Week of the mouse

Mice are tiny, incredibly fast and often live in concealed areas, which makes them quite hard to sight. This week, I have been lucky to spot two of them: a wood mouse (above photo) and a common shrew—which technically is neither a mouse nor a rodent as it belongs to the mole family.

I found the shrew unwell in the middle of the sidewalk and nearly stepped on it. I fetched it, placed it in a warm box and gave it some Continue reading

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Chicks that can’t fly

Each spring the bird realm is enriched by new avian lives. Watching hatchlings grow into nestlings grow into fledglings is fascinating. Spectacular changes rush the newborns into adulthood, and before they can realize it, they are on their own. The young we sight are those who were lucky and strong enough to survive the harsh stages of their early existence. The toll of those who perish at the hand of natural or man-made evils goes mostly unnoticed.

During my short time observing breeding great and blue tits (a few nests in the springs of 2014-2015) I noticed a recurrent evil: some young’s unability to fly despite seemingly healthy, functional wings. It is absolutely normal for fledglings of many bird species to leave the nest before they can fly, a skill they acquire within days. However, when this unability persists, in stark contrast with the development of the rest of the brood, it becomes a disability and jeopardizes the chick’s survival.

Most great and blue tits I saw fledge could fly immediately or within a few hours from leaving the nest. Encountering individuals lacking this essential character 5, 7, even 10 days later therefore called my attention and I thought it worthwhile recording.


(1) LIVELY & HUNGRY / Bayreuth, Germany – June 2015

I was busy when the blue tit nestlings raised in a natural tree cavity next to my building fledged. From my window, I heard them Continue reading

Life & death at the fieldfare corner

Adult fieldfare

One of the parents. Credit: Yalakom

Each spring, millions of fieldfares (Turdus pilaris) migrate to Germany to breed after spending the winter months in Southern France and Italy. In Northern Bavaria, the birds can be seen from late March and are presently busy raising their first brood. A couple of them built a conspicuous nest up on a leafless tree across from my apartment block. I had the chance to observe the five chicks fledge, an experience I find worth documenting here due to some peculiar circumstances.

Fledging is a decisive moment in the life of a bird, one without a second chance because once out the young never return to the nest. It is a bold leap into a ruthless unknown and many chicks don’t make it past Continue reading

A shelter for a blackbird chick

This Blackbird juvenile was fetched, unwell, on the side of the road, taken care of and released where it was found a couple days later. The parents took no more than 20 minutes find the fledgling after hearing his high pitched calls. They instantly recognized and welcoming him back. Before these pictures were taken, the hungry fledgling was given some banana-plum mix; some leftovers can be seen on the tip of its large bill.

You can read more about Blackbirds here.

Location: Bayreuth, Germany

Foraging Voles

A couple of bank voles (Myodes glareolus) were conspicuously foraging along a country path this morning. The little rodents were so overly confident that I could kneel just a few inches from them for several minutes. Despite poor light conditions cast by a dull weather, I had a go with my small compact camera. I shall return under sunny skies but for now here are the best shots.

Voles are monogamous for the duration of their short existence which rarely exceeds 6 months, although most die during their first month. In my town, they often get hit or run over by bicycles, a rather violent death.

To compensate this high mortality rate, mother nature made these rodents particularly prolific. A single couple can engender up to a 100 descents per year causing recurrent episodes of overpopulation. The mice are considered a pest by farmers as they burrow into the ground where they forage on roots thereby ravaging crops and fruit trees.

Any encounter with these minuscule, adorable looking beings remains nonetheless greatly enjoyable.

Location: Bayreuth, Germany

The Przewalski horse: walking on thin ice (Part 9)

“Twenty years ago a subspecies of wild horses, the Asian Przewalski horse, became extinct in the wild. There were still specimens in zoos but ten generations of inbreeding had weakened them and instead of infinite grasslands they knew only iron fences. The animals were merely a shadow of their former selves.”[1] It is with these words that Prince Bernhard of The Netherlands described the poor and seemingly hopeless condition of the species in the aftermath of its extirpation in the wild. Following this event, Przewalski horses experienced a dramatic population bottleneck. As the species survived through just a few captive individuals, the loss of founder genes became a terrible threat to their viability. Should they be saved, prompt action was required: breeding a healthy population through inter-zoo exchanges was a matter of urgency. From 1979, various conservation programs Continue reading