Rainbow Dragon's Dares

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    thank you, Rainbow Dragon, for the ornithology minute. i also loved the picture of the baby birds because the one looked so demanding.

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      May 22 Daily Dose of Nature

      For today's Daily Dose of Nature we have another swallow, but this bird is (usually) only found in the Americas.

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      Tree Swallows (Tachycineta bicolor) breed all across Canada and the northern United States. They winter primarily in Florida and along the Gulf of Mexico but may also be found wintering on the west coast in California, throughout Mexico and some further north on the eastern seaboard. Some extralimital records exist for Greenland and the British Isles, but these were accidental vagrants.

      The bird pictured above is either an adult male, or a mature female. It's not always possible to tell with this species. Adult male Tree Swallows are iridescent blue on their backs and the top half of their heads, but females of the species are much more variable. First year females have brown upperparts, but they acquire increasingly more blue iridescent feathers with age. The bird photographed above was one of a pair I observed nesting together along the Marsh Trail in Rondeau. They were obviously a mated pair, but I could not detect any more blue or bright colouration in one bird from the other.

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      Younger female Tree Swallows, such as this bird, are easily sexable. This bird is still almost completely brown above with only a few hints of blue iridescent feathers, so still quite young. Note that these swallows have short tails with only a shallow notch, unlike the deep fork of a Barn Swallow's tail.

      Tree Swallows are birds of open spaces such as meadows, marshes, and fields. The "tree" of their common name refers to this species preference for a nest location.

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      Tree Swallows are cavity nesters--but check out the tiny little bills on these birds. There's no way a bird with such a small bill can hollow out its own nest. Tree Swallows are secondary cavity nesters. They rely on birds with more powerful bills--primarily woodpeckers--to create their nest holes for them. Tree Swallows then claim these old woodpecker holes once the woodpecker has abandoned them.

      Since Tree Swallows rely on other species to build their homes for them, they will also readily nest in nesting boxes placed in suitable habitat. (They don't mind if it's a woodpecker or a human that builds their home for them.)

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        Originally posted by Rainbow Dragon View Post
        Thank you NancyTree .

        Google Translate is imperfect, certainly. But what I wanted in this case was the direct translation. ( Belerith had already given me the German common name. I wanted to know what that name means, since it's clearly not a direct translation of the English common name we use in North America.)
        Oh I'm sorry πŸ™ˆ next time I'll read better

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          These swallows are also very beautiful to look at! That blue shine...

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            No worries, NancyTree . Your suggestion helped me to uncover some other information I found interesting which will likely appear in an upcoming installment of the DDoN. So thank you for that. Both sources of translation have value--just for different purposes.

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              Friday, May 22 - Rainbow's Days of Fitness Day 30


              Knee Push-ups Challenge - Day 13: 2:55 - done on my toes - 24 push-ups this day. 126/56 week-to-date for The Pushers Week #2.

              Foundation Light - Day 3: 4:20 - Level III with my mother.

              50 Squats a Day Challenge - Day 3
              Posture Challenge (this one is a repeat for me) - Day 3
              Wall Push-ups Challenge - Day 3 - Done as full classic push-ups - 60 push-ups this day. 186/56 week-to-date for The Pushers Week #2.

              Total time for the 3 challenges: 12:00 - All done with my mother (though she is doing the Wall Push-ups Challenge the standard way).

              Xpress Tone - Day 28: 12:25 - I was shaking on those holds and had to fight to keep my hips out of external rotation, but my hamstring felt fine throughout.

              yoga flow: 30:00 - Mostly standing strength work and back-strengthening backbends. So good!


              Total: 61 minutes


              Other stuff:

              3 km hiking
              5 minutes restorative yoga
              5 minutes meditation

              Only Homemade Food - ​​ - Total Days: 142/142
              A Salad a Day - ​​ - Total Days: 132/132
              No Video Games - ​ - Total Consecutive Days: 163
              No Seated Television - - Total Consecutive Days: 82
              GBOT (10:30) - - Total Days: 45/100 - A failing grade on my first 100 days of supposedly attempting to go to bed on time.
              GOBOT (6:30) - - Total Days: 65/100 - A pretty crappy grade on getting out of bed on time too. I need to make some changes here.

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                May 23 Daily Dose of Nature

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                This is a Sharp-shinned Hawk (Accipiter striatus). Does it look familiar? Sharpies look very similar to the Cooper's Hawk which we met on Wednesday. IDing a hawk to the genus level can often be done based on very little information. Even a dark silhouette is enough to distinguish the Accipiters (short, rounded wings, and long, straight tails) from the Buteos (large, rounded wings, and short, fan-shaped tails) from the falcons (genus: Falco; pointed wings, and straight tails) from the harriers (genus: Circus; long, rounded wings, and long tails), but IDing some of these birds to species can be very tricky.

                Cooper's Hawks are substantially larger than Sharp-shinned Hawks, but there is a lot of variation in size within each species, with females of both species being significantly larger than the males. Size can be notoriously difficult to estimate in the field--especially if one is looking at a raptor flying high overhead with nothing but the clouds to compare it to--but if a bird is seen next to something of a known size, male Sharp-shinned Hawks can readily be distinguished from female Cooper's Hawks based on size alone. Female sharpies, however, are only slightly smaller than male Cooper's. Often we need to look to other field marks to make a positive ID.

                As we can see from its brown back and yellow eyes, the bird we have here is still an immature bird.

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                It's plumage is very similar to that of an immature Cooper's Hawk, but the brown streaks on its chest and belly are thicker and less well-defined than the sharp, thin brown streaks on a Cooper's Hawk.

                There are also some subtle differences in shape between Cooper's and Sharp-shinned Hawks. Interestingly, the German common names for these two species pick up on one of these differences. Wikipedia gives me "Rundschwanzsperber" (round-tailed sparrowhawk) for the Cooper's Hawk versus "Eckschwanzsperber" (square-tailed sparrowhawk) for Sharp-shinned Hawk. (Thanks to Belerith and NancyTreefor help locating German names for these birds.) Neither species occurs in Germany. (Sharp-shinned Hawks are found in North, South, and Central America but do not occur in the Old World, and Cooper's Hawks are limited to North America only.) Yet the German common names actually provide useful information for distinguishing between these two species in the field.

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                The differences in tail shape are slight--many is the time I have stared at a photograph of an Accipiter's tail and asked myself, "is that tail end rounded or squared?"--but it's something one at least has a chance of seeing in the field. The North American English common names for these two species, on the other hand, give no helpful information for field IDs. The Cooper's Hawk (as is often the case) was named after an ornithologist. The "sharp-shinned" moniker we use for Accipiter striatus refers to the shape of this species' tarsometatarsus--a bone found these days only in the lower leg of birds--which is homologous to the ankle and foot bones of mammalian species, not our shins. Apparently that bone shape was significant to the ornithologists who named this species. But I cannot say I've ever looked at a hawk's leg and asked myself if its tarsometatarsus was "sharp".

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                  Saturday, May 23 - Rainbow's Days of Fitness Day 31


                  Knee Push-ups Challenge - Day 14: 35 seconds - done on my toes - 0 push-ups this day. 186/56 week-to-date for The Pushers Week #2.

                  Foundation Light - Day 4: 9:00 - Level III with my mother. Modified this day to do all work standing since my mother refuses to even contemplate kneeling.

                  50 Squats a Day Challenge - Day 4
                  Posture Challenge (this one is a repeat for me) - Day 4
                  Wall Push-ups Challenge - Day 4 - Done as full chaturanga holds - 0 push-ups this day. 186/56 week-to-date for The Pushers Week #2.

                  Total time for the 3 challenges: 4:25 - All done with my mother (though she is doing the Wall Push-ups Challenge the standard way).

                  Xpress Tone - Day 29: 45:00 - Last arms day for this program!


                  Total: 59 minutes


                  Other stuff:

                  6 km hiking

                  Only Homemade Food - ​​ - Total Days: 143/143
                  A Salad a Day - ​​ - Total Days: 133/133
                  No Video Games - ​ - Total Consecutive Days: 164
                  No Seated Television - - Total Consecutive Days: 83
                  GBOT (10:30) - - Total Days: 1/1 - In light of failing so badly at this over the past 100 days, I'm giving myself a reset in the hope fresh numbers will provide fresh incentive to do better going forward.
                  GOBOT (6:30) - - Total Days: 1/1 - Reset, as above.

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                    Putting this here now so it's out there and I'm not tempted to quit before I even report on the results of my first day:

                    My newest effort in my quest to sit less is to... well, to sit less. Many years ago now I purchased one of those little tables that are used for hospital bedsides--the ones with wheels and an adjustable height. Part of my reason for getting this table was a space issue. I don't have much of it. I need a desk I can move out of my way when I want to workout. The other reason for getting this desk was so that I can use it as a standing desk. I don't remember now why I gave up on that idea. But I do know that I spend far too much of my life sitting. So I'm going to give the standing desk another try, starting today.

                    I know from experience that being on one's feet all day takes some getting used to. So I am committing to giving my routine at least one week's trial. After that I will reassess.

                    So, for the next seven days, starting today (May 24-30), I will not be using any chairs. I also will not be using my bed, except at night, and then for a maximum of 8.5 hours a night (8 hours sleep, plus up to 30 minutes reading in bed). I am still allowed to sit on the floor. I am still allowed to sit to drive a car. And I am still allowed to use a chair as a prop for exercising. Also: I am still allowed to sit down to have a bath--if I ever actually secure the time to do so. (I love baths. But they are time consuming and a hassle and difficult to schedule since my mother got rid of the tub in our bathroom. So I almost always just shower these days.) The remainder of the time, I will be on my feet (or my side, back, stomach, hands, knees, forearms, etc., for various exercises that call for something other than one's feet to make contact with the floor).

                    Let's see how this goes.

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                      Is mom doing the Squats Challenge with you? When’s she gonna take the leap and attempt to get on her knees?

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                        My mother is doing the squats challenge with me, yes, DorothyMH . I am making her do them as wall squats, since her form is terrible. (She is so afraid to sit into her squat, she was basically doing deadlifts.)

                        I have convinced her to try the seated, supine, and side-lying work in Foundation Light, so I've decided not to push the kneeling issue for now.

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                          Ha, I see! Good for you, to be able to convince her of anything!!

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                            May 24 Daily Dose of Nature

                            By special request of Io6 's wife, today's Daily Dose of Nature is the impressive Peregrine Falcon (Falco peregrinus).

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                            Unfortunately, I don't have any great photos of Peregrines. The iNaturalist page I've linked to above will take you to some impressive shots. All of mine so far have either been taken in really bad lighting or are of birds that were far, far away, or both. The above photo is probably my best so far, and I had to take it facing too much into the sun. Nevertheless, it is good for an "ID shot" as we say. The prominent dark marks under the bird's eyes are recognizable as the dark "moustache" which differentiates Peregrines from other falcon species.

                            Peregrine Falcons are long distance migrants which are found on every continent except Antarctica. They are a very well-known bird due in large part to ongoing conservation efforts to protect this species.

                            Peregrine populations the world over, which had been stable for hundreds of years, began to decline rapidly in the 1940s. Eventually, it was discovered that chemical insecticides applied to crops was the culprit. In North America, DDT (dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane) was found to be particularly problematic. Seed-eating birds ate seeds contaminated with DDT, then raptors like the Peregrine ate the contaminated birds. The toxins built up inside the Peregrines until the birds were no longer able to breed. (The females either laid eggs with shells so weak, they cracked when the mother bird sat on them to incubate them, or they became incapable of producing eggs at all.) The situation got so bad that by the mid 1960s, the Peregrine Falcon was extirpated from the eastern third of North America, including all of Ontario.

                            Use of DDT was banned in most developed countries in the 1970s and 80s, but a large part of the effectiveness of DDT as a pesticide (and a large part of the reason why it was so problematic for birds) is that the chemical remains stable for a long time. So the poison persisted in the wild at high levels for years after its use was banned. Nevertheless, the banning of DDT did eventually lead to a healthier environment for Peregrines in North America. By the mid 1970s, several programs were in place with the goal of re-establishing wild breeding populations of Peregrine Falcons through releasing into the wild birds which had been bred in captivity. I still remember the excitement the first time one of these programs was able to confirm that birds bred in captivity had successfully raised a brood in the wild!

                            Today, the Peregrine Falcon is back in healthy numbers in Ontario, throughout North America, and on other continents as well. Peregrines are no longer considered to be endangered in Ontario, although they are still listed as a Species at Risk in the Special Concern category (meaning the species is not currently considered to be endangered or threatened, but that it might become so due to one or more known threats).

                            Here are a couple of shots of a Peregrine Falcon flying high overhead:

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                            Peregrine Falcons are extremely fast flyers who usually capture their prey while the prey is in flight. One well-known tactic for hunting utilized by Peregrines is the "stoop" in which the bird soars high overhead and then dives down onto its prey from above (sometimes from heights as much as 1000 metres above their prey), gaining much speed during their descent. Peregrines have been clocked travelling at well over 300 kph using this method!

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                              Rainbow Dragon The standing is a bold plan. I don't know what it is you do, but bear in mind that many tasks involving fine motor skills are performed better sitting down. Also, I don't know how much you stand now, but if you go from not much standing to a lot, you can develop back, leg or foot pain, so it is best to start off slowly.
                              I know much was made of the standing desk some years ago and more research has been done into potential benefits. Yes, sitting less is good for you, simply because it means you are more active. But that doesn't mean just standing is good for you. Personally, I couldn't see myself doing a jigsaw puzzle, enjoying a book, or doing any sort of handwork while standing (except baking, and even then I frequently sit while decorating).
                              That said, I am in no way trying to dissuade you from doing what you plan. Just take it carefully and accept that sometimes, you may need to sit.

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                                Thanks for that Rainbow Dragon ! My partner has flown (hang gliding) with Peregrines and says that they just streak right past. Unlike Wedge tailed eagles that tend to attack gliders. With the old harness a good stare could get rid of them but the new up-graded harness the glider just gets ravaged!

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