Friday, 16 November 2012

A sound of the night and a reptile on the brink.

Hello everyone and welcome to my latest blog. I hope you have had a good week and with the weekend approaching you are looking forward to a well-earned rest! This week I talk about a sound I have heard often but the bird responsible for it has always eluded me and the case of a very rare reptile which faces a uncertain future. As always I hope you enjoy and feel free to give feedback on what you enjoy and what you would like to see improved.

                                                                A sound of the night.

It's late, and the daylight has long been replaced with the black of night, diurnal birds  have sought the sanctuary of a safe roosts well covered by dense vegetation hoping this will be enough to ensure their survival for another night. Suddenly an unmistakable sound which has many times woken me from my sleep pierces the darkness a sharp "kewick" is just one of many variations of vocalisation from the bird in question. That bird is the Tawny Owl, and it's calling in the woodland not far from our house again and it sounds like there is more than one. The more familiar owl noise now accompany it and it really is enjoyable to be able to listen to the secretive private life of the owl as it goes about its nocturnal business, terrorising unfortunate rodents which chose the wrong moment to break cover exposing themselves to the owls lethal talons.

I would love to be able to tell you how gracefully they fly in the wild, but I can't. As often as I have been woken up and kept awake by this nocturnal choir I have not once been privileged enough to catch a glimpse of this mysterious bird of prey.  When I look at the woodland the next morning I imagine where they might be and my main feeling is not disappointment at not yet seeing one, I do feel very grateful however to of been allowed an small insight into their world as natures schedules to not allow for outsiders, so maybe one day if I'm lucky I may just be in the right place at the right time.

                                            Five facts about Tawny Owls Strix aluco.

1)  Female Tawny Owls are 20 -40 % heavier than males and have a wingspan ranging from 5-10 % percent longer.

2) The Tawny Owl is the most common and widespread Owl in Europe (and still I have not seen one).

3) The Tawny Owl feeds on a large amount of rodents, but will also take small birds, frogs, insects and worms.

4) There are an estimated 19, 400 breeding pairs of Tawny Owls in the UK.

5)  An adult Tawny Owl has at least 10 different vocalisations and young individuals 5 different vocalisations.

                            Facts courtesy of the World Owl Trust and RSPB.

                       Endangered Species : Orinoco Crocodile Crocodylus intermedius.

Powerful, prehistoric, intelligent and critically endangered are all words which describe the Orinoco Crocodile, and when crocodiles all over the world face various struggles to survive the knowledge that this species is ranked as one of the most endangered of all the crocodilian family is a stark indicator of the battle the species faces for survival.

Orinoco Crocodiles are found in Colombia and Venezuela inhabiting freshwater riverines in particular as the name suggests the Orinoco River. During the dry season as the water levels drop to very low levels, an example of the crocodiles ability to adapt and survive which has helped them to outlive the dinosaurs is demonstrated. By retreating into tunnels excavated in the river banks, they are able to find the small remaining areas of water enough to help them survive these tough times. Orinco Crocodiles diet varies in relation to size, for example juveniles feed mainly on small fish and invertebrates while adults take much larger prey including land mammals such as capybara as well as birds and larger fish.  During January and February which always coincides with the dry season,  holes are excavated for egg laying where anywhere between 15 and 70 eggs are laid. Such a large number of eggs may be at least partly because of the threat of Tegu Lizards and Vultures. The hatching of the eggs is timed perfectly with the arrival of the wet season and the inevitable rise of water levels.

So what threats face the Orinoco Crocodile? Yet again the recurring theme of human destruction is the main reason a species is in such trouble and this is the case for the Orinoco Crocodile. It's problems really started in the period of 1930-1960 where due to horrendous persecution for their skin which happened particularly in the driest parts of the year at their most vulnerable time due to the ease at finding them in their burrows. Their population has never really recovered from this and the threats which existed them still exist now adding to the already large number of problems facing the species. These include: illegal killing for meat, eggs being stolen, juveniles captured and sold on markets, teeth sold for medicine and of course habitat destruction which has reduced its range to a tiny proportion of what it formerly was. Competition for food and habitat with Caimans are now also causing more problems.

What is being done to help the species?  Currently preservation of suitable habitat is being undertaken in Venezuela, with reintroduction plans underway with further monitoring required. If the same could be done in Columbia to go alongside their experimental release programme these would be huge steps in the right direction. Stricter protection on the species itself against hunting needs to be undertaken however as with a population as restricted as the Orinoco Crocodiles is, every individual lost is a huge blow.

If we do not want to lose a species which belongs to a family of animals which have outlived the dinosaurs then dramatic, determined and prolonged measures need to be taken. If not then once again a species could be consigned to the history books, leaving us with the thoughts that we could have and should have done more to help.

Facts in this article were sourced from the Crocodilian Species List.           

That is all from myself for another week, I really hope you enjoyed it and have a good weekend!


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