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Saturday 20 July 2024

20-7-2024 HUSAVIK, ICELAND - NOOTKA LUPINE (Lupinus nootkatensis)

In Iceland, the Nootka lupine has been designated an invasive species. The plant was introduced in the first half of the 20th century to combat erosion, speed up land reclamation and help with reforestation. Dense lupine cover and soil fertility can be gained within a relatively short time span, where the growth of the lupine is not limited by droughts. The plant has spread from the loose, eroded soil in which it was originally planted and is now found throughout the lowlands of Iceland.

The lupine is well suited for reclamation of large, barren areas because of its nitrogen fixation and rapid growth. Furthermore, it has an ability to extract phosphorus from compounds in poor soils. In spite of these good qualities, it has a tendency to become dominant and to colonize already vegetated areas such as dwarf shrub-highlands, where it overtakes the natural flora and threatens biodiversity. The growth of the Nootka lupine has led to public debate about its presence in Iceland, with some praising its improvement of soil through nitrogen fixation and the vibrant colour it brings to Iceland's landscape, and others concerned that it will eradicate native flora, particularly the favoured native crowberry and blueberry patches.

The initial expectation was for the Nootka lupine to retreat gradually along with increased fertility of the soil and give way for other species. This is evident on sites in Iceland where the lupine was introduced early, such as in Heiðmörk near Reykjavík. However, plant succession is towards a forb-rich grassland, often dominated by the invasive species Anthriscus sylvestris, meaning that careful management of lupine is necessary to prevent it from colonizing areas where its presence is not desirable.

20-7-2024 AKUREYRI, ICELAND - LESSER BLACK BACKED GULL (Larus fuscus)

The lesser black-backed gull (Larus fuscus) is a large gull that breeds on the Atlantic coasts of Europe. It is migratory, wintering from the British Isles south to West Africa. However, it has increased dramatically in North America, especially along the east coast. Formerly just a winter visitor to North America, it has increased and occurs in large numbers some winters and birds are now recorded year-round. However, there is serious concern about decline in many parts of its range. The species is on the UK Amber List because the UK is home to 40 per cent of the European population and more than half of these are found at fewer than ten breeding sites.

The lesser black-backed gull was one of the many species originally described by Carl Linnaeus in his 1758 10th edition of Systema Naturae, and it still bears its original name Larus fuscus. The scientific name is from Latin. Larus appears to have referred to a gull or other large seabird, and fuscus meant black or brown.

 

20-7-2024 HUSAVIK, ICELAND - REDWING (Turdus iliacus)


The redwing (Turdus iliacus) is a bird in the thrush family, Turdidae, native to Europe and the Palearctic, slightly smaller than the related song thrush.

This species was first described by Carl Linnaeus in his 1758 10th edition of Systema Naturae under its current scientific name.

The English name derives from the bird's red underwing. It is not closely related to the red-winged blackbird, a North American species sometimes nicknamed "redwing", which is an icterid, not a thrush. The binomial name derives from the Latin words turdus, "thrush", and ile "flank".


About 65 species of medium to large thrushes are in the genus Turdus, characterised by rounded heads, longish, pointed wings, and usually melodious songs. Although two European thrushes, the song thrush and mistle thrush, are early offshoots from the Eurasian lineage of Turdus thrushes after they spread north from Africa, the redwing is descended from ancestors that had colonised the Caribbean islands from Africa and subsequently reached Europe from there.

The redwing has two subspecies:

T. i. iliacus, the nominate subspecies described by Linnaeus, which breeds in mainland Eurasia.
T. i. coburni described by Richard Bowdler Sharpe in 1901, which breeds in Iceland and the Faroe Islands and winters from western Scotland and Ireland south to northern Spain. It is darker overall, and marginally larger than the nominate form.


It is 20–24 cm long with a wingspan of 33–34.5 cm and a weight of 50–75 g. The sexes are similar, with plain brown backs and with dark brown spots on the white underparts. The most striking identification features are the red flanks and underwing, and the creamy white stripe above the eye. Adults moult between June and September, which means that some start to replace their flight feathers while still feeding young.

The male has a varied short song, and a whistling flight call. Redwings show a distinct dialectic variation in song, having a considerable similarity in song patterns among birds within a local population.

The Redwing song consists of a number of introductory elements of descending or ascending frequency. These elements may be of pure tonal quality, or of a more harsh quality (varying degrees of frequency modulations or "trills"). After the introductory elements, a fast and more complex song pattern often follows. It is the introductory elements which show a geographic variation. The boundaries of any given dialect may vary but in a rural and forested environment in Norway the average size of these dialect areas is around 41.5 km2.

It breeds in northern regions of Europe and the Palearctic, from Iceland south to northernmost Scotland, and east through Scandinavia, the Baltic States, northern Poland and Belarus, and through most of Russia to about 165°E in Chukotka Autonomous Okrug. In recent years it has expanded its range slightly, both in eastern Europe where it now breeds south into northern Ukraine, and in southern Greenland, where the Qaqortoq area was colonised in 1990–1991.

It is often replaced by the related ring ouzel in areas of higher altitude.


It is migratory, wintering in western, central and southern Europe, north-west Africa, and south-west Asia east to northern Iran. Birds in some parts of the west of the breeding range (particularly south-western Norway) may be resident, not migrating at all, while those in the far east of the range migrate at least 6,500–7,000 km to reach their wintering grounds.

There are multiple records of vagrants from the north-east coast of North America, as well as two sightings on the north-west coast (one in Washington in 2005, and one in Seward, Alaska in November 2011).

Migrating and wintering birds often form loose flocks of 10 to 200 or more birds, often feeding together with fieldfares, common blackbirds and starlings, sometimes also with mistle thrushes, song thrushes, and ring ouzels. Unlike the song thrush, the more nomadic redwing does not tend to return regularly to the same wintering areas.

The movement occurs in the Autumn to early Winter and they often move at night making a "Tseep" contact call that can carry a long distance.

Nests are often constructed on the ground.
It breeds in conifer and birch forest and tundra. Redwings nest in shrubs or on the ground, laying four to six eggs in a neat nest. The eggs are typically 2.6 x 1.9 centimetres in size and weigh 4.6 grammes, of which 5% is shell, and which hatch after 12–13 days. The chicks fledge at 12–15 days, but the young remain dependent on their parents for a further 14 days.

It is omnivorous, eating a wide range of insects and earthworms all year, supplemented by berries in autumn and winter, particularly of rowan Sorbus aucuparia and hawthorn Crataegus monogyna.

A Russian study of blood parasites showed that all the fieldfares, redwings and song thrushes sampled carried haematozoans, particularly Haemoproteus and Trypanosoma.

The redwing has an extensive range, estimated at 10 million square kilometres (3.8 million square miles), and an estimated population of 26 to 40 million individuals in Europe alone. The European population forms approximately 40% of the global population, thus the very preliminary estimate of the global population is 98 to 151 million individuals. The species is believed to approach the thresholds for the population decline criterion of the IUCN Red List (i.e., declining more than 30% in ten years or three generations), and is therefore precautionarily uplisted to near threatened. Numbers can be adversely affected by severe winters, which may cause heavy mortality, and cold wet summers, which reduce breeding success.

20-7-2024 HUSAVIK, ICELAND - COMMON RINGED PLOVER (Charadrius hiaticula)

The common ringed plover or ringed plover (Charadrius hiaticula) is a small plover that breeds across much of northern Eurasia, as well as Greenland. The genus name Charadrius is a Late Latin word for a yellowish bird mentioned in the fourth-century Vulgate. It derives from Ancient Greek kharadrios a bird found in ravines and river valleys (kharadra, "ravine"). The specific hiaticula is Latin and has a similar meaning to the Greek term, coming from hiatus, "cleft" and -cola, "dweller" (colere, "to dwell").


Adults are 17–19.5 cm (6.7–7.7 in) in length with a 35–41 cm (14–16 in) wingspan. They have a grey-brown back and wings, a white belly, and a white breast with one black neckband. They have a brown cap, a white forehead, a black mask around the eyes and a short orange and black bill. The legs are orange and only the outer two toes are slightly webbed, unlike the slightly smaller but otherwise very similar semipalmated plover, which has all three toes slightly webbed, and also a marginally narrower breast band; it was in former times included in the present species. Juvenile ringed plovers are duller than the adults in colour, with an often incomplete grey-brown breast band, a dark bill and dull yellowish-grey legs.

This species differs from the smaller little ringed plover in leg colour, the head pattern, and the lack of an obvious yellow eye-ring.

The common ringed plover's breeding habitat is open ground on beaches or flats across northern Eurosiberia and in Arctic northeast Canada. Some birds breed inland, and in western Europe they nest as far south as northern France. They nest on the ground in an open area with little or no plant growth.

If a potential predator approaches the nest, the adult will walk away from the scrape, calling to attract the intruder and feigning a broken wing. Once the intruder is far enough from the nest, the plover flies off.

Common ringed plovers are migratory and winter in coastal areas south to Africa. In Norway, geolocators have revealed that adult breeding birds migrate to West Africa. Many birds in Great Britain and northern France are resident throughout the year.

These birds forage for food on beaches, tidal flats and fields, usually by sight. They eat insects, crustaceans and worms.

Friday 19 July 2024

16-7-2024 ROTTERDAM ZOO, NETHERLANDS - EURASIAN OTTER (Lutra lutra)


The Eurasian otter (Lutra lutra), also known as the European otter, Eurasian river otter, European river otter, common otter, and Old World otter, is a semiaquatic mammal native to Eurasia and Maghreb. The most widely distributed member of the otter subfamily (Lutrinae) of the weasel family (Mustelidae), it is found in the waterways and coasts of Europe, many parts of Asia, and parts of northern Africa. The Eurasian otter has a diet mainly of fish, and is strongly territorial. It is endangered in some parts of its range, but is recovering in others.


The Eurasian otter is a typical species of the otter subfamily. Brown above and cream below, these long, slender creatures are well-equipped for their aquatic habits. Their bones show osteosclerosis, increasing their density to reduce buoyancy. This otter differs from the North American river otter by its shorter neck, broader visage, the greater space between the ears and its longer tail. However, the Eurasian otter is the only otter in much of its range, so it is rarely confused for any other animal. Normally, this species is 57 to 95 cm (22.5 to 37.5 in) long, not counting a tail of 35–45 cm (14–17.5 in). The female is shorter than the male.[4] The otter's average body weight is 7 to 12 kg (15 to 26 lb), although occasionally a large old male may reach up to 17 kg (37 lb). The record-sized specimen, reported by a reliable source but not verified, weighed over 24 kg (53 lb).


The Eurasian otter is the most widely distributed otter species, its range including parts of Asia and northern Africa, as well as being spread across Europe, south to Palestine. Though currently thought to be extinct in Liechtenstein and Switzerland, it is now common in Latvia, along the coast of Norway, in the western regions of Spain and Portugal and across Great Britain and Ireland. In Italy, it lives in southern parts of the peninsula. It inhabits unpolluted bodies of fresh water such as lakes, streams, rivers, canals and ponds, as long as the food supply is adequate. In Andalusia, it uses artificial lakes on golf courses.[8] It prefers the open areas of the streams and also lives along the coast in salt water, but requires regular access to fresh water to clean its fur.


In Syria, the Eurasian otter was recorded in montane creeks in Latakia and Raqqa Governorates and in the lower Euphrates valley in Deir ez-Zor Governorate. In western Nepal, its presence was documented at elevations of around 1,600 m (5,200 ft) in Barekot river in Jajarkot District and at 1,337 m (4,386 ft) in Tubang river in Eastern Rukum District. In India, it is distributed in the Himalayan foothills, southern Western Ghats and the central Indian landscape.

16-7-2024 ROTTERDAM ZOO, NETHERLANDS - MARBLED TEAL (Marmaronetta angustirostris)


The marbled duck or marbled teal (Marmaronetta angustirostris) is a medium-sized species of duck from southern Europe, northern Africa, and western and central Asia. The scientific name, Marmaronetta angustirostris, comes from the Greek marmaros, marbled and netta, a duck, and Latin angustus, narrow or small and -rostris billed.

This duck formerly bred in large numbers in the Mediterranean region, but is now restricted to a few sites in southern Spain, southern Italy, northwest Africa and the broader Levant. Further east it survives in the Mesopotamian marshland in southern Iraq and in Iran (Shadegan Marshes - the world's most important site), as well as isolated pockets in Armenia, Azerbaijan, South European Russia, western India and western China. In general the species has nomadic tendencies. In some areas birds disperse from the breeding grounds, and have been encountered in the winter period in the Sahel zone, south of the Sahara.

Its preferred breeding habitat is temporary and shallow fresh, brackish or alkaline waters with densely vegetated shores in regions that otherwise are fairly dry. It may also breed in coastal lagoons, along slow rivers or man-made waters like reservoirs. The on average c. 12 eggs are placed in a nest covered by dense vegetation at the waters edge. It is usually on the ground, but occasionally higher among reeds or on huts made from reeds. They are common in captive collections but are a nervous and flighty bird.

These are gregarious birds, at times even when nesting. Outside the breeding season flocks are often small, although large wintering flocks have been reported in some areas. The largest winter concentration known is in Khuzestan, Iran.

In 2011, a group of Iraqi ornithologists counted a single flock of the rare marbled teal on the lakes of the Iraqi marshes, numbering at least 40,000 birds.

16-7-2024 ROTTERDAM ZOO, NETHERLANDS - NORTH AFRICAN SPINY TAILED LIZARD [Uromastyx acanthinura]


 

Uromastyx acanthinura, the North African mastigure or North African spiny-tailed lizard, is a species of agamid lizard. It is found in Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya, Egypt, Western Sahara, Chad, Mali, Niger, and Sudan.

16-7-2024 ROTTERDAM ZOO, NETHERLANDS - FALL PHLOX [Phlox paniculata]


Phlox paniculata is a species of flowering plant in the phlox family (Polemoniaceae). It is native to parts of the eastern and central United States. It is extensively cultivated in temperate regions as an ornamental plant and has become established in the wild in scattered locales in other regions. Common names include fall phlox, garden phlox, perennial phlox, summer phlox, and panicled phlox.

Phlox paniculata is an erect herbaceous perennial growing to 120 cm (47 in) tall by 100 cm (39 in) wide, with opposite, simple leaves on slender green stems. The flowers are 1.5–2.5 cm (0.6–1.0 in) in diameter, often strongly fragrant and borne in summer through fall (autumn). The flowers are grouped in panicles (with many branching stems), hence the specific epithet paniculata. Typical flower colors in wild populations are pink or purple (rarely white).

Fall phlox is native to parts of the central and eastern United States. It occurs as an introduced species in other parts of the United States, Canada, Europe, and Asia. In the Chicago Region it is questionably native, or native populations may have all been destroyed: "populations in our area appear to be escapes from gardens to nearby woods and waste ground, which no doubt accounts for all collections since 1945".

In its natural range, it grows along streambanks and in moist wooded areas.

16-7-2024 ROTTERDAM ZOO, NETHERLANDS - TUFTED DUCK (FEMALE) (Aythya fuligula)

The tufted duck (or tufted pochard) (Aythya fuligula) is a small diving duck with a population of close to one million birds, found in northern Eurasia. They are partially migratory. The scientific name is derived from Ancient Greek aithuia, an unidentified seabird mentioned by authors including Hesychius and Aristotle, and Latin fuligo 'soot' and gula 'throat'. It is a game bird. 

The tufted duck breeds throughout temperate and northern Eurasia. It occasionally can be found as a winter visitor along both coasts of the United States and Canada. It is believed to have expanded its traditional range with the increased availability of open water due to gravel extraction, and the spread of freshwater mussels, a favourite food. These ducks are migratory in most of their range, and overwinter in the milder south and west of Europe, southern Asia and all year in the British Isles. One individual has been reported as far south as Melbourne, Australia. They form large flocks on open water in winter.

Their breeding habitat is close to marshes and lakes with plenty of vegetation to conceal the nest. They are also found on coastal lagoons, shorelines and sheltered ponds.

16-7-2024 ROTTERDAM ZOO, NETHERLANDS - GREAT WHITE PELICAN (Pelecanus onocrotalus)

The great white pelican is a huge bird—only the Dalmatian pelican is, on average, larger among pelicans. It measures 140 to 180 cm (55 to 71 in) in length with a 28.9 to 47.1 cm (11.4 to 18.5 in) enormous pink and yellow bill, and a dull pale-yellow gular pouch. The wingspan measures 226 to 360 cm (7 ft 5 in to 11 ft 10 in), the latter measurement being the highest among extant flying animals outside of the great albatross. The adult male measures about 175 cm (69 in) in length; it weighs from 9 to 15 kg (20 to 33 lb)  and larger races from the Palaearctic are usually around 11 kg (24 lb), with few exceeding 13 kg (29 lb). It has a bill measuring 34.7 to 47.1 cm (13.7 to 18.5 in). The female measures about 148 cm (58 in) in length, and is considerably less bulky, weighing 5.4 to 9 kg (12 to 20 lb), and has a bill that measures 28.9 to 40.0 cm (11.4 to 15.7 in) in length.[8] In Lake Edward, Uganda, the average weight of 52 males was found to 11.45 kg (25.2 lb) and in 22 females it was 7.59 kg (16.7 lb). In South Africa, the average weight of males was 9.6 kg (21 lb) and of females was 6.9 kg (15 lb). Thus the sexual dimorphism is especially pronounced in this species (perhaps the greatest known in any extant pelican), as at times the male can average more than 30% more massive than the female. The great white pelican rivals the kori bustard, which has even more pronounced sexual dimorphism, as the heaviest flying bird to reside in Africa (both averaging perhaps slightly heavier than the cape vulture and the wattled crane). 


There are a small few slightly heavier flying birds in the Eurasian portions of the range. Among standard measurements, the wing chord is 60 to 73 cm (24 to 29 in), the tail 16 to 21 cm (6.3 to 8.3 in), and the tarsus 13 to 14.9 cm (5.1 to 5.9 in) long. Standard measurements from different areas indicate that pelicans from the Western Palaearctic are somewhat larger than those from Asia and Africa.

The male has a downward bend in the neck and the female has a shorter, straighter beak. The plumage is predominantly white except on remiges, with a faint pink tinge on the neck and a yellowish base on the foreneck. The primary feathers are black, with white shafts at the bases, occasionally with paler tips and narrow fringes. The secondary feathers are also black, but with a whitish fringe. The upperwing coverts, underwing coverts, and tertials are white. The forehead is swollen and pinkish skin surrounds the bare, dark eyes having brown-red to dark brown irides It has fleshy-yellow legs and pointed forehead-feathers where meeting the culmen. In breeding season, the male has pinkish skin while the female has orangey skin on its face. The bill is mostly bluish grey, with a red tip, reddish maxilla edges, and a cream-yellow to yolk-yellow gular pouch. The white plumage becomes tinged-pink with a yellow patch on the breast, and the body is tinged yellowish-rosy. It also has a short, shaggy crest on the nape. The white covert feathers contrast with the solid black primary and secondary feathers. The legs are yellow-flesh to pinkish orange. Both male and female are similar, but the female is smaller and has brighter orange facial skin in the breeding season.

The juvenile has darker, brownish underparts that are palest at the rump, center of the belly, and uppertail coverts. The underwing coverts are mostly dull-white, but the greater coverts are dark and there is a dark brownish bar over the lesser coverts. The rear tertials upperwing coverts mostly have paler tips with a silvery-grey tinge on the greater secondary coverts and tertials. It has dark flight feathers, and brow-edged wings. The head, neck, and upperparts, including the upperwing coverts, are mostly brown—this is the darkest part of the neck. The facial skin and the bill, including its gular pouch, are greyish to dusky greyish. The forehead, rump, and abdomen are white, and its legs and feet are grey. Its blackish tail occasionally has a silvery-grey tinge. Its underparts and back are initially browner and darker than those of the Dalmatian pelican, and the underwing is strongly patterned, similar to the juvenile brown pelican.

The great white pelican is distinguished from all other pelicans by its plumage. Its face is naked and the feathering on its forehead tapers to a fine point, whereas other species are completely feathered. In flight, the white underwing with black remiges of the adult are similar only to those of the American white pelican (P. erythrorhynchos), but the latter has white inner secondary feathers. It differs from the Dalmatian pelican in its pure white – rather than greyish-white – plumage, a bare pink facial patch around the eye, and pinkish legs. The spot-billed pelican (P. philippensis) of Asia is slightly smaller than the great white pelican, with greyish tinged white plumage, and a paler, duller-colored bill. Similarly, the pink-backed pelican (P. rufescens) is smaller, with brownish-grey plumage, a light pink to off-grey bill, and a pinkish wash on the back.

The bird is mostly silent but has a variety of low-pitched lowing, grunting, and growling calls. The flight call is a deep, quiet croak., while at breeding colonies, it gives deep moooo calls.

16-7-2024 ROTTERDAM ZOO, NETHERLANDS - YELLOW MONGOOSE (Cynictis penicillata)

 


The social structure of the yellow mongoose is hierarchical, based around a central breeding pair and their most recent offspring. There are also subadults, the elderly, or adult relatives of the central pair. Male ranges tend to overlap, while females from other dens have contiguous non-overlapping ranges. Every day, the alpha male will mark members of his group with anal gland secretions, and his boundaries with facial and anal secretions, as well as urine. The alpha male also rubs his back against raised objects, leaving behind hair as a visual marker of territory. Other members of the group mark their dens with cheek secretions. A colony can have 20-40 members.

Predators of the yellow mongoose are birds of prey, snakes and jackals. When frightened, the yellow mongoose will growl and secrete from its anal glands. It can also scream, bark, and purr, though these are exceptions, as the yellow mongoose is usually silent, and communicates mood and status through tail movements.


The yellow mongoose (Cynictis penicillata), sometimes referred to as the red meerkat, is a member of the mongoose family. It averages about 0.45 kg (1 lb) in weight and about 510 mm (20 in) in length. It lives in open country, semi-desert scrubland and grasslands in Angola, Botswana, South Africa, Namibia, and Zimbabwe. It is the only species in the genus Cynictis.

In general, the yellow mongoose has lighter highlights on the underbelly and chin, a bushy tail, and a complete lack of sexual dimorphism. Southern yellow mongooses are larger, have yellow or reddish fur, longer fur, and a longer tail with a characteristic white tip. Northern subspecies tend towards smaller size, grey colouration, a grey or darker grey tip to the tail, and shorter hair more appropriate to the hotter climate.

The yellow mongoose is primarily diurnal, though nocturnal activity has been observed. Living in colonies of up to 20 individuals in a permanent burrow complex, the yellow mongoose will often co-exist with Cape ground squirrels or suricates and share maintenance of the warren, adding new tunnels and burrows as necessary. The tunnel system has many entrances, nearby which the yellow mongoose makes its latrines.

The yellow mongoose is a carnivore, feeding mostly on beetles, termites, grasshoppers, crickets, caterpillars, and ants, but also on rodents, small birds, reptiles, amphibians, carrion, eggs, grass, and seeds. In urban environments in South Africa, it also forages among human food garbage.

The yellow mongoose's mating season is between July and September, and it gives birth underground between October and December, with no bedding material, in a clean chamber of the burrow system. Usually, two offspring are produced per pregnancy, and they are weaned at 10 weeks, reaching adult size after 10 months.

19-7-2024 AT SEA, ICELAND - NORTHERN GANNET (Morus bassanus)


The northern gannet (Morus bassanus) is a seabird, the largest species of the gannet family, Sulidae. It is native to the coasts of the Atlantic Ocean, breeding in Western Europe and Northeastern North America. It is the largest seabird in the northern Atlantic. The sexes are similar in appearance. The adult northern gannet has a mainly white streamlined body with a long neck, and long and slender wings. It is 87–100 cm (34+1⁄2–39+1⁄2 in) long with a 170–180 cm (67–71 in) wingspan. The head and nape have a buff tinge that is more prominent in breeding season, and the wings are edged with dark brown-black feathers. The long, pointed bill is blue-grey, contrasting with black, bare skin around the mouth and eyes. Juveniles are mostly grey-brown, becoming increasingly white in the five years it takes them to reach maturity.


Nesting takes place in colonies on both sides of the North Atlantic, the largest of which are at Bass Rock (75,000 pairs as of 2014), St. Kilda (60,000 pairs as of 2013) and Ailsa Craig (33,000 pairs as of 2014) in Scotland, Grassholm in Wales, and Bonaventure Island (60,000 pairs in 2009) off the coast of Quebec. Its breeding range has extended northward and eastward, with colonies being established on Russia's Kola Peninsula in 1995 and Bear Island (the southernmost island of Svalbard), in 2011. Colonies are mostly located on offshore islands with cliffs, from which the birds can more easily launch into the air. The northern gannet undertakes seasonal migrations and catches fish (which are the mainstay of its diet) by making high-speed dives into the sea.

The northern gannet was previously hunted for food in certain parts of its range, and although that practice still continues in the Outer Hebrides of Scotland and the Faroe Islands, the bird faces few other natural or man-made threats.

Thursday 18 July 2024

16-7-2024 ROTTERDAM ZOO, NETHERLANDS - BLACK TAILED PRAIRIE DOG (Cynomys ludovicianus)

 

The black-tailed prairie dog (Cynomys ludovicianus) is a rodent of the family Sciuridae (the squirrels) found in the Great Plains of North America from about the United States–Canada border to the United States–Mexico border.[3] Unlike some other prairie dogs, these animals do not truly hibernate. The black-tailed prairie dog can be seen above ground in midwinter. A black-tailed prairie dog town in Texas was reported to cover 25,000 sq mi (64,000 km2) and included 400,000,000 individuals. Prior to habitat destruction, the species may have been the most abundant prairie dog in central North America. It was one of two prairie dogs described by the Lewis and Clark Expedition in the journals and diaries of their expedition.

Black-tailed prairie dogs are generally tan in color, with lighter-colored bellies. They may have color variation in their pelt, such as dark fur on their back in black and brown tones. Their tails have black tips, from which their name is derived. Adults can weigh from 1.5 to 3.0 lb (0.68 to 1.36 kg), males are typically heavier than females. Body length is normally from 14 to 17 in (36 to 43 cm), with a 3-to-4-inch (7.6 to 10.2 cm) tail. The black-tailed have black long claws used for digging in the ground. The body of the black-tailed prairie dog is compact, and the ears are quite small and close to the head.


The historic range of the black-tailed prairie dog was from southern Saskatchewan and Alberta to Chihuahua, Mexico, and included portions of Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Wyoming, Colorado, Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, Arizona, and New Mexico. As of 2007, black-tailed prairie dogs occur across most of their historic range, excluding Arizona; however, their occupied acreage and populations are well below historic levels.

Black-tailed prairie dogs are diurnal. Above-ground activity is reduced when rain or snow is falling and during days when the temperature exceeds 100 °F (38 °C). During the winter months, black-tailed prairie dogs do not fully hibernate. They continue to leave the burrow to forage, but will enter a state of torpor at night to conserve energy. Torpor is categorized by a drop in metabolism, heart rate and respiration similar to hibernation, but is involuntary and shorter in duration. On average, black-tailed prairie dogs will lose twenty percent of their body weight during the fall and winter seasons when they go through bouts of torpor. As winter progressed, the amount of time spent in torpor increases. Between different colonies the overall time spent in torpor varies, independent of prairie dog body mass. This may be due to weather during the previous growing season. As black-tailed prairie dogs receive most of their water from their diet, in years with poor rainfall, the black-tailed prairie dogs spend more time in torpor.

Black-tailed prairie dogs are native to grassland habitats in North America. They inhabit shortgrass prairie, mixed-grass prairie, sagebrush steppe, and desert grassland.

Habitat preferences for the black-tailed prairie dog are influenced by vegetative cover type, slope, soil type, and amount of rainfall. Their foraging and burrowing activities influence environmental heterogeneity, hydrology, nutrient cycling, biodiversity, landscape architecture, and plant succession in grassland habitats.

Black-tailed prairie dogs inhabit grasslands, including short- and mixed-grass prairie, sagebrush steppe, and desert grasslands. Shortgrass prairies dominated by buffalo grass (Buchloe dactyloides), blue grama (Bouteloua gracilis), and western wheatgrass (Pascopyron smithii), and mixed-grass prairies  that have been grazed by native and non-native herbivores are their preferred habitat. Slopes of 2% to 5% and vegetation heights between 3 and 5 in (8 and 13 cm) are optimal for detecting predators and facilitating communication.

In the Great Plains region, black-tailed prairie dog colonies commonly occur near rivers and creeks. Of 86 colonies located in Mellette County, South Dakota, 30 were located on benches or terraces adjacent to a creek or floodplain, 30 occurred in rolling hills with a slope more than 5°, 20 were in flat areas, and six were in badland areas. The slopes of playa lakes in the Texas Panhandle and surrounding regions are used as habitat for the black-tailed prairie dog. Colonies in Phillips County, Montana, were often associated with reservoirs, cattle salting grounds, and other areas affected by humans.

Black-tailed prairie dogs tolerate "high degrees" of disturbance over long periods of time. New colonies are rarely created on rangeland in "good" to "excellent" condition; however, continuously, long-term, heavily grazed land reduces habitat quality due to soil erosion. Black-tailed prairie dogs may colonize heavily grazed sites, but do not necessarily specialize in colonizing overgrazed areas. Overgrazing may occur subsequent to their colonization. Black-tailed prairie dogs were associated with areas intensively grazed by livestock and/or areas where topsoil had been disturbed by human activities in sagebrush-grassland habitat on the Charles M. Russell National Wildlife Refuge and Fort Belknap Agency, Montana. Roads and cattle trails were found in 150 of 154 black-tailed prairie dog colonies, and colonies were located significantly closer to livestock water developments and homestead sites than randomly located points.

16-7-2024 ROTTERDAM ZOO, NETHERLANDS - COTTON HEADED TAMARIN (Saguinus oedipus)


The cotton-top tamarin (Saguinus oedipus) is a small New World monkey weighing less than 0.5 kg (1.1 lb). This New World monkey can live up to 24 years, but most of them die by 13 years. One of the smallest primates, the cotton-top tamarin is easily recognized by the long, white sagittal crest extending from its forehead to its shoulders. The species is found in tropical forest edges and secondary forests in northwestern Colombia, where it is arboreal and diurnal. Its diet includes insects and plant exudates, and it is an important seed disperser in the tropical ecosystem.

The cotton-top tamarin displays a wide variety of social behaviors. In particular, groups form a clear dominance hierarchy where only dominant pairs breed. The female normally gives birth to twins and uses pheromones to prevent other females in the group from breeding. These tamarins have been extensively studied for their high level of cooperative care, as well as altruistic and spiteful behaviors. Communication between cotton-top tamarins is sophisticated and shows evidence of simple grammatical structure.


Up to 40,000 cotton-top tamarins are thought to have been caught and exported for use in biomedical research before 1976, when CITES gave them the highest level of protection and all international commercial trade was prohibited. Now, the species is at risk due to large-scale habitat destruction, as the lowland forest in northwestern Colombia where the cotton-top tamarin is found has been reduced to 5% of its previous area. It is currently classified as critically endangered and is one of the rarest primates in the world, with only 6,000 individuals left in the wild.

The cotton-top tamarin is restricted to a small area of northwest Colombia, between the Cauca and Magdalena Rivers to the south and east, the Atlantic coast to the north, and the Atrato River to the west. They are found exclusively in Colombia; 98% of their habitat has been destroyed. Historically, the entire area was suitable for the cotton-top tamarin, but due to habitat loss through deforestation, it survives in fragmented parks and reserves. One of the most important areas for the cotton-top is the Paramillo National Park, which consists of 460,000 hectares (1,800 sq mi) of primary and secondary forests.


The cotton-top tamarin is found in both primary and secondary forests, from humid tropical forests in the south of its range to tropical dry forests in the north. It is seldom found at altitudes above 400 m (1,300 ft), but has been encountered up to 1,500 m (4,900 ft). It prefers the lower levels of the tropical forests, but may also be found foraging on the ground and between the understory and the canopy. It can adapt to forest fragments and can survive in relatively disturbed habitats. In the dry forests are pronounced seasons. Between December and April, it is dry, while heavy rainfall occurs between August and November which can flood the forest floor. Across its range, annual rainfall varies between 500 and 1,300 mm (20 and 51 in).

Wednesday 17 July 2024

16-7-2024 ROTTERDAM ZOO, NETHERLANDS - COYPU (Myocastor coypus)

The nutria (/ˈnjuːtriə/) or coypu (/ˈkɔɪpuː/) (Myocastor coypus) is a herbivorous, semiaquatic rodent from South America. Classified for a long time as the only member of the family Myocastoridae, Myocastor is now included within Echimyidae, the family of the spiny rats. The nutria lives in burrows alongside stretches of water and feeds on river plant stems. Originally native to subtropical and temperate South America, it has since been introduced to North America, Europe and Asia, primarily by fur farmers. Although it is still hunted and trapped for its fur in some regions, its destructive burrowing and feeding habits often bring it into conflict with humans, and it is considered an invasive species in the United States. Nutria also transmit various diseases to humans and animals, mainly through water contamination.


Native to subtropical and temperate South America, its range includes Chile, Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay and the southern parts of Brazil and Bolivia. It has been introduced to North America, Europe and Asia, primarily by fur ranchers. The distribution of nutrias outside South America tends to contract or expand with successive cold or mild winters. During cold winters, nutria often suffer frostbite on their tails, leading to infection or death. As a result, populations of nutria often contract and even become locally or regionally extinct as in the Scandinavian countries and such US states as Idaho, Montana, and Nebraska during the 1980s. During mild winters, their ranges tend to expand northward. For example, in recent years, range expansions have been noted in Washington and Oregon, as well as Delaware.

17-7-2024 ROTTERDAM, NETHERLANDS - MUTE SWAN (Cygnus olor)


The mute swan (Cygnus olor) is a species of swan and a member of the waterfowl family Anatidae. It is native to much of Eurasia, and (as a rare winter visitor) the far north of Africa. It is an introduced species in North America, home to the largest populations outside of its native range, with additional smaller introductions in Australasia and southern Africa. The name "mute" derives from it being less vocal than other swan species.
Measuring 125 to 160 cm (49 to 63 in) in length, this large swan is wholly white in plumage with an orange beak bordered with black. It is recognisable by its pronounced knob atop the beak, which is larger in males.

The mute swan is found naturally mainly in temperate areas of Europe, then across the Palearctic as far east as Primorsky Krai, near Sidemi.

It is partially migratory throughout northern latitudes in Europe and Asia, as far south as North Africa and the Mediterranean. It is known and recorded to have nested in Iceland and is a vagrant in that area as well as in Bermuda, according to the UN Environment Programme chart of international status chart of bird species, which places it in 70 countries, breeding in 49 countries, and vagrant in 16 countries. While most of the current population in Japan is introduced, mute swans are depicted on scrolls more than 1,000 years old, and wild birds from the mainland Asian population still occur rarely in winter. Natural migrants to Japan usually occur along with whooper and sometimes Bewick's swans.

The mute swan is protected in most of its range, but this has not prevented illegal hunting and poaching. It is often kept in captivity outside its natural range, as a decoration for parks and ponds, and escapes have happened. The descendants of such birds have become naturalised in the eastern United States and Great Lakes, much as the Canada goose has done in Europe.

17-7-2024 ROTTERDAM, NETHERLANDS - SUMMER CHAFER (Amphimallon solstitiale)


Amphimallon solstitiale, also known as the summer chafer or European june beetle, is a beetle similar to the cockchafer but much smaller, approximately 20 millimetres (0.79 in) in length. They are declining in numbers now, but where found they are often seen in large numbers. At dusk they actively fly around tree tops looking for a mate and can often be found drowning in pools of water the following morning. They are also attracted to light and come in through open, lit windows and fly around lamps, making quite a racket while bumping into lights. They are found throughout the Palearctic region (and North America) and, commonly seen from June to August, living in meadows, hedgerows, and gardens, and eating plants and tree foliage.

The larva of summer chafer undergo a two to three year period of development underground, feeding upon host plants. Carabid beetles, such as Poecilus cupreus, hunt and consume larvae and serve as a primary predator in arable fields.


These June beetles act as root pests for a number of economically important crops including potatoes, rape, legumes, chestnuts] and turfgrass. As generalist herbivores, they primarily feed upon secondary roots with smaller amounts of anti-herbivore chemicals across many different species. Several chemical and bio-control agents have been developed to control their populations, including their endemic bacteria and entomopathogenic nematodes.

The species can be found throughout Europe, extending into Turkey and even occurring in portions of East Asia. A number of other species of Amphimallon have been synonymized with subspecies of A. solstitale, including A. ochraceum and A. irtishensis.

Tuesday 16 July 2024

16-7-2024 ROTTERDAM ZOO, NETHERLANDS - COMMON RACCOON (Procyon lotor)


 The raccoon (/rəˈkuːn/ or US: /ræˈkuːn/ ⓘ, Procyon lotor), also spelled racoon[3] and sometimes called the common raccoon or northern raccoon to distinguish it from the other species, is a mammal native to North America. It is the largest of the procyonid family, having a body length of 40 to 70 cm (16 to 28 in), and a body weight of 5 to 26 kg (11 to 57 lb). Its grayish coat mostly consists of dense underfur, which insulates it against cold weather. The animal's most distinctive features include its extremely dexterous front paws, its facial mask, and its ringed tail, which are common themes in the mythologies of the Indigenous peoples of the Americas surrounding the species. The raccoon is noted for its intelligence, and studies show that it is able to remember the solution to tasks for at least three years. It is usually nocturnal and omnivorous, eating about 40% invertebrates, 33% plants, and 27% vertebrates.

The original habitats of the raccoon are deciduous and mixed forests, but due to their adaptability, they have extended their range to mountainous areas, coastal marshes, and urban areas, where some homeowners consider them to be pests. As a result of escapes and deliberate introductions in the mid-20th century, raccoons are now also distributed across central Europe, the Caucasus, and Japan.

In Europe, the raccoon has been included on the list of Invasive Alien Species of Union Concern since 2016.[4] This implies that this species cannot be imported, bred, transported, commercialized, or intentionally released into the environment in the whole of the European Union.

Though previously thought to be generally solitary, there is now evidence that raccoons engage in sex-specific social behavior. Related females often share a common area, while unrelated males live together in groups of up to four raccoons in order to maintain their positions against foreign males during the mating season and against other potential invaders. Home range sizes vary anywhere from 3 ha (7.4 acres) for females in cities, to 5,000 ha (12,000 acres) for males in prairies. After a gestation period of about 65 days, two to five young known as "kits" are born in spring. The kits are subsequently raised by their mother until dispersal in late fall. Although captive raccoons have been known to live over 20 years, their life expectancy in the wild is only 1.8 to 3.1 years. In many areas, hunting and vehicular injury are the two most common causes of death.

16-7-2024 ROTTERDAM ZOO, NETHERLANDS - EURASIAN JACKDAW (Corvus monedula)


The western jackdaw (Coloeus monedula), also known as the Eurasian jackdaw, the European jackdaw, or simply the jackdaw, is a passerine bird in the crow family. Found across Europe, western Asia and North Africa; it is mostly resident, although northern and eastern populations migrate south in the winter. Four subspecies are recognised, which differ mainly in the colouration of the plumage on the head and nape. Linnaeus first described it formally, giving it the name Corvus monedula. The common name derives from the word jack, denoting "small", and daw, a less common synonym for "jackdaw", and the native English name for the bird.

Measuring 34–39 centimetres (13–15 in) in length, the western jackdaw is a black-plumaged bird with a grey nape and distinctive pale-grey irises. It is gregarious and vocal, living in small groups with a complex social structure in farmland, open woodland, on coastal cliffs, and in urban settings. Like its relatives, jackdaws are intelligent birds, and have been observed using tools. An omnivorous and opportunistic feeder, it eats a wide variety of plant material and invertebrates, as well as food waste from urban areas. Western jackdaws are monogamous and build simple nests of sticks in cavities in trees, cliffs, or buildings. About five pale blue or blue-green eggs with brown speckles are laid and incubated by the female. The young fledge in four to five weeks.

The western jackdaw is found from Northwest Africa through all of Europe, except for the subarctic north, and eastwards through central Asia to the eastern Himalayas and Lake Baikal. To the east, it occurs throughout Turkey, the Caucasus, Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and northwestern India. However, it is regionally extinct in Malta and Tunisia. The range is vast, with an estimated global extent between 1 and 10 million square kilometres (0.4–4 million square miles). It has a large global population, with an estimated 15.6 to 45 million individuals in Europe alone.[45] Censuses of bird populations in marginal uplands in Great Britain show that western jackdaws greatly increased in numbers between the 1970s and 2010, although this increase may be related to recovery from previous periods when they were regarded as pests. The UK population was estimated at 2.5 million individuals in 1998, up from 780,000 in 1970.

16-7-2024 ROTTERDAM ZOO, NETHERLANDS - POLAR BEAR (Ursus maritimus)

The polar bear (Ursus maritimus) is a large bear native to the Arctic and nearby areas. It is closely related to the brown bear, and the two species can interbreed. The polar bear is the largest extant species of bear and land carnivore, with adult males weighing 300–800 kg (660–1,760 lb). The species is sexually dimorphic, as adult females are much smaller. The polar bear is white- or yellowish-furred with black skin and a thick layer of fat. It is more slender than the brown bear, with a narrower skull, longer neck and lower shoulder hump. Its teeth are sharper and more adapted to cutting meat. The paws are large and allow the bear to walk on ice and paddle in the water.

Polar bears are both terrestrial and pagophilic (ice-living) and are considered to be marine mammals due to their dependence on marine ecosystems. They prefer the annual sea ice but live on land when the ice melts in the summer. They are mostly carnivorous and specialized for preying on seals, particularly ringed seals. Such prey is typically taken by ambush; the bear may stalk its prey on the ice or in the water, but also will stay at a breathing hole or ice edge to wait for prey to swim by. The bear primarily feeds on the seal's energy-rich blubber. Other prey include walruses, beluga whales and some terrestrial animals. Polar bears are usually solitary but can be found in groups when on land. During the breeding season, male bears guard females and defend them from rivals. Mothers give birth to cubs in maternity dens during the winter. Young stay with their mother for up to two and a half years.

The polar bear is considered to be a vulnerable species by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) with an estimated total population of 22,000 to 31,000 individuals. Its biggest threats are climate change, pollution and energy development. Climate change has caused a decline in sea ice, giving the polar bear less access to its favoured prey and increasing the risk of malnutrition and starvation. Less sea ice also means that the bears must spend more time on land, increasing conflicts with people. Polar bears have been hunted, both by native and non-native peoples, for their coats, meat and other items. They have been kept in captivity in zoos and circuses and are prevalent in art, folklore, religion and modern culture.