Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Upon the unlikely camouflage of the Golden-headed Quetzal

The quetzal is a type of bird
That's rarely seen but often heard.
The green blends with its jungle home
And somehow too its head of chrome.
Its bright red breast goes unseen too?
That seems like it must be untrue!
Why not add some flashing red
And silver stripes upon its head
With neon purple on its toes
And disco balls off of its nose.
Its camouflage is just absurd
Yet somehow I can't find that bird.


I am eternally amazed at the color combinations that animals like the Golden-headed Quetzal Pharomachrus auriceps can somehow use to disappear in their natural habitats.  I used to work at several zoos in the northeastern United States, and visitors would often ask me why there were so many brightly colored birds in the tropics yet there are none where we live.  I would always take them out of the aviary, where it would usually take me less than a minute to find one of the extremely common brilliantly red Northern Cardinals Cardinalis cardinalis, a bright blue Blue Jay Cyanocitta cristata, and any number of other birds that you never notice unless you know how to find the little devils, but that are all around us.  My travels around to different countries has given me the impression that there is a roughly equal percentage of colorful birds wherever you go (although some areas have far more birds in general- those places also have a lot of brown and grey birds as well as colorful birds.)  It's amazing what pops out of the woodwork in our own backyard when we take the time to really look around us.  And even when we know what we are looking for it can be tricky.  I don't even want to discuss how much time I have spent looking for a Golden-headed Quetzal in a zoo exhibit and kept overlooking it again and again because it just melted into the background somehow.
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Tuesday, August 9, 2011

A poem for the bane of many people's existences

scampering across the wall
scuttling along the hall
scutigera outruns them all
and makes men squeal in fear

scurry on the ceiling tall
somehow never do they fall
they seem to be having a ball
time to sell the house, dear


I don't know what it is about House Centipedes Scutigera coleoptrata that makes grown men scream like little girls.  I have seen zoo keepers that take care of tigers, bears, and elephants instinctively leap out of the way when a House Centipede goes running by.  Is it the number of legs?  Is it the way that they move?  I can't say, because I am fascinated by them.  I seem to be one of the few people that is however- upon finding one in their home most people's first instinct seems to be to set fire to the house and leave in search of a new house that has fewer House Centipedes in it.
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Love poem for a forlorn Kakapo

The Kakapo
Is quite the ho
But Stephen Fry
Didn't catch his eye.
Mark Cawardine,
The love machine,
He drew him in
With his coy grin
But did he call after their tryst?
Of course not, damn biologist.


This love poem with a tragic ending is about the Kakapo Strigops habroptila, a giant nocturnal flightless parrot.  In particular, it concerns the video to be found here, where Mark Cawardine callously toyed with this Kakapo's heartstrings.  Biologists can be such cads.

I am not sure why this should be, but parrots seem to become 'romantically attached' to humans more readily than most other bird groups(or at least I have found that to be the case in my experience as a zoo keeper, although I've had the occasional pigeon or ostrich express an interest as well- a lot of cranes also, but that was because I was artificially inseminating them, which is an entirely different story altogether and they certainly can't be blamed for that since I danced with them, bought them flowers, and took them out for dinner and a show.)

Ever since I was a little kid I have always wanted to meet a Kakapo- I am hoping that I get the chance at some point in the future.  It's a crying shame that they are so critically endangered, but it makes me happy that their numbers are finally starting to increase instead of decrease.
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Monday, August 8, 2011

Shakespearian sonnet for a Saiga

Over Russian wilderness the Saiga
Move in massive herds of numbers countless
As they have for eons through the taiga
Covering those arctic lands so boundless.
Cold and arid air does not perturb them
Laughing through their huge nose at the dry air,
Their nose a maze to trap the heat and phlegm.
Dance the arctic tango devil-may-care
Until the day the men with guns arrived
Mowing down the endless herds so moving.
No longer safety where they once had thrived
The guns won't stop though the world's reproving.
Vast empty plains where Saiga once had been;
Curtain coming down on their final scene?


This sonnet is for the Saiga Saiga tatarica, one of the coolest animals on the planet and one of the most rapidly disappearing.  I wish I was a better poet, as they deserve a much better sonnet than this one, but they also deserve a much better lot in life than the one they have gotten recently in general.  If you're interested in helping people trying to save them, check this link out as well.  And if you're feeling poetic, send them a better poem than this one- I'm sure they would appreciate it!  They would probably especially appreciate a poem about them that doesn't include words like phlegm.
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Epigram to Myzopoda aurita

The Madagascar Sucker-footed Bat
Would make the most amazing acrobat
With suckers climbing straight up panes of glass
And flies instead of falling on its ass.


This epigram is about the Madagascar Sucker-footed Bat Myzopoda aurita.  For some reason when I think of this bat I try to imagine what profession it would hold in our economy, and I always come back to either international spy, jewel thief, or Cirque du Soleil performer.  I opted for the latter in this poem, but their temperament might just as easily lead them into one of the other lines of employment instead.  Sadly, I have never worked with these bats at any of the zoos I was at, so I can't honestly vouch for their predilection for artistic expression over international intrigue.
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Sunday, August 7, 2011

Haiku for an Ornate Flying Snake

ornate flying snake
flies through the forest with ease
screw snakes on a plane



This haiku refers to the Ornate Flying Snake Chrysopelea ornata and certainly intends no disrespect to any Samuel L. Jackson vehicles.  I loves me them Samuel L. Jackson movies.  But the Ornate Flying Snake makes those sorry passenger economy-class snakes look like chumps.  A bit harsh, yes, but it had to be said and a haiku seemed the most appropriate medium for it.
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Doctor Seuss would have liked Americobdella valdiviana

Americobdella's a big orange leech
And if it could talk I imagine its speech
Would be garbled and muddled on account of its jaws
Being missing, replaced by a great gaping maw
And as a result you'd be running away
Because you'd not fathomed what the leech meant to say:
It wanted to stop you so it could affirm
That you've no need to fear it (unless you're a worm)


This poem is about Americobdella valdiviana and may be the first poem ever written for this particular leech.  That would be sad if true- everyone should have some poetry written about them, even leeches.
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Haiku on the gentle Quaking Aspen

largest thing alive
trembles from fear or from joy?
giant quaking wuss


This haiku is about the Quaking Aspen Populus tremuloides.  I believe this haiku has perhaps captured the essence of the tree better than any previous haiku.
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On a bedbug in my ear on a midsummer's night

A bedbug climbed into my ear
Its ass is stuck; now I can't hear.
I dread it won't come out again
So in my ear I jam a pen
The bug fell out upon the floor
But from my ear the blood did pour.
The moral here I think I see:
All happy bugs you should let be.
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Saturday, August 6, 2011

Limerick for a Large-seeded Alfalfa Dodder I once knew

There once was a plant called a dodder;
Among plants there was never one odder.
It would grab a plant stem
And invade its phloem
And the sap it would take as its fodder.


This poem is about the Large-seeded Alfalfa Dodder Cuscuta campestris.  The word phloem is not used nearly enough in poetry as far as I'm concerned.
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