Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Nature Notes: Spring

Not that the winter was particularly hard, but I'm still glad to see these first signs of spring:

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Yellow Anemone (Anemone ranunculoides)

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snowdrop (Galanthus nivalis)

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crocus

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and a lone berry the birds didn't eat

Nature Notes is hosted by Michelle at Rambling Woods

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

ABC Wednesday: E is for Electric Blue Gecko

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A male Electric Blue Gecko (Lygodactylus williamsi), also called William's Dwarf gecko. The species is native to Tanzania and there only to a small forest area that is rapidly dwindling in size. The prefer screwpines to live in, feeding on small insects and sometimes nectar. Their feet have lamellae that enable them to walk on and stick to smooth surfaces, as you can see here

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This is a female. Both sexes have orange bellies, males are usually bright blue, females more green-ish. But it's not reliable, there can be very blue females or males that are not at all blue, it depends on the animal's mood, age and social status as well.

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Aside from deforestation, this species is threatened by the pet trade. If you see a wild-caught Electric Blue Gecko, know that the animal has been harvested illegally, their whole habitat is protected. There may be as little as 100,000 animals left and over the last few years, a huge percentage of those have been caught (possibly up to 40%). I don't think anyone needs one as a pet that badly, especially since they are fairly easy to breed in captivity.

More Es at ABC Wednesday Yay, I completed my second animal ABC (I started with F is for Fairy Bluebird)! Let's see if I can do anther one.

Photos were taken at Wilhelma, Stuttgart.

Sources and further reading:
Wikipedia German and English
Reptile Database
Zwerggeckos.com German site

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

World Bird Wednesday: Little Bittern

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Little Bitterns (Ixobrychus minutus) are native to much of Europe, Africa and Asia. they are small birds, only 25-35cm long and weighing only 60-150 gramm (!).

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Bitterns are herons and the Little Bittern may be the smallest heron species of all. They feed on all kinds of invertebrates, small reptiles, amphibians, fish and may also take other birds' eggs. Usually, the birds are found hidden among the reeds growing along a river or lake. Watch a Little Bittern catch a fish.

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The nest is build among the reeds as well and may be used for several years. A clutch is between 2 and 9 eggs and both parents incubate and care for the chicks. The chicks grow very fast and will have left the nest after a week, becoming fully independent after only 27 says.

More birds at World Bird Wednesday

Photos were taken at Burgers Zoo, Arnhem

Sources and further reading:
Internet Bird Collection
Arkive.org
Wikipedia

ABC Wednesday: Daddy Longlegs

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Daddy Longlegs are also called Harvestmen and are not to be confused with the crane fly and the spider of the same name. Their scientific name is Opiliones and they are arachnids, but not spiders. Over 6000 species of Daddy Longlegs are known, but there are probably thousands more.


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Usually, they feed on pretty much anything they find: plant matter, dead insects, live insects, even small lizards with some species. A few species have specialised, there are several who feed only on snails for example.

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Their eyes, located on a raised part of their head, only see light and dark, so they use their long legs to feel for prey, particularly the second pair of legs that is longer than the others. If attacked, the legs can be dropped and will continue to twitch for some time, giving the daddy longlegs time to escape while the predator is busy with the leg. They also have scent glands that excrete a defensive liquid, sometimes so strong that even humans can smell it (but we're not harmed by it).

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There's a myth that the daddy longlegs is the most deadly animal in the world and it's not true. They are completely harmless, inoffensive creatures and they have been around for over 160 million years. There are many discoveries yet to be made about them and a lot of fascinating fact are already known. For example, with some species, the male cares for the eggs. He builds a nest and females come by to mate and lay their eggs there. Some females will attempt to eat the eggs, though, and he needs to watch closely to prevent this.

I don't know the species of the daddy longlegs I photographed for this post, but I think that the first and third photo may show Phalangium opilio, one of the most common species.

More Ds at ABC Wednesday

Sources and further reading:
Wikipedia
European Daddy Longlegs
North American Daddy Longlegs
Arachnology.org Daddy Longlegs FAQ