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Nature

Beware, Centipedes Bite !

Centipedes are mostly venomous and give a painful bite. Normally the larger the centipede the more painful the bite. Can they kill you?

centipedes regenerate lost legs

No, but it does inject toxins into your body which can cause infections or a breakdown of tissue.

The name means 100 legs although you are not likely to ever find one with anywhere near 100 legs. Most likely they will be between 10 and 30 legs and the number of legs are dependent on the number of body segments, with 2 legs per segment. When a centipede loses some of its legs it can regenerate them !

So what is the good news about these vile looking creatures? If you don’t like spiders, centipedes eat spiders!

They are nocturnal and feed on insects such as flies, cockroaches, moths, bed bugs and of course each other. Turning the light on sends them scurrying back to a dark place but wont get rid of them permanently. They have been known to find their way into peoples beds, much as scorpions and spiders can.

Should you kill them?

Centipede

Some people say no as they keep the other bug populations down but which do you prefer to deal with? their prey or them?

My approach with venomous snakes has always been to catch and release elsewhere(be aware that 60 odd percent of people bitten by snakes were handling them!). See my article on this here.

Catching these guys using a bottle placed over it and then sliding a piece of paper between the centipede and the floor followed by flipping the whole story upside down can get it into the bottle, cap it and remove it to somewhere else would keep you both happy.

Apparently in Japan some people keep centipedes as pets.

centipedes are fast
Centipede photo by Darja Maslova from Pixabay.

Centipedes are fast and enjoy moist dark environments but the most surprising thing is they groom themselves after a meal, cleaning their legs by dragging their mouth forcipules over each one. forcipules are the front two legs that are modified to operate like pincers and carry venom.

Centipedes use their antennae to find prey and they use their speed to catch it. Followed by wrapping themselves around their prey and waiting for the venom to paralyze it then they devour their meal.

Centipedes lay eggs and some species actually wrap themselves around the eggs to protect them until they hatch. During this time they keep removing any fungi that starts to accumulate on the eggs which will number up to 35 eggs. When the eggs hatch the babies have around 4 pairs of eggs and with each molt they gain another pair!

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Nature

Mute Swan

swans on lake
Swans on lake. Photo by MeHe from Pixabay

The mute swan is native to Eurasia but strangely, its closest relatives are the black swan of Australia and the black necked swan of South America. Mute swans are so named because they make less noise than other swans.

black necked swan
Black Necked Swan. Photo by JamesDeMers from Pixabay.

The elegance of the swan often portrayed in Russian ballet led to it being a popular bird kept on large estates. Escapees have often led to local populations especially in the northern USA.

These birds are regarded as monogamous, having a single partner for life but sadly as is often the case in life, some do pair off again with a different partner. This is particularly true when a partner dies in which case the older bird remains in their territory and the younger bird relocates.

serine swan
Swan. Photo by Sabine Zierer from Pixabay.

An interesting tradition in the UK is that an unmarked (swans are no longer marked) mute swan on the Thames is regarded as belonging to the Queen. The Queen also still maintains an officially appointed swan keeper – the ceremony still takes place on the third Monday of July.

This tradition has been carried forward since the 12th century when swans were used for banquets. On a portion of the Thames there is still a traditional “Swan Upping”, in which the swans are counted by a group headed by the official swan marker. This tradition has changed somewhat over the last 800 odd years to be more focused on conservation and education.

swan bathing
Mute swan. Photo by Robert Balog from Pixabay.

Mute Swans are one of the heaviest flying birds which is not surprising as a study in Maryland found that they ate in the region of 8 pounds (3.6 kg) a day. they have a loud throbbing beat when flying that can be heard up to a mile (1.6 km) away and can reach a speed of up to 50 mph (80 km/h).

These birds migrate from Northern Europe to Eastern Europe and occasionally to Africa. In the UK, they do not migrate as such but do change feeding grounds.

swan in flight
Swan in flight. Photo by skeeze from Pixabay.

Mute swans nest on mounds they build consisting of waterside vegetation. These are usually on islands or in shallow waters of big lakes.

swan nest

They often use the same nest year after year and after 42 days incubation the cygnets hatch. there are between 4 and 10 eggs that are incubated by both parents.

cygnets and egg in the nest
Cygnets in nest. Photo by Angelika Gruber from Pixabay.

Once the cygnets have hatched they can be seen moving around as a family eating both submerged as well as surface or shore vegetation. Both parents care for the young.

swan family foraging

The young swans will learn to fly after about 5 months and can expect to live for 20 to 30 years.

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Nature

Ocean Traveller

Ocean Wanderer at sea
Turtle at sea. Photo by Marcello Rabozzi from Pixabay.

Our ocean traveler may spend around 10 or more years in the deep blue. These years are referred to as the ‘lost years’ being from when the hatchling enters the water until it returns to the same beach to breed.

Our turtle stands to live as long as 50 to 80 years or even more with scientists guessing a century might not be impossible, but lets look a little deeper into its time on this planet and the risks it faces.

Firstly our little turtle will start life underground having broken out of its egg using a special ‘tooth’ called a caruncle. This would be 5 to 6 weeks after the eggs being laid (around 50 to 200) and meticulously covered by the mother. The babies would be predominantly male or female depending on the temperature, as is the case with crocodiles, also a reptile. Once the surface is reached it becomes a race to get into the water with everything imaginable trying to eat them, from gulls, to crabs to fish in the water, to hawks etc. What a welcome into the world!

As if that’s not enough – they head for the natural light and white waves when the hatch. If the areas developed they often head the wrong way, aiming towards human development lights.

Turtle Hatchlings. Photo by skeeze from Pixabay.

How many make it to adulthood?

Estimates very from 1 in 1000 to 1 in 10000.

The turtles use their feet to swim and unlike their land based relatives, the tortoise they have streamlined shells for swimming. tortoises generally have much rounder shells which helps them get back onto their feet. Turtles being in the water most of their lives don’t need this adaptation. Another difference is with the leatherback is that they have a softer shell than their land terrestrial and other sea relatives. Lastly, Most sea turtles cannot retract their arms and heads into the shell.

Turtle in the deep blue. Photo by emipres from Pixabay.

So the big puzzle is what happens in the 10 to 12 years that our juvenile turtles spend in the deep blue sea…

Well, even in this day and age with loads of technology we still don’t know exactly. We do know that they travel vast distances on the ocean currents, drifting on the surface or spending long times in massive seaweed beds. The advantage of heading so far out to sea and getting away from the continental shelf is most likely that they avoid most predators such as sharks and birds.

One of the studies undertaken found a baby turtle had traveled 700 miles (1100 km) in 11 days !

So what do they eat out there?

Their diet is also dependent on their specie, with leatherbacks eating mostly jellyfish (and sadly, plastic bags that look like jellies) and hawksbills eating predominantly sponges. Others eat a combination of plants and animals. The differences are depicted in the shape and size of the mouths.

Turtle eating sea grass. Photo by ivabalk from Pixabay.

Sea turtles cannot breathe underwater but they can hold their breath for an impressive 4 to 7 hours!

They can also drink sea water -this is because they have a gland that allows them to excrete excess salt thereby maintaining the salt balance in their bodies.

Categories
Nature

The bird that ran into a cartoon…

Roadrunner
Roadrunner. Photo by timeflies1955 from Pixabay.

Beep Beep isn’t what we say but we are fast!

The greater Roadrunner is the larger relative to the Mexican lesser Roadrunner. The greater roadrunner is found in the USA and prefers environments such as deserts, washes and dry places and often follows hikers. They look like they are really friendly but in fact are looking for an easy meal. People, like large animals send insects scurrying or flying away which is exactly what works for our little friends.

greater roadrunner calling
Roadrunner calling. Photo by skeeze from Pixabay.

Roadrunners like to make long clicking sounds and are armed with a serious beak. the road runner is very fast, able to snatch a dragonfly out of the air or more impressively, outfight a snake. Its technique to do this is to spread its wings and stay just out of range. After a few strike attempts at the bird, the roadrunner has gauged the snakes speed and ability and will bite the snake just behind its head. It then proceeds to beat the snakes head against the ground time and again until the snake has been concussed or is dead.

The roadrunner is one of the few rattlesnake predators and is the only predator of the tarantula hawk wasp.

Roadrunners eat any insects, eggs, scorpions, snakes, small mammals, eggs and birds. They get the moisture they need from their prey and then they get rid of any excess salt from small glands near their eyes.

Roadrunner with a bug
Roadrunner with bug. Photo by skeeze from Pixabay.

The roadrunner is actually related to the cuckoo but doesn’t have the same nesting habits. The road runner makes its own nest pretty much out of anything it can find, such as grass, sticks and even snake skin. The nest is typically 1 to 3 meters (3 to 10 feet) above ground level in a bush, tree or cactus.

They are monogamous, mating for life and lay between 2 and 6 eggs in a clutch. The male incubates the eggs at night and the female in the day and both feed the babies (which are called fledges), with one parent always close to the nest for the first 2 weeks. Around 3 weeks they leave the nest, foraging with the parents for a few days. The parents often have 2 clutches in a season.

Roadrunners are able to drop their body temperatures on very cold nights and there are some theories that the birds actually hibernate in the winter but this is yet a theory.

roadrunner in the shade
Roadrunner having a bite to eat in the shade. Photo by skeeze from Pixabay.

The Hopi and other Pueblo tribes believed that roadrunners were medicine birds and could protect against evil spirits.

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Nature

colors, patterns and shapes…

snake skeleton
Snake skeleton. Photo by Ludovic Charlet from Pixabay.

The form and shape upon which so much beauty and controversy exists. whatever ones point of view is, this creature is an amazing animal. Fast, deadly and often misunderstood.

With about 3000 different types of snakes on the globe and populating every continent except for Antarctica there are an incredible variety in colors and characteristics, we will touch on a few of the more interesting ones.

The longest snake in the world at the time of writing and in accordance with the Guinness book of records is a specimen shot in Celebes, Indonesia in 1912. The length was a whopping 32.ft and 9.5 inches (10 m) and was a reticulated python. These snakes regularly grow in excess of 20 ft (6 m) and are found in Indonesia and Philippines.

According to a BBC article as follows, an Indonesian woman was killed by a reticulated python:

Her sandals and machete were found a day later – a giant python with a bloated belly was lying about 30m away.

“Residents were suspicious the snake swallowed the victim, so they killed it, then carried it out of the garden,” local police chief Hamka told news outlet AFP.

“The snake’s belly was cut open and the body of the victim was found inside.”

The link for this full story is available from here.

There are many such stories with some being of Anacondas and others with Pythons but how do these people get into such a situation?

These constrictors are ambush predators and humans are there prey, among a host of other large animals.

Some articles describe people having a lunch break and sleeping under a tree when attacked, others are awake, but alone and they don’t have much time to shout for help as the snake bites and then wraps its coils around the victim. Each time one breathes out, the snake tightens its grip so you cannot breath back in, within a short time one loses conscious and the rest goes about the snake swallowing the prey.

constrictor swallowing rat
Constrictor swallowing prey. Photo by sipa from Pixabay

Its teeth, in the region of 100 odd, all face backwards so once in the process one cannot be pulled out easily, this is a feature in all snakes and makes the process pretty one sided. The teeth are in rows, 4 on the top and two on the bottom. To swallow something larger than ones own head it is necessary to get the jaw around the prey, a common misunderstanding is that snakes dislocate their bottom jaws but they don’t have jaws like ours, they merely stretch the ligaments to achieve this.

Constrictors mouth showing teeth patterns
Constrictors teeth all facing backwards. Photo by sipa from Pixabay.

But what about other varieties? They are not necessarily as strong but have a different strength in the form of venom.

This may be a good point to address the venom versus poison concept that is often misused. Basically, poison is something ingested via ones digestive system but venom gets into the blood stream via a bite or sting etc. therefore snakes are potentially venomous rather than poisonous.

The formal definition of snake venom is: “highly modified saliva containing zootoxins used by snakes to immobilize and digest prey or to serve as a defense mechanism against a potential predator or other threat (New Oxford American Dictionary).

This venom can be one of three types, hemotoxic, neurotoxic, and cytotoxic.

Hemotoxins affect the blood and cause red blood cells to burst open and stops the blood from clotting which causes serious internal bleeding.

Neurotoxins block or disrupt the signals sent through our nervous systems. this causes paralysis and can effect the respiratory systems.

Cytotoxins destroy body cells and some tissue may be partially or totally liquefied by these toxins.

So which snake is considered the most venomous?

The Inland Taipan is considered the most venomous and has neurotoxic venom but also contains procoagulants which stop the blood from clotting .

The venom is so potent that a single drop is capable of killing 100 people!

Fortunately, this snake is not very aggressive and avoids people so bites are fairly rare. It is native to Australia and can kill one within 45 minutes, there was a report of a man dying in hospital 6 days after being bitten by an Inland Taipan.

A study on snake bites revealed that: 80 odd percent of snake bites are on the hands and fingers and just under 15 percent on feet and legs. almost 60 percent occur when people are trying to handle snakes and of these thirty percent were intoxicated!

…but the snakes get the bad rap…

We are all aware of the cobras, which are apparently charmed by the music… but they aren’t listening to the music at all but rather are following the motions of the flute. The charmer may sit beyond the range of a strike and there are other more controversial ways that the charmers may protect themselves.

Snake Charmers
Snake charmers. Photo by by DEZALB from Pixabay.

The cobra flattens its neck out to look more intimidating and as is the case with most animals, it is a warning. If given enough space to get away, any snake is most likely to choose that option rather than confrontation. Keeping still will allow the snake to assess its options and move away. The problem is most of us are stuck in a “Flee or Fight” mentality.

Spitting cobra venom on undamaged skin should be washed off as soon as possible and generally will cause no damage. The problem with spitting cobras is that they can aim with incredible accuracy and ones eyes are often the target. They are capable of hitting ones eyes (9 times out of 10) at 5 ft (1.5 m) away and their venom is mostly cytotoxic destroying body cells. Immediate washing of eyes can assist in reducing the impact of the poison.

When I stayed on a small farm, I was always weary at night especially where the outside lights were on the house. These lights attracted insects and I used to say – The insects bring the frogs and the frogs bring the snakes…

We had our share of snakes which I normally caught and released out in the bush.

So, how do snakes find their prey?

They use their tongues to chemically sniff by flicking their tongues in and out but some snakes have pit organs on their faces which can be seen as little holes. At night these are especially useful as they allow the snake to ‘see’ its prey much like an infrared camera.

A venomous snake will typically strike the prey and then sit back and wait for the venom to take effect before moving in to consume its prey.

Snakes shed their skins as the grow and a sign of this is that the eyes go a milky or blue color. At this time the snake may be more defensive as aware of its limitations and inability to interact normally with its environment. This behavior may be regarded as aggressive.

snake about to molt
Snake ready to molt. Photo by willypp from Pixabay.

Around 70 percent of snakes reproduce by laying eggs but the other 30 percent give birth to fully developed young. One of the thoughts on this split is that snakes in colder environments are generally live bearers.

Sea snakes are very venomous and live in warm oceans and have a flattened tail for swimming. They are live bearers that give birth at sea but more on these in a later article.

Sea snake
Sea snake with flattened tail used for swimming. Photo by Margaret Saldais from Pixabay.
Categories
Nature

Popular Pandas

panda eating bamboo
Panda eating bamboo. Photo by wal_172619 from Pixabay.

The ever popular panda eating as it does for most of its life with a staple diet being 99% bamboo. The other 1% consists of eggs, small animals, carrion or they raid farmers fields for pumpkins, kidney beans and even pig food. Pandas will typically eat for around 10 to 15 hours a day !

The 1% plays an important part as eating only bamboo shoots and leaves do not provide much in the way of nutrition. They therefore need to consume a lot of bamboo and we are talking in the region of 20 to 40 lb (12 to 38 kg) of bamboo in a single day.

Young pandas eat the feces of their parents which introduces them with the much needed bacteria so essential in breaking down the vegetation diet. this is a relatively common thing in the animal kingdom and includes ostrich, elephants, koalas and hippos.

panda eyes
Panda eyes. Photo by skeeze from Pixabay.

Pandas have very good hearing and sense of smell, their eyes are not very good but they have an advantage at night as their pupils are not round as ours are but are like a cats, they have vertical slits which operate the same as a cats eyes at night. This may well facilitate the long hours required for eating.

The panda has 5 ‘fingers’ on each front paw but also has an extra bone from its wrist which is effectively a 6th finger. In the picture below it is seen supporting the bamboo and one can clearly see the other 5 fingers/claws.

panda extra thumb
Panda paw showing extra fingerunder piece of bamboo. Photo by Predrag Kezic from Pixabay.

Pandas are somewhat solitary animals, coming together to mate. A baby panda is pink and fur-less, about the length of a pencil. They are born blind and will only open their eyes after about 7 weeks of age. they start to get their coloring at around 3 weeks.

They will give birth to 1 or 2 cubs every 2 years and the cubs remain with the mother for 18 months before they move off on their own.

Panda teeth
Panda close up. Photo by einszweifrei from Pixabay.

Pandas do not hibernate but migrate to warmer areas during winter. they are surprisingly good swimmers and are as one might have expected, good at climbing trees.

there are currently approximately 1900 pandas in the wild which is a success story as in the 1970’s they numbered around 1000.

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Nature

Night Prowler

Leopard spoor
Evidence from last night. Photo by haraldflach from Pixabay.

The elusive loner who is both nocturnal and powerful enough to carry a 110 lb (50 kg) prey up a tree which helps to stop its kill being stolen.

Leopards are normally light in color with dark rosettes which look similar to their paw print and are unique per individual leopard, much like a human fingerprint. There is also a black variety resulting from a gene mutation which causes melanism, an overproduction of pigment. The interesting thing is that the dark rosettes are still present but not easily recognizable.

Around 11% of leopards are black.

black leopard still has rosettes
Leopard black variety. Notice the rosettes are visible on the rump area. Photo by Daniel Steinke from Pixabay.

Leopards can be found in a number of habitats from rain forest to mountains and onto savannas. Sadly, it is estimated that they are only present on around 25% of their original territories due to erosion of habitat as well as illegal smuggling of skins and body parts for decoration and medicinal purposes.

Leopards are predominantly ambush predators that are also able to perform sprints of up to 36 mph (58 km/h). In the Serengeti leopards have been observed ambushing prey by dropping onto them from trees.

Typically leopards hunt at night but on occasion also hunt in the day. They prefer medium size prey such as impala, duiker, bush buck, springbok, baboons and even cheetah.

Their style of hunting involves stalking to within about 16 foot (5 m) and then rushing or pouncing on the prey. Larger prey is suffocated but smaller prey is dispatched by a bite to the back of the head.

Leopards canines
Leopard teeth. Photo by Alex Strachan from Pixabay.

Hyenas and Lions are the most likely candidates for stealing leopard kills and wont hesitate to kill and consume an adult leopard if the opportunity arises. A leopards defense normally involves retreating up a tree being agile climbers and thereby limiting the direction of attack to one source.

adult leopard in tree
Leopard in tree. Photo by Manfred Bast from Pixabay.

Reproduction in leopards occurs after a gestation period that lasts for around three months, the female leopard gives birth to between 2 and 6 cubs that are born blind and in a den or cave.

The young cubs have a 50/50 chance of survival with the mother moving them every few weeks to increase their chances of survival by ensuring their scent does not attract predators. After 3 months the young leopards will assist their mother in the hunt and by 10 months they are capable of being totally independent. The youngsters typically remain with their mother until they are 18 to 24 months old.

young leopard in tree
Young leopard in tree. Photo by Fanie van vuuren from Pixabay.
Categories
Nature

Weaving for Love…

Southern or Masked Weaver male
Masked Weaver or Southern Weaver male. Photo by Sheldon_55 from Pixabay.

This brightly colored resident of Southern Africa has an incredible skill being able to weave a sturdy nest from strips of grass, bamboo or palm leaves. He goes through a whole routine to find a mate by firstly building the nest, which in itself takes around 15 hours. Then he does a whole lot of singing and fluffing his feathers around shaking them in a wings spread courtship display.

Eventually he will get a females attention and he will flutter around full of excitement, making an incredible fuss, often having to see off other would be suitors in the process. Each time he displays he moves closer to the nest he has built until eventually hanging from the entrance at the bottom of the nest and flapping his wings, all the time singing away.

Weaver nest display
weaver courtship display at base of nest showing entrance. Photo by Daniel Albany from Pixabay.

He then flies away from the nest opening, inviting her to inspect the house that he has built for her. This might take a while with multiple repeats to and from the nest at any point she may become bored with the whole charade and fly off leaving him to start searching for another female.

If he does manage to get her to inspect the nest, she will grasp the underside of the nest with her feet and then enter it from the opening near the base. She will disappear into the nest while he watches, ever hopeful…

If she thinks its good enough it remains as it is and they will start to prepare it by lining it with soft feathers in preparation for breeding…

However, if she doesn’t like it, nobody else will either !

She lets rip !

Tearing the whole thing apart before leaving him all alone and probably wondering what he did wrong!

Never the less, as the master of resilience, he starts again and builds yet another nest ( he may build up to 25 in a season) before trying to entice the next female. He may need to go through this process a number of times in a single season before being accepted.

Once successful and the kids have left home, he may start the whole process again having multiple broods in a season, each one with a different female.

These nests are typically built near water, often in the long dangling branches of the weeping willow tree, or a palm tree, other times in the reeds and even in suburban gardens.

Weaver nest built in reed bed
Weaver Nest built using reeds. Photo by Lynn Greyling from Pixabay.

As can be seen the nest built using reeds is pretty straight forward but the one hanging from a tree is sort of upside down with the entrance at the bottom. However, his design work has catered for the likelihood of the eggs rolling out by making the living area a little recessed from the entrance and a little bit lower.

So why build it like this in the first place?

The advantage of the entrance being below should be seen in conjunction with another feature. He has stripped off all growth on the branch that his nest is hanging on, but why?

The answer is snakes, by having no growth on the branch it makes it more difficult for a snake to access the nest, especially with the entrance below. Its not impossible, but rather difficult.

As a further defense, these little birds often create colonies and if a predator is in the vicinity they make an incredible noise and indulge in flying towards the predator in an intimidating manner.

After all of this the female will lay 2 beautiful blue eggs but could be up to 5 in number. Then it will take 12 days to hatch them. At this point the male helps with feeding the chicks and after 21 days they are ready to fledge. The main diet of these birds are insects, grain and even nectar, they readily accept picnic scraps and other hand outs.

Weaver eggs
Weaver eggs. Photo by Dennis Larsen from Pixabay.

Weavers are the only birds that are able to tie knots!

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Nature

Waiting to die…

Griffon vulture
Vulture at rest. Photo by Th G from Pixabay.

The vulture, made famous in cartoons as a precursor of death but in reality a massive bird of prey and an important contributor to keeping the bush clean. they are present on all continents except for Australia and Antarctica.

There are 22 species and almost all of them are at least in a concerned state according to a 2016 study. It was found that 9 are critically endangered, 3 are endangered, 4 are near threatened, and only 6 are least concern.

Sadly, in some areas these birds are purposefully poisoned by poachers so that rangers will not find the poachers kills quickly as they are a dead giveaway that something’s amiss and rangers go to investigate the death often finding it first thing in the morning. Tracking the poachers can then start immediately and the earlier the start the greater the chance of catching the culprits.

vultures at a kill
Vultures at a kill. Photo by Wayne Hartmann from Pixabay.

Vultures typically feed on carrion but sometimes prey on sick or dying animals. Some species have very little in the way of neck feathers which allow the birds to use their long necks to get deep into a carcass without matting the feathers in the dead animals body fluids.

At times vultures may take lambs or as in Argentina, the Andean Vulture at times takes calves. Animals that eat carrion keep the rest of the kingdom safe as there is less likelihood of disease spreading if the carcass is consumed.

The bearded vulture has such powerful stomach acids that it can break down bones in around 24 hours – bones and bone marrow account for most of this birds diet!

Then you get the other side of the scale, the Palm Nut vulture that eats fruit from palm trees as well as grains and husks, this all being the major part of its diet, but it is not totally disowned by its relatives as it does still eat small mammals and carrion.

Vultures soar on the currents for hours using their incredibly good eyesight to find a carcass and some species such as the Turkey Vulture use their awesome sense of smell too. It is believed that on average vultures can see a 3 ft (1 m) long carcass in the open from 4 miles ( 6 km) away. They are also quick to detect circling of other birds, realizing that it may be food, but vultures don’t circle dying animals waiting for the to die.

soaring vulture in flight
Vulture in flight. Photo by eshan chandra from Pixabay.

On the ground there is a definitive pecking order in that the larger birds get first option but any mammal scavengers such as jackals, hyenas and coyotes get priority so its necessary to eat really fast when the opportunity presents itself. Vultures fill their crops and feeding on a carcass is often the land version of a shark frenzy. Vultures have incredibly powerful stomach acid which allows them to feed on rotting carcasses which are often infected with forms of bacteria or diseases that would normally kill other mammals.

Vulture predators are really a threat for young birds and chicks and consist of other birds of prey and raccoons. When threatened a vulture will vomit which does two things, it may distract the predator buying precious time and also lightens the load for the vulture to get airborne.

Vultures pair for life or at least for a number of years, often spending time together outside of the breeding season. The nest is usually found either in a cave, on a rock ledge r in a thicket. The clutch is normally between 1 and 3 eggs with chicks hatching in about 30 to 40 days and will fledge at around 9 to 10 weeks.

Some interesting facts about Turkey Vultures is that they like to nest in hollow trees, managing to climb up and down the vertical hollow tube. When the young fledge they need to first climb all the way up before facing the daunting task of mastering flight.

Furthermore, they have a night time body temperature about 6 degrees Celsius (43 F ) lower than the daytime.

Turkey Vulture
Turkey Vulture. Photo by damoney777 from Pixabay.

And here’s something amazing about Egyptian vultures which use rocks to break open eggs, typically ostrich eggs. The sad part for the vulture is that there is often an audience in the form of ravens and as soon as the egg is broken they charge in and relieve the vulture of its well deserved meal.

vulture : Egyptian vulture the tool user to break open eggs
Egyptian vulture, uses tools to break open eggs. Photo by Andrea Bohl from Pixabay.

Vultures, unlike other birds of prey don’t have the powerful talons but still have the awesome and deadly beak. Vultures are known to peck at the eyes of dying animals, leaving them blind while using their sharp beaks to tear open the skin and access the meat.

Egyptian Vulture beak
Egyptian vulture face showing strong beak. Photo by Marcel Langthim from Pixabay.

Vultures defecate on their feet which serves to both cool the legs and kill any bacteria they might have picked up at a carcass. This works for vultures due to their high strength acid in their systems.

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Nature

The bear that’s not….

Koala in Tree showing claws
Koala in tree. Photo by freemake from Pixabay.

We like to refer to Koala Bears but the fact of the matter is as cute as these little guys are – they are not bears but marsupials. Marsupials meaning that they are born incompletely developed and are kept in the mothers pouch where they are fed milk while they complete their development.

Right, so we are talking Australia if its a marsupial, correct?

In this case, yes…

… BUT as a point of interest – there are marsupials in New Guinea, North America and South and Central America. The USA has 1, being the Virginia Oppossum (Didelphis virginiana). South and Central America fare a whole lot better with around 98 different ones.

So, getting back to our Koala’s …

Looking at their claws does give us a clue as to their lifestyle. Koalas sleep for up to 18 hours a day wedged in a tree. Having a reinforced cartilage cover over their spine base makes this feat a whole lot easier and more comfortable, not to mention, safer.

sleepy koala wedged in tree fork
Koala sleeping. Photo by sandid from Pixabay.

This habit is most likely due to their diet being a low nutritional one which also explains the need to eat up to 2 lbs (1 kg) a day. Another interesting twist on their food is that there are in the region of 700 different types of eucalypti trees with the koalas eating from only around 50 of them. Given that eucalyptus leaves are poisonous for most animals, our little koalas have a special organ for dealing with this fact. Its called a “caecum” and actually detoxifies the offending chemicals making the leaves safe to eat.

Koalas are known to need little water as they get so much moisture from the leaves (70% of the leaves are water) they eat which are often the younger and more nutritious leaves. This probably led to them being named as ‘koalas’ meaning ‘no water’ in the local aboriginal language. However, we now know that they do in fact drink water especially during heatwaves and droughts.

placid koala at top of tree
Koala feeding on youngest leaves. Photo by sandid from Pixabay.

Koalas are mostly placid creatures but the males will fight viciously over territories and even over specific trees. In addition, when somebody tries to pick up a koala it will defend itself using claws and teeth. they have sharp front teeth for nipping leaves off and the rear teeth are for chewing. these front teeth could inflict a nasty wound.

claws are long and sharp designed for climbing trees. their hands and feet are designed for gripping onto branches with the hands having two opposite thumbs enabling a good grip.

They have fur which is coarser than it looks and it repels rain, they have large ears and excellent hearing but very poor eyesight. Relying on smell to detect predators and rival koalas. On this score, koalas smell like eucalyptus due to all the leaves they eat. This along with being high up in trees help keep them out of predators reach. These predators include dingoes, eagles, pythons and large owls.

Koala dozing
koala, when eating just becomes too exhausting. Photo by Lars Thomsen from Pixabay.

Female koalas generally start breeding at 3 or 4 years of age with a gestation period of just 35 days, after which she gives birth to a single joey who remains in her pouch. A koala joey is less than an inch long( 2 cm) when its born. The birth involves the baby crawling unaided to the pouch and it finds a teat which swells to fill the mouth and so is difficult to be dislodged ensuring the baby has a constant supply of nourishment. The mother also tenses the muscle at the pouch opening, ensuring the little one does not fall out.

Our little koala will remain in the pouch for 6 to 7 months developing eyes and ears along with the rest of the body.

from 22 to 30 weeks the eyes have developed and the joey will peep out of the pouch getting its first introduction to the world using its limited vision and more powerful sense of smell. At this time the mother develops a substance which is termed ‘pap’ and on which the joey will feed, along with its milk. This helps with the transition from milk to leaves and also serves to pass on micro organisms from the mother to the young koala for digesting of leaves.

As our little friend develops it will ride on its mothers back and start to eat leaves but all this time has milk access, even when it no longer fits into the pouch, the teat elongates out of the pouch to provide the youngster the additional nourishment.

Our mother koala will continue breeding annually for the next 10 to 15 years.

koala and joey
koala mother and baby. Photo by Adri Marie from Pixabay.

Koalas appear sluggish in the trees as they are saving their energy and on the ground move at a very slow pace but are capable of ‘galloping’ at speeds of up to 18 mph (30 km/h) when threatened!