Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Nature Notes: Wasteland

There's a wasteland a few minutes walk from my home, the spoil heaps of a construction site left alone for a bit more than a year now.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Camera Critters: Squirrel

I discovered a strange thing in my string beans on Thursday:
This squirrel lives in the trees that line my street and comes to visit my balcony in search of pine seeds. Recently, it has discovered the suet I put out for the birds. At first I thought the robin was eating it all, but then a big chunk was gone after 10 minutes, no way the robin eats that much suet. I'll need to get a feeder so that the birds actually get the suet, the squirrel has to make do with the pine seeds.
It's a Red or European Squirrel (Sciurus vulgraris), the native species in Europe. Introduced grey squirrels from North America have begun to displace the species, in Great Britain in particular.
The fur is thinner during the summer and both the tail and the ear tufts will be much bushier during the winter. Some squirrels loose the ear tufts completely during the summer.
Norse mythology features a red squirrel that runs up and down Yggdrasil, carrying messages. It's called Ratatoskr

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Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Nature Notes: Balcony Birds

One of two pigeons (Columba livia) that visit me every day. At first they both came alone, but now they always turn up together. I'm happy to see that because I'm fairly sure that one or both had lost their partner during the winter.

A female blackbird (Turdus merula). I spilled seeds from the feeder this morning and she's cleaning up.

A European Robin trying the suet I bought. Since it already came back five times in the last 30 minutes of so, I'm declaring it a success.

A Blue Tit (Cyanistes caeruleus) on top of the feeder. There are also a number of Great Tits (Parus major) who come every day and they are not very tolerant of the Blue Tits.

Nature Notes is hosted by Michelle at Rambling Woods

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Camera Critters: Hagenbeck

Last time, I showed you Schwarze Berge, this time we'll visit Hamburg's second zoo Hagenbecks Tierpark.
Taiga, a 16 year old female.

baby South American Coatis (Nasua nasua)

prairie dog

one of four baby lions born this year

a Chinese Muntjac (Muntiacus reevesi), a small deer species - they range free in the zoo and this one allowed me to scratch its head and totally blissed out

South American Tapir (Tapirus terrestris)) - they love being petted as well

a baby Angeln Saddleback pig, a rare German breed from Schleswig-Holstein. The adults grow over 80 cms tall and reach a weight of more than 300 kg.

a juvenile scarlet Ibis (Eudocimus ruber), still changing into its adult, all-red plumage

a Green-Winged Macaw (Ara chloropterus) - Hagenbeck owns the biggest captive group of them worldwide. Housed in an enormous 4000 m³ enclosure that allows them free flight, they breed successfully most years.

Northern Carmine Bee-Eater (Merops nubicus), free-flying in Hagenbecks Troparium,a big hall modelled after a tropical jungle with animals in enclosures and free-ranging

a Southern Stingray (Dasyatis americana)

the big shark reef, 14 metres long and housing several shark and ray species as well as a huge number of smaller tropical fish

Kamchatka Brown Bear (Ursus arctos beringianus), the second biggest subspecies from the Russian Far East. After a bit of waiting around the pile of fur showed itself to be the female with her two cubs, born in January

All photos published with kind permission by Hagenbecks Tierpark

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Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Nature Notes: Take a Walk

There's a canal only a few minutes from where I live and it's always a good place to see birds and other animals - I even saw a kingfisher once.

less spectacular than a kingfisher, but still cool to watch: a Great Crested Grebe (Podiceps cristatus) and a Common Moorhen (Gallinula chloropus)

A pair of Tufted Ducks (Aythya fuligula), the male is the black one. They are my favourite native duck species, with their bright yellow eyes and the crest of the male (which you can see better here)

A red eared slider turtle - someone abandoned their pet, it seems. They can survive fairly well in lakes that are deep enough even during the winter and have become an invasive species, all because people can't be bothered to do some research before buying that cute tiny turtle or take responsibility later and give the turtle up at an animal shelter when - surprise! - it grows to the site of a soup plate. If you think about getting one, consider adopting, there are countless sliders looking for a new home. has all the info you need.

and here's a bug nymph I found - I have no clue what species it is. Bugs can radically change from one instar to the next and the nymphs often look totally different that the adult insect. But anyway, I dig the colourful markings.

Nature Notes is hosted by Michelle at Rambling Woods

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Camera Critters: Schwarze Berge

Hamburg has two zoos: Hagenbecks Tierpark (a normal zoo) and Wildpark Schwarze Berge, where only native animals are kept, in very big, natural enclosures.
European Ibex, playfighting

a peacock, just chilling

Eurasian lynx - love the ears

one of the two females, woken by the sound of my shutter

a juvenile Great Spotted Woodpecker

a horned viper (Vipera ammodytes), really gorgeous animals that can differ greatly in colouring, we saw another individual that had dark black markings

fallow deer (Dama dama)

European brown bear, taking a break from digging for roots

moose calf, about a month old

a male chaffinch (Fringilla coelebs)

nutrias or coypus (Myocastor coypus) - the whole group had very different colours, from normal ones like the animal on the left to the leucistic one on the right and all degrees in between

Eurasian wolf

European badger (Meles meles) - even though they stand only 12 inches or so tall and weigh only around 15 kg, they are very powerful animals. This one here charged us and I wouldn't want to experience that without a fence between us. But European badgers are very, very shy and only rarely seen in the wild. He seemed to be that bad tempered because he had something caught in his hind foot (we told a zookeeper).

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Thursday, July 7, 2011

Nature Notes: Summer

my balcony in full bloom, the only ones missing are the runner beans and the potatoes

across the streets, the hydrangeas flower in several different colours

bees are going nuts over the poppies - I'm going to harvest some seeds and grow my own next year

this year, I have viper's bugloss and they get a lot of visits from bumblebees

Nature Notes is hosted by Michelle at Rambling Woods

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Camera Critters: Harpy Eagle

A harpy eagle at Tiergarten Berlin - a South American raptor species that feeds mainly on tree-dwelling mammals such as monkeys, porcupines and sloths. They are very powerful and can grab and carry prey that is almost as heavy as themselves.

Here's a great photo of a harpy eagle in flight. The wings are relatively short for their size which enables them to fly and manoeuvre in the dense forest. Quite impressive for such a big bird, reaching a length of up to 3ft and a wingspan of 7ft.

The head feathers are usually laid back and are only displayed when the bird is agitated. It was named for the Harpies of Greek mythology, from the word harpazein which means to snatch.
The Arkive and the Internet Bird Collection have more photos and information about these beautiful birds.

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