Song birds are shrinking

nature has no boss

Bergmann’s rule posits that populations and species of larger sizes are found in colder regions while in warmer regions species are smaller.

A study published yesterday in the Journal Ecology Letters reports that over the pervious four decades there has been, on average, a 2.4 percent decrease in the size of the length of the tarsus bone, a standard marker for bird size,  in a sample population of over 70,000 birds from 52 species. The changes in tarsus length were correlated with the increase temperature. The lead authors of the study suggested two explanations for the decrease in body size.

“The first is developmental plasticity, in which individuals that mature in warmer temperatures tend to develop into smaller adults,” Weeks explained. “The second is natural selection, in which smaller birds tend to do better — in survival, reproduction, or both — in warmer temperatures, leading to a shift in the…

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2,520 Degree Ponderosa Pine

michael hagedorn

Two years ago I collected this Ponderosa pine (Pinus ponderosa) with Backcountry Bonsai. It was tucked under a full sized tree, somehow eking out a very long life.

Seven full rotations is 2,520 degrees of twist around the trunk…a bit of an eye boggler. It lay prostrate and un-inspiringly in its box until this fall when we started to look for a front and inclination.

We styled this bunjin pine in a fall Seasonal Class of graduating second year students. It was fun to see this tree off the ground, finally, and on a bench.

Enjoy the photo essay-

Collecting with Backcountry Bonsai—Steve Varland on the left with a massive ponderosa and Dan Wiederrecht behind the camera. The ponderosa pine featured in this post is on my back.

Ponderosa pine after two years of growth and before any work, but at the preferred front and inclination.

The Seasonal…

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Pushing Food, Pelicans

This is a good example of how a group of birds drive fish ahead, in this case into the banks of a rice field.

Pushing Food, Pelicans Pushing Food, Pelicans

These Pelican swim forward grabbing the fish as they move.

Pushing Food, Pelicans Pushing Food, Pelicans

The fish keep ahead of the birds until they run out of water or against a shore.

A friend was photographing large flocks of Egrets using the same technique. They were so efficient the fish jumped out of the water onto the banks all around where she was hiding in the reeds. Large flocks become an eating machine.

Click any image for a full view.

These flocks will move on when the fish are gone. The fish return with the tides and water flows between the marshes.

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Red Gallery – Northern Cardinal

H.J. Ruiz - Avian101

Photo Gallery for Saturday

Have you ever seen this!


This Northern Cardinal was caught and banded by IBBA ( Inland Bird Banding Association) members in central Texas!

The bird shows apparent bilateral gynandromorphism, a rare abnormality that causes it to have female plumage on one side of its body and male on the other. Such birds have both an ovary and a testis.

© First part © HJ Ruiz – Avian101 —Second part © IBBA

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Fall pruning and wiring of Japanese Maple, ‘Chishio Improved’

Nebari Bonsai

I have been working on this tree for almost 20 years now. It is repotted annually with aggressive root work, to develop a good radial Nebari. I do a partial defoliation nearly each summer, removing one of each pair of leaves, and prune it in the fall, and wire it every few years. Here is a look back of the development every couple years.

2004 still in the ground.

2006, in a bonsai pot, first full wiring.

2008, wired again.


2012, photographed as prepared for the 3rd US National Bonsai Exhibition:

2014, allowed to grow very dense, strengthening the root grafts:

2016, thinned and lightly wired a couple branches:

And 2018, after some light pruning and wiring.

Now that we’re caught up, I’ve been working to replace heavy branches with finer ones, grafting to place a branch above the first left branch, and still trying to improve the Nebari…

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Day 2: Costa Rica

Memos for Me

Pacific Screech Owl2 052719 Costa Rica (Guanacaste)

Three Pacific Screech Owls greeted us as we left the hotel this morning to start the day. Like yesterday, it was cloudy and rainy so we decided to head over to the Santa Rosa National Park, which became a historical landmark in 1971. It is the site of the Battle of Santa Rosa and where Costa Rican independence was won. We walked through parts of mature dry forest to search for birds. We even found howler monkeys hunkered down to wait out the rain.

We wrapped up the day by visiting the hotel’s Volcanic Mud Hot Springs and dinner at a Curubandé restaurant where we tried various local dishes.


There are optional morning and night walks each day. I opted to go on tonight’s walk.


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