Can-can: Toucan to Pelican
Last week, I was at the 3rd ICMOBT in Clearwater Beach, FL. There, I finally met Professor Julian Vincent, whom I knew until then only from his text. He is a biologist among mechanical and materials engineers who, after having spent quite some time studying insects, has crossed into biomimetic design. Though he did not include any avian inspirations in his plenary lecture, he did bring to my attention his mechanical analysis of the Woodpecker’s hammering.
When we had some leisure time, I could not resist the magnificent rope tower that I spotted on the playground outside the hotel. Centered on a truncated octahedron, it was like a commemoration of cellular solids.
As I climbed, I imagined that the ropes were trabeculae of the foam interior of the Toucan’s beak; I hope never to be too old for a playground. 14 December 2009, Clearwater Beach, FL
The conference was fine. And after my talk was done and over, I was in the state of mind to appreciate that the locality and the weather were fine as well as the bird-watching!
On Pier 60, admission to which costs 50¢, I saw some Floridian birds.
15 December 2009
December is off-season for the resort town and for some of the birds too. Here the Laughing Gull (Leucophaeus atricilla) looks quite serious in non-breeding plumage, and interestingly, this one features white spots at the distal ends of the primaries like those of the Franklin’s Gull. According to The Cornell Lab of Ornithology All About Bird Guide, they “may have small white spots at the tips of the primaries” (italic emphasis is mine). I later saw either one of these or else a Ring-billed Gull dive-bomb a pensioner for his ice-cream cone, and from my perspective, it was quite laughable indeed.
15 December 2009
On the left, a Florida Double-crested Cormorant (Phalacrocorax auritus floridanus) defends a signpost against a vocal assualt by an obnoxious Crow. But this is not just any obnoxious Crow, it seems. You will not likely see what I mean, but you can hear it.
On the next day, I had a chance to stray further from the conference hotel. I walked along a bridge connecting to a more southern finger of land. Cormorants and Brown Pelicans (Pelecanus occidentalis), whose role in the ban of DDT shall never be forgotten, bask on the piers below. Actually, Brown Pelicans were removed from the Endangered Species List only about a month ago!
Westward view, facing the Gulf shore, 16 December 2009
Eastward view, facing the Clearwater Harbor, 16 December 2009