Another beautiful piece and photos from John MacKinnon in China!
Archive for the ‘Amazing wildlife’ Category
By Charles Paxton
Just sharing some pictures taken at Bayou Deloutre (Bayou of the otter) last Saturday (Aug 22). There’s a landing just 7 minutes away from Antioch by car, but a world away in terms of isolation. We only saw one other family all day, some friendly young men fishing from the slipway. They’d caught 5 Bream, one of good size, and a 9″ long Channel Cat ( aka Blue Catfish). I said that’d look good in an aquarium and the fisherman laughed and said it would look pretty good frying in butter too!
Once out on the bayou we were alone among the birds and the beasts.
There was a sweet breeze running up from the south that cooled us off every now and then. Kayaking is the best way to explore the bayous, it’s really fun and Deloutre is lovely. It isn’t big and intimidating and there are lots of bird encounters.
It runs down into Louisiana from Arkansas and varies greatly in width and depth along the route. At times it seems no more than a narrow creek, by the time it reaches Stirlington, it has widened and deepened into what feels like a major river.
Near Antioch Deloutre is lined with Tupelo trees and Bald Cypress and has an intimate feeling, it’s just the right size for an expedition. About the width of the Thames above Medmenham and with no discernable flow, it is as easy paddling up north or down south.
The water runs from Arkansas down to connect with the Ouachita River (the upper reaches of which we canoed with my sister and brother-in-law). We had lovely sightings of Kingfishers, Herons, Swamp Turkey (Anhinga), many frogs of various sizes, a water snake and a raccoon!
We saw turtles, but they dived before we could get to identification distance – canny little critters.
There are so many places that you can access only by kayak, aluminium fishing boats are too wide and have too deep a draft. Motors are too noisy. Kayaks are perfect!
In the shallows you can see tangles of wood and fish moving about. There seem to be small frogs everywhere and curious hopping insects that visually blend into the sand very well.
At one stage we saw a sandstone bedding plane exposed in the bank and at another, a striped river prawn approximately 2 inches long.
If you’re hungry and thirsty afterwards (you very likely will be), stop off at Antioch’s country store on Highway 2, The Bienville Scenic Byway for a very tasty burger.
If you’d like a restaurant meal you can enjoy the full works at the ’50’s Diner across the road. I enjoyed a good cheeseburger there on Texas toast with country fries. The folks are real friendly and there are nostalgic antiques.
I was impressed with Chang’s shot of the Paradise Tree Snake. Here is a Rough Green Snake seen recently in Louisiana.
Found in the south-eastern half of the USA and rougher in texture than its smoother northern counterpart, I was charmed by the grace of this gentle tree snake, Ophendrys aestivus , the Rough Green Snake.
Non-venomous and preying upon insects and spiders, this Rough Green Snake ( Ophendrys aestivus) delightfully distracted me from the washing up. I probably wouldn’t have seen this slim, elegant tree snake climbing slowly up a branch unless it was about 3 feet from my face.
That’s not because I’m particularly unobservant, it’s rather due to the Rough Green Snake’s unobtrusive motion and superb camouflage. We’ve seen one before, in eastern Texas at Trinity River NWR, on the ground. I opened the kitchen window and it tasted me for a moment with its flickering tongue.
Judging me to be inedible, but the questing zooming motion of my lens to be a possible threat, the snake accelerated smoothly upwards…
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Saving the dhole: The forgotten ‘badass’ Asian dog more endangered than tigers | Environment | The GuardianJune 26, 2015
Hugh Paxton’s blog has seen dhole hunting packs twice – both times at Khao Yai National Park, Thailand. I knew they were rare but had no idea they were quite as rare as they are. Read on!
It’s a dhole. And there’s another one. Ten here and there. I saw em all. A couple of pups, too. Sarah had the presence of mind to take a picture. I can’t think why the dhole are so fearful. A leopard might slaughter the entire pack if it was a bad cat day and the dholes were having a bad dog day. Nothing else in the forest to give them anything to worry about. Perhaps the whelps. Everything hits that size. If the little ones were lucky they’d meet a King Cobra. He/she would ignore it. King Cobras eat snakes. Wild dogs? Nahh! Too warm and fluffy. A King Cobra could, should it choose, rear higher than your head. They only bother doing that if you are being a complete twit and poking it with a stick. Or if you are in semi-dusk and think it’s a shower sort of thing and stick it in your face while grabbing its tail to release warm water while wondering why there is another meter of argh!!! Where ??? …
From: Sarah Sekhran [mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org]
Sent: Monday, June 22, 2015 9:31 PM
Subject: Dhole pics
The email I sent to your U.N account bounced back so am trying your home email. I will also try to send the Dhole video to this email. As I mentioned in the other email, the pictures are not brilliant, but proof we saw the wild dogs:)
It would appear that Hugh Paxton’s Blog has some newly discovered neighbours! I’ll be keeping a weather eye out for them!
Cheers from Bangkok!
From: Lee Poston [mailto:email@example.com]
Sent: Wednesday, May 27, 2015 9:23 AM
Subject: 139 Bizarre and Beautiful New Species Discovered in Greater Mekong Region
139 Bizarre and Beautiful New Species Discovered in Greater Mekong Region
Bangkok, May 27, 2015 – A soul-sucking ‘dementor’ wasp, a bat with nightmarish fangs, a stealthy wolf snake and the world’s second longest insect are among the 139 new species discovered by scientists in the Greater Mekong region in 2014. Many are already at risk, according to a new report, “Magical Mekong,” released today by WWF.
In total, 90 plants, 23 reptiles, 16 amphibians, nine fish, and one mammal are detailed in the report. They include a feathered coral whose nearest relatives live in Africa, four moths named after Thai princesses, a colour-changing thorny frog and two orchids discovered already being traded.
This brings the total new species discovered in the Greater Mekong, which includes Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam, to 2,216 between 1997 and 2014 – an average of three new species a week.
“The Greater Mekong’s unique ecosystems are truly the gift that keeps on giving, providing sanctuary for a treasure trove of species and critical benefits for millions of people across the region,” said Teak Seng, Conservation Director for WWF-Greater Mekong.
Highlights of the report include:
· Thailand’s Ampulex dementor wasp, which was named after the soul-sucking dementors from the Harry Potter books. Its venom turns cockroaches into passive zombies before it devours them alive.
· Equally fearsome, the long-toothed pipistrelle bat has extremely long fangs. But this bat has more reason to fear humans, as its habitat in Laos could be lost due to dam construction and quarrying.
· A crocodile newt species in Myanmar may also be in trouble as its core breeding habitat – a pond on a university campus – is threatened by a construction project. And it is already in demand from the international pet trade, with two of the newts found in pet stores as far away as Europe.
· Also on the market are two new orchid species discovered in Bangkok’s famous Chatuchak Market. The scientist who discovered them almost didn’t publish his find because he feared it could spark a rush to collect them. But he realised that they need to be recognized by science to gain protection.
· The world’s second largest insect, a stick insect that measures 54 cm, was found less than one kilometre away from a village in northern Vietnam.
· A stealthy wolf snake has a distinctive “flying bat” pattern that helps it to blend in with the tree bark and mosses that characterise its home in Cambodia.
“As Magical Mekong reveals, the scientists behind these discoveries feel they are racing against the clock to document them and strongly advocate for their protection before they disappear,” Seng added.
Threats to the region’s species include a proposed new border crossing and road in Cambodia’s Mondulkiri Protected Forest; two unsustainable dams in Laos; rising deforestation rates and continued illegal poaching.
“We’ve only skimmed the surface of new discoveries in the Greater Mekong,” said Dr. Tom Gray, Manager of Species Conservation for WWF-Greater Mekong. “However, while species are being discovered, intense pressures are taking a terrible toll on them. One wonders how many species have disappeared before they were even discovered.”
WWF believes that rangers urgently need more support, equipment and training, along with enhanced law enforcement efforts targeting criminals involved in the illegal trade in wildlife and timber. A commitment to protecting key wildlife habitat is also crucial, with countries cooperating across borders to make sustainable decisions on issues such as where to construct large infrastructure, like roads and dams.
“Seeing these incredible new species discoveries – from a color-changing thorny frog to the historic 10,000th reptile species — gives me hope for the future of the Greater Mekong,” Gray added. “Whether it’s conducting critical field research or training forest guards, WWF and its partners are working to ensure that these species – and those yet to be discovered — are protected for generations.”
For further information: Lee Poston, Communications Director, WWF-Greater Mekong, mob: +66 918 832 290 lee.poston
Notes to Editors:
· To see the digital report, click here
· For photos, a PDF report and other background, click here
· Scientists typically wait to reveal new finds until an animal or plant is officially described as a new species — a time-consuming process — hence the lag between the initial discovery and announcement for some species spotlighted in the report.
· Magical Mekong is the seventh in a series of reports highlighting new species discoveries in the Greater Mekong region. For details on past reports, click here
· Follow us on Twitter: @WWFMekong and Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/WWFMekong
Hugh Paxton’s Blog got this on snow leopards written by Peter Zahler of the Wildlife Conservation Society for the NYT and forwarded to me, and all, by my friend Doley Tshering. Both Peter and Doley share a keen interest in snow leopard conservation and the welfare of the robust, beleaguered people who share the same formidable high mountain habitat. Doley’s one of em! But if you know the Himalayas you will have spotted that as soon as you read his name. Cheers!
BLOG ED NOTE: If this comes through to you in the same way it came through to me, don’t be distracted by the NYT cooking link. All you get is crummy elevator muzak and pictures of sauce with basil leaves on top. Same old stuff! Stick with the snow leopards! More exciting territory!
From: Doley Tshering
Subject: A nice piece on SL by WCS Peter Zahler
Here’s a nice article for Sunday reading and hope you are having a great weekend.
Regional Technical Advisor – Ecosystems and Biodiversity
United Nations Development Programme
Asia-Pacific Regional Centre
Tel.: +66 (0)2 304 9100 ext. 2600
Cell: +66 871030505
|Please consider the environment before printing this email.|
Hugh Paxton’s Blog offers you the rare opportunity of reading something nobody else will read! A chapter in a book about Namibia written by Japanese (with a little help from me).
START: Water Water Nowhere and Never a Drop to Drink.
At first glance the same thought occurs to every new visitor. What could live here? The landscape is bruised by strong winds and seared by fierce sunshine (Namibia receives more sun than any other nation in sub-Saharan Africa). The ground is interesting, there are semi-precious stones here and there, geodes too, but it is cruel and stony – one careless step and you will twist your ankle. One dumb step and you’ll fall into a subtle disguised ravine. Then become something for future archeologists to discover a few hundred years later.
The vegetation, what there is of it, looks dead or covered in thorns. Nothing moves apart from ghostly mirages promising lies about water. Just the heated air dancing and making the impossible seem real. And then, there it is, a herd of elephants, caked in dust ambling along looking utterly utterly unconcerned.
These are desert elephants, the largest elephants in the world, but due to mineral deficiencies in their diet, the elephants with the shortest tusks.
And what they are doing is looking for water, a daily march that can, in extreme cases, take 70 kilometers .
Out there amidst the crumbling red rock hills and mad looking stone formations of Damaraland in north west Namibia there are other giants. The desert-adapted black rhino – a moody, short sighted creature capable of erratic and violent charges if alarmed, he doesn’t waste too much time looking for water. He gets moisture from Euphorbia, a plant that has toxic sap that upon contact with human skin causes immediate blisters. People who have made campfires from dead twigs from Euphorbia have inhaled fatal smoke, died, gone blind or gone insane. The black rhinos in Namibia are more numerous than anywhere else in the world. 91 percent of this desert adapted black rhino sub-species live in Namibia. There is no rhino poaching here.
Higher up on some of the table top plateaus there are desert lions enjoying the altitude, visibility and the breeze that wafts in smelling of salt from the recent sea fog bank drifting in (as it does every day, sometimes 100 km inland or more) from the cold Atlantic Benguela currents. Some will come down to prowl the plains and valleys in search of springbok and other animals that live here. There are tens of thousands of the springbok here, nibbling on the dried grasses, they don’t need much water. The oryx doesn’t need any water. If there is water it will drink. If there isn’t it carries on.
Perhaps the older male lions will move off to the coast in search of something less agile – young Cape fur seals (Namibian beaches host half a million seals), penguins, a beached Southern Right whale covered in birds and nipped at by jackals and brown hyaenas.
This is a taste of wildlife in Namibia, my friends! Damaraland! The only place in Namibia where my pool side beer was interrupted by a desert elephant pushing through reed beds at a rare spring and then drinking the swimming pool. Everybody who worked in the Palmweg safari lodge was quite used to it. They talked about Rugby and drank their beer.
A few hours drive north and we hit the petroglyphs of ancient people in Twyfelfontein. These entrancing images have survived the torture of the weather and the weary centuries by being carefully shielded from wounding by being located in sheltered spots. These ancients pretty much followed the desert lion’s eating habits. Nobody quite knows what they were chiseling about but it looked to me like a menu or a hunting guide (book) sort of. Seal was definitely on their menu.
Quite a few more hours drive North and we are in the Caprivi Strip. Forget deserts here. This is wet. And so are the Nile crocodiles and hippos. Here’s a question for your next cocktail party conversation! Which animal in Africa (humans excepted) kills more people than any other? Hippos.
Wherever you go in Namibia you will not be far from something alive. It might look dead – the welwichia in the Namib desert looks as if it gave up hope and expired but that’s what it has looked like since the Norman conquest of England or before. These droopy ragged plants can live for over 1000 years. Their thirst is quenched by sea fog. Rather touching, if you are a sentimental or fanciful sort of person, is that male and female plants grow old next to each other. Divorce is never discussed, there’s no chat or arguments, having extra-marital affairs is not possible, nor is it an impulse – in fact these plants live in perfect harmony and don’t do anything at all. For centuries. Together. I think doing nothing at all might be a key to longevity and a stable relationship! I try it from time to time but my wife is no Namib succulent! She booted me out of bed this morning and I heard words that I will not repeat here. They would shock a British sailor! Back to Namibia and let us conclude!
What truly impresses any new visitor to this spectacular country is that life is tough. Capable of adaptation, determined to survive, despite an environment that looks hell-bent on preventing it.
Hugh Paxton’s blog loves a good shark story and here’s a great one:
“Richard Ellis, co-author with John McCosker, of the definitive book ‘Great White Shark’ (published by Harper Collins in 1991) speculates that there may be – just may be the tantalising possibility that some specimens of Megaladon survived long past their apparent terminal date.”
Hugh Edwards,Australian author of Shark the shadow below (also published published by HarperCollins, 1997).
Ellis quotes a report by another Australian, David Stead, a scientist and naturalist, and in 1938, president of the New South Wales Naturalist’s Society.
Here is the report:
“In the year 1918 I recorded the sensation that had been caused among the ‘outside’ (ie deep water) cray fishermen at Port Stephens, when for several days they refused to go to sea to their regular fishing grounds in the vicinity of Broughton Island.
The men had been at work on the fishing grounds, which lie in deep water, when an immense shark of almost unbelievable proportions put in an appearance, lifting pot after pot containing many crayfish, and taking as the men said ‘pot, lines and all!’
These pots, it should be mentioned, were some 3 foot 6 inches (1 meter) in diameter and frequently contained from two three dozen crayfish, each weighing several pounds. The men were unanimous that this shark was something the like of which they had never dreamed of.
In company with the loca Fisheries Inspector I questioned many of the men very closely and they all agreed as to the gigantic stature of the beast. But the lengths they gave were, on the whole, absurd. I mention them, however as an indication of the state of mind which this unusual giant had thrown them into. And bear in mind that these were men who were used to the sea and all sorts of weather, and all sorts of sharks as well.
One of the crew said the shark was 300 feet (90 meters) long at least. Others said it was as long as the wharf on which we stood – about 115 (35 meters). They affirmed that the water ‘boiled’ over a large space when the fish swam past. They were all familiar with whales which they had often seen passing at sea, but this was a vast shark. They had seen its terrible head which was ‘at least as long as the roof of the wharf shed at Nelson’s Bay.’
Impossible of course! But these were prosaic and rather stolid men not given to ‘fish stories’nor even to talking about their catches. Furthermore they that the person they were talking to (myself) had heard all the fish stories years before! The thing that impressed me was that they all agreed as to the ghostly whitish colour of the vast fish.”
END OF REPORT.
What did the men see. Not a whale shark – they eat plankton and copepods. Certainly not a whale. A living megaladon, a giant prehistoric survivor (with a taste for crayfish)?
Hugh Paxton’s Blog agrees with contributor, Brigitte. Touching.
Proof that birds also have feelings!!