‘Birds During Lockdown’ by Steve Benjamin

Hermanus Bird Club

Anina Lee says,

“Those who missed last week’s great talk by Steve Benjamin on the beauty of birds can catch it on YouTube. It really is worth watching. Here is the link: https://youtu.be/TFfdr3vR-6k And it’s ‘live’ on the WCC facebook page as well.”

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Common Tern

Feathered Focus

Hey guys welcome back. And Happy Valentine’s Day to those of you out there that care enough to celebrate. I’ll be doing so by heading to the Cleveland Museum of Natural History for a lecture about one of my favorite bird genera, the corvids (crow, jays, ravens, etc.)

Today is our second tern species, the aptly named common tern, as they are fairly common! Typically seen throughout the US (on both sides of the Rockies, but not in the Rockies), common terns breed up in Canada but can be seen in the US throughout the summer season. Common terns are smaller than the last tern species we talked about (the caspian tern) but superficially look very similar. The common tern has a deeper forked tail than the caspian, a black cap, and reddish orange bill (unlike the very similar Forster’s tern which has a more yellow-orange bill.) Like other seabirds…

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Learning to be a starling

Bug Woman - Adventures in London


Dear Readers, I have mentioned before that my garden is inundated with fledgling starlings every year. To start with it’s just one or two but by the end of May every bough is bending under the weight of squawling youngsters. When I look up, I see adult starlings with their offspring in hot pursuit. It’s a difficult few weeks for starling parents, to be sure. To start with, the youngsters are completely clueless, standing ankle-deep in food without knowing what it is.


Somehow the adults seem to know which ‘child’ is theirs, and they only ever feed their own offspring, regardless of the pitiful cries of other youngsters. I wonder if they know by the tone of voice, or by some subtle visual signal? The little ones all look the same to me. Most starling parents seem to have two fledglings on average, though some exhausted parents have managed three…

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Barbour’s Pond- Garret Mountain Reservation, Woodland Park NJ

Tails of a Twitcher

Garret Mountain Reservation is a wonderful urban park. Located in
Woodland Park, New Jersey, the park has at least two different
vantage points where visitors can look down/out at the city of
Paterson and beyond. Along with the paved paths frequented by walkers
and joggers and the many picnic areas (some recently updated) with
grills and picnic tables, there are also hiking trails. According to
Passaic County’s website, the park welcomes over 150 species of
birds throughout the year and the County sponsors Bird Watching
meet-ups throughout the summer. While they are not as intense, nor as
remote as the Appalachian Trail, they do provide good terrain for a
short walk. I typically do not follow the whole trail (which
basically works its way around the outer edge of the park. Instead I
usually walk an easier and shorter loop around Barbour’s Pond.

shaded, the trail at Barbour’s Pond…

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Owl We Need Is Love!

Through Open Lens

F/6.3, 1/160, ISO 800.

Short Eared Owl

What kind of flower doesn’t sleep at night?

The Day-zzz

Interesting Fact: Normally reluctant to leave the nest, female Short-eared Owls that are forced to flush often defecate on their eggs. The resulting putrid smell may repel predators or mask the scent of the nest. ( https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Short-eared_Owl/ )

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Why are some birds ‘larks’ and others ‘owls’?

Functional Ecology: Plain Language Summaries

Julia Karagicheva, Eldar Rakhimberdiev, Anatoly Saveliev & Theunis Piersma

Time is relative. For some organisms one year is a lifetime, for others it is just a tiny chunk of it. When life is short, one has to take every chance, as there will not be too many left. But with many years ahead, animals can afford to skip an opportunity.

Red knots (Calidris canutus) in flight. Photo credit: Jan van de Kam Red knots (Calidris canutus) in flight. Photo credit: Jan van de Kam

In animals that cannot afford to forego a breeding opportunity because life is short, it is also better to breed as early in the season as possible – even if this come with costs. In migratory birds breeding early usually leads to more offspring, but when the weather in early spring turns nasty,  the price is sometimes  death. In highly variable seasonal environments, an optimal date to breed is hard to predict, so rules of thumb are in…

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From a Cutting – to a Tree


This little client trees has been developing from a cutting for the past 8 years. It has developed a considerable root mass and significant foliage to begin to style. The grow pot it was in is not a good container so we went of to Japantown in San Jose to get something more fitting.

The foliage was thick and considerable material was gathered in the branch crotches and of course growing the in the wrong directions. I cut the tree back to main branches and then wired them. Some of the wire is major structural wire to bend the larger branches. Small beginner shari have been created on the trunk in areas were the trunk needs to look less flat. Those will scar nicely in the coming year and be extend later.

Client tree, from cutting, 8 years old. Tree has been growing and developing a nice base and some…

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Penjing in Hong Kong (Part 2) – Unconventional Penjing in a Daoist Monastery

Bonsai Penjing & More

The next penjing garden we visited was in a Daoist monastry, Qingsong Guan (青松观) or Ching Chung Koon in Cantonese dialect used in Hong Kong. It is located a little out-of-the-way in Tuen Mun (新界屯门) in the New Territory area. The late abbot, Mr. Hou Baoyuan (候宝垣 1914-1999) was one of the early pioneers of Lingnan penjing. As a Daoist monk, his penjing were steeped into his philosophical thoughts and believes, they are unpretentious and follow the Daoist Way of harmonizing with nature. His penjing also tell stories and have distinct personalities. Their compositions are not from the typical old school teaching.

Instead of showing photos of penjing after penjing, I am going to select a few and describe my impressions the way I saw them.

A Twin-Trunk that Broke the Rules

img_5578 Twin-trunk Chinese Hackberry

When we make a twin-trunk bonsai or penjing, we are taught to place the two trees…

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