Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Nature Notes: Balcony

My balcony this year has a lot of herbs. This is lavender

and here's some kind of salve (Salvia spec.), not the kind you can eat though. But the bumblebees love the flowers and those of the lavender.
I also grow salve (Salvia officinalis)for cooking or tea and spearmint for tea and insects enjoy their flowers very much as well. If you want to do something for solitary bees and wasps (who do not sting!), then build an insect hotel - a bunch of hollow twigs from an elder bush, dried and hung up somewhere is enough to attract many species.

spearmint, not yet in bloom

Here's my pitcher plant that I thought I had killed after I let the pot dry out during the winter. But it came back anyway. I also grow raspberries this year, but they'll probably not bear fruit until next year.

and here's the squirrel that comes around to pick up the walnuts I leave out for it. Its winter fur is much thicker, the tail is bushier and it will grow tufts of fur on its ears when it gets cold again.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Nature Notes: Chinese Crocodile Lizard


Chinese Crocodile Lizards (Shinisaurus crocodilurus) are native to a few small parts of China and Vietnam. They absolutely love water and spend much of their time in the water or in vegetation close to water. They feed on insects and other invertebrates and hunt for prey both in the water and on land.

There are less than 1000 individuals left in the wild (about 800 in 2008).


Nature Notes is hosted by Michelle over at Rambling Woods

Photos were taken at Leipzig Zoo.

Wikipedia, German and English

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Nature Notes: Maned Wolf


A Maned Wolf (Chrysocyon brachyurus), native to South America where it lives in open grasslands where the long legs come in very handy. It's a loner for most of the year and even if a pair owns a territory together, they rarely meet outside of the mating season. Maned wolfs feed on small mammals and birds,but will also take fruit. They hunt a lot like cats, sneaking up to their prey and then catching it with a quick jump.


Photos were taken at Zoo Leipzig.

Source: Wikipedia, German and English

Nature Notes is hosted by Michelle at Rambling Woods

Saturday, March 16, 2013

I'd Rather b Birdin: Northern Gannet


A Northern Gannet (Morus bassanus), a large seabird with a wingspan of up to 180cm. They live in Europe and some colonies are in Canada, the largest in Newfoundland with 60.000 pairs. But around 65% of the world's population live in Great Britain. They nest on islands and cliffs where their chicks are protected from land predators. Here is a video of two courting birds. Imagine 59.998 more birds doing the same...bird colonies are anything but quiet places.


Northern Gannets feed on small fish and will divebomb into the water when they have found a shoal of fish. Watch how they fold their wings backwards just before hitting the water, to make their body more streamlined.
Each pair raises one, very rarely two chicks, each year and it takes five years for the juveniles to become ready to breed. Until then they wear a dark plumage.

More birds at I'd Rather B Birdin
Photos were taken at Wilhelma, Stuttgart

Internet Bird collection

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Nature Notes: Valley of Fire


Valley of Fire was a spontaneous stop on our trip and a great choice because there is so much to see there and because it's a beautiful place. The campground is right in the middle of that awesome landscape and there's a lot do see without having to drive anywhere.

Like the petroglyphs:
The biggest collection at Atlatl Rock is under a rock overhang and protected by glass, but there are many more if you only look for them.


This is the White Domes trail where quite a few movies have been shot, The Professionals for example or Star Trek: Generations.


With a bit of imagination, there are faces and creatures everywhere. Like this snarling cat:

or this guy, with his hair flying in the wind

and we named this one Munch's Rock:

Nature Notes is hosted by Michelle at Rambling Woods.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Nature Notes: Mesa Verde - the small stuff part 2

these were abundant along the trail

as were these

a rock wren (Salpinctes obsoletus)

a wasp, munching on a caterpillar

and two animals I was particularly excited to see: a Western Rattlesnake (Crotalus viridis)
it was basking right on the path, but it fled quickly when we came along, rattling loudly all the time.

and a Velvet Ant (Dasymutilla sp.) - I had heard of them, but never seen them. They are not ants, but solitary wasps. The female is wingless and after mating, she will search for a bumblebee nest to lay her eggs in. They camouflage very effectively as ants and have an extremely painful sting which has earned them the name of cow killer.

Most of the photos in the last two Nature Notes posts were taken during a single two hour walk along the trail ... it pays to take things slow and to keep an eye on the ground. It takes a while to learn to spot animals form the corner of your eye, but once you learned the trick, you'll be amazed at what you see.

Nature Notes is hosted by Michelle at Rambling Woods

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

ABC WEdnesday: G is for Gemelliparous


Don't woryy, it's just a big word for having twins. Maras or Patagonian Hares (Dolichotis patagonium) for example almost always give birth to twins. Several pairs raise their offspring together: one pair keeps watch over the whole group of babies, while the others are free to forage for food. Each female only gives milk to her own babies and finds them by smell. Although it can be quite hard to find them when all the babies in thegroup come running whenever a female appears - watch a video of a female attempting this here.

See what else G stands for with ABC Wednesday

Photo was taken at Hagenbecks Tierpark.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Nature notes: Mesa Verde - the small stuff part 1

From our campground, you could reach a trail on foot that explained in detail about the flowers and plants found at Mesa Verde.

Indian Paintbrush (Castilleja linariaefolia)

a thistle - Mesa Verde has problems with the Musk Thistle as an invading species, but this is a native one

a Lupine (Lupinus caudatus)

can you find the grasshopper (click the photo for a larger view)?

here it is, superbly camouflaged against the pebbles (if you draw a straight line from the lower left to the upper right of the first photo, you will find the grasshopper)

this butterfly seems to have had a close encounter with a bird, from the state of tis wings

robber flies, making more robber flies

no idea what fly species, but I like the pattern of its wings

Nature Notes is hosted by Michelle at Rambling Woods

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

ABC Wednesday: Fissilingual

Black Mamba (the inside of their mouth is black, not the snake)

Western Diamondback Rattlesnake

Eastern Green Mamba

Gaboon viper

Eastern Green Mamba

Unfortunately, I don't have a photo of their actual tongues, but all these snakes are fissilingual. Which means: having a forked tongue. Snakes use their tongue to smell, they have a special organ on the roof of their mouth (the Jacobson's Organ) that is used to analyse scent molecules the tongue gathers. And since the tongue is forked, they can get a sense of direction from it when the smell is weaker on one side than on the other. Scent in 3D.

See what else F stands for with ABC Wednesday
All photos were taken at Hagenbecks Tierpark.

Nature Notes: Mesa Verde


The view from Balcony House at Mesa Verde National Park in Colorado. There are a number of such cliff dwellings and they can only be accessed by steep ladders. Like this one:


It's worth a visit for the view alone (when can you get a look at some golden eagles from above?), but the guided tours are interesting and the history of Mesa Verde is fascinating, although not much is actually known for a fact. The people who dwelled there, the Ancient Pueblo People or Anasazi, lived here for centuries and then left, disappearing into history.

a closer look at one of the mesas, table-like mountains, from one of the trails

a mule deer with her calf - we even saw one with twins, but I didn't get them all three together

another mule deer showing off its enormous ears that gave the species its name

Nature Notes is hosted by Michelle at Rambling Woods

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

ABC Wednesday: E is for Encephaloid


Encephaloid means resembling a brain. This is a species of Brain coral, so called for their resemblance to a human brain.
The groves of these corals enlarge the surface area and at the same time the shape is very sturdy and resistant to damage by predators or waves during a storm. The biggest species can be 6ft high and some species live as long as 900 years.

See what else E stands for with ABC Wednesday
Photo was taken at Hagenbecks Tierpark


Nature Notes: Grand Canyon

The Grand Canyon - no photo or film can prepare you for seeing it for real. the vast dimension just don't come across.

A juvenile Californian Condor (Gymnogyps californianus) gliding over the Canyon. adults have red heads. All wild condors wear a tag with an individual number.

We were watching the sun rise over the Canyon when a small group of elk (Cervus canadensis) came along, totally not bothered by us. They were only three yards or so away from us. We didn't approach them that close, they came along the path that runs along the canyon and we couldn't move away, not without getting too close to the drop off into the canyon. But the elk ignored us. They had two calves in their group.

I'm not sure what this is, but they were abundant at the campsite, foraging for food and frequently sitting on a stone or a tree stump to get a better look at their surroundings.

A pair of Red-Shafted Flickers (Colaptes auratus cafer) foraging on the ground. In the photo below you can see nicely how the bird props itself up with its tail feathers.

Nature Notes is hosted by Michelle at Rambling Woods