Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Nature Notes: Baby Animals

This is a newborn muntjac (Muntjacus reevesi) - it was a few hours old at most when I saw it. I first spotted the mother nearby, probably relaxing after giving birth, and then I saw the baby, hidden very well in a flower bed. The muntjacs roam free in the zoo and may even allow visitors to pet them. I kept my hands off the baby of course.

A baby Ring-Tailed Coati (Nasua nasua) looks down from his tree. The tree grows outside the enclosure, but the trunk is too wide and smooth for the coatis to climb down and so the zookeepers gave them access to the branches. The coati group is often found up there.

A young orang utan (Pongo pygmaeus) is having breakfast. Sitting down while eating is for cissies.

Basja, a North Chinese Leopard (Panthera pardus japonensis) and her cub, born in January.

A young Himalayan Tahr (Hemitragus jemlahicus), a relative of the ibex and wild goat.

African lion (Panthera leo) Tembesi and one of her cubs, born in March

Emil, a two months old Thüringer Waldesel. The breed is very rare, there are less than twenty purebred individuals left. He will turn grey as an adult.

Mother Mascha plays with her babies Wanja and Misho, they are Kamchatka brown bears (Ursus arctos beringianus). The cubs were born in January and they are growing like crazy - I saw them last month and they were noticeably smaller then. Mascha still nurses them.

All photos were taken at Hagenbecks Tierpark, published with kind permission.

Nature Notes is hosted by Michelle at Rambling Woods

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

ABC Wednesday: G is for Giant Otter

Giant otters (Pteronura brasiliensis) are also called River Wolfs and they are the largest of the Mustelidae, the weasel family - adults can reach a length of up to 6'/180 cm. In the wild, they are found in South America, for example along the Amazon. Only about 50 individuals live in captivity and only about 5000 animals in the wild, although the number may be much smaller.

They are very social, which is extremely unusual for mustelids. A groups normally has a breeding pair and their offspring, although several family groups may live together. The young otter leave the group when they are sexually mature at two or three years of age. Normal group size is about eight individuals and they do everything together, hunting, playing, sleeping ect. The white patch on the throat is unique for each individual.

They enjoy playing even as adults and interact with each other a lot. Giant otters are a very vocal species, here is a video where you can see a group playing with each other and you can hear some of the sounds they make.

These sleek, muscular animals are excellent swimmers and underwater hunters. They feed mainly on fish, including piranha, but will also take crabs, birds and small mammals. A group hunts together and will cooperate to catch their prey and so they can take on much bigger animals such as caiman or anacondas. Their huge webbed feet and fan-like tail, which you can see very well in this video, give them a great turn of speed underwater.

They have no natural enemies, but humans destroy their habitat by logging and polluting the water. Another problem is that the otters are shy and easily disturbed, especially when raising their young. Even a group of tourists that do nothing but watch may be too much. In zoos, a breeding pair needs a lot of privacy even though they are normally used to humans being around. My photos were taken at Hagenbecks Tierpark, the first zoo outside of South America who managed to breed Giant Otters in 1990 and has a successfully breeding pair since 2005, with their offspring living in many other zoos.

See what else G stands for at ABC Wednesday

Sources and further reading:
Giant Otter Research
International Otter Survival Fund

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Nature Notes: After the Rain


We had a thunderstorm with heavy rain last evening and I went out afterwards to catch the waterdrops clinging to the plants.


My pitcher plant, Sarracenia purpurea. I don't weed the pot and I counted seven different plants not counting the pitcher plant growing in there. Yellow woodsorrel, narrowleaf plantain, a plant I cannot identify (the one no the left behind the plantain, it returns every year), barley, something I believe to be a pansy, moss and a little oak - I believe that a jay may have forgotten about storing it in the pot last winter.

Nature Notes is hosted by Michelle at Rambling Woods

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

ABC Wednesday: F is for Fairy Bluebird


This is a male Fairy Bluebird, Irena puella. There are two species, the Asian Fairy Bluebird you can see here and the Philippine Fairy Bluebird.

Only the males have those striking blue feathers, the females are dark green. Until I wrote this post, I never realized that I did take a photo of a female.
Wikipedia has a much better one, though.

They feed mainly on fruit, but will also take nectar and insects. Despite their bright colours, they are quite hard to see hidden in the foliage unless a ray of sunlight makes their feathers sparkle. If you do see one, there are probably more around, they live in pairs and even small flocks outside of the breeding season. A fig tree may attract a large crowd of these birds.

Here's a video of a pair calling together as part of their courtship. Each pair builds a cup-shaped nest and while only the female broods the eggs, both of them will feed the young insects. Usually, there are two chicks.

all photos were taken at Burgers Zoo, Arnheim

See what else F stands for with ABC Wednesday

Sources and further reading:
Oiseaux Birds
Birding in India
Honolulu Zoo

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Nature Notes: Bunny and Mushrooms

A bunny that sat behind the library - we all gathered at the window and went aaww at it. And some mushrooms that grow in my front garden.

Nature Notes is hosted by Michelle at Rambling Woods

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Camera Critters: Persian Jirds

Three Persian Jirds were looking for a new home since their original owner could not keep them and they have moved in with me. I fell in love with Persian Jirds about a year ago when I fostered one.
They are about the size of a small rat, easily twice as big as a Mongolian gerbil, and very intelligent. I've started clicker training with them and they already wait for me in the evening to be entertained (there is a question of who is training who).
Persian Jirds are very active animals that love to run, climb and dig. Mine live in a converted wardrobe, 100x70x200cm long, wide and high - Persepolis. The photo below shows one of three compartments. You can find out more about Persian Jirds as pets here
I bought a kong for them and they found out very quickly that they had to throw it around to get at the sunflower seeds inside. I only give it to them when I'm around to keep an eye on them, though - a kong is tough and meant to be chewed, but it's better to make sure they don't.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Nature Notes: Flower, berry, spider

A flower:
Impatients glandulifera, Himalayan Balsam - an invasive species, but beautiful

a berry:
Bay laurel, Laurus nobilis, in varying degrees of ripeness

and a spider:
Araneus diademantus, the European Garden Spider, a very common spider in Germany. They are called Cross Spider, Kreuzspinne, in German. She's eating something (the black thing, a fly I think).

More Nature Notes at Rambling Woods

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Nature Notes: Wasteland Animals

Last week, I showed you all the different wildflowers I found at a wasteland created by a construction site. This week, I want to show you the animals I found there.
a seven spot ladybird (Coccinella septempunctata)

a small bee species, I think Halictus tumulorum

a grasshopper, one of a huge variety - they were hard to photograph because they would jump away before I got close enough

Bombus lapidarius, the Red-tailed bumblebee

Bombus pratorum, the Early bumblebee

Bombus terrestris, the Large Earth bumblebee - all the bumblebee species were busy collecting pollen, especially from various thistles and from Black Medic. If you want to make your garden bumblebee friendly, plant thistles (they really are beautiful flowers) and let the clover flowers grow instead of mowing the grass, especially in the late summer.

a female redstart, but I can't tell whether is a Common or Black redstart - in any case, there is a whole family there, I've seen them every time I've been back there

and something I had never seen before:
A European Beewolf (Philantus triangulum) - it's a wasp species and the females will prey on bees, paralyse them and store them in a brood chamber as food for their larvae. Each larva will be supplied with several bees.
This one is a male, though, and he is only in search of pollen and nectar (the female feeds on those as well). The females have hairs on their front legs for digging which the males are missing. Take a look at the ocelli on his forehead, the simple eyes many invertebrates have in addition to their two compound eyes, and at the little crown-shaped mark between the antennae - it's unique for each individual.

Natures Notes is hosted by Michelle at Rambling Woods