Sunday, 29 March 2015

London Zoo part two

Welcome back, here are some more photos taken at London Zoo last April.


Atlantic mudskipper
Periophthalmus barbarus (Linnaeus, 1766)
Gobiidae; Perciformes; Actinopterygii; Chordata

Made famous by that Guinness advert, which makes out we all came from mudskippers, which is obviously not true. Mudskippers are specialised gobies that live in tropical mangroves, where water level fluctuates throughout the day, often leaving these fish stranded on land. They can "skip" using their pectoral fins, swimming using the tail, and although they lack lungs, they can absorb oxygen through wet skin and mucous membranes (e.g. mouth).


Sexy shrimp
Thor amboinensis (de Mann, 1888)
Hippolytidae; Decapoda; Malacostraca; Arthropoda

Yes, this really is called the sexy shrimp. I really don't know why.


Grey-headed gull
Chroicocephalus cirrocephalus (Vieillot, 1818)
Laridae; Charadriiformes; Aves; Chordata

Closely related to the black-headed gull of Europe and the Bonaparte's gull of North America. This bird seems to be in transition between winter and summer plumage, as its head is still white.


Male green peafowl
Pavo muticus Linnaeus, 1766
Phasianidae; Galliformes; Aves; Chordata

This male was displaying to his females and a group of school children in the Snowden Aviary. Less well known but in my opinion much prettier than the blue peafowl.


Malagasy giant jumping rat
Hypogeomys antimena Grandidier, 1869
Nesomyidae; Rodentia; Mammalia; Chordata

Down in the basement of the Clore Pavilion, in an area formerly known as Moonlight World, can be found some of London Zoo's most unusual inhabitants. Over the years I have seen dasyures, echidnas, and other bizarre mammals in this part of the zoo, and today they still have a few species of nocturnal mammal to excite fans of obscure mammals. The Malagasy giant jumping rat is in a family endemic to Africa and Madagascar, with this species restricted to a tiny patch of forest in western Madagascar, and is classified as Endangered by the IUCN.


North Sri Lanka grey slender loris
Loris lydekkerianus nordicus (Osman Hill, 1933)
Lorisidae; Primates; Mammalia; Chordata

Another unusual inhabitant of the Moonlight World is the slender loris. I'm always wary of using flash photography on animals, especially those in darkened surroundings and with big eyes, but this loris was actually very curious, and came closer to me as I took no more than three photos before moving on.


Australian water rat
Hydromys chrysogaster Geoffroy, 1804
Muridae; Rodentia; Mammalia; Chordata

A large aquatic rodent native to Australia and New Guinea, it also goes by the names of beaver rat or rakali.


Moholi bushbaby
Galago moholi Smith, 1836
Galagidae; Primates; Mammalia; Chordata

A southern African primate named for the sound of its voice.


Hooded pitta
Pitta sordida (Muller, 1776)
Pittidae; Passeriformes; Aves; Chordata



Common emerald dove
Chalcophaps indica (Linnaeus, 1758)
Columbidae; Columbiformes; Aves; Chordata


Male black-necked weaver
Ploceus nigricollis (Vieillot, 1815)
Ploceidae; Passeriforms; Aves; Chordata

These three photos were taken in the Blackburn Pavilion, also known as the Bird House. It was rebuilt in 2008 to feature a walkthrough aviary.


Sumatran tiger cub
Panthera tigris sumatrae Pocock, 1929
Felidae; Carnivora; Mammalia; Chordata

This was taken when the tiger cubs at the zoo were only around a month old.,


Woolly-necked stork
Ciconia episcopus Boddaert, 1783
Ciconiidae; Ciconiiformes; Aves; Chordata

Taken at the African Bird Safari walkthrough.


Bearded pig
Sus barbatus Muller, 1838
Suidae; Artiodactyla; Mammalia; Chordata

A Southeast Asian relative of the wild boar, and a lot bigger than it looks!


Tawny frogmouth
Podargus strigoides (Latham, 1801)
Podargidae; Caprimulgiformes; Aves; Chordata

This nocturnal owl-like relative of nightjars is found in Australia, and looks very odd from the front.

Thursday, 12 March 2015

London Zoo - Reptile House

My latest visit to London Zoo was in April 2014. I spent a long time in the Reptile House and here are some of the pictures of herpetofauna from that trip.


King cobra
Ophiophagus hannah (Cantor, 1836)
Elapidae; Squamata; Sauropsida; Chordata
London Zoo, April 2014

The longest venomous snake in the world and one of the world's most feared.


Blue tree monitor
Varanus macraei (Böhme & Jacobs, 2001)
Varanidae; Squamata; Sauropsida; Chordata
London Zoo, April 2014

An unusually coloured species of monitor lizard endemic to the eastern Indonesian island of Batanta. 


Rhinoceros viper
Bitis nasicornis (Shaw, 1792)
Viperidae; Squamata; Sauropsida; Chordata
London Zoo, April 2014


Long-nosed viper
Vipera ammodytes (Linnaeus, 1758)
Viperidae; Squamata; Sauropsida; Chordata
London Zoo, April 2014


Puff adder
Bitis arietans (Merrem, 1820)
Viperidae; Squamata; Sauropsida; Chordata
London Zoo, April 2014


Gila monsters
Heloderma suspectum Cope, 1869
Helodermatidae; Squamata; Sauropsida; Chordata
London Zoo, April 2014

These venomous lizards were mating.


Male Yemen veiled chameleon
Chamaeleo calyptratus (Duméril & Bibron, 1851)
Chamaeleonidae; Squamata; Sauropsida; Chordata
London Zoo, April 2014


Royal (or ball) python
Python regius (Shaw, 1802)
Pythonidae; Squamata; Sauropsida; Chordata
London Zoo, April 2014


Male Fiji iguana
Brachylophus bulabula Keogh et al., 2008
Iguanidae; Squamata; Sauropsida; Chordata
London Zoo, April 2014

This recently discovered, endangered, bright blue and turquoise iguana is endemic to a few of the islands of Fiji, whose nearest relatives, apart from the other Fijian members of Brachylophus, are from South America.


Annam leaf turtles
Mauremys annamensis (Siebenrock, 1903)
Geoemydidae; Testudines; Sauropsida; Chordata
London Zoo, April 2014


Yellow-crested Jackson's chameleon
Trioceros jacksonii xantholophus (Eason, Ferguson & Hebrard, 1988)
Chamaeleonidae; Squamata; Sauropsida; Chordata
London Zoo, April 2014


Caiman lizard
Dracaena guianensis (Daudin, 1802)
Teiidae; Squamata; Sauropsida; Chordata
London Zoo, April 2014


Radiated tortoise
Astrochelys radiata Shaw, 1802
Testudinidae; Testudines; Sauropsida; Chordata
London Zoo, April 2014


Lake Oku clawed frog
Xenopus longipes Loumont & Kobel, 1991
Pipidae; Anura; Amphibia; Chordata
London Zoo, April 2014


Mallorcan midwife toad tadpole
Alytes muletensis (Sanchiz & Adrover, 1977)
Alytidae; Anura; Amphibia; Chordata
London Zoo, April 2014

Mammals, birds, and more coming soon.

Tuesday, 10 March 2015

Paradise Wildlife Park

I've been visiting Paradise Wildlife Park in Broxbourne, Hertfordshire, since I was an ickle kid. It has always been one of my favourite zoos, with some unusual animals you wouldn't usually seen in zoos. It remains the only place where I have seen the very rare Owston's civets, for example.


Eurasian nuthatch
Sitta europaea caesia Wolf, 1810
Sittidae; Passeriformes; Aves; Chordata
Wild at Paradise Wildlife Park, Hertfordshire; March 2014

The Park is set in woodland, attracting various wild birds. I spotted this nuthatch in the woodland part of the park.


Male Swinhoe's pheasant
Lophura swinhoii (Gould, 1863)
Phasianidae; Galliformes; Aves; Chordata
Paradise Wildlife Park, Hertfordshire; March 2014

There is a section of the park called "Birds of Paradise" which doesn't actually include any birds of paradise, but has a collection of birds of prey, parrots, and pheasants, including this beautifully plumaged male Swinhoe's pheasant from Taiwan.


Swainson's (rainbow) lorikeet
Trichoglossus haematodus moluccanus (Gmelin, 1788)
Psittacidae/Psittaculidae; Psittaciformes; Aves; Chordata
Paradise Wildlife Park, Hertfordshire; March 2014

There is a walkthrough exhibit of Swainson's lorikeets where you can feed the brush-tongued birds with nectar.


Burrowing owls
Athene cunicularia (Molina, 1782)
Strigidae; Strigiformes; Aves; Chordata
Paradise Wildlife Park, Hertfordshire; March 2014

I like the way these two owls appear to look like one in this composition.


Immature South African cheetah
Acinonyx jubatus jubatus (Schreber, 1775)
Felidae; Carnivora; Mammalia; Chordata
Paradise Wildlife Park, Hertfordshire; March 2014

Paradise has plenty of felids, shared with its specialist spin-off, Wildlife Heritage Foundation, which contains nothing but cats. Between them, they have (and have had) all of the big cat species, several threatened subspecies and varieties (including the white lion), and many small felids like Pallas' cat, ocelot, Geoffroy's cat, and Siberian lynx. The cheetahs here were being trained by keepers, while this photograph was taken, to accept food on cue to facilitate examination.


Jaguar
Panthera onca (Linnaeus, 1758)
Felidae; Carnivora; Mammalia; Chordata
Paradise Wildlife Park, Hertfordshire; March 2014

The Park itself also has tigers (of unknown race because they were rescued and thus are not part of any breeding programme), a female African leopard, and snow leopards, as well as some beautiful jaguars.


Oudri's fan-footed gecko
Ptyodactylus oudrii Lataste, 1880
Phyllodactylidae; Squamata; Sauropsida; Chordata
Paradise Wildlife Park, Hertfordshire; March 2014


Chinese alligator
Alligator sinensis Fauvel, 1879
Alligatoridae; Crocodylia; Sauropsida; Chordata
Paradise Wildlife Park, Hertfordshire; March 2014


Swinhoe's striped squirrel
Tamiops swinhoei (Milne-Edwards, 1874)
Sciuridae; Rodentia; Mammalia; Chordata
Paradise Wildlife Park, Hertfordshire; March 2014

Small mammals kept at the zoo include Asian short-clawed otters, meerkats, pygmy marmoset, red panda, lesser hedgehog tenrec, Egyptian rousettes (a small flying fox), and the chipmunk-like Swinhoe's striped squirrel.


Corsac fox
Vulpes corsac (Linnaeus, 1766)
Canidae; Carnivora; Mammalia; Chordata
Paradise Wildlife Park, Hertfordshire; March 2014

Finally, Paradise also boasts a number of canines, including red and corsac fox, raccoon dog, and Eurasian grey wolves.

Sunday, 8 March 2015

London Wetland Centre

Hello readers, here are a few photos taken at WWT London Wetland Centre. I have been working there as a volunteer and casual learning assistant, helping the education team to deliver and devise activities like pond dipping, arts and crafts, and nature walks, for almost four years now. I've mentioned them and features photos taken there in many posts before, including wetland bonanza, two posts on teals, and arctic wildfowl. Here are some photos taken at the Wetlands last year.


Bewick's swan
Cygnus bewickii (Yarrell, 1838)
Anatidae; Anseriformes; Aves; Chordata
WWT London Wetland Centre, Barnes (captive collections), March 2014


Radjah shelduck
Tadorna radjah (Lesson, 1828)
Anatidae; Anseriformes; Aves; Chordata
WWT London Wetland Centre, Barnes (captive collections, "Kakadu"), March 2014


European robin
Erithacus rubecula melophilus Hartert, 1758
Muscicapidae; Passeriformes; Aves; Chordata
Wild at WWT London Wetland Centre, Barnes, March 2014


Grey heron
Ardea cinerea (Linnaeus, 1758)
Ardeidae; Pelecaniformes; Aves; Chordata
Wild at WWT London Wetland Centre, Barnes, March 2014


Wasp beetle
Clytus arietis (Linnaeus, 1758)
Cerambycidae; Coleoptera; Insecta; Arthropoda
WWT London Wetland Centre, Barnes, May 2014


Vapourer moth caterpillar on bramble leaf (Rubus fruticosus)
Orgyia antiqua (Linnaeus, 1758)
Lymantriidae; Lepidoptera; Insecta; Arthropoda
WWT London Wetland Centre, Barnes, June 2014


Blue mint beetle
Chrysolina coerulans (Scriba, 1791)
Chrysomelidae; Coleoptera; Insecta; Arthropoda
Wild at WWT London Wetland Centre, Barnes, May 2014

This is an invasive species of bright blue beetle native to southern and central Europe but is spreading northwards. It is a pest of mint plants.


Bee orchid
Ophrys apifera Hudson
Orchidaceae; Asparagales; Liliopsida; Angiospermae
WWT London Wetland Centre, Barnes, May 2014


Egyptian geese
Alopochen aegyptiacus (Linnaeus, 1766)
Anatidae; Anseriformes; Aves; Chordata
Wild at WWT London Wetland Centre, Barnes, August 2014

Next, photos from a trip to Paradise Wildlife Park, a small but interesting zoo in southeast Hertfordshire.

Saturday, 17 January 2015

Amwell Nature Reserve

I always wanted to live near a wetland nature reserve, and when my family and I moved to Ware from north London, I ended up surrounded by wetlands. Amwell Nature Reserve, owned by Herts and Middlesex Wildlife Trust, is only around 3 miles away from my house. It is also a short walking distance from St. Margaret's rail station, or around a mile's walk from Ware rail station, taking you along the scenic River Lee navigation.

I visit at all times of year, since it is my local patch so to speak. There are photos here from two summers and winters ago, as I haven't gotten round to uploading photos taken in the last six months or so.


Panoramic view of Amwell Nature Reserve, with my mum, Hattie.
Hertfordshire, May 2014


Wild red fox
Vulpes vulpes crucigera (Bechstein, 1789)
Canidae; Carnivora; Mammalia; Chordata
Wild at Amwell Nature Reserve, Hertfordshire, March 2013

Some mammals to start with. I saw this fox in broad daylight in the fields adjoining the nature reserve, probably taking advantage of the many rabbits that abound in this area.


Wild Reeves' muntjac
Muntiacus reevesi (Ogilby, 1839)
Cervidae; Artiodactyla; Mammalia; Chordata
Wild at Amwell Nature Reserve, Hertfordshire, May 2014

It's not too unusual to see Reeves' muntjac around in these parts but during the day is unusual (for me at least), and also oddly enough, I think this deer was on an island! The waters around it must be shallow, as the grey heron in the background shows. Reeves' muntjac are not native to the UK, being introduced from China, having escaped into the wild from Woburn and Whipsnade deer parks in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.


Wild eastern grey squirrel
Sciurus carolinensis Gmelin, 1788
Sciuridae; Rodentia; Mammalia; Chordata
Wild at Amwell Nature Reserve, Hertfordshire, June 2013

A grey squirrel at the feeders by the James hide, a great place to see small birds, and some mammals, without disturbing them.



The author with Konik ponies
Equus caballus Linnaeus, 1758
Equidae; Cetartiodactyla; Mammalia; Chordata
Amwell Nature Reserve, June 2013

Here I am with two of the reserves Konik ponies, before and after being bitten on the arm by one. When they're not biting bloggers, they are seen grazing the reserve. They are semi-wild, being a breed of domestic horse selected for its similarities to the ancestral tarpan (the now extinct wild horse that gave rise to all domestic horses and ponies). The Koniks are very hardy and not very tame, as evidenced by the bite.


Female (left) and male northern shoveler
Anas clypeata Linnaeus, 1758
Anatidae; Anseriformes; Aves; Chordata
Wild at Amwell Nature Reserve, Hertfordshire, March 2014


Male gadwall
Anas strepera Linnaeus, 1758
Anatidae; Anseriformes; Aves; Chordata
Wild at Amwell Nature Reserve, Hertfordshire, March 2014



Greylag goose
Anser anser anser (Linnaeus, 1758)
Anatidae; Anseriformes; Aves; Chordata
Wild at Amwell Nature Reserve, Hertfordshire, March 2014

There are many wildfowl species to be seen at Amwell. Residents include the feral greylag geese that probably descended from farmyard geese (which themselves originally descended from truly wild greylag geese!) and mallards. Gadwalls and shovelers are more common in winter, as are teal, pochard and wigeon.


Common gull
Larus canus Linnaeus, 1758
Laridae; Charadriiformes; Aves; Chordata
Wild at Amwell Nature Reserve, Hertfordshire, March 2014

Many species of gull congregate on the reserve and its surrounding waters, including black-headed, herring, and lesser black-backed gulls. I rarely see other types, but this common gull was an exception. Despite its name, common gulls are not all that common in southern Britain, preferring northern parts of the country.


Common tern
Sterna hirundo Linnaeus, 1758
Sternidae; Charadriiformes; Aves; Chordata
Wild at Amwell Nature Reserve, Hertfordshire, June 2013

Common terns are summer visitors to Britain, breeding on shingle islands and artificial tern rafts in fresh water bodies, unlike most other British terns, which are pretty much exclusively coastal. The reserve is absolutely buzzing with common terns in June, being seen over the gravel pits themselves (as this one can be seen bathing in the shallows of), or over the River Lea navigation among the barges.


Little ringed plover
Charadrius dubius Scopoli, 1786
Charadriidae; Charadriiformes; Aves; Chordata
Wild at Amwell Nature Reserve, Hertfordshire, May 2014

Many wader species can be found at Amwell, common ones including snipe (Gallinago gallinago), redshank (Tringa totanus), and lapwing (Vanellus vanellus). The little ringed plover is a summer visitor to Britain from Africa, being found in gravelly areas like former gravel pits, but are often hard to spot because of their size and awesome camouflage. If it weren't for the yellow eye ring it would have gone unnoticed by me!


Common moorhen
Gallinula chloropus chloropus Linnaeus, 1758
Rallidae; Gruiformes; Aves; Chordata
Wild at Amwell Nature Reserve, Hertfordshire, March 2014


Juvenile Eurasian coot swimming among mare's tail (Hippuris vulgaris)
Fulica atra atra Linnaeus, 1758
Rallidae; Gruiformes; Aves; Chordata
Wild at Amwell Nature Reserve, Hertfordshire, May 2014

Britain's most common rail species are the common moorhen and Eurasian coot. These birds are often mistaken for ducks because of their shape when seen on the water surface, but their long-toed feet reveal their allies with other rails. Both are found in all sorts of fresh water bodies, from urban park ponds to expansive wetlands. Both start out life as little fluff balls with ginormous feet and colourful faces, with the colour becoming limited to the beak in the moorhen, and turning to white in the coot.


Grey heron
Ardea cinerea cinerea Linnaeus, 1758
Ardeidae; Pelecaniformes; Aves; Chordata
Wild at Amwell Nature Reserve, Hertfordshire, March 2014


Semi-submerged grey heron
Wild at Amwell Nature Reserve, Hertfordshire, June 2013

Grey herons are normally very elegant birds, taking fish and other aquatic prey from the water's edge. The heron in the lower photo apparently felt the urge to go right into the pond. I felt concerned for the bird's ability to fly out again, as its feathers would be waterlogged.


Dunnock
Prunella modularis (Linnaeus, 1758)
Prunellidae; Passeriformes; Aves; Chordata
Wild at Amwell Nature Reserve, Hertfordshire, March 2014

The dunnock, or hedge sparrow, is a common European accentor, a group of birds endemic to Eurasia that look somewhat like sparrows. It is mainly a ground feeder, preferring not to visit bird tables but to eat crumbs that have fallen from above, which this bird seems to have been doing. I always found them difficult to photograph, as they are fast-moving and prefer darker environments. This was my first opportunity to photograph an otherwise-occupied dunnock.


Cetti's warbler
Cettia cetti (Temminck, 1820)
Cettiidae; Passeriformes; Aves; Chordata
Wild at Amwell Nature Reserve, Hertfordshire, March 2014

Cetti's warblers are more often heard than seen. Their explosive song can be heard in wetlands mainly in spring and summer but as they are resident, they can be heard, and potentially seen, year-long. I caught this Cetti's warbler completely by chance. I was trying to focus on a wren (Troglodytes troglodytes) that was perched in exactly the same spot, when the wren flew off and was instantly replaced by the Cetti's warbler. My slow reflexes, instead of catching the wren, caught the Cetti's warbler the instant it perched. This was also the day I saw a kingfisher in the same reed bed, but got no decent photographs. Still, the Cetti's warbler was a perfect compromise.


Sedge warbler
Acrocephalus schoenobaenus (Linnaeus, 1758)
Acrocephalidae; Passeriformes; Aves; Chordata
Wild at Amwell Nature Reserve, Hertfordshire, May 2014

Sedge warblers are another bird that is more often heard than seen, frequenting British reed beds during the summer. They can be distinguished from the similar reed warbler (A. scirpaceus) by the white supercilium (eye brow).


Male reed bunting
Emberiza schoeniclus (Linnaeus, 1758)
Emberizidae; Passeriformes; Aves; Chordata
Wild at Amwell Nature Reserve, Hertfordshire, March 2014

Reed buntings are seen the year round in Britain in reed beds. Males have the black head and chest patch, while females look rather sparrow-like.


Mayfly
Ephemera danica Müller, 1764
Ephemeridae; Ephemeroptera; Insecta; Arthropoda
Wild at Amwell Nature Reserve, Hertfordshire, May 2014

Mayflies are known for one thing, unless you're a fisherman or a biologist. Their incredibly short lifespan. This is partly true - as an adult, mayflies last for about a day, maximum two days. They do, however, spend the vast majority of their lives in the water as a nymph. The nymphs have the three cerci (tails) that the adult has, but lack wings, otherwise looking vaguely similar to damselfly nymphs. Before becoming a fully-fledged adult, mayflies go through a winged sexually immature phase known as the subimago. This was the first mayfly I've seen in its adult stage.


Common scorpionfly
Panorpa communis Linnaeus, 1758
Panorpidae; Mecoptera; Insecta; Arthropoda
Wild at Amwell Nature Reserve, Hertfordshire, June 2013

One last insect for you, a scorpionfly. The rear portion of its abdomen vaguely resembles a scorpion's tail, but is completely non-venomous. It is a holometabolous insect (one which goes through the life cycle of egg > larva > pupa > adult), never really straying far from the place it pupated.

Next, the London Wetland Centre.