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

Saturday, February 9, 2013

I'd Rather B Birdin: Griffon Vulture


A Griffon Vulture (Gyps fulvus), trying to cool down by panting with an open beak. These birds are Old World Vultures and live in Europe, Asia and Africa. They are big birds, weighing around 10kg and having a wingspan of 2.5 metres.


They have naked heads because they will dive headfirst into a carcass and having almost no feathers on their head and neck keeps them clean(er). A colony of Griffon vultures usually has about twenty birds and they will circle in the air in sight of each other, each looking for food. When one bird dives, the others will follow and so a big group will soon gather around a carcass. Here is a gorgeous video of a griffon vulture in flight.


Here's a small group feeding. The brown ones are juveniles. A pair will lay only one egg each year and the chicks are born naked after 52 days. Their parents will care for them for three months.


Here you can see the nicitating membrane, the third eyelid birds and many other animals possess. It serves to remove particles of dust ect. from the eye and will also protect the eye while still allowing the bird to see.

More birds at I'd Rather B Birdin
Photos were taken at Tierpark Berlin and Wilhelma Stuttgart

Internet Bird Collection

Friday, February 8, 2013

Fertilizer Friday: Primroses


A couple of different primrose species. I took these photos in March last year and I tell myself that it's only a couple of weeks until it's March again.



More flowers at Fertilizer Friday

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Nature Notes: Arches Animals


We saw quite a bit of wildlife at Arches National Park. The most spectacular for me was this Gopher Snake (Pituophis catenifer) - I had never before seen a snake in the wild. It was fairly docile and didn't seem all that disturbed by us. It's probably used to humans, living on one of the most popular trails of Arches.


Lizards were everywhere. I don't know the species of the above, but below is a long-nosed leopard lizard (Gambelia wislizenii)

One of those climbed right up on my hand and sat there for a while before it scurried off into the bush again.


a prarie dog, I assume a Utah prarie dog (Cynomys parvidens) - I was a bit amazed at how many people did not know what it was, it got called everything from gopher to squirrel.

If any of you know what species that bird is, please let me know.

a big beetle, about one inch long. My best guess is that it's a stink beetle, Eleodes spec. I think it's a female because I saw another just like it that didn't have the long "tail", which I assume is an ovipositor (for placing eggs in the ground)

some kind of desert plant, I would like to see it in spring or after rain when it blooms

If you're in the desert and see stuff like that on the ground, don't step on it. It's a mixture of fungi, algae, cynobacteria, mosses and lichens. It's called biological soil crust and it's important because it anchors the soil and stores water and nutrients. It grows very slowly, so one misstep may destroy the growth of many decades.

another reason to keep an eye on the ground: animal tracks. The big ones are from a desert cottontail rabbit I think and the small ones may be from a kangaroo rat. We saw one, but it was too dark to take a photo. It was very tame and came right up to us looking for food (but it didn't get any, feeding the animals in national parks is forbidden for good reason).
more cottontail tracks and I think lizard tracks in the foreground, with the tail leaving a track between the footmarks

Nature Notes is hosted by Michelle at Rambling Woods

ABC Wednesday: D is for Dasypoedes


Greater Rheas (Rhea americana)




Eurasian coots (Fulica atra)

All these birds are Dasypoedes - it means that their chicks have downy feathers and don't hatch naked like for examples parrots or many songbirds do.

Photos were taken at Hagenbecks Tierpark.