1ST ANNIVERSARY “ESSENTIAL ABACO WILDLIFE FACTS” COLLECTION


Today is the 1st birthday of this blog, on the very day that the hit count passes 37,000. I started out last April, with faltering steps, into the mysterious world of the blog – setting it up, getting ‘stuff’ posted, finding out about birds, creatures, shells and much else from scratch. The learning curve has modified slightly and has a less vertiginous ascent. We are now mostly under control here at Rolling Harbour HQ… It’s been a year of Parrots, Whales, Hurricanes, Mars Probe Booster Rockets and other beachcombing mysteries. As year 2 begins, huge thanks to the many who have contributed so far, or generously given advice and (mainly) constructive criticism along the way, or simply taken the time to have a look. Especially if you came back for more…

Here to celebrate the day is the Official Rolling Harbour Collection of  some of the “Essential Facts” that have appeared in various posts over the previous year. It is, needless to say, essential reading. Amaze or alienate your friends with your esoteric knowledge of the length of an adult male manatee’s intestines…

ESSENTIAL HUMMINBIRD FACTS

  • The colourful throat of a (male) bird is known as a ‘gorget’
  • Hummingbirds are the only birds that can fly backwards
  • There are 320 species of hummingbird worldwide
  • The smallest is the bee hummingbird of Cuba, at 2″ for an adult
  • John Gould, the c19 ornithologist and artist, invented many of the names to reflect the varied and iridescent colours of the birds.
  • Hummingbird wings beat as much as 75 times per second
  • Hummingbirds have the highest metabolic rate of any warm-blooded creature; also the largest hearts (proportionately, obviously…)
  • There are many collective nouns, including a “bouquet”, “glittering”, “hover”, “shimmer”, and “tune” of hummingbirds
  • On the TCI, the Bahama Woodstar is known as ‘The God Bird’ 

10 MEMORABLE MORSELS OF MANATEE MINUTIAE

  • The 4 species of Sirenia are the West Indian, Amazonian and West African manatee; and the Asian / Pacific dugong. 
  • Fossil remains of Florida manatees date back 45 million years; their closest living relative is the elephant
  • Manatees are also known as Sea Cows. Some say sailors who’d been at sea for too long took them to be mermaids, a mistake I doubt they made twice…
  • They can weigh up to 1,300 lb and measure up to 13 feet. Females are larger than males. Baby manatees may weigh 65 lb. Adult intestines can reach 45 meters which would take Usain Bolt 4.31 seconds to run past (if straightened out, obviously)
  • Accurate population estimates seem to be impossible to obtain, varying by season and by year for no apparent reason. Overall,  the picture is of a declining population, with extinction likely without further protection
  • West Indian Manatees can move freely between extremes of salinity, and may be found in warm shallow coastal waters, in estuaries, or migrated into rivers to freshwater springs (as in Florida). They cannot survive below 15°C (60°F). They have a propensity to hang around the warm-water outflows of power stations
  • Manatees have some intelligence and demonstrate discrimination and task-learning similar to dolphins.Their eyelids close “in a circular manner”, though I can’t quite picture this. They have only 6 teeth in each jaw, which are replaced throughout their lives
  • They breed every other year. Gestation lasts 12 months, and it takes a further 12 to 18 months to wean the calf. A single calf is born. Apart from mothers with a calf or males showing off to females, manatees tend to be solitary creatures
  • They are herbivores, eating many plant species, such as mangrove leaves, turtle grass, and types of algae. An adult manatee can eat up to 10% of its body weight per day. They have been known to eat small amounts of fish from nets
  • Half a manatee’s day is spent sleeping in the water. The rest of the time they graze in shallow waters. They swim at 3 to 5 mph, faster in short bursts. They may live up to 60 years (surprisingly, given their punishing daily schedule)
  • The oldest manatee in captivity is Snooty, at the South Florida Museum. He was born at the Miami Seaquarium on July 21, 1948 and came to the South Florida Museum in Bradenton, Florida in 1949

10 ESSENTIAL YET GRISLY MUREX FACTS

  • Murex are highly carnivorous with rasping teeth, and drilling equipment for boring into the shells of their prey
  • A determined Murex may take up to 5 days to drill into its prey
  • Murex also use their foot to smother prey, or to crush it by using suction power
  • They eat clams by hoovering them up with their foot and smashing them on rocks to get at the occupant
  • They happily eat sea-floor carrion and sea-kill
  • Murex act in packs to carry out raids on unsuspecting beds of clams, which they feast on avidly
  • They are sexually wanton. Females store sperm from different males for many months, eventually producing embryos with different dads (I’m not making this up. I would like to have done so)
  • Cannibalism occurs. The kids are equally prone to extreme delinquency and are happy to eat each other when peckish
  • Some species of murex secrete a fluid that is believed to be used to drug their prey into paralysis
  • That same fluid (Murex / Mucus) is also used as a dye, ‘Tyrian’ or ‘Royal’ Purple, which can be ‘milked’ from a living murex (the Aztecs & Phoenicians did this). I’ll pass on that…
POTCAKE POT POURRI
  • Potcakes are a mixed-breed dog of the Bahamas & TCI, named after the layer of dried rice and peas in  the bottom of cooking pots, traditionally fed to stray dogs
  • Appearance and colouring varies considerably from island to island. Mostly commonly they are (mainly) brown, have smooth coats, cocked ears, and long faces. Adults typically weigh from 45 to 50 pounds (20 to 23 kg)
  • Potcakes have a wandering tendency. There are many strays on every island – often considered a nuisance. Volunteer organizations re-home strays,  and offer free spaying and neutering
  • Potcakes are often used for hunting hogs. Some are trained to locate fish through  scent on the water and the cries of feeding sea birds
  • Potcakes may originate from 3 canine types: (1) dogs brought by the Arawak  to the Bahamas; (2) terriers protecting supplies from rodents on ships to the Bahamas; (3) Dogs that arrived with Loyalists during the Revolutionary War
  • In the 1970s the potcake dog was officially recognized in The Bahamas as the “Royal Bahamian Potcake”. In February 2011, they were accepted by the Bahamas Kennel Club in the category ‘Group 9 Non-Registered’
  • A potcake dog named Amigo has been the mascot of the Humane Society of Grand Bahama. He ‘served as an Ambassador of Hope for homeless animals’ until his death in 2007, and appeared on TV
  • Potcakes have featured in a set of special-issue Bahamas stamps (as have Bahama Swallows)

10 MEMORABLE FACTS ABOUT LIGNUM VITAE

  • Traditionally, it was used for making British Police Truncheons (now made of soft fluffy pink fabric to reflect new caring policing methods)
  • Its physical qualities made it widely used in shipbuilding (though presumably not the whole ship, which would sink instantly)
  • Cabinet-makers, stone-carvers and gem-cutters all use the wood in their crafts
  • LV has many engineering uses. The wood is self-lubricating and is ideal for bearings. The 1st nuclear submarine had some of these
  • The world-renowned  UK fishing rod maker Hardy’s made a famous ‘Greenheart’ rod
  • LV has medical uses, including for arthritis; and its bark / shavings allegedly make a nice cup of “tea”… (Any evidence of this?)
  • A 1920’s calypso song “LignumVitae” was sensationally saucy for its allusions to the bark tea’s prophylactic quality in addition to exploiting the phallic connotations
  • Gabriel Garcia Márquez incorporates uses for the wood in two of his novels (neither of which I have read. Oh dear. The guilt)
  • Pete Seeger, singer / songwriter, made the neck of his banjo from LV
  • The wood is also connected to mauve tiling, vitamin glue, anti-evil gum and the ‘vigilant emu’ by anagrammatic chance

SCOTCH BONNET FACTS

  • It takes approximately six years for a Scotch bonnet to mature
  • The shells grows 2 – 4 ins long (5 – 10 cm), showing distinct growth stages
  • Scotch bonnets live on sand, usually in fairly shallow water (but see below)
  • The more a Scotch bonnet eats the more elaborate its shell, the glossier its sheen & the brighter its colours (research suggests this doesn’t work for humans)
  • Divers frequently find Scotch bonnets at depths of 50 – 150 feet (15 to 46 m). Specimens have been found in depths up to 308 ft (94 m)
  • Shipwrecks provide a good habitat for this species
  • Crabs are its main predators, crushing the shell to get at the occupant. Since the snails’ main defence mechanism is to withdraw into their shells, they urgently need to evolve a new tactic
  • The empty shell of this sea species is often used by hermit crabs
  • In 1965 the state of North Carolina made the Scotch bonnet its official state shell, in honor of the Scottish settlers who founded the state

GENERAL CLASSIFICATION OF SEA GLASS COLOUR OCCURRENCE

Most common (1 in every 1 – 25 pieces found): clear, Kelly (‘Irish’) green, brown, blue, purple

Less common (1 in every 25 – 100 pieces found): jade, amber, lime green, forest green, ice / soft blue

Uncommon (1 in every 50 – 100 pieces found): other green shades

Very uncommon 1 in every 200 – 1000 pieces found): citron, opaque white, cobalt, cornflower blue and aqua

Extremely rare (1 in every 1000 – 10,000 pieces found): grey, pink, teal, black, yellow, turquoise, red

Rarest of all (1 in every 10,000+ pieces found): orange