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The Spectacular Nests of the Sociable Weaver | The Ark In Space

The Spectacular Nests of the Sociable Weaver | The Ark In Space

The Spectacular Nests of the Sociable Weaver

Not all bird species build nests.  Some, like the razorbill, lay an egg on a rocky ledge and hope for the best. Others, like the king penguin, have no access to nesting materials so keep their egg warm by squatting directly over it, covering it with their feathers.  Then there is the cuckoo, a brood parasite that lays its eggs in the nest of others.
Yet most species of birds do indeed make nests and they come in all shapes and sizes. Perhaps the most spectacular of all these is that created by a rather plain looking African bird, the sociable weaver (also known more simply as the social weaver).

They sociable weaver male is small – about 14cm (that's 5.5 in) in length – and brown.  It is by no means unattractive – it has black barring on its back, a black chin and a nicely scalloped back.  As for the female… it's identical.  They are not sexually dimorphic and to the naked eye the male and female are indistinguishable.  They may not stand out in a crowd, as it were, but as you can see their nests are another thing entirely.

The sociable weaver is endemic to Southern Africa which means that is the only place you will find them. If it was to have a passport it could apply for South African, Namibian or Botswanan nationality.  Yet truly it is a denizen of the southern part of the Kalahari, the large, semi-arid sandy savannah which sprawls for almost a million square kilometers across the three countries.  The reason why it prefers the south is not entirely known but there is an idea.

It's about the heat.  The sociable weaver constructs its nests from stiff grasses, and the taller grasses grown in the south of the desert. Then there is the possibility of fire – the north and central Kalahari are prone to fire.  As the grass that they make their nest from is highly combustible it is probably best to make them in an area that is unlikely to create the environment for an avian remake of The Towering Inferno.

Their gigantic nests are permanent – and ingenious - structures. The permanency is down to the size: would you want to rebuild something like this every year?  Besides, there is no set breeding season for this species – mating and the resulting chicks can happen at any time of year.  The nests are also multi-generational; there can be several generations living and breeding in the nest at the same time.  As over a hundred pair of birds can live inside these nests are the largest constructed by any bird notwithstanding that this is very much a group effort.
It takes teamwork - it would take forever otherwise.

As for its ingenuity – these birds are master architects.  They are not, as you might imagine, one nesting are built over another built over another.  They are highly structured with one thing in mind – temperature.  The chambers at the center of the nest retain heat and so are warm at night, allowing the sociable weavers to roost without shivering.  The 'rooms' towards the outer sides of the nest are used for shade in the day time.  They will maintain a cool temperature of 7–8 °C (45–46 °F) inside.  Once outside, the heat of the Kalahari ranges from 16–33 °C (61–91 °F).  The sociable weaver effectively structures its nest to create an air-conditioning system.  Not bad for a bird that isn't even as long as your hand.

Nest are built around a variety of trees but if something like a telephone or electricity pole is large and sturdy enough then this bird is not fussy and will build there.  There have been examples of nests built around electricity poles burning down in the dry season.  This is unfortunate as many nesting colonies are active for over a century.

Occasionally, when there are heavy rains the nest will become sodden and parts of them will collapse. Here you can see a nest in Namibia, probably decades old, which has collapsed in the middle.

When a nest is seen from below it has a honey-comb appearance and the entrances can be seen.  These entrances lead on to a short tunnel of around 250mm (10 in) which must be clambered through to reach the roosting chambers.  Often sharp sticks are placed around the entrance holes in an attempt to deter predators. And here's the downside.  A nest of this nature may appear something of an idyll for the birds but it attracts attention – often of the unwanted variety.

Before we get to that, however, a note on the generosity of the sociable weaver.  When there is space in the nest they are not bothered by other birds making their home their too.  The red-headed finch (seen above among weavers) and rosy-faced lovebird use it to breed.  The familiar chat and ashy tit will use it to roost – an escape from the sunshine for a short time.  There have even been cases of owls, vultures and falcons making the nest a platform for their own.  This is a type of commensalism which is a term for an interaction where on species gets benefits but the other species is neither benefited nor harmed.

Then, however, there are the reptiles.  Cape cobras and boomslangs will often predate the nest.  Once they get in they will eat all of the eggs in all of the chambers.  One scientific study placed the depredation as high as 70%.  Yet the sociable weaver is a pragmatic breed.
Cape Cobra raiding a sociable weavers nest - Kgalagadi TP - South Africa
One pair of birds was recorded producing nine broods because of consistent visits by snakes to the nest.  In other words, they keep on going until it works.

They do get some help with the predators – but at a price.  The pygmy falcon (above) will use the nest of the sociable weaver to bring up its own chicks.  It will then hunt around the nest but when prey is scarce is will turn to the chicks of the social weaver.  There is a fine balance here – it seems the sociable weaver will tolerate a certain amount of predation by the pygmy falcon but if a pair takes too many of their chicks the social weavers will band up against them.

When it is unhindered by predation, the sociable weaver can produce four broods in a breeding cycle and as one brood gets old enough to fly and hunt for insects they will look after their younger siblings.  In fact they will often act as helpers to other unrelated pairs too.  As such, instead of breeding within the first year of life, these birds delay breeding until their second year to give the rest of the colony a hand and develop their own hunting and parenting skills.

This truly is an exceedingly sociable weaver and its nest is truly one of nature's spectacles.

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Twenty Wonderful Words Which Shouldn’t be Allowed to Wither ~ Kuriositas

Twenty Wonderful Words Which Shouldn't be Allowed to Wither ~ Kuriositas

Twenty Wonderful Words Which Shouldn't be Allowed to Wither

26 August 2018

There are many words these days that are rarely used – and that is a great shame as even the simple act of their enunciation can bring on a smile, such is their irrefragable brilliance.

Go on, drop a few in to your next conversation and ensure their preservation.  You are guaranteed to be the cynosure of attention and contesseration will be guaranteed.

In other words you will be the life and soul of the party and make many friends.

This could also be known as nodding dog syndrome – and quite often it happens at work.  Do you have a colleague who – in their keenness to show that they understand and agree with you – nod their heads for so long and so consistently that you become afraid that it will fall off?  Then they are demonstrating nutation.

Do you like or admire a particular part of someone's body – or for that matter that special place on bodies in general?  Then that means that you are agastopic.  Perhaps you can be relieved in one way – at least you have an alternative word to fetish at long last.

We all know someone who is guilty of this, you know.  It's like, you know, when people repeat words or phrases almost, you know, ad infinitum.  You may also have experienced it in the workplace where Orwellian type 'speaks' are common in this day and age of political correctness gone mad.  Missing you already.

Chaetophorous or setigerous
You need a shave man – the dual roots of word chaetophorous are 'hairy' and 'bearing'. The second has purely Latin roots and sounds like a character out of an Asterix book but means exactly the same as the first.  Two for the price of one!

If you are the owner, sorry parent, of children (especially the teenage variety) then you could do worse than to thrust this word under their noses next time they resolutely refuse to tidy up the abomination of untidiness that is their bedroom.  For, due to their indifferent, nonchalant and apathetic attitude towards the upkeep of their habitat they are being truly pococutante.  This quite often goes hand in hand with the propensity to perendinate – which is to put off till tomorrow what could well be done today.  So, your offspring may well be perendinacious pococutantes.  Oh yeah.

We all do it and they say that it is generally the first sign of madness.  If you answer back then there may be reason to worry.  If you are a monologist then it simply means that you chatter away with or to yourself without necessarily having anything else but your own company.  If you are a monologist then it is fairly likely that you also suffer from logorrhea, which is when you babble on and on quite incoherently.  However, logorrhea can include more than one person.

You have seen or felt this in movies a million times, especially the ones of the horror variety.  Agowilt is a sudden and inexplicable feeling of fear.  The type of fear that takes your stomach and leaves it firmly in your mouth.  Never fear, though, agowilt is never with you usually for too long. Unless, of course, a reason for the inexplicable fear suddenly appears: then it's just plain old terror.

Do you enjoy a good argument simply for its own sake?  Will you freely engage in heated debate simply for the pleasure of articulating your ideas in opposition to those of others?  Then, my friend, you have a truly eristic nature.  If this is so, you may well have another trait – you may be a deipnosophist which is someone who is highly skilled at the seemingly casual art of dinner party conversation.  That kind of talk in itself is know as aristology.  We could go on forever here.

If it happens to you every seven day, then it's hebdomadal.  Remember that young lady who didn't like Mondays and then – as the song puts it – shot the whole school down?  She was suffering from a hebdomadal malaise, no doubt, when she pulled the trigger.  If you have fish for your main meal each Friday then it is your hebdomadal treat – and so on and so forth!  And next time you want to throw a sick day at work and can't come up with anything better than a stomach ache as an excuse, then tell them it was a biduous stomach ache.  The people in Human Resources aren't to know it only means that it lasted two days.  If you are wondering what the picture has to do with this, what is JB's secret service code number?

Sorry, I have forgotten your name.  I am always doing it.  What was it again?  Names are one things – words something else entirely.  If you forget words and you cannot rest until they have reappeared inside your memory then it is more than likely that you have loganamnosis.  If you have this you may not wish to read on as you will fail to remember some of these words when you wish to and you will drive yourself mad in the process of trying to recall them.

Ever been in a restaurant and been quietly but most definitely mortified by the speed at which a neighboring diner is eating?  Or, even worse – the greedy guzzler is that wonderful first date you had been day-dreamily considering as a life partner?  Well, you have found yourself confronted by a tachypagia which is – not to put too fine a point on it – eating way too quickly.  Along the same lines (as a throwaway) if you have had difficulty understanding what your teacher is trying to impart it may be because they are tachydidaxic – which means they are teaching way too fast.

This is something that might precede or follow eating too quickly.  Something that isn't a fart.  Not yet anyway.  You know that rumbling noise in your belly that you have experienced, often in situations when it is the last thing you want other people to hear?  Well.  This is it.  It is the sound that gas makes in your intestines when it becomes audible externally.

A sudden sternutation filled the air as the gentleman deposited another sea of mucus in to his pocket handkerchief.  Bless this wonderful language, as there is actually a word that describes the sound of a sneeze – at least one that isn't the more common 'achoo'.  Expectoration and sternutation occasionally going hand in hand, things could soon get messy around here.  Especially if it is accompanied by rhinorrhea (a runny nose in other words).

This is when an act is defended by saying that, had it not taken place, then something much worse could have happened.  So goes the argument about the atomic bombs over Japan in 1945.  The antistatic argument goes that had the bombs not been dropped then many more people (both American and Japanese) would have died in an invasion of Japan.

You can have a dilemma – and that's bad enough.  A trilemma could be considered even worse.  If only Oscar Wilde had come across this particular word he would have had a field day.  For a polylemma is a situation where there are multiple options – and none of them are particularly wonderful.  Sounds very much like a return to the horror movie, where there are usually a good many polylemmas confronting teenagers before they are butchered.

Ah, the sweet smell of success.  But is there a word for the anticipation of success?  You know, the type of almost smug feeling you have after that job interview when you know you are going to be offered the position?  The sensation that you have knowing that the finish line will be crossed first by your good self because you put tiny ball bearings in to the running shoes of your competitors?  Then you have experienced nikhedonia. 

Image Credit Flickr User morbcn
You may find yourself completely metagrobolized by the contents of this article.  In other words, if all of this is quite simply mystifying you then you have been – or are – metagrobolized.  This word is just begging for a renaissance in its usage – next time something completely sets you aback, please use it.

Possibly back to teenagers - but it is nothing to do with an out of control sex drive.  If you are hypoprosexic then you have an inability to concentrate on any one thing for more than a short length of time.  You are probably fully aware of a host of family and friends who could fall under this word's remit.  Now, what was it we were talking about?

By now your interest in this article may well be filipendulous.  In other words, it is hanging on by a thread and you are just about to click that button that will close down this page altogether.  Don't do just yet though – just one more to go!

If you have enjoyed this list then it may well be because you are a lexicomane or, in other words – a lover of dictionaries.  At least you make it easy for loved ones to decide on Christmas gifts.  If not a lexicomane then I hope it has at least sated your logofascination (interest in words) a little.  Whatever the case, the author hopes that you have enjoyed this piece in a manner lexicomanic or even otherwise.

First Image Credit Flickr User _Max-B

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