Month: July 2016 (page 1 of 2)

Working together: Humans and the Honeyguide

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If you have followed even half of the news stories over the last two weeks you will have seen nothing but division and separation, but there was one story tucked away within the chaos that shows unity and co-operation, not between two sets of people, but between humans and birds.

The honeyguide is a starling size species of bird found in Africa. The bird feeds on bee grubs and beeswax, however despite it being slightly more resilient to bee stings than other birds, it is not immune and its small size means that feeding from the hive is difficult work. The aptly named honeyguide has developed over hundreds of years a mutualistic relationship (meaning a relationship between two organisms that benefits them both) with local people in order to feed from beehives.

This incredibly rare relationship between wild birds and humans was recently studied by researchers. The honeyguides lead human hunters to beehives, for the local people honey is an important part of their diet, and finding beehives can be time-consuming. With the birds as guides the time is greatly reduced and the hunters can gather honey from the hives for their people. In order to access the hives the people smoke out the insects and use axes to break in and harvest the honey. Now this is something that the honeyguide could of course not do on its own, once the hive has been opened by people, the bird can access its food source. Both the birds and the people have their food and thus both have benefited from using each other. What makes this relationship even more interesting is that there is communication between the two species. Local people use a specific call which is recognised by the honeyguides. Once called the birds often come out of the trees and seemingly understand that the people want the birds to guide them to the beehives. The honeyguides are able to recognise a call and not only know the meaning but respond accordingly. This is something that is incredibly rare between people and wild animals, we can train domesticated species to respond to a call, but for this to happen for untrained wild birds is pretty unique and a wonderful example of the benefits that collaboration can have between two very different organisms.

New Video!! Wildlife Watching: English Countryside

Killdeer Eggshell!

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Found this beautiful Killdeer eggshell, this ground nesting plover has amazingly camouflaged eggs, so much so they often don’t need to build a nest to hide them! Love the pattern!

NEW VIDEO!! Africa’s endangered wolf, the Ethiopian Wolf!

World’s largest shark pushed closer to extinction

Whale Sharks

The largest shark in the world is close to extinction, this week the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) redefined the whale shark as endangered on it’s ‘red list’. The IUCN red list is a comprehensive list of the conservation status of a large number of species. The whale shark was previously defined as vulnerable, meaning that the species was at high risk of becoming endangered. The new definition means that they are now described as being at high risk of becoming extinct in the wild.

Whale shark numbers have significantly declined, their population has decreased 50% in the last 75 years. Their numbers have dropped due to human activity, the sharks have been targeted for their fins, many are also killed after being caught up in large fishing nets. Much of the whale shark’s range has also been polluted and they are susceptible to an increase in shipping. The IUCN and other organisations are pushing for greater national protection of whale sharks throughout their range. At the moment they are internationally protected with strict laws around catching and trading the animal. The tide might be turning however, in recent years whale sharks have become a bit of a tourist attraction in some parts of the world. The increased demand to see the sharks in the wild may force governments to protect the species and put aside conservation areas for their protection.

Gannet returns to Channel Islands after flying record distance!

Gannet

A gannet from the Channel Island Alderney has returned home after flying an amazing 1700 miles to Scandanavian waters, gannets tend to fly around 200-300 miles whilst fishing. The gannet is being monitored by the Alderney Wildlife Trust’s Track-a-Gannet (T.A.G) project. The project is providing researchers with new information on the gannets feeding habits and how they may be affected by offshore energy projects, such as wind farms, and what techniques may be best for their conservation.

Cosmo the gannet’s record flight.

NEW VIDEO!! Why do deer have antlers??

Turkey Vulture soaring overhead!

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A common sight on Vancouver Island, a turkey vulture soars over me today. This bird can gather in large numbers using their amazing sense of smell to find their food, dead animals. They are summer visitors here, spending winter further south in the USA and Mexico.

Amazing spider lives in extreme environment!

The Himalayan jumping spider is a tiny spider with an amazing story! This spider lives high in the Himalayas, and can live at an altitude of 6700 metres above sea level. Very few species can live permanently at this height, and the spider feeds on insects that have been accidentally blown up the mountain in the wind!

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World’s rarest parrot reappears in Brazil

The Spix’s macaw is the world’s rarest parrot. This species, endemic to Brazil is the only member of it’s genus and was famously used as the main characters in the animated film ‘Rio’. It had not been seen in the wild since 2000, and had been presumed to be extinct, however amazingly one has appeared in the small city of Curaçá.

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Captive Spix’s macaw

A farmer in the city spotted the bird and it was recorded on a local’s phone, using the recording it was confirmed that the Spix’s macaw had seemingly reappeared in the wild. No one knows yet where this bird has come from, although it is believed it was probably released from captivity. Whilst the bird itself might not make a large difference to the population, it has brought a renewed sense of optimism to the area and given conservationists hope that through a reintroduction programme and tighter protections of prime habitat the Spix’s macaw may one day thrive in the forests of eastern Brazil.

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