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Thursday, 5 August 2010




A young Dusky Leaf Monkey (Trachypithecus obscurus), Khao Sam Roi Yot National park, Southern Thailand: photo by Robertpollai, 2008

Not for me
A life of strife

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Tasmanian Thornbill (Acanthizaa ewingli), Risdon Brook Dam, Tasmania, Australia: photo by Noodle snacks, 2008

Something's missing
When there's not enough kissing

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Black-tailed Prairie Dogs (Cynomys ludovicianus), kissing: photo by Mila Zinkova, 2006


TC said...

The wonderful nature photographer Mila Zinkova is not taking excessive liberties in her caption when she says those two black-tailed prairie dogs are kissing. Well, there are many kinds of kissing; the prairie dog kind is not like human smooching, but a gentle touching of the teeth, which is how these remarkable animals recognize one another.

They are intensely social and sociable. Visiting a prairie dog colony is a lesson in the positive meaning of social conduct. A group or coterie of prairie dogs will have many burrows scattered over the area of a "village" that may be quite extensive. Thirty years ago on a scouting expedition with a poet friend, the late Edward Dorn, I had a chance to pass a bit of time, a very pleasant bit of time indeed, observing the prairie dog colony at the foot of Devil's Tower. The stretch of prairie is punctuated by what first appear to be numerous divots. Out of these pop the prairie dog sentinels. One will register your presence, emit a chirking sound, and disappear back down into the ground. Up will pop other prairie dogs, curious to check you out. It's quite a warning system.

Since the arrival of Europeans the prairie dog populations have declined 98%. They're seriously endangered. As with sea otters, there are mysterious disease implications in the decline. Seems to be a kind of plague. Well, another kind of plague over and above the invasion of the humans. A great pity, as in their benign social organization they are among the geniuses of the earth.

A bit more about them can be found out here.

TC said...

...and this BBC video shows that the prairie dog has different "words" (specific sound-shaped calls) to identify specific predators: they can inform each other, for example, that there's "a tall skinny coyote in the distance, moving rapidly toward the colony", or that a badger is slinking round the social zone, etc. Appropriate precautionary tactics are then adopted.

TC said...

...And just so as to not leave anybody out, here are a couple of grown-up Dusky Leaf Monkeys Making Nice.

These guys are also called Spectacled Langurs, for a pretty obvious reason: their eyes are ringed with those white circles that give an eyeglass appearance. They live in forest canopies, from NE India down through the Malay Peninsula.

The tiny Tasmanian Thornbill deserves to be in a movie too, but it is still awaiting the right director.



Thanks for this 'position paper', and for all such visits to the animal kingdom, where we get to see what we otherwise would not --


light coming into fog against invisible
ridge, black shapes of cypress branches
in foreground, sound of wave in channel

flat bright color surrounded
by elements, which seen

thinking that, in view, will
not see what is closest

grey-white of fog reflected in channel,
circular green pine of tip of sandspit


And now I'll show it to Johnny, who just woke up -- and who (yes!) arrived back yesterday, as did Oona (my daughter (who lives in New York) and Emmanuelle (almost 8 months). Johnny and I drove down to the airport to pick them up, and we all had dinner at Ashley's (her mom's) house -- talk about "social period". . . .

Anonymous said...

love the quiet (not sure if that's the right word, considering we're talking about a monkey, a bird and pairie dogs, but oh well, hehe) playfulness imparted by the poem and the pictures! :D the shape of the pairie dogs, and especially the way they stand, reminds me of my cat, haha.

TC said...


Yes, my "position paper". A Pinhead Manifesto.

Your poem of the day reduced me to extended reverie regarding a certain stand of Cypress up near the top end of Nymph Road. (Perhaps fallen off into Duxbury Reef by now?)

Here's to Animal Kingdom reunions!


Yes, I love the way the pd's stand -- that one on the right, rocking back on heel the better to perform the amicable tooth-touching.

Our current flock of cats aren't very good at two-legged standing, but one dear now deceased tortoiseshell girl (she lived to be nearly 22), in her salad days, had the habit of standing on hind legs to solicit attention. She had a sister who did that too, though neither of them had a burrow.

~otto~ said...

I could not agree more.