Saturday, November 29, 2008

Camera Critters: Hissing Roach

Last week I got to watch one of my hissing roaches (Gromphadorhina portentosa) molt.
Here it's looking almost normal, but I noticed that it was wriggling and preparing to come out of its skin
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the head is already out of the old exoskeleton
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now it's pulling the feelers out of their old skin and it's wriggling further out of its exoskeleton, which ruptured on the back
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the roach then lost its hold on the glass and fell and I took it out of the terrarium to watch the rest of the molt
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almost done
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the roach and the shed exo (sorry dark picture, click it to see a bigger version). The molted roach is almost a third bigger now. It's an adult male now and won't grow any further. Only the males have those "horns" on their head and use them to fight with each other for territory, a bit like bighorn sheep, butting their heads. Some males will also push other males from behind until they have thrown their rival from his perch.
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After a few hours, the roach will look much darker, the exoskeleton is only white while it's still soft. Here's a roach about one hour after the molt
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and here's one that is completely hardened - Gil, my first hissing roach.
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Want to see more animals? Then go and check the Camera Critters meme

Thursday, November 27, 2008

SkyWatch Friday

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Hagenbecks Tierpark on Tuesday. The zoo has a a lot of Asian-themed architecture, the pagoda is part of that. You can read more about it here
More skies around the world over at Skywatch Friday

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Baby elephant and some other zoo photos

Count the elephants. How many do you see?
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Four? Look again
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The calf, a yet unnamed male, was born on Saturday, I took the pictures yesterday. His mother is Yashoda, a 29 year old female, my favourite in the herd.

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The baby goes exploring a bit, but the family is always watching and won't leave him alone for long
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Surrounding the baby in this picture are from right to left Kandy, Yashoda's daughter from 2003, Yashoda herself and Shila, who was born 2007. Kandy and shila are delighted by the baby, they keep running after it, touching it with their trunks and getting to know the newest member of the family.
Yashoda stayed with the herd during the birth, something that Hagenbeck did for the first time worldwide a few years ago when Kandy was born. It's much less stressful for the mother and the other elephants when the mother is not kept alone for the birth. It was often thought that elephants will attack their babies after birth, but they actually kick it (gently) to get it to stand up. That looks brutal of course, but it's normal.

the bear enclosure
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kangaroos in the snow, not something you see every day :)
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the Orang Utan enclosure
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the dome from inside
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I took these pictures in the summer, the dome can be opened when the weather is warm and the Orangs can enjoy the sunshine
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the inside
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Sly, one of the younger females
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Tuan, the 10 year old male. He's slowly becoming an adult male, in a few years he will have the shag carpet-style fur and the big jowls.
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Photos published with kind permission of Hagenbecks Tierpark.

Monday, November 24, 2008

MyWorld Tuesday

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This is the main branch of the public library in Hamburg. There are 32 smaller public libraries all over Hamburg, although some may be closed in the future due to lack of money. In the last few years, a number have already been closed down. Even if I weren't a librarian myself (don't work for the public libraries, though), that would still make me angry because there does seem to be a lot of money for other (in my opinion far less useful) projects. Libraries are not only important because people can get books to read and educate themselves there, they are also places where people meet and especially the smaller libraries that are being closed down now are often the only place in the neighborhood where kids can meet, hang out, do their homework ect. I have worked in libraries where the same people came every day to read the newspaper, to meet friends, play chess - just to spend their time. Closing libraries leaves these people, adult and kids, with almost nowhere to go, especially in poorer districts.

Thanks for listening to my rant ;) A bit more about the main library: they have over 300,000 books, CDs, DVDs, sheet music ect. and offer services such as computers for doing research online or in databases as well as a hotspot for working online on your own laptop. Of course the librarians will do research for you if you cannot find something or don't have the time to do it yourself - for me, that is the most interesting part of being a librarian. People come to us with interesting and sometimes downright weird questions, in subjects that we don't know anything about, but a good librarian will (almost) always manage to find something. A wide general knowledge is among the best tools for the job.

Here's a shot from inside, showing the section with books about law, economy and hobbies/cooking (I know, weird combination, but they are rebuilding at the moment)
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Part of the reason for the rebuilding is an automated system for returning books. Here's a glimpse:
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and here's what it will look like once it's finished:
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I'm a bit on the fence with this. One the one hand I can't wait to see how it will work and it will certainly pick up a big part of the workload of the library technicians, but on the other hand I can see that it may result in the loss of jobs. We'll see.

Now go and see other people's world over at MyWorld Tuesday

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Today's Flowers #16

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Chestnut flowers. Each flower has a sort of bee traffic light: when the flower is fresh and full of pollen and nectar, it has a yellow spot. It then turns slowly to orange and finally to red, when the flower is used up. Bees recognize it and don't waste time with visiting flowers with red spots.

Now go and see more beautiful flowers at Today's Flowers

Friday, November 21, 2008

Camera Critters #33

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One of four brown bears, a supspecies from the Kamchatka Peninsula in Russia (Ursus arctos beringianus) at Hagenbecks Tierpark (the Hamburg zoo). They are about half-grown now and still very playful, fighting with each other to test their strength
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here's the bear in the first picture this year in April- amazing how fast they grow.
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This is a Camera Critters post, go there to see more animals!

Photos published with kind permission of Hagenbecks Tierpark!

Snow

When I got up this morning, it snowed in huge flakes, but it was still too dark for a decent picture. Here's the view from my balcony:
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It's been a while since we had snow this early in the year. I'm glad that I don't drive, people in Hamburg go into hysterics at the first snowflake usually and instantly forget how to drive. I'm hoping for a frozen Alster later this winter!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Notinsel

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Notinsel means something like life raft and it's a project for children who are threatened by adults or other children in the street. Shops, libraries, banks ect. participate in it and have such a Notinsel-sticker on their doors so that they can be easily recognized. Children can ask for help there and can for example call their parents of the police if necessary. There are Notinseln all over Germany, the one in the picture is one of the public libraries in Hamburg. I think this is a really good idea!
Notinsel Homepage

Monday, November 17, 2008

MyWorld Tuesday #5

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Hamburg has a really excellent public transport system: 3 subway lines, 5 local train lines, lost of bus lines and ferries. I don't drive (can, but don't like it) and so I have to rely on it to get around. I love subways and easily found my way around the various lines from day one.

Here's the view from the front of a subway, the U3 goes aboveground for most of the time and is the best line to take if you want to see something of Hamburg, you have a great view of the port from it for example.
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two U3s at the Barmbeker Bahnhof, the train in the front is an older model.

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The S1, one of the local trains, coming into the station

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the U3 coming into the station Moenckebergstraße, near the city hall

all the train lines
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Now go and explore more of the world at MyWorld Tuesday

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Today's Flowers #15

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A snapdragon (Antirrhinum), called Loewenmaeulchen, Lion's Mouth in German. I used to play with them all the time as a child, making them "talk" and even feeding them (the flower opens like a mouth when you squeeze the sides in the right spot).
Go and see more flowers

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Camera Critters #32

We just rescued some Duprasi gerbils (Pachyuromys duprasi) aka Fat-Tailed gerbils. I really don't understand why people know nothing about the pets they keep. Duprasis must be kept on chinchilla sand or at least offered a big sandbath for their fur. They eat up to 50% animal protein in the form of insects and they are not very social, pairs (of the same sex) are usually fine, but bigger groups fit. The people we got them from had four males in one group and a female (probably pregnant) with three babies from two different litters and a very sick male in the second group. They were kept on wood shaving, with totally unsuitable food, one house per group as the whole furniture and no sandbath in sight.
The owner gave us the males, but may want to keep the females and the other male. We're trying to get all of them out because otherwise they will be dead in a few weeks, just from the wrong care (if care is the right word at all).
Here they are, after having a (the first?) sandbath:
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More Camera Critters here

Edit: Their owners were just here and we gave them some sand, proper food and roaches as well as information about how to build a good cage, get a proper wheel, sand ect. The females and the male will stay with them (separated of course, the male has a male juvenile for company), but I hope that the conditions they live in will get much better now.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Cow Mice

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I'm a foster home for a rodent rescue organisation, the Mousehole, and a while I ago I picked up 23 mice from someone who had wanted to breed them for his two corn snakes. But the snakes eat only one baby mouse a week or so and one litter can have as many as 10 babies who grow rapidly. So the guy realized that he would be drowning in mice soon and gave them all to me. Breeding mice for snakes requires a lot more work and room than most people think, if it's done properly.

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There were 10 females and 13 males. The males get neutered because unneutered male mice cannot live together, they fight to the death. Luckily, my vet is very competent and has neutered hundreds of mice for our organisation, loosing only very few (five or so). All the mice have found homes now, so I will have room again for new rescues by the beginning of the new year. Until then, most of the males wil stay with me because they can't be introduced to females until four to six weeks after they have been neutered.

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If you want to breed your own feeder mice, make sure that you are better prepared. You will find information on how to start your mousery on the Mousehole's website,

Skywatch Friday #18

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More skies around the world

Edit: yes, that's a mushroom, about the size of a saucer. A couple of those pop up in my frontyard every year.

Monday, November 10, 2008

MyWorld Tuesday#3

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These are Stolpersteine (stumbling stones), memorials for people who were deported and killed in Nazi Germany. They are installed in front of the houses or sometimes places of work of the people and carry the name and the date and place of birth and death of the person. In some streets in Hamburg, there is one or several in front of almost every house, especially in the Grindelviertel and Eppendorf, where many Jews lived.

On the 9th of November 70 years ago, 92 Jews were murdered and thousands were deported in the biggest progrom since the Middle Ages in Germany, the Kristallnacht. Synagogues were burned down, one was standing next to the building I studied in and I have walked across the square where it used to be many times. The outline if the synagogue is made visible by differently coloured stones in the pavement as a memorial.

The Stolpersteine you see in the photo are for orphans that lived in a Jewish children's home until 1942. They were then deported to Auschwitz.

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This is a MyWorld Tuesday post, go and see what other people's worlds look like!