The Birds!

Posted in Mixed Nuts on March 11th, 2010 by MadDog
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This morning I walked over to the Hotel Pretentious to get few more  shots of the Victoria Crowned Pigeons. There’s a story here – I’ll try to keep it short, since there are a lot of pictures in this post and I want to get to them.

But first, A Pub-like Pronouncement:  I’d been corresponding with a Facebook friend who appeared, from her profile, to be an accomplished painter. There was a compete info page and lots of nice photos. Yesterday I got an email from “her” (not going to give the name, in case she got hacked and she’s for real) saying that she was stranded in London and urgently requested me to send her money . . . well, just read the email . . .

Hope you get this on time, sorry I didn’t inform you about my trip in United kingdom, I’m presently in Surrey and am having some difficulties here because i misplaced my wallet on my way to the hotel where my money and other valuable things were kept. presently i have limited access to internet, I will like you to assist me with a loan of £1,450 to sort-out my hotel bills and to get myself back home.

I have spoken to the embassy here but they are not responding to the matter effectively, I will appreciate whatever you can afford to assist me with, I’ll Refund the money back to you as soon as i return, let me know if you can be of any help.

I don’t have a phone where i can be reached.   Please let me know immediately.

Suspicious to say the least! There’s the fractured English, the peculiar amount, the urgent appeal, the sincere promise – all the hallmarks of a scam. In this case there was also the “lady in distress” for which I am a born sucker (ladies take note). “She” had previously contacted me via Facebook message asking me to get some more images of the Victoria Crowned Pigeon so that shes could paint them!  Fantastic!

I snooped around in Google and found that this is the “London Facebook Scam”. It seems that (if I have my facts right) hackers (criminals – it’s nearly synonymous now) set up fake Facebook sites to make “friends” (suckers!) and then use various means to defraud them of their hard earned cash. Well, I didn’t fall for that  one! All traces of this Facebook “friend” have now vanished, except  for the messages in my message folder which , curiously, now show no URL link at the bottom of Firefox and are not underlined.

So, that being announced, let’s get to The Birds! I’ll bet there are one or two which you may never have seen. This one, however is familiar to almost everybody:

It is, of course, the Sulfur-Crested Cockatoo (Cacatua  galerita),  considered vermin in Australia. I’ve had several as pets. I get them at the market when they are very young, sometimes still covered with tree sap from their nests. They bond strongly with humans and are incredible mimics. Walking around with your Cockatoo on your shoulder is common enough here. Over time, they gradually wander more and more until you never see them again. It’s a little sad, but if you’re going to keep wild birds as pets, it seems the most responsible way to do so.

You’ve seen the Sulfur-Crested here before in The Cocaltoo That Loathed Rush Limbaugh.

Well, you’ve seen this outrageous, world’s largest pigeon here before, so regular readers will recognise the Victoria Crowned Pigeon (Goura victoria): 

This one is pecking madly at a Star Fruit freshly fallen from the tree.

Here’s another fairly familiar bird, the Papuan Hornbill (Rhyticeros plicatus):

You’ve seen them here before in my post about the Balek Wildlife Sanctuary.

These are young individuals. The prominent horn on the upper beak is only now forming:

The eyes are startling.

This one is having a bad-hair day:

I haven’t had a good-hair day for a while.

I might be willing to place a small bet that you have never seen one of these:

It is a Pesquet’s Parrot (Psittrichas fulgidus),  sometimes known as the Vulturine Parrot.

It does present a rather menacing aspect. As I was shooting it, it moved toward me several times, trying to get it’s beak on my camera or my fingers, I’m not sure which:

I politely declined to allow that.

The image above may remind some long-time readers of of The Lorikeet From Hell in which I brutalised the Black-Capped Lorikeet (Lorius lory)  way back in September of 2008.

The resemblance is somewhat striking.

Okay, okay, I can hear you yawning from here. “Come on! Give me something I haven’t seen!”

Right! Never fear. IN YOUR FACE  – a Parrot Fight!

The pesky male Eclectus Parrot (Eclectus roratus)  simply would not allow the giant, vulture-like black and red terror bird keep that tasty treat. It kept hounding the larger bird until it was worn down. It was a David and Goliath sort of thing.

If you find anything more interesting on the web today, please pass it along to me.

I’m bored. That usually means something dangerous is in the works.

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Much Ado About Guria – The Victoria Crowned Pigeon

Posted in Humor, Mixed Nuts on February 26th, 2010 by MadDog
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I’ve seen a lot of stuff percolating on the web recently about the “amazing” Victoria Crowned Pigeon. Well, I’m here to tell you today, friends and neighbors, that that are absolutely delicious. However, before we get into recipes, let’s have a look at this morning’s rapturous sunrise:No, I wasn’t “taken up” or anything like that, but I do think the sky may have rolled back a little at the corners. Better be safe than sorry.

So, setting off to fulfil a promise to some Facebook friends to unveil the secrets of the aforementioned pigeon, which, by the way is the largest pigeon on this planet (frankly, I’ve seen larger on other planets – I’m only visiting here, you see), I walked over to a rather large and pretentious hotel where an impressive flock of our huge, magnificent flying rats abide. As luck would have it, some enormously fat dignitaries were arriving for some sort of mighty pow-wow and a small, timid group of local Sing Sing performers had gathered to present their modest contribution to the pompous festivities:One of them was about to offer me a pillowcase full of Mary Jane for K20 when I reckoned that I’d had enough of the war paint and decided to begin my stalk for the rare Goura victoria.

I didn’t have to stalk far. They are, after all, merely chicken-sized pigeons. Yeah, they’re pretty, but they’re still just pigeons. If you get enough of them together in one place and don’t overly molest them, they’ll multiply until you can’t swing a dead cat without knocking the top-knot off of one of these haughty buzzards:The Tok Pisin  name for these fat show-offs is guria,  which, oddly enough, is the same word for earthquake. For a long time I thought that the coincidental monikers was because of the deep booming noise that the males make when giving the come-on to their lady friends. As it turns out, when I looked up the taxonomic name, the genus is, of course, Goura,  which explains the sameness of the words. Or does it? I asked three local people today why they call the pigeon the same thing that they call the earthquake. The all looked at me as if I were stupid, something that you get used to very quickly here. “Because they make that earthquake sound when they are . . . you know . . . laikim meri.”  (That’s a polite way of saying, well . . . you know.) So, the mystery remains. [See UPDATE at the bottom of the post.]

Anyway, my first contact with a G. victoria  was at the National Zoo in Washington DC. Our son, Hans, of tender years, proclaimed it the most magnificent of God’s critters. We were inclined to agree. The next time that we came in contact with G. Victoria  was in a dugout canoe motoring up the Clay River  in the Sepik area. On that occasion, we stopped briefly at the river side where the canoe driver’s wife, with little ceremony, wrung the neck of a G. victoria  which she had caught in a snare. Hans was stricken. We had to remind him that to our guests, the wondefulest pigeon is just a hunk of meat.

Here’s a Sharp Dressed Man  (ZZ Top is playing now) jazzing it up in hopes of getting lucky:She didn’t look very interested. I didn’t stick around to watch.

In case you think we’re running short of Victoria Crowned Pigeons, I snapped this shot to show you a small platoon of them out foraging for the local farmers’ crops:Their apetites are voracious. They’ll eat fruit, berries, nuts, flying fox feces (a bit like jam, actually), small dogs and pretty much anything including rocks.

Oh, I nearly forgot the recipe. Here’s my favourite: (Sorry about the non-metric measurements. I was educated, if that’s what you could call it, where “The Metric System” is considered a despised foreign influence.)

The beauty of Goura victoria  is that it cooks so quickly. The meat, richly flavored and all dark, is at its succulent best when rare. To get good browning, this means the birds have to cook at high heat – which introduces a problem. The fatty layer under the skin drips and smokes in the oven or catches fire on the barbecue. The solution: grill over indirect heat. If parts of the Goura victoria  get quite dark before birds are done, drape affected areas with foil.

MadDog’s Honey-Thyme Goura victoria

Yield: Makes 12 servings

Ingredients

  • 4  medium Goura victoria  (5 lb. each)
  • 24  tablespoons  balsamic vinegar
  • 12  tablespoons  honey
  • 8  teaspoons  fresh thyme leaves or dried thyme
  • Salt

Preparation

1. With poultry shears or kitchen scissors, cut each Goura victoria  in half through center of breast and back. Pull off and discard fat lumps. Cut off necks and reserve with giblets for other uses. Rinse birds and pat dry. I recommend that you remove the feathers before starting all this. I guess I should have mentioned that earlier.

2. In a bowl, mix vinegar, honey, and thyme. Add Goura victoria  and mix to coat with seasonings. Let stand at least 20 minutes or chill, covered, up to 1 day, turning pieces over several times.

3. Prepare barbecue for indirect heat.

If using charcoal, mound and ignite 60 briquets on the firegrate of a barbecue with a lid (20 to 22 in. wide). When briquets are dotted with gray ash, in about 15 minutes, push equal portions to opposite sides of the firegrate. Place a drip pan between coals. Set the grill in place.

If using a gas barbecue, cover and turn heat to high for about 10 minutes. Adjust burners for indirect cooking (no heat down center) and keep on high. Set a drip pan beneath grill between ignited burners. Set grill in place.

4. Lift Goura victoria  from marinade and lay, bones down, in center of grill, not directly over the heat. Cover barbecue and open the vents.

5. Cook until birds are richly browned, basting Goura victoria  frequently with marinade, using it all. For rare, breasts are moist and red in center (cut to test); allow about 25 minutes. For medium, cook 6 to 10 minutes longer. Season to taste with salt.

Oh yes, I nearly forgot. Save the top-knots for table decorations. If you have enough, guests can stick them in their hair and pretend to be pigeons.

Em Tasol!  (That’s all!)

UPDATE: Facebook friend Justin Friend (funny coincidence, that) just left me a message saying:

My understanding of the name Guria pigeon, is based on the way they almost shiver and all their feathers shake and vibrate as they do it, and that the Genus name was actually a direct link to the name “Guria” when they were first described in New Guinea, having heard the birds described as “Guria” when they do that shiver-shake thing…..but I could be wrong….but thats my understanding…. and give me a good ‘ol BBQ Tree Kangaroo over a BBQ Pigeon any day!

Thanks for that very nice clarification, Justin.

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