Archive for the ‘Natural History’ Category
Badgers, occasionally referred to as Brocks, are short legged, heavy set omnivores in the weasel family. There are eight species of badger, in three sub families. Melinae (badgers of Europe and Asia), Mellivorinae (the honey badger) and Taxideinae (the American badger).
Their lower jaw is articulated to the upper by means of a transverse condyle firmly locked into a long cavity of the cranium, so that dislocation of the jaw is all but impossible. This enables the badger to maintain its hold with the utmost tenacity, but limits its jaw movement to hingeing open and shut, or sliding from side to side without the twisting movement possible of most mammals.
A male badger is called a boar, a female a sow and a young badger a cub. A collective name suggested for a group of badgers is a cete. But, badger colonies are more often called clans. Badger dens are called sets.
Well… Weasels are w’easily recognisable and Stoats are stoatily different! Yes I know it’s an old one and not particularly a good one considering that it’s actually quite difficult to tell the difference between these two similar animals in the ‘real’ world. So, what are the main differences between the two and how can we indentify them?
Although they look similar – one way to tell the difference between a stoat and a weasel is that unlike stoats, weasels do not have a black tip to the tail.
Weasels have a very slim, cylindrical body. There are two sub-species, the Northern European pygmy or snow weasel, and the common weasel, found further south. In general, the body size is smaller in northern populations.
Many ticks go through a three host life cycle, meaning that they parasite three different host bodies during their lifetime.
A tick starts life as an egg, and because tick mortality is so high, the female tick lays as many as 18,000 eggs in the ground.
The tick egg hatches out into a larva. The larva has only six legs. It stays hidden in leaf litter until the following spring, when it climbs up vegetation and waves its legs around hoping to latch onto a passing host, such as a bird or mammal. Being warm blooded, the host is detected by the heat it gives off.
When it is fully fed the larva drops to the ground and moults into a nymph. The nymphs (and the adults) have 8 legs. The nymph then climbs onto another host.
Of the six free living species of deer in great Britain only the red deer and roe deer are truly native to thie country, and even their populations have, over the years been heavily “subsidised” by introductions from elsewhere. All the other british species are completely “exotic”, with the fallow deer almost certainly brought to this country by the Normans, and three asiatic species, Reeve’s muntjac, Chinese water deer and sika deer, originally introduced towards the end of the nineteenth and beginning of the twentieth centuries.
Last year, while canoeing on the lakes in the Dalsland Nordmarken area of Sweden I was very privileged to observe a pair of nesting Osprey. They were located on a very small rocky island and were nesting in one of the few trees situated on that rocky outcrop. When passing the island in our canoe the Osprey became quite agitated and would give out a screeching call. One even took to flight while the other guarded the nest. It swooped and harried us until it was quite sure that we were on our way and had no intention of stepping foot on their island. I was so impressed with this large majestic bird that I decided to find out a few facts about this highly adapted member of the raptor family.