Friday, April 20, 2018

Beautiful Art, Japanese Lacquerware

Stationery Box in Kōdaiji style from Momoyama period (1573-1615). - Photo by: metmuseum.org


Lacquareware is produced in several areas in Asian countries, especially China, Korea, Japan, Vietnam, Myanmar and maybe a few others. The origin of this art might start from China then spread into many other countries. Lacquerware has beautiful shiny finishes that resemble porcelain products that also originated from China.

The beautiful of lacquerware start from the beginning of the process that requires the layer of lacquer to be applied over and over again and the curing process that take several days to weeks. The total time to complete one product might take several months to years.

While in Japan the usage of lacquer (in Yayoi era) was so extensive from basket, farming tools, fishing gear, in many other materials - in order to protect these materials from damage easily. Then the usage of lacquer evolved as a craft during the Asuka period. The transformation was influenced by the Chinese arts that transferred to Japan. There were large amounts of lacquer were required during that period, that requires the amount of lacquer harvested to be controlled.

Old Chinese lacquerware from Ming dynasty, Wanli era (1573-1620). - Photo by: collections.lacma.org

One of Maki-e motifs. - Photo by:  Pqks758

Another antique stacking boxes with Maki-e. - Photo by: ancientpoint.com 

The advancement of the craft not limited to just painting and scraping, but also the usage of other materials such as ‘mother of pearls’, brass, copper, lead, silver, platinum and gold. Here in Japan the usage of the valuable metals is more popular and known as Maki-e (蒔絵, literally: sprinkled picture).
This technique was developed during the Heian period (794 – 1185) and became popular during the Edo period (1603–1868). This technique requires high skill, craftsmanship – that most of the young artists will go through many years to produce high quality arts with this technique.

There are many other techniques for Japanese lacquerware, but the Maki-e was considered one of the best technique mastered by Japan. Other than the technique, the motifs and the shapes of the materials that produced from Japanese craftsman also presenting the authenticate designs.

Even though we can still find the Japanese Maki-e lacquer products, the price can be expensive – most of it is antique products. The time intensive works to produce this art might be one of the reasons why not many artisan works on it.

Here I will include few videos related to Japanese Lacquerware works and arts in order to help you understand more on this topic.









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Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Largest Living Bird: Greater Rhea

Greater Rhea (Rhea americana) also known as ñandú (Guaraní and Spanish). - Photo by: Rufus46


Greater Rhea (Rhea Americana) is another “largest birds that still live today” also in the group of flightless birds. Greater Rhea lives in the eastern part of Southern America native to Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay. Just like its cousin, the ostrich, greater rhea lives in open areas such as grasslands, savannah or grassy wetlands. There’s a group of this bird established itself in Germany since 2000 with growing population.

Growing so big makes it harder for greater rhea to be able to fly. The average weight for an adult bird can achieve 20–27 kg (44–60 lb), while stand at 1.5 m (4 ft 11 in) to top of its head. The size also is bigger for the male bird compared to the females. The size of males can reach up to 40 kg (88 lb), stand nearly 1.83 m (6.0 ft) tall and measure over 150 cm (59 in) long, although this is uncommon.

Greater rhea with its fluffy feathers. - Photo by: parcanimalierdauvergne.fr

Greate rhea's foot is strong for running. - Photo by: jungledragon.com 

Same as other flightless birds such as ostriches and emus, they mostly rely on their legs to run away from predators (when being threatens). Their wings are useless for flights, but will work as balancer when they are changing direction during their run. Same as any other bigger birds, greater rhea has stronger legs that can be used as a weapon instead just for running.

Even though their diet mostly consists of plants, fruits and seeds, this bird also enjoys meals of insects, lizards, birds and other small animals. It is easier for this bird to adapt itself as they don’t have any trouble to find their food. That also explained how their population grows rapidly in their new territory in German.

Greater rheas, chasing each other. - Photo by: knowsleysafariexperience.co.uk

Male greater rhea nursing its eggs during the incubation process. - Photo by: Ralph Bower

Greater rhea is a solitary bird until the mating seasons. While the males are polygynous, the females at the same time are polyandrous. Few females will lay their eggs in the same nest prepared by the male; with the total of eggs can reach up to 50 eggs or more. Other special characters of this bird are the males will incubate the eggs and also taken care of their young.

Rhea eggs were collected by human and their meat also were eaten. Instead of that, rhea’s skin also been used to produce leather products. Their population was threatened by human, until the regulations, safe this bird from totally perished.






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Thursday, March 29, 2018

Largest Living Bird: Kori Bustard

Kori bustard (ardeotis kori), is the largest flying birds. Photo by: Winfried Bruenken


Kori Bustard (Ardeotis kori) one of the largest living bird in the world today. It's also one of the largest flying birds that still exist. It is the member of the bustard family that consists of four species throughout the world - ranging from Africa, India, and Australia.

Being the largest flying bird, kori bustard flies a short distance and only when needed. It will spend most of its time on the ground forage occasionally in low bushes and trees. Kori bustard is omnivorous birds and will eat almost anything from insects, small reptiles and small mammals, and also seeds and fruits. Being heavy, kori bustard will try to avoid flying unless necessary.

Male kori bustard (A. k. struthiunculus) displaying in Ngorongoro Conservation Area. Photo by: David Berkowitz

Female of the nominate race near Etosha National Park, Namibia. Photo by: Hans Hillewaert

The male kori bustard is larger than female can reach up to 120 to 150 cm (3 ft 11 in to 4 ft 11 in) in height with wingspan about 230 to 275 cm (7 ft 7 in to 9 ft 0 in). Its weigh can reach up to 7 and 18 kg (15 and 40 lbs). Even though they were reports mentioned about the outsized specimens with weighing up to 23 kg (51 lb) and more.

Africa has the most diversity of the bustard species and spread throughout the continent. Among them are Denham's bustard (Neotis denhamii) and Ludwig's bustard (Neotis luwigii). While, Arabian bustard (Ardeotis arabs) has its range on the East Africa.

Same as many other birds, kori bustard has its own courtship displays to impress the females. The courtship display will followed by low-pitched booming noise with inflated neck where the male will look larger. Several males will be compete among each other. There will be fight between males with serious battle in order to win the females. One male will mates will several females in his territory – different from albatrosses and swan that will mate only with one female for long period of time.

Richard Meinertzhagen holds a shot kori bustard near Nairobi in 1915, illustrating the bird's huge size. Photo by: unknown

Kori bustard flying over the grassland. Photo by: RICHARD AND EILEEN FLACK

Kori bustard's chick, between keeper's hands. Photo by: nationalzoo.si.edu

Only female kori bustard will look over their eggs. Usually 2 eggs are laid, and seldom 1 or 3. Female built their nest within the tree shrubs, termite mount or an outcrop of rocks. Their plumage colour and behaviour make their nest is hard to be spotted.

Young chicks will grow up quickly and ready to follow their mother few hours after hatched. They fledge at 4 to 5 weeks old, but only ready to fly until 4 to 5 months. Usually one of the two young make it to adulthood. Living their mother in their second year, and ready to breed when they become fully matures around three to four years old.

Kori bustard is listed Near Threatened by IUCN (2013). They are rarely since in human populated areas. The development such as power lines can kill this bird (the powerlines in Karoo kill 22 kori bustard during 5 months period). More study should be conducted in order to help this bird from extinction.






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Saturday, March 24, 2018

Largest Living Bird: Andean Condor

Andean condor soaring using the thermal current. Photo by: aracari.com


The Andean condor (Vultur gryphus) is one of the largest birds that still lives today. In the group of New World vulture found in the Andes Mountains regions in the Western South America. Andean condors can be found in Colombia, Bolivia, Ecuador, Peru, Chile, and Argentina. It’s rarely seen now in Venezuela, as in any other areas, the numbers keep on declining.

Andean condors are massive birds with weight of 11 to 15 kg (24 to 33 lb) for males, requires big wings with wingspan up to 3.3 m (10 ft 10 in). The wings not just longer in length but also bigger in areas compared to any other flying bird such as wandering albatross, and Dalmatian pelican.

Larger wings allow Andean condor to glide instead of flapping. Photo by: abcbirds.org

A female Andean Condor at Doué-la-Fontaine Zoo, France. Photo by: Emilio del Prado 

Andean condor rarely flaps its wings when fly because it has less major muscle (pectoralis major) as we can see in other high flapping birds. Its wings size and shapes helps it to soar or gliding the air current. This is also a reason why Andean condor prefers to roost on high places where there are more wind to help it to fly with less effort. It’s also using the thermal current as the air rising up from the desert heat.

Andean condor same as vultures are primarily a scavenger. They fly up high in the sky while scanning any animal carcasses. Andean condor can sometimes join other vultures or other scavenger birds in searching for carrion. They prefer on larger carcases such as llamas, alpacas, rheas, guanacos, deer and armadillos. They also can get plenty of food from the coastal areas – from the dead, sea creatures. Even though rarely hunting, Andean condor sometimes kills smaller animals such as rodents, birds and rabbits.

Condors feeding on a dead guanaco, with Torres del Paine in the background. Photo by: awasi.com

Andean condor only produce one chick for every two years. Photo by: zoochat.com

Andean condor will become mature by five to six years of age. They prefer to build their nest at an elevation of 3,000 to 5,000 m (9,800 to 16,400 ft) with only one egg for every two years. The egg will hatch after 54 to 58 days of incubation. Then their parent will take care of their young for a full year.

Condors and vultures are playing important roles to clean up carcasses to avoid the spreading of diseases. They have special capabilities to avoid toxicity produces by the bacteria they eat.

Since Andean condor is very big, it become a national symbol of Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru and Venezuelan Andes states. It also plays an important role for peoples in those regions. It can be seen clearly from their cultures, mythology and arts.

The numbers of Andean condors are still declining and the conservation status of this bird is listed as Near Threatened by IUCN in 2012.





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Friday, March 23, 2018

Largest Living Bird: Dalmatian Pelican

An adult Dalmatian pelican swimming. Photo by: Sergey Dereliev


The Dalmatian pelican (Pelecanus crispus) is another larger species of bird that stilllives today. Its weight is the heaviest among other water birds (and the largest swans are closely behind), while their wings closer to the length of great albatrosses. Compared to albatross, Dalmatian pelican is a short to medium distance migrant between its breeding and their overwintering areas.

Pelican can easily identify by its rubbery orange pouch beneath their bill. Anyway, for Dalmatian pelican it has silvery-white plumage during the breeding season. The character that unique for this bird is the thick crest of silver feathers on its nape. The colour of its pouch will change to yellow as the breeding season progresses. While their feathers will appear whiter or grey.

The Dalmatian pelican with its large wings. Photo by: otlibrary.com

A Dalmatian Pelican (Pelecanus crispus). Photo by: Thomas Bresson

Their size can reach up to 160 to 183 cm (5 ft 3 in to 6 ft 0 in) in length, 7.25–15 kg (16.0–33.1 lb) in weight and 245 to 351 cm (8 ft 0 in to 11 ft 6 in) in wingspan. It also looks similar to its closest relative the great white pelican. The size of a male Dalmatian pelican also larger than the female that easily notice.

There are two main populations of Dalmatian pelican. The first population that breeds in Eastern Europe an winters in the eastern Mediterranean, while the second population that breeds in Russia and central Asia and winters in Iran, Iraq and the Indian subcontinent. The Dalmatian pelican is found in lakes, rivers, deltas, and estuaries in any suitable wetlands with many elevations.

It prefers to nest in small group and sometimes may even nest alone. However, they can form small colonies that consist of up to 250 pairs. Nesting sites usually either islands or dense mat of aquatic vegetation. The Dalmatian pelican lays from one to six eggs, with average number of two. The incubation period will take within 30 to 34 days. The chick will ready to be independent at 100 to 105 days old.

The Dalmatian pelican chicks. Photo by: otlibrary.com

The nesting area of Dalmatian pelican. Photo by: Natural History Museum of Montenegro

Since Dalmatian pelican is freshwater bird, it feeds almost entirely on freshwater fish, ranging from common carp (Cyprinus carpio), European perch (Perca fluviatilis), common rudd (Scardinius erythropthalmus), eels, catfish (especially silurids during winter), mullet and northern pike (Esox lucius). The size of fish can be up to 50 cm (20 in). The Dalmatian pelican requires around 1,200 g (2.6 lb) of fish per day. The total diet consists of larger and smaller fishes, even though it always prefers the larger size.

The Dalmatian pelican number is decreasing throughout its range. The reasons of their declining are not entirely understood. They are listed as Near Threatened on the IUCN Red List 2017. Even though there are some improvement through the conservation initiatives, the threat to this species are still too high as it is more sensitive than other pelican species.





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