Monthly Archives: May 2012

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{Book Review} Animal Dialogues by Craig Childs

Let me start off by saying that this is one of my favorite books of all time.

Feel free to cross the jump if you need more of a review than that.  Read the rest of this entry

Today’s Lesson: Don’t mess with goose mommas.

You know how when you see a few things converging at once from a distance, you pretty much know exactly what’s going to happen? And then when it does, you can’t help but laugh? And then when you do, the person it happened to spots you laughing and you feel like a jerkpants?

So this morning I’m walking the Pudge along the river, where there’s a sidewalk and on the other side, grass and ponderosas. As we approach one corner of the path, there’s a pair of goose parents guarding their deliciously adorable little brood, all huddled on the sidewalk. Sunka and I give them a wide berth, and I look at them from the side of my sunglasses, not head-on. Momma Goose still hisses, lowers her head, and raises her wings at us. I love her tenacity and after we pass the family, Sunka and I turn back and up onto a small hill where we can watch them without disturbing them.

As we watched, a woman approached with her schmoodle (that is to say, a small froofy, fluffy dog whose breed is a mystery to me). I thought at first she would do the smart thing: make a wide berth and keep walking her tiny predator past the goose family. No such luck. She paused about three feet away from them and took out her camera phone. Whilst waiting for the perfect shot, Momma Goose lost her temper. There was hissing, wings, and the chase was given. The goose chased that little schmoodle around its human’s legs three times before the human (her own squawking mixing with that of the goose’s) jerked up so hard on the leash that schmoodle went airborne and landed safely in her human’s arms. Human ran off, and Momma Goose returned to her goslings, no doubt with a deserved sense of accomplishment.

I felt terrible after the woman caught me laughing, but.. well, you don’t mess with Goose Mommas. Especially when you have a little predator with you! There’s your nature lesson for today. :)

“Don’t mess with my momma!”
Image via naturespics on Wiki

Word of the Week: Lek

Today’s word is:

lek

Pronounced: …lek. This one sounds like it looks!

Sciency Definition: A lek is a communal assembly area where members of certain species meet to carry on courtship behavior and impress the local ladies.

I could have said: Prairie Chicken party place! Musk Duck disco dance-off! Hermit Hummingbird ho-down! Capercaillie ass-kicking camp! (I could go on.)

What’s it do?  A lek is a place of great testosteronal activity: males of species including ground-dwelling birds like Black Grouse (Tetrao tetrix) and Sage Grouse (Centrocercus urophasianus) gather in one designated spot, performing mating displays and challenging each other. “Lek” is a word of Swedish origin, coming from the word leka which means “to play.” “Lekking” is the act of performing at a lek, which may also be called a “strutting ground.” Superior males get prime real estate in the lek, with lesser contenders lingering further towards the outskirts. Females visit to survey the selection and choose a mate. Pretty neat, huh?

Example sentence: I don’t have an example sentence today; all I can think about is a group of human males getting together in a big field to flap their arms and stomp their feet and make noise, while mildly-amused women stand off to the side, muttering to each other. I need some coffee.

You can check out an outstanding video here of Sharp Tailed Grouse lekking it up! It very well may be the coolest thing you see all week.

Diagram of Sage Grouse Lekking Grounds Via Sadi Carnot on Wiki

 

More for the super-nerds

 Just wanted to share this snippet of an article talking about male courtship behavior in animals like peacocks, cardinals, or any other species whose males aren’t exactly camoflauged:

Zahavi declared that male sexual characteristics only convey useful information to the females if these traits confer a handicap on the male.[12]Otherwise, males could simply cheat: if the courtship displays have a neutral effect on survival, males could all perform equally and it would signify nothing to the females. But if the courtship display is somehow deleterious to the male’s survival—such as increased predator risk or time and energy expenditure—it becomes a test by which females can assess male quality. Under the “handicap principle,” males who excel at the courtship displays prove that they are of better quality and genotype, as they have already withstood the costs to having these traits.”

They have judging eyes.

Sometimes they just stare at me like that… waiting.