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Which Birds Can You See by the River?

Friday, 10 June 2016


OK, this is meant for kids but like many clever and entertaining things created specifically with younglings in mind this is just as much of a treat for us olduns too. Animator Will Rose has created this charming animation to educate us about five species of birds which congregate around British rivers. In the space of just under two minutes you will learn to recognise swallows, blackbirds, swifts, kingfishers and goldfinches. Lovely!

The Giant Ichneumon Wasp – Stump Stabber Extraordinaire

Friday, 3 June 2016

What is the fastest, tallest, heaviest, lightest? We love to compare members of the animal kingdom in these terms.  One word you may hear too is longest but when it appears in a question it is normally asked in terms of total length.  In that case, the Giant Ichnuemon Wasp (Megarhyssa macrurus), found in the USA, is nothing much to write home about being just two inches long.  However, if the question was “which insect has the longest ovipositor known to science?” then the female of this species would be the answer. And holy egg laying organs, it’s some length.

Image Credit
So, yes.  That long thing extending from the wasp, twice the length of its body, is not a stinger or a rear antenna (which might be unusual and interesting).  It’s the wasp’s ovipositor, and is used to lay its eggs: but that’s not all.  It’s also a drill.

Ivory Burn


Look at the picture to the left – it looks like a huddle of huts or some kind of haystacks: whichever way, the structures are certainly man-made.  Yet when you realize that these structures are made from the tusks of elephants slain for their ivory the true horror of what you are seeing finally sinks in.  That’s no bad thing as it’s difficult to get a grip on the sheer scale of the ivory poaching problem in countries like Kenya.  These are the last remains of over 7,000 elephants. This April the Kenyan authorities burned these tusks, worth up to US$100 million to send a message – that the only value of ivory is the tusks on a live elephant.  Ivory Burn was created by filmmaker Austin Peck.

Crabspawn 2016


If birds had festivals then one of the highlights of their calendar would be Crabspawn.  As it is, it may not be organised but it is certainly chaotic.  This remarkable film was taken by Murray N Hadley at Fortescue Bay, New Jersey. 

When the horseshoe crabs spawn they fill the sea with their eggs.  Why the numbers is not a mystery for long as shorebirds go in to a feeding frenzy and gobble up as many as their bellies will take while the opportunity is there.

So by laying so many, the crabs assure that at least some of the eggs will go on to hatch. Yet for birds such as the red knot this is a feast and they will often double their weight during this stopover on their way to their arctic breeding grounds.  You can almost imagine them mulling over the excitement later on in the year. “Did you go to Crabspawn 2016?”  “Yeah, man. It was awesome.”  But we don't anthropomorphize on this site...

Amung Feedjit