Thursday, June 16, 2011

Nature Notes: Schnakenmoor

The Schnakenmoor is a nature reserve in Hamburg. The name comes from the many mosquitoes and midgets that live there in the summer (Schnake is an old word for mosquito, today it's usually used for crane flies).
It's a fairly big piece of land and there are two trails you can follow to explore it, both about 3 kilometres long. The landscape changes from wood to fen to grasslands to heather.

The cotton grass is in full bloom, as are the floxgloves.
and this flower, which I can't identify for sure, but it was very popular with butterflies, hoverflies and beetles.

We saw some big animals (deer in a game reserve that's part of the Schnakenmoor reserve)

and a lot of small ones like this solder beetle (Cantharis spec.)

a ladybug larva - they eat aphids and hundreds of them every day, even more than the adult beetle

a hoverfly (Syrphus ribesii) - the eyes are the key to telling the hoverflies and the bees or wasps they imitate apart. Also, neither bees nor wasps can hover.

a red apion weevil (Apion frumentarium), often found on dock plants (sorrel)

Nature Notes is hosted by Michelle at Rambling Woods

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Camera Critters: Pelicans

A group of Australian pelicans (Pelecanus conspicillatus), a medium-sized pelican - but it has the largest bill of all birds, the longest being almost 20 inches long. They are known to feed on almost anything that will fit into that beak: fish, insects, water fowl and I wouldn't stray too close if you own a small dog.
In German, they are called Brillenpelikan, spectacled pelican and you can see why.
A Peruvian Pelican (Pelecanus thagus), with 500.000 adult individuals left in the wild - the El Nino of 1998 caused a huge part of the population to perish. The species is recovering from this, but it is still listed as Near Threatened on the IUCN Red List and a similar event may have a disastrous effect.
They nest on the ground and will scoop up sand in the beak to make a nest. If the pelican are disturbed by humans while nesting, they may well abandon the nest, which makes it important to protect breeding sites from tourists and other people who would trouble the birds, either on purpose or by accident.

Photos were taken at Vogelpark Walsrode.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Nature Notes: Nightjar

European Nightjars are rare birds in Germany, but there is one area where they live and breed near Hamburg. So Mr Ook and I went there on the weekend to see if we could spot them. We did a guided tour last year, along with 50 other people, and while that was a lot of fun, we thought we'd try on our own this year. A woman we met told us that the guided tour on the day before had 90 participants! I love it that so many people come to heard one bird.
We arrived at dusk and had plenty of time to enjoy the glorious sundown.
Even at ten in the evening, it was still fairly light.
A very new moon was already up.
And finally, the nightjars started calling. We heard at least three different birds and managed to get fairly close to one of them, who even flew right over our heads. Here's a video of the call, it really is one of the strangest things I have ever heard (you may need to turn up the volume):

We left at around 11pm, with the nightjars still calling from all over the valley and the sky slowly fading to a deep blue.

Nature Notes is hosted by Michelle at Rambling Woods

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Camers Critters: Leafy Sea Dragon

Leafy Sea Dragon
The Leafy Sea Dragon (Phycodurus eques) is related to sea horses and pipefish. It lives on the coast of Western Australia, hiding in sea weed where its tattered appearance is very effective camouflage.
Leafy Sea Dragon
It feeds on shrimp, small fish and plankton, but it doesn't have any teeth. It sucks its food down its snout instead.
Leafy Sea Dragon
Unlike sea horses, it cannot hold on to plants with its tail. AnLeafy Sea Dragons swims with the help of two small fins on its back and tail. It relies on the camouflage for protection.

Photos were taken at Sea Life Berlin.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Nature Notes: Lapwing

On Sunday, Mr Ook and me went on a walk and we saw a bird I had not seen in the wild before: a Peewit or Lapwing (Vanellus vanellus), there were at least two pairs looking for food on a piece of fallow land, with chicks hidden away in the high grass.
I went back on Tuesday, brought my camera and managed to get some photos despite the very rainy weather. Look at the metallic sheen on the wings, I had no idea lapwings had that, I always thought that they had plain black wings. I was also surprised by how big they are, bigger than the jackdaws that were also around.

Nature Notes is hostes by Michelle at Rambling Woods