Smoke Trees

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I have been seeing lots of these Eurasian smoke trees (Cotinus coggygria) in bloom this week in parks and gardens all over the city. The flower head looks like a cloud of smoke, hence the name. There are only two species in the Cotinus genus, this one and another that is native to the American southwest. The Eurasian species has a huge range, from southern Europe to northern China. It is a member of Anacardiaceae  the family of plants that includes the mango, poison ivy, sumac and cashew. I wonder if the smoke tree can elicit an allergic reaction like some other members of the family. It is a beautiful addition to any park.

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An Eurasian smoke tree in bloom on the campus of Kwansei Gakuin

 

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Eurasian Wigeon

The most common duck on Saturday February 28 at the artificial lake in the Kita Senri Park was the Eurasian Wigeon (Anas penelope). The flock numbered about 15-20 individuals. Above is the colorful male in the forefront and a female in the upper right corner.

Two identification keys in flight, the flash of white and green in the wings.

The eurasian wigeon has a large breeding range through Europe, Russia and Asia. It is a non-breeding resident of Japan so I will probably only see these birds in the winter. It is strikingly beautiful. They are a “dabbling duck” which is a subfamily of ducks that feeds mainly at the surface instead of diving. There are around 80 different species of dabbling ducks worldwide and three species of wigeon. I’ll see how long they stay in the area.

Eurasian Jay (Garrulus glandarius)

I have blogged about the Eurasian Jay before and I wanted to post this photo I took last week. We were having an Easter Egg hunt in the yard and in the neighbor’s yard, this big Eurasian Jay swooped down. I head him (or her) a few minutes before across the street. There are several that are living near our apartment. They have a harsh, non-melodic call, which is contrast to the European Blackbird that I hear off my balcony each morning. A very melodious tunester.

Eurasian Jay (Garrulus glandaris)

 

I photographed this Eurasian Jay from my kitchen window in our third floor apartment. There were three jays in the neighbors tree while I was packing lunches for the kids. The flash of blue is what alerted me to them. I’ve been wanting to get a better photo of the Eurasian Jay since I’ve arrived in Belgrade and took a photo in 2008. I see them more often this year, I am not sure why.

In Serbian it is known as the sojka.

 

Eurasian Coot (Fulica atra)

An Eurasian Coot on the Sava River

An Eurasian Coot on the Sava River

After the mallard and sea gulls, this is one of the most common birds on the Sava River. Many people mistake it for a duck, but it is a member of the rail and crake family of birds, Rallidae. These birds are most often associated with freshwater wetlands.

Coots are found in Europe, Africa, Asia, and Oceania. They have adapted well to humans as I see them in many parks and cities. They are omnivores and often dive for insect larvae and algae. The distinguishing characteristic is the bright, white face shield extending back from the bill.