Monday 27 July 2009

Five photos to tide you over

On Wednesday I'm leaving for Somerset for the Sea Dragons of Avalon seminar. I'll be back on Sunday, in time for the next instalment of the British Wildlife Alphabet, but until then, enjoy this eclectic mix of tetrapods.

Frilled lizards
Chlamydosaurus kingii Gray, 1827
Agamidae; Squamata; Sauropsida; Chordata
Pet shop in Crews Hill, Enfield, North London
May 2009

Until I saw these guys in a pet shop specialising in reptiles, I had no idea you could keep them as pets. I imagined them like the Dilophosaurus in Jurassic Park, a bit mean and possibly dangerous. It seems not; they look quite curious and friendly, just like their relatives, the bearded dragons (Pogona spp.), and the individual in the foreground of the photo was 'following' me with its eyes as I walked past. The background one even splayed its hood a little, but too quickly for me to photograph it.

Male lion with cub
Panthera leo (Linnaeus, 1758)
Felidae; Carnivora; Mammalia; Chordata
Linton Zoo
July 2009

Linton Zoo has a few big cats, including Amur (or Siberian) tigers (Panthera tigris altaica), leopards (P. pardus), both spotted and melanistic (black panthers), snow leopards (Uncia uncia) and the lion. There are two enclosures for the lions (derived from Africa, but of unspecific origin): in the first one I encountered there were an adult male and female who started playing, just like ginormous cats. Try as I might, I couldn't get any decent photos, as there were not only two wire mesh barriers, but also a fence between me and the enclosure. After walking around the zoo a little while, I noticed an adult male lion sitting atop a hill in another enclosure. I was snapping photos of him happily, as the wire mesh wasn't as thick. As I was doing so, this cub (only 2 months old!) came out from behind his dad. According to Linton Zoo's website, the male (Zuri) and female (Safina) are the parents of three cubs, born on the 16th May.

Greater rhea
Rhea americana (Linnaeus, 1758)
Rheidae; Rheiformes; Aves; Chordata
Botany Bay Farm Shop, Enfield
July 2009

It's usual to see a variety of animals on the farm: cows, sheep, goats, chickens... I could go on for a while. But it's not that usual to see a South American ratite, let alone a pair of them, in a barn. I can't remember when the farm first acquired them, and still don't know why (surely most people just think they're ostriches, or emus). They've been there for a few years at least, however, and share their barn with a few small ponies. They're quite friendly, and will feed from your hand. I stole a feather from the ground a few years back, and still have it in my collection. A beautiful thing it is.

Budgerigar sitting atop a Japanese quail
Melopsittacus undulatus (Shaw, 1805) + Coturnix japonica Temminck & Schlegel, 1849
Psittacidae; Psittaciformes + Phasianidae; Galliformes (both Aves; Chordata)
Van Hage Animal Centre, near Ware, Hertfordshire
July 2009

I'd seen this kind of thing on YouTube or on Animals Do The Funniest Things, and have now seen it for real. A budgie came down from its perch at the top of the aviary and landed on top of the quail. The quail continued to run around the enclosure, still with the budgerigar on its back, for a few minutes. I don't know if the budgie's just having a laugh (seeing as parrots are intelligent birds and probably enjoy playing), or if there's a seedier side to the behaviour (i.e., what certain ducks have been known to do). Either way, it's hilarious, and gets kids interested in watching birds. You may have noticed the overgrown beak of the quail; I've seen the same kind of thing in Cyprus on a chukar (Alectoris chukar - a kind of partridge), again in captivity.

For the final photo in this series, I've decided not to identify the animal for you. It may be easy, it may be hard, depending on how much you know about mammals in general. The animal's rear end you see here does not usually look like this. The tail is usually much longer. Why is it like this? And more importantly, what does the rump belong to? Photo taken at Van Hage Animal Centre, July 2009.

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