September, 2013

Wildlife

Wildlife
We're about more than just birds (though obviously we like them a lot).

Notes on nature

We love nature... from every little bug on a blade of grass to birds, butterflies, otters and oaks!
  • Monday's Magic Moment: two by two

    In the last few warm days of the year, dragonflies are making the most of it. Here are two common darters, but what are they doing? 

    That's the brightly-coloured male on the right, followed by the female. When they're mating, he seizes her by the back of the head, and after the deed they fly around like a tiny helicopter tandem. They fly together as she flicks her tail into the water to deposit the fertilised eggs.

    Check out RSPB Images to see more photos like this one, taken by Richard Revels here at The Lodge.

  • Life in the desert

    After a few days in the cool lush foothills of the Sierra Nevada, Southern Spain, the coastal park of Cabo de Gata felt like a hostile place to be. It is what’s called a semi-arid environment, not as dry as the Sahara, but still a desert.

    The only crops that can grow without a greenhouse or intensive irrigation here are prickly pear cactuses (my attempts to eat them resulted in hands coated in tiny spines with only a mouthful mildly sweet fruit to show for my efforts).

    The landscape is sometimes described as ‘badlands’ because what rain there is here is torrential and washes away the light soil exposing brightly coloured sandstone and volcanic rock. This creates stunning yet forbidding scenery.

    With cicadas adding to the scorching ambience with their high pitched drone, carrying a small bottle of water on a walk was a reminder of how vulnerable we were to dehydration.

    There was some amazing nature here: a kind of desert daffodil, and salt marshes teeming with flamingos, avocets and great white egrets, not to mention massive practically deserted beaches.

    It was a good place for a holiday, hot and interesting but the notion of living there had less appeal.

    The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) have just released a new report confirming that people are the cause for global climate change.    

    This sent my mind back to the desert where species struggle to eek out a living with water in limited supply. An increase in temperature has already caused desert expansion (desertification) leading to famine and dust storms in Africa. If climate change continues, it is going to mean a whole lot more habitat like this.

    Okay, it’s not an immediate concern in the UK but, the other catastrophic results of climate change aside, desertification will mean the displacement or destruction of a whole lot of nature.

    Some unusual species are appearing here as refugees from the changing climate. Have you seen any exotic or migratory wildlife taking advantage of our long warm summer this year? 

  • Monday's magic moment: eating locusts

    Last week I was in the closest thing Europe has to a desert. This already feels like a distant memory, but being hit in the face by a relative of this guy - the desert locust - was not a forgettable experience.

    Desert locust (Schistocerca gregaria) by Ernie Janes rspb-images.com

    This image wasn’t taken in the desert but in Norfolk! Given that these creatures are infamous for devouring crops this is probably an unwelcome visit from this non-native species, but a great shot nonetheless.

    Have you had any close encounters with foreign beasties on your hols? 

    You can browse our online archive for more photographs on a massive range of natural subjects at rspb-images.com