Friday, November 20, 2015

Nat Geo Journeys

I watched two programs on National Geographic Wild last night and it motivated me to share these two places  -- Spain's Coto Donana wetlands and Australia's NE rainforest. I'm going to borrow some text from the web (put in parentheses),  so excuse the pilfering. As I was watching the programs, I wrote down three animals/birds from each region that really stood out. They're posted below, with a little explanation. So, no need to put on your hiking boots or rain gear, here's a brief journey to these two distinctive environments.
"Considered one of the most valuable wetlands in Europe, Spain’s Coto Doñana, located where the Guadalquivir River reaches the Atlantic Ocean, is a sanctuary for millions of migratory birds and endangered species. Doñana covers an area of 280,000 hectares in the southwest of Spain, in which a mix of land and water, man and nature, has created an immensely diverse environment. Marshlands, natural beaches, dune systems and a variety of forests and bushlands constitute a sanctuary for 6 million migratory birds and for endangered species like the Iberian lynx and the Imperial eagle"
Here are the three animals and birds that caught my eye in the program.

"The Iberian lynx portrays many of the typical characteristics of lynxes, such as tufted ears, long legs, short tail, and a ruff of fur that resembles a 'beard.' Unlike its Eurasian relatives, the Iberian lynx is tawny colored and spotted. The coat is also noticeably shorter than in other lynxes, which are typically adapted to colder environments." The program pointed out that the serious population decline owed in large part to the disappearance of its main prey - rabbits. When the native rabbit species was reintroduced, the lynx population rebounded.

Purple heron. "The purple heron is similar in appearance to the more common grey heron but is slightly smaller, more slender and has darker plumage. It is also a more evasive bird, favoring densely vegetated habitats near water, particularly reed beds. It hunts for a range of prey including fish, rodents, frogs and insects, either stalking them or standing waiting in ambush." What makes this bird a real beauty, besides the plumage, is the distinctive striping on its head and neck.

Kudos to anyone who can name this little critter. It's a Small-spotted Genet. Here's some info on this little creature, who seems to have a wild cat's body and a raccoon's tail. "Common genets have a slender, cat-like body 17-22" in length and a tail measuring 13-20." The legs are short, with cat-like feet and semi-retractile claws. They have a small head with a pointed muzzle, large oval ears, large eyes, and well-developed whiskers.The fur is dense and soft, and the coat is pale grey, with numerous black markings. The back and flanks are marked with about five rows of black spots, and a long black stripe runs along the middle of the back from the shoulders to the rump. There is also a black stripe on the forehead, and dark patches beneath the eyes, which are offset against the white fur of the chin and throat. The tail is striped, with anything from eight to thirteen rings along its length." Believe it or not, these curious animals were kept as pets and were introduced to the Iberian peninsula between 1000-1500 years ago. They have now prospered over southern Europe and North Africa.

"The Wet Tropics of Queensland consists of approximately 8,940 km² of Australian wet tropical forests growing along the north-east Queensland portion of the Great Dividing Range. These tropical forests have the highest concentration of primitive flowering plant families in the world. Only Madagascar and New Caledonia, due to their historical isolation, have humid, tropical regions with a comparable level of endemism. 370 species of bird have been recorded in the area, as well as 107 mammal species." Due to this amazing diversity, this rain forest is near the top of my list for a travel destination.

Golden Bower bird. This cute little guy probably wins the award for the most industrious bird on the planet. It gets its common name from the males' proclivity in building huge nesting structures. "The male Golden Bowerbird builds a maypole type of bower of one or two towers of sticks up to 3m tall with a display perch. Skilfully laid sticks connect the towers and decorations are placed on them. These are often white, off-white and pale green orchids, jasmine, other flowers, seedpods and lichens. The sticks become glued together by the action of fungi after some time. To maximise the time a male can spend at a bower, he hides fruits in different places throughout the bower. The bower is very important to the bird, and rival males may steal higher valued decorations from each others’ bowers. This is because the females are discriminative – they will only select the male who uses ornaments that are the rarest or hardest to obtain. The average life of a bower structure is 9 ½ years, and the same sites are often used from generation to generation, perhaps for 60 years."
As I say, industrious doesn't begin to describe these guys. Major OCD, n'est-ce pas?

This little guy looks a tad surprised but that's no doubt because the photographer, shooting at night, had to use a powerful flash. This handsome daredevil is a Striped Possum (or a regular possum with a Zorro fetish perhaps). "These dainty possums are usually around 10 inches long and weigh around 15 ounces. They usually live between 5 and 7 years. They feed heavily on bugs (termites, crickets and ants) plus bug larvae from moths and beetles. These omnivores also eat a variety of other foods, such as fruit, pollen, nectar, foliage and flowers. Striped possums give off an unpleasant, musk-like and aggressive body odor, although the specific purpose for it isn't certain." That would certainly keep me at a safe distance. 

This distinctively colored bird is a Red-browed Finch. "This species is highly sociable and is usually seen in small flocks of 10 to 20 individuals. Flocks prefer semi-open woodland, especially edges of forests, where brushy scrub meets cleared areas, especially near creeks. The finch makes short, piping high-pitched cheeps. When disturbed, the whole flock will disperse, cheeping, and re-congregate near-by. It is a seed eater, living mostly on grass and sedge seed, but will happily feed on many non-native seeds. Like other weaver finches it builds a large domed nest, with a side entrance, out of grass and small twigs. Nests are usually built 2–3 metres above the ground in dense shrubs. Nesting is communal. Both parents share nest building, incubation of the eggs, and feed the young together."

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