African harrier-hawk in Cape Town, South Africa


This video from South Africa says about itself:

An African Harrier-Hawk hunting upside down (Gymnogene)

The African Harrier-Hawk, Harrier Hawk, or Gymnogene is a bird of prey. It is about 60-66 cm in length, and is related to the harriers. It breeds in most of Africa south of the Sahara.

From the Sunday Argus in South Africa this week:

Pics: Harrier-hawk’s urban takeaway

A large bird of prey swooped through Long Street, startling pedestrians and motorists alike

Cape Town – Was it a small plane? Was it Superman? No, actually, this time it was a bird in the form of an African Harrier-hawk that swooped around the heart of Cape Town last week, startling motorists and pedestrians and scaring the living daylights out of the pigeons.

And in the case of what appeared to be a young fledgling pigeon, this was literally true, because it was caught and devoured by the raptor that was formally known (and still is to many bird-lovers) as a Gymnogene.

The graceful but highly manoeuvrable raptor was photographed with its prey by Weekend Argus photographer Leon Muller at the intersection of Long and Waterkant streets.

Pedestrians and shoppers also whipped out their cellphones to record the unusual event while anxious Hartlaub’s Gulls squawked raucously as they tried in vain to drive the intruder away. The Harrier-hawk simply ignored them as it polished off its meal before taking off again.

A few days later it was seen alighting on the Methodist Church in Greenmarket Square, sending the local flocks of pigeons wheeling in terrified flight.

This raptor species has the ability to climb, using its wings, claws and double-jointed knees, which allows it to raid nests, particularly those of cavity-nesters such as barbets. It also feeds on alien species, like feral pigeons and house sparrows.

Professor Peter Ryan, director of the Percy FitzPatrick Institute of African Ornithology at the University of Cape Town, confirmed the identity of the raptor.

“They are increasing in the Peninsula and are partial to squirrels, among other things,” he said.

That has to be good news for nature-lovers concerned at what appears to be the rapid population explosion of the alien grey squirrel that, although predominantly vegetarian, also feeds on the eggs and chicks of indigenous Cape birds.

Grey squirrels are native to North America and were among several exotic species introduced to the Cape by arch-colonialist Cecil John Rhodes.

john.yeld@inl.co.za

John Yeld, Sunday Argus

Five short-eared owl babies born


This video from Britain is called Separating Short-eared and Long-eared Owls.

Translated from Natuurmonumenten conservation organisation in the Netherlands:

Young short-eared owls born in Skrok

Monday, July 21, 2014 11:11

Unique: Five owlets were born from a nesting pair of short-eared owls in Skrok nature reserve. Unique to the Frisian area, 10km north of Sneek. It is certainly twenty years since breeding short-eared eared owls had been observed there for the last time.

Mowing postponed

Ranger Sander Veenstra: “Now that we know this, we will definitely not mow this plot in the coming weeks.” …

It’s a good short-eared owl year. This year there is a surplus of mice. And that is visible. In the nest of this couple there are mice which have not even been eaten. The parents have made a sort of a pantry. The owlets can use this as well in the coming months. In a few weeks’ time, they will fly off. A unique event for Skrok,” says ranger Sander Veenstra.

Four new rodent species discovered in Bolivia


This video is about tuco-tucos.

From Science, Space & Robots:

Scientists Identify Four New Species of Tuco-Tucos

Scientists have identified four new species of tuco-tuco in Bolivia. The research team was led by Scott Gardner from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Tuco-tucos are gopher-like mammals that make burrows for homes. They range in size as adults from 7 to 12 inches (.2 to .3 meters) and weigh about 1 pound (0.45 kilograms).

The researchers say the high ridges that create deep river valleys in central Bolivia have aided the development of different tuco-tuco species through geographic isolation. The four new tuco-tuco species include Ctenomys erikacuellarae (Erika’s tuco-tuco), Ctenomys andersoni (Anderson’s cujuchi), Ctenomys lessai (Lessa’s tuco-tuco) and Ctenomys yatesi (Yates’ tuco-tuco). There are about 65 tuco-tuco species in South America. Bolivia has twelve of them with the four newly identified species. …

Tuco-tucos dig complex burrows using their claws and their teeth. These burrows feature long branching tunnels and include a main tunnel that is longer than 46 feet (14 meters). They reportedly make a loud “tuc-tuc” noise which is where the tuco-tuco name comes from.

Gardner said in a statement, “The area from which these mammals were collected is still relatively unknown in a biological sense, even though this is the eastern foothills of the Andes, with among the highest level of biodiversity anywhere.”

A research paper on the new species was published here in the Special Publications from the Museum of Text Tech University.

July 21, 2014

Birds and rodents, video


This video is about wildlife in the Netherlands. Birds like song thrush and reed bunting; and small rodents.

Gerrie van der Meulen made the video.

Squirrel trying to feed, video


This is a video about a red squirrel in a garden, trying to get at bird feed. Which proves to be more difficult than it suspected.

Kevin Colins in the Netherlands made the video.

English hazel dormice news


This video from Britain is called Wildwood’s Dormice Breeding Programme.

From Wildlife Extra:

Release carried out of 42 hazel dormice in Nottinghamshire woods

Twenty one breeding pairs of endangered hazel dormice were this week released into the wild at an undisclosed woodland location in Nottinghamshire.

The People’s Trust for Endangered Species (PTES) has released the captive-bred animals as part of a national programme to help this endangered animal survive.

The dormice are released on-site in breeding pairs in their own secure wooden nest box fitted inside a mesh cage secured to woodland trees. This helps them adjust to their new home in the wild.

Once the initial relocation has taken place, the dormice are checked and fed daily in these cages over a two-week period to help acclimatise them to their new environment.

A small door in each cage is then opened so that the dormice are free to explore their new home whilst having the security of the mesh cage and food if needed. These are eventually removed once the animals have settled into the wood.

Despite their once widespread existence throughout much of England and Wales, the range and population of the dormouse has diminished significantly over the past 100 years, and the species is now rare and vulnerable to extinction.

However, analysis from the National Dormouse Monitoring Programme, the world’s largest and longest-running small mammal monitoring project which is managed by PTES and co-funded by Natural England, suggests that although dormice continue to decline, the rate of decline may be slowing.

This does not mean that dormice are ‘out of the woods’ yet, though, and such reintroductions play an important role in UK dormouse conservation.

This latest release site has been clustered closely with last year’s location.

Habitat such as woodland and hedgerows will be improved between the two sites so that as the two separate populations establish themselves in their respective woodlands, they will later have the opportunity to disperse and eventually join up. This will enhance the chance of long term viability for dormice in Nottinghamshire.

Ian White, Dormouse Officer at PTES, explains why dormouse reintroductions are part of the charity’s long-term conservation strategy for the species: “We cannot undo overnight the changes that have occurred in our countryside and rural practices over the last 100 years which have contributed to the decline of dormice.

“But with time and careful management we can create sustainable areas of woodland and hedgerows so that dormice can re-establish themselves and thrive.”

This year marks the 24th dormouse reintroduction by PTES at 19 different sites, with more than 750 dormice released across 12 English counties over the last 21 years.

Ice age vole teeth discovery on Texel island


Ice age vole teeth discovered on Texel

Translated from Ecomare museum on Texel island in the Netherlands:

08-06-14

Midas found this special teeth on the Texel beach

A water vole molar from perhaps more than half a million years old and a younger one, possibly two hundred thousand years old! These are the main components of the extraordinary discovery which the 13-year-old Midas Verbeek made last month, going to Ecomare with it. Just above the tide line at beach post 17 he found some small molars and teeth. Because such small molars are difficult to name mouse molar specialist Francine Dieleman was told about it. She had her first research results last week.

Oldest mice

The discovery by Midas, she discovered, included vole molars from the last ice age, incisors of voles, a tail vertebra of a water vole, a strange skull fragment, fish vertebrae and teeth. Francine Dieleman has named them provisionally and will continue to investigate them further still. She will publish about the molars in a specialist magazine. Such old rodents had in fact never before been found in the Wadden Sea area. The mice molar specialist works at Naturalis museum in Leiden.

Squirrel-magpie conflict about nuts, video


This is a video about a conflict between a red squirrel and a magpie about nuts.

The video is by Jos Bleyweert in Genk in Belgium.

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Red squirrel startled by great tit, video


In this video, a great tit startles a feeding red squirrel.

Albert van den Tweel in the Netherlands made the video.

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Wild mice like wheel running


This video is called A house mouse using a running wheel.

From Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences:

Wheel running in the wild

Johanna H. Meijer and Yuri Robbers

Abstract

The importance of exercise for health and neurogenesis is becoming increasingly clear. Wheel running is often used in the laboratory for triggering enhanced activity levels, despite the common objection that this behaviour is an artefact of captivity and merely signifies neurosis or stereotypy. If wheel running is indeed caused by captive housing, wild mice are not expected to use a running wheel in nature. This however, to our knowledge, has never been tested.

Here, we show that when running wheels are placed in nature, they are frequently used by wild mice, also when no extrinsic reward is provided. Bout lengths of running wheel behaviour in the wild match those for captive mice. This finding falsifies one criterion for stereotypic behaviour, and suggests that running wheel activity is an elective behaviour. In a time when lifestyle in general and lack of exercise in particular are a major cause of disease in the modern world, research into physical activity is of utmost importance. Our findings may help alleviate the main concern regarding the use of running wheels in research on exercise. …

2. Observations in nature

We observed wheel running both in the urban area (1011 observations in the first 24 months, of which 734 were of mice) and in the dunes (254 observations in 20 months, of which 232 were of mice). Wheel movement not caused by mice was caused by shrews, rats, snails, slugs or frogs (figure 2 and the electronic supplementary material, movie clips). Of these, only the snails caused haphazard rather than directional movement of the wheel and were therefore excluded from the analysis. Cases where animals set the wheel in motion from the outside were also not considered proper wheel running and were therefore excluded.

The observations showed that feral mice ran in the wheels year-round, steadily increasing in late spring and peaking in summer in the green urban area, while increasing in mid-to-late summer in the dunes, reaching a peak late in autumn (see the electronic supplementary material, figure S1a,b). Some animals seem to use the wheel unintentionally, but mice and some shrews, rats and frogs were seen to leave the wheel and then enter it again within minutes in order to continue wheel running. This observation indicates that wheel running may well be intentional rather than unintentional for these animals. Video recordings show that the wheel running mice were primarily juveniles, possibly explaining the higher incidence of wheel running around the summer.

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