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"Not the movie! Tell a story with toys or about toys. (Kind of like the movie...)"


A rare photo of an elusive and endangered beanie boo. This particular species chose green-themed habitats despite failing to develop the necessary natural camouflage to protect itself from its natural predators: tiny children.


Photo by Mike Soliman


#dogwood52 #dogwood2017 #dogwoodweek25

My imagination has saved my life many times. Instead of giving in to whatever is going on around me – things that may not be positive, sunny, sane or good for the mind, body and soul – my mind has always been able to wander off, sail off or fly off – and find other places to be, even when I couldn’t physically be there. Places where it was positive, and sunny and good. ~ View On Black


If the body can't leave, then just being elsewhere in spirit is enough. Sometimes it has to be. ~ “Azure Skies”, Darshan Ambient


The land, shore, water and sky of Lake Michigan are one such place to visit when one needs to be emotionally, mentally or spiritually away – camera in hand or not.


Strong northeast winds of winter blow huge waves of frigid Lake Michigan water onto our man-made rock shoreline from December through February. Ice formations, up to six-feet deep and up to a mile in length, form along our 25+ miles of breakwalls. And no effort is made to get rid of them. “Nature puts them up, nature will take them down,” it is said. Allow each season to be its own season: I like that kind of thought.


I like wind and storm and wave. So I go out here, to be somewhere else in my being. There is some danger to be sure – it is isolated and if you take a slip and a fall, you are on your own (I tell fellow travelers to wear bright colors; it makes finding the body easier :-) ). But, it is not so risky as to make the hazards outweigh the reward of seeing, hearing, feeling and smelling what such locations have to offer the senses and the spirit.


I call these ice formations, "Chicago’s Glaciers." They look like glaciers in my imagination; in shape, size, color, and the way they snake around the existing environment. In Zen, the ability to see everything, and anything, in fresh and wonderful ways is called “a child’s mind.”


Children see endless possibilities, where adults see only a few, or one, or none. It takes time and work and practice and desire to retrieve one's "Child's Mind," but it is worth the effort.


Anyway, Chicago’s Glaciers pile up over the course of the winter, gaining depth with each new storm and freeze. Then with the coming of spring, their “fields of icy snowpack begin a slow retreat back up the fjord." The debris they leave behind as well as the alternately coarse and subtle changes to the landscape cut by their ice, becomes evident and evidence; available for curious minds to discover, analyze and savor.


Above, a red-tailed hawk circles low to the land, slipping the surface on currents of air, banking in on another pass, looking for any unfortunately exposed, early-season rodents on the scurry (there is as yet, no ground cover in which to hide). Both predator and prey are hoping to find bits and pieces to eat after winter's cupboards have long fallen bare.


Low rise clouds, thickening and gathering moisture on southerly winds, roil low and fast overhead, a gaping yawn of churning mist and water vapor that extends to the horizon. These clouds portend spring’s rain, not winter’s snow.


The retreating ice reveals a mouse or two, perhaps a pigeon or a gull – the unlucky ones or the old; mushed and crushed, skin leathery and slightly mummified, after months sealed under the weight of snow and ice. However, these are not a fresh kills – thus they are only fit to eat were a predator starving. The Hawk ignores them.


Each little world, such as the ones at your feet, not always the one over the horizon, is our own little National Geographic mini-series documentary special on "The Wonder of Nature" in our everyday lives.


At least, I like to imagine it so.


Textures courtesy skeletalmess:


And flypaper textures:



The field is green

The sky is blue

The sun is shining,

I feel so new


It’s the atmosphere of nature


When the sky is grey

Thundering and lightning

Predators catch there prey

Except some that got away


It’s the atmosphere of nature


Its light and its morning

I can hear the birds singing

And the children’s laughter

Swaying away like a lullaby


It’s the atmosphere of nature


Roses are red

Violets are blue

Sugar is sweet

Nature is too


It’s the atmosphere of nature…

maryam kazmi

Erdmännchen | Suricate

Zoo Frankfurt

Predator Anak dan Fitrah Seksualitas

There once was a leopard

named Child

whose best days were spent

getting riled.

But what his keepers found

when they brought him to ground

Was that Child

had never yet smiled.

There are thousands of alligators at the Lake Woodruff Wildlife Refuge in DeLeon Springs, Florida, but darned if I've ever seen any of them! I have been growled at by one, though, and let me tell you, it was a rude awakening, being that I couldn't see it and the sound was only about 5-7 feet away from me!


As you walk along the paths that really are just land bridges between canals, you don't recognize the danger you could be in from the large predators on either side of you. They are excellent ambush predators, and do claim lives now and then, as last year at Disney World, when a little child was grabbed and drowned by one, despite his father's desperate attempts to save his son. We often forget that this is THEIR habitat and WE are the intruders into it.


There are few places where a person can go and be completely away from other people, cars, cell phones, and noise. This place is one of them, and is very much worth going to, although I would recommend going with other people, as I learned the day the gator growled at me and I was completely alone in there! Everyone else had left for the day, and there was nothing but a vast, expanse of waterways, land bridges, and tall grasses which hid the animal residents well. For this shoot, I had a friend along!

Wild Polar fox (Alopex lagopus) puppy. Hopefully a part of the future for this species wich is highly endangered on the Norwegian Mainland as well as the rest of Scandinavia.

The photo is cropped and the animals was not disturbed.

BARN OWL (tyto alba)

Left-click to enlarge and again to return.

Composite image. Photo of the owl taken 17 June 2014 and photo of the partial moon taken 5 May 2014, with the same camera (Nikon D600) and lens (80-400 mm Nikorr) . Processed and combined in Adobe Lightroom CC and Adobe Photoshop CC. Photos retrieved from my photo archive for a photo club theme entitled 'The Animal Eye.'

Title from children's poem by Edward Lear : The Owl and the Pussy Cat (pasted below):




The Owl and the Pussy-cat went to sea

In a beautiful pea-green boat,

They took some honey, and plenty of money,

Wrapped up in a five-pound note.

The Owl looked up to the stars above,

And sang to a small guitar,

"O lovely Pussy! O Pussy, my love,

What a beautiful Pussy you are,

You are,

You are!

What a beautiful Pussy you are!"

Pussy said to the Owl, "You elegant fowl!

How charmingly sweet you sing!

O let us be married! too long we have tarried:

But what shall we do for a ring?"

They sailed away, for a year and a day,

To the land where the Bong-Tree grows

And there in a wood a Piggy-wig stood

With a ring at the end of his nose,

His nose,

His nose,

With a ring at the end of his nose.


"Dear Pig, are you willing to sell for one shilling

Your ring?" Said the Piggy, "I will."

So they took it away, and were married next day

By the Turkey who lives on the hill.

They dined on mince, and slices of quince,

Which they ate with a runcible spoon;

And hand in hand, on the edge of the sand,

They danced by the light of the moon,

The moon,

The moon,

They danced by the light of the moon.


#The Animal Eye


Textures used


Its Boards are loose, and warped, and weathered.


Shingles flyin’ in the wind.


Timbers leanin’, ridge pole sags.


A hundred seasons done it in.


Settin’ lonesome, sad, neglected,


seems to sense it’s end is near.


Recollections long forgot—of


friends with hammers workin’ here.


Status once was never questioned,


vital structure in its day.


Uses that this shelter rendered--


far beyond just ‘storin’ hay’.


Stood majestic, stately, noble.


Stout design, yet gentle charm.


Served as banner to the world;


message was: “Successful Farm!”


Answered all whose glance might query


lineage of the builders clan


who tilled surrounding fertile fields


to earn their living off this land.


Proudly served each generation,


guarding them in work and play,


thirsting not for acclamation,


‘care’ was more than ample pay.

Hidden back in every shadow,


clues and scars of past events;


‘Jackson fork’, it’s tines a rustin’,


lies beneath the fallen fence.


Inside, hangs the fraying fibers,


once a hay rope dangled there.


Listen closely, hear the laughter?


Children swingin’ through the air.


Climb the loft, there in a corner,


boards once blackened by a fire.


Boys a smokin’ pipes of corn silk,


dealt with sternly by their sire!


Reckon sounds of men at work as


tons of hay are hoisted in.


Ropes’er creakin’, pulleys squeakin’,


horses neigh above the din.


Soon winters cloak of frozen whiteness


covers fields and pasture land.


The barns importance more apparent,


inside doors now seems more grand.


Amply storing food and fiber,


walls to break the winters gale,


“haven” seems well to describe’er,


guests within stay hearty, hale.


Time moves on and progress quickens,


new techniques come into play.


Less reliant on the farmstead,


children grow, then move away.

Oldsters now are those remaining,


seeing things once only dreams;


tractor chuggin’ up the furrows


now out works a dozen teams.


With time required for its nurture


crowded out by other chores,


the barns demise is now beginning—


‘modern times’ the predators.


This reminisce makes quite apparent;


’Old Barns and men, are much the same’,


When young and useful---both have value—


When old, the world, forgets their name!



Polar Bears of Svalbard

Photo tour with Greg du Toit

3 - 12 August 2018


Last week I won three Silver Awards in the One Eyeland Awards - one for a black and white series from China, one for a colour series from the same country, and one for an image I shot on our polar bear photo tour in Svalbard.


Our guide had spotted a female bear and her cub in the distance, feeding on the remains of a seal. By the time we had worked our way through the sea ice, they had just finished their meal and both mother and child had not had time to clean up yet.


The little cub was still full of energy, so it was hopping around, climbing the ice and playing with snow. This is one of favourite images from that encounter. I think it’s because of the innocence of the pose contrasted with the blood as a silent witness to something not quite as innocent.


This is one of those shots that will never do well as a fine art print, as most people do not appreciate seeing blood in their living room, especially not on subjects that score big on the fluffy index.


Would you hang a print of this cutie above your dining table? Or do you think it's too disturbing?


- - -


If you’d like to get shots like this yourself, then why not join us to Svalbard? This year’s tour is already fully booked, but there are still some spaces on the 2018 trip. More info here:






:copyright:2017 Marsel van Oosten, All Rights Reserved. This image is not available for use on websites, blogs or other media without the explicit written permission of the photographer.

from Wikipedia: "Dragonflies are important predators that eat mosquitoes, and other small insects like flies, bees, ants, wasps, and very rarely butterflies. They are usually found around marshes, lakes, ponds, streams, and wetlands because their larvae, known as "nymphs", are aquatic."

Shot through the kitchen window.

I've lived in this house for 30 years and have never seen a rabbit before. I've been quite concerned about this one but he seems to be doing okay. There aren't many predators in my backyard (my cats have not been going outside -- I'm working on an outdoor screened enclosure for them) and I haven't seen any evidence of possums or raccoons this year and dogs almost never come back here. This little fellow is pretty fast, too. He's just so cute -- like something out of a child's story book. I only hope that he's finding enough of the right things to eat back here. Apparently he's been attracted to the birdseed . . . I wouldn't have thought he'd be interested in it.

THANK YOU everyone for your visits, comments and favs!

I appreciate your invites and awards very much!


© ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Use without permission is illegal.


A Monarch Caterpillar on Milkweed plant ~


A Look at the Life of a Monarch Caterpillar


Just moments after a monarch hatches from its egg it devours its own shell. This is a fitting beginning for a creature whose focus is FOOD.


Some fast facts about monarch caterpillars:


Larva is the scientific word for caterpillar. Larvae is the plural of larva, so "larvae" means "caterpillars." The use of either "caterpillar" or "larva" is correct.


Monarchs spend the larval stage of their lives eating--and growing. In fact, the typical monarch increases in mass by 2,000 times while it's a caterpillar. This amazing transformation takes place in only about 9-14 days.


The weight a monarch gains as a larva determines the butterfly's size as an adult. Bigger caterpillars become bigger butterflies; smaller caterpillars become smaller adult monarchs.


Once a monarch becomes an adult butterfly, it does not grow any more.


Larvae go through five growth stages called "instars." This is because, as insects grow, they must shed their exoskeletons as they increase in size. Just as children outgrow their clothes, insects outgrow their skeletons! (Luckily, human skeletons are inside our bodies and grow with us.)


In addition to eating and growing, larvae must avoid predators and parasites! Mortality is extremely high. Over 90% of all eggs laid never survive to the chrysalis stage, according to preliminary results of the Monarch Larval Monitoring Project.


It's easy to find monarch larvae when you look for leaf damage on milkweed leaves. Predators and parasites may cue-in on leaf damage to find their prey. For this reason, larvae of some butterfly species change their position on the plant often, and move to different plants, as a predator avoidance strategy.


When frightened, larvae use a silk lifeline to escape quickly. They can drop to the ground and vanish in the vegetation in an instant. They also often curl up into a ball when touched. Why do you suppose they do this?


Only the final monarch generation of summer migrates to Mexico. A butterfly's chance of surviving the winter is greater the more lipids it has stored. This means that the milkweed conditions available to larvae in the north can ultimately affect their chances of surviving the winter.


The moon peeks through a break in the clouds over Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge in San Antonio, New Mexico. It is the morning twilight and snow geese fill the skies during the fly-out. They have spent the night in the shallow retention ponds of the refuge. The water provides some measure of protection and early warning from predators like coyotes. At the first hint of light the geese begin to fly out to the fields where they will spend their day in search of leftover grain to eat. Each year the snow geese migrate south from some of the most northern reaches of North America, finding respite here at the Bosque. The sounds and sights of large flocks of geese are a moving experience, especially for those who have never experienced this before.

Wish I'd got the head in focus, too, but I still like this Canada Goose's wing feathers folded back so neatly. This bird was obviously used to being fed by local people and their children, but of course it was out of luck from me : ) This species is native to Alberta.


"A familiar and widespread goose with a black head and neck, white chinstrap, light tan to cream breast and brown back. Has increased in urban and suburban areas in recent years; just a decade or two after people intentionally introduced or reintroduced “giant” Canada Geese to various areas, they are often considered pests." From AllABoutBirds.


"Extremely successful at living in human-altered areas, Canada geese have proven able to establish breeding colonies in urban and cultivated areas, which provide food and few natural predators, and are well known as a common park species. Their success has led to them sometimes being considered a pest species because of their depredation of crops and issues with their noise, droppings, aggressive territorial behaviour, and habit of begging for food, especially in their introduced range. Canada geese are also among the most commonly hunted waterfowl in North America." From Wikipedia.


Five days ago, on 7 May 2015, I joined friends to go on a birding walk at the south end LaFarge Meadows, accessed off 194th Ave. The weather was beautiful, though the temperature was only 7C-11C, and the birds were so far away. I did manage to get a distant shot of two of the three Trumpeter Swans (both juveniles) that were near the river. A Bald Eagle flew overhead and a Great Blue Heron flew in the far distance. A little Savannah Sparrow posed in a small tree for us and a Muskrat was seen in the large pond by the river.


After the walk, I decided to call in at a wetland in SW Calgary, hoping that at least a few of the birds would be close enough for photos. I met a delightful, enthusiastic and knowledgeable photographer/birder while I was there, and she showed me the area accessed from a point that I had never tried before. I had hoped to maybe see a Common Grackle at this wetland, as I had seen photos taken there by other people, and sure enough, there was one down near the water's edge. Just managed to get one lucky shot before the bird flew off. Many people don't like Grackles, but I see them so rarely and I think they are beautiful birds.


A few duck species and other birds were seen, including Ruddy Duck, Lesser Scaup, and Mallards (of course). Also Coots, a pair of Grebes, and a few Yellow-headed and Red-winged Blackbirds.



All rights reserved :copyright:

For Macro Mondays: "Into the Woods" theme


We have quite a large garden where I spend a good deal of my time. I was looking at the tiny white blossoms on our pepper tree when I noticed a brightly colored fly hanging from a branch. I took several photos of the fly and then realized the reason it was just hanging there was because he had been captured by a spider who was devouring him. The spider was completely invisible to me because it seemed to be one of the tiny white buds on the branch. I am certain it fooled the fly, too.


Seeing the demise of the fly reminded me of this poem I learned as a child:


“Will you walk into my parlour?” said the Spider to the Fly,

'Tis the prettiest little parlour that ever you did spy;

The way into my parlour is up a winding stair,

And I've a many curious things to show when you are there.”


“Oh no, no,” said the little Fly, “to ask me is in vain,

For who goes up your winding stair

-can ne'er come down again.”


“I'm sure you must be weary, dear, with soaring up so high;

Will you rest upon my little bed?” said the Spider to the Fly.

“There are pretty curtains drawn around; the sheets are fine and thin,

And if you like to rest awhile, I'll snugly tuck you in!”


“Oh no, no,” said the little Fly, “for I've often heard it said,

They never, never wake again, who sleep upon your bed!”


Said the cunning Spider to the Fly, “Dear friend what can I do,

To prove the warm affection I 've always felt for you?

I have within my pantry, good store of all that's nice;

I'm sure you're very welcome — will you please to take a slice?”


“Oh no, no,” said the little Fly, “kind Sir, that cannot be,

I've heard what's in your pantry, and I do not wish to see!”


“Sweet creature!” said the Spider, “you're witty and you're wise,

How handsome are your gauzy wings, how brilliant are your eyes!

I've a little looking-glass upon my parlour shelf,

If you'll step in one moment, dear, you shall behold yourself.”


“I thank you, gentle sir,” she said, “for what you 're pleased to say,

And bidding you good morning now, I'll call another day.”


The Spider turned him round about, and went into his den,

For well he knew the silly Fly would soon come back again:

So he wove a subtle web, in a little corner sly,

And set his table ready, to dine upon the Fly.


Then he came out to his door again, and merrily did sing,

“Come hither, hither, pretty Fly, with the pearl and silver wing;

Your robes are green and purple — there's a crest upon your head;

Your eyes are like the diamond bright, but mine are dull as lead!”


Alas, alas! how very soon this silly little Fly,

Hearing his wily, flattering words, came slowly flitting by;

With buzzing wings she hung aloft, then near and nearer drew,

Thinking only of her brilliant eyes, and green and purple hue —

Thinking only of her crested head — poor foolish thing!

At last,

Up jumped the cunning Spider, and fiercely held her fast.

He dragged her up his winding stair, into his dismal den,

Within his little parlour — but she ne'er came out again!


And now dear little children, who may this story read,

To idle, silly flattering words, I pray you ne'er give heed:

Unto an evil counsellor, close heart and ear and eye,

And take a lesson from this tale, of the Spider and the Fly.


By Mary Howitt, 1829

Mountain lion kittens sit cautiously behind their mother in Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming.


On a personal note, these are the first mountain lions I've ever seen in the wild!

Exp. Aug 10, 2009 #264


Coccinellidae is a family of beetles, known variously as ladybirds (British English, Australian English, South African English), ladybugs (North American English) or lady beetles (preferred by some scientists). Lesser-used names include ladyclock, lady cow, and lady fly.


They are small insects, ranging from 1 mm to 10 mm (0.04 to 0.4 inches), and are commonly yellow, orange, or scarlet with small black spots on their wing covers, with black legs, head and antennae. A very large number of species are mostly or entirely black, grey, or brown and may be difficult for non-entomologists to recognize as coccinellids (and, conversely, there are many small beetles that are easily mistaken as such, like tortoise beetles).


Coccinellids are found worldwide, with over 5,000 species described, more than 450 native to North America alone.


A few species are pests in North America and Europe, but they are generally considered useful insects as many species feed on aphids or scale insects, which are pests in gardens, agricultural fields, orchards, and similar places. The Mall of America, for instance, releases thousands of ladybugs into its indoor park as a natural means of pest control for its gardens.


Coccinellids are typically predators of Hemiptera such as aphids and scale insects, though conspecific larvae and eggs can also be important resources when alternative prey are scarce. Members of the subfamily Epilachninae are herbivores, and can be very destructive agricultural pests (e.g., the Mexican bean beetle). While predatory species are often used as biological control agents, introduced species of ladybirds (such as Harmonia axyridis or Coccinella septempunctata in North America) outcompete and displace native coccinellids and become pests in their own right.


Coccinellids are often brightly colored to ward away potential predators. This phenomenon is called aposematism and works because predators learn by experience to associate certain prey phenotypes with a bad taste (or worse). Mechanical stimulation (such as by predator attack) causes "reflex bleeding" in both larval and adult ladybird beetles, in which an alkaloid toxin is exuded through the joints of the exoskeleton, deterring feeding. Ladybugs, as well as other Coccinellids are known to spray a venomous toxin to certain mammals and other insects when threatened.


Most coccinellids overwinter as adults, aggregating on the south sides of large objects such as trees or houses during the winter months, and dispersing in response to increasing day length in the spring. In Harmonia axyridis, eggs hatch in 3–4 days from clutches numbering from a few to several dozen. Depending on resource availability, the larvae pass through four instars over 10–14 days, after which pupation occurs. After a teneral period of several days, the adults become reproductively active and are able to reproduce again, although they may become reproductively quiescent if eclosing late in the season.


It is thought that certain species of Coccinellids lay extra infertile eggs with the fertile eggs. These appear to provide a backup food source for the larvae when they hatch. The ratio of infertile to fertile eggs increases with scarcity of food at the time of egg laying.




Most coccinellids are beneficial to gardeners in general, as they feed on aphids, scale insects, mealybugs, and mites throughout the year. As in many insects, ladybugs in temperate regions enter diapause during the winter, so they often are among the first insects to appear in the spring. Some species (e.g., Hippodamia convergens) gather into groups and move to higher land, such as a mountains, to enter diapause. Predatory ladybugs are usually found on plants where aphids or scale insects are, and they lay their eggs near their prey, to increase the likelihood the larvae will find the prey easily. Ladybugs are cosmopolitan in distribution, as are their prey.


Coccinellids as household pests


Although native species of coccinellids are typically considered benign, in North America the multicolored Asian lady beetle (Harmonia axyridis), introduced in the twentieth century to control aphids on agricultural crops, has become a serious household pest in some regions owing to its habit of overwintering in structures. It is similarly acquiring a pest reputation in Europe, where it is called the "Multicoloured Asian Ladybird" (In Britain: "Harlequin Ladybird") (see main article Harmonia axyridis for discussion).


Coccinellids in popular culture


Coccinellids are and have for very many years been favorite insects of children. The insects had many regional names (now mostly disused) such as the lady-cow, may-bug, golden-knop, golden-bugs (Suffolk); and variations on Bishop-Barnaby (Norfolk dialect) – Barnabee, Burnabee, and the Bishop-that-burneth. The etymology is unclear but it may be from St. Barnabas feast in June, when the insect appears or a corruption of "Bishop-that-burneth", from the fiery elytra of the beetles.


In parts of Northern Europe, tradition says that one's is wish granted if a ladybird lands on oneself (this tradition lives on in North America, where children capture a ladybird, make a wish, and then "blow it away" back home to make the wish come true). In Italy, it is said by some that if a ladybird flies into one's bedroom, it is considered good luck. In central Europe, a ladybird crawling across a girl's hand is thought to mean she will get married within the year. In some cultures they are referred to as lucky bugs (Turkish: uğur böceği).


In Russia, a popular children's rhyme exists with a call to fly to the sky and bring back bread; similarly, in Denmark a ladybird, called a mariehøne ("Mary's hen"), is asked by children to fly to 'our lord in heaven and ask for fairer weather in the morning'.

Coccinella septempunctata pair mating


The name that the insect bears in the various languages of Europe is mythic. In this, as in other cases, the Virgin Mary has supplanted Freyja, the fertility goddess of Norse mythology; so that Freyjuhaena and Frouehenge have been changed into Marienvoglein, which corresponds with Our Lady's Bird. The esteem with which these insects are regarded has roots in ancient beliefs.


In Irish, the insect is called bóín Dé — or "God's little cow" and in Welsh, the term buwch goch gota is used, containing the word 'buwch' meaning "cow"; similarly, in Croatian it is called Božja ovčica ("God's little sheep"). In France it is known as bête à bon Dieu, "the Good Lord's animal", and in Russia, Божья коровка ("God's little cow"), while in both Hebrew and Yiddish, it is called "Moshe Rabbenu's (i.e. Moses's) little cow" or "Moshe Rabbenu's little horse", apparently an adaptation of the Russian name, or sometimes "Little Messiah".


In Iran, two Farsi words are used; ﮐﻔﺶ ﺪوزک and ﭘﻴﻨﻪ ﺪﻮﺰ, both meaning "shoe cobbler". There is an old story about a woman who tells her husband upon his return from work that a "cobbler" spent the whole day with her and in fact sat on her lap. Hearing this, he flies in to a rage and kills his unfaithful wife. Just then, he notices a lady bird walking in the room and he cries out "Oh my god, that kind of cobbler".


In Greece, ladybirds are called πασχαλίτσα (paschalitsa), because they are found abundantly in Eastertime, along with paschalia, the Common Lilac plant, which flowers at the same time.


In Malta, the ladybird is called nannakola, and little children sang: Nannakola, mur l-iskola/Aqbad siġġu u ibda ogħla (Ladybird go to school, get a chair and start jumping).


In Finnish, ladybird is called leppäkerttu, translating to blood-Gertrud, which refers to the red color. An alternative name is leppäpirkko. These differ by the female name at the end (Pirkko refers to Bridget).


~ Stephen R. Covey (born October 24, 1932 in Salt Lake City, Utah) is the author of the best-selling book, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. Other books he has written include First Things First, Principle-Centered Leadership, and The Seven Habits of Highly Effective Families. In 2004, Covey released The 8th Habit. In 2008, Covey released The Leader In Me—How Schools and Parents Around the World Are Inspiring Greatness, One Child at a Time. He is a professor at the Jon M. Huntsman School of Business at Utah State University.


Swimming with the cool turtles like this one was a thrill I won't forget! We were swimming around in the lagoon at The Turtle Farm in the West Bay of the Grand Caymans ~


H * G * G * T ~


Cuddle Baby Turtles at the Grand Cayman Turtle Farm.


The island government has set about conserving the green sea turtle in a big way and the Grand Cayman Turtle Farm at Boatswain's Bay is one of the ways they do it. It isn't cheap at US$60 per adult and US$25 for children 2-12 but you can spend the day there so on an hourly basis, it's worth it.


Conservation plays a big part in the island's effort to save the turtles but this facility sets out to redress the supply part of the problem. And feeding the turtles is easily done. It turns out visitors will happily buy a bag of food at the door and sprinkle it on the water. These are the world's best fed turtles.


At Boatswain's Beach turtles mate, lay their eggs and hatch their young in safety, unmolested by people or predators. Unmolested in the worst sense they may be but not entirely free from human interaction. The baby turtles are subject to daily indignity in the form of being picked up and fondled by adoring visitors.


The turtles don't seem to mind. In fact, looking at the adults in the larger ponds, they thrive on it. [Still, I foresee a 'Turtle Liberation and Rights' group down the road:)] They grow to a good size (all that feeding pays off) before being released into the sea to live among the reefs and wrecks around Grand Cayman.

The Boatswain's Beach farm also supports two other endangered turtle species, the hawksbill and kemp's ridley turtle, which is the world's most endangered sea turtle.


The Grand Cayman Turtle Farm is part of the Boatswain's Beach complex. It's not a resort but a quieter kind of adventure park, which provides visitors with an up-close and, very fortunately, not so personal look at sea predators, like sharks and crocodiles.


Südafrikanischer Zwergseebär

Zoo Frankfurt

Some of the best things in life are free!


For example, taking the Staten Island Ferry in New York City where you have magnificent views of the Manhattan skyline and of the Statue of Liberty. There’s also the free light and water show at Buckingham Fountain in Chicago. Here in Madison, Wisconsin there is the Henry Vilas Zoo which is free to the public.


To my amazement this small, neighborhood zoo has an impressive collection of animals. From their Amur tiger to the grizzly bears to their African lions. As a former longtime member of the world famous San Diego Zoo & Wild Animal Park, I know what a first-rate zoo looks like.


My camera lens has always been attracted to the lions, I guess since they are the top predator of the animal world and thus on the top of the food chain. I could also say I like photographing them because they are the “King of the Jungle,” but that technically wouldn’t be right since they inhabit the savanna grasslands of Africa and not the jungle!


Happy Travels!


Text and photo copyright by ©Sam Antonio Photography


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The Monarchs have arrived! How thrilling to see these flashes of orange among all the wildflowers.


Did you know:


The Monarch’s wingspan ranges from 8.9–10.2 cm (3½–4 in.)


The monarch is the only butterfly that migrates both north and south as the birds do on a regular basis. They follow the same migration patterns every year. During migration, huge numbers of butterflies can be seen gathered together.


Most predators have learned that the monarch butterfly makes a poisonous snack. The toxins from the monarch's milkweed diet have given the butterfly this defense. In either the caterpillar or butterfly stage the monarch needs no camouflage because it takes in toxins from the milkweed and is poisonous to predators. Many animals advertise their poisonous nature with bright colors.


Here's a link to a coloring sheet of a Monarch you can print out for your child or grandchild to color.


I hope you all enjoy a wonderful Tuesday!

Lots of these little beetles in the grassland, my Mum calls them blood suckers, that's what she called them as a child because of their colouring.


The beetle and larvae are predators, the beetle hunting on flowers mainly

A female leopard and her young cub playfully interact in a tree in Ngorongoro Conservation area. She has successfully taken a gazzelle which she had carried to the top of the tree. Leopards are the smallest of the 4 big cat species. #BigCats


Sugar on Snails

ScReW - Gather Roses


Gav was just a gardener on the estate. He had been there since he was a child, learning from his parents and grandparents, and his older siblings and relatives. They had done this for generations even before his oldest living relatives. It was the way of things. Gav was now in his mid-twenties, and had done well by the lord and his family.


But when the venerable, and seemingly immortal Lord Nu had passed (at, some said, 200 years old), and his son had taken over, things had changed somewhat.


The young Lord Kaindir, had ascended to take the mantle, and he had ‘tightened things up’ quite a bit. The young lord was virile, more aggressive, and projected his strength in ways his father might have found vulgar. But he was the Lord now, and he didn’t seem to care as much.


Gav was selected by Kaindir to be his personal servant in the house, and removed him from his duties as a gardener. It had been a change, but Gav had adapted well, and the Lord became comfortable with him around. He often required Gav to display his young, fit physique, and had him train with him, running, swimming, and other physical activities. He even taught the servant to sword fight so he could spar with someone he could trust.


Gav did all of these things and excelled at them. And the two were rather close, though Gav was reminded that he was not a noble and should not get that confused with the privileged life of servant.


As the first year passed, Lord Kaindir had brought lovers to his chambers, and Gav had been required to be attentive, as the Lord would sometimes require refreshments brought in during or after his amorous conquests, or sometimes his partners would require assistance afterwards. He was a lusty man, Kaindir.


Occasionally, the prince would take Gav down a notch, by tying him down and using him the way he had used his lovers and whores, whispering in Gav’s ear how he knew the servant boy lusted for him.


This was a secret that was solely between Gav and the Prince, and it made him feel needed, strangely, but also bound that much more tightly to his Lord and Master.


And then, the military campaigns began, and Kaindir and his troops marched into neighboring fiefdoms and conquered.


It was after one such conquest that the boy in the red robe was brought back to the estate - a trophy of conquest by Kaindir. It was the young prince, Raiph.


Raiph was smaller of build, thin and lean, and had the softest flowing white hair. His skin was pale, almost alabaster, and he was definitely more beautiful than handsome. The prince had been brought in, bound with rope, cleverly and purposefully knotted to restrict movements. He wore only a red robe that had long sleeves and white textured collar. Much to Raiph’s public embarrassment, his robe was left open at the front, and did nothing to hide his modesty.


It was said that Raiph was a sorcerer, and his blood was in descent from the Emperor’s line. When he was captured, Kaindir had known this, and had taken the precautions to prevent a spell being laid upon him by the prisoner.


His guards brought the prisoner to the Lord’s chambers, and left the two alone. Gav had already been sent out of the room, to leave the Lord and captive together, but watched.


Gav did as he always did; He moved to the secret spy chamber adjacent, where there was a hidden observation portal - really just a clever peep-hole - that allowed him to remain aware of what his master was doing and what his needs might be.


He watched as his master stood with his back to the doorway, his athletic frame on display with his shirt off, his multitude of tattoos covered his chest, arms, and shoulders.The temperature had fallen, and his nipples were hard, as he stood before his captive.


Kaindir’s black mane was tied up in a partial bun at the back, but much of it hung free to caress his shoulders and chest, and framed his high-cheekboned face. He looked intently upon his prize, his lips compressed in contemplation. Gav was sometimes awestruck by the male form of his master, his handsome and alluring frame something to give fire to his nighttime contemplations.


His master drew his katana, and held it to the front of Raiph’s robe, and seemed to gesture to the left and right. The ropes binding the captive held the robe mostly in place, but Gav could tell that his master was opening the robe in the front, to get a better view of Raiph’s body.


The gap in the robe made the bound young prince blush, as he could see the lascivious way the Lord Kaindir gazed and smirked, compressing his lips in a smile that could only mean that something rather interesting was about to begin.


Gav felt his ardor rising, even as he could see his Lord’s might be, also. He watched as Kaindir’s katana went back into its sheath at his waist, and put his master’s hands went to his hips. It emphasized Kaindir’s tightly muscled frame, and he could see how the bound prisoner was looking down and away, even as the beautiful Raiph stole glances at the handsome black haired lord.


Kaindir’s arm went around the red-robed prisoner’s shoulder and he drew him roughly to him, and he said, in a harsh whisper, “You are mine, now, Raiph. If you join me, now, willingly, we shall have great power between us - our lands will join, and we shall rule..”


“I won’t be your puppet, Lord Kaindir,” the soft voice of the captive said, in reply. “You have me in your power now, but the cost of holding me against my will and trying to force me.. “


Kaindir put a hand over Raiph’s mouth, and the muffled voice stopped after a moment. “Let me finish, my dear. Nod if you understand.”


The katana was back out of its sheath now.


Raiph’s lush mane of white locks shifted as he nodded, sending the silken curls sliding over the fabric of the robe. Gav could hear the rustle of the motion from his observation post. He gulped.


“I can end it all here - your line, your hopes and dreams - right now. All it will take is spilling your blood, and making that red robe just a bit more red,“ the katana-wielder said, sweeping his hand back through the long mane of midnight black locks. Gav could sense the iron will behind his lord’s words, and he gulped.


There was a shift in Raiph’s stance, and strangely, the arms of the robe, tied behind the prisoner, seemed almost to deflate - to become floppy to Gav’s eyes. And that’s when he saw the slender white-maned captive wasn’t so restrained any more. His hands were coming out of the front of the robe, like snakes, almost, and there was this strange noise in the air - Lord Kaindir was standing there, his eyes growing wide at the sight, but he was trembling, unable to move.


Raiph’s snake-like arms wound around the handsome Prince’s neck, even as the other one took the Katana out of the other’s grasp. The blade flicked left and right and the ropes binding the smaller Prince fell away, and the crimson robe slid off his shoulders to pool at his feet in the floor. The pale skin and sorcerer stepped out of the tumbled robe.


Gav watched, transfixed as the slender, beautiful young sorcerer slowly stalked around the powerful lord, without a stitch of clothing on, a smile on his lips. He moved with a sinuous grace around him like a predator cat, examining his new prize.


Gav started to push himself away from the peep hole when he found he couldn't move, and he knew why.. He hadn’t been able to pull his gaze from the scene, and now he was looking into the gleaming red eyes of Raiph. The gaze held him. Gav could feel the mind of the sorcerer dominating his will, and he could hear the voice of command, “Get yourself in here, now Gav, and don’t raise any alarms. That’s a good boy. You and your master are going to be performing for me in ways you haven’t imagined yet. In fact, I’m feeling quite lecherous right now. “


Gav gulped and his body followed the whims of the white-maned sorcerer. He entered the chambers, and slid the rice-paper door closed behind him, as he saw that Raiph was lounging naked on the nearby couch, and Kaindir was standing in front of the couch.


“Come, Gav,” Raiph said in a soft voice that nevertheless echoed in his mind. “Come and undress your prince for me.. And then undress yourself. I am feeling rather lecherous tonight, and you both seem to be just what I need right now to feed that appetite. Oh don’t worry, Kaindir, my lord. I won’t deflower you too badly. Maybe. No worse than you planned for me.”


Gav felt the mental commands fill his mind. And the night just got that more interesting.




Story by: Dehrynn Shepherd


A young cub lets out a ferocious roar while stepping out with mom and siblings. Cubs are birthed in solitude and hiding, and are cared for by the mother for many weeks before being introduced to the pride. Once part of the pride they are cared mom gets help caring for the young. It's a difficult life for the apex predators and probably close to half of all cubs don't make it to their first birthday.


Leopard cubs - siblings 6 months old, having a rough -and-tumble !

© All rights reserved Ian Lindsay aka Lensbuddies. Please do not use this image on websites, blogs or any other media without my explicit written permission.

Sexual Predators. Surrealism.

Nellie Vin ©Photography.


The term sexual predator is used pejoratively to describe a person seen as obtaining or trying to obtain sexual contact with another person in a metaphorically "predatory" manner. Analogous to how a predator hunts down its prey, so the sexual predator is thought to "hunt" for his or her sex partners. People who commit sex crimes, such as rape or child sexual abuse, are commonly referred to as sexual predators.

Locally known as the Bakerwals, the shepherds spend most of their life roaming from one pasture to the other with their flocks and family.


Living in the mountains of the Kashmir Valley for the summer months, away from towns and cities, they manage everything by themselves — from childbirth to funerals. A Bakerwal family undertakes such tedious walking exercises at least twice a year — once up into the mountains and then back to the plains. They breed ferocious looking shepherd dogs that protect their flocks in the mountains from predators like leopards and bears. The women work alongside the males and do almost everything the males do. They tend their flocks, milk their cattle, cook food and take care of children.

This memo circulated in Galveston 4 years ago this month.


Mayor Lamentowski,


I have sent the following memo to all of my men. For your ears only, unless you have a friend or two who might enjoy the gossip. See you this evening at "Nonno Tony's"!




Troops, officers & pretend officers who will pretend to be officers during "Operation Kick Ass!". Remember, a phony arrest is always difficult, no matter how small the victim is. Please keep your wits when we take him out.


It is believed the subject, pictured above, may be seen clothed in cashmere & oxford cloth somewhere near the restaurant he owns in Jamaica Beach. It is reported, although none of us have been there, that he makes delicious pizzas & cheeseburgers. He, doubtlessly, will be obeying the law. Pay no mind to this. I say this along with all my brethren at the Galveston & Jamaica Beach Police departments, "He is too weird whether his food tastes good or not." Along with his rangefinder camera, he has been spotted taking glorious photography of wildflowers throughout the West End. Unfortunately, as we are all aware, this is not the purpose of the West End. Remember, he is not armed or dangerous, & is reported to terrified of all types of guns & wasps. We are unaware of any reckless behavior, with the possible exception of some knucklehead type stuff at university. In other fair balance, he also has a wife, three young children & a Boston Terrier. Pay no mind to any of this. Remember officers -- he has a camera & appears to be onto our rather obvious greasyness down west. Proceed with caution. Arrest em, beat em, book em, & then we fill in the details at the station. We will get the nurse to scare the shit out him. Poor shmuk We even have a prosecutor that is ready to work with us. Someone should have told him down at the bar. "You don't just march into Jamaica Beach and go all California." He will just have to learn his lesson. He thinks all those people in back in Galveston are his friends. What a moron. In abiding concern for the law, we must break it ourselves. He's just one guy & the town brass assure me they will support us. Remember, we normally represent a thin blue line between predator & victim. Not this time. Now go get him!!


-Commandant Linguini with Clam Sauce, Galveston Police Chief

With a fleeting glance, a snowy owl circles overhead. Our irregular winter visitors are the largest owls, by weight, in North America. Even so, one can see just how thin and translucent his wings really are. On this cloudy morning, available light allows us to see the distant wing through the closest. Nature is an amazing engineer.

Even with 500 - 600 mm lenses, these birds can be difficult to photograph. Like most raptors, they prefer a "jealous sky," free of humans and other predators. I have seen and heard of many who would attempt to fill the frame of their iPhones or cameras, equipped with smaller lenses. In doing so, we only scare these birds off. The constant pestering can potentially be harmful, and also makes it difficult for other visitors to enjoy seeing them. Try to be respectful of nature and fellow visitors. #iLoveWildife #iLoveNature #iLoveBirds #Wildlifephotography in #NewJersey #Nature in #America #USA #SnowyOwls #DrDADBooks #Canon #Bringit #WildlifeConservation #Photography #Picoftheday #Photooftheday

The chital or cheetal (Axis axis) or Spotted Deer. Please view large.

DSC_1414. Taken in the wild in Masai Mara, Kenya.


A mother and child reunion in the Masa Mara, Kenya. While


Trust you will like this Masai Mara upload!


Copyright: Robert Kok 2014.


Please do not use my photos on websites, blogs or in any other media without my explicit permission.

Over 2 hours of work last evening reprocessing a separate version of this image to pull the sky back in and then create a printable version. This is one of my favorite images from my trip to Tanzania. From the very beginning it was a difficult photograph because of the lighting that morning, but I wanted the shot so badly. Now I'm happy with the results. A great portion of photography is knowing how to shoot the image. Just as important is knowing how to deal with the shortcomings of the camera and making up for them.


The Mandrill (Mandrillus sphinx) is a primate of the Cercopithecidae (Old-world monkeys) family, closely related to the baboons and even more closely to the Drill. Both the Mandrill and the Drill were once classified as baboons in genus Papio, but recent research has determined that they should be separated into their own genus, Mandrillus. The Mandrill is the world's largest species of monkey.


The Mandrill is recognized by its olive-colored fur and the colorful face and rump of males, a coloration that grows stronger with sexual maturity; females have duller colours. This coloration becomes more pronounced as the monkey becomes excited and is likely to be an example of sexual selection. The coloration on the rump is thought to enhance visibility in the thick vegetation of the rainforest and aids in group movement.


The Mandrill is recognized by its olive-colored fur and the colorful face and rump of males, a coloration that grows stronger with sexual maturity; females have duller colours. This coloration becomes more pronounced as the monkey becomes excited and is likely to be an example of sexual selection. The coloration on the rump is thought to enhance visibility in the thick vegetation of the rainforest and aids in group movement.


Males average 25–35 kg (55-77 lb), females less than half that weigh (11-14 kg, or 25-30 lb). Unusually large males can weigh 50 kg (110 lb). The average male is 81-90 cm (32-36 in) and the female is 56-66 cm (22-26 in), with the tail adding another 5–8 cm (2–3 in).They can survive up to 31 years in captivity. Females reach sexual maturity at about 3.5 years.


The Mandrill is found in the tropical rainforests and occasionally woodlands of southern Cameroon, Gabon, Equatorial Guinea, and Congo. Its distribution is bounded by the Sanaga River to the north and the Ogooué and Ivindo rivers to the east. Recent research suggests that mandrill populations north and south of the Ogooué river are so genetically different as to be separate subspecies.


Mandrills are social animals and live in large groups, primarily including females and young and led by a single dominant male. Most adult males are solitary. It is difficult to accurately estimate group size in the forest, but filming a group crossing a gap between two forest patches or crossing a road is a reliable way of estimating group size. The largest group verifiably observed in this way contained over 1300 individuals, in Lopé National Park, Gabon—the largest aggregation of non-human primates ever recorded.


The Mandrill is an omnivore and acquires its food by foraging (mainly plants, insects and smaller animals) from the ground as it is terrestrial. Although the Mandrill does not normally hunt larger prey, males have been observed to hunt and consume duiker (a small antelope).


Its main natural predators are leopards, pythons and humans. Attacks on subadults by African crowned eagles have also been reported. Mandrills are hunted for food throughout their range, either with guns or using dogs and nets. In Cameroon, habitat loss to agriculture is also a threat.


A large group of mandrills can cause significant damage to crops in a very short time, and where common they are widely perceived as pests.


The gestation (pregnancy) time for the Mandrill is 6–7 months and young are usually born between January and April. However, the mandrill mates throughout the year during the estrous cycle, which occurs once every 33 days. The interbirth interval is typically 13–14 months.


Canadian Researcher William Sommers has found that during courtship, the female will walk after the male. If the male is interested he will stop and turn towards her. He will then mount her and they will copulate.


Mandrill infants are born with their eyes open and with fur. They have a black coat and pink skin for the first two months. They cling to their mother's belly immediately and can support their own weight. Mothers form bonds with their children. These bonds last into adulthood with the daughters, while the bonds with the sons last only until his sexual maturity. These bonds entail the two sitting with each other and grooming each other.




From the very start of the novel Lord of the Flies, conflict can be seen between the children. However, there are also those who were at peace, like Simon, and only wanted to survive and not let everyones differences drive a stake between their relationships. Although there were a few peaceful souls, there were not enough of them to keep the tides of conflict at bay. This picture shows an uncontrollable fire, representing conflict, burning away the face of the person, the children on the island. Much like the beast mentioned in the story, the fire is a beast in its own right. It is an untamed, dangerous force of nature that acts as a predator against the living. The rain symbolizes the sparse peacefulness found on the island which is not able to dampen the fire. Like the fire, the Lord of the Flies quashes the peaceful intentions of Simon calling him “a silly little boy” and saying “[the others] think you’re batty” (143). These opposing elements are incompatible and will never cease to stop being conflicted, much like peace and conflict as shown in the Lord of the Flies.

Snow geese fly off into the eastern evening sky in New Mexico's Bosque del Apache refuge. They will find a shallow pond to sleep in for the night. The water helps protect them from potential predators. Even if predators enter the water, the sounds of splashing will alert the geese to the potential danger. The pastel colors of the evening sky are surreal. It is a most beautiful time of the day. #ILoveNature #ILoveWidlife #WildlifeaPhotography in #NewMexico #Nature in #America #USA #Canon #SnowGeese #Sunset #DrDADBooks #Bringit #Photography

go face the day, go and see new things

go face the day, but you'll remember me...

i see a tear inside when you're turned away

another wound that i'd take back

if i could fill your heart just once

and then i'd take you now

where we could live again


i love taking pictures of stranger's kids, who are also strangers. :D

i don't know, when i look at kids, i think. actually, i think when i look at anyone.

i wonder where they'll be years from now, if they will even still be alive, what

they're like. i really don't know. i like wondering about these things. i hope

she doesn't mind me using this picture.


oh, and my brother is looking for a point and shoot.

he's considering this one.

what do you guys think? yay or nay?


betta on blakq

Photographed on a cloudy day, at a distance and from a public trail. I loved the imagery of parent and child. These Black-necked Stilts (Himantopus mexicanus) were working so hard to protect their two chicks from overhead predators including hawks and herons. I stayed at a safe, long distance and only for a minute, so as not to add to their already huge concerns and protective duties.

A young male leopard looks out over the Serengeti territory he has inherited. His mother has recently left him to go off in search of her own new territory. His sister, who is still near by, will soon leave to find a territory of her own. With rare exception the life of a leopard is lonely and solitary. Males will associate with females during mating but do not partake in care of the young. It is the way things have been done for eons. #ILoveNature #ILoveWildlife #ILoveAfrica #ILoveTanzania #Tanzania #Leopards #Canon #BigCats

a couple grizzly's walking through a picnic area in Yellowstone park, seeing them made my day : )

I have total respect for all of you mothers out there and what I have seen and heard you put up with from the kids, not to mention from us bonehead men as well...... :)


There is a measure of truth in the saying that we don't fully know what we had until it's gone.... just as these cubs will one day have to venture out on their own, so it is with us and we can only dream about the fun times that we had as children. I lost both of my parents as I turned 30 and there have been many times I have pondered and dreamed about how things might be different if they were still here.


Thanks Mom for putting up with me for all of those years and always being available to listen.... I miss you and I love you.....


... I'm hoping tomorrow's post has everyone smiling...... :-))

Mother Joy and one of her cubs (I still cannot distinguish them well). I like the snuggly character of the picture! :)

You can see the second cub in the background, on the right side of the frame.


Picture taken in the zoo of Zürich.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) ... copied and pasted from following link >


The following list of questions are the questions we are asked on almost a daily basis - we hope the answers will be of use.


Swan-related Questions


What do swans eat?


Swans living on fresh water will typically eat pondweed, stonewort and wigeon grass, as well as tadpoles and insects such as milfoil.


Swans living on salt water will typically eat sea arrow grass, salt marsh grass, eel grass, club rush and green algae, as well as insects and molluscs.


What can I feed swans?


If you want to feed swans then give them fresh bread (mould is poisonous to them), grain such as wheat or corn, and fresh greens such as lettuce or spinach. The food should be thrown onto the water so that they can swallow water with the food - feeding them on land is environmentally unsound and encourages the swans to leave the water whenever they see people which can bring them into harm from cars, dogs etc.


Can swans be over-fed?


No. Swans are not greedy creatures and will only eat what they need.


Is it normal for a swan to fold one of its legs up onto its back?


Yes. It's like us crossing our legs, plus the large surface area of the foot is used for body temperature control like an elephant's ear, absorbing heat from the sun when necessary.


At what age do swans start mating?


A juvenile swan normally lives as part of a flock until it is about 4 years old and deemed as being an adult. It then seeks out a mate, most commonly from the flock it's living in, and heads off with the mate to find their own mating territory. If another mating pair is nearby then problems can occur in the form of a territorial battle, the losers of which will have to move on in search of another "patch".


What time of year do swans breed?


The mute swan, which is the white swan most commonly seen in the British Isles, will normally mate at anytime from spring through to summer, with the cygnets being born anytime from May through to July.


How long do swans sit on their eggs?


After the nest has been built, which typically takes 2-3 weeks, the egg laying process begins with an egg being laid every 12-24 hours. Once all the eggs have been laid, which can take 2-3 weeks, they will all be incubated (ie sat on to start the growth process) at the same time with hatching usually 42 days (6 weeks) later.


Is it normal for a swan to sit on her eggs for longer than the normal 6 weeks?


Yes. If she is still sitting on the eggs then she must be able to hear movement within the eggs. It may be that she lost her first clutch of eggs to a predator and has laid a new set - this would explain the extended "sitting" period.


What predators do cygnets and swans have?


New born cygnets are mainly lost to crows, herons, magpies, turtles, pike and large perch. Both cygnets and full-grown swans are also the prey of foxes and mink.


The nesting female has disappeared/been killed - should anything be done?


No. The male will take over the nesting process and is quite capable of rearing the cygnets alone.


The nesting female's mate has disappeared/been killed - should anything be done?


No. She is quite capable of rearing the cygnets alone. People often worry that nesting females will starve to death when they have lost their mates as they are scared to leave their nests in search of food - this is incorrect. All female swans feast before nesting as they know food will be harder to come by once they are on the nest - it is normal for them to lose weight during the nesting period. That said, if a nesting female has lost her mate then she will be grateful for any food thrown to her within reach of the nest.


There's a swan's nest in a really vulnerable location - what can be done?


If the nest is vulnerable to interference from human factors, such as on a tow-path or the bank of a pond where people walk their dogs, then you should contact your local council and ask them to erect protective fencing around the nest. If the nest is vulnerable to natural events such as high tides & floodwater then it should be left alone so that the swans can learn from the experience - if a young couple lose a nest under these circumstances then they will learn not to build a nest so low down the next year. Sad as it is, they have to be allowed to learn from natural experiences which is one reason why it is illegal to interfere with a swan's nest in any way.


How many eggs usually hatch out and how many of the cygnets usually survive to adulthood?


Swans hatch up to 10 eggs at a time with the expectation of losing several of them. It is not uncommon for all the cygnets to be lost to predators, nor is it uncommon for most of them to survive - it all depends on the location and the natural protection afforded them. As the parents grow older they learn from the experience of previous years.


Do swans breed throughout their lives?


Yes, though the number of eggs laid each year tends to decrease with time.


How long do the cygnets stay with their parents?


Typically 6 months.


Is it normal for the parents to be chasing their cygnets once they're several months old?


Absolutely. Once the cygnets are old enough to look after themselves the parents cut the parental ties with them and chase them away, sometimes quite aggressively.


Where do cygnets go when they leave their parents?


They normally join the first flock of swans they encounter where they usually stay until they mature when about 4 years old.


Is it true that swans mate for life?


As a general rule this is true. If a mate is lost then the surviving mate will go through a grieving process like humans do, after which it will either stay where it is on its own, fly off and find a new stretch of water to live on (where a new mate may fly in and join it) or fly off and re-join a flock.


How long do swans normally live?


In the wild, with all the hazards they have to live with (vandals, pollution, dogs, mink, overhead cables, bridges, pylons, lead poisoning, fishing-tackle injuries etc), an average lifespan would be 12 years. In a protected environment this figure can reach 30 years.


Do swans moult?


Yes - typically in July or August each year, during which time they are unable to fly. Breeding pairs do not moult at the same time as they, and any offspring, would be too vulnerable to attack. They are unable to fly for approximately 6 weeks from the time that they lose their flight feathers to the time they have grown new ones.


Can swans take off from land?


Yes, but they need at least 30 yards to become airborne and the same again to reach a safe height to clear surrounding obstructions such as houses.


Do swans bite?


Not as such as they don't have teeth, but they can hiss and peck which can cause some discomfort if the skin gets pinched.


Is it true that a swan's wing can break your arm?


Yes, but only in exceptional cases. If a wing in full span and velocity were to hit a weak-boned person (such as a child or an elderly person) then it is theoretically possible. In reality it is almost unheard of and is never used as a form of attack as swans are a defensive bird. The only time they become aggressive is when they are protecting their nesting ground or cygnets when they will chase off intruders, be they other swans, geese or humans who get too close.


Is it true that all mute swans in the UK are owned by the Queen?


Yes, she has the prerogative right of ownership for all the mute swans in England and Wales.


What is Swan Upping?


Swan Upping is the annual census of the swan population on stretches of the River Thames in the counties of Middlesex, Surrey, Buckinghamshire, Berkshire and Oxfordshire which takes place during the third week of July each year. For more details see the official web site of The British Monarchy.


Is it true that harming a swan in any way is a criminal offence?


Yes, and prosecutions are becoming more commonplace now that conviction precedents have been set. It is also a criminal offence to interfere with nesting swans in any way - they cannot be moved if the location of the nest is inconvenient for whatever reason.


What are the biggest threats to swans?


In addition to the natural threats they face from foxes, mink & botulism, modern society has added several more such as pollution, vandalism, uncontrolled dogs, fishing-tackle and lead poisoning, as well as unmarked pylons, overhead cables & bridges.


How can you tell the male from the female?


Whilst juveniles this is only really possible by veterinary inspection. However, once they have matured (about 4 years old) there is normally a marked difference in size (males are bigger) and, in the case of mute swans, the black fleshy knob at the base of the beak is larger in the male.


I've seen a swan with a big lump under its beak - should I do anything?


This is normally a grass ball and not a cause for concern but, if you are in any doubt, please contact us.


I've seen a swan with big lumps on its feet the size of marbles - should I do anything?


This is normally "Bumble Foot" and not a cause for concern but, again, if you are in any doubt please contact us.


Why do some swans have orangey stains on their heads?


This is caused by iron in the river beds which stains the feathers when the swan is looking for food in the silt.


Do swans sleep on land or water?


Both. They can sleep standing on one leg or whilst floating, usually with their heads tucked back under a wing.


How many species of swans reside in the UK?


The only permanent resident is the mute swan which does not migrate (though they may move around the country in winter to better feeding grounds). Bewick and whooper swans are winter visitors - see our Swan Species section for further details.


I've seen a black swan in the wild...


Black swans are actually from Australia and New Zealand and are not indigenous to this country. Some are bred and sold in the UK for private lakes and would normally have their wings pinioned when very young such that they cannot fly and escape into the wild. However a few clearly slip through the net as there are several living on the River Thames these days. They live happily with the common white "Mute" swan and eat the same food so, if you do see one, there is nothing to worry about.

The first of several elephant photos in the album ... by the end of our safari trip, our reaction to scenes like this one was typically, "ho hum, another bunch of elephants". But the first time is always impressive ...




As I wrote in the notes for my October 2012 safari in South Africa, I have lived most of my adult life without ever venturing into the African jungle, and without participating in the mysterious activity known as “safari.” Thus, my impressions were based on a variety of movies -- ranging from Meryl Streep’s glorious Out of Africa (filmed near the starting point of this current trip, at the base of Mt. Kilimanjaro) to The African Queen to the silliness of childhood Tarzan movies -- as well as photographs and visits to local zoos to see mangy animals who have no more first-hand experience with the continent than I had.


Actually, I have made a few visits to Africa over the years — even before that first safari trip a couple years ago. I’m not sure that my two visits to Egypt count in this regard -- but I did travel to South Africa in the early 1990s, to speak at computer conferences in Johannesburg and Cape Town. The last visit was made shortly before the release of Nelson Mandela, when the entire country waited for a fundamental transition, even though no one was sure what kind of future lay ahead of them. Hectic travel schedules, the demands of business, and the desire not to leave my family stranded at home any longer than necessary, eliminated the casual thought of spending a week on safari on those early trips … and so, like several other potential trips (Easter Island, Machu Picchu, Patagonia, Antarctica, a river trip on the Amazon, etc.), it was simply added to my “bucket list.”


But in 2012, I had another opportunity to return to South Africa, for an abortive computer conference that took place in Cape Town. After 20 years, our children are grown and gone, and most of the hectic pressures of business have diminished; so my wife and I were able to set aside a week, and we visited two different safari lodges in the Kruger National Park of northern South Africa, just a few miles from the Mozambique border. If you’re interested, you can see the photos in this Flickr album; suffice it to say that it was impressive enough that we decided to come back for another safari, if we ever had the chance.


The “chance,” as it turns out, occurred in a quiet two-week period of August 2014; and this second safari involved brief stays in five small camps located in northern Tanzania and southern Kenya. As I noted after our first safari, we could have gone to Botswana or Zaire or Zimbabwe or a dozen other countries; even without South Africa or Tanzania, there were dozens of different parks, game reserves, lodges, and camps that we could have chosen. (A brief bit of history, in case you’re interested: Tanzania used to be Tanganyika, and before that it was German East Africa; in 1964, it combined with the island-state of Zanzibar to become the Republic of Tanzania. You can read more details in this Wikipedia article).


As with our previous trip, we saw such an amazing variety of animals that I can scarcely remember them all. People at each new camp that we visited kept asking if we had seen the “big five”: lions, leopards, cheetahs, rhinos, and elephants. To which the answer, after the first one or two camps, was simply yes, yes, yes, yes, and yes. We also saw zebras (millions, or so it seemed), giraffes, ostriches, wildebeest (gazillions of the shaggy beasts), warthogs, crocodiles, hyenas,jackals, babboons, monkeys, and vast herds of antelopes (which included kudu and impalas and topi and Thompson gazelles and dic-dic antelopes, and goodness knows what else). I didn’t even try to keep track of all the birds we saw; vultures, eagles, and hawks were everywhere, but there were many others that I had never seen or heard of before, and which I’ll probably never see again back in the urban jungle of New York City.


As we had seen on our earlier 2012 trip, some of these species were quite compatible and nonchalant about being in each others’ presence; but there was no question that predators were everywhere, and that there was a constant struggle between the hunters and the hunted. Indeed, it was somewhat surprising to see how many thousands of antelope and wildebeest and zebras managed to evade the constant danger of lions, leopards, and cheetahs (which turn out to be at the bottom of the “pecking order” of predators); but it gradually became clear that hackneyed phrases like “survival of the fittest” actually do mean something out here. Yes, the older animals, and the weak and lame and very young, are quite vulnerable — and they generally don’t survive very long. But lots more do survive by being constantly alert, constantly sniffing the breeze, and constantly listening for warning sounds from nearby birds, monkeys, and members of their own herd.


We saw a few indications of a “kill” that had recently taken place: a pride of lions ripping away at the flesh of a recently-killed wildebeest; a jaguar that had dragged a recently-killed warthog up into a tree for safekeeping, while hyenas and jackals frantically leapt and jumped in a vain attempt to get up the tree themselves — along with the occasional skeletons and bleached-white bones of animals killed a season or two ago.


We had several hours each day to observe all of this, and I took roughly three thousand photos by the end of the trip. I’ve uploaded a relatively small number of “keepers" to this Flickr album, which will convey at least a little of what it’s like to actually be in the presence of so many animals. But to truly appreciate it, you’ve got to be there, in person.


The only caution I’ll add is that your return trip should avoid Nairobi if at all possible. The chaos and confusion in the Nairobi airport, on the day of our return, is a story unto itself … but I took no photos there, so you’ll just have to use your imagination.

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