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Sometimes for months on end, you don't see anything but the same birds, and you start wondering if it is the migration, the weather, or something else that's screwing up the mojo. And then you see a flick of a tail, the puffed out chest with his best bib and tucker (or maybe a Packard), and you forget about what might be, and take a lot of pleasure in seeing an old friend. In this case, mine is the Black Phoebe. And I'm so lucky that at the top of my favorites list inhabits the west coast and is a resident. So I can go out almost any day, and there will be at least one of them. This guy's a flycatcher, and has the wonderful habit of fying to and from one perch and allowing me to get some pretty good shots of him (or her). Today, between storms, a black phoebe was flitting between the roof of a utility building and my fence post. I'm beginning to think I know him. The Black Phoebe may be plain, but as I said last week, it may be an oxymoron, but he's plainly beautiful.

 

He's no Painted Bunting, Roadrunner, Grosbeak, or even a Steller's Jay. But he's got personality, and he lightens up the cloudiest day. I saved this shot, my last of 2016, and it's time to share him with you especially the 90% of the country that doesn't have such good fortune.

The verditer flycatcher is an Old World flycatcher widespread in Southeast Asia and the Indian subcontinent, especially in the Lower Himalaya.

Scientific name: Eumyias thalassinus,

 

This species has an extremely large range, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the range size criterion (Extent of Occurrence 30% decline over ten years or three generations). The population size has not been quantified, but it is not believed to approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population size criterion (10% in ten years or three generations, or with a specified population structure). For these reasons the species is evaluated as Least Concern.

The verditer flycatcher is an Old World flycatcher widespread in Southeast Asia and the Indian subcontinent, especially in the Lower Himalaya.

Scientific name: Eumyias thalassinus,

 

This species has an extremely large range, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the range size criterion (Extent of Occurrence 30% decline over ten years or three generations). The population size has not been quantified, but it is not believed to approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population size criterion (10% in ten years or three generations, or with a specified population structure). For these reasons the species is evaluated as Least Concern.

February 16, 2017, at Jamundi, Valle del Cauca, Colombia.

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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

"Pied water tyrant

Fluvicola pica.jpg

Conservation status

Least Concern (IUCN 3.1)[1]

Class:Aves

Order:Passeriformes

Family:Tyrannidae

Genus:Fluvicola

Species:F. pica

Binomial name

Fluvicola pica

(Boddaert, 1783)

The pied water tyrant (Fluvicola pica) is a small passerine bird in the tyrant flycatcher family. It breeds in tropical South America from Panama and Trinidad south to Bolivia and Argentina.

 

This species is found in marshy savannahs and the edges of mangrove swamps. The nest is a feather-lined oval ball of grasses and other plant material, with a side entrance. It is placed at the end of a branch near or over water. Both sexes incubate the typical clutch of two or three creamy-white eggs, which are marked with a few brown spots. Cowbirds sometimes parasitise the nest.

 

The pied water tyrant is 13.5 cm long and weighs 13g. Adults are mainly white with a black nape, back, wings and tail. Sexes are similar, although the female may have some brown mixed with the black, and immature birds are brown where the adult is black. The call is a nasal djweeooo.

 

Pied water tyrants often bob up and down when perched, and have a fluttering “butterfly” display flight. They forage for insects, their staple diet, in low waterside vegetation."

Empidonax minimus

Mosquerito Chebec

Parque Nacional Carara, Puntarenas

 

Historia Natural

 

Alimentación

 

Forrajea al igual que otras Empidonax migratorias mediante salidas y vuelos cernidos dentro de la vegetación.

Se alimenta de insectos.

 

Comportamiento

 

En el invierno es solitaria y sedentaria; posiblemente es territorial.

 

Ciclo anual

 

Es una especie migratoria neártica.

 

Habitat y Distribución

 

Habitat

 

Viven en bordes de bosques, bosques secundarios viejos, charrales, plantaciones de árboles (cacao etc.), y generalmente se mantienen a muy baja altura, al nivel de los arbustos y la parte superior del sotobosque.

 

Distribución

 

Es una especie migratoria y residente de invierno (desde comienzos de octubre hasta por lo menos fines de abril) muy rara en las bajuras de las dos vertientes; durante la migración asciende por lo menos hasta los 1200 m. o más, en la alturas de la región central.

 

Distribución fuera de Costa Rica

 

Se reproduce desde el oeste y el sureste de Canadá hasta el noroeste y el este de E.U.A. Invierna regularmente desde el norte de México hasta Nicaragua, raras veces hasta Costa Rica y casualmente hasta la parte central de Panamá.

 

Distribución de Area de conservación

 

ArenalCordillera Volcanica

CentralOsaTempisqueTortugueroAmistad CaribeAmistad PacificoHuetar NorteGuanacastePacifico Central

 

Descripción

 

Descripción científica

 

Mide 11.5 cm. y pesa 10 grs.

Es el Empidonax migratorio más pequeño y gris, de pico relativamente pequeño y cola con muesca, y el anillo ocular y las barras alares de color blanco brillante. El vexilo externo de la primaria 6 es delgado. Por encima es oliva grisáceo, y la coronilla y la nuca son grises, con poco o nada de tinte verdoso. El anillo ocular, las barras alares y el borde de las terciales son de color blanco prominente. La garganta es blanca y en el pecho muestra un tinte oliva opaco. La parte baja del pecho es blanca y el abdomen, el costado y los flancos presentan un tinte amarillo. La maxila es de color negro y muestra una coloración entre grisácea y color carne. Las patas son negruzcas.

 

Información taxonómica

 

Reino: Animalia

Filo: Chordata

Clase: Aves

Orden: Passeriformes

Familia: Tyrannidae

Género: Empidonax

This picture has been taken from Simon's Seat, at the top of Barden Fell in the Yorkshire Dales, providing a view of Drebley, towards south-east.

 

The total walk from the Cavendish Pavilion in the Bolton Abbey through the Valley of Desolation is 20 km making an ascent to 435m. Simon's Seat is at an elevation of 485m from sea-level. These summits offer a grandstand view over a large part of the Yorkshire Dales. The return is via Howgill from where the Dales Way is followed back to the start passing the dramatic waters of the Strid. The total walk-time is 7-8 hours at medium pace.

 

One is likely to see the Red Grouse, Stonechats, Cuckoos, Dippers, Meadow Pippits, Pied Flycatchers, Pied Wagtails, Redstarts, Common Pheasants, Goosanders, Mallards and Hen Harriers during the course of walk in sheer wilderness.

 

One is also likely to stay in bed at least for three days after this walk!

Male Bluethroat (Luscinia svecica), Tianliaoyang, Taiwan

 

Ebird checklist:

ebird.org/ebird/view/checklist/S34288611

 

The bluethroat (Luscinia svecica) is a small passerine bird that was formerly classed as a member of the thrush family Turdidae, but is now more generally considered to be an Old World flycatcher, Muscicapidae. It, and similar small European species, are often called chats.

 

Source: Wikipedia

en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bluethroat

I don't normally like taking nesting bird photographs, but this bird had decided to build it's nest right next to the path and the photo is taken with 700mm. Black-naped Monarch (Hypothymis azurea ceylonensis), Sinharaja Forest Reserve, Sri Lanka

 

The black-naped monarch or black-naped blue flycatcher (Hypothymis azurea) is a slim and agile passerine bird belonging to the family of monarch flycatchers. They are sexually dimorphic with males having a distinctive black patch on the back of the head and a narrow black half collar ("necklace") while the female is duller and lacks the black markings. They have a call that is similar to that of the Asian paradise flycatcher and in tropical forest habitats pairs may join mixed-species foraging flocks. Populations differ slightly in plumage colour and sizes.

 

Source: Wikipedia

en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Black-naped_monarch

Empidonax minimus

Mosquerito Chebec

Parque Nacional Carara, Puntarenas

 

Historia Natural

 

Alimentación

 

Forrajea al igual que otras Empidonax migratorias mediante salidas y vuelos cernidos dentro de la vegetación.

Se alimenta de insectos.

 

Comportamiento

 

En el invierno es solitaria y sedentaria; posiblemente es territorial.

 

Ciclo anual

 

Es una especie migratoria neártica.

 

Habitat y Distribución

 

Habitat

 

Viven en bordes de bosques, bosques secundarios viejos, charrales, plantaciones de árboles (cacao etc.), y generalmente se mantienen a muy baja altura, al nivel de los arbustos y la parte superior del sotobosque.

 

Distribución

 

Es una especie migratoria y residente de invierno (desde comienzos de octubre hasta por lo menos fines de abril) muy rara en las bajuras de las dos vertientes; durante la migración asciende por lo menos hasta los 1200 m. o más, en la alturas de la región central.

 

Distribución fuera de Costa Rica

 

Se reproduce desde el oeste y el sureste de Canadá hasta el noroeste y el este de E.U.A. Invierna regularmente desde el norte de México hasta Nicaragua, raras veces hasta Costa Rica y casualmente hasta la parte central de Panamá.

 

Distribución de Area de conservación

 

ArenalCordillera Volcanica

CentralOsaTempisqueTortugueroAmistad CaribeAmistad PacificoHuetar NorteGuanacastePacifico Central

 

Descripción

 

Descripción científica

 

Mide 11.5 cm. y pesa 10 grs.

Es el Empidonax migratorio más pequeño y gris, de pico relativamente pequeño y cola con muesca, y el anillo ocular y las barras alares de color blanco brillante. El vexilo externo de la primaria 6 es delgado. Por encima es oliva grisáceo, y la coronilla y la nuca son grises, con poco o nada de tinte verdoso. El anillo ocular, las barras alares y el borde de las terciales son de color blanco prominente. La garganta es blanca y en el pecho muestra un tinte oliva opaco. La parte baja del pecho es blanca y el abdomen, el costado y los flancos presentan un tinte amarillo. La maxila es de color negro y muestra una coloración entre grisácea y color carne. Las patas son negruzcas.

 

Información taxonómica

 

Reino: Animalia

Filo: Chordata

Clase: Aves

Orden: Passeriformes

Familia: Tyrannidae

Género: Empidonax

This picture has been taken from Simon's Seat, at the top of Barden Fell in the Yorkshire Dales, providing a view of Drebley, towards south-east.

 

The total walk from the Cavendish Pavilion in the Bolton Abbey through the Valley of Desolation is 20 km making an ascent to 435m. Simon's Seat is at an elevation of 485m from sea-level. These summits offer a grandstand view over a large part of the Yorkshire Dales. The return is via Howgill from where the Dales Way is followed back to the start passing the dramatic waters of the Strid. The total walk-time is 7-8 hours at medium pace.

 

One is likely to see the Red Grouse, Stonechats, Cuckoos, Dippers, Meadow Pippits, Pied Flycatchers, Pied Wagtails, Redstarts, Common Pheasants, Goosanders, Mallards and Hen Harriers during the course of walk in sheer wilderness.

 

One is also likely to stay in bed at least for three days after this walk!

God turns you from one feeling to another and teaches you by means of opposites, so that you will have two wings to fly - not one. -- RUMI

  

This picture has been taken from Simon's Seat, at the top of Barden Fell in the Yorkshire Dales, providing a view of Upper Wharfdale, towards North-east.

 

The total walk from the Cavendish Pavilion in the Bolton Abbey through the Valley of Desolation is 20 km making an ascent to 435m. Simon's Seat is at an elevation of 485m from sea-level. These summits offer a grandstand view over a large part of the Yorkshire Dales. The return is via Howgill from where the Dales Way is followed back to the start passing the dramatic waters of the Strid. The total walk-time is 7-8 hours at medium pace.

 

One is likely to see Red Grouse, Stonechats, Cuckoos, Dippers, Meadow Pippits, Pied Flycatchers, Pied Wagtails, Redstarts, Common Pheasants, Goosanders, Mallards and Hen Harriers during the course of walk in sheer wilderness.

 

One is also likely to stay in bed at least for three days after this walk!

This picture has been taken from #Simon'sSeat, at the top of #BardenFell in the #YorkshireDales, UK, providing a view of #Drebley, towards south-east.

 

The total walk from the #CavendishPavilion in the #BoltonAbbey through the #ValleyOfDesolation is 20 km making an ascent to 435m. Simon's Seat is at an elevation of 485m from sea-level. These summits offer a grandstand view over a large part of the Yorkshire Dales. The return is via Howgill from where the Dales Way is followed back to the start passing the dramatic waters of the Strid. The total walk-time is 7-8 hours at medium pace.

 

One is likely to see the Red Grouse, Stonechats, Cuckoos, Dippers, Meadow Pippits, Pied Flycatchers, Pied Wagtails, Redstarts, Common Pheasants, Goosanders, Mallards and Hen Harriers during the course of walk in sheer wilderness.

 

One is also likely to stay in bed at least for three days after this hike!

Two species of Chat-tyrant live in Chile, both in extrem north, and this is probably the least common. Commonly they live in Queñoa Forests (Polylepis sp.), But also in other places, as in low shrub areas and even in high Andean villages.

Glen and his fun and passionate group of seasoned travellers are currently having a fabulous time in Japan! They’ve completed their pre-tour extension of the Ryukyu Islands and have just departed Hokkaido to continue their adventure through Honshu and Kyushu.

 

On the southern islands of Amami and Okinawa, they were treated to the full suite of mouth-watering endemics and these included the once-mythical Okinawa Rail, the very rare and endangered Okinawa (Pryer’s) Woodpecker, superb Lidth’s Jay, Amami Woodcock, the beautiful Ryukyu Robin, Japanese Wood Pigeon, Ryukyu Minivet, the shy and scarce Amami Thrush, Grey Bunting, Ryukyu Flycatcher and Ryukyu Scops Owl, as well as other quality species like a flock of wintering Black-faced Spoonbill and several Whistling Green Pigeons.

 

On Hokkaido, in the frigid but incredibly beautiful and scenic northern end of Japan, they were thrilled to find hundreds of Steller’s and White-tailed Sea Eagles, around 160 Red-crowned Cranes cavorting in the snow-covered fields, a staggering seven species of Alcid (Auks) that included the rarely-seen Least Auklet and range-restricted Spectacled Guillemot, the magnificent Blakiston’s Fish Owl and the scarce and range-restricted Red-faced Cormorant.

 

Japan is truly a superb birding destination, especially in winter, where the quality of birds on offer and the immensity and grandeur of the birding spectacles experienced are almost unrivalled!

 

A mama willow flycatcher feeding her young one what appears to be a ruby meadowhawk dragonfly. She was feeding two juveniles and they appeared to be at least as large as she. I thought perhaps it was an alder flycatcher at first, but my birding friend Don Delaney gave me good reason (of course) to go with willow flycatcher. Whatever they are, the juveniles had better learn to hunt for themselves soon. Winter is coming. This is a hard crop from quite a distance. They did not like me getting too close. A new species for my MP fauna book.

(Least Flycatcher 5 .jpg)

This picture has been taken from Simon's Seat, at the top of Barden Fell in the Yorkshire Dales, providing a view of Upper Wharfdale, towards North-east.

 

The total walk from the Cavendish Pavilion in the Bolton Abbey through the Valley of Desolation is 20 km making an ascent to 435m. Simon's Seat is at an elevation of 485m from sea-level. These summits offer a grandstand view over a large part of the Yorkshire Dales. The return is via Howgill from where the Dales Way is followed back to the start passing the dramatic waters of the Strid. The total walk-time is 7-8 hours at medium pace.

 

One is likely to see Red Grouse, Stonechats, Cuckoos, Dippers, Meadow Pippits, Pied Flycatchers, Pied Wagtails, Redstarts, Common Pheasants, Goosanders, Mallards and Hen Harriers during the course of walk in sheer wilderness.

 

One is also likely to stay in bed at least for three days after this walk!

I am back briefly. I watched this bird and it's mate feed a brood of three babies in a nearby nest. The birds got quite used to us and would land as close as four feet, but never when I had my camera ready. This bird is a flycatcher, but I am not sure which species. There are at least four species of flycatcher that breed in this region and they look a lot alike. At first I thought it was a Cordilleran Flycatcher, but after examining several more photos I took of it, I am not so sure. At any rate, I saw this bird and it's mate several times with an insect in it's mouth like this. The babies seemed to be well fed and cared for.

One of the amazingly colourful Marine Iguanas from Suarez Point on Espanola

 

Marine Iguana

The Marine Iguana (Amblyrhynchus cristatus) is an iguana found only on the Galapagos Islands that has the ability, unique among modern lizards, to live and forage in the sea. It has spread to all the islands in the archipelago, and is sometimes called the Galapagos Marine Iguana. It mainly lives on the rocky Galapagos shore, but can also be spotted in marshes and mangrove beaches. On his visit to the islands, Charles Darwin was revolted by the animals' appearance, writing “The black Lava rocks on the beach are frequented by large (2-3 ft), disgusting clumsy Lizards. They are as black as the porous rocks over which they crawl & seek their prey from the Sea. I call them 'imps of darkness'. They assuredly well become the land they inhabit.” In fact, Amblyrhynchus cristatus is not always black; the young have a lighter coloured dorsal stripe, and some adult specimens are grey. The reason for the sombre tones is that the species must rapidly absorb heat to minimize the period of lethargy after emerging from the water. They feed almost exclusively on marine algae, expelling the excess salt from nasal glands while basking in the sun, and the coating of salt can make their faces appear white. In adult males, coloration varies with the season. Breeding-season adult males on the southern islands are the most colorful and will acquire reddish and teal-green colors, while on Santa Cruz they are brick red and black, and on Fernandina they are brick red and dull greenish. Another difference between the iguanas is size, which is different depending on the island the individual iguana inhabits. The iguanas living on the islands of Fernandina and Isabela (named for the famous rulers of Spain) are the largest found anywhere in the Galápagos. On the other end of the spectrum, the smallest iguanas are found on the island on Genovesa. Adult males are approximately 1.3 m long, females 0.6 m, males weigh up to 1.5 kg. On land, the marine iguana is rather a clumsy animal, but in the water it is a graceful swimmer, using its powerful tail to propel itself. As an exothermic animal, the marine iguana can spend only a limited time in the cold sea, where it dives for algae. However, by swimming only in the shallow waters around the island they are able to survive single dives of up to half an hour at depths of more than 15 m. After these dives, they return to their territory to bask in the sun and warm up again. When cold, the iguana is unable to move effectively, making them vulnerable to predation, so they become highly aggressive before heating up (since they are unable to run away they try to bite attackers in this state). During the breeding season, males become highly territorial. The males assemble large groups of females to mate with, and guard them against other male iguanas. However, at other times the species is only aggressive when cold. Marine iguanas have also been found to change their size to adapt to varying food conditions. During El Niño conditions when the algae that the iguanas feed on was scarce for a period of two years, some were found to decrease their length by as much as 20%. When food conditions returned to normal, the iguanas returned to their pre-famine size. It is speculated that the bones of the iguanas actually shorten as a shrinkage of connective tissue could only account for a 10% length change. Researchers theorize that land and marine iguanas evolved from a common ancestor since arriving on the islands from South America, presumably by driftwood. It is thought that the ancestral species inhabited a part of the volcanic archipelago that is now submerged. A second school of thought holds that the Marine iguana may have evolved from a now extinct family of seagoing reptiles. Its generic name, Amblyrhynchus, is a combination of two Greek words, Ambly- from Amblus meaning "blunt" and rhynchus meaning "snout". Its specific name is the Latin word cristatus meaning "crested," and refers to the low crest of spines along the animal's back. Amblyrhynchus is a monotypic genus in that Amblyrhynchus cristatus is the only species which belongs to it at this point in time. This species is completely protected under the laws of Ecuador. El Niño effects cause periodic declines in population, with high mortality, and the marine iguana is threatened by predation by exotic species. The total population size is unknown, but is, according to IUCN, at least 50,000, and estimates from the Charles Darwin Research Station are in the hundreds of thousands. The marine iguanas have not evolved to combat newer predators. Therefore, cats and dogs eat both the young iguanas and dogs will kill adults due to the iguanas' slow reflex times and tameness. Dogs are especially common around human settlements and can cause tremendous predation. Cats are also common in towns, but they also occur in numbers in remote areas where they take a toll on iguanas.

 

Espanola (Suarez Point)

Approximately a 10-12 hour trip from Santa Cruz, Española is the oldest and the southernmost island in the chain. The trip across open waters can be quite rough especially during August and September. Española's remote location helped make it a unique jewel with a large number of endemic creatures. Secluded from the other islands, wildlife on Española adapted to the island's environment and natural resources. The subspecies of Marine iguana from Española are the only ones that change color during breeding season. Normally, marine iguanas are black in color, a camouflage, making it difficult for predators to differentiate between the iguanas and the black lava rocks where they live. On Española adult marine iguanas are brightly colored with a reddish tint except during mating season when their color changes to more of a greenish shade. The Hood Mockingbird is also endemic to the island. These brazen birds have no fear of man and frequently land on visitors heads and shoulders searching for food. The Hood Mockingbird is slightly larger than other mockingbirds found in the Galapagos; its beak is longer and has a more curved shape. The Hood Mockingbird is the only carnivorous one of the species feeding on a variety of insects, turtle hatchlings and sea lion placentas. Wildlife is the highlight of Española and the star of the show is the waved albatross. The island's steep cliffs serve as the perfect runways for these large birds which take off for their ocean feeding grounds near the mainland of Ecuador and Peru abandoning the island between January and March. Known as endemic to the island, Española is the waved albatross's only nesting place. Each April the males return to Española followed shortly thereafter by the females. Mating for life, their ritual begins with the male's annual dance to re-attract his mate. The performance can take up to 5 days consisting of a series of strutting, honking, and beak fencing. Once the pair is reacquainted they produce a single egg and share the responsibility of incubation. The colony remains based on Española until December when the chick is fully grown. By January most of the colony leaves the island to fish along the Humboldt Current. Young albatross do not return to Española until their 4th or 5th year when they return to seek a mate. Geographically Española is a classic example of a shield volcano, created from a single caldera in the center of the island. Over the years as the island has moved further away from the hot spot, the volcano became extinct and erosion began to occur. Española's two visitor sites offer an exceptional island visit. Punta Suarez is one of the highlights of the Galapagos Islands. The variety and quantity of wildlife assures a memorable visit. Visitors find migrant, resident, and endemic wildlife including brightly colored Marine Iguanas, Española Lava Lizards, Hood Mockingbirds, Swallow Tailed Gulls, Blue Footed and Masked Boobies, Galapagos Hawks, a selection of Finch, and the Waved Albatross.Found on the western tip of Española, Punta Suarez offers great wildlife such as sea lions, sea birds and the largest marine iguanas of Galapagos. This is one of the best sites in the Galapagos. The amount of wildlife is overwhelming. Along the beach there are many sea lions and large, colorful lava lizards and marine iguanas. As you follow the trail to the cliff's edge masked boobies can be found nesting among the rock formations. After a short walk down to a beach and back up the other side blue-footed boobies are seen nesting just off the trail. The Galapagos Dove and very friendly Hood Mockingbird are commonly found in this area. The nearby bushes are frequently home to the large-cactus finch, warbler finch, small-ground finch and large-billed flycatcher. Continuing down the trail you come to the only place where waved albatross nest in the islands. Some 12,000 pairs nest on Española each year. The feeling is very dramatic and it seems like a desolate wilderness as the waves crash on the jagged cliffs below and the blowhole shoots water 50-70 feet/15-30 meters into the air. The sky above is full of sea birds including red-billed tropicbirds, American Oystercatchers, swallow-tailed gulls, and Audubon's Shearwaters.

 

Galapagos Islands

The Galápagos Islands (official name: Archipiélago de Colón; other Spanish names: Islas de Colón or Islas Galápagos) are an archipelago of volcanic islands distributed around the equator in the Pacific Ocean, some 900 km west of Ecuador. It is a UNESCO World Heritage site: wildlife is its most notable feature. Because of the only very recent arrival of man the majority of the wildlife has no fear of humans and will allow visitors to walk right up them, often having to step over Iguanas or Sea Lions.The Galápagos islands and its surrounding waters are part of a province, a national park, and a biological marine reserve. The principal language on the islands is Spanish. The islands have a population of around 40,000, which is a 40-fold expansion in 50 years. The islands are geologically young and famed for their vast number of endemic species, which were studied by Charles Darwin during the voyage of the Beagle. His observations and collections contributed to the inception of Darwin's theory of evolution by natural selection.

www.birdwatchingkerkini.com/kerkini-lake/#

  

Lake Kerkini is situated in Northern Greece, about 20km from Greek-Bulgarian border. The lake and the surrounding wetlands are nestled between the Kerkini Mountains to the north and the Marvovouni Mountains to the south. The lake occupies an area of about 50 to 73 sq km, depending on water levels.www.kerkinilake.com

  

Kerkini Lake is an artificial reservoir. It was formed in 1932 by men’s technical intervention on the Strymon River, which is the greatest lake’s water provider. In addition, there is Kerkinitis river from Krousia Mountain that flows into Kerkini Lake. The lake was created on site that previously was an extensive marshland. As the time went by, the river substances were washed up, so the rising of the banks a new dam construction took place in 1982, which gave the lake its present look. Although the human intervention in the nature usually takes a harmful action against the natural development, Kerkini Lake is an atypical example where the human intervention had an opposite effect, since after the construction of the dam on the river the hydro-biosphere entirely changed. Today it has a reputation as one of the best places for birdwatching in Greece due to its position. It is located along the migratory flyway to the Agean Sea, the Black Sea, Balkan region and Hungarian steppes. This area is famous for its biodiversity and nowadays is one of the major Greece’s wetlands. It is considered a miracle of nature with thousands of birds, fish variety, more than ten amphibian species, nineteen reptile species, five snail species, hundreds of butterfly species along with riverside forest, variety of water lilies and a great diversity of insects which play an important element in the food chain and contribute to the biological diversity of the Kerkini Lake.

The hydro-biosphere of the Lake Kerkini is of great international importance – the water level of the lake is valuable as a hydro-biosphere for thousands of water fowls, variety of fish and other species and it has a great agricultural function alike.

The Kerkini lake area is also an important recreational area and nice vacation spot. Besides birdwatching, other available activities on the lake include hiking nearby mountains and forests, lake boating, cycling or horse riding.

  

Birdwatching on Kerkini Lake

  

Lake Kerkini is a real paradise for bird watchers. The lake hosts more than 300 sorts of birds, including 140 non-migrants species, including some endangered species and 170 species that migrate every year. At least 31 of bird species are protected by EEC’s Directive in relation to wild life and 76 of them are recorded in the National Red catalogue.

Non-migrating species of birds include Black Storks, Squacco Herons, Purple Herons, Spoonbills, Little Bitterns, and a variety of Warblers. There are also two endangered non-migrating species, the Pygmy Cormorant and the Dalmatian Pelican that can be observed here. In the nearby mountains, even more birds can be founded, including diversity of Eagles like White-tailed Eagles, Lesser Spotted Eagles, Golden Eagles, Blue Rock Thrush, Peregrine Falcons, Black Woodpeckers and Nutcrackers. Birdwatching tours regularly include walking tours around the lakeside as well as hiking into the hillside and lake boat rides.

There are numerous guided birdwatching tours in this region available and number of hotels nearby ideal for bird watchers’ accommodation, such as hotel Eroditos on a hill of the village Lithotopos, offering an exclusive panoramic view of the Kerkini Lake.

  

The Birdwatching Seasons

  

Almost every season of the year is good for birdwatching in this area, but you may prefer to visit Lake Keriki at certain times of the year, depending on what do you want to see. If you want to see migrating of the birds than the April is particularly good month for visiting the lake. On the other hand, if you are interested in birds breeding, than you should plan your visit for May and June. And if you would like to see different non-native birds that migrate to this area, you should plan a winter trip to the Lake Kerkini.

  

How to Get to Kerkini Lake

  

Lake Kerkini is positioned a little more than an hour’s drive from Thessalonika international airport, some 20 km from Bulgarian border and about 100 km from the international highway E75, which makes it easy accessible by car or by plane, if you are coming from abroad.

  

Birdwatching in Lake Kerkini

  

About Kerkini Lake

 

Lake Kerkini is located in Northern Greece, some 20km from Greek-Bulgarian border and it stretches on an area of approximately 50 to 73 square kilometers. Kerkini Lake is an artificial water reservoir fed by Strymon River, created in 1930s. Today, Kerkini Lake area is well-known among nature lovers for its biodiversity and it is one of the major wetlands in Greece of great biological importance. It is also considered the best birdwatching spot in the country. It is protected by the Ramsar Convention and it is a part of the “Narura 2000” network.

  

One of the most popular birding spots in Europe is Kerkini Lake region in Northern Greece. It is famous due to its position on a migratory way that birds follow to the Black Sea, Aegean Sea, Balkan region and Hungarian steppes. Lake and its surroundings has been popular over decades among birders from country and abroad because of its biodiversity with hundreds of bird species, variety of fish, diversity of snail species, more than 120 species of butterflies, insects and diverse flora in the lake area and nearby mountains as well. Lake Kerkini itself is very dynamic bird environment with thousands of migrating and non-migrating bird species. It usually takes two or three weeks to see all this area has to offer and if you are planning your birdwatching trip to Lake Kerkini, the best would be to set aside at least a week or two of your vacation for this. Furthermore, a vacation in this area wouldn’t be complete without visiting nearby mountains of Krousia and Marvovouni with breathtaking panoramic views, diverse flora and fauna and challenging paths for hiking, cycling or walking. At the end, because of Lake Kerkini’s relatively close proximity to the Aegean Coast, you shouldn’t miss going to the beaches if you come during summer season.

  

But the main reason why lots of people visit this area every year is recreational birding and enjoying in observing the spectacular diversity of breeding or wintering bird species. No wonder this lake is considered an authentic paradise for birdwatchers and photograph lovers alike. It is home to more than 10.000 birds and you can find in more than 300 bird species there, from which 140 are non-migrants species and 170 species that migrate every year. Non-migrating bird species include some endangered species like Pygmy Cormorant and the Dalmatian Pelican. Some 31 of bird species are protected by EEC’s Directive in relation to wild life and 76 of them are recorded in the National Red catalogue.

Kerkini Lake provides shelter to a large number of waterfowl, thousands of Night Herons, several hundred pairs of Squacco and Grey Herons, Purple Herons, few hundred pairs of Pygmy Cormorant, more than two thousand pairs of Cormorants, about one hundred pairs of Spoonbil, Glossy Ibies, hundreds of Dalmatian and white Pelicans, Black Storks, Ferruginous Ducks and many other species. If you go to nearby mountains, you can find Black Kite, penguline Tit, Sparrowhawk, Golden Oriole, Black-headed Bunting, Cirl Bunting, Red-Rumped Swallow, Woodchat Shrike, Masked Shrike, Lesser Grey Shrike, Olivaceous Warbler, Black-eared Wheatear, Semi-collared Flycatcher etc. Large numbers of waders and other raptors on passageway could also be observed early in spring.

  

You can enjoy birdwatching activity in Lake Kerkini during the whole year. If you come in Winter, you’ll have the opportunity to see a great number of birds that call this area home, such as Greater Flamingos, Dalmatian Pelicans, Greater Spotted Eagles, White-tailed Eagles, Ferruginous Duck, White-fronted Geese, Pygmy Cormorant, Cormorant, Black Kite, Pochard, Teal, Wigeon, Crested Grebe, Shoveler, Peregrine, Golden Eagle, Goshawk, Marsh Harrier, etc.

If you visit this region in early spring, you’ll be on time for observing the bird migration. Migration begins in early March, with the arrival of pioneering Garganey and Osprey. White Storks arrive towards the end of the month. Migration continues through April into beginning of May. Glossy Ibis are expected and thousands of both species of Pelican can be seen.

There are some great accommodation alternatives available nearby Kerkini Lake with excellent services offered to birders, to fully enjoy your birdwatching experience in Greece.

A giant tortoise at the Charles Darwin Research Station on Santa Cruz

 

Galapagos Giant Tortoise

The Galápagos tortoise or Galápagos giant tortoise (Geochelone nigra) is the largest living tortoise, native to seven islands of the Galápagos archipelago. The Galápagos tortoise is unique to the Galápagos Islands. Fully grown adults can weigh over 300 kilograms (661 lb) and measure 1.2 meters (4 ft) long. They are long-lived with a life expectancy in the wild estimated to be 100-150 years. Populations fell dramatically because of hunting and the introduction of predators and grazers by humans since the seventeenth century. Now only ten subspecies of the original twelve exist in the wild. However, conservation efforts since the establishment of the Galápagos National Park and the Charles Darwin Foundation have met with success, and hundreds of captive-bred juveniles have been released back onto their home islands. They have become one of the most symbolic animals of the fauna of the Galápagos Islands. The tortoises have very large shells (carapace) made of bone. The bony plates of the shell are integral to the skeleton, fused with the ribs in a rigid protective structure. Naturalist Charles Darwin remarked "These animals grow to an immense size ... several so large that it required six or eight men to lift them from the ground.". This is due to the phenomenon of island gigantism whereby in the absence of natural predation, the largest tortoises had a survival advantage and no disadvantage in fleeing or fending off predators. When threatened, it can withdraw its head, neck and all forelimbs into its shell for protection, presenting a protected shield to a would-be predator. The legs have hard scales that also provide armour when withdrawn. Tortoises keep a characteristic scute pattern on their shell throughout life. These have annual growth bands but are not useful for aging as the outer layers are worn off. There is little variation in the dull-brown colour of the shell or scales. Physical features (including shape of the shell) relate to the habitat of each of the subspecies. These differences were noted by Captain Porter even before Charles Darwin. Larger islands with more wet highlands such as Santa Cruz and the Alcedo Volcano on Isabela have lush vegetation near the ground. Tortoises here tend to have 'dome-back' shells. These animals have restricted upward head movement due to shorter necks, and also have shorter limbs. These are the heaviest and largest of the subspecies.Smaller, drier islands such as Española and Pinta are inhabited by tortoises with 'saddleback' shells comprising a flatter carapace which is elevated above the neck and flared above the hind feet. Along with longer neck and limbs, this allows them to browse taller vegetation. On these drier islands the Galápagos Opuntia cactus (a major source of their fluids) has evolved a taller, tree-like form. This is evidence of an evolutionary arms race between progressively taller tortoises and correspondingly taller cacti. Saddlebacks are smaller in size than domebacks. They tend to have a yellowish color on lower mandible and throat. At one extreme, the Sierra Negra volcano population that inhabits southern Isabela Island has a very flattened "tabletop" shell. However, there is no saddleback/domeback dualism; tortoises can also be of 'intermediate' type with characteristics of both. The tortoises are slow-moving reptiles with an average long-distance walking speed of 0.3 km/h (0.18 mph). Although feeding giant tortoises browse with no apparent direction, when moving to water-holes or nesting grounds, they can move at surprising speeds for their size. Marked individuals have been reported to have traveled 13 km in two days. Being cold-blooded, the tortoises bask for two hours after dawn, absorbing the energy through their shells, then becoming active for 8–9 hours a day. They may sleep for about sixteen hours in a mud wallow partially or submerged in rain-formed pools (sometimes dew ponds formed by garua-moisture dripping off trees). This may be both a thermoregulatory response and a protection from parasites such as mosquitoes and ticks. Some rest in a 'pallet'- a snug depression in soft ground or dense brush- which probably helps to conserve heat and may aid digestion. On the Alcedo Volcano, repeated use of the same sites by the large resident population has resulted in the formation of small sandy pits. Darwin observed that: "The inhabitants believe that these animals are absolutely deaf; certainly they do not overhear a person walking near behind them. I was always amused, when overtaking one of these great monsters as it was quietly pacing along, to see how suddenly, the instant I passed, it would draw in its head and legs, and uttering a deep hiss fall to the ground with a heavy sound, as if struck dead." The tortoises can vocalise in aggressive encounters, whilst righting themselves if turned upside down and, in males, during mating. The latter is described as "rhythmic groans". The tortoises are herbivorous animals with a diet comprising cactus, grasses, leaves, vines, and fruit. Fresh young grass is a favorite food of the tortoises, and others are the 'poison apple' (Hippomane mancinella) (toxic to humans), the endemic guava (Psidium galapageium), the water fern (Azolla microphylla), and the bromeliad (Tillandsia insularis). Tortoises eat a large quantity of food when it is available at the expense of incomplete digestion. Its favorite food is grasses. The tortoise normally eat an average of 70 to 80 pounds a day. Tortoises have a classic example of a mutualistic symbiotic relationship with some species of Galápagos finch. The finch hops in front of the tortoise to show that it is ready and the tortoise then raises itself up high on its legs and stretches out its neck so that the bird can pick off ticks that are hidden in the folds of the skin (especially on the rear legs, cloacal opening, neck, and skin between plastron and carapace), thus freeing the tortoise from harmful parasites and providing the finch with an easy meal. Other birds, including Galápagos Hawk and flycatchers, use tortoises as observation posts from which to sight their prey. Mating occurs at any time of the year, although it does have seasonal peaks between January and August. When two mature males meet in the mating season they will face each other, rise up on their legs and stretch up their necks with their mouths open to assess dominance. Occasionally, head-biting occurs, but usually the shorter loser tortoise will back off, leaving the other to mate with the female. In groups of tortoises from mixed island populations, saddleback males have an advantage over domebacks. Frustrated non-dominant males have been observed attempting to mate with other males and boulders. The male sniffs the air when seeking a female, bellows loudly, and bobs his head. The male then rams the female with the front of his shell and bites her exposed legs until she withdraws them, immobilizing her. Copulation can last several hours with roaring vocalisations from the males. Their concave shell base allows males to mount the females from behind. It brings its tail which houses the penis into the female's cloaca. After mating (June-December), the females journey up to several kilometres to reach nesting areas of dry, sandy ground (often near the coast). Nest digging can last from hours to days and is elaborate and exhausting. It is carried out blindly using only the hind legs to dig a 30 cm deep hole, into which she lays up to sixteen hard-shelled eggs the size of tennis balls. The female makes a muddy plug for the nest hole out of soil mixed with urine and leaves the eggs to incubate. In rocky areas, the eggs are deposited randomly into cracks. The young emerge from the nest after 120 to 140 days gestation later (December-April) and may weigh only 80 grams (2.8 oz) and measure 6 centimetres (2.4 in). Temperature plays a role in the sex of the hatchling: if the nest temperature is lower, more males will hatch; if it is high, more females will hatch. When the young tortoises emerge from their shells, they must dig their way to the surface, which can take up to a month. All have domed carapaces, and subspecies are indistinguishable. Galápagos Hawk used to be the only native predator of the tortoise hatchlings, as Darwin remarked: "The young tortoises, as soon as they are hatched, fall prey in great numbers to buzzards". Sex can be determined only when the tortoise is 15 years old, and sexual maturity is reached at 20 to 25 years old. The tortoises grow slowly for about 40 years until they reach their full size. Reproductive prime is considered to be from the ages of 60–90. The shape of the carapace of some subspecies of the tortoises is said to have reminded the early Spanish explorers of a kind of saddle they called a "galápago," and for these saddle-shaped tortoises they named the archipelago. Up to 250,000 tortoises inhabited the islands when they were discovered. Today only about 15,000 are left.

 

The inhabitants...state that they can distinguish the tortoise from different islands; and that they differ not only in size, but in other characters. Captain Porter has described those from Charles and from the nearest island to it, namely Hood Island, as having their shells in front thick and turned up like a Spanish saddle, whilst the tortoises from James Island are rounder, blacker, and have a better taste when cooked.---Charles Darwin 1845

 

There were probably twelve subspecies of Geochelone nigra in the Galápagos Islands, although some recognise up to 15 subspecies. Now only 11 subspecies remain, five on Isabela Island, and the other six on Santiago, Santa Cruz, San Cristóbal, Pinzón, Española and Pinta. Of these, the Pinta Island subspecies is extinct in the wild and is represented by a single individual (Lonesome George). In the past, zoos took animals without knowing their island of origin. Production of fertile offspring from various pairings of tortoises largely confirmed that they are subspecies and not different species. All the subspecies of giant tortoise evolved in Galápagos from a common ancestor that arrived from the mainland, floating on the ocean currents (the tortoises can drift for long periods of time as they are buoyant and can stretch head upwards to breathe). Only a single pregnant female or breeding pair needed to arrive in this way, and then survive, for Galápagos to be colonised. In the seventeenth century, pirates started to use the Galápagos islands as a base for resupply, restocking on food, water and repairing vessels before attacking Spanish colonies on the South American mainland. The tortoises were collected and stored live on board ships where they could survive for at least a year without food or water, providing valuable fresh meat, whilst their diluted urine and water stored in their neck bags could also be used as drinking water. Of the meat, Darwin wrote: "the breast-plate roasted (as the Gauchos do 'carne con cuero'), with the flesh on it, is very good; and the young tortoises make excellent soup; but otherwise the meat to my taste is indifferent." In the nineteenth century, whaling ships and fur-sealers collected tortoises for food and many more were killed for high grade 'turtle oil' from the late 1800s onward. Darwin described this process thus: "beautifully clear oil is prepared from the fat. When a tortoise is caught, the man makes a slit in the skin near its tail, so as to see inside its body, whether the fat under the dorsal plate is thick. If it is not, the animal is liberated and it is said to recover soon from this strange operation." A total of over 15,000 tortoises is recorded in the logs of 105 whaling ships between 1811 and 1844. As hunters found it easiest to collect the tortoises living round the coastal zones, the least decimated populations tended to be those in the highlands. Population decline accelerated with the early settlement of the islands, when they were hunted for meat, their habitat was cleared for agriculture and alien mammal species were introduced. Feral pigs, dogs, cats and black rats are effective predators of eggs and young tortoises, whilst goats, donkeys and cattle compete for grazing. In the twentieth century, increasing human settlement and urbanisation and collection of tortoises for zoo and museum specimens depleted numbers even more. The Galápagos giant tortoise is now strictly protected. Young tortoises are raised in a programme by the Charles Darwin Research Station in order to bolster the numbers of the extant subspecies. Eggs are collected from places on the islands where they are threatened and when the tortoises hatch they are kept in captivity until they have reached a size that ensures a good chance of survival and are returned to their original ranges. The Galápagos National Park Service systematically culls feral predators and competitors where necessary such as the complete eradication of goats from Pinta. The conservation project begun in the 1970s successfully brought 10 of the 11 endangered subspecies up to guarded population levels. The most significant recovery was that of the Española Tortoise, whose breeding stock comprised 2 males and 11 females brought to the Darwin Station. Fortuitously, a third male was discovered at the San Diego Zoo and joined the others in a captive breeding program. These 13 tortoises gave rise to over 1000 tortoises now released into their home island. In all, 2500 individuals of all breeds have been reintroduced to the islands. However, persecution still continues on a much smaller scale; more than 120 tortoises have been killed by poachers since 1990 and they have been taken hostage as political leverage by local fishermen.

 

Santa Cruz

With the largest human population in the Galapagos archipelago, Isla Santa Cruz is the most important of the Galapagos Islands. Meaning Holy Cross in Spanish, this island is also known as Indefatigable, after the HMS Indefatigable landed here long ago. The second largest island terms of land area at 986 sq km, Isla Santa Cruz is home to the key town of Puerto Ayora, the Charles Darwin Research Station and the headquarters of the Galapagos National Park Service. With its own airport on Isla Baltra a few miles away, Isla Santa Cruz is where most visitors who come to the Galapagos Islands usually stay. With a number of bars, hotels, restaurants and shops in Puerto Ayora, most tours of the Archipelago also usually begin from here.

 

Galapagos Islands

The Galápagos Islands (official name: Archipiélago de Colón; other Spanish names: Islas de Colón or Islas Galápagos) are an archipelago of volcanic islands distributed around the equator in the Pacific Ocean, some 900 km west of Ecuador. It is a UNESCO World Heritage site: wildlife is its most notable feature. Because of the only very recent arrival of man the majority of the wildlife has no fear of humans and will allow visitors to walk right up them, often having to step over Iguanas or Sea Lions.The Galápagos islands and its surrounding waters are part of a province, a national park, and a biological marine reserve. The principal language on the islands is Spanish. The islands have a population of around 40,000, which is a 40-fold expansion in 50 years. The islands are geologically young and famed for their vast number of endemic species, which were studied by Charles Darwin during the voyage of the Beagle. His observations and collections contributed to the inception of Darwin's theory of evolution by natural selection.

Bryce Canyon National Park, Garfield County, Utah, USA.

There is no where else on earth like Bryce Canyon.

Hoodoos, which are odd-shaped pillars of rock left standing from the forces of erosion, can be found on every continent, but Bryce Canyon has the largest collection of hoodoos in the world! Photographs simply cannot do it justice.

Bryce Canyon National Park is a National Park located in south west Utah in the United States of America. The major feature of the park is Bryce Canyon, which despite its name, is not a canyon, but a collection of giant natural amphitheaters along the eastern side of the Paunsaugunt Plateau. Bryce is distinctive due to geological structures called hoodoos, formed by frost weathering and stream erosion of the river and lake bed sedimentary rocks. The red, orange, and white colors of the rocks provide spectacular views. Bryce sits at a much higher elevation than nearby Zion National Park. The rim at Bryce varies from 8,000 to 9,000 feet.

The Bryce Canyon area was settled by Mormon pioneers in the 1850s and was named after a Mormon from Dunblane, Scotland, UK., called Ebenezer Bryce, who homesteaded in the area in 1874.

The area around Bryce Canyon became a National Monument in 1923 and was designated as a National Park in 1928. The park covers 35,835 acres (55.992 square miles) and receives relatively few visitors compared to Zion National Park and the Grand Canyon, largely due to its remote location.

Because of its altitude, the weather in Bryce Canyon is relatively cool and the park receives high precipitation: a total of 15 to 18 inches per year. Yearly temperatures vary from an average minimum of −13 °C in January to an average maximum of 28 °C in July, but extreme temperatures can range from −34 to 36 °C. The record high temperature in the park was 37 °C on July 14, 2002. The record low temperature was −28 °F (−33 °C) on December 10, 1972.

The national park lies within the Colorado Plateau geographic province of North America and straddles the south east edge of the Paunsaugunt Plateau west of the Paunsaugunt Fault (Paunsaugunt is Paiute for "home of the beaver"). Park visitors arrive from the plateau part of the park and look over the plateau's edge toward a valley containing the fault and the Paria River just beyond it (Paria is Paiute for "muddy or elk water"). The edge of the Kaiparowits Plateau bounds the opposite side of the valley.

Bryce Canyon was not formed from erosion initiated from a central stream, meaning it technically is not a canyon. Instead head ward erosion has excavated large amphitheater-shaped features in the Cenozoic-aged rocks of the Paunsaugunt Plateau. This erosion exposed delicate and colourful pinnacles called hoodoos that are up to 200 feet high. A series of amphitheaters extends more than 20 miles north-to-south within the park. The largest is Bryce Amphitheater, which is 12 miles long, 3 miles wide and 800 feet deep. A nearby example of amphitheaters with hoodoos in the same formation, but at a higher elevation, is in Cedar Breaks National Monument, which is 25 miles to the west on the Markagunt Plateau.

Rainbow Point, the highest part of the park at 9,105 feet, is at the end of the 18-mile scenic drive. From there, Aquarius Plateau, Bryce Amphitheater, the Henry Mountains, the Vermilion Cliffs and the White Cliffs can be seen. Yellow Creek, where it exits the park in the north east section, is the lowest part of the park at 6,620 feet.

Little is known about early human habitation in the Bryce Canyon area. Archaeological surveys of Bryce Canyon National Park and the Paunsaugunt Plateau show that people have been in the area for at least 10,000 years. Basketmaker Anasazi artifacts several thousand years old have been found south of the park. Other artifacts from the Pueblo-period Anasazi and the Fremont culture,up to the mid-12th century, have also been found.

The Paiute Indians moved into the surrounding valleys and plateaus in the area around the same time that the other cultures left. These Native Americans hunted and gathered for most of their food, but also supplemented their diet with some cultivated products. The Paiute in the area developed a mythology surrounding the hoodoos in Bryce Canyon. They believed that hoodoos were the Legend People whom the trickster Coyote turned to stone. At least one older Paiute said his culture called the hoodoos Anka-ku-was-a-wits, which is Paiute for "red painted faces".

It was not until the late 18th and the early 19th century that the first European Americans explored the remote and hard-to-reach area. Mormon scouts visited the area in the 1850s to gauge its potential for agricultural development, use for grazing, and settlement.

The first major scientific expedition to the area was led by U.S. Army Major John Wesley Powell in 1872. Powell, along with a team of mapmakers and geologists, surveyed the Sevier and Virgin River area as part of a larger survey of the Colorado Plateaus. His mapmakers kept many of the Paiute place names.

Small groups of Mormon pioneers followed and attempted to settle east of Bryce Canyon along the Paria River. In 1873, the Kanarra Cattle Company started to use the area for cattle grazing.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints sent Scottish immigrant Ebenezer Bryce and his wife Mary to settle land in the Paria Valley because they thought his carpentry skills would be useful in the area. The Bryce family chose to live right below Bryce Canyon Amphitheater. Bryce grazed his cattle inside what are now park borders, and reputedly thought that the amphitheaters were a "helluva place to lose a cow." He also built a road to the plateau to retrieve firewood and timber, and a canal to irrigate his crops and water his animals. Other settlers soon started to call the unusual place "Bryce's canyon", which was later formalized into Bryce Canyon.

A combination of drought, overgrazing and flooding eventually drove the remaining Paiutes from the area and prompted the settlers to attempt construction of a water diversion channel from the Sevier River drainage. When that effort failed, most of the settlers, including the Bryce family, left the area. Bryce moved his family to Arizona in 1880. The remaining settlers dug a 10-mile ditch from the Sevier's east fork into Tropic Valley.

Bryce Canyon Lodge was built between 1924 and 1925 from local materials.

These scenic areas were first described for the public in magazine articles published by Union Pacific and Santa Fe railroads in 1916. People like Forest Supervisor J. W. Humphrey promoted the scenic wonders of Bryce Canyon's amphitheaters and by 1918 nationally distributed articles also helped to spark interest. However, poor access to the remote area and the lack of accommodations kept visitation to a bare minimum.

Ruby Syrett, Harold Bowman and the Perry brothers later built modest lodging, and set up "touring services" in the area. Syrett later served as the first postmaster of Bryce Canyon. Visitation steadily increased and by the early 1920s the Union Pacific Railroad became interested in expanding rail service into south west Utah to accommodate more tourists.

At the same time, conservationists became alarmed by the damage overgrazing, logging, and unregulated visitation were having on the fragile features of Bryce Canyon. A movement to have the area protected was soon started and National Park Service Director Stephen Mather responded by proposing that Bryce Canyon be made into a state park. The governor of Utah and the Utah State Legislature, however, lobbied for national protection of the area. Mather relented and sent his recommendation to President Warren G. Harding, who on June 8, 1923 declared Bryce Canyon a national monument.

A road was built the same year on the plateau to provide easy access to outlooks over the amphitheaters. From 1924 to 1925, Bryce Canyon Lodge was built from local timber and stone.

Members of the United States Congress started work in 1924 on upgrading Bryce Canyon's protection status from a U.S. National Monument to a National Park in order to establish Utah National Park. A process led by the Utah Parks Company for transferring ownership of private and state-held land in the monument to the federal government started in 1923. The last of the land in the proposed park's borders was sold to the federal government four years later, and on February 25, 1928, the renamed Bryce Canyon National Park was established.

In 1931, President Herbert Hoover annexed an adjoining area south of the park and in 1942 an additional 635 acres was added. This brought the park's total area to the current figure of 35,835 acres. Rim Road, the scenic drive that is still used today, was completed in 1934 by the Civilian Conservation Corps. Administration of the park was conducted from neighbouring Zion National Park until 1956, when Bryce Canyon's first superintendent started work.

The USS Bryce Canyon was named after the park and served as a supply and repair ship in the U.S. Pacific Fleet from September 15, 1950, to June 30, 1981.

Bryce Canyon Natural History Association (BCNHA) was established in 1961. It runs the bookstore inside the park visitor centre and is a non-profit organization created to aid the interpretive, educational and scientific activities of the National Park Service at Bryce Canyon National Park. A portion of the profits from all bookstore sales are donated to public land units.

Responding to increased visitation and traffic congestion, the National Park Service implemented a voluntary, summer-only, in-park shuttle system in June 2000. In 2004, reconstruction began on the aging and inadequate road system in the park.

Bryce Canyon area shows a record of deposition that spans from the last part of the Cretaceous period and the first half of the Cenozoic era. The ancient depositional environment of the region around what is now the park varied. The Dakota Sandstone and the Tropic Shale were deposited in the warm, shallow waters of the advancing and retreating Cretaceous Seaway (outcrops of these rocks are found just outside park borders). The colourful Claron Formation, from which the park's delicate hoodoos are carved, was laid down as sediments in a system of cool streams and lakes that existed from 63 to about 40 million years ago (from the Paleocene to the Eocene epochs). Different sediment types were laid down as the lakes deepened and became shallow and as the shoreline and river deltas migrated.

Several other formations were also created but were mostly eroded away following two major periods of uplift. The Laramide orogeny affected the entire western part of what would become North America starting about 70 million to 50 million years ago. This event helped to build the Rocky Mountains and in the process closed the Cretaceous Seaway. The Straight Cliffs, Wahweap, and Kaiparowits formations were victims of this uplift. The Colorado Plateaus were uplifted 16 million years ago and were segmented into different plateaus, each separated from its neighbours by faults and each having its own uplift rate. The Boat Mesa Conglomerate and the Sevier River Formation were removed by erosion following this uplift.

This uplift created vertical joints, which over time were preferentially eroded. The easily eroded Pink Cliffs of the Claron Formation responded by forming freestanding pinnacles in badlands called hoodoos, while the more resistant White Cliffs formed monoliths. The brown, pink and red colours are from hematite (iron oxide); the yellows from limonite; and the purples are from pyrolusite. Also created were arches, natural bridges, walls, and windows. Hoodoos are composed of soft sedimentary rock and are topped by a piece of harder, less easily eroded stone that protects the column from the elements. Bryce Canyon has one of the highest concentrations of hoodoos of any place on Earth.

The formations exposed in the area of the park are part of the Grand Staircase. The oldest members of this super sequence of rock units are exposed in the Grand Canyon, the intermediate ones in Zion National Park, and its youngest parts are laid bare in Bryce Canyon area. A small amount of overlap occurs in and around each park.

Mule deer are the most common large animals found in the park.

More than 400 native plant species live in the park. There are three life zones in the park based on elevation: The lowest areas of the park are dominated by dwarf forests of pinyon pine and juniper with manzanita, serviceberry, and antelope bitterbrush in between. aspen, cottonwood, water birch, and willow grow along streams. Ponderosa pine forests cover the mid-elevations with blue spruce and Douglas fir in water-rich areas and manzanita and bitterbrush as underbrush. Douglas fir and white fir, along with aspen and Engelmann spruce, make up the forests on the Paunsaugunt Plateau. The harshest areas have limber pine and ancient Great Basin bristle cone pine, some more than 1,600 years old, holding on.

Bryce Canyon has extensive fir forests. The forests and meadows of Bryce Canyon provide the habitat to support diverse animal life including foxes, badgers, porcupines, elk, black bears, bobcats, and woodpeckers. Mule deer are the most common large mammals in the park. Elk and pronghorn, which have been reintroduced nearby, sometimes venture into the park.

Bryce Canyon National Park forms part of the habitat of three wildlife species that are listed under the Endangered Species Act: the Utah prairie dog, the California condor, and the south western willow flycatcher. The Utah prairie dog is a threatened species that was reintroduced to the park for conservation, and the largest protected population is found within the park's boundaries.

About 170 species of birds visit the park each year, including swifts and swallows. Most species migrate to warmer regions in winter, although jays, ravens, nuthatches, eagles, and owls stay. In winter, the mule deer, cougars, and coyotes migrate to lower elevations. Ground squirrels and marmots pass the winter in hibernation.

Eleven species of reptiles and four species of amphibians have been found in the park. Reptiles include the Great Basin rattlesnake, short-horned lizard, side-blotched lizard, striped whipsnake, and the tiger salamander.

Also in the park are the black, lumpy, very slow-growing colonies of cryptobiotic soil, which are a mix of lichens, algae, fungi, and cyanobacteria. Together these organisms slow erosion, add nitrogen to soil, and help it to retain moisture.

Most park visitors sightsee using the scenic drive, which provides access to 13 viewpoints over the amphitheaters. Bryce Canyon has eight marked and maintained hiking trails that can be hiked in less than a day (round trip time, trailhead): Mossy Cave (one hour, State Route 12 northwest of Tropic), Rim Trail (5–6 hours, anywhere on rim), Bristlecone Loop (one hour, Rainbow Point), and Queens Garden (1–2 hours, Sunrise Point) are easy to moderate hikes. Navajo Loop (1–2 hours, Sunset Point) and Tower Bridge (2–3 hours, north of Sunrise Point) are moderate hikes. Fairyland Loop (4–5 hours, Fairyland Point) and Peekaboo Loop (3–4 hours, Bryce Point) are strenuous hikes. Several of these trails intersect, allowing hikers to combine routes for more challenging hikes.

The park also has two trails designated for overnight hiking: the 9-mile Riggs Spring Loop Trail and the 23-mile Under-the-Rim Trail. Both require a backcountry camping permit. In total there are 50 miles of trails in the park.

Horse riding is available in the park from April through October.

More than 10 miles of marked, but ungroomed, skiing trails are available off of Fairyland, Paria, and Rim trails in the park. Twenty miles (32 km) of connecting groomed ski trails are in nearby Dixie National Forest and Ruby's Inn.

The air in the area is so clear that on most days from Yovimpa and Rainbow points, Navajo Mountain and the Kaibab Plateau can be seen 90 miles away in Arizona. On extremely clear days, the Black Mesas of eastern Arizona and western New Mexico can be seen some 160 miles away.

The park also has a 7.4 magnitude night sky, making it one of the darkest in North America. Stargazers can, therefore, see 7,500 stars with the naked eye, while in most places fewer than 2,000 can be seen due to light pollution and in many large cities only a few dozen can be seen. Park rangers host public stargazing events and evening programs on astronomy, nocturnal animals and night sky protection. The Bryce Canyon Astronomy Festival, typically held in June, attracts thousands of visitors. In honour of this astronomy festival, Asteroid 49272 was named after the national park.

There are two campgrounds in the park, North Campground and Sunset Campground. Loop A, in North Campground, is open year-round. Additional loops and Sunset Campground are open from late spring to early autumn. The 114-room Bryce Canyon Lodge is another way to stay overnight in the park.

 

THE SIXTH EXTINCTION

 

Exerpts by Niles Eldredge

  

There is little doubt left in the minds of professional biologists that Earth is currently faced with a mounting loss of species that threatens to rival the five great mass extinctions of the geological past. As long ago as 1993, Harvard biologist E.O. Wilson estimated that Earth is currently losing something on the order of 30,000 species per year — which breaks down to the even more daunting statistic of some three species per hour. Some biologists have begun to feel that this biodiversity crisis — this “Sixth Extinction” — is even more severe, and more imminent, than Wilson had supposed.

  

Extinction in the past

 

The major global biotic turnovers were all caused by physical events that lay outside the normal climatic and other physical disturbances which species, and entire ecosystems, experience and survive. What caused them?

 

The previous mass extinctions were due to natural causes.

First major extinction (c. 440 mya): Climate change (relatively severe and sudden global cooling) seems to have been at work at the first of these-the end-Ordovician mass extinction that caused such pronounced change in marine life (little or no life existed on land at that time). 25% of families lost (a family may consist of a few to thousands of species).

 

Second major extinction (c. 370 mya): The next such event, near the end of the Devonian Period, may or may not have been the result of global climate change. 19% of families lost.

 

Third major Extinction (c. 245 mya): Scenarios explaining what happened at the greatest mass extinction event of them all (so far, at least!) at the end of the Permian Period have been complex amalgams of climate change perhaps rooted in plate tectonics movements. Very recently, however, evidence suggests that a bolide impact similar to the end-Cretaceous event may have been the cause. 54% of families lost.

 

Fourth major extinction (c. 210 mya): The event at the end of the Triassic Period, shortly after dinosaurs and mammals had first evolved, also remains difficult to pin down in terms of precise causes. 23% of families lost.

 

Fifth major extinction (c. 65 mya): Most famous, perhaps, was the most recent of these events at the end-Cretaceous. It wiped out the remaining terrestrial dinosaurs and marine ammonites, as well as many other species across the phylogenetic spectrum, in all habitats sampled from the fossil record. Consensus has emerged in the past decade that this event was caused by one (possibly multiple) collisions between Earth and an extraterrestrial bolide (probably cometary). Some geologists, however, point to the great volcanic event that produced the Deccan traps of India as part of the chain of physical events that disrupted ecosystems so severely that many species on land and sea rapidly succumbed to extinction. 17% of families lost.

  

How is The Sixth Extinction different from previous events?

 

The current mass extinction is caused by humans.

 

At first glance, the physically caused extinction events of the past might seem to have little or nothing to tell us about the current Sixth Extinction, which is a patently human-caused event. For there is little doubt that humans are the direct cause of ecosystem stress and species destruction in the modern world through such activities as:

 

-transformation of the landscape

 

-overexploitation of species

 

-pollution

 

-the introduction of alien species

 

And, because Homo sapiens is clearly a species of animal (however behaviorally and ecologically peculiar an animal), the Sixth Extinction would seem to be the first recorded global extinction event that has a biotic, rather than a physical, cause.

 

We are bringing about massive changes in the environment.

 

Yet, upon further reflection, human impact on the planet is a direct analogue of the Cretaceous cometary collision. Sixty-five million years ago that extraterrestrial impact — through its sheer explosive power, followed immediately by its injections of so much debris into the upper reaches of the atmosphere that global temperatures plummeted and, most critically, photosynthesis was severely inhibited — wreaked havoc on the living systems of Earth. That is precisely what human beings are doing to the planet right now: humans are causing vast physical changes on the planet.

  

What is the Sixth Extinction?

 

We can divide the Sixth Extinction into two discrete phases:

 

-Phase One began when the first modern humans began to disperse to different parts of the world about 100,000 years ago.

 

-Phase Two began about 10,000 years ago when humans turned to agriculture.

 

Humans began disrupting the environment as soon as they appeared on Earth.

 

The first phase began shortly after Homo sapiens evolved in Africa and the anatomically modern humans began migrating out of Africa and spreading throughout the world. Humans reached the middle east 90,000 years ago. They were in Europe starting around 40,000 years ago. Neanderthals, who had long lived in Europe, survived our arrival for less than 10,000 years, but then abruptly disappeared — victims, according to many paleoanthropologists, of our arrival through outright warfare or the more subtle, though potentially no less devastating effects, of being on the losing side of ecological competition.

 

Everywhere, shortly after modern humans arrived, many (especially, though by no means exclusively, the larger) native species typically became extinct. Humans were like bulls in a China shop:

 

-They disrupted ecosystems by overhunting game species, which never experienced contact with humans before.

 

-And perhaps they spread microbial disease-causing organisms as well.

 

The fossil record attests to human destruction of ecosystems:

 

-Wherever early humans migrated, other species became extinct.

 

-Humans arrived in large numbers in North America roughly 12,500 years ago-and sites revealing the butchering of mammoths, mastodons and extinct buffalo are well documented throughout the continent. The demise of the bulk of the La Brea tar pit Pleistocene fauna coincided with our arrival.

 

-The Caribbean lost several of its larger species when humans arrived some 8000 years ago.

 

-Extinction struck elements of the Australian megafauna much earlier-when humans arrived some 40,000 years ago. Madagascar-something of an anomaly, as humans only arrived there two thousand years ago-also fits the pattern well: the larger species (elephant birds, a species of hippo, plus larger lemurs) rapidly disappeared soon after humans arrived.

 

Indeed, only in places where earlier hominid species had lived (Africa, of course, but also most of Europe and Asia) did the fauna, already adapted to hominid presence, survive the first wave of the Sixth Extinction pretty much intact. The rest of the world’s species, which had never before encountered hominids in their local ecosystems, were as naively unwary as all but the most recently arrived species (such as Vermilion Flycatchers) of the Galapagos Islands remain to this day.

  

Why does the Sixth Extinction continue?

 

The invention of agriculture accelerated the pace of the Sixth Extinction.

 

Phase two of the Sixth Extinction began around 10,000 years ago with the invention of agriculture-perhaps first in the Natufian culture of the Middle East. Agriculture appears to have been invented several different times in various different places, and has, in the intervening years, spread around the entire globe.

 

Agriculture represents the single most profound ecological change in the entire 3.5 billion-year history of life. With its invention:

 

-Humans did not have to interact with other species for survival, and so could manipulate other species for their own use

 

-Humans did not have to adhere to the ecosystem’s carrying capacity, and so could overpopulate

 

-Humans do not live with nature but outside it.

 

Homo sapiens became the first species to stop living inside local ecosystems. All other species, including our ancestral hominid ancestors, all pre-agricultural humans, and remnant hunter-gatherer societies still extant exist as semi-isolated populations playing specific roles (i.e., have “niches”) in local ecosystems. This is not so with post-agricultural revolution humans, who in effect have stepped outside local ecosystems. Indeed, to develop agriculture is essentially to declare war on ecosystems - converting land to produce one or two food crops, with all other native plant species all now classified as unwanted “weeds” — and all but a few domesticated species of animals now considered as pests.

 

The total number of organisms within a species is limited by many factors-most crucial of which is the “carrying capacity” of the local ecosystem: given the energetic needs and energy-procuring adaptations of a given species, there are only so many squirrels, oak trees and hawks that can inhabit a given stretch of habitat. Agriculture had the effect of removing the natural local-ecosystem upper limit of the size of human populations. Though crops still fail regularly, and famine and disease still stalk the land, there is no doubt that agriculture in the main has had an enormous impact on human population size:

 

-Earth can’t sustain the trend in human population growth. It is reaching its limit in carrying capacity.

 

-Estimates vary, but range between 1 and 10 million people on earth 10,000 years ago.

 

-There are now over 6 billion people.

 

-The numbers continue to increase logarithmically — so that there will be 8 billion by 2020.

 

-There is presumably an upper limit to the carrying capacity of humans on earth — of the numbers that agriculture can support — and that number is usually estimated at between 13-15 billion, though some people think the ultimate numbers might be much higher.

 

This explosion of human population, especially in the post-Industrial Revolution years of the past two centuries, coupled with the unequal distribution and consumption of wealth on the planet, is the underlying cause of the Sixth Extinction. There is a vicious cycle:

 

-Overpopulation, invasive species, and overexploitation are fueling the extinction.

 

-More lands are cleared and more efficient production techniques (most recently engendered largely through genetic engineering) to feed the growing number of humans — and in response, the human population continues to expand.

 

-Higher fossil energy use is helping agriculture spread, further modifying the environment.

 

-Humans continue to fish (12 of the 13 major fisheries on the planet are now considered severely depleted) and harvest timber for building materials and just plain fuel, pollution, and soil erosion from agriculture creates dead zones in fisheries (as in the Gulf of Mexico)

 

-While the human Diaspora has meant the spread, as well, of alien species that more often than not thrive at the detriment of native species. For example, invasive species have contributed to 42% of all threatened and endangered species in the U.S.

  

Can conservation measures stop the Sixth Extinction?

 

Only 10% of the world’s species survived the third mass extinction. Will any survive this one?

 

The world’s ecosystems have been plunged into chaos, with some conservation biologists thinking that no system, not even the vast oceans, remains untouched by human presence. Conservation measures, sustainable development, and, ultimately, stabilization of human population numbers and consumption patterns seem to offer some hope that the Sixth Extinction will not develop to the extent of the third global extinction, some 245 mya, when 90% of the world’s species were lost.

 

Though it is true that life, so incredibly resilient, has always recovered (though after long lags) after major extinction spasms, it is only after whatever has caused the extinction event has dissipated. That cause, in the case of the Sixth Extinction, is ourselves — Homo sapiens. This means we can continue on the path to our own extinction, or, preferably, we modify our behavior toward the global ecosystem of which we are still very much a part. The latter must happen before the Sixth Extinction can be declared over, and life can once again rebound.

  

© 2005, American Institute of Biological Sciences. Educators have permission to reprint articles for classroom use; other users, please contact editor@actionbioscience.org for reprint permission. See reprint policy.

 

Paleontologist Dr. Niles Eldredge is the Curator-in-Chief of the permanent exhibition “Hall of Biodiversity” at the American Museum of Natural History and adjunct professor at the City University of New York. He has devoted his career to examining evolutionary theory through the fossil record, publishing his views in more than 160 scientific articles, reviews, and books. Life in the Balance: Humanity and the Biodiversity Crisisis his most recent book.

 

www.gc.cuny.edu/directories/faculty/E.htm

   

Articles and Resources on The Sixth Extinction

 

Consequences of the Sixth Extinction

The article “How Will Sixth Extinction Affect Evolution of Species?,” on our site, describes how the current loss of biodiversity will affect evolution in the long run.

www.actionbioscience.org/newfrontiers/myers_knoll.html

 

BioScience Article

“Global Conservation of Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services.”

Habitat destruction has driven much of the current biodiversity extinction crisis, and it compromises the essential benefits, or ecosystem services that humans derive from functioning ecosystems. Securing both species and ecosystem services might be accomplished with common solutions. Yet it is unknown whether these two major conservation objectives coincide broadly enough worldwide to enable global strategies for both goals to gain synergy. In this November 2007, BioScience article, Will Turner and his colleagues assess the concordance between these two objectives, explore how the concordance varies across different regions, and examine the global potential for safeguarding biodiversity and ecosystem services simultaneously. Read the abstract, or log in to purchase the full article.

caliber.ucpress.net/doi/abs/10.1641/B571009

 

Biodiversity in the next millennium

American Museum of Natural History’s nationwide survey (undated) “reveals biodiversity crisis — the fastest mass extinction in Earth’s history.”

cbc.amnh.org/crisis/mncntnt.html

 

National Geographic

A 2/99 article about the Sixth Extinction, with views from several leading scientists.

www.nationalgeographic.com/ngm/9902/fngm/index.html

 

Extinction through time

Find out about cycles of life and death and extinction patterns through time.

www.carleton.ca/Museum/extinction/tablecont.html

 

Is Humanity Suicidal?

Edward O. Wilson asks us why we stay on the course to our own self-destruction.

www.well.com/user/davidu/suicidal.html

 

A Field Guide to the Sixth Extinction

Niles Eldredge writes in 1999 about a few of the millions of plants and animals that won’t make it to the next millennium. The second link takes you to the site’s main page, entitled “Mass Extinction Underway — The World Wide Web’s most comprehensive source of information on the current mass extinction,” which provides links to numerous other resources.

www.well.com/user/davidu/fieldguide.html

www.well.com/user/davidu/extinction.html

 

Global Environment Outlook 3

The United Nations Environment Programme released this major report in May 2002. The report collated the thoughts of more than 1,000 contributors to assess the environmental impact of the last 30 years and outline policy ideas for the next three decades. It concluded that without action, the world may experience severe environmental problems within 30 years. The entire report can be read online or purchased online.

www.unep.org/geo/geo3/index.htm

 

Test your environmental knowledge

A 1999 survey showed that only one in three adult Americans had a passing understanding of the most pressing environmental issues. How do you measure up? Explanatory answers provided.

www.youthactionnet.org/quizzes/global_environment.cfm

 

World Atlas of Biodiversity — interactive map

The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) released the firstWorld Atlas of Biodiversityin August 2002. This link takes you to their online interactive map that helps you search for data about species/land/water loss, extinction over time, and human global development. Click on the “?” for a help page that explains how to interact with this map.

stort.unep-wcmc.org/imaps/gb2002/book/viewer.htm

 

The Sixth Great Extinction: A Status Report

Earth Policy Institute’s 2004 update on the status of loss of biodiversity.

www.earth-policy.org/Updates/Update35.htm

  

Books

 

» The Biodiversity Crisis: Losing What Countsby The American Museum of Natural History (New Press, 2001).

 

» The Sixth Extinction: Patterns of of Life and the Future of Humankindby Richard Leakey and Roger Lewin (Doubleday and Company, 1996).

  

Get Involved

 

The Biodiversity Project

You can choose a way to get involved in protecting biodiversity — from educational resources to community outreach.

www.biodiversityproject.org/html/resources/introduction.htm

 

The Nature Conservancy

Select a state from the menu and find out how you can become an environmental volunteer in that state.

www.nature.org/volunteer/

 

Information for Action

“This website explains the environmental problems & offers solutions to fix them. There are many valuable resources available” including lobbying info, contacts database, & news updates.

www.informaction.org/

 

Harmony

“Harmony Foundation is all about education for the environment. We offer publications and programs… ‘Building Sustainable Societies’ offers innovative training for educators and community group leaders to support local action on important environmental issues.”

www.harmonyfdn.ca

 

Earth Talk: Environmental advocacy for professionals

This discussion community and learning network seeks to contribute to global ecological sustainability by enabling communication connections between those working on behalf of forests, water, and climate.

www.ecoearth.info/

 

* * *

 

Tiger Illustration by Dorothy Lathrop from

"Fierce-Face: The story of a tiger" by Dhan Gopal Mukerji (1936)

Feliz sabado animal!

This foto is from last week. Yesterday we found 2 broken egg shells on the ground, below the nest. So, they have at least 2 babies.

Esta foto es de la semana pasada. Ayer nos encontramos 2 cáscaras de huevos rotos en el suelo, debajo del nido. Por lo tanto, tienen por lo menos 2 bebés.

Esta foto é da semana passada. Ontem encontramos 2 cascas de ovos quebrados no chão, abaixo do ninho. Então, eles têm pelo menos dois bebês.

 

The "tail" on the nest seems to be normal for these birds.

La "cola" en el nido parece ser normal para estas pájaros.

A "cauda" no ninho parece ser normal para estas aves.

;o)

Taiga Flycatcher (Ficedula albicilla), Guishan (Turtle) Island, Yilan, Taiwan

 

Ebird checklist:

ebird.org/ebird/view/checklist?subID=S32276601

 

It is a winter visitor to South and South-east Asia in the Indian Subcontinent and Southeast Asia, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Nepal, Malaysia, Nepal, Thailand, China, Vietnam, and Japan. Its natural habitat is taiga forest. It is a rare vagrant to western Europe.

 

Source: Wikipedia

en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Taiga_flycatcher

Whittier Narrows Dam

Montebello, CA

25 MAR 2017

Another capture of my temporary friend of some time ago. The beautiful sunrise gave me the opportunity for this full frame shot.

D700 200-400VR

I found this one in my archives from last summer. I already miss our summer migrant birds, especially with all the rain we're having.

 

Update: I vacillated back and forth between Willow and Least Flycatchers. At the end of the day, it is impossible to definitively speak to the species of this bird. However, it is most likely that this is a Willow.

 

[group] Chats and Old World flycatchers | [order] PASSERIFORMES | [family] Muscicapidae | [latin] Oenanthe oenanthe | [UK] Northern Wheatear | [FR] Traquet motteux | [DE] Steinschmatzer | [ES] Collalba Gris | [NL] Tapuit | [IRL] Clochrán

 

Measurements

spanwidth min.: 28 cm

spanwidth max.: 32 cm

size min.: 14 cm

size max.: 16 cm

Breeding

incubation min.: 13 days

incubation max.: 15 days

fledging min.: 12 days

fledging max.: 15 days

broods 2

eggs min.: 3

eggs max.: 7

 

Status: Widespread summer visitor to uplands and scrubland throughout Ireland, from mid-March to early-October. Common passage migrant to all coasts in spring and autumn.

 

Conservation Concern: Amber-listed in Ireland due to a decline in the breeding population. The European population is currently assessed as Declining, due to a moderate ongoing decline in the population.

 

Identification: Between Robin and Song Thrush in size. In all plumages, has a very obvious tail pattern of a broad lack stripe at the tip with another extending towards the white rump. The whole effect is of a black "T".

 

Adult summer male Wheatears have a pale grey crown, nape and back, as well as a broad black stripe extending from the beak through the eye to the neck. Also has a thin white supercilium. The throat and top of the breast are beige-brown, varying in extent and intensity, while the rest of the underparts are white. The wings are all black.

 

Autumn males have the grey on the crown and back replaced with pale brown, while the black "eye-mask" is reduced in intensity and may be completely absent (cf first-winter and autumn female).

 

Adult summer females resemble summer males, but lack the black "eye-mask", this being a pale brown instead. The white supercilium also tends to be less obvious.

 

Autumn females are very similar to autumn male Wheatears, but never show the black "eye-mask".

 

Juveniles have a streaked grey head and back, as well as a finely barred breast. The wings are brown. This plumage is lost a few weeks after fledging.

 

First-winter Wheatears are nearly inseperable from autumn females.

 

Call: Main calls heard are a soft whistle "hiit" and a harder "chack". The song is quick, melodic whistle, frequently including the "hiit" call note. May perform a short song-flight.

 

Diet: Insects and other invertebrates.

 

Breeding: Breeds in a variety of habitats, typically with some areas of exposed rock and short vegetation, such as along rocky coasts, pasture with stone walls and bogs in uplands.

 

Wintering: Winters in southern Africa. Has one of the longest migration routes of any songbird. Birds breeding in north-eastern Canada fly almost non-stop across the northern Atlantic to Iberia and North Africa.

 

Where to See: Widespread, especially in the west of Ireland. A common migrant throughout Ireland in spring and autumn, even in the Midlands.

  

Physical characteristics

 

Specific characters most obvious in spring and summer, with fully blue-grey crown, nape, and back of male diagnostic, and always pale or clean throat and breast of female helpful. Sexes markedly dissimilar in breeding plumage, less so in winter.

 

Habitat

 

Breeds from high and low Arctic through boreal and temperate zones to steppe, Mediterranean, and subtropical arid zones, and from extreme continental to extreme oceanic climates, reaching Nearctic tundra from both European and Asian distribution areas. Much of this expansion must have occurred since the last glaciation and far surpasses that of other Oenanthe with which however it shares constraints of requiring ready-made rock or burrow nest-site immediately neighbouring seasonally insect-rich bare patches or short swards for easy foraging. Has exploited stony and shrub tundra, rocky slopes, scree, and alpine meadows above treeline in mountains.

 

Other details

 

Oenanthe oenanthe is a widespread summer visitor to most of Europe, which accounts for less than half of its global breeding range. Its European breeding population is very large (>4,600,000 pairs), and was stable between 1970-1990. Although it remained stable in various countries?particularly in eastern Europe?during 1990- 2000, the species suffered widespread declines, including in the key Turkish population, and underwent a moderate decline (>10%) overall. Consequently, this previously Secure species is now provisionally evaluated as Declining.

 

Feeding

 

Diet based chiefly on insects, also spiders, molluscs, and other small invertebrates, supplemented by berries. Normally locates prey visually, chiefly on ground or in low vegetation. Two main foraging techniques, which may be used in same area. 1) Running, in flat areas of short turf, runs short distance, stops to pick up item or to scan ground ahead, and then runs on. 2) Perching, in areas of scattered perches, uses these to scan ground nearby, drops down for item, and then returns to perch or moves to new one.

 

Conservation

 

This species has an extremely large range, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the range size criterion (Extent of Occurrence 30% decline over ten years or three generations). The population size is extremely large, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population size criterion (10% in ten years or three generations, or with a specified population structure). For these reasons the species is evaluated as Least Concern. [conservation status from birdlife.org]

 

Breeding

 

In Britain and north-west Europe egg-laying starts from mid-April to June. In South and central Europe from early May to June. In Iceland from late May to late June and in Scandinavia from early to mid-May to early July. 1-2 broods. Nest is a hole in wall, among stones or rocks, in burrow, or in ruined building, will also use nest-box or holes in wide variety of man-made objects. Nest is a foundation (absent in nests in rock crevices) comprises large, untidy mass (up to 25 cm across) of dried stems of bracken, heather, and other plants, plus grass and occasional large feathers- cup more tightly woven of finer grass stems and leaves, with some moss and lichen. Clutch: 4-7 (2-9) incubated in c. 13 days (10-16) by female only, though male occasionally helps. Young fledge on average after 15 days (10-21), though most young already leave actual nest in burrow and move around in it at about 10 days.

 

Migration

 

Migratory, though North African race seebohmi probably only partially so. Winter quarters of entire world population, including birds breeding in Nearctic, in tropical Africa in broad belt south of Sahara from West African coast to Indian Ocean, and south in eastern Africa to northern Zambia- records of wintering elsewhere few and probably exceptional. Passage occurs on broad front across southern Europe, Mediterranean, and full length of North African coast- recorded in about equal abundance in both seasons, in contrast to many passerines. Migration seasons notably protracted. Birds leave breeding grounds chiefly from August- some movement southward noted from mid-July, with passage continuing until c. 3rd week of October, and stragglers into November. Departure from winter quarters protracted, probably especially in west, with passage noted from late January in southern Morocco, and records from mid-February to May in Algeria. Passage across North African coast and Mediterranean chiefly March-April, tailing off to mid-May. In north-west Europe, a notably early spring migrant. Thus, often the first passerine to reach Britain, where sometimes recorded early March (exceptionally late February), but more usually from mid-March with peak in early April. First arrivals in Netherlands mid-March. In Norway, arrives in south from mid-March but not present in arctic regions until mid-May. Iceland, Greenland, and east Canadian population winters from Senegal and Sierra Leone east to Mali. Autumn migration involves south-east crossing of North Atlantic, and frequency of records from ships south-east of Greenland is clear evidence that large numbers fly non-stop from Greenland to western Europe

  

The Mighty English Oak reflected.

 

"What does oak look like?

Mature oaks typically reach around 20m in height. The leaves are around 10cm long with 4-5 deep lobes with smooth edges. Leaf-burst occurs mid-May and the leaves have almost no stem and grow in bunches. Its fruit, commonly known as the acorn, are 2 – 2.5cm long, borne on lengthy stalks and held tightly by cupules (the cup-shaped base of the acorn). As it ripens, the green acorn takes on a more autumnal, browner colour, loosens from the cupule and falls to the canopy below. Most acorns will never get the chance to germinate, they are rich food source, eaten by many wild creatures including jays, mice and squirrels. Acorns need to germinate and root quickly to prevent drying out or becoming victims of the harvest. Following successful germination, a new sapling will appear the following spring.

 

Interesting Fact: Acorns are not produced until the tree is at least 40 years old. Peak acorn fecundity usually occurs around 80 – 120 years.

 

As common oaks mature they form a broad and spreading crown with sturdy branches beneath. Their open canopy enables light to penetrate through to the woodland floor, allowing bluebells and primroses to grow below. Their smooth and silvery brown bark becomes rugged and deeply fissured with age. Oak tree growth is particularly rapid in youth but gradually slows at around 120 years. Oaks even shorten with age in order to extend their lifespan.

 

Value to wildlife

Oak forests provide a habitat rich in biodiversity; they support more life forms than any other native trees. They host over 280 species of insect, supplying many British birds with an important food source. In autumn mammals such as badgers and deer take advantage of the falling acorns.

 

Historically humans also collected acorns and processed them into flour for bread making. These culinary techniques have mostly died out following the domestication of wheat production 10,000 years ago, leaving the harvest for wild birds and mammals.

 

The soft leaves of English oaks breakdown with ease in autumn and form a rich leaf mould beneath the tree, supporting invertebrates, such as the stag beetle, and numerous fungi, like the oakbug milkcap. Holes and crevices in the tree bark are perfect nesting spots for the pied flycatcher or marsh tit. Several British bat species may also roost in old woodpecker holes or under loose bark, as well as feeding on the rich supply of insects in the tree canopy.

 

Mythology and symbolism

The oak is held in high regard across most cultures in Europe. The oak was sacred to many gods including Zeus (Greek), Jupiter (Roman) and Dagda (Celtic). Each of these gods ruled over thunder and lightning, and oak trees are prone to lightning strikes as they are often the tallest living feature in the landscape.

 

Druids frequently practised and worshipped their rituals in oak groves and cherished the mistletoe that frequents oak tree branches. Royalty has had a long association with oak trees too; ancient kings adorned themselves with crowns of oak leaves, King Charles II hid from his pursuers in an oak tree at Boscobel House and Roman Emperors were presented with crowns of oak leaves during victory parades.

 

In England the oak has for centuries been a national symbol of strength and survival. It has played an important part in our culture – couples were wed under ancient oaks in Oliver Cromwell’s time, the festive Yule Log was traditionally cut from oak, it features on the 1987 pound coin and is the inspiration for the emblem of many environmentally focused organisations, including the Woodland Trust."

 

www.woodlandtrust.org.uk/learn/british-trees/native-trees...

Whittier Narrows Dam

Montebello, Ca.

Great Kiskadee (Pitangus sulphuratus) with crest display at the lowlands of Costa Rica. www.chrisjimenez.net

Please note: I was at least 5 m away from the nest and I did'nt disturbed the birds at all. My 500 mm lens cannot focus closer than 4.5 m. The chics are 1 day old.

 

Have a look at: globalbirdtrekkers.org/content/view/1116/41/ where this photo is on the front page.

A giant tortoise at the Charles Darwin Research Station on Santa Cruz

 

Galapagos Giant Tortoise

The Galápagos tortoise or Galápagos giant tortoise (Geochelone nigra) is the largest living tortoise, native to seven islands of the Galápagos archipelago. The Galápagos tortoise is unique to the Galápagos Islands. Fully grown adults can weigh over 300 kilograms (661 lb) and measure 1.2 meters (4 ft) long. They are long-lived with a life expectancy in the wild estimated to be 100-150 years. Populations fell dramatically because of hunting and the introduction of predators and grazers by humans since the seventeenth century. Now only ten subspecies of the original twelve exist in the wild. However, conservation efforts since the establishment of the Galápagos National Park and the Charles Darwin Foundation have met with success, and hundreds of captive-bred juveniles have been released back onto their home islands. They have become one of the most symbolic animals of the fauna of the Galápagos Islands. The tortoises have very large shells (carapace) made of bone. The bony plates of the shell are integral to the skeleton, fused with the ribs in a rigid protective structure. Naturalist Charles Darwin remarked "These animals grow to an immense size ... several so large that it required six or eight men to lift them from the ground.". This is due to the phenomenon of island gigantism whereby in the absence of natural predation, the largest tortoises had a survival advantage and no disadvantage in fleeing or fending off predators. When threatened, it can withdraw its head, neck and all forelimbs into its shell for protection, presenting a protected shield to a would-be predator. The legs have hard scales that also provide armour when withdrawn. Tortoises keep a characteristic scute pattern on their shell throughout life. These have annual growth bands but are not useful for aging as the outer layers are worn off. There is little variation in the dull-brown colour of the shell or scales. Physical features (including shape of the shell) relate to the habitat of each of the subspecies. These differences were noted by Captain Porter even before Charles Darwin. Larger islands with more wet highlands such as Santa Cruz and the Alcedo Volcano on Isabela have lush vegetation near the ground. Tortoises here tend to have 'dome-back' shells. These animals have restricted upward head movement due to shorter necks, and also have shorter limbs. These are the heaviest and largest of the subspecies.Smaller, drier islands such as Española and Pinta are inhabited by tortoises with 'saddleback' shells comprising a flatter carapace which is elevated above the neck and flared above the hind feet. Along with longer neck and limbs, this allows them to browse taller vegetation. On these drier islands the Galápagos Opuntia cactus (a major source of their fluids) has evolved a taller, tree-like form. This is evidence of an evolutionary arms race between progressively taller tortoises and correspondingly taller cacti. Saddlebacks are smaller in size than domebacks. They tend to have a yellowish color on lower mandible and throat. At one extreme, the Sierra Negra volcano population that inhabits southern Isabela Island has a very flattened "tabletop" shell. However, there is no saddleback/domeback dualism; tortoises can also be of 'intermediate' type with characteristics of both. The tortoises are slow-moving reptiles with an average long-distance walking speed of 0.3 km/h (0.18 mph). Although feeding giant tortoises browse with no apparent direction, when moving to water-holes or nesting grounds, they can move at surprising speeds for their size. Marked individuals have been reported to have traveled 13 km in two days. Being cold-blooded, the tortoises bask for two hours after dawn, absorbing the energy through their shells, then becoming active for 8–9 hours a day. They may sleep for about sixteen hours in a mud wallow partially or submerged in rain-formed pools (sometimes dew ponds formed by garua-moisture dripping off trees). This may be both a thermoregulatory response and a protection from parasites such as mosquitoes and ticks. Some rest in a 'pallet'- a snug depression in soft ground or dense brush- which probably helps to conserve heat and may aid digestion. On the Alcedo Volcano, repeated use of the same sites by the large resident population has resulted in the formation of small sandy pits. Darwin observed that: "The inhabitants believe that these animals are absolutely deaf; certainly they do not overhear a person walking near behind them. I was always amused, when overtaking one of these great monsters as it was quietly pacing along, to see how suddenly, the instant I passed, it would draw in its head and legs, and uttering a deep hiss fall to the ground with a heavy sound, as if struck dead." The tortoises can vocalise in aggressive encounters, whilst righting themselves if turned upside down and, in males, during mating. The latter is described as "rhythmic groans". The tortoises are herbivorous animals with a diet comprising cactus, grasses, leaves, vines, and fruit. Fresh young grass is a favorite food of the tortoises, and others are the 'poison apple' (Hippomane mancinella) (toxic to humans), the endemic guava (Psidium galapageium), the water fern (Azolla microphylla), and the bromeliad (Tillandsia insularis). Tortoises eat a large quantity of food when it is available at the expense of incomplete digestion. Its favorite food is grasses. The tortoise normally eat an average of 70 to 80 pounds a day. Tortoises have a classic example of a mutualistic symbiotic relationship with some species of Galápagos finch. The finch hops in front of the tortoise to show that it is ready and the tortoise then raises itself up high on its legs and stretches out its neck so that the bird can pick off ticks that are hidden in the folds of the skin (especially on the rear legs, cloacal opening, neck, and skin between plastron and carapace), thus freeing the tortoise from harmful parasites and providing the finch with an easy meal. Other birds, including Galápagos Hawk and flycatchers, use tortoises as observation posts from which to sight their prey. Mating occurs at any time of the year, although it does have seasonal peaks between January and August. When two mature males meet in the mating season they will face each other, rise up on their legs and stretch up their necks with their mouths open to assess dominance. Occasionally, head-biting occurs, but usually the shorter loser tortoise will back off, leaving the other to mate with the female. In groups of tortoises from mixed island populations, saddleback males have an advantage over domebacks. Frustrated non-dominant males have been observed attempting to mate with other males and boulders. The male sniffs the air when seeking a female, bellows loudly, and bobs his head. The male then rams the female with the front of his shell and bites her exposed legs until she withdraws them, immobilizing her. Copulation can last several hours with roaring vocalisations from the males. Their concave shell base allows males to mount the females from behind. It brings its tail which houses the penis into the female's cloaca. After mating (June-December), the females journey up to several kilometres to reach nesting areas of dry, sandy ground (often near the coast). Nest digging can last from hours to days and is elaborate and exhausting. It is carried out blindly using only the hind legs to dig a 30 cm deep hole, into which she lays up to sixteen hard-shelled eggs the size of tennis balls. The female makes a muddy plug for the nest hole out of soil mixed with urine and leaves the eggs to incubate. In rocky areas, the eggs are deposited randomly into cracks. The young emerge from the nest after 120 to 140 days gestation later (December-April) and may weigh only 80 grams (2.8 oz) and measure 6 centimetres (2.4 in). Temperature plays a role in the sex of the hatchling: if the nest temperature is lower, more males will hatch; if it is high, more females will hatch. When the young tortoises emerge from their shells, they must dig their way to the surface, which can take up to a month. All have domed carapaces, and subspecies are indistinguishable. Galápagos Hawk used to be the only native predator of the tortoise hatchlings, as Darwin remarked: "The young tortoises, as soon as they are hatched, fall prey in great numbers to buzzards". Sex can be determined only when the tortoise is 15 years old, and sexual maturity is reached at 20 to 25 years old. The tortoises grow slowly for about 40 years until they reach their full size. Reproductive prime is considered to be from the ages of 60–90. The shape of the carapace of some subspecies of the tortoises is said to have reminded the early Spanish explorers of a kind of saddle they called a "galápago," and for these saddle-shaped tortoises they named the archipelago. Up to 250,000 tortoises inhabited the islands when they were discovered. Today only about 15,000 are left.

 

The inhabitants...state that they can distinguish the tortoise from different islands; and that they differ not only in size, but in other characters. Captain Porter has described those from Charles and from the nearest island to it, namely Hood Island, as having their shells in front thick and turned up like a Spanish saddle, whilst the tortoises from James Island are rounder, blacker, and have a better taste when cooked.---Charles Darwin 1845

 

There were probably twelve subspecies of Geochelone nigra in the Galápagos Islands, although some recognise up to 15 subspecies. Now only 11 subspecies remain, five on Isabela Island, and the other six on Santiago, Santa Cruz, San Cristóbal, Pinzón, Española and Pinta. Of these, the Pinta Island subspecies is extinct in the wild and is represented by a single individual (Lonesome George). In the past, zoos took animals without knowing their island of origin. Production of fertile offspring from various pairings of tortoises largely confirmed that they are subspecies and not different species. All the subspecies of giant tortoise evolved in Galápagos from a common ancestor that arrived from the mainland, floating on the ocean currents (the tortoises can drift for long periods of time as they are buoyant and can stretch head upwards to breathe). Only a single pregnant female or breeding pair needed to arrive in this way, and then survive, for Galápagos to be colonised. In the seventeenth century, pirates started to use the Galápagos islands as a base for resupply, restocking on food, water and repairing vessels before attacking Spanish colonies on the South American mainland. The tortoises were collected and stored live on board ships where they could survive for at least a year without food or water, providing valuable fresh meat, whilst their diluted urine and water stored in their neck bags could also be used as drinking water. Of the meat, Darwin wrote: "the breast-plate roasted (as the Gauchos do 'carne con cuero'), with the flesh on it, is very good; and the young tortoises make excellent soup; but otherwise the meat to my taste is indifferent." In the nineteenth century, whaling ships and fur-sealers collected tortoises for food and many more were killed for high grade 'turtle oil' from the late 1800s onward. Darwin described this process thus: "beautifully clear oil is prepared from the fat. When a tortoise is caught, the man makes a slit in the skin near its tail, so as to see inside its body, whether the fat under the dorsal plate is thick. If it is not, the animal is liberated and it is said to recover soon from this strange operation." A total of over 15,000 tortoises is recorded in the logs of 105 whaling ships between 1811 and 1844. As hunters found it easiest to collect the tortoises living round the coastal zones, the least decimated populations tended to be those in the highlands. Population decline accelerated with the early settlement of the islands, when they were hunted for meat, their habitat was cleared for agriculture and alien mammal species were introduced. Feral pigs, dogs, cats and black rats are effective predators of eggs and young tortoises, whilst goats, donkeys and cattle compete for grazing. In the twentieth century, increasing human settlement and urbanisation and collection of tortoises for zoo and museum specimens depleted numbers even more. The Galápagos giant tortoise is now strictly protected. Young tortoises are raised in a programme by the Charles Darwin Research Station in order to bolster the numbers of the extant subspecies. Eggs are collected from places on the islands where they are threatened and when the tortoises hatch they are kept in captivity until they have reached a size that ensures a good chance of survival and are returned to their original ranges. The Galápagos National Park Service systematically culls feral predators and competitors where necessary such as the complete eradication of goats from Pinta. The conservation project begun in the 1970s successfully brought 10 of the 11 endangered subspecies up to guarded population levels. The most significant recovery was that of the Española Tortoise, whose breeding stock comprised 2 males and 11 females brought to the Darwin Station. Fortuitously, a third male was discovered at the San Diego Zoo and joined the others in a captive breeding program. These 13 tortoises gave rise to over 1000 tortoises now released into their home island. In all, 2500 individuals of all breeds have been reintroduced to the islands. However, persecution still continues on a much smaller scale; more than 120 tortoises have been killed by poachers since 1990 and they have been taken hostage as political leverage by local fishermen.

 

Santa Cruz

With the largest human population in the Galapagos archipelago, Isla Santa Cruz is the most important of the Galapagos Islands. Meaning Holy Cross in Spanish, this island is also known as Indefatigable, after the HMS Indefatigable landed here long ago. The second largest island terms of land area at 986 sq km, Isla Santa Cruz is home to the key town of Puerto Ayora, the Charles Darwin Research Station and the headquarters of the Galapagos National Park Service. With its own airport on Isla Baltra a few miles away, Isla Santa Cruz is where most visitors who come to the Galapagos Islands usually stay. With a number of bars, hotels, restaurants and shops in Puerto Ayora, most tours of the Archipelago also usually begin from here.

 

Galapagos Islands

The Galápagos Islands (official name: Archipiélago de Colón; other Spanish names: Islas de Colón or Islas Galápagos) are an archipelago of volcanic islands distributed around the equator in the Pacific Ocean, some 900 km west of Ecuador. It is a UNESCO World Heritage site: wildlife is its most notable feature. Because of the only very recent arrival of man the majority of the wildlife has no fear of humans and will allow visitors to walk right up them, often having to step over Iguanas or Sea Lions.The Galápagos islands and its surrounding waters are part of a province, a national park, and a biological marine reserve. The principal language on the islands is Spanish. The islands have a population of around 40,000, which is a 40-fold expansion in 50 years. The islands are geologically young and famed for their vast number of endemic species, which were studied by Charles Darwin during the voyage of the Beagle. His observations and collections contributed to the inception of Darwin's theory of evolution by natural selection.

A tortoise at the Galapagos Giant Tortoise Centre on Isabella

 

Galapagos Giant Tortoise

The Galápagos tortoise or Galápagos giant tortoise (Geochelone nigra) is the largest living tortoise, native to seven islands of the Galápagos archipelago. The Galápagos tortoise is unique to the Galápagos Islands. Fully grown adults can weigh over 300 kilograms (661 lb) and measure 1.2 meters (4 ft) long. They are long-lived with a life expectancy in the wild estimated to be 100-150 years. Populations fell dramatically because of hunting and the introduction of predators and grazers by humans since the seventeenth century. Now only ten subspecies of the original twelve exist in the wild. However, conservation efforts since the establishment of the Galápagos National Park and the Charles Darwin Foundation have met with success, and hundreds of captive-bred juveniles have been released back onto their home islands. They have become one of the most symbolic animals of the fauna of the Galápagos Islands. The tortoises have very large shells (carapace) made of bone. The bony plates of the shell are integral to the skeleton, fused with the ribs in a rigid protective structure. Naturalist Charles Darwin remarked "These animals grow to an immense size ... several so large that it required six or eight men to lift them from the ground.". This is due to the phenomenon of island gigantism whereby in the absence of natural predation, the largest tortoises had a survival advantage and no disadvantage in fleeing or fending off predators. When threatened, it can withdraw its head, neck and all forelimbs into its shell for protection, presenting a protected shield to a would-be predator. The legs have hard scales that also provide armour when withdrawn. Tortoises keep a characteristic scute pattern on their shell throughout life. These have annual growth bands but are not useful for aging as the outer layers are worn off. There is little variation in the dull-brown colour of the shell or scales. Physical features (including shape of the shell) relate to the habitat of each of the subspecies. These differences were noted by Captain Porter even before Charles Darwin. Larger islands with more wet highlands such as Santa Cruz and the Alcedo Volcano on Isabela have lush vegetation near the ground. Tortoises here tend to have 'dome-back' shells. These animals have restricted upward head movement due to shorter necks, and also have shorter limbs. These are the heaviest and largest of the subspecies.Smaller, drier islands such as Española and Pinta are inhabited by tortoises with 'saddleback' shells comprising a flatter carapace which is elevated above the neck and flared above the hind feet. Along with longer neck and limbs, this allows them to browse taller vegetation. On these drier islands the Galápagos Opuntia cactus (a major source of their fluids) has evolved a taller, tree-like form. This is evidence of an evolutionary arms race between progressively taller tortoises and correspondingly taller cacti. Saddlebacks are smaller in size than domebacks. They tend to have a yellowish color on lower mandible and throat. At one extreme, the Sierra Negra volcano population that inhabits southern Isabela Island has a very flattened "tabletop" shell. However, there is no saddleback/domeback dualism; tortoises can also be of 'intermediate' type with characteristics of both. The tortoises are slow-moving reptiles with an average long-distance walking speed of 0.3 km/h (0.18 mph). Although feeding giant tortoises browse with no apparent direction, when moving to water-holes or nesting grounds, they can move at surprising speeds for their size. Marked individuals have been reported to have traveled 13 km in two days. Being cold-blooded, the tortoises bask for two hours after dawn, absorbing the energy through their shells, then becoming active for 8–9 hours a day. They may sleep for about sixteen hours in a mud wallow partially or submerged in rain-formed pools (sometimes dew ponds formed by garua-moisture dripping off trees). This may be both a thermoregulatory response and a protection from parasites such as mosquitoes and ticks. Some rest in a 'pallet'- a snug depression in soft ground or dense brush- which probably helps to conserve heat and may aid digestion. On the Alcedo Volcano, repeated use of the same sites by the large resident population has resulted in the formation of small sandy pits. Darwin observed that: "The inhabitants believe that these animals are absolutely deaf; certainly they do not overhear a person walking near behind them. I was always amused, when overtaking one of these great monsters as it was quietly pacing along, to see how suddenly, the instant I passed, it would draw in its head and legs, and uttering a deep hiss fall to the ground with a heavy sound, as if struck dead." The tortoises can vocalise in aggressive encounters, whilst righting themselves if turned upside down and, in males, during mating. The latter is described as "rhythmic groans". The tortoises are herbivorous animals with a diet comprising cactus, grasses, leaves, vines, and fruit. Fresh young grass is a favorite food of the tortoises, and others are the 'poison apple' (Hippomane mancinella) (toxic to humans), the endemic guava (Psidium galapageium), the water fern (Azolla microphylla), and the bromeliad (Tillandsia insularis). Tortoises eat a large quantity of food when it is available at the expense of incomplete digestion. Its favorite food is grasses. The tortoise normally eat an average of 70 to 80 pounds a day. Tortoises have a classic example of a mutualistic symbiotic relationship with some species of Galápagos finch. The finch hops in front of the tortoise to show that it is ready and the tortoise then raises itself up high on its legs and stretches out its neck so that the bird can pick off ticks that are hidden in the folds of the skin (especially on the rear legs, cloacal opening, neck, and skin between plastron and carapace), thus freeing the tortoise from harmful parasites and providing the finch with an easy meal. Other birds, including Galápagos Hawk and flycatchers, use tortoises as observation posts from which to sight their prey. Mating occurs at any time of the year, although it does have seasonal peaks between January and August. When two mature males meet in the mating season they will face each other, rise up on their legs and stretch up their necks with their mouths open to assess dominance. Occasionally, head-biting occurs, but usually the shorter loser tortoise will back off, leaving the other to mate with the female. In groups of tortoises from mixed island populations, saddleback males have an advantage over domebacks. Frustrated non-dominant males have been observed attempting to mate with other males and boulders. The male sniffs the air when seeking a female, bellows loudly, and bobs his head. The male then rams the female with the front of his shell and bites her exposed legs until she withdraws them, immobilizing her. Copulation can last several hours with roaring vocalisations from the males. Their concave shell base allows males to mount the females from behind. It brings its tail which houses the penis into the female's cloaca. After mating (June-December), the females journey up to several kilometres to reach nesting areas of dry, sandy ground (often near the coast). Nest digging can last from hours to days and is elaborate and exhausting. It is carried out blindly using only the hind legs to dig a 30 cm deep hole, into which she lays up to sixteen hard-shelled eggs the size of tennis balls. The female makes a muddy plug for the nest hole out of soil mixed with urine and leaves the eggs to incubate. In rocky areas, the eggs are deposited randomly into cracks. The young emerge from the nest after 120 to 140 days gestation later (December-April) and may weigh only 80 grams (2.8 oz) and measure 6 centimetres (2.4 in). Temperature plays a role in the sex of the hatchling: if the nest temperature is lower, more males will hatch; if it is high, more females will hatch. When the young tortoises emerge from their shells, they must dig their way to the surface, which can take up to a month. All have domed carapaces, and subspecies are indistinguishable. Galápagos Hawk used to be the only native predator of the tortoise hatchlings, as Darwin remarked: "The young tortoises, as soon as they are hatched, fall prey in great numbers to buzzards". Sex can be determined only when the tortoise is 15 years old, and sexual maturity is reached at 20 to 25 years old. The tortoises grow slowly for about 40 years until they reach their full size. Reproductive prime is considered to be from the ages of 60–90. The shape of the carapace of some subspecies of the tortoises is said to have reminded the early Spanish explorers of a kind of saddle they called a "galápago," and for these saddle-shaped tortoises they named the archipelago. Up to 250,000 tortoises inhabited the islands when they were discovered. Today only about 15,000 are left.

 

The inhabitants...state that they can distinguish the tortoise from different islands; and that they differ not only in size, but in other characters. Captain Porter has described those from Charles and from the nearest island to it, namely Hood Island, as having their shells in front thick and turned up like a Spanish saddle, whilst the tortoises from James Island are rounder, blacker, and have a better taste when cooked.---Charles Darwin 1845

 

There were probably twelve subspecies of Geochelone nigra in the Galápagos Islands, although some recognise up to 15 subspecies. Now only 11 subspecies remain, five on Isabela Island, and the other six on Santiago, Santa Cruz, San Cristóbal, Pinzón, Española and Pinta. Of these, the Pinta Island subspecies is extinct in the wild and is represented by a single individual (Lonesome George). In the past, zoos took animals without knowing their island of origin. Production of fertile offspring from various pairings of tortoises largely confirmed that they are subspecies and not different species. All the subspecies of giant tortoise evolved in Galápagos from a common ancestor that arrived from the mainland, floating on the ocean currents (the tortoises can drift for long periods of time as they are buoyant and can stretch head upwards to breathe). Only a single pregnant female or breeding pair needed to arrive in this way, and then survive, for Galápagos to be colonised. In the seventeenth century, pirates started to use the Galápagos islands as a base for resupply, restocking on food, water and repairing vessels before attacking Spanish colonies on the South American mainland. The tortoises were collected and stored live on board ships where they could survive for at least a year without food or water, providing valuable fresh meat, whilst their diluted urine and water stored in their neck bags could also be used as drinking water. Of the meat, Darwin wrote: "the breast-plate roasted (as the Gauchos do 'carne con cuero'), with the flesh on it, is very good; and the young tortoises make excellent soup; but otherwise the meat to my taste is indifferent." In the nineteenth century, whaling ships and fur-sealers collected tortoises for food and many more were killed for high grade 'turtle oil' from the late 1800s onward. Darwin described this process thus: "beautifully clear oil is prepared from the fat. When a tortoise is caught, the man makes a slit in the skin near its tail, so as to see inside its body, whether the fat under the dorsal plate is thick. If it is not, the animal is liberated and it is said to recover soon from this strange operation." A total of over 15,000 tortoises is recorded in the logs of 105 whaling ships between 1811 and 1844. As hunters found it easiest to collect the tortoises living round the coastal zones, the least decimated populations tended to be those in the highlands. Population decline accelerated with the early settlement of the islands, when they were hunted for meat, their habitat was cleared for agriculture and alien mammal species were introduced. Feral pigs, dogs, cats and black rats are effective predators of eggs and young tortoises, whilst goats, donkeys and cattle compete for grazing. In the twentieth century, increasing human settlement and urbanisation and collection of tortoises for zoo and museum specimens depleted numbers even more. The Galápagos giant tortoise is now strictly protected. Young tortoises are raised in a programme by the Charles Darwin Research Station in order to bolster the numbers of the extant subspecies. Eggs are collected from places on the islands where they are threatened and when the tortoises hatch they are kept in captivity until they have reached a size that ensures a good chance of survival and are returned to their original ranges. The Galápagos National Park Service systematically culls feral predators and competitors where necessary such as the complete eradication of goats from Pinta. The conservation project begun in the 1970s successfully brought 10 of the 11 endangered subspecies up to guarded population levels. The most significant recovery was that of the Española Tortoise, whose breeding stock comprised 2 males and 11 females brought to the Darwin Station. Fortuitously, a third male was discovered at the San Diego Zoo and joined the others in a captive breeding program. These 13 tortoises gave rise to over 1000 tortoises now released into their home island. In all, 2500 individuals of all breeds have been reintroduced to the islands. However, persecution still continues on a much smaller scale; more than 120 tortoises have been killed by poachers since 1990 and they have been taken hostage as political leverage by local fishermen.

 

Isabella

Shaped like a sea horse, Isabela is the largest of the the islands in the Galapagos, more than 4 times larger than Santa Cruz the next largest. Isabela is 80 miles (100 km) in length and though it is remarkably beautiful it is not one of the most visited islands in the chain. Its visitor sites are far apart making them accessible only to faster boats or those with longer itineraries. One of the youngest islands, Isabela is located on the western edge of the archipelago near the Galapagos hot spot. At approximately 1 million years old, the island was formed by the merger of 6 shield volcanoes - Alcedo, Cerro Azul, Darwin, Ecuador, Sierra Negra and Wolf. Five of the six volcanoes are still active (the exception is Ecuador) making it one of the most volcanically active places on earth. Visitors cruising past Elizabeth Bay on the west coast can see evidence of this activity in the fumaroles rising from Volcan Chico on Sierra Negra. Two of Isabela's volcanoes lie directly on the equator - Ecuador and Volcan Wolf. Volcan Wolf is the youngest of Isabela's volcanoes and at 5,600ft (1707 m) the highest point in the Galapagos. Isabela is known for its geology, providing visitors with excellent examples of the geologic occurrences that have created the Galapagos Islands including uplifts at Urbina Bay and the Bolivar Channel, Tuft cones at Tagus Cove, and Pulmace on Alcedo. Isabela is also interesting for its flora and fauna. The young island does not follow the vegetation zones of the other islands. The relatively new lava fields and surrounding soils have not developed the sufficient nutrients required to support the varied life zones found on other islands. Another obvious difference occurs on Volcan Wolf and Cerro Azul, these volcanoes loft above the cloud cover and are arid on top. Isabela's rich animal, bird, and marine life is beyond compare. Isabela is home to more wild tortoises than all the other islands. Isabela's large size and notable topography created barriers for the slow moving tortoises; apparently the creatures were unable to cross lava flows and other obstacles, causing several different sub-species of tortoise to develop. Today tortoises roam free in the calderas of Alcedo, Wolf, Cerro Azul, Darwin and Sierra Negra. Alcedo Tortoises spend most of their life wallowing in the mud at the volcano crater. The mud offers moisture, insulation and protects their exposed flesh from mosquitoes, ticks and other insects. The giant tortoises have a mediocre heat control system requiring them to seek the coolness of the mud during the heat of the day and the extra insulation during the cool of the night. On the west coast of Isabela the nutrient rich Cromwell Current upwelling creating a feeding ground for fish, whales, dolphin and birds. These waters have long been known as the best place to see whales in the Galapagos. Some 16 species of whales have been identified in the area including humpbacks, sperms, sei, minkes and orcas. During the 19th century whalers hunted in these waters until the giant creatures were near extinction. The steep cliffs of Tagus Cove bare the names of many of the whaling ships and whalers which hunted in these waters. Birders will be delighted with the offerings of Isabela. Galapagos Penguins and flightless cormorants also feed from the Cromwell Current upwelling. These endemic birds nest along the coast of Isabela and neighboring Fernandina. The mangrove finch, Galapagos Hawk, brown pelican, pink flamingo and blue heron are among the birds who make their home on Isabela. A colorful part to any tour located on the western shore of Isabela, Punta Moreno is often the first or last stopping point on the island (depending on the direction the boat is heading). Punta Moreno is a place where the forces of the Galapagos have joined to create a work of art. The tour starts with a panga ride along the beautiful rocky shores where Galapagos penguins and shore birds are frequently seen. After a dry landing the path traverses through jagged black lava rock. As the swirling black lava flow gave way to form craters, crystal tide pools formed-some surrounded by mangroves. This is a magnet for small blue lagoons, pink flamingos, blue herons, and Bahama pintail ducks. Brown pelican can be seen nesting in the green leaves of the mangroves. You can walk to the edge of the lava to look straight down on these pools including the occasional green sea turtle, white-tipped shark and puffer fish. This idyllic setting has suffered from the presence of introduced species. Feral dogs in the area are known to attack sea Lions and marine iguanas.

 

Galapagos Islands

The Galápagos Islands (official name: Archipiélago de Colón; other Spanish names: Islas de Colón or Islas Galápagos) are an archipelago of volcanic islands distributed around the equator in the Pacific Ocean, some 900 km west of Ecuador. It is a UNESCO World Heritage site: wildlife is its most notable feature. Because of the only very recent arrival of man the majority of the wildlife has no fear of humans and will allow visitors to walk right up them, often having to step over Iguanas or Sea Lions.The Galápagos islands and its surrounding waters are part of a province, a national park, and a biological marine reserve. The principal language on the islands is Spanish. The islands have a population of around 40,000, which is a 40-fold expansion in 50 years. The islands are geologically young and famed for their vast number of endemic species, which were studied by Charles Darwin during the voyage of the Beagle. His observations and collections contributed to the inception of Darwin's theory of evolution by natural selection.

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I did it I did it. And 10 days or so early.

Ok this morning I got up at my usual 3:30 intending to go to work. About 4:30 I could see there wasn't a cloud any direction. The Hell with work Im going bird shooting and that I did. I don't feel one darn bit guilty. First day I have taken off in nearly 13 months.

Anyway I hit one of my fav spots early and have a great time with an olive-sided flycatcher much lower than a few days ago. Burned a gig there in no time.

Off I go to the place I found the Wilsons yesterday. No Wilsons. :'( But at least a week early I found Yellow Warblers thus my trifecta on the yellow warblers in our area. Haven t really looked the gig or so over yet just grab one that caught my eye so I could share my morning. I got by far better shots of Yellow Warblers today than I ever have. Yup Im still excited.

BTY this is my 1500 upload.

Plumbeous Redstart (Phoenicurus fuliginosus affinis), Wulai, Taiwan

 

The plumbeous water redstart (Rhyacornis fuliginosa) is a species of bird in the family Muscicapidae. It is found in South Asia, Southeast Asia and China. Males are slate blue in colour, while females are grey. The bird's common name refers to its colour which resembles lead. They tend to live near fast-moving streams and rivers.

 

Source: Wikipedia

en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Plumbeous_water_redstart

 

Phoebes are proud members (at least they seem so) of the Family Tyrannidae, the tyrant flycatchers.

 

The Eastern Phoebe gets its name from its distinctive but rough two note call, fee-ah-bee or whee-bee. (not to be confused to the clearly whistled two note call of the Chickadee). The discovery of the Eastern Phoebe is credited to Thomas Say (1787-1834), who collected this species along the Arkansas River near Canon City, Colorado during the 1819-1820 expedition to establish military posts along the upper Missouri River.

 

The Eastern Phoebe holds the distinction of being the subject of the first bird banding experiment in North America. In the early 1800s, J. J. Audubon tied thin silver wires on the legs of a brood of Eastern Phoebes. The following year, he was delighted to discover that they returned to breed in the same area. Phoebes are notorious for returning to build their nest, often right on top of the previous years nest. At one location in New England, successive generations of Phoebes were known to return to breed under the same bridge for over 30 years.

 

Eastern Phoebes winter in the southern states from Texas to Florida. I found this one perched on a Barbed Wire Fence at Dinner Island Ranch WMA

in Hendry County, Florida.

 

Las Cruses Biological Station, Costa Rica

Réalisée le 06 juillet 2011 au nord du Réservoir Gouin, Québec.

 

Made on July, 6th / 2011 at the north of Reservoir Gouin, Quebec.

[group] Chats and Old World flycatchers | [order] PASSERIFORMES | [family] Muscicapidae | [latin] Oenanthe oenanthe | [UK] Northern Wheatear | [FR] Traquet motteux | [DE] Steinschmatzer | [ES] Collalba Gris | [NL] Tapuit | [IRL] Clochrán

 

Measurements

spanwidth min.: 28 cm

spanwidth max.: 32 cm

size min.: 14 cm

size max.: 16 cm

Breeding

incubation min.: 13 days

incubation max.: 15 days

fledging min.: 12 days

fledging max.: 15 days

broods 2

eggs min.: 3

eggs max.: 7

 

Status: Widespread summer visitor to uplands and scrubland throughout Ireland, from mid-March to early-October. Common passage migrant to all coasts in spring and autumn.

 

Conservation Concern: Amber-listed in Ireland due to a decline in the breeding population. The European population is currently assessed as Declining, due to a moderate ongoing decline in the population.

 

Identification: Between Robin and Song Thrush in size. In all plumages, has a very obvious tail pattern of a broad lack stripe at the tip with another extending towards the white rump. The whole effect is of a black "T".

 

Adult summer male Wheatears have a pale grey crown, nape and back, as well as a broad black stripe extending from the beak through the eye to the neck. Also has a thin white supercilium. The throat and top of the breast are beige-brown, varying in extent and intensity, while the rest of the underparts are white. The wings are all black.

 

Autumn males have the grey on the crown and back replaced with pale brown, while the black "eye-mask" is reduced in intensity and may be completely absent (cf first-winter and autumn female).

 

Adult summer females resemble summer males, but lack the black "eye-mask", this being a pale brown instead. The white supercilium also tends to be less obvious.

 

Autumn females are very similar to autumn male Wheatears, but never show the black "eye-mask".

 

Juveniles have a streaked grey head and back, as well as a finely barred breast. The wings are brown. This plumage is lost a few weeks after fledging.

 

First-winter Wheatears are nearly inseperable from autumn females.

 

Call: Main calls heard are a soft whistle "hiit" and a harder "chack". The song is quick, melodic whistle, frequently including the "hiit" call note. May perform a short song-flight.

 

Diet: Insects and other invertebrates.

 

Breeding: Breeds in a variety of habitats, typically with some areas of exposed rock and short vegetation, such as along rocky coasts, pasture with stone walls and bogs in uplands.

 

Wintering: Winters in southern Africa. Has one of the longest migration routes of any songbird. Birds breeding in north-eastern Canada fly almost non-stop across the northern Atlantic to Iberia and North Africa.

 

Where to See: Widespread, especially in the west of Ireland. A common migrant throughout Ireland in spring and autumn, even in the Midlands.

  

Physical characteristics

 

Specific characters most obvious in spring and summer, with fully blue-grey crown, nape, and back of male diagnostic, and always pale or clean throat and breast of female helpful. Sexes markedly dissimilar in breeding plumage, less so in winter.

 

Habitat

 

Breeds from high and low Arctic through boreal and temperate zones to steppe, Mediterranean, and subtropical arid zones, and from extreme continental to extreme oceanic climates, reaching Nearctic tundra from both European and Asian distribution areas. Much of this expansion must have occurred since the last glaciation and far surpasses that of other Oenanthe with which however it shares constraints of requiring ready-made rock or burrow nest-site immediately neighbouring seasonally insect-rich bare patches or short swards for easy foraging. Has exploited stony and shrub tundra, rocky slopes, scree, and alpine meadows above treeline in mountains.

 

Other details

 

Oenanthe oenanthe is a widespread summer visitor to most of Europe, which accounts for less than half of its global breeding range. Its European breeding population is very large (>4,600,000 pairs), and was stable between 1970-1990. Although it remained stable in various countries?particularly in eastern Europe?during 1990- 2000, the species suffered widespread declines, including in the key Turkish population, and underwent a moderate decline (>10%) overall. Consequently, this previously Secure species is now provisionally evaluated as Declining.

 

Feeding

 

Diet based chiefly on insects, also spiders, molluscs, and other small invertebrates, supplemented by berries. Normally locates prey visually, chiefly on ground or in low vegetation. Two main foraging techniques, which may be used in same area. 1) Running, in flat areas of short turf, runs short distance, stops to pick up item or to scan ground ahead, and then runs on. 2) Perching, in areas of scattered perches, uses these to scan ground nearby, drops down for item, and then returns to perch or moves to new one.

 

Conservation

 

This species has an extremely large range, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the range size criterion (Extent of Occurrence 30% decline over ten years or three generations). The population size is extremely large, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population size criterion (10% in ten years or three generations, or with a specified population structure). For these reasons the species is evaluated as Least Concern. [conservation status from birdlife.org]

 

Breeding

 

In Britain and north-west Europe egg-laying starts from mid-April to June. In South and central Europe from early May to June. In Iceland from late May to late June and in Scandinavia from early to mid-May to early July. 1-2 broods. Nest is a hole in wall, among stones or rocks, in burrow, or in ruined building, will also use nest-box or holes in wide variety of man-made objects. Nest is a foundation (absent in nests in rock crevices) comprises large, untidy mass (up to 25 cm across) of dried stems of bracken, heather, and other plants, plus grass and occasional large feathers- cup more tightly woven of finer grass stems and leaves, with some moss and lichen. Clutch: 4-7 (2-9) incubated in c. 13 days (10-16) by female only, though male occasionally helps. Young fledge on average after 15 days (10-21), though most young already leave actual nest in burrow and move around in it at about 10 days.

 

Migration

 

Migratory, though North African race seebohmi probably only partially so. Winter quarters of entire world population, including birds breeding in Nearctic, in tropical Africa in broad belt south of Sahara from West African coast to Indian Ocean, and south in eastern Africa to northern Zambia- records of wintering elsewhere few and probably exceptional. Passage occurs on broad front across southern Europe, Mediterranean, and full length of North African coast- recorded in about equal abundance in both seasons, in contrast to many passerines. Migration seasons notably protracted. Birds leave breeding grounds chiefly from August- some movement southward noted from mid-July, with passage continuing until c. 3rd week of October, and stragglers into November. Departure from winter quarters protracted, probably especially in west, with passage noted from late January in southern Morocco, and records from mid-February to May in Algeria. Passage across North African coast and Mediterranean chiefly March-April, tailing off to mid-May. In north-west Europe, a notably early spring migrant. Thus, often the first passerine to reach Britain, where sometimes recorded early March (exceptionally late February), but more usually from mid-March with peak in early April. First arrivals in Netherlands mid-March. In Norway, arrives in south from mid-March but not present in arctic regions until mid-May. Iceland, Greenland, and east Canadian population winters from Senegal and Sierra Leone east to Mali. Autumn migration involves south-east crossing of North Atlantic, and frequency of records from ships south-east of Greenland is clear evidence that large numbers fly non-stop from Greenland to western Europe

  

Post Sunset shot of Hingol National Park

 

Fact Sheet:

 

Geographical Location:

25*30'N-65*30'E

 

Physical Location:

Makran coast, Baluchistan province. Approximately 190 km west of Karachi

 

Total Area:

610, 043 hectares

 

Date Established:

1988 and 1997 (includes Dhrun Wildlife Sanctuary)

 

Best Time to Visit:

Mid October to November and December to mid March

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Description

 

Hingol National Park (HNP) – the largest National Park in Pakistan covers about 610,043 It and lies on the Makran coast approximately 190 kilometers (km) from Karachi. The area was declared reserved in 1988 for the first time. The park area includes parts of the three districts of Balochistan; Lasbela, Gawader and Owaran, and contains a variety of topographical features and vegetation. Large tracts of the HNP are covered with drift sand and can be classified as coastal semi desert. HNP includes the estuary of the Hingol river which supports a significant diversity of bird and fish species.

 

Wildlife:

 

In addition to a variety of bird species, Hingol is also known to support threatened invertebrates. The park is reported to be an excellent habitat to wild animals including over 3,000 ibexes, and 1500 Urials and more than 1,200 Chinkara, besides number of resident and migratory birds. The Houbara Bustard (Chlamydotis undulata), Dalmatian and Spot-billed Pelican (Pelecanus philippensis) are regular visitors to the area.

 

The River Hingol has been nurturing crocodiles for centuries. The Marsh Crocodile (Crocodylus palustris), Olive Ridley (Lepidochelys olivacea) and Green Marine Turtles (Cheloniamydas), endemic and threatened species of fish, such as the Mahasheer occur and schools of Plumbeous Dolphins (Sousa plumbea) are known from close in-shore areas.

 

Mammals:

 

The park has a relative high diversity of species for this type of desert environment. However, the population of a number of species is critically low including for Wolf, Leopard, Hyena, and possibly of Caracal and Honey Badger. Populations of Chinkara are common in the Harian Valley and the Northern Plains but vulnerable. The most recent sightings of wolf are from a few years back and no recent sightings have been obtained to confirm the survival of the Desert Wolf in the park. The population is either critically low or the last individuals have been recently killed.

 

The status of the following species needs to be studied in more detail to assess their survival changes, their current distribution within the park and the population densities: Urial, Chinkara, Desert Wolf, Leopard, Caracal, Hyena, Wild Boar, Honey Badger.

 

The park has large populations of Ibex, although population like those of many other species were decimated during the long period of extreme drought (1998-2004). Porcupine is abundant in many locations both in the lowland valley and the Mountain plateaux. It is reportedly increasing in numbers in several areas. The main reason is likely the local loss of predators such as Leopard, Hyena and Desert Wolf. Cape Hare is numerous in many valleys and flood plain areas, and so are their main predators the Foxes and Jackal. Certain rodent species in particular Mouse like Hamster and Indian Gerbil may be quite common.

 

Birds:

 

The total number of species thus far listed for Hingol National Park is 185 (Nov 2006). The Species Diversity of the Park is relatively high for a desert area due to the large variety of habitats including sea, sea coast, estuaries and mudflats, riverine habitat and mountains up to 1580 m. The highest number of species is found at the seacoast, the estuary and along the Hingol River and main tributaries the Nal, Parken, Arra and Babro-Mari River. Some 45% or almost nearly half of all species are related to water including the seacoast, the estuary, and the Hingol River areas. The major groups among these are the seagull and terns, the pelicans, flamingos, herons and egrets, the plovers and lapwings and the stints, sandpipers, godwits, shanks, coots, curlews, king fishers, Osprey, etc..

 

Only a small number or about 10 % are typically related to the desert areas. Bird diversity is typically low in the tree-poor and degraded broad valleys and the desert areas with very limited water sources. The typical desert related bird groups include the Wheat-ears, Common Babblers, Larks, Sand Grouses, Partridges, the Houbara Bustard, some Shrikes and Buntings.

 

Many other species use the desert area also including many birds of prey, insect eating birds such as Bee-eaters, Hoopoes, and seed eaters such as Pigeons and Doves, and birds with a more varied diet such as White-eared Bulbuls, Sparrows and the Brown-headed Raven and Shrikes.

 

The remainder of the birds some 45% consists of birds of prey (Eagles, Vultures, Hawks, Buzzards, Falcons), pigeons, owls, nightyars, woodpeckers, rollers, swallows, martins, wagtails, chats, robins, warblers, white-throats, flycatchers, sunbird, drongo, mynas, sparrows, buntings.

 

Bird biomass is low, except at the estuary and mudflats and tidal river where large groups of Pelicans, Flamingos, Waders (Plovers, Stints, Sandpipers, Shanks), Seagulls, Terns, and Ducks like to congregate.

 

Some bird species profit from the influence of cultivation, in particular culture following species such as House Sparrows, Silverbells, White-eared Bulbuls, Buntings, Common Babblers, White throats and Brown-headed Raven. The water harvesting systems result in agricultural areas with high trees of Kand Prosopis glandiflora, Kikar Acacia nilotica, and Ber Zizyphus mauritiana. In particular Ziziphus mauritiana attracts fruit-seed eating birds such as White-eared Bulbul, Lesser White-throats, House Sparrows and others. They also provide nesting sites for many bird species. Blossoms and fruits of trees such as Salvadora spp. and Capparis decidua, usually attract several bird species, including the Purple Sunbirds Nectarinia asiatica. These trees are however scarce and may have much decreased in numbers through cutting for construction wood and fuel wood.

 

The fields with ripening grains such as millet attract many seed eating birds including rock pigeons, doves, buntings, sparrows and others.

 

Several species find either their eastern limit or their western limit in the Hingol and surroundings. A typical example is the Brown-headed Raven.

The Brown-headed Raven Corvus rufficollis is a restricted range species. It is limited to the southern areas of Balochistan, Iran up to Oman and Egypt. The eastern limits of its total range are at the east boundary of the park, while a few individuals wandering up to Liari and the estuary of the Porali River. They occur all over the park beyond its northern boundaries.

 

Groups of some 4 –20 or more birds are found along each river and in each major valley. The Aghore group is the largest with more than 20 individuals. The total number of groups resident in the Park is estimated at 10-20 only.

 

A rare bird noted as limited range species with breeding in Balochistan coastal zone is the Sooty Falcon. It is regularly seen in Hingol and a group of 17 were sighted at Machi / Sangal mountain ridge and may be breeding in Hingol

 

At least half of the species listed for the park are migratory birds. The Park is part of the “Asian Flyway” used by birds from Siberia and Central Asia to migrate to the flood plains, lakes and sea coastal areas of Pakistan, India up to Bangladesh. Some birds migrate to East Africa crossing the Arabian Sea. A small number of birds show altitudinal migration over shorter distances. They come down from the higher altitudes within Pakistan to migrate to non-snow covered and warmer areas (e.g., Orphean Whitethroat). The number of species and number of individuals is therefore much higher in the winter period. Most species can be noted when migratory species pass through during the arrival-passage time in autumn (Aug-Nov) and their return in spring (Feb-May). A small number of species stay the whole winter in the park area, notably some Egrets and Herons. A very small number migrates from south east to northwest in summer times.

 

The largest concentrations of migratory birds can be found at the Hingol estuary and lower Hingol River plains. Several birds of Prey pass through the coastal area during the wintertime. A two day survey in Jan. 2006, listed 150 Great White Pelicans, 40 Spot-billed and 50 Dalmatian Pelicans, 18 Great Cormorants, 400 Little Cormorants, 75 Western Reef Egrets, 200 Little Egrets, a few Intermediate, Great Egrets and Purple Heron, and 32 Grey Heron, 16 Black Ibis, and 200 Spoonbils. Ducks were limited to Eurasian Wigeon (800), Gadwall (150), Common Teal (600), and Northern Shoveler (200), the total number of shorebirds-waders amounted to 16 out of 40 species including amongst others Great Stone Plover (2), Whimbrel (60) and Eurasian Curlew (35). The Gull-Terns were represented with 12 out of 20 species with high numbers of Herring Gull (2000), and Black-headed Gull (1400).

 

Reptiles:

 

The Marsh Crocodile, Olive Ridley and Green Marine Turtles, Desert Monitor lizard, Yellow Monitor lizard, and different species of lizard and chameleon.

 

Source:

 

www.wildlifeofpakistan.com

www.unep-wcmc.org

 

Shot taken in HNP during a Widlife Survey of the Park:

  

To conclude my review of the year, it has to be the fabulous Red-breasted Flycatcher.

 

I had never seen a Red-breasted Flycatcher before this year and saw my first in Shetland in June. Just tantalising glimpses of a juvenile/female. Then in September, I managed my first shots of another juvenile/female at Flamborough Head whilst in Yorkshire for the weekend. At the time I was pretty pleased with that. Then on 22 October came news of this stunning male rather closer to home. It spent 7 days at Beachy Head.

 

Sussex has hosted three other birds this autumn that previously I had only managed record shots of. A Barred Warbler at Seafod Head showed well if briefly on 28 September and a Tundra Bean Goose was on the Adur for 9 days from 5 December before moving onto to Climping and last but certainly not least the fabulous Rough-legged Buzzard remains at Jevington where it was first reported on 9 November 2014.

 

My favourite images from 2014 can be seen here

One of the amazingly colourful Marine Iguanas from Suarez Point on Espanola.

 

Marine Iguana

The Marine Iguana (Amblyrhynchus cristatus) is an iguana found only on the Galapagos Islands that has the ability, unique among modern lizards, to live and forage in the sea. It has spread to all the islands in the archipelago, and is sometimes called the Galapagos Marine Iguana. It mainly lives on the rocky Galapagos shore, but can also be spotted in marshes and mangrove beaches. On his visit to the islands, Charles Darwin was revolted by the animals' appearance, writing “The black Lava rocks on the beach are frequented by large (2-3 ft), disgusting clumsy Lizards. They are as black as the porous rocks over which they crawl & seek their prey from the Sea. I call them 'imps of darkness'. They assuredly well become the land they inhabit.” In fact, Amblyrhynchus cristatus is not always black; the young have a lighter coloured dorsal stripe, and some adult specimens are grey. The reason for the sombre tones is that the species must rapidly absorb heat to minimize the period of lethargy after emerging from the water. They feed almost exclusively on marine algae, expelling the excess salt from nasal glands while basking in the sun, and the coating of salt can make their faces appear white. In adult males, coloration varies with the season. Breeding-season adult males on the southern islands are the most colorful and will acquire reddish and teal-green colors, while on Santa Cruz they are brick red and black, and on Fernandina they are brick red and dull greenish. Another difference between the iguanas is size, which is different depending on the island the individual iguana inhabits. The iguanas living on the islands of Fernandina and Isabela (named for the famous rulers of Spain) are the largest found anywhere in the Galápagos. On the other end of the spectrum, the smallest iguanas are found on the island on Genovesa. Adult males are approximately 1.3 m long, females 0.6 m, males weigh up to 1.5 kg. On land, the marine iguana is rather a clumsy animal, but in the water it is a graceful swimmer, using its powerful tail to propel itself. As an exothermic animal, the marine iguana can spend only a limited time in the cold sea, where it dives for algae. However, by swimming only in the shallow waters around the island they are able to survive single dives of up to half an hour at depths of more than 15 m. After these dives, they return to their territory to bask in the sun and warm up again. When cold, the iguana is unable to move effectively, making them vulnerable to predation, so they become highly aggressive before heating up (since they are unable to run away they try to bite attackers in this state). During the breeding season, males become highly territorial. The males assemble large groups of females to mate with, and guard them against other male iguanas. However, at other times the species is only aggressive when cold. Marine iguanas have also been found to change their size to adapt to varying food conditions. During El Niño conditions when the algae that the iguanas feed on was scarce for a period of two years, some were found to decrease their length by as much as 20%. When food conditions returned to normal, the iguanas returned to their pre-famine size. It is speculated that the bones of the iguanas actually shorten as a shrinkage of connective tissue could only account for a 10% length change. Researchers theorize that land and marine iguanas evolved from a common ancestor since arriving on the islands from South America, presumably by driftwood. It is thought that the ancestral species inhabited a part of the volcanic archipelago that is now submerged. A second school of thought holds that the Marine iguana may have evolved from a now extinct family of seagoing reptiles. Its generic name, Amblyrhynchus, is a combination of two Greek words, Ambly- from Amblus meaning "blunt" and rhynchus meaning "snout". Its specific name is the Latin word cristatus meaning "crested," and refers to the low crest of spines along the animal's back. Amblyrhynchus is a monotypic genus in that Amblyrhynchus cristatus is the only species which belongs to it at this point in time. This species is completely protected under the laws of Ecuador. El Niño effects cause periodic declines in population, with high mortality, and the marine iguana is threatened by predation by exotic species. The total population size is unknown, but is, according to IUCN, at least 50,000, and estimates from the Charles Darwin Research Station are in the hundreds of thousands. The marine iguanas have not evolved to combat newer predators. Therefore, cats and dogs eat both the young iguanas and dogs will kill adults due to the iguanas' slow reflex times and tameness. Dogs are especially common around human settlements and can cause tremendous predation. Cats are also common in towns, but they also occur in numbers in remote areas where they take a toll on iguanas.

 

Espanola (Suarez Point)

Approximately a 10-12 hour trip from Santa Cruz, Española is the oldest and the southernmost island in the chain. The trip across open waters can be quite rough especially during August and September. Española's remote location helped make it a unique jewel with a large number of endemic creatures. Secluded from the other islands, wildlife on Española adapted to the island's environment and natural resources. The subspecies of Marine iguana from Española are the only ones that change color during breeding season. Normally, marine iguanas are black in color, a camouflage, making it difficult for predators to differentiate between the iguanas and the black lava rocks where they live. On Española adult marine iguanas are brightly colored with a reddish tint except during mating season when their color changes to more of a greenish shade. The Hood Mockingbird is also endemic to the island. These brazen birds have no fear of man and frequently land on visitors heads and shoulders searching for food. The Hood Mockingbird is slightly larger than other mockingbirds found in the Galapagos; its beak is longer and has a more curved shape. The Hood Mockingbird is the only carnivorous one of the species feeding on a variety of insects, turtle hatchlings and sea lion placentas. Wildlife is the highlight of Española and the star of the show is the waved albatross. The island's steep cliffs serve as the perfect runways for these large birds which take off for their ocean feeding grounds near the mainland of Ecuador and Peru abandoning the island between January and March. Known as endemic to the island, Española is the waved albatross's only nesting place. Each April the males return to Española followed shortly thereafter by the females. Mating for life, their ritual begins with the male's annual dance to re-attract his mate. The performance can take up to 5 days consisting of a series of strutting, honking, and beak fencing. Once the pair is reacquainted they produce a single egg and share the responsibility of incubation. The colony remains based on Española until December when the chick is fully grown. By January most of the colony leaves the island to fish along the Humboldt Current. Young albatross do not return to Española until their 4th or 5th year when they return to seek a mate. Geographically Española is a classic example of a shield volcano, created from a single caldera in the center of the island. Over the years as the island has moved further away from the hot spot, the volcano became extinct and erosion began to occur. Española's two visitor sites offer an exceptional island visit. Punta Suarez is one of the highlights of the Galapagos Islands. The variety and quantity of wildlife assures a memorable visit. Visitors find migrant, resident, and endemic wildlife including brightly colored Marine Iguanas, Española Lava Lizards, Hood Mockingbirds, Swallow Tailed Gulls, Blue Footed and Masked Boobies, Galapagos Hawks, a selection of Finch, and the Waved Albatross.Found on the western tip of Española, Punta Suarez offers great wildlife such as sea lions, sea birds and the largest marine iguanas of Galapagos. This is one of the best sites in the Galapagos. The amount of wildlife is overwhelming. Along the beach there are many sea lions and large, colorful lava lizards and marine iguanas. As you follow the trail to the cliff's edge masked boobies can be found nesting among the rock formations. After a short walk down to a beach and back up the other side blue-footed boobies are seen nesting just off the trail. The Galapagos Dove and very friendly Hood Mockingbird are commonly found in this area. The nearby bushes are frequently home to the large-cactus finch, warbler finch, small-ground finch and large-billed flycatcher. Continuing down the trail you come to the only place where waved albatross nest in the islands. Some 12,000 pairs nest on Española each year. The feeling is very dramatic and it seems like a desolate wilderness as the waves crash on the jagged cliffs below and the blowhole shoots water 50-70 feet/15-30 meters into the air. The sky above is full of sea birds including red-billed tropicbirds, American Oystercatchers, swallow-tailed gulls, and Audubon's Shearwaters.

 

Galapagos Islands

The Galápagos Islands (official name: Archipiélago de Colón; other Spanish names: Islas de Colón or Islas Galápagos) are an archipelago of volcanic islands distributed around the equator in the Pacific Ocean, some 900 km west of Ecuador. It is a UNESCO World Heritage site: wildlife is its most notable feature. Because of the only very recent arrival of man the majority of the wildlife has no fear of humans and will allow visitors to walk right up them, often having to step over Iguanas or Sea Lions.The Galápagos islands and its surrounding waters are part of a province, a national park, and a biological marine reserve. The principal language on the islands is Spanish. The islands have a population of around 40,000, which is a 40-fold expansion in 50 years. The islands are geologically young and famed for their vast number of endemic species, which were studied by Charles Darwin during the voyage of the Beagle. His observations and collections contributed to the inception of Darwin's theory of evolution by natural selection.

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