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Documentary Science

A Conservationist Teaches Geese to Use Safer Migration Routes by Flying With Them Across Europe

May 20, 2022

Grace Ebert

Back in 1995, Christian Moullec embarked on his first migration alongside a flock of lesser white-fronted geese that he intended to introduce to Sweden. He flew an adapted delta plane alongside the birds, which were threatened after being overhunted, and protect them on their journey. This initial mission quickly morphed into a now decades-long project of training avian populations to utilize more secure paths as they travel across Europe, ensuring that the already dwindled species would survive the trek and be able to reproduce.

English YouTuber and educator Tom Scott (previously) joins Moullec on one of the flights above Southern France as they glide in a microlight aircraft just inches from the animals—Scott is so close that he’s able to touch goose’s tail feathers. Reaching this level of intimacy takes dedication and immersion in the flock, Moullec shares, saying that he raises the birds, sleeps with them, and even bathes in the pond on his property. This establishes trust and is essential as they define their routes, which sometimes traverse thousands of kilometers each day. “I’m not the one who teaches the birds to fly with me,” Moullec shares. “I’ve been flying with birds for 27 years, and they taught me how to fly with them.”

In addition to his conservation-oriented flights, Moullec offers passenger trips for those interested in joining the flock, and you can find more about his work on his site. (via The Kids Should See This)

 

 

 



Photography

A New Book Illuminates the Lives of the Elusive, Pink-Plumed Flamingos in Mexico's Yucatán Peninsula

May 6, 2022

Grace Ebert

The fluid that feeds the nestling is called crop milk. Both adults produce this secretion in the upper part of the intestine. All images © Photo © Claudio Contreras Koob and Nature Picture Library, shared with permission

In the Yucatán Peninsula, the rich wetland environment of the Ría Lagartos Biosphere Reserve is one of the most important sites for flamingos. The pink-pigmented birds flock to the area for breeding each year, with officials registering approximately 15,000 nests and 30,000 adults inhabiting the area in 2021 alone.

A biologist by training, photographer Claudio Contreras Koob has spent years visiting the lanky, big-beaked avians in the reserve and documenting their mannerisms and habits, amassing a broad collection of images now compiled in a book published by teNeues Verla in collaboration with the Nature Picture Library. Flamingo contains 132 of Contreras Koob’s shots spanning from aerial views showing the creatures as rosy dots on the green landscape to intimate glimpses of a chick peeking through its mother’s plumage for a feeding—the photographer shares with Inhabitat that the latter image captures the critically important blood-red crop milk, which parents regurgitate to nourish their young.

Both elusive and widely recognized, the birds are increasingly vulnerable due to pollution, the effects of the climate crisis, and human encroachment, and the photos illuminate the potential loss if they’re left unprotected. Contreras Koob describes the collection as “covering all aspects of the flamingo life cycle: feeding, bathing, migration, courtship, life in the colony, chick rearing, etc. to present a portfolio that allows us to understand the complex life that flamingos go through,” a process that required patience and repeated encounters to encapsulate. He explains:

By far the biggest challenge is to be able to get close to them. They live in muddy, slimy wetlands or in some very salty pools, and you just cannot walk to them and expect to take your images. It is easy to scare them, and once one of them enters in panic mode, all others follow suit. By not taking the time, you could create havoc in a colony.

Flamingo is currently available from Bookshop, and you can find more from Contreras Koob on Instagram.

 

To incubate their eggs, flamingos build nesting sites in their colonies. They consist of mud cones that must be constantly maintained so that rising water does not wash away the eggs.

Right: An aerial view of flamingos on Mexico’s Yucatán Peninsula

“Soon, I see a little white head peek out of the orange plumage. I imagine that this little creature must think the whole planet is orange,” Contreras Koob says.

As they grow, the chicks begin to explore the surroundings of the colony, always under the watchful eye of several adult animals who look after them.

The Celestún estuary is a popular place for flamingos and is near the cenotes, underwater water reservoirs that inject fresh water into the middle of a lagoon as if from a spring.

 

 



Craft Illustration

Curious Squirrels and Rambunctious Hares Form a Miniature Menagerie of Felted Wildlife

May 4, 2022

Grace Ebert

All images © Simon Brown, shared with permission

From a shy baby fox to toads donning crowns, the felted miniatures crafted by Simon Brown and Katie Corrigan are adorable, whimsical renditions of forest creatures. The Northumbria, U.K.-based creative duo transforms thick rovings of wool into wildlife that can be found perching on a snowy branch or creeping up on a mouse through the grass-like bristles of a wooden brush. Brown tells Colossal that he plans to incorporate more found objects into the newer sculptures, which are increasingly illustrative in style, and is also working on developing automata to add a liveliness to the realistic characters. See more of the pair’s process on Instagram.

 

 

 



Art

Paper Sculptures by Roberto Benavidez Reenvision Common Birds and Fantastical Creatures as Metallic Piñatas

April 21, 2022

Grace Ebert

‘”Javelina Girl (Illumianted Piñata No. 14).” All images © Roberto Benavidez, shared with permission

At once fantastically imaginative and embedded in tradition, the shimmering piñatas that comprise Roberto Benavidez’s body of work expand the boundaries of the conventionally festive object. The Los Angeles-based artist (previously) cuts skinny, triangular strips of material that he attaches to paper mache forms in the shape of birds, hybrid animals, and otherworldly creatures. His metallic works often address questions of identity—the artist speaks about this further in a Colossal interview—particularly considerations of gender and sexuality through the lens of his layered forms.

Benavidez’s gynandromorphs series, for example, reenvisions the phenomenon in common bird species by splicing male and female bodies together into a mirrored sculpture—three of these pieces will be on view through June 14 at The Loft at Liz’s in Los Angeles. He’s also continuing his renditions of Hieronymous Bosch characters and illuminated manuscripts, the latter of which includes the polka-dotted wildcat and portly, tusked “Javelina Girl” shown above. While drawing on centuries-old works, narratives, and myths in these series, each piñata is the artist’s reinterpretation of the classic iconography and themes into an inventive, contemporary form.

In the coming months, a few of Benavidez’s birds will be on view at Heron Arts, and the group exhibition devoted to piñatas that opened last fall at Craft in America will be traveling to the Mingei International Museum in San Diego. Follow news about upcoming opportunities to see his sculptures in person on Instagram.

 

“Illuminated Piñata No. 19”

“Scarlet Glossy Ibis (Halfbreed No. 1)”

“Spotted Wildcat Piñata (Illuminated Piñata No. 17)”

“Pug on Pig”

“Gynandromorph Phainopepla”

“Oyster or Snail? (Birdr No. 1)”

Detail of ‘”Javelina Girl (Illuminated Piñata No. 14)”

“California Quail”

 

 



Photography

In the Frigid Morning Air, a Singing Red-Wing Blackbird Blows Impressive Rings

March 28, 2022

Grace Ebert

All images © Kathrin Swoboda, shared with permission

Photographer Kathrin Swoboda frequents Huntley Meadows Park in Alexandria in search of red-wing blackbirds as they sing. On a cold morning back in 2019, she captured the conspicuous avians mid-tune, an activity that produced what appears to be smoke rings emanating from their beaks. The frigid temperatures make the hazy formations of condensation visible, and the serendipitous shot won the top prize in that year’s Audubon Photography Awards.

Prints of the breathy birds, in addition to more of Swoboda’s wildlife images, are available on her site, and she also has a few works on view at Torpedo Factory Art Center and the Vienna Community Center in Virginia. Follow her outdoor adventures on Instagram. (via Women’s Art)

 

 

 



Art

Vibrant Centimeter-Wide Paper Cranes by Artist Naoki Onogawa Engulf Bonsai Trees

March 24, 2022

Grace Ebert

All images © Naoki Onogawa, shared with permission

Tokyo-based artist Naoki Onogawa (previously) continues his meditative practice involving thousands of minuscule paper cranes. Attached in clusters to the branches of bonsai trees, the tiny birds perch in place of leaves and top the sculptural specimens with fantastically colored canopies. Onogawa painstakingly folds a square, centimeter-wide piece of paper into the origami cranes, which once amassed in large groups, symbolize eternal good fortune.

The artist is currently preparing for shows this fall at Picaresque Art Gallery in Shibuya, Tokyo, and TENMAYA in both Okayama and Fukuyama and recently opened his books for international commissions. Head to Instagram to dive into his process and stay up-to-date on new works.

 

 

 

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