Showing posts with label mammal. Show all posts
Showing posts with label mammal. Show all posts

Wednesday, 19 October 2011

Slimbridge Wetland Centre

A slight change of pace for this post: more of an annotated photo album, with an anecdote about being bitten by birds. I came home from Dorset and Devon via Gloucestershire and Oxfordshire; a convoluted route, yes, but worth it for the places I visited whilst there. Whilst in Gloucestershire (staying in Newent in the Forest of Dean), I visited Slimbridge Wetland Centre. Slimbridge is the birthplace of the Wildfowl and Wetland Trust (WWT), the organisation I work for. I’ve mentioned the site and some of its inhabitants in previous posts, but briefly, the reserve at Slimbridge, located by the River Severn, was created in 1946, along with the WWT itself, by Sir Peter Scott. Scott, the son of Antarctic explorer Robert Scott, devoted much of his life to the conservation of wildfowl and wetlands, for which he was knighted in 1973. Slimbridge has become a world-renowned centre for the breeding of rare and endangered birds, some of which, like the Hawaiian goose or nene (Branta sandvicensis), Laysan teal (Anas laysanensis), and spoon-billed sandpiper (Eurynorhynchus pygmeus)* were saved from extinction due to the efforts of the WWT.

* This species, a small wader breeding in northeastern Russia, is being raised in captivity at Slimbridge and Moscow Zoo, and is critically endangered in the wild.

Here follows a few photos I took during my last visit to Slimbridge. All photos by Mo Hassan, taken at Slimbridge Wetland Centre, Gloucestershire, September 2011. Those that are wild are indicated as such, otherwise the animals are part of the captive collection.



Albino xenopus toad, or African clawed frog
Xenopus laevis Daudin, 1802
Pipidae; Anura; Amphibia; Chordata



Pied avocet
Recurvirostra avosetta Linnaeus, 1758
Recurvirostridae; Charadriiformes; Aves; Chordata



Garden spider (wild)
Araneus diadematus Clerck, 1758
Araneidae; Araneae; Arachnida; Arthropoda



Puna, or James’, flamingo
Phoenicoparrus jamesi Sclater, 1886
Phoenicopteridae; Phoenicopteriformes; Aves; Chordata



Eurasian harvest mice
Micromys minutus (Pallas, 1771)
Muridae; Rodentia; Mammalia; Chordata





Female (above) and male lesser Magellan geese
Chloephaga picta picta (Gmelin, 1789)
Anatidae; Anseriformes; Aves; Chordata



Swan goose (foreground) with lesser white-fronted goose
Anser cygnoides (Linnaeus, 1758); A. erythropus (Linnaeus, 1758)
Anatidae; Anseriformes; Aves; Chordata



Lesser snow goose
Chen caerulescens caerulescens (Linnaeus, 1758)
Anatidae; Anseriformes; Aves; Chordata



Crested duck
Lophonetta specularioides (King, 1828)
Anatidae; Anseriformes; Aves; Chordata



West Indian whistling-duck
Dendrocygna arborea (Linnaeus, 1758)
Dendrocygnidae; Anseriformes; Aves; Chordata



Magpie goose
Anseranas semipalmata (Latham, 1798)
Anseranatidae; Anseriformes; Aves; Chordata



Black swan (cygnet)
Cygnus atratus (Latham, 1790)
Anatidae; Anseriformes; Aves; Chordata



Male Baer’s pochard
Aythya baeri (Radde, 1863)
Anatidae; Anseriformes; Aves; Chordata



Common crane
Grus grus (Linnaeus, 1758)
Gruidae; Gruiformes; Aves; Chordata



European eel (elver)
Anguilla anguilla (Linnaeus, 1758)
Anguillidae; Anguilliformes; Actinopterygii; Chordata



Common mudpuppy
Necturus maculosus (Rafinesque, 1818)
Proteidae; Caudata; Amphibia; Chordata

This odd-looking creature is similar in appearance to the axolotl (Ambystoma mexicanum), a popular pet and one of my favourite creatures ever, but is not closely related. It is, however, in the same family as the olm (Proteus anguinus), a non-pigmented blind cave salamander from eastern Italy and former Yugoslavia, and is called a mudpuppy probably cause of those immense fluffy gills that look like dog ears.



Black-tailed godwit (wild)
Limosa limosa (Linnaeus, 1758)
Scolopacidae; Charadriiformes; Aves; Chordata

To wrap this post up, hear me out whilst I tell you about ducks that bite. One way in which Slimbridge trumps London (over all, I prefer London) is that you can feed most of the birds in the World Wetlands area. Being eager to get closer views of many species, and also, I won’t lie, to be bitten by as many species as possible so I can run a phylogenetic analysis based on how it feels to be bitten by them (if I get bitten by a bittern I can die happy), I invested in some bird seeds and set about walking around the reserve. In total, I fed twelve different species*, and attempted several others. I can say that the throats of the smaller geese are so soft and are the gentlest feeders, feeling like a gently vibrating game controller. That’s in contrast to the Toulouse goose, a big beefy variety of the domesticated greylag, that practically hoovered up the grains I offered it, as well as most of the epithelial cells of my palm. It has a big powerful beak, but didn’t actually bite me (I’m using the term ‘bite’ although none of these birds have teeth). The most bitey bird was the swan goose, interestingly also domesticated as the Chinese goose, which actively nipped my palm and fingers as it picked up seeds. I guess it’s difficult to manipulate fine objects when you have a bill the size and shape of a children’s shoe. I expected the magpie goose to have a vicious bite, as the residents formerly at the London Wetland Centre used to bite my shoes and camera whenever I got anywhere near them, but it was surprisingly gentle in feeding.

* Those were: magpie goose, Bewick’s swan, swan goose, greylag (domestic) goose, lesser white-fronted goose, emperor goose, Ross’ goose, snow goose, barnacle goose, Hawaiian goose, red-breasted goose, and mallard.

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

Axe Valley Bird and Animal Park

After the SVPCA conference in Lyme Regis ended, I decided to visit a tiny but amazingly well-stocked little zoo about ten minutes away from the town by car. Despite this, the zoo is in Devon, while Lyme is in Dorset. Obviously, although it had escaped my attention, Lyme is very close to the border between the two counties.

Anyway, I arrived too early to get entry to Axe Valley Bird and Animal Park, near the town of Axminster in, as we have already established, Devon (albeit almost in Dorset). When it opened, I would have been surprised to see a nice variety of creatures, if I hadn’t already looked up the zoo on its own website and on zootierlist.de, the best guide to European zoos and wildlife parks on the web. I came particularly to see two rarely seen carnivores and a nice mix of unusual rodents; more on those in a bit.

There are several aviaries, each with a nice mix of species, both common-place (e.g. mallards [Anas platyrhynchos] and various breeds of chicken), and less usual (including demoiselle crane [Anthropoides virgo] and Magellan goose [Chloephaga picta]). The first ‘aviary’ (one inhabitant obviously doesn’t fly, I’ll leave that to the reader to figure out) to be seen includes: white stork (Ciconia ciconia), Puna ibis (Plegadis ridgwayi), Javan green peafowl (Pavo muticus muticus), white-cheeked turaco (Tauraco leucotis), marbled teal (Marmaronetta angustirostris), white-cheeked pintail (Anas bahamensis), and parma wallaby (Macropus parma). Another contained oystercatcher (Haematopus ostralegus), lapwing (Vanellus vanellus), speckled pigeon (Columba guinea), grey-headed swamphen (Porphyrio porphyrio poliocephalus), little egret (Egretta garzetta), and some sort of quail I was unable to identify (see below if you can help!).



Demoiselle crane
Anthropoides virgo (Linnaeus, 1758)
Gruidae; Gruiformes; Aves; Chordata
Axe Valley Bird and Animal Park, Devon
September 2011



White-cheeked turaco
Tauraco leucotis (Rüppell, 1835)
Musophagidae; Musophagiformes; Aves; Chordata
Axe Valley Bird and Animal Park, Devon
September 2011





Normal (above) and leucistic white-cheeked pintails
Anas bahamensis Linnaeus, 1758
Anatidae; Anseriformes; Aves; Chordata
Axe Valley Bird and Animal Park, Devon
September 2011



Eurasian oystercatcher
Haematopus ostralegus Linnaeus, 1758
Haematopodidae; Charadriiformes; Aves; Chordata
Axe Valley Bird and Animal Park, Devon
September 2011



Unidentified quail
Axe Valley Bird and Animal Park, Devon
September 2011

The park is lacking in herpetofauna, with only some species of commercially available testudine (including Horsfield’s tortoise [Testudo horsfieldii] and painted turtle [Chrysemys picta]), and mainly has a good variety of relatively non-threatening mammals and birds. The order Rodentia is well-represented, with black-tailed prairie dog (Cynomys ludovicianus), Hokkaido red squirrel (Sciurus vulgaris orientis), Siberian chipmunk (Tamias sibiricus), Prevost’s squirrel (Callosciurus prevostii), degu (Octodon degus), Azara’s agouti (Dasyprocta azarae), North American porcupine (Erethizon dorsatum), and crested porcupine (Hystrix cristata). By far my favourite of these is the Hokkaido red squirrel; it is much the same species as the red squirrel found in Europe but the coat colour is different (less red and more brown) and has extremely long ear tufts. They turned out to be extremely tough to photograph because they don’t stay still, so what you see here is the best I could manage.







Hokkaido red squirrel
Sciurus vulgaris orientis Thomas, 1906
Sciuridae; Rodentia; Mammalia; Chordata
Axe Valley Bird and Animal Park, Devon
September 2011

As for carnivorans, the list includes Asiatic short-clawed otter (Aonyx cinerea), North American raccoon (Procyon lotor), ring-tailed coati (Nasua nasua), banded mongoose (Mungos mungo), yellow mongoose (Cynictis penicillata), suricate (Suricata suricatta, you know, the thing everyone else calls ‘meerkat’), and two critters I came all this way to see: common palm civet (Paradoxurus hermaphroditus), and raccoon dog (Nyctereutes procyonoides).



Common palm civet
Paradoxurus hermaphroditus (Pallas, 1777)
Viverridae; Carnivora; Mammalia; Chordata
Axe Valley Bird and Animal Park, Devon
September 2011

The common palm civet, or toddy cat, is a widespread small viverrid from south and southeast Asia and is found in many urban areas such as Singapore. It’s a surprise they’re not more well known than they are, for a number of reasons. Firstly, civets (albeit not palm civets but civets proper) are partly responsible for the perfume industry, by producing a pungent musk from glands around the anus. The common palm civets do smell wonderfully musky, a bit foxy or ferret-like, only stronger. Also, the common palm civet is known to be partial to fermenting palm juice, hence its alternate name of ‘toddy cat’. But the species has gained notoriety in recent years for being responsible for kopi luwak. If you think you haven’t heard of that, you’re probably wrong. You may not have known it was a civet that was responsible for this, but palm civets that enjoy eating coffee beans are tracked down somehow and their excreta are sorted and sterilised (hopefully), as the coffee beans have passed through their digestive tract almost unchanged, only the bitter coating from the beans has been digested. The resulting coffee, which is rather expensive, might I add, is apparently excellent-tasting without any of the bitterness otherwise associated with coffee. I wouldn’t know, I’ve never tried kopi luwak, but I’d certainly try it if I was offered it.









Raccoon dogs
Nyctereutes procyonoides (Gray, 1834)
Canidae; Carnivora; Mammalia; Chordata
Axe Valley Bird and Animal Park, Devon
September 2011

The raccoon dog is another species not seen much in western zoos. It is a species of dog, supposedly rather basal within the Canidae, but could be closely allied with the zorros or South American foxes. It is native to eastern Asia from Far Eastern Russia south through Korea and China into northern Indochina, as well as Japan. It is known as tanuki in that latter nation, and is well known as part of ancient Japanese folklore. One of the things about male Japanese raccoon dogs which I’ve failed to notice is that they have disproportionately large testicles (apparently…), and this is represented in tanuki statues as backpacks flung over their shoulders. There’s even a children’s schoolyard song mentioning this. Tanukis are also known for their shape-shifting ability (I’m still talking mythologically here). Raccoon dogs are otherwised famed for their luxurious fur. Russian dogs were exported from the Far East to eastern Europe and as is the case with many fur-bearers, some escaped and have been spreading throughout continental Europe over the past century. Another reason raccoon dogs should be better known is their domesticity. It’s a myth that the only canid that has been domesticated is the grey wolf (Canis lupus). You may have also heard of domesticated Russian silver foxes (actually a colour morph of the cosmopolitan red fox, Vulpes vulpes), but raccoon dogs are mild-tempered and apparently domesticate well. They even come in alternate colour morphs, including a pure white one, but this probably derives from the selective breeding involved in the fur industry rather than from domesticity. I’ve yet to see raccoon dogs for sale in the pet trade, but it’s only a matter of time, I reckon.

Anyway, here are some photos of some of the other cool creatures at Axe Valley Bird and Animal Park:



European great grey owl
Strix nebulosa lapponica Thunberg, 1798
Strigidae; Strigiformes; Aves; Chordata
Axe Valley Bird and Animal Park, Devon
September 2011



Timneh grey parrot
Psittacus erithacus timneh Fraser, 1844
Psittacidae; Psittaciformes; Aves; Chordata
Axe Valley Bird and Animal Park, Devon
September 2011



Blue eared-pheasant
Crossoptilon auritum (Pallas, 1811)
Phasianidae; Galliformes; Aves; Chordata
Axe Valley Bird and Animal Park, Devon
September 2011



Southern white-faced owls
Ptilopsis granti (Kollibay, 1910)
Strigidae; Strigiformes; Aves; Chordata
Axe Valley Bird and Animal Park, Devon
September 2011



Western roe deer fawn
Capreolus capreolus (Linnaeus, 1758)
Cervidae; Cetartiodactyla; Aves; Chordata
Axe Valley Bird and Animal Park, Devon
September 2011



Sarus crane
Grus antigone (Linnaeus, 1758)
Gruidae; Gruiformes; Aves; Chordata
Axe Valley Bird and Animal Park, Devon
September 2011



Cape Barren goose
Cereopsis novaehollandiae Latham, 1801
Anatidae; Anseriformes; Aves; Chordata
Axe Valley Bird and Animal Park, Devon
September 2011



Leucistic greater rhea
Rhea americana (Linnaeus, 1758)
Rheidae; Rheiformes; Aves; Chordata
Axe Valley Bird and Animal Park, Devon
September 2011



Tawny owl
Strix aluco Linnaeus, 1758
Strigidae; Strigiformes; Aves; Chordata
Axe Valley Bird and Animal Park, Devon
September 2011

Just one more thing, notice the lack of bars around the tawny owl? Not just good camera work there, I suspect it’s a wild owl not just a feral or escaped one.

Sunday, 16 October 2011

Wetland Bonanza

Sincere apologies for the long hiatus from this blog. I have a string of excuses, but really, I just couldn’t be bothered. So, sorry again.

I have recently found myself a small amount of paid employment (hooray!), and it all involves working with children in an amazing environment (hurrah!): the London Wetland Centre. I know I’ve raved about this gorgeous urban oasis in the past, but I’ve discovered more and more to love about the Centre in the last few months, so there’ll be plenty to share. I started volunteering for the education team some months ago, helping out with and leading such activities as pond dipping, story-telling, arts and crafts, and themed walks around the grounds. I’ve had close encounters with all sorts of beasts, ranging from gammarid shrimp and three-spined sticklebacks to slow worms, viviparous lizards, and water voles, not to mention the children! A few photographic highlights of my work follow:



Marsh frog
Pelophylax ridibundus (Pallas, 1771)
Ranidae; Anura; Amphibia; Chordata
Wild at London Wetland Centre
May 2011



Northern water vole
Arvicola amphibius (Linnaeus, 1758)
Cricetidae; Rodentia; Mammalia; Chordata
Wild at London Wetland Centre
June 2011



Early marsh orchids
Dactylorhiza incarnata (L.) Soo
Orchidaceae; Asparagales; Liliopsida; Angiospermae
London Wetland Centre
June 2011



Female tufted duck with ducklings
Aythya fuligula (Linnaeus, 1758)
Anatidae; Anseriformes; Aves; Chordata
Wild at London Wetland Centre
June 2011



Slow worm
Anguis fragilis Linnaeus, 1758
Anguidae; Squamata; Sauropsida; Chordata
Wild at London Wetland Centre
June 2011



Gravid female viviparous lizard
Zootoca vivipara (Von Jacquin, 1787)
Lacertidae; Squamata; Sauropsida; Chordata
Wild at London Wetland Centre
June 2011



Blue-winged goose
Cyanochen cyanopterus (Rüppell, 1845)
Anatidae; Anseriformes; Aves; Chordata
London Wetland Centre
July 2011



Female mallard (with mallard duckling and adopted tufted ducks)
Anas platyrhynchos Linnaeus, 1758 (tufted duck: see above)
Anatidae; Anseriformes; Aves; Chordata
Wild at London Wetland Centre
July 2011



Highland cattle with a West London backdrop
Bos taurus Linnaeus, 1758
Bovidae; Cetartiodactyla; Mammalia; Chordata
London Wetland Centre
July 2011

The prominent purple flowers belong to purple loosestrife, Lythrum salicaria L.; Lythraceae; Myrtales; Magnoliopsida; Angiospermae.





White-faced whistling-duck ducklings
Dendrocygna viduata (Linnaeus, 1766)
Dendrocygnidae; Anseriformes; Aves; Chordata
London Wetland Centre
August 2011



Dead grass snake
Natrix natrix (Linnaeus, 1758)
Colubridae; Squamata; Sauropsida; Chordata
London Wetland Centre
August 2011

I’m currently working on preserving the specimen of this skeleton.



Chinese mitten crab
Eriocheir sinensis Milne-Edwards, 1853
Varunidae; Decapoda; Malacostraca; Arthropoda
Wild at London Wetland Centre
September 2011

This animal was found by a volunteer on the path early in the morning. It was likely caught by a heron or other bird and dropped. It was still alive, although only just, by 9 a.m., when I photographed it. Its fate was decided by the grounds team, that it should be humanely dispatched. Chinese mitten crabs are, as their name suggests, not native to the UK and are classed as an invasive species. This means that live individuals may not legally be introduced to a wild setting, and applies to other species such as grey squirrels and rose-ringed parakeets.

My current work at the Centre is mostly centred around the events planned for the upcoming autumn half-term. The Yuk! Show will run daily throughout the half term, inviting children to discover the gory and revolting side of nature. I’ve spent some of my work days doing things I’d never thought I’d do: creating and painting replica droppings and bones, and painting a giant papier-mâché owl pellet (for those who don’t know, this is the regurgitated mass of fur, feathers, and bones chucked up by birds such as owls). I have high hopes for the Yuk! Show and I hope it’s worth all the effort me and my colleagues have put into it!

For more information on upcoming events at the London Wetland Centre, please visit the website here.