Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Nature Notes: Tree Fungi

I love tree fungi. They tend to be overlooked because they are (mostly) not edible and not as flashy as, say, the Fly Agaric. But they are beautiful.
I don't have a picture, but Tinder Fungus (Fomes fomentarius) was and is used for making fire. It can also be used to make hats and even cloaks and as a hemostatic.
I don't know what species I have photographed, but I like how different they all are and how colourful.
Edit: I identified at least this one, I think, as Trametes versicolor

Nature Notes is hosted by Michelle at Rambling Woods

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

ABC Wednesday: B is for Binturong

Binturongs (Arctictis binturong) are also called bearcats, but they are neither bears nor cats. They are related to civets and genets, sharing the family of the Viverridae with them. It's unknown what the word Binturong means because the language it's from is no longer spoken.
The pose in the photo is pretty typical for a binturong during the day and they don't move all that much during the night when they are most active.
They can climb very well using their tails and claws and they are able to rotate their hindlegs so that they can hold on even when they climb down a tree head first. Binturongs mainly feed on fruit, but will also take small rodents, birds, eggs and leaves.
Native to South East Asian rainforest, the binturong's habitat is threatened by deforestation. The animal itself is sometimes hunted for food. They live in groups or as single animals and give birth to 1-6 babies twice a year. It is believed that the females can delay pregnancies so that they give birth when the conditions are best for raising the litter.

The Binturong is the last entry in my animal ABC (I started with C is for Chulengo)! I'll try to do a Hamburg ABC next, although I'm not sure if I can find all the letters.

See what else B stands for with ABC Wednesday.

All photos were taken at Burgers' Zoo.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Nature Notes: Walk in the Park

Sundown seen across the lake in the Stadtpark, the biggest public park in Hamburg. The photo was taken a little more than a week ago, the ice is all gone now.
The magnolia is already waiting for spring, ready to unfurl its leaves

Nature Notes is hosted by Michelle at RamblingWoods

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

ABC Wednesday: A is for...

Can you guess the animal? It's not a pig, although if you translate its name, it means earth pig. It has no close relatives, but it is related to elephants, manatis/dugongs and elephant shrews. If you want to know if you have guessed right,take a look behind the break:

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Nature Notes: New Year's Walk

Some impressions I captured on a walk we took on New Year's Day:
male blackbird (Turdus merula)
Nature Notes is hosted by Michelle at Ramblingwoods

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

ABC Wednesday: Z is for Zebu

A Zebu is a species of domesticated cattle descended from the Auerochs. They are mainly kept in South Asia and Indian in particular.
There are many different breeds, the ones shown here are dwarf zebus. Some breeds have been interbred with taurine cattle. Taurine cattle is the cattle that's common in Europe and North America, it's possible that zebus and taurine cattle have been bred from different subspecies of the Auerochs.
Zebus are also called Humped Cattle, although the hump is not as obvious with the dwarf zebus here than with other breeds. They are bred for both milk and beef, but can also be used as draught animals and sometimes, zebus are seen in rodeos.
All photos were take at Hagenbecks Tierpark.
Find out what else Z stands for with ABC Wednesday

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Nature Notes: More Birds

Since so many of you said that you enjoyed seeing photos of European birds, I thought I'd devote a whole post to them. I made most of those with my small Powershot camera, so excuse the lack of clarity in some photos. Above is a Goldfinch (Carduelis carduelis), one of the most colourful birds in Germany. It's German name is Stieglitz (from its Polish name Szczygieł, which imitates the call) or Diestelfink (Thistle Finch).
A White Wagtail (Motacilla alba). In Hamburg, it's called Wippstert, which means Wagtail, and the common German name is Bachstelze.
A Eurasian Nuthatch (Sitta europaea) with its chick. We call them Kleiber, which is the old name for someone who builds wall out of loam, like the Kleiber does to downsize the entrance to his nest. They are the only birds who are able to climb down a tree head first, which makes them easy to recognize.
A male Smew (Mergellus albellus)...what a great name. Zwergsäger, Dwarf Merganser in German.
A male Reiherente (Aythya fuligula) Tufted Duck. The name means Heron Duck, because of the crest of feahters. My favourite duck species. Here's a picture that does their beauty justice.
A Great Spotted woodpecker (Dendrocopos major), called Buntspecht (Colourful Woodpecker). They are much more easy to hear then to spot, but once you have heard the rustling of a woodpecker trying to get at some grub, it's much easier to see it. They are also very vocal and make a loud kix,kix sound when they feel disturbed. The chicks are just about the loudest I have ever heard, they never shut up and when the parents enter the nest, they only get louder. The advantage of growing up in a small tree hole where very few predators can get to you, I guess.
A Great Tit (Parus major), Kohlmeise (Cabbage Tit), one of the most common birds in Germany. The males have a much wider black breast stripe than females or juveniles and the wider the stripe, the more dominant the male.
A Fieldfare (Turdus pilaris), Wacholderdrossel (Juniper Thrush) in German. Not that common in Germany, so far I have only seen them once, but it was a nesting pair.
A Redwing (Turdus iliacus), Rotdrossel (Red Trhush) - they are only guests in Germany on their way to their wintering grounds. This one is feeding on tea crabapples.
A Eurasian Oystercatcher/Austernfischer (Haematopus ostralegus) next to a Greylag goose/Graugans (Anser anser). The Oystercatcher is maybe the easiest wading bird to identify on the shores of the North Sea. Since it's such a common sight on the Halligen, it's sometimes jokingly called a Halligstorch, Hallig Stork.

Nature Notes is hosted by Michelle at Ramblingwoods

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

ABC Wednesday: Y is for Yellowjacket

Yellowjackets is the North American name for a number of wasp species, this one is a Common Wasp. The species is native to Europe and has been introduced to Australia and New Zealand, where it is an invasive species.

They nest in abandoned mice holes or in cavities above the earth and build nests out of wood pulp. If you have a wood stack or even wooden furniture, the chances of seeing wasps chewing off bits to build their nests from it during the spring are pretty good. One nest can house up to 10,000 wasps, one queen and her workers. In late summer, new queens are hatched who will overwinter and start new colonies in the next spring. The rest of the colony dies.
This wasp had caught a fly and was eating it. The adults feed on fruit and nectar, but the larvae are fed almost exclusively insects or even meat. My family has a tradition of leaving the leftovers from a barbecue out for a while so that the wasps can come and take their fill. If you don't slap at them, Common Wasps are not aggressive at all. If you watch one leaving a good food source, you'll notice it flying in circles a few times. They do that to memorize the location of the food so that they can return later.
Sometimes, a wasp isn't a wasp at all. There are many species of hoverflies who imitate wasps (or bees). You can tell the difference by the eyes and hoverflies don't have the waist that wasps or bees have. Also, hoverflies, well, hover - the males do it on clearings and meadows to impress the females (look how bold and strong I am, to fly here right in the open where predators can see me). Try throwing a little pebble a few inches from a hovering fly, it will immediately try to attack the stone because it thinks it's a rival male. The one in the photo above is of the species Helophilus trivittatus.
Syrphus ribesii
Episyrphus balteatus, also called Marmelade hoverfly

What else does Y stand for? Find out with ABC Wednesday