My favorite animal is not a bird *GASP*

Bird nerds get this question a lot. What is your favorite bird? I think I might be able to answer that one for all of us. I have spent years working on an algorithm and I'm happy to say that I can finally answer that question for bird lovers everywhere.




Just kidding, my algorithm only works for mammal-lovers. The correct answer for those folks is: African Brush-tailed Porcupine.

The real answer is that no one will ever be able to choose a single bird as their favorite. And if one can choose, they are the most resolute human in existence. Still, my money is on the tumultuous inner dialogue of those resolute humans five minutes after leaving the bird conversation. GAH! I forgot about pheasants! I should've said pheasant.

*shakes head, disappointed face, kicks rock haphazardly*

As if indecision on the favorite bird front wasn't enough salt in the wound, get this. Birds aren't my favorite animal. They never have been. I started off as a dinosaur girl. My love for dinosaurs was so great that I had what I like to call a Harry Potter Meltdown. You want Harry Potter to be real so much that you basically lose it.

I found a way to make dinosaurs real again though. Well, I didn't actually find a way. I won't take credit for evolution. The solution to my pangs of dinosaur emotion was, and is, the American Alligator. It's basically a dinosaur, folks. Let's head back to Marsh Trail where dreams came true for me.


If you're not caught up on the glory of Marsh Trail, give these posts a once-over: Roseate Spoonbills in The EvergladesRivers of Grass on Marsh TrailCommon vs. Boat-tailed Grackle.

From the lookout on this trail, I first spotted Roseate Spoonbills because they are large and bright pink. The very next thing I spotted was the baby gator in the photo above. Friends, I had never been this close to a wild alligator. It still baffles me that I drove up to a trailhead, hiked for a few minutes, and then there were 20 gators within petting distance. Whoa.








Now I know you're all a bunch of nature enthusiasts so I won't bore you with the cold-blooded/warm-blooded bit. Let's talk about just how long the genetic blueprint for this animal has remained virtually unchanged. Think hundreds of millions of years. Most of the anatomical changes seen in crocodilians were subtle changes in the shape of the jaw to accommodate different food sources in different areas. The body armor was also adapted for changes in the environment, ever so slightly. Other than that, it is nearly the same animal that shared the earth with the dinosaurs.

Let's bring it full circle. Roughly 240 million years ago, birds and crocodilians shared a common ancestor. After the mass extinction event that wiped out the dinosaurs, birds evolved quickly and diversified at a rapid pace. Thousands of little feathered dinosaurs came to fruition. Crocodilians, as mentioned before, pretty much stayed the same. If you think about it, I have surrounded myself with quasi-dinosaurs.

Here's to creating a world where you can breathe a little easier about the dinosaurs being [almost] gone. Now, what to do about this Harry Potter business...

"I" is for Ibis

Before I begin, do you have Instagram? If you'd like to see photographs of wild Newfoundland, Canada from my month-long bird survey work all over the island, stop in and follow me! Thanks! @inkfromthequill

The first time I ever heard the word "ibis" was in my great grandmother's lap reading a tattered old alphabet book early on a Wednesday morning. I know it was a Wednesday morning because I spent every Wednesday with my great grandparents as a child. Their humble cabin-style home with the stove in the corner made for a warm quilt tossed over my young impressionable bird-learning years.

By the way, I'm still experiencing those young impressionable bird-learning years and I'm having a helluva time.

The letter "I" in the book had a photo of an ibis next to it--which I thought was pronounced "ibbiss" until I heard my grandmother say it aloud. The White Ibis isn't an overly resplendent bird. But there is something extravagant about its beet red face juxtaposed against a flawlessly white body. Here are some adults in Naples, FL.




When we drove up on these birds crossing a median, I thought they were lawn ornaments. They can stay shockingly still if they need to.

And strange as it might be, juvenile White Ibises don't have much white on them. Let's head back to Marsh Trail in the Everglades to have a look at some immature ibises.




The older the birds get, the whiter they get. They are very closely related to Roseate Spoonbills with whom they share glades and mangrove swamps (Roseate Spoonbills in The Everglades). They eat mostly crustaceans including crayfish, crabs and shrimp. They don't mind the odd frog or insect either. And the good news is that there is a healthy North American population of about 209,000 White Ibises.

We're staying put on Marsh Trail this Sunday but we're straying into songbird territory for just a moment!