Friday, March 07, 2014

Why I otter.....

I'm guessing I'm the last person seriously interested in british mammals to get around to visiting the norfolk town with otters gambolling through the river in its town centre. But last month get there I did (about a year after everyone else). Still 10 minutes after parking up this happened.



Absolute magic. Details are around if you google. Don't miss out. Go.

Wednesday, March 05, 2014

White winged gulls

Been a good year here for white winged gulls, something I'm acquiring a taste for....

First up was this big glaucous gull in the town harbour
glaucous gull1

very relaxed bird....
glaucous gull2

then a Kumlien's
kumlien's gull

and lastly an Iceland...
iceland gull2

Saturday, March 01, 2014


Breaking radio silence to show you some photos of british native grazers in action:

Highland cattle
highlands and snowdrops

and Konik ponies

across Wicken Fen nature reserve in cambridgeshire. The idea is these guys simulate the now lost aurochs cattle and tarpan horses which would previously have grazed this landscape keeping at least some of it as open fenland rather than forest.

This little blog post is really just an excuse to point  you to for the Breeding Back blog where you can learn about efforts to provide more realistic aurochs and tarpan simulators still.

Before you go though here's some nice soothing highland close-ups....
dun highlandhighland
black highland

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Three sturgeons

Watching a show last night about one of my favourite animal groups, the sturgeon, giant prehistoric migrant fish of the northern hemisphere it occured to me I should show you some pet pictures.....

I recently went home and took my underwater housing to try and get some nice shots of my parent's pet sturgeon. We have three species:

This is an albino sterlet. Sterlets are among the smallest sturgeon reaching only 3 - 4 feet or so in length. It's vulnerable in the wild but widespread due to successful aquaculture projects breeding them for both food and ornamental purposes.

This is Acipenser gueldenstaedtii, the diamond or danube sturgeon. They can get up to 8 feet in length and are a pretty serious beastie. Found in the caspian sea and the various former soviet states like the stans, georgia and iran. Note the rounded nose to the extent you can see it in the shoddy photos.


The third species we keep is the Siberian sturgeon (Acipenser baerii) another large species wikipedia descrbes as present in all of the major Siberian river basins that drain northward into the Kara, Laptev and East Siberian seas, including the Ob, Yenisei (which drains Lake Baikal via the Angara River) the Lena and Kolyma rivers. It is also found in Kazakhstan and China in the Irtysh River, a major tributary of the Ob. This is probably the species first and most commonly bred by aquaculture and caviar farms. This is a dark species without the big scutes of the diamond so I resorted to setting the camera to video and using some squished up wet bread to lure them to the camera. You can see a close pass here.... and a full on "gimme the bread" attack here (that's the albino sterlet you can see cruising around at the bottom first up): Whilst having these guys cruising our pond gives me tremendous pleasure, the knowledge that we're able to enjoy them as a result of successful breeding programs providing wonderful foodstuffs whilst easing pressure on wild populations makes it all the better. I dream of a day when wild sturgeon are returned to the great rivers of western europe as a result of successful breeding (it's happening already: but the relict population of European sturgeon seems to be restricted to the Gironde) and these dinosaurs once again dominate huge untamed(ish) european river systems - imagine these beasties running through a system of ecologically non-damaging hydropower lagoons and into the upper reaches of the severn or people sportfishing for these giant fish in the thames or seine.

Sunday, September 08, 2013

got lucky last night

Long time no post. I've no intent for this blog to die and I still love reading many of your blogs but I've just not had time or inclination to share much recently. In fact I've got a ridiculous build up of good nature material from past trips: tamarins, tigers, turtles, crocs, sloths, orchids, toucans, you name it. But I haven't felt like sharing.

This morning I found something I had to share. A piece of epic luck. I've recently (August) started moth trapping. I was inspired to do so by both a load of epic silkmoths and hawkmoths I saw at Canopy Tower in Panama and by the epic garden lists of invertebrates various british moth trappers have had. So this morning after what transpired to be a horrible night, I went out to check my trap and discovered an enormous dark shape beneath the bulb.

I knew what it was immediately. I just didn't believe it. I quickly brought it in out of the rain to dry out and checked my id wasn't off. It wasn't. I checked again. Still exactly what I thought it was.....

1973 Death's-head Hawk-moth Acherontia atropos

Yeah. If you're a fan of this blog (or classic thrillers) you probably recognise it too.

The Death's Head.....

1973 Death's-head Hawk-moth Acherontia atropos

This is Britain's largest moth. It rarely breeds here but every year a few will migrate across to the UK from the continent. This is only the 11th ever found on my own little island. People have moth trapped for decades in hope of one of these. I got mine in less than a month.

 1973 Death's-head Hawk-moth Acherontia atropos

A few little known Death's Head Hawk Moth facts:

1. Also known as the Bee Hawk because it is occasionally found in beehives eating honey.
1973 Death's-head Hawk-moth Acherontia atropos

2. This is the European species. The Asian one is the one from the cover of Silence of the Lambs

1973 Death's-head Hawk-moth Acherontia atropos

3. It vocalises. Squeaks away like a mouse or chick. Astonishing.

Look how big it is.

1973 Death's-head Hawk-moth Acherontia atropos

Those legs are remarkably powerful. Handling it was like dealing with the large stick insects I used to breed. Stronger than you'd ever expect.

A wonderful sunday morning surprise I had to share.