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The Portuguese Water Dog: From the Russian Steppes to The White House

Sunday, 8 December 2013

Until the announcement on the 11 April 2009 about the breed of dog that President Obama and his family were to welcome in to the White House, little was known about the Portuguese Water Dog.  Yet the fact that Bo (as he became known) is now ensconced in the White House is, for his breed, something just short of a miracle. Behind the shaggy good looks there lies a remarkable story of species survival. By the 1930s the dog was on the verge of extinction.

Arguments abound about the origins of the Portuguese Water Dog with many maintaining that the first early examples of the species appeared on the Russian Steppes around 700 BC.  If this is the case, one can only wonder whether the irony is lost on President Obama: the dog that became part of his family has its origins in what was for many years called the USSR?

Red Squirrels Show Signs of Recovery from Deadly Poxvirus

Sunday, 1 December 2013

The red squirrel population in the UK, long on the brink of complete destruction, has shown signs of resistance to a deadly poxvirus which has killed hundreds of thousands of them over the decades. A study in an area of Merseyside in the North West of England has shown that around 10 percent of the population there now carry squirrelpox antibodies in their bloodstream. The antibodies, which enable the squirrels and their descendants, to respond to the virus also indicate that a number of the animals have had the disease but have recovered.

This is the first time that a red squirrel surviving exposure to the poxvirus has been recorded. The news has been welcomed by naturalists as an encouraging sign. So, what happened in Merseyside to make a difference?

Shake

Monday, 21 October 2013


If this doesn’t make your day then I am not sure what will…  Take a number of dogs, film them shaking off water and then slow the film down… right down until every twist and turn, each slobber and swerve is captured.  It is quite amazing how something so everyday becomes so entrancing!

The inspiration for this short piece came when the team from Variable, a production company & creative collective based in New York City saw the still photography of Carli Davidson which went viral last year.  They contacted her to see if she would be interested in taking her project a step further and capturing the dogs with the moving image.  As you can see, Variable got a big yes from Carli and they have now unleashed this fantastic video on to the internet.

If you love this as much as we did here at Ark in Space then you may like to know that Shake The Book is now available too, featuring many of Carli Davidson’s wonderful portraits of dogs captured in time while doing the shake…

The London Parakeets: Perfect Pest or Welcome Guest?

Saturday, 19 October 2013

At some point in the late sixties some Parakeets made a bid for freedom in London.  For decades they were treated as an exotic guest and viewed with a mix of bemusement and pleasure.  However, their days in London seemed to be numbered a few years ago but so far, the numbers seem to be increasing.

For a while the number of Parakeets in London remained small and toleration was the name of the game.  After all, London has a long and proud history of welcoming foreigners to its heart and making them its own.  So it was with the parakeet.  However, their numbers exploded in the late nineties and many now seem them as a pest.  From the beginning of 2010 open season on the cockney parakeet was declared.

Sam the Dog Enjoys a Day at the Beach

Sunday, 22 September 2013


Some dogs don’t like water but that’s OK. The ones that do make up for it in the joyous way that they will leap in to water wherever it is. Whether it’s a lake, a river or an ocean there is always going to be a dog more than happy to participate.

That’s the case with Sam (who is a chocolate Labrador by the looks) who took his human Andres Santos for a great day at the beach recently. Andres caught it all in wonderful slow motion for us to enjoy, so, enjoy!

Stop the Dog (Starring Harvey Waggington)

Friday, 5 July 2013


Watch this right to the end: you will (I hope) laugh!  This short film, a little over two minutes long, follows the adventures of a lovable Labrador.  The dog is played by Harvey Waggington, who we suspect might be playing himself. Or it could be method acting: who can say?

However, that aside, this dog may be intent on being the canine equivalent of an altruist but he is somewhat let down by his natural clumsiness…

Stop the Dog was created by takeitoutsidefilms for the 2013 Virgin Media Shorts competition.  You can vote for it in the competition by clicking here.

The short was produced and directed by Alec Birkbeck with music written by Nick Salmon and played by Steel City Sax.

The Dogs of War – A Tribute to the MWD, Military Working Dogs

Sunday, 30 June 2013

Dogs have been used in warfare for millennia – and are still trained to operate in war zones today. From the scouts to the tracker, detectors and sentries, this is a tribute to those dogs who work with the military today - and of course their trainers.

It is a fact easily overlooked that dogs are used by the military in war zones – many people do not realise that they are used at all. They have made significant contributions where they have been deployed. A fitting point at which to start is to pay our respects to those dogs that helped win wars in the past. Here, Military Working Dog (from here on in referred to as MWD) Rico accompanies Petty Officer 2nd Class Blake Soller to salute the dogs who helped to liberate Guam in 1944. The inscription on the memorial says “25 Marine War Dogs gave their lives liberating Guam in 1944. They served as sentries, messengers, scouts. They explored caves, detected mines and booby traps. -SEMPER FIDELIS” (always faithful).

Quagga

Friday, 28 June 2013


You may not have heard of the Quagga and you might suspect that it never really existed. However, it did but the last of its kind died in the 19th century. It joined an ever growing list of animals made extinct by our direct intervention in its habitat.

This animation by Olga and Tatiana Poliektovs re-introduces us to the quagga and some of his friends by way of a little boy having an adventure with his camera in his woods. He manages to capture a picture of these shy animals but when he shows it to his mother the animals have all disappeared from the picture. Take a look at the animation: it may make you sad but hopefully it will encourage you to help those species that we still can save!

Nightmare Alien

Monday, 20 May 2013


Have you ever wanted to look away but simply couldn’t?  I think that’s how I felt (still not sure) watching this footage taken by Friedhelm Fischer.  It’s a macro time-lapse of a simple land snail yet as it is so close up it does somewhat resemble the nightmare alien of the title.

What was most fascinating for me was watching the tentacles curl out and retract.  The upper set are called ommatophores (just call them eye stalks, it’s easier).  The lower set help the snail smell itself along to its next meal.  Absolutely fascinating footage!

The African Fish Eagle – Kleptoparasite Extraordinaire

Monday, 18 March 2013

The National Bird of two countries - Zimbabwe and Zambia – the African Fish Eagle is a bird that, with its gorgeous snow white head, once seen is never forgotten.

The Eagle is found in most parts of the continent – as long as you are south of the edge of the Sahara Desert.  Also known as the African Sea Eagle it is found anywhere near where there is water containing fish.  It has a distinctive call which immediately identifies it, but what really stands out is its magnificent plumage.

Lion and Crocodile Fight Over an Impala

Sunday, 3 March 2013


Or, Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner?! Sometimes you never know what to expect at mealtimes, especially if you and your sister are looking after five energetic cubs.  Yet one thing you might not expect, if you were a lioness trying to feed a hungry family, is to be joined by an even hungrier crocodile – who doesn’t look as if he wants to share either!

This remarkable footage was taken at the end of September 2012 by Oli Dreike. The 'Kapamba Pride' at Zungulila Bushcamp, South Luangwa, Zambia killed an impala right in front of Tent 2 at Zungulila Bushcamp, interrupting the guests' breakfast. The voracious lions - two females and five cubs (regular visitors to the plain in front of camp that season) - were so absorbed in their meal, that it took them a while to apprehend that they had an unwanted and unwelcome table guest.... the enormous crocodile that lives in the stream in front of encampment had smelt its chance and decided to try it's luck at grabbing a piece of the action. The video speaks for itself!

Birth of a Mosquito


Strictly speaking this amazing footage by Alvaro Mendoz Productions does not show the actual birth of a mosquito but the emergence of one in to its adult stage.  The first three stages, the egg, larva and pupa are mostly spent in water.  Typically this takes between five and fourteen days and at that point the pupae will come to the surface and break through to the air.

However, water tension allows the insect to literally walk on water – or in the case of this mosquito it can emerge from its pupa form in to adulthood right at the very surface without breaking the water’s surface tension.  Floating on the surface it is able to harden its exoskeleton and wings and then fly off – all within the space of a very short amount of time.  This piece of film shows this rarely seen episode in the life of a mosquito. Amazing.

Snow Games

Monday, 18 February 2013


This will make you smile, I hope. There have been a few videos recently of various animals playing in the snow – and here is another one to add to the collection.  This one, however, is a little different because the dog playing in the snow has been captured in slow motion.  Barolo, who owns filmmaker Andrey Blanco, has been filmed at 240 frames per second.  So, you get every jump, every leap and – you swear – a dog can smile!

Barolo is absolutely full of life – joie de vivre is in his every motion.  What a pleasure is must be to accompany him through life!

You Don’t Frighten Me!

Sunday, 10 February 2013

Sometimes you have to whip your camera out in a second to get the photograph. When Flickr photographer Peretz Partensky was traveling the Silk Road in Tashkent, Uzbekistan he managed to capture this amazing shot. What we don’t see, however, is the way that the dog charged the cat and the way the ferocious feline stopped her in her tracks by hissing and thrusting a paw in the air. Yet this, taken a second or two afterwards captures the dramatic moment, in my mind, perfectly. This little cat is giving the dog her marching orders! You don’t frighten me!

The Birds of Troup Head


In June 2012 Cain Scrimgeour visited RSPB (Royal Society for the Protection of Birds) Troup Head in Scotland, to produce a short promotional film for the RSPB. A week was spent filming on the high sea cliffs of the reserve, where he was privileged to be in the presence of the beautiful and prehistoric Northern Gannet, Morus bassanus. The close proximity allowed him to delve into the Gannets lives, witnessing the complexity of their behavioural traits.

Cain takes up the story: During the week the weather was by majority hot and sunny with flat seas, this proved to be challenging in terms of exposure whilst filming these large white birds, but it also meant that the majority of the Gannets kept to the cliff edges, never venturing above the cliff tops. Only two days did I experience wind which provided some interesting photograph and filming opportunities. The waves picked up, and began crashing into the base of the rocky cliffs, whilst the winds updrafts allowed the Gannets to gain height, congregating at the uppermost parts of the cliff face, gliding effortlessly above the horizon.

Red Crab Migration on Christmas Island: Roadkill Era Over

Saturday, 2 February 2013


If you have ever watched a documentary about the migration of red crabs on Christmas Island from the forest back to the sea to spawn, then you have probably seen enough crab carcasses to last you a lifetime.

As the crabs made their way back to the ocean they would inevitably have to cross one of the island’s roads. In the past motorists would try to swerve to avoid them (or not!) but often the crabs were simply too numerous and accidents inevitably happened.

However, it is hoped that these days the number of crabs being squished and squashed will be massively reduced, thanks to the efforts of the amazing staff of Parks Australia. They have created a number of ingenious methods to ensure that as many crabs get to the sand and the sea as possible. Take a look at this interesting video to find out more.

A Bird Ballet


Neels Castillon was filming a commercial near Marseille in France.  While he and his colleagues were waiting for a helicopter to shoot they noticed something else was going on – something quite wonderful.  It is known as a murmuration of starlings and it happens at dusk.  Many thousands of starlings take to the skies at the same time and form a giant cloud. They wheel, turn, plummet and soar in an incredible natural spectacle that makes you wonder, quite honestly, how they do it without colliding in to each other!

You may well wonder why they do this.  It seems that, as ever, there is safety in numbers and it is thought that this huge congregation of starlings all simultaneously on the move might help to confuse birds of prey. 

Don’t be fooled by the huge numbers seen here, however.  It has been estimated that starling numbers in the UK and France have plummeted by an incredible 70% in recent years.  We may be the last generation to witness this spectacle.

Snow Day

Wednesday, 23 January 2013


The internet was recently abuzz with a video of a cat enjoying her first day of snow – and yes it was very, very cute.

If you are a dog person, however, you should check this out.

It is a short video of Chihuahuas Amber and Eevee. Their first experience of snow is a joy to behold.

The video was made by Mike Buonaiuto.

Amung Feedjit