Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Very funny and clever BIrdwatcher Video!!

We birdwatchers are indeed a rare breed although not quite yet 'fairly extinct; ;-)

Save the Sage Grouse

Please help Bird Explorers save the Sage Grouse by signing the following petition.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Levaillant, Klaas and Narina: A Tale of Two Cuckoos and a Trogon

Above all, I thought particularly, that those parts of the globe which were unexplored, might give new information, and rectify the former errors; looking on that man as supremely happy, who should have the courage to trace them to their source. The interior parts of Africa appeared, for that purpose, a Peru.—It was virgin land. Ingrossed with these ideas, I persuaded myself, that the ardour of zeal might supply genius. Enthusiasm whispered, I was the being for whom this privilege was reserved; I listened to the pleasing seduction, from which moment I became devoted; neither the ties of love or friendship were able to shake my purpose.—I communicated my projects to no one; but inexorable and blind to every obstacle, left Paris the 17th of July, 1780.
—Le Vaillant, from the preface of the English edition (London, 1790)
Setting: Southern Africa, Cape Region, 1780s

Meet the main characters:
François Le Vaillant, the Intrepid Explorer
François Le Vaillant was born in Paramaribo, the capital of Dutch Guiana (Surinam), the son of the French consul. When his father returned to Europe, in 1763, he studied natural history at Metz. He was sent by the Dutch East India Company to the Cape Province of South Africa in 1781, and collected specimens there until 1784. He made three journeys, one around Cape Town and Saldanha Bay, one eastwards from the Cape and the third north of the Orange River and into Great Namaqualand.[1]

On his return he published Voyage dans l'intérieur de l'Afrique (1790, 2 vols.), and Second voyage dans l'intérieur de l'Afrique (1796, 3 vols.), both of which were translated into several languages. He also published Histoire naturelle des oiseaux d'Afrique (1796–1808, 6 vols.) with drawings by Jacques Barraband, Histoire naturelle des oiseaux de paradis (1801–06), Histoire naturelle des cotingas et des todiers (1804) and Histoire naturelle des calaos (1804). Levaillant’s illustrations often influenced scientific names given by, among others, Vieillot, Stephens and Wilkes.[2]

Klaas, the Intrepid Guide

Klass, the guide of Le Vaillant, was from the KhoiKhoi Peoples.

In quitting the Cape, Klaas had been recommended to me, by Mr. Boers, as a man whose courage and fidelity might be depended on; he ordered him never to abandon me, promising a recompense if I returned safe to the Cape, and gave a satisfactory account of his conduct; he faithfully obeyed these orders, never quitting me in the hour of danger. . . . Klaas was now my equal, my brother, the confidant of my hopes and fears; more than once has he calmed my agitated mind, and re-animated my drooping courage. . . . I did not forget to draw a faithful resemblance of this worthy Hottentot, from which the annexed plate was engraved. [Vol. 1, pp. 250, 252-53]

The Khoikhoi ("people people" or "real people") or Khoi, in standardised Khoekhoe/Nama orthography spelled Khoekhoe, are a historical division of the Khoisan ethnic group, the native people of southwestern Africa, closely related to the Bushmen (or San, as the Khoikhoi called them). They had lived in southern Africa since the 5th century AD.[1] When European immigrants colonized the area in 1652, the Khoikhoi were practising extensive pastoral agriculture in the Cape region, with large herds of Nguni cattle. The European immigrants labeled them Hottentots, in imitation of the sound of the Khoekhoe language,[2] but this term is today considered derogatory by some.[3]

Narina, the Intrepid Mistress
Narina was the young Khoikhoi (Jeune Gonaquoise) and Mistress of Le Vaillant.

Le Vaillant would express his feelings for Klaas and Narina, through his naming of the Klaas's Cuckoo and the Narina Trogon. Klaas and Narina are the only two black Africans to have their names immortalised in the common and scientific names of birds.  Later, the Le Vaillant's Cuckoo would be named in honour of Le Vaillant himself along with several other bird species.  Today Le Vaillant is regarded of the Father of African Ornithology.

While their intriguing story played out in 1790s, none of them could have ever guessed the relevance they would have to modern day birders, and that all 3 of their names would live in perpetuity in the modern world through 2 handsome cuckoos and a beautiful trogon.  But such is the drama and history behind the exploration of the bird world.

Le Vaillant's Cuckoo
Clamator levaillantii
Monze, Zambia

Klaas's Cucko
Chrysococcyx klaas
Dadaaab Kenya
Narina Trogon
Apaloderma narina
-John and Elizabeth Gould Print

Friday, March 16, 2012

Meet Australia's Kookaburras

Australia has two Kookaburra Species:

The Laughing Kookaburra made famous in poems, stories and song which in found in Southern and Eastern Australia.

The Blue-winged Kookaburra which is common throughout Australia's north-country. Here is the female, which can be told by the ruddy-barred tail.

Both species have very raucous calls which sound like bawdy laughter.

The good folks at Xeno Canto have some good sound tracks:

 Laughing Kookaburra:

Blue-winged Kookaburra