are slightly yellow below; shoulder, edge of wing, lower thigh and outermost underwing coverts at bend in wing and on thighs are red. The underside of the wing and tail are olive yellow. Sexes are similar. Juveniles have green plumage until their first red feathers come in at around four months. They have a brown iris, rather than orange.

Red-masked Parakeet: Their diet includes the seeds and fruit of several different tree species and Erythrina flowers. These birds have been observed feeding on the fruits of the cultivated tropical vegetation. They travel in groups of two to twelve birds, sometimes many more at communal roosts or near prolific food supplies. They move seasonally over long distances to find crops of fruits."

These birds are really chatty but they are fun to watch ... oh and messy eaters.

Here is a YouTube video of their chatter:


"Eating without conversation is only stoking."
Marcelene Cox

...very entertaining to watch..........

"The only think I like better than talking about food is eating."
John Walters

No, this is my better side......

"Any fool can criticize, condemn and complain and most fools do."
 Benjamin Franklin

...look Ma no hands........

"When a thing is funny, search it for a hidden truth."
 George Bernard Shaw


"Learn the rules so you know how to break them properly."
 Dalai Lama

"A generous heart, kind speech, and a life of service and compassion
are the things which renew humanity."

The Buddha

"The only thing to do with good advice is to pass it on.
It is never of any use to oneself."
 Oscar Wilde

"People who think they know everything are a great annoyance to those of us who do."
 Isaac Asimov


I hope you have enjoyed this edition of birds with attititude.
New from my studio:
First, here is a watercolour named "Anyone Home".
Raccoons are cheeky little animals, I have heard stories about raccoons that knock on the door for handouts!
 Second, and last for today, is a watercolour called "A stroll at dusk"; it is of a couple (and their dog) walking west along Spanish Banks in the winter as the sun disappears below the horizon. Oh, that is downtown Vancouver in the background.
That's all I have for you this week, happy Wednesday, with whimsy,

Wednesday, 15 March 2017

A little sunshine?

Today I am offering a little bit of sunshine on a cloudy/rainy day in the form of  some beautiful little birds I photographed in Hawaii.

Fresh from my camera:
I was on the Hilo side of the island (Hawaii) when I encountered this lovely little bird.
It is yellow, so must be a canary, right, well maybe?
But it is known as a saffron Finch in Hawaii.
The Saffron Finch is a small tanager, introduced to Hawaii, originating in South America.
It has a vibrant yellow body and orange crown, below is the reverse view, can you believe this little guy turned his back on me?

Here is the male Saffron Finch with a juvenile in the background.
Mirror, mirror on the wall, who's the fairest...........


I just love the reflections.

They are about 5.5 to 6 inches long and they seem to be ground feeders, eating seeds and small insects. 
Against the grass they are well camouflaged.

Bath time, two juvenile Saffron Finches enjoy a puddle of water....

...under the watchful eye of the adult Finch.



Another yellow bird, is it a Canary? No this one is a Japanese White Eye.
It has a yellow throat but the head is a green colour and the body a buff colour.
I caught sight of this little fellow on a Bird of Paradise plant and was able to get a few pictures before it vanished.

This is another introduced bird and it is a little smaller than the Saffron Finch.
It is a passerine.

"This small green passerine, introduced from Japan to the Hawaiian Islands in 1929, spread quickly to all the main islands and successfully invaded forests from sea level to the highest reaches of the mountains, rapidly becoming the most abundant and widespread passerine in the archipelago.
White-eyes are commonly observed throughout the islands in both urban and pristine native habitats, in small flocks gleaning insects or gathering fruit and nectar from shrubs and understory subcanopy vegetation."

Well that is my offering of sunshine for today.
New from my studio:
An ink and watercolour painting called "Hearts of Stone":
This appears darker than the original, I will have to take a better picture the next time the sun comes out!
That's all I have for you this week, happy Wednesday, with whimsy,

Wednesday, 8 March 2017

About the other questions

Last week I asked what these fish have in common manta rays.

The fish are Akule.

"Akule or big-eye scad is a tropical fish that is found in huge schools either inshore or in the open ocean around the world. It is the most popular reef fish in Hawaii, and is often used as live bait to catch larger fish such as marlin and ahi tuna."
"Akule are bluish to greenish silver on the upper third of their body, fading to white on the lower two-thirds. The fish resembles a mackerel with a long and slender body, but earns its “big-eye” status from enormous eyes. It is a relatively small fish, growing to about a foot long (30 cm). It has a sweet, oily flavor similar to mackerel and is great for grilling."
So what do they have in common with manta rays?
They eat plankton.
Here is a movie I made on a night snorkel in Hawaii:

We went to see Manta Rays, and we did see some at a distance but they did not come close enough for me to get pictures or videos. Maybe there wasn't enough plankton, yes Manta Rays eat plankton, maybe there were too many people, who knows.
The Akule were plentiful and swam very close to us to eat the plankton attracted by the night snorkel lights. We were on a catamaran (, and in about 40 feet of water hanging on to a floating light board.
So as the sun wet down, we put on our wetsuits, the crew put the light boards (video below) in the water and we jumped in, me with my camera.
Manta Rays are gentle giants, they are triangular in shape and can be 18 to 20 feet across. They do not have stingers and they eat plankton, and lots of it, so they are often attracted to the lights because the light draws plankton.
Here is a video from Liquid Hawaiian Carters of Manta Rays.
That answers the second question.
The third question was about where you could find 11 of the worlds climatic regions in one island?
The Big Island of Hawaii is the answer.
``There are 13 climate zones on Earth. The Big Island has all of them except the Arctic and Saharan. Pressure variations, rainfall, wind, elevation and topography combine to create distinct variations across the island. Some of the climates you may encounter in Hawaii are humid tropical zones, arid and semi-arid zones, temperate zones, and alpine zones.To fully appreciate this you must experience it. Within one day on the Big Island, you can travel through rainforests, snow covered mountain tops, deserts and beaches.``
Hope you have enjoyed my questions today.

As a bonus, here is another video I took, this one is of a Sonoran Carpenter Bee:

``Xylocopa sonorina, commonly known as the Sonoran carpenter bee, is a carpenter bee found in the eastern Pacific islands. Males are golden brown and lack stingers; females are black and larger than the males and considered shy.``


The ``carpenter`` part of the name is because the females tunnel into wood to lay their eggs.


That`s all I have for you today, thanks for dropping by.

Happy Wednesday, with whimsy,


Wednesday, 1 March 2017

Three Questions

I have been wandering? Where? Here are some clues:

1) Only one variety of Orchid produces an edible product, do you know what that is?
    Hint: it is the second most expensive spice in the world.

2) What does this fish have in common with a Manta Ray?


3) What small island has 11 of the worlds 13 climatic regions?


Where was I travelling? Hawaii, the Big Island.

The answer to the first question is vanilla. Hawaii is one of only a handful of places in the world where the Vanilla planifolia plant is grown.
This orchid only grows between 20 degrees north latitude and 20 degrees south and can be found in southern Mexico, Tahiti, Madagascar, Micronesia and Hawaii.

While in Hawaii I visited the Hawaiian Vanilla Company.

 Each flower has the potential to produce a vanilla bean, but because each flower only blooms for about 4 hours, the orchids are hand pollinated.

There is a short video describing the process on their website:

Green Vanilla Beans:
We had a vanilla themed lunch and then went for a tour.
First we had a shrimp sautéed in Garam Masala and flamed with Vanilla.

The owners elder son now gives tours and here does the first part of the cooking,

he hands off to his younger brother for the flambe (sorry my picture missed the flames which were quite impressive) apparently because he had lost his eyebrows on a previous occasion.
The shrimp were then served on a small pieces of toast:

Main course was grilled chicken served on a rich vanilla scented bun (they make them in house) and served with chutney, aioli, seasoned potatoes and salad.
Dessert was a very fine Vanilla Icecream.
A delicious meal and fascinating tour.
I brought home vanilla beans and made my own vanilla, it will be ready next fall, just in time for Christmas baking.
Did you know that vanilla needs an activator to produce the characteristic flavour; the three activators are alcohol, cream and citrus juice.

So I followed the instructions using vodka, and my vanilla is resting in a cool dark place.

Oops, sorry, I seem to have got a bit carried away on vanilla.
More on questions 2 and 3 next week.
I have a painting to share with you:
This is an Ink and Watercolour work with just a bit of doodle:

 That's all for this week,
happy Wednesday, with whimsy,