Thursday, November 12, 2009

Brown Pelican Delisted from Endangered List

DSC02474 Brown Pelicans

Yesterday the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service officially removed the Brown Pelican (Pelicanus occidentalis) from the endangered species list of the federal register after being on the list since 1970. They were almost completely wiped out due to habitat loss, hunting, and pesticides like DDT and dieldrin. The pesticides caused the pelican eggshells to be so thin that they were not viable. Their numbers plummeted down to 10,000. Louisiana, known as the Pelican State, had no pelicans left and there were only a few nesting pairs left in its neighboring state Texas. The government’s ban on the use of DDT in 1972 helped restore the population to its current thriving population.

Though the smallest of the pelican family, it is still an impressively large bird with an average wing-span of 6-8 feet (2-2½ meters), and weighing in at 6-12 pounds (3-5½ kg).

There are five subspecies:
P. o. californicus (California Brown Pelican)
P. o. carolinensis (Eastern Brown Pelican)
P. o. occidentalis (Caribbean Brown Pelican)
P. o. murphy (Pacific Brown Pelican)
P. o. urinator (Galápagos Brown Pelican)

Galápagos Brown Pelican

My family and I were most fortunate to see brown pelicans nesting during our trip to the Galápagos Islands in 2007. There are about a dozen nests on this beachfront hillside…

DSC01029 Galapagos Brown Pelican nests

…with a million dollar view of the Pacific Ocean which they shared with the Galápagos Fur Seals:

DSC00994 Galapagos seals

These two nest mates got the penthouse:

DSC01005 Two Galapagos Brown Pelicans in nest

As most animals we encountered in the Galápagos Islands, they were completely unperturbed by our presence. Touching was strictly forbidden but we were allowed to approach an animal provided we did not change their behavior:

DSC01027 Galapagos Brown Pelican

They have a transparent third eyelid called the nictitating membrane:

DSC01009 Galapagos Brown Pelican nictitating membrane

The juveniles were brown all over. This one was drying his wings in his nest:

DSC01026 Galapagos Brown Pelican in Nest

California Brown Pelican

Last month, I went to Carmel with my book club for our annual Fall Adventure. We went kayaking in the Elkhorn Slough and saw this flock of white-headed adults and immature all-brown pelicans quietly resting on this rock.

DSC02476 Brown Pelicans

They didn’t seem to mind sharing the space with cormorants:

DSC02477 Brown Pelicans and Cormorants

The weather was perfect for kayaking and wing-drying:

DSC02485 Brown Pelican drying wings

Let’s hear three cheers for the Brown Pelicans because they beat the odds. Their removal from the endangered species list is a great tribute to the conservationists who fought to protect their habitat and create legislation banning the pesticides that harmed these beautiful birds.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Macro Monday – Lichen and Witch's Butter

DSC04146  Lichen detail

On Halloween, impressive naturalist Dave Ingram posted an amazing photo of orange jelly fungus which prompted me to ask if the fungus in my photo also was orange jelly.

DSC04147 lichen and fungus

This was his response:
"Had a look at your image DutchBaby and it looks to me like a dried out Witch’s Butter (Tremula lutescens – also called T. mesenterica). According to New Savory, Witch’s Butter becomes orange red in colour and tough in texture when dried. That definitely fits the appearance of your photograph. Orange Jelly apparently just disintegrates when it gets older so that also makes me lean toward Witch’s Butter. It also looks like the fungus is on hardwood, perhaps an apple tree(?), so that would fit with habitat as well…"
I don't think it was an apple tree, I think it might have been an aging Coast Live Oak (Quercus agrifolia). Thank you, Dave, for your expertise!

Another Macro Monday inspired by Lisa's Chaos.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Pears Poached in Cabernet Sauvignon Sauce with Mascarpone Whipped Cream

Photo by Marcus Nillson of Real Simple.

The super-talented "Roving Gourmet" chef, Michelle Bailey, shared her fantastic recipe for poached pears with me. The measurements are not real precise; the key is to have enough wine to cover the pears.

Poached Pears with Cabernet Sauvignon Sauce

   1.  Peel pears, leaving the stems intact. Bosc pears are best.
  1. Place pears in a sauce pan and cover with cabernet sauvignon wine.  For one bottle of wine, you can usually cover about three medium pears at a time. The wine does not need to be extravagantly expensive.
  1. Simmer the pears until they are fork tender, about 20-30 minutes depending upon the firmness of the pears.
  1. Remove the pears from the wine by using the stem as a handle so that you don’t bruise the flesh.
  1. Using the same wine, repeat steps 2-4 until you’ve poached all the pears .
  1. Add sugar to taste, around ¼ cup if you don't like it too sweet.
  1. Add vanilla (1/2 split bean or 1/2 teaspoon extract) and a cinnamon stick.
  1. Put pears back into the seasoned wine for 5 minutes to infuse the flavors. You may be tempted to add the sugar at the beginning to save a step, but it will not taste good.
  1. Carefully remove pears by the stem again.
  1. Cook wine until it is reduced and slightly thickened into a syrupy consistency - to around a cup or two.
  1. If you don’t have a lot of time or don’t need as much sauce, only use half the wine and reduce to about one cup.
  1. Should be syrupy when cold. If too syrupy, reheat until it is the desired consistency. Serve with sauce and Mascarpone Whipped Cream

Mascarpone Whipped Cream

  1. For a chunky consistency:
    1. Whip heavy cream with honey and vanilla.
    2. Add equal part mascarpone cheese.
    3. Whip together.
    4. Created a chunky texture. I personally loved the bursts of mascarpone.
  1. For a smooth texture
    1. Whip heavy cream with honey and vanilla.
    2. Whip equal part mascarpone cheese.
    3. Whip together. Should create a homogenous, smooth texture.

Thank you, Michelle, it was super duper delicious! A perfect ending for our autumn dinner.

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