Today is the last day of The Great Backyard Bird Count. We hope you have had the chance to get out and spend some time with your local feathered friends. Don't forget to report your numbers on the giveaway post for a chance to win the wonderful poster by Charley Harper.
We have had some fun encounters here is our own backyard with blue jays, chickadees and woodpeckers, along with a few other frequently spotted locals. The most exciting moment was a brief visit from a small hawk. I don't think the regular avian crowd would call in exciting. It was much more terrifying for them.
It was business as usual at the feeder and in the forest, chickadees chasing the juncos, gold finches darting about, the woodpeckers hopping around the trees trucks pecking away, the jays chattering high in the trees, when all of a sudden everything went quiet and everyone disappeared or froze. In the very next moment the doves, who I had not even spotted in the apple tree, went fluttering away and in flew a sharp shinned hawk. Silently it flew through the yard and landed just beyond the tree with the feeder. A poor little chickadee was frozen on the feeder perch. Sitting long enough for me to take note of it's features the hawk took flight and departed just as quietly as it had arrived. The wee chickadee on the feeder must have remained there for another ten minutes after the hawk vacated the yard. It took much longer for everyone to come out of hiding and for life at the feeder to resume.
I imagine that the fear that hawk instilled in the feeder crowd is the same fear any other meat eater instills in potential prey.
This encounter made me think about birds of prey. Which led me to thinking about our recent visit with a great predator of the past (to read more about the T-rex predator or scavenger debate click here.)
And of course this train of thought led me to the relationship between dinosaurs and birds. So there you have it... that is how my mind works!
It is amazing that the debate about the relationship between dinosaurs and birds has been going on since Thomas Huxley first suggested that birds evolved directly from dinosaurs in 1869. In 1861 a fossil called Archaeopteryx was found in Germany. The fossil had clearly visible feathers and wings but also had teeth and a tail that looked like a reptile. This fossil find and his own fossil and bird bone observations led Huxley to the conclude that there was a relationship between dinosaurs and birds.
Of course Huxley's suggestion led to a divide in the scientific community. The theory came in and out of favor over the years. If you are really interested in learning more about the history and theories Dr. Paul Willis wrote an informative article about about the debate.
Most of the speculation has been based on comparing bone structure. The similarities are many (some count up to 85 according to Willis' article) but include hollow bones, similar anklebones and fused collarbones (called the furcula or wishbone.) In 2008 scientist who were studying a protein they said was recovered from T-rex bones claim that their "finding is the first molecular evidence that birds, not lizards or other reptiles, are the closest living relatives of dinosaurs..." Of course there are still skeptics out there.
While the scientists are sorting it all out you decide.
Is this guy related to T-Rex?
We would love to hear what you think!