Tuesday, August 11, 2009
Flocks of wild parrots, such as the ones of Telegraph Hill fame in San Francisco, can be found in various other urban and suburban areas. The parrots shown here are the Wild Parrots of Sunnyvale and have been flapping and squawking around town for some time now. The exact origin of these flocks is unknown.
While the ability of this flock to survive is not the weather so much as the ability to find enough to eat, it is important that the public does not feed them. Feeding these birds makes them dependent upon people and in danger of being too close to traffic, cats and other hazards.
Some of these birds end up in the Mickaboo Bird Rescue system for many reasons. There is a neurological disease of unknown origin that can strike them, causing them to be off balance, unable to fly or keep up with the flock. Some survive an attack by a hawk or cat and need medical help; others, flying too close to traffic, hit cars. Fledglings can have early flying accidents & break a wing or leg.
When injured they are taken immediately to an avian vet for treatment. Mickaboo pays for treatment and finds volunteers to help with recovery fostering. A few of the injured birds return to the wild, but not many. For more information, or to donate toward their veterinary care, please visit http://www.mickaboo.org/wildparrots.
Ah, but it was all different a century ago. No one understood genetics back then, and although respect for wildlife in general, other species specifically and our fellow human beings had advanced tremendously since the early 19th century, things were far from perfect. There was still an attitude prevalent in some parts that “freaks” were really only good for exploitation. If your child can’t work in the mines or the mills, hey; don’t worry! Stick ‘em in the circus and make a few bucks!
Not everyone was so callous, however. There was a genuine naivety on the part of many, who saw both humans and animals with genetic disorders not as “freaks” but as “wonders”. To some, it was almost as if such aberrations were God-given; something that wasn’t quite right, but nevertheless helped us focus on the mysteries of creation.
In September 1905, Sunderland was an economically struggling location. Large areas were impoverished, and gruelling, blue-collar work such as mining and shipbuilding was the staple means of eking a borderline existence. Precious little happened to bring light and laughter into the lives of the working class, and so no opportunity for personal enrichment was missed. Some sought solace in the church, whilst others imbibed excessive amounts of gin and porter. Yet others just waited for that “something special” to come along. Most times it never did.
But there were exceptions, as a Mr. W. Hall discovered when he found himself in possession of the legendary Double Duck of Pallion.
Pallion is a relatively unremarkable area of the city of Sunderland, but it has played a rich part in the area’s history. At the turn of the 20th century, many residents had taken to keeping livestock in their back yards and gardens as a means of supplementing their meagre incomes. Rabbits, hens, chickens and ducks were bred with enthusiastic abandon to ensure a ready supply of meat and eggs. Mr. Hall was no different, and he was no doubt delighted when one duck in his possession laid a clutch of seven eggs. He waited patiently, and, one by one, they hatched. Eventually six young ducklings nestled under the wing of their mother, whilst the seventh egg, slightly larger and thicker than the rest, remained intact.
Some days passed, and Mr. Hall decided that it might be necessary to lend Mother Nature a hand. He took the seventh egg and ever-so-gently cracked it, hoping that if there was a live duckling inside it would now be able to break free. It did, and what Mr. Hall saw would baffle him for the rest of his days. Inside the shell was no ordinary duckling. As the chick struggled free he saw to his horror that it actually possessed two heads. More than that, it also had four wings and four feet. Truly, this was a duck like no other.
Mr. Hall, after recovering from the shock, showed the strange creature to his next-door neighbour. Before long, the entire populace of Pallion was talking about the strange arrival in Mr. Hall’s backyard. The local press got to hear about it, and reporters began to turn up on the doorstep, along with a priest and other local personages of some distinction.
The fate of the duck, at least in the detail, is unknown. We do not know how long it survived, but it was reported that Mr. Hall was determined not to let its demise rob him of his new-found fame. He placed the body of the duckling in a large bottle filled with “spirits of wine” and preserved it for posterity.
Bizarre quirks of nature like the Double Duck of Pallion are not unknown. In 2007, Nick Janaway, of the Warrawee Duck Farm in the New Forest, picked up a young duckling to determine its sex. She was stunned to discover that it had not two, but four legs. These extra appendages seemed to pose Stumpy (as the duck was later named) no problems. It could swim, walk and feed just fine. There was a minor setback when it caught one of its additional legs in some barbed wire and had to have it amputated. This left it three legs, which was still one more than those possessed by its more common-or-garden siblings.
I have tried to track down the remains of Mr. Hall’s Double Duck, hoping perhaps that it may have been given to the Sunderland Museum. A curator connected with the establishment kindly promised to see if he could locate the specimen, but to date I’ve heard nothing. Who knows, one day it may turn up.
I found it incredibly poignant, but as we weren't doing the bloggo back then, I had no outlet for the story.
Just picked up on this article, the archeologist/graverobbers have discovered the remains of a child aged three buried with a carved toy hedgehog. Just looking at the pictures of the little toy make me feel so incredibly sad :(
Wish they would put the child and his toy back and let them be. Doubt they will though :(
There are dozens of nature reserves in my county, Devon, and I'm sure there isn't a county in the country that hasn't got at least a handful. We've taken to going to these reserves, inititally because of a lack of money but now because it is truly our favourite thing to do. Meshaw Moor, a small reserve, was the one we've been to most, in the few times we've been we haven't seen a single other person there but we have seen a huge variety of wildlife; marbled white butterflies, skippers, spiders, a barn owl and baby toads to name but a few.
The plant life is also spectacular, I've started going through the website of the Devon Wildlife Trust and looking for the plants with the best names - corky fruited water dropwort anyone?
The DWT's 'Little Bradley Ponds' have been our latest discovery and again we've not seen anyone else there; this was partly a shame as it is such a marvellous place and partly wonderful as we had the whole place just to the three of us. They have recorded over 20 types of dragon and damsel flies at these ponds as well as the acely named giant water scorpion, which we have yet to catch a glimpse of (pond-dipping nets at the ready).
Yesterday's trip to the ponds was extra spectacular as we saw one of the most elusive (although common) of this country's beasts: nudging over some rotten wood we saw some little dark shapes run off into the plants; a closer looked showed them to be juvenile common lizards. This, combined with several butterflies I've never seen before (brimstone, and a blue butterfly I haven't looked up yet; lazy, I know). These trips have also helped me like spiders a little more, as instead of thinking their only aim in life is to land on my bed with a size-inappropriate THUD in the middle of the night, I now like watching them zoom out of their funnel shaped webs and grab some poor minibeast or other.
So, drag yourself, your partner, your mum, children, friends and possibly the dog along to your nearest reserve and I promise that the next time you go there will be no dragging involved.
Richard Freeman (who is currently asleep in the next room, as I am the only member of the household not languishing in the arms of Morpheus) told me about this nicely laid-out French website, which has an article about the Mongolian deathworm, including a brief interview with him.
Worth checking out.
Lets crack on with another round up of the Cryptozoology Daily News update and bad pun provider that is Yesterdays News Today:
Flying frogs and the world's oldest mushroom: a decade of Himalayan discovery
8 rare monkeys stolen from Alipore zoo
Dancing caterpillars put off predators
Gay, the 40-year-old Asian elephant, gets £500 slippers
World's oldest dog celebrates 26th birthday
What is a dog’s favourite Elton John song?