A little mid-winter tropical color

Who doesn’t need a shot of color during the mid-winter blah outdoor landscape of white, brown, and gray? After a monotonous week of fog and gray weather, it was time for a visit to the indoor tropical room of Como Conservatory in St. Paul, MN. Each time I go I find a few new species that have taken up residence there.

The Tropics Room with its mammoth-sized palms, deciduous trees, and pools houses a few exotic bird species, some huge and colorful tropical fish, turtles and tortoises, a monstrous python, a leaf cutter ant colony, poison dart frogs, and a two-toed sloth named Chloe.
What a surprise to find a Sun Bittern grooming itself on a stump overlooking the turtle pond– a spectacularly-feathered bird we saw along one of the rivers of the Pantanal that we cruised in Brazil in 2019. Though it looks plain when its wings are folded, Click here to see the amazing colors of this bird.
Blue-Gray Tanagers are common in the Tropics, and are probably the top of the pecking order among the birds in the Tropics Room. They are primarily fruit eaters, and love to hang out around fruit plantations in northern South America.
Saffron Finches are actually Tanagers, not finches, and are common in South American lowlands outside of the Amazon basin. These birds are cavity nesters, and I think we saw a pair carving out nest hole into the roof thatch on one of the little buildings. They seem to do quite well here in captivity.
The Violaceous Euphonia is a striking little bird about the size of a chickadee and is a true finch. But…its diet is primarily tiny fruits, instead of seeds, like other finches. It is native to forests and second growth (including plantations) in parts of eastern South America. (photo by Debbie Reynolds)
Honeycreepers get their name from their habit of sipping nectar as a primary food source, but the Green Honeycreeper here is more fond of fruit and seeds than nectar. It is also in the Tanager family and is native to Central and northern South America.
One of the permanent residents of this forest is Chloe, a Hoffman’s two-toed sloth. Of all the times I have visited the Tropics Room, I have only ever seen her awake once, when her keeper brought her some delectable vegetation to munch on. She is more than 30 years old, and prefers to be solitary on her tree stump — she apparently bit the male suitor they introduced to the tropics room, and he had to be removed for his own safety!
A rare glimpse of a smiling sloth…
Several rather large tortoises live on the ground floor of the Tropics Room at Como Conservatory. Apparently, they really like carrots, even if they don’t seem to have the right equipment to break them up into smaller pieces.

Why do we love birds?

A rhetorical question to ask on this — National Bird Day. They are colorful, sing some pretty (if repetitive) songs, perform amazing aerial tricks, are delicate, fierce, strong, bold, and relatively easy to find and see. Plus there is an amazing diversity of them. They are all around us and we take them for granted, but the world would be a sad place without them. This day was created to raise awareness of the difficulties many avian species face because of loss of habitat, climate changes that put them out of sync with their food supply, lethal chemical added to their environment, etc. The list of perturbations to their normal existence is long and is taking its toll on their numbers. So to honor the Birds, I showcase some of them taken from this year’s photos (some of which were sadly lost in the masses of photos that I took!).

Great Gray Owl, northern Minnesota
Great Egret flying over a pond at Hilton Head, SC.
The elusive and much sought-after male Elegant Trogon, Portal AZ
European Raven from Extremadura region, Spain
Roadrunner attacking a lizard, Green Valley AZ
Speckled Tanager, Costa Rica
Rufous (or Allen’s) Hummingbird, Batiquitos Lagoon, CA
Black Kite, Extremadura region, Spain
Hooded Oriole, Green Valley AZ
Female, Black-cheeked Woodpecker, first bird seen in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico
Brown Boobies, seen somewhere along the Pacific coast of Central America
Snowy Egrets in Huatulco, Mexico
Serin finch, Extremadura region, Spain
Red Kites, Extremadura region, Spain
the rare Iberian Magpie, Doñana National Park, Spain. One of the birds most threatened by climate change.
Black-necked Stilt, Alameda Island, CA
Breeding plumes of the male Great Egret, Hilton Head, SC
Scarlet-rumped Toucanet, Cartagena, Colombia
Griffon Vulture, Extremadura region, Spain

Remembering the year that was…

This year was an amazing time of one adventure after another…as we made up for the Covid isolation period and two years of postponed trips. So many beautiful places, beautiful animals, beautiful landscapes, and amazing people that we met. Here’s a snapshot of the year in review.

(Note: if you’re interested in seeing more and perhaps better photos of any of the activities mentioned below, go to the main page of the blog: https://bybio.wordpress.com and there should be a pull-down menu for the Archives with months and years of the blog listed near the top right of the main page. Just click on the month of interest, and scroll down through the days to see more of what I have summarized here. IPhone and iPad users may have to scroll to the bottom of the main page to see the dialog boxes with the months listed.)

The highlight of a trip to northern Minnesota to photograph the winter avian residents there was watching a very cooperative Great Gray Owl get four mice (from under the snow) in just four attempts — 100% success!
We took the long-awaited, much postponed cruise down the west coast of Mexico and Central America through the Panama Canal, ending up in Florida. Birding from the ship turned out to be a big plus.
Photography buddy Debby invited us to stay at Hilton Head, SC for a week to marvel at the huge numbers of shorebirds and others that overwinter in this milder mid-Atlantic climate.
As a prelude to our birding adventure in Spain in April-May, we took ourselves sight-seeing in Portugal, with a few days birding and exploring Lisbon, a train ride to Porto, and a few days there before ending the prelude in Madrid (a much more beautiful city than I remembered).
Birding extravaganza in the plains, forests, shore, swamps, and even in old cities in the Extremadura region and Donana national park in southern Spain with Ruth Miller and Alan Davies — birders extraordinaire
The annual family hike in our favorite haunts of the Desolation Wilderness of the Sierra Nevada mountains of California took place early this year (to avoid a repeat of the disastrous smoke and fire threat we faced last year on the hike in August). We were rewarded with 100% warm, sunny days and no bugs!
Some of the family rode an airplane home from the Sierra hike, but two grandsons were kind enough to keep their grandparents company on a road trip from California through Nevada, Wyoming, Utah, Colorado, Nebraska, and South Dakota on the way back to Minnesota. Sights were seen and adventures were had along the way.
Although tamer than the previous months of travel, the backyard did not disappoint in bringing wildlife and beautiful scenes for photography. I realize in writing this now that I forgot to include the visit from the kit fox and its mama in August.
We always make at least one trip out to the central Minnesota prairie during the summer, and this year we found ground squirrels and monarch butterflies at Fort Riley state park. The tom turkeys visited the front and the back yards often, but without their girl friends.
A trip to eastern Europe (the Balkan countries) was a premier highlight of the year. It was definitely a learning and discovery adventure since we knew nothing about this part of the world. Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Montenegro, and Slovenia — all beautiful, all very interesting though with tragic stories from inhabitants, and all easy to travel around with lots of friendly folks that spoke English.
As always, the fall color spectacle in the Twin Cities did not disappoint. The colors remained vivid for a long time, even into November before the trees finally gave up with the snowfall that began late this year on Nov. 12.
The forest outside became a fairy land of white-encrusted branches after the first major dump of very wet snow in December. Inside the tree was decorated with lights, mementos, and presents. Happy holidays!!

Parrots, Toucans and more

What a pleasant surprise to find an aviary full of colorful, tropical birds just a half-mile walk from the ship in Cartagena in a pleasant oasis under some leafy trees.

At least three species of Macaws greeted us in this tourist oasis: Scarlet (far lower left), Blue and Yellow (center), and Green-winged (center and right).
The Scarlet Macaw is named for its bright red breast, but it bears the colors of the Colombian flag on its back: yellow, blue, and red — although not in exactly the same order as on the flag. They can be found in parts of Mexico, Central America, and central South America in humid evergreen forests and are still relatively common, despite habitat loss and the taking of young birds for the pet trade.
The Green-winged (or Red and Green) Macaw might be mistaken as a Scarlet Macaw viewed from the front, but the wing covert feathers are green instead of yellow. In addition, the Green-winged Macaw is much larger than the Scarlet, second in size after the Hyacinth Macaw. They inhabit the interior Amazon lowland forest throughout South America, and like other parrot species their populations are in decline because of loss of habitat and captures for the pet trade.
The Blue and Yellow (or Blue and Gold) Macaw was once a common parrot of the lowland Amazonian forest throughout South America, but like other parrots has been extirpated from some of its range. Fortunately, their mild disposition made them popular as pets, and so offspring of captive birds can be used to reintroduction to them to their former native habitats.

Toucans are spectacular birds, primarily because of the huge bill and brightly colored feathers. The extremely light-weight bill makes up 30-50% of the total surface area of the bird, so it plays a significant role in the thermoregulation of the bird — able to dissipate the bird’s body heat in the hot, humid tropical weather.

A pair of Keel-billed (or Rainbow-billed) Toucans were stripping twigs from the bushes — perhaps to build a nest? They are very social birds, usually seen in flocks, and easily recognized by the very large, multi-colored bill. This species ranges from southern Mexico to Venezuela and Colombia and is the national bird of Belize.
Their bill is surprisingly dextrous, and they are able to snip off small fruits, or dissect larger fruits with the tip of the bill, the throw it up in the air with a toss of their head, and catch the tidbit on the way down.
Also moving about in the vegetation in the aviary was a pair of either Channel-billed or White-throated Toucans. These two species look identical and are somewhat variable in color throughout their range and can only be told apart by vocalization. Both species are found throughout central Amazonian South America, ranging as far south as southern Brazil, so they don’t overlap much with the Keel-billed Toucans.
The well-named Crimson-rumped Toucanet is about half the length of the two Toucan species above, but still has the over-sized bill of its cousins. It has a very narrow range today, where it’s found in humid forests of the Andes in Colombia, Peru, and Venezuela. Like the Toucans, these birds eat a variety of fruits, some insects and other vertebrates, as well as an occasional egg or two. And like the Toucans, they are hole-nesters, re-using old woodpecker nests.
Black-chested Jays in the aviary were aggressive birds — either naturally, or because they are used to being fed by care-takers. They immediately hopped on us, pecked at our clothing, or drilled the top of our hats. They are very distinctive-looking with their black heads, yellow eyes, and light blue eyebrows. The species has a very restricted range in northern most Colombia, Venezuela, parts of Panama and Costa Rica where it frequents the dry or moist lowland tropical scrub forests.

When we sat down to check our email at the tourist oasis, a pair of Colombian Red Howler Monkeys came down from a roof top to check us out. Their agility in moving through vegetation (or buildings) is enhanced by a long, prehensile tail.

Red Howlers are rather large for monkeys — about two feet long excluding the very long tail. They have abnormally large lower jaws and enlarged mastication muscles that allow them to crunch up enormous quantities of leaves, along with fruits, nuts, and some insects for a well-balanced diet.
Opposable first digits on each limb plus the long prehensile tail enable the howlers to hang and grip uneven surfaces in their search for the most tender leaves.
These monkeys have an unusual cranial anatomy, with enlarged, forward-jutting lower jaw and an enlarged throat (supported by hyoid bones) that forms a large vocal chamber used to “howl”. Loud vocalizations in the morning rouse the troop and allow individuals to find each other, but howling is also used by males to establish the boundaries of their territories and keep their female harem alerted to their presence.

The video below showcases the howling behavior in a territorial male. Look at the quick respiratory movements (especially at the beginning of the video) in his rib cage, as he forces air through the vocal sacs in his throat. (If you are viewing this post in email, you won’t be able to see the video unless you click on the title of the post highlighted in blue).

Imagine hearing a whole troop of these monkeys howling at dawn — it’s LOUD!

Colorful Cartagena

The last stop before sailing back to the U.S. — Cartagena, Colombia, a new country to add to my list. Cartagena, the destination of Kathleen Turner’s character in the movie “Romancing the Stone”! As a former Spanish colony dating from the 1500s, its coastal location on the Caribbean Sea made it attractive for traders from Europe en route to the West Indies. But people had been living in the area since about 4000 BC.

A gleaming white city skyline appeared suddenly on the horizon as we entered the port. The stark white contrast against the blue ocean and sky was really striking.
Cartagena remained under Spanish control for almost 300 years until gaining autonomy in 1821. The long colonial influence left beautiful buildings, central plazas, a long stone fortification along the coast, and narrow cobblestone streets in the Old City. A 20th century building surge produced the line of white skyscrapers that greet sea travelers.
You walk through the stone arch to gain entrance to the old, walled city of Cartagena. Even though is was a hot, sticky afternoon, we decided to take a walking tour of the Old City.
Fruit and juice stands line the narrow streets. Shops are down below and living spaces above with balconies to look down on the street activities.
Shopping seems to be a major pasttime on a weekend afternoon in the Old City. The ladies wear bright colored dresses, which might have been traditional in colonial times. The lady in the center of the photo wears the colors of the Colombian flag — yellow, blue, and red.
There is every kind of tourist shopping need along the sidewalk, which makes it easier to walk on the cobblestone pavement (sort of).
A street musician entertained people sitting on benches in the central Plaza.
I’m not sure how much business the lady on the left was doing — she looked as hot and uncomfortable as I was.
I think she wanted her photo taken (for money of course).
A “stone” wall of coral 10 feet high encircles the old city, with a levee on top that give you a view of the coastline and the interior city.
Old cannon placements facing north and west were preserved for tourist photos like this one.
Shady parks provide some relief from the intense solar radiation at this latitude (10 degrees N). The “new city” is just across this small bay.
Looking down from the “stone” wall into the old city at the narrow streets, colorful houses, and row of balconies off living areas.
One of the parks featured a canted concrete track with lanes for roller skating. Maybe they have competitive races here — these gals looked like they were pretty good at it.
The park also featured a beautiful fountain — which looked so inviting to get into. Did I mention that it was HOT in this city!

And the bird life in this city….nada. Pigeons rule here, nothing else. See the next post for some exotic animal life near the port.

In the “backyard” of the Panama Canal

After 10 days of ship travel, at last we reached the entrance to the Panama Canal and our passage to the Atlantic Ocean and Caribbean. It took almost 12 hours to transit the 50 miles of the canal, through three sets of locks on the Pacific side, into huge Lake Gatun, and then through three sets of locks on the Atlantic side.

We began our journey through the Canal at 6 a.m., just as the sun was coming up.
A couple of female Frigate birds flew over to check us out. These are soaring specialists that cruise the oceans looking for fish and squid, and often steal a meal from other birds (like Boobies). They may follow large ships (i.e., frigates) which often scare up fish in their wake.
The Bridge of the Americas (which goes into Panama City) looms over the entry to the Canal. This is the main entry to both the new Panamax (super large ship canal) and the two older, original canals.

I was particularly interested in getting a look at the islands in Lake Gatun, which was formed by damming the Chagras River at a narrow point near its mouth on the Atlantic side (see map below near Gatun locks) back in 1913. When dammed, the river then flooded a once wide valley forming a large lake with just the mountain tops projecting up forming a series of small and large islands in the lake.

One of the largest islands, Barro Colorado (circled in black on the map), was set aside as a nature reserve in 1923 and has been administered by the Smithsonian since then. With almost 100 years of climate and biological data, it is one of the most studied tropical forest systems in the world.
Small lakes on the sides of the main part of the canal serve as reservoirs for circulating water through the locks.
Drainage systems collect rainwater from the surrounding hills to channel it into the main waterway. Vegetation along the banks of the canal is sparse to allow water runoff, while the hills behind are more mature rainforest.
Larger islands in Lake Gatun have undisturbed tropical rainforest with an amazing biodiversity of plants and animals. The first census in 1982 recorded over 300 tree species in a 100 acre plot on Barro Colorado Island!

This area of Panama receives about 100 inches (i.e., 8 feet!) of rain annually, but almost all comes during the rainy season. During the dry season between December and April, less than 3 inches of rain falls and many of the island streams dry up. The soil becomes so dry, large cracks develop in it. Flowers and insects disappear, trees stop producing fruit, and animals on the island become food limited.

As a result of changes in the forest structure with limited island land surface and the size of the islands themselves, species diversity of animals, and especially birds, is markedly lower than that of intact rainforest on the hillsides of the canal — as you would expect. Researchers have found smaller numbers of under-story bird and mammal species, and there are no large mammalian carnivores to control the herbivore populations. But food is a limiting factor here.

Islands (really hilltops) in Lake Gatun dot the lake surface. It spans 164 square miles in all, and makes up about 20 miles of the length of the waterway from the Pacific to the Atlantic.
Black Vultures soared over the hilltops of some of the islands in the far distance.
Plants growing on top of plants all the way down to the water’s edge — that’s tropical diversity! Imagine trying to hack your way through this forest from one end of an island to the other…

National Geographic produced an interesting video featuring some of the work that has been done on Barro Colorado Island in 2007: Panama Wild — Rainforest of Life. If you like nature videos and want to know more about this area of the world — click on the video below.

Dazzling Tanagers of Costa Rica

Fruit-loving Tanagers, the second largest bird family with almost 400 species, live in the neotropics of the Americas, especially the tropical forests of Costa Rica. On the day we visited our Costa Rican port city, we bussed for a couple of hours from the port to an eco-adventure park featuring canopy walks, trails, waterfalls, zip lines, etc. and were treated to a dazzling display of bird life at the papaya fruit station. The brilliant plumage of these birds is a delight to color-starved North Americans still suffering through “the winter blues”.

Here is the aptly named Bay-headed Tanager
The well-named Speckled Tanager

Most Tanagers are omnivorous and may eat fruit, seeds, flower parts, nectar, or act like flycatchers hawking insects. Often the bill is specialized for a particular food resource, but in the Costa Rican cloud forest, all of these birds eagerly devoured the papaya.

Also appropriately named Silver-throated Tanager
A Common Bush Tanager—no fancy moniker for this one
Blue-Gray Tanagers seem to be mostly shades of blue.
This one used to be called Scarlet-rumped Tanager, but the Pacific coastal birds don’t breed with the Caribbean slope birds, so they are now two separate species, and this boy’s name is Cherrie’s Tanager.
And last, not to be out-classed by all the Tanagers, this is a Green Honeycreeper that used to be classified with the Tanagers, but now has its own family.

Bird classification underwent a huge revision with the advent of molecular analysis of bird DNA in the 1990s. As a consequence there are North American birds with Tanager in their name, like the Scarlet Tanager and Western Tanager, which are now placed in the Cardinal family rather than with the other neotropical Tanagers.

Birds of the dry forest in Huatulco, Mexico

Way down on southern Mexico’s Pacific coast is a beautiful little port city of Huatulco (population about 50,000) with huge patches of dry forest on undeveloped hillsides where tropical resident birds and North American migrants congregate in the winter. I would definitely spend more time here too, but our hours off the ship were very limited on this trip (4.5 hours). Just enough time to find our bird guide, Cornelio Ramos Gabriel, and take a quick trip into the dry forest to his own acreage where he is growing plants to reforest a burned area and has a watering hole that attracts the local birds.

The White-throated Magpie-Jay forms a superspecies* with its very closely related congener, the Black-throated Jay, with whom it hybridizes in this part of coastal Mexico. These birds are found in coastal dry to humid forests along the Mexican and Central American coast, and are highly visible and very noisy — as Jays often are. (*Superspecies are two very closely related species that have only recently diverged from one another, but will still interbreed in areas where their ranges overlap. Birds like Western and Eastern Meadowlarks, Carolina and Black-capped Chickadees, and Plain and Tufted Titmouse are examples of superspecies.)
I wouldn’t have imagined we could see so many birds in this dry forest, but with the keen eyes and ears of our guide Cornelio, we got some good looks at several of the striking avian inhabitants of this area.
Pale-billed Woodpeckers are the size of our Pileated and very flashy, with their all red heads, yellow eyes, and striped breast and legs. A pair of them flew between trees right above us, probing for insects in the dead branches.
Boat-billed Flycatchers have (as their name implies) very large bills. This one caught a wasp, and squeezed extra hard on that poison-filled abdomen before swallowing.
Spot-breasted Orioles have a distinctive yellow shoulder stripe and spots next to their black throat feathers. Unusual for Orioles, the females are the same color as the males (instead of duller colored) and will also sing, although their song is not as rich as that of the males.
Cinnamon Hummingbirds are also found in the dry coastal forests of Mexico and Central America where they apparently can thrive on nectar and insects they find among the scattered blossoms of various trees and shrubs, even in the dry season.
Citreoline Trogons are endemic to the coastal forests of western Mexico (i.e., found no where else in the world). This bird was a tease — it would sit out in the middle of the trail 100 yards away, inviting us to photograph it from too far away, and then quickly disappearing into the shrubbery when we got closer. These birds are usually found in semi-arid scrub, thorny forests and brushlands, and occasionally in plantations, where they hunt for fruit and insects. They excavate nest sites in arboreal termite nests, which eventually create cavities for other hole-nesting birds.
This little Pacific Screech Owl was resting in its roost/nest hole, which Cornelio told us had been used for several years to bring off many broods of Screech Owl offspring. This race of Western (or Eastern) Screech Owl is found only in the Pacific coastal forests of Mexico and Central America, and its call differs from other Screech Owls.
Cornelio’s conservation management area features candelabra cactus, among many other dry forest plants. This site is the endpoint of his Candelabra trail and has running water, picnic table, shower, and restroom, as well as birdbath (center back of the photo) which brings in some interesting small birds.
Orange-breasted Buntings showed up at the birdbath within about 5 minutes of filing it. In the dry forest, this is a resource birds readily come to.
This male Blue Bunting was such a dark iridescent indigo color, it almost looked black until the sun hit those blue feathers. Interestingly, it is not closely related to Indigo Buntings although they are in the same (Cardinal) family. It inhabits dense, shrubby vegetation in both Pacific and Caribbean coastal forests.
Huatulco harbor with its assortment of hotels and condos — far less in number than in Puerto Vallarta. A lovely location for spending quality time in the tropics.

Scenes from Puerto Vallarta (part 2)

Since we couldn’t get into the estuary for a boat tour, we got on the hop-on-hop-off bus to see the sights of Puerto Vallarta. This is a city designed for tourists, with lots of high-rise condos and hotels overlooking premium beachfront. The Malecon (beach boardwalk) is just one of many sites in this city displaying beautiful artwork. This is the “welcome to Puerto Vallarta” sign along the Malecon beachfront.

Block letters spelling out Puerto Vallarta are decorated with cartoons of children (see below).
A typical scene in Puerto Vallarta — narrow streets, lots of traffic, moving very slowly.
There is beautiful artwork on many of the buildings of Puerto Vallarta. This is the Michael Tolleson Robles gallery. Senor Tolleson Robles is an autistic savant, self-taught artist, who started painting less than a decade ago and has already completed 1500 gallery-worthy artworks, many of which he has painted in less than two hours.
Another typical feature often found in Central American cities is the nexus of electrical wiring that feeds the neighborhoods. How they ever find where the power outage is in any part of this network is amazing.

It takes a while to get out of the city proper on a big bus, but eventually we made it out to the coast road, where there were still more condos and hilltop resorts overlooking beautiful beaches. This particular one featured a flock of Brown Pelicans doing a lot of diving for fish in the shallows. Actually “pelican plopping” would be a more accurate description of their “dives” for the fish.

I don’t know its name, so I called this one “Pelican fishing beach”
Lift off after a successful dive.
Another resort beach at the end of our long coastal bus ride. This one features a fancy restaurant and is a popular stop-over for the hop-on-hop-off bus tourists to visit. Unfortunately, we didn’t have time for that.
Back on the ship, we left the port in early afternoon and got a good view of the harbor and its many tourists hotels and condos.
Someone spotted a few Humpback whales paralleling the course of our ship. One of the whales breached just enough for me to grab a photo — and this is all we saw of the pod.
Just before dinner I grabbed this photo of sunset at sea on the way to our next port in Huatulco, Mexico.

Scenes from Puerto Vallarta (part 1)

Once again we tried to visit the estuary located just a mile from where our ship was docked, but weren’t sure they were even open for business if the pandemic had severely impacted tourism at this port. But we did see a few interesting critters while waiting to see if the gates at Estero El Salado would open.

A tributary of the estuary crosses the main road from the port, and we could see Yellow-crowned Night Herons and Iguanas lined up on the branches of the mangroves there.
Yellow-crowned Night Herons seem especially sleepy in the morning hours, dozing in the warm sun on mangrove branches.
A Green Iguana was also warming up in the morning sun. These 3-foot long lizards were once very common along river systems in this area, and were frequently found in the mangroves. But many were taken for eating and for the pet trade, and their numbers are drastically lower now.
A female Black-cheeked Woodpecker was hunting in some tropical vines hanging from a sycamore looking tree along the road. The male has an all-red crown with yellow just above the bill.
Apparently the woodpecker had been drilling out the contents of a seed pod.
Streak-backed Orioles are common here.
Another common bird of the tropics — a Tropical Kingbird.

By 10 am. the estuary gates still hadn’t opened so we abandoned those plans and walked on up the street to find some other entertainment. See the next post for what we found instead.