Category Archive 'Natural History'
08 Apr 2015

Montana Rattlesnake Den

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These are prairie rattlesnakes (Crotalis viridis).

31 Mar 2015

Coyote Spotted on Roof of Bar in Queens

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NYCCoyote

New York Daily News: Coyote seen on roof of bar in Long Island City, Queens.

Hat tip to Lisa Schiffren.

03 Mar 2015

Photo of the Week

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WoodpeckerWeasel

This photo of a weasel (looks like Mustela nivalis) riding on a Green Woodpecker (Picus viridus) is going viral.

Buzzfeed:

East London resident Martin Le-May captured this incredible photo of a baby weasel on the back of a green woodpecker in Essex, England, on Monday

As much as we’d all like to believe this is a wondrous tale of friendship wherein two mates go on an epic adventure featuring a baby weasel and his magnificent flying steed, sadly it’s NOT.

It’s a photo of a weasel trying to kill a woodpecker. …

Le-May, a hobby photographer, was taking a walk with his wife through the Hornchurch Country Park in east London in the hopes of her seeing a green woodpecker for the first time. …

    “As we walked we heard a distressed squawking and I saw that flash of green. So hurriedly I pointed out to Ann the bird and it settled into the grass behind a couple of small silver birch trees. Both of us trained our binoculars and it occurred that the woodpecker was unnaturally hopping about like it was treading on a hot surface.

    Lots of wing flapping showing that gloriously yellow/white colour interspersed with the flash of red head feathers. Just after I switched from my binoculars to my camera the bird flew across us and slightly in our direction; suddenly it was obvious it had a small mammal on its back and this was a struggle for life.

    The woodpecker landed in front of us and I feared the worst. I guess though our presence, maybe 25 meters away, momentarily distracted the weasel. The woodpecker seized the opportunity and flew up and away into some bushes away to our left. Quickly the bird gathered its self respect and flew up into the trees and away from our sight.

    The woodpecker left with its life. The weasel just disappeared into the long grass, hungry.”

10 Jan 2015

Farmer Gow Culls Super-Aggressive Herd of Heck Cattle

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HeckCattle

The last aurochs (Bos primigenius primigenius), the wild ox from which all domestic cattle descend, was killed in Lithuania sometime in the 1600s. The aurochs, like the European bison, was a survivor of Pleistoscene Europe representing the grandest possible hunting trophy.

Naturally, Nazi potentate Hermann Goering, driven by Romantic nostalgia for the pre-modern and mythic older Europe, made an effort to breed cattle backward in order to re-create the aurochs. The Heck Brother, directors respectively of the Berlin & Munich zoos, bred from a variety of ancient European cattle breeds and produced their own breed, thought to come very close to the original aurochs in size, temperament, and color.

In 2009, it was reported that Derek Gow, a British conservationist, was importing a herd of Heck cattle from the Netherlands to Devon.

The Daily Mail recently reported that Mr. Gow’s experiment proved rather dangerous, and that Gow was reducing his herd of thirteen by seven in order to eliminate the most dangerous and aggressive examples.

[Y]esterday Mr Gow said he ‘couldn’t handle’ the rogue members of the herd, adding: ‘What the Germans did with their breeding programme was create something truly primeval. The aurochs were wild bulls.’

The Hecks’ programme was so successful the cows flourished and were used in propaganda material during the Second World War. Mr Gow says they are shorter than the aurochs, but retain their half-ton ancestors’ muscular build and lethal horns.

Mr Gow, a father of two, said he had to reduce his herd because the cows had tried to kill some members of his staff and would ‘attack at any chance they could’. They have now been sent to an abattoir.

Mr Gow said the cows he sent to the abattoir will be turned into sausages and will be sold in Europe.

He added: ‘As far as being a commercial breed is concerned, they have little value, but they are a significant animal from a conservation point of view. For instance, each cow can produce its own weight in dung every year, which is a great source of food for insects and bugs and nutrients for the environment.’

But he added of the aggressive ones: ‘I have worked with a range of different animals from bison to deer and I have never come across anything like these.

‘To get them into the trailer to get them off the farm we used a young and very athletic young man to stand on the ramp and they charged at him before he quickly jumped out the way.

‘When the Germans were selecting them to create this animal they used Spanish fighting cattle to give them the shape and ferocity they wanted.

The half-tonne cattle died out in Britain 4,000 years ago but remained widespread across much of Europe until the 1600s.

However, they were finally wiped out in 1627 after they were hunted to extinction for their horns, hide and meat.

They were saved in the early 1930s when Hitler wanted to recreate the breed to evoke the power of the ‘runes, folklore and legends of the Germanic peoples’.

Heinz and Lutz Heck found their descendants in a cattle from the Scottish Highlands, Corsica and the French Camargue, as well as Spanish fighting bulls.

They then identified the particular Auroch gene, which they were able to use to bring them back from the ‘dead’.

The cows were later transported to game parks in Schorfheide near Berlin, and the Neander Valley in Dusseldorf.

Mr Gow said: ‘The Aurochs were wild bulls. Julius Caesar recorded them as being bulls as big as elephants.

‘Young men hunted these bulls as preparation for battle and leadership in war, but also to obtain these huge 6ft-wide horns that the bulls had as drinking vessels and war horns. They were huge trophies.’

‘The reason the Nazis were so supportive of the project is they wanted them to be fierce and aggressive.

‘Since they have gone it is all peaceful again. Peace reigns supreme on the farm.

‘Despite these problems, I have no regrets at all. It has been a good thing to do and the history of them is fascinating.’

The meat from the slaughtered cows was turned into sausages which Mr Gow said were ‘very tasty’ – and a bit like a cross between venison and beef. They will be sold in Europe, he said, but probably not marketed as ‘Nazi sausages’.

He explained: ‘I’m not sure how appealing Third Reich sausages would be but they might be popular with some.

‘They are very tasty though and taste like a cross between beef and venison and are sought after in Austria and Germany. They are a different product with low fat and cholesterol.

‘I don’t imagine any of them are sold locally but we are looking in the future to create a speciality market for them.

‘But we need to get to a stage where it is a manageable herd that can be used for normal farming.’

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Modern Farmer said, in essence, what do you expect to get, when you try raising Nazi cattle?

“They look like cave paintings of Lascaux and Altamira. It makes you think of the light of a tallow lamp and these huge bulls on these cave paintings leaping out at you from darkened walls.” Gow admiringly told the Telegraph at the time.

But that’s hardly all that the cattle evoke. This particular breed dates back to the 1920s, when German zoologists and brothers Heinz and Lutz Heck, recruited by the Nazis, began a program to resurrect extinct wild species by cross-breeding various domestic descendants — an effort typically referred to as “back breeding.” Among their success stories was the half-ton Heck cattle, a reasonable facsimile of the hearty and Herculean auroch cattle that dated back some 2 million years prior and has roamed en masse all over Germany centuries prior.

The back-breeding program reflected the dual Nazi obsession with eugenics and nostalgia; the wild ancestry of the auroch reflected a time of “biological unity” before civilization softened and “uglified” man and beast alike. And in fact, the program’s research patron, one Hermann Goring, sought to preserve biological unity not only by resurrecting extinct species, but by restoring them to their original habitats; thus his plan was to return the aurochs to the primeval Białowieża forest.

Is anyone really surprised that the cows turned out to be murderously dangerous?

02 Jan 2015

38 Reasons to Never Visit Australia

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PythonWallabee
Number 2. Pythons that grow so big that they can lift wallabies.

The other 37.

11 Dec 2014

Largest White Truffle Sold at Auction

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white-truffle-4.16

Italia Living:

[A] record-setting 4.16-pound [1.8869 k.] white truffle [Tuber magnatum] found by Sabatino Truffles in Umbria, Italy, has sold for $61,250 at a New York City auction.

Sotheby’s says the fungus was sold Saturday to a food and wine lover from Taiwan bidding by phone.

The firm had said it turned down million-dollar offers from buyers in China. Instead, it chose to auction the truffle in New York to benefit Citymeals-on-Wheels and the Children’s Glaucoma Foundation.

Sabatino Truffles spokeswoman Jane Walsh had said the truffle was slightly smaller than an American football. She says the average white truffle that’s unearthed is about the size of a walnut.

Sotheby’s says the previous largest white truffle ever found was 2.5 pounds [1.1339 k.].

Via Ratak Monodosico.

28 Nov 2014

Ravens & Raptors

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Photos by Grzegorz Leśniewski

Via Ratak Monodosico.

07 Nov 2014

Lions Against Porcupine

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17 lions (13 females and 4 males) versus one porcupine. Guess who wins?

Londolozi blog story

Hat tip to Karen L. Myers.

02 Nov 2014

Bear Fight in Jersey Suburb

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Don’t miss the comments by really dumb liberal girls who live a statist and Disneyfied dream world.

Example:

This is a blatant case of animal cruelty. The person filming this video is clearly goading two very distressed bears into fighting for the internet’s amusement. The appropriate bear authorities should have been called and the bears given a nice warm bowl of milk to calm down.

31 Oct 2014

Yage: Jaguar Catnip

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Yage is the Banisteriopsis caapi vine. Back in 1953, William Burroughs experimented with yage and wrote a series of letters to Allen Ginsburg describing his experiences with the hallucinogen (and with Peruvian boys, who rolled the old poof for his money, eyeglasses, &c.). I never had a chance to try this one myself, but the jaguar definitely looks happy.

Via IFL Science.

30 Oct 2014

Northern Pike is All in Favor of Catch and Release

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29 Oct 2014

Shit Happens

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ShitHappens

Hat tip to Fred Lapides.

25 Oct 2014

Glasswing Butterfly

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glasswing-butterfly
Glasswing Butterfly (Greta oto)

They have large, transparent, 5.6 to 6.1 cm (2.2 to 2.4″) wings. They’re native to Central America, and can be found from Mexico all the way down to Colombia. Occasional visitors to Florida.

Wikipedia article

Ark in Space

Hat tip to Kuriositas.

15 Aug 2014

Bye, Bye, Fish

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