Saturday, 7 December 2013

The use of animals in films and wildlife news.

Hello and welcome to my latest wildlife blog, I hope you have been well since the last issue. In this edition I talk about wrestling with my conscience when it comes to watching films where animals are advertised to being the "stars of the show".  Consider this the tiger has more individuals in captivity than in the wild so one nearly drowning in the filming of the Life of PI certainly struck a nerve. Also in this edition, the usual assortment of wildlife news, I hope as always you enjoy the blog.

The use of animals in films.

When I saw the film the Life of Pi advertised for cinematography admittedly I was intrigued, the image of a huge, beautiful Bengal tiger grabbed my attention as it doubtless did with countless others. When the film appeared on television it was recorded for viewing at a more convenient time. Since then however, I read an article by the newspaper the Independent which highlighted the mistreatment of animals in films and sparked my conscience which had always nagged at me when seeing animals used as stars in films into overdrive. Is it acceptable that a tiger should nearly drown in the name of entertainment ? It's far from an isolated case of gross mistreatment, during the making of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, a total of twenty seven animals including sheep and goats perished as a result of dehydration, exhaustion and drowning. A horse died in the making of War Horse and a chipmunk was squashed in the filming of Failure to Launch to name some examples. In my opinion the gross mistreatment of animals in the production of films surely is as bad as the mistreatment of animals in circuses after all both are fuelled by the need to entertain to earn a profit. The thought of abuse of circus animals rightly repulses people worldwide the thought of animals being abused in films should have the same affect. There is only one thing worse than the cowardly act of animal cruelty and that is animal cruelty to earn an income, currently the recording of Life of Pi remains unwatched and for sure that  is how it will remain.

Negative representations of  animals can reflect direly on wild populations. Sharks have experienced huge declines in numbers all over the globe, thanks in no small part to the combination of the novel "Jaws" and subsequent films which followed it. Indeed author Peter Benchley felt so bad about the subsequent impact on sharks that he went onto become a shark conservationist and was quoted as saying " knowing what I know now, I could never write that book today" in reference to Jaws. He would go on to write Shark Trouble highlighting the unfair portrayal of sharks in the media. Sharks are far from the only victims, one does not need to look far to find films where crocodiles, snakes, wolves amongst others cause terror as a result of "savage rampages".

Wildlife News

A new species of wild cat has been discovered in Brazil. It had been assumed that there was only one species of Brazilian tigrina, Leopardus tigrinus but analyses of DNA evidence has revealed that tigrina's found in the north are an altogether different species than those found in the south which are now called Leopardus guttulus see the full article below.

Asian elephants it has been discovered can differentiate between the growls of different species of big cats. On hearing the growl of a tiger a potential threat to a calf, a stealthy retreat is taken by the herd, while on hearing a leopard a lesser threat, they respond with aggressive trumpeting.
BBC Wildlife magazine December 2013.

Not news as such but some remarkable predator prey interaction see below.

That is all for this occasion as usual I really hope you enjoyed the blog and thanks for reading,

Friday, 8 November 2013

Wildlife concerns.

 Hello and welcome to my latest blog, sorry it has taken so long to update but university specifically the large amount of coursework has made time extremely limited, the joys of the final year ! I hope you have all been well in the meantime and have been enjoying the wildlife all around us. This issue may not be the most cheery one I've ever written but it underlies some key concerns where action must be taken before the damage done is irreversible. This issue also features an article written concerning the legalisation of hunting  a small number of Black Rhino every year. You can read my opinion on this below. As always I hope you enjoy my blog and feel free to give feedback.

The legalisation of Black Rhino trophy hunting in Namibia.

First things first, having read the article along with some more reading Namibia clearly has a fantastic conservation record, however the legalisation of Black Rhino trophy hunting is something which does not rest easily with me. I really fail to believe that the people paying thousands of pounds to hunt these animals have any concern over the conservation of the species. If this were to be the case would it not instead be a better to put the money directly into Rhino conservation instead of putting a bullet into a Rhino? I also am not to keen on the argument that only older individuals of a species would be hunted I'm not sure we would like it if once we were surplus to requirements for continuing the existence of our own species, own lives were wiped out.

"Trophy hunting nearly worthless"
And the article see below reports that both wildlife viewing and photographic safaris offer more to conservation and economy in Africa than trophy hunting. I'm clearly bias against the "sport" but with images like the one in the aforementioned article (see below) it's not hard to see why, there is no respect for the animal and in my opinion no interest in conservation.

Time to give our raptors the protection they deserve as English Hen Harrier decline  hits new low.

Historically raptors in Britain have been the victims of persecution to the point that by the end of the nineteenth century many species had nearly become extinct. The White Tailed Sea Eagle was one species which did disappearing from the British Isles in 1916. The use of pesticides such as DDT also had serious implications for predators such as the Peregrine Falcon in particular before the ban on them in the nineteen eighties contributed largely to an increase in many species. While many threats still exist such as rodenticides in the food chain,  traffic collisions and habitat loss many species are at least far more stable in Britain than previous decades. One main problem has never really gone away however and that is the illegal persecution of some raptors species over concerns by gamekeepers and farmers over game animals and livestock. Golden Eagles and Red Kites are to immediate examples of species which in some areas of Scotland and Wales continue to face serious persecution. Nothing compares however to the plight of the English Hen Harrier, with no chicks raised in 2013 and only two pairs even attempting to breed, a six year decline continues to get worse and worse. The ill feeling, mistrust and persecution  from hunters and game keepers of Red Grouse towards the Hen Harrier have largely  lead to this situation. In the past few years several ideas have been discussed as a compromise including supplementary feeding and a ceiling effect on populations where individuals are then trans located to other areas but these seem to have achieved little progress hence the desperate situation now facing Hen Harriers in England. I love the quote from Simon Barnes "If we want to celebrate their ferocity, we must also celebrate their fragility" in reference to the struggle for survival which faces a bird of prey. In Britain we have already seen what can be achieved when the right measures are put in place,  the successful reintroduction of the White Tailed Sea Eagle being a main example however in the case of the Hen Harrier in England,  a rabbit must be  pulled out the hat to protect the remaining population because the way things are going, unless dramatic measures are put in place right now, a miracle may be this formidable predators only hope of clinging on to its existence in England.

Hen harrier in flight

When will we learn if ever? The curse of human laziness and plastic waste.

Recently a sobering thought provoking article about the devastating effects plastic waste is having on Whale species with  individuals washed up with obscene amounts of plastic in their systems.  We as a species supposedly capable of high intelligence cannot or more likely will not accept and take responsibility for the damage we are doing to marine ecosystems. Turtles also the victims of plastic carrier bags in most cases mistaking them for Jellyfish have suffered global declines in populations follow the link below for an image from a turtles point of view.

From a Turtles point of view.,r:10,s:0,i:114&iact=rc&page=1&tbnh=172&tbnw=294&start=0&ndsp=23&tx=68&ty=83
Link to Whale stranding story.

 And some good news to finish

After hearing so much negative news recently how nice to hear that huge steps have been taken to protect the fragile remaining population of wild Snow Leopards. Ministers from the governments of :
Afghanistan, Bhutan, China, India, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyz Republic, Mongolia, Nepal, Pakistan, Russia, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan  all signed a declaration which meant they agreed to not only intensify their conservation efforts but also take strong action against the poaching and illegal trade of Snow Leopards. This decision took place during  the Global Snow Leopard Conservation Forum, in Bishkek, Kyrgyz Republic.

Well that is just about it for now, I hope you enjoyed the issue as always, thanks for reading all the best, George.

Thursday, 26 September 2013

Under African skies

Hello everyone and welcome back to my blog, it's been quite some time since my last post and this has in part been because of my return to South Africa which you will read more about shortly. I hope you all had a great summer and made the most of the sunshine because as September draws to a close it won't be long before temperatures drop and plenty of warm layers will be called for as the cold embrace of winter takes its grip.  As always I hope you enjoy the blog.

Back to Africa

In 2011 having  just landed back in England after spending a month living and working in the South Africa wilderness I knew I had to return, craving the sights, sounds and smells of a truly incredible country. A little over two years later my flight touched down at Durban to signal the arrival of the two of the most incredible weeks of my life. Having signed up for a programme run by Global Vision International focusing on tracking wild dogs, cheetah and elephant through the use of telemetry on Zimanga Private game reserve I knew there was a good chance of seeing some incredible things, nothing could of prepared me for the daily mind blowing wildlife encounters that myself and my fellow volunteers were about to experience.  Before I write about a few of my incredibly hard to pick highlights, a thank you should be said to all the staff and fellow volunteers at Zimanga base who made the experience even more special through being welcoming and very friendly made fitting into camp life very easy. The information, skills learnt and memories and friendships made will stay with me forever. So after careful thought I have tried my best to come up with a few of my highlights from the trip.

1) I'll hold your paw.

This was the one highlight that proved to be  a straight forward decision, with two of the African Wild Dog pups sedated to have collars fitted to aid with data collection and telemetry tracking, the opportunity to get up closer than I ever imagined possible to one of the most endangered carnivores on the planet was a truly once in a lifetime opportunity. One by one we were able to have our pictures taken with the sedated pups and had the opportunity to touch the fur, and even the paws of the beautiful creature. I made the most of every second of my opportunity!

2)  Night drive

Driving through Zimanga at night, never failed to amaze, Serval, Porcupine, Bush Baby and Mozambique Spitting Cobra were some real wonderful moments, however the drive to camp for the first time having only been in South Africa less than 48 hours, provided a glimpse of something very special. Driving along and suddenly a huge cat shape bounded in front of the vehicle, and into the grass on the roadside where it stayed for a minute or so allowing us a rare glimpse into its mysterious life. This animal was of course the beautiful, powerful, elusive Leopard. I may only have been able to see the outline of its muscular body in the darkness but having never seen a Leopard before this really was hitting the jackpot. The night proved even more memorable as later we caught up with the wild dog pack, looking relaxed again close to the road what a welcome !

3)  Being made to feel tiny

 Surely there are few animals on the planet that posses such awesome power as the African Elephant added to that their serious intelligence means when just a few metres separate yourself and a huge male in must that has the potential to be an intimidating and dangerous experience. Fortunately this particular Elephant has such a gentle and inquisitive personality despite its current condition that no harm is meant, as he wanders around our vehicle his huge size is clear to see in all its glory. The magnificent head the width of the windscreen so close to us its beauty so evident the experience one that was just awesome and one never to be forgotten.

Morning Cutthroat

Zimanga is home to a huge Spotted Hyena named Cutthroat, one of a very small population to live on the reserve, rarely seen I was far from optimistic about my chances of a sighting in a short period of time. As we were reminded time and time again however Zimanga is a very special place, no more so than on one memorable morning. Having located the Wild Dog pack on the perimeter of the reserve, we followed them as they went about their morning antics, primarily a mixture of play fighting and trying to track down potential prey. While most of us were watching the dogs, a shape behind the vehicle had caught the attention of our guide. The unmistakable form of the  Spotted Hyena known as Cutthroat was keeping its distance from the pack and until this point had gone unnoticed, not for long however, no sooner had we spotted the hyena so to did the dogs, chasing Cutthroat into dense thicket and out of sight, a  short but privileged encounter.

A little optimistic

With no Lion on Zimanga, and Leopard targeting medium size antelope predominantly, the Buffalo would probably be feeling fairly untouchable. The wild dog pack had other ideas however as for over an hour they harassed the herd on occasion getting them running in mild panic, and darting in to try and isolate a youngster. They came close at one particular moment nipping the dis orientated juvenile before the adults came back to restore security. Eventually the pack lost interest whether they ever had a real chance of snaring a meal is unlikely however to see such prolonged predatory behaviour was truly fascinating.

Beauty in the air

The African Fish Eagle is a bird I had always wanted to see and having seen it in the flesh its true power and wonderful colouration were evident. And of course its unmistakable, charismatic call is a sound quite magnificent another highlight on an unforgettable trip.

And a few more pictures, representing incredible experiences on a very special reserve.

African Rock Python.

Kalahari one of the male Cheetah on the reserve truly stunning.

Pretty awesome.

Only Africa can produce sunsets like this.

Badger update

Our garden still continues to offer a reliable food source for not one but two badgers who regular feed on our peanut butter bread morsels. I've said it before and I will say it again it is a true privilege to have these beautiful nocturnal animals visit the garden and long may it continue for watching them is an experience which should never be taken for granted.

World Rhino Day

It was recently World Rhino Day, celebrating these magnificent animals but also highlighting the sickening plight they face thanks to the myth of the healing properties their magnificent horn possess. People must wake up to this before it really is to late, to lose any species to extinction is sickening to loose Rhinos because of human greed and ignorance would be inexcusable.

Trails and Tails Travel
Looking for a truly wild and wonderful adventure? want to see some natures most amazing natural creations ? Trails and Tails Travel offers a wide range of once in a lifetime opportunity to visit some of the most amazing locations on the planet run by Nicole and Matthew, you can loo at their website by following this link you can also connect with them on Facebook!/TrailsAndTailsTravel?fref=ts.


You can follow me on Twitter @ReallyWildWykes where I will be posting regular sources of wildlife news, images and of course my blog updates direct to my Twitter account.

That is all for this issue thank you for reading and have a great weekend !

Wednesday, 31 July 2013

A nocturnal visitor a national icon and dedication.

Hello and welcome to my latest blog, I hope you have all been enjoying the summer although the weather has somewhat worsened  from the glorious sunshine we had all naively become accustomed to. I was recently delighted to have this blog added to the UK and Eire Natural History Bloggers site, by following the link on my homepage, you can also read the other fine work of fellow enthusiasts of the natural world. Regular readers may remember in previous blogs features on the wildlife we are lucky enough to have visit our garden. The latest species to see the garden as a potential food source however may well have caused the most excitement amongst the household yet, more on that later. As always any feedback on improvements you think could be made or suggestions for what you would like to see included are most welcome I hope you enjoy this edition.

A very special visitor.

A while ago I believe I mentioned a chance encounter in our garden between my brother and a Badger feeding on slugs and any other morsels it could find. Since then however thanks to the providing Hovis sliced loaf and Tesco's trusty crunchy peanut butter, we have become privileged enough to have some truly remarkable encounters.

It's approaching 10 o'clock and the last of the light is just beginning to fade. The bread and peanut butter laid on the lawn is soon to be devoured. Suddenly a rustle of branches announces the arrival of our first nocturnal visitor, cautiously to start with, the Badger begins to appear, firstly only its trademark black and white facial markings visible in the gloomy darkness. Soon however, the lure of the peanut butter is to much, the smell wafting up the nostrils of its highly sensitive nose and the search is on. The peanut butter never stood a chance each mouthful consumed with even more relish than the first and all the time the Badger comes closer, ever closer to us sitting in the conservatory trying to keep noise to an absolute minimum, as our garden guest continues to feast on our offerings all the time growing in confidence.  A few minutes later and we our almost within two feet of the Badger and completely captivated by it's beauty and then another appears, far more nervous but again the smell of Tesco's peanut butter is irresistible. Searching for offerings which have so far escaped the attentions of the first Badger its keen sense of smell working overtime in now almost complete darkness its snuffling as the feeding intensifies clearly audible . Eventually with peanut butter well and truly demolished, they move on in search of more natural food sources in the garden and then in other parts of the local area. These encounters which happen now almost every night are truly incredible, and we are privileged to have the opportunity to witness some amazing creatures from such a close distance.

Photo: Same time, same place every night now,  our lovely badger friends. Too busy eating to mind us.
Photo taken by Mary Wykes

And on the subject of garden wildlife....

Please be sure to leave a bowl of fresh water in your garden through the summer this could prove to be an invaluable source of refreshment for our wildlife such as the charismatic Hedgehog. This lovable species has recently  been named Britain's National Species winning a poll organised by BBC Wildlife Magazine with 42% of the vote. The Badger finished the poll in second with the Ash tree completing the top three in third.  With the species in decline this is a fantastic boost for the species.

World Ranger Day.

Today is World Ranger Day a day where the hard work, bravery and dedication of so many inspirational people around the world is given the recognition it deserves, without these wonderful people, our wildlife would be exposed and terribly vulnerable to the greed of poachers.
For further reading on this subject which has deservedly gained Royal attention follow this link:

Trails and Tails Travel

Looking for a truly wild and wonderful adventure? want to see some natures most amazing natural creations ? Trails and Tails Travel offers a wide range of once in a lifetime opportunity to visit some of the most amazing locations on the planet run by Nicole and Matthew, you can loo at their website by following this link you can also connect with them on Facebook!/TrailsAndTailsTravel?fref=ts.


You can follow me on Twitter @ReallyWildWykes where I will be posting regular sources of wildlife news, images and of course my blog updates direct to my Twitter account.
That is all for now everyone thank you for reading and all the best,

That is all for this week I hope you enjoyed the blog and thank you for reading, all the best,

Friday, 5 July 2013

Wildlife highlights and animal behaviour.

Hello and welcome to my latest blog I hope you are all well and looking forward to read this latest edition. While on the train (again) on Monday, I was lucky enough to witness one of my favourite sights, a beautiful adult Buzzard flying effortlessly across the field next to our train the sunlight catching perfectly both its stunning colours and awesome muscular power. As I have set before this is surely one of the most iconic sights of the countryside and it got me thinking what are my top five wildlife encounters so far? after a lot of head scratching I have produced what could be my top five wildlife moments, however by the time you read this my mind may of been changed again ! Also featuring in this blog amazing animal behaviour whether it be unlikely alliances or fascinating behaviour adapted over a period of time unique to a species or even an individual these glimpses into the natural world are sure to fascinate as always I hope you enjoy the blog.

My top five wildlife encounters.

1) An encounter with a speedster.
My visit to South Africa produced numerous highlights which could of featured in this list but I wanted to limit my African experiences to only one space and this ultimately produced one of my hardest decisions. I was incredibly lucky with the wildlife I witnessed, Black Rhinos and African Wild Dogs being two sightings which took our breath away. Top of my list however goes to a species which from a young age captivated me with its beauty and subsequently had me glued to many a nature documentary. When two male Cheetahs emerged from the early morning gloom their elegant frames mere silhouettes at first, but as they approached our research vehicle their beauty was visible for all to see and left me barely able to contain my excitement as the fastest land animal on the planet melted away back into the bush, the Cheetah must top my list.

Image taken by Author.

2) Stealing centre stage.
On a school trip at the age of six, our class was taken to a local theatre to watch a production this particular theatre has a rather stunning sea view directly behind it however, and on a warm, sunny afternoon a marine coleuses was about to steal the limelight. Mid-way through a scene and a gasp of amazement from the crowd followed by excitement which rippled through the audience brought everyone’s attention to the cause of it all. A large fin had broken the surface of the calm waters and now as the crystal clear sea allowed an amazing view of the entire giant the cast began to realise they were fighting a losing battle. Of course this incredible creature was a basking shark and it soon became clear there was another also patrolling the warm upper layers of the water feeding on tiny prey. Everyone seemed to be spellbound by the sheer elegance of these animals despite their size and it remains to this day the best view I have ever had of these magnificent sharks. This was a sight that I am sure will stay with all who were there for many years to come.

3) A wild deer chase.
On a family holiday to Exmoor we all harboured hopes of seeing the Red Deer for which the region is famous for. This was to prove easier said than done however as despite reassurance from the locals we would see them and taking advice and visiting many of the favoured areas for the species, it looked like our luck was out as we went into the final day of our trip. On one of the final drives it was suggested we stopped for a picture, my brother and I exchanged looks at this suggestion the field behind us looked remarkably similar to the many other ones we had just driven by. Except as we got out the car it became apparent there was one very big difference, our movements startled a group of female Red Deer which until this point had remained perfectly hidden in the long grass, as they broke cover we were able to catch a glimpse of them disappear into further cover but we had finally done it! Ironically that evening we were to go on and see many more Red Deer the highlight being a young male strutting right onto the path in front of us. These encounters left us in no doubt they were certainly magnificent, beautiful and elusive !

4) Secretive but clumsy.
When I think of a Badger words such as secretive, mysterious and shy come to mind what doesn't come to mind however is clumsy but this is the exact trait which betrayed this individuals presence and presented me with still my only sighting of a wild Badger. On an evening stroll in the woods again with my brother, a cracking of branches alerted us to the presence of an animal in the near vicinity. Following the noise and limiting as much as possible our own disturbance, the culprit soon became visible, foraging for food, oblivious to our presence a Badger was happily going about its nights work and doing its best to give the impression that Badgers have a tendency to be a little un coordinated, which actually gives me and the individual in question something in common! It was a unique experience however to be able to watch an animal normally so secretive for such a long period of time and definitely not something to be forgotten in a hurry!

5) Fast Falcon.
The Peregrine Falcon is a bird I have been fortunate enough to see on a few different occasions however every viewing is just as special as the previous one. Much like the Cheetah, this bird captured my imagination with its unique speed, beauty and uncanny gracefulness in which it goes about its daily activities. My ninth Birthday is a viewing which stands out in my mind on a coastal walk, our attention was caught by an individual soaring ever higher into the sky, even from such a distance its power was obvious illustrated through the use of binoculars its stunning colours also became clearer it certainly was a fantastic Birthday present.

Amazing animal behaviour.

1) In western USA during late summer, pairs of Coyotes will hunt co-operatively with Sandhill Cranes in freshly cut hay fields. The Sandhill Crane benefits by feeding on grasshoppers flushed out by the Coyotes while the canine predators carefully watch out for rodents such as voles making a break for safety under the Cranes feet.
Source BBC Wildlife July 2013.

2) It has been discovered that Crocodiles swallow large stones which remain a permanent feature of their stomach contents. It has been suggested the reason for this behaviour are so they can be used for ballast whilst diving.

3) Bower birds are amazing Sir David Attenborough explains this stunning behaviour far better than I can ever dream of writing about it.

4) Prairie Dogs have different alarm calls to warn each other of different predators including Coyotes, Hawks, Humans and Dogs. Their calls even contain detailed descriptions of the threat for example the body size of the human and the colour of their clothes.

5) Orcas are highly intelligent, efficient predators this footage shows the ingenious hunting techniques they have developed and perfected over a period of time .

Trails and Tails Travel

Looking for a truly wild and wonderful adventure? want to see some natures most amazing natural creations ? Trails and Tails Travel offers a wide range of once in a lifetime opportunity to visit some of the most amazing locations on the planet run by Nicole and Matthew, you can loo at their website by following this link you can also connect with them on Facebook!/TrailsAndTailsTravel?fref=ts.


You can follow me on Twitter @ReallyWildWykes where I will be posting regular sources of wildlife news, images and of course my blog updates direct to my Twitter account.
That is all for now everyone thank you for reading and all the best,

Friday, 7 June 2013

Wildlife here, there and everywhere!

 Hello and welcome to my latest blog, I trust you all have been keeping well this issue sees the return of the series "senses" while I talk about my recent wildlife experiences including seeing an old favourite bird species of mine, the Goldfinch. As always your feedback is much appreciated and I hope you enjoy this edition
A wide range of wildlife
It's always nice to see a bird species you've not seen for a while so my delight on a visit to my Uncles home to see a pair of beautiful Goldfinches Carduelis carduelis feeding on the selection of seeds left out for them on a feeding station just outside the window was obvious. The bright sunshine really showed off the colours this beautiful member of the finch family is famous for as they fed nervously in the warmth of the late morning sun, constantly on the lookout for predators looking to find their own breakfast. Eventually maybe because they had had their fill or maybe nerves got the better of them they flew off, leaving me thrilled to of seen a species after such a long time without being lucky enough to witness one.
Our own back garden provides home for a wide range of avian species, including another of my personal favourites the Jay Garrulus glandarius. Recently however, we have a new particularly confident visitor more than happy to take advantage of any free offerings he can find, a male Pheasant Phasianus colchicus now frequently makes an appearance in the garden joining an assembly of other ground feeding birds picking of seeds, and any invertebrates unfortunate enough to find themselves exposed at exactly the wrong time. I on one occasion managed to snap a picture of him on his retreat back to the neighbouring field (see below) although you will have to excuse the poor quality as the image was taken on my iPod!
We knew our garden acted as a food source for mammal species including Foxes, Bats and small rodents however my younger brother was startled one night by the arrival of a most unexpected guest. The snuffling sounds of the mammals feeding behaviour betrayed its presence and my brother was shocked to be able to pick out in the darkness just a few feet away from him a Badger, seemingly oblivious to him being there. We assume that alongside feeding on any left overs the daytime visitors refused, the large numbers of slugs which also appear in large numbers at night, were another of away on this occasion and so missed this memorable experience.
I may have my issues with trains on occasions such as liberal time keeping, however as I have said before as far as viewing wildlife is concerned they do have their advantages. Recently I have been treated to some stunning views of majestic Buzzards Buteo buteo gliding effortless across fields while Rabbits Oryctolagus cuniculus and Pheasants are a common but always welcome sight. This week I was lucky enough to see on two successive occasions a magnificent Red Fox Vulpes vulpes seemingly starting its evening hunting activity nose frantically sniffing the long grass perhaps on the trail of an unfortunate rodent or maybe even a predominantly ground dwelling bird like one of the Pheasants I had just witnessed. Either way these fleeting but wonderful views into the world of nature are what never fail to put a smile on my face.

Image taken by author (iPod)
5 species with amazing vision.

Tarsiers Tarsiidae
This nocturnal primate has the largest eyes relative to body size out of all mammals. Each eye weighs more than its brain and has outstanding night vision with some suggestions they may be able to see in ultraviolet light. Their eyes are unable to turn in their sockets, to make up for this disadvantage their flexible necks are able to turn 180 degrees to help them search for both predators and prey.

Leaf Tailed Gecko Uroplatus phantasticusThe pupils of this fascinating reptile are vertical and have a series of "pinholes" which widen at night allowing as much light in as possible. Having far more light sensitive cells than humans allows the Gecko to pinpoint objects and even colours at night. This species and other nocturnal gecko species can see 350 times better in dim light than humans can.


Four Eyed Fish Anablepidae.
The name of this species of fish is deceptive, only in fact possessing two eyes rather than the four the name suggests. These eyes are divided by a band of tissue however resulting in each half of an eye having a pupil of its own. This allows the fish to look both above and below the water simultaneously looking for potential prey and predators alike.

Ogre Faced Spider DinopidaeThis arachnid has six eyes but due to the fact the middle pair are so large some may mistakenly think they only have two. This adaption helps for a nocturnal existence alongside a very light sensitive layer of cells covering them, making for an extremely efficient and ruthless predator.

Stalk Eyed Fly DiopsidaeThese amazing creatures justify their name as a result of the long projections from the sides of their head which have eyes and antennae on the end. In almost all cases male flies will have longer stalks than females and it has been proven the longer the stalk the greater chance of mating success. Males also possess the incredible ability to enlarge their eyeballs by ingesting air through their mouth and subsequently pumped through the ducts in its head through to the eyestalks.

Trails and Tails Travel

Looking for a truly wild and wonderful adventure? want to see some natures most amazing natural creations ? Trails and Tails Travel offers a wide range of once in a lifetime opportunity to visit some of the most amazing locations on the planet run by Nicole and Matthew, you can loo at their website by following this link you can also connect with them on Facebook!/TrailsAndTailsTravel?fref=ts.


You can follow me on Twitter @ReallyWildWykes where I will be posting regular sources of wildlife news, images and of course my blog updates direct to my Twitter account :)

That's all for this week once again I hope you enjoyed untill next time all the best,

Wednesday, 15 May 2013

A stroll along the cliff.

Hello and welcome to my latest blog, I trust you have been making the most of the windows of opportunity we have been presented with due to some improving weather to get outside and explore the great outdoors. This week I take a break from my recent blog features to write about  my coastal experience and the wildlife encountered along the way when last week I visited the north coast of Cornwall, specifically Godrevy. As always I hope you enjoy it.

Waking up to a bright sun shine my mood upbeat, after a period of frankly appalling weather which would of been more at home in the dark depths of winter finally being graced with some weather vaguely resembling something appropriate for the time of year was a welcome relief. And so after convincing mum that an afternoon on the cliffs of Godrevy on Cornwall's north coast looking for seals and other wildlife really was the best way to make the most of the weather  I grabbed my camera and we set off, not being able to drive has its advantages, I can devote all my time to looking out for wildlife on route to our destination. I was pleased to see a variety of bird life including charismatic pheasants who seem to enjoy taking their life in their own hands and making mad and often indecisive darts into the road. How they always seem to escape unscathed when they conduct this behaviour is one of life's great mysteries. Rabbits to were easily visible making darts into the hedgerows as we drove past common they may seem to be but their antics are always entertaining and never boring.
Barely had we had time to park the car at our destination when our camera opportunity presented itself in the form of surely one of Britain's most beautiful raptor species the kestrel.  Hovering with unbelievable elegance the bird of prey surveyed the land beneath it, searching for the slightest movement that might betray the presence of an unwary rodent. The occasional aborted swoop meant frustrated, the predator eventually decided enough energy had been spent for no reward in this area and with a graceful change of direction he/she moved on to new hunting grounds maybe a change of location would bring with it better luck.

Excitement over and the  camera put back in its back after some pretty ordinary photography work we pressed on, marine mammals were what I was particularly hoping to see, in particular seals and I knew we were in the right place Godrevy has a reputation as a seal strong hold. And soon a chorus of grunts and other unflattering noises alerted us before we saw the mammals in question to their presence. At first sight on land they look a little  ungainly and on second look they seem even more so they may be supremely agile and graceful in water but out of it the exact opposite. Despite this the sight of so many endearing and charismatic animals will never fail to bring a smile to any ones face as they jostled for position on the beach while others seemed more content in the shallow surf where even in such little water in was obvious where they were most at home. Pictures taken we moved keen not to outstay our welcome even from way up high on the cliffs as as the signs warned us, even the slightest noise could potentially disturb and distress them.

Visiting a coastline means inevitably at some point you will be greeted with the cacophony of noise which a sea bird colony creates. Kittiwakes stuck close to the cliffs with most allowing the thermals to do most of the hard work for them, saving energy, while Herring Gulls patrolled with a hint of menace about them. A flock of curlews a little further inland even appeared adding their own unique calls to the avian choir. Having the opportunity to spend time in the company of wildlife is a privilege not a right and if we had seen nothing else that would of been fine with me. As we started our drive home however there was one final treat in store, a beautiful sparrowhawk flew across the road in front of us and just as quickly as it appeared it disappeared back into the cover of the vegetation on the side of the road, probably with thoughts of terrorising small birds in mind as it searched for its latest meal a wonderful end to a fantastic afternoon.

Here is something that may interest you fellow wildlife enthusiasts.
Set up by my friends Nicole and Mathew, they offer you the chance to visit some of the most amazing locations on the planet and create memories that will last a lifetime
On facebook -!/TrailsAndTailsTravel/info

You can now follow my wildlife specific twitter account @ReallyWildWykes

That is all for this week everyone, next time I go back into the series of features including "senses " and "conservation success stories" I hope you enjoyed it, until next time all the best,
George :)

Wednesday, 17 April 2013

Saving the Arabain Oryx and some sensitive ears.

Hello and welcome to my latest blog, I hope you have all been well since the last time I updated on here. Regular readers may remember a feature which focused on raising awareness of species in endanger of becoming extinct. In this edition I start a new feature Conservation success stories, where I focus on some of the successful conservation projects which have brought species back from the brink and highlight the work and dedication of passionate conservationists. Also in this update is the next instalment of the feature "senses" this time focusing on species which possess an incredible sense of hearing. As always I hope you enjoy the blog.

 Saving the Arabian Oryx Oryx leucoryx

 It's the early 1960's and the Arabian Oryx looks doomed centuries of suffering through habitat loss and hunting have brought about a decline so severe it looks like there is no way back and now, as a result of the availability of military surplus equipment, enabling trophy hunters to pursue their targets in four by four vehicles, the last of the wild population of Arabian Oryx in Arabia has just been claimed, by 1972 the species is declared extinct in the wild. Something needs to be done to save the species urgently to stop them disappearing of the face of the planet completely, the species needs a saviour and it's about to find one in the shape of Phoenix Zoo. This is the how the Arabian Oryx teetered on the edge of extinction and survived.   

Phoenix Zoo is credited with saving the Arabian Oryx from extinction, while wild populations were being decimated into oblivion; history was being made the project to help establish the first captive breeding heard in any zoo had already begun. Starting with only 9 animals in the year of 1962, the number increased slowly at first by the middle of 1964; what had become known as the "world herd" was now made up of eleven individuals. The year of 1982 signalled the re-introduction of the first of the new population of wild Arabain Oryx. By 1990 the number of wild Arabian Oryx had increased to over 1300, 112 of which had originally been captively bred and successfully released back into their native lands. The reintroduction process had not been a straight forward process, social groups needed to be firmly established alongside the familiarisation process of becoming used to new terrain and vegetation. To do this, individuals prior to being released were kept in fenced enclosures and were then progressed through a series of larger enclosures before they were at last free to roam the deserts of Jordan and Oman once more. It was necessary to establish social groups and after transportation, allow the Oryx to establish familiarity with local terrain and vegetation. The Oryx were initially confined to fenced enclosures and before being progressed through larger and larger enclosures before their final release into the deserts of Jordan and Oman. Further evidence of the remarkable turn around in fortunes of the species can be identified through its gradual re classification on the IUCN redlist. Once "Extinct in the Wild" the species is now classed as "Vulnerable" with a wild population of over 1000 individuals.

The fact this beautiful antelope once again roams at least some of its former range signals one of the great conservation success stories. Had it not been for the passion and dedication of some inspirational people this famous antelope would almost certainly have been consigned to the history books like so many species before it. Stories like this show that despite the problems caused by some groups of people there will always be others with a burning desire to right the wrongs and save a species surely giving hope for other species dicing with extinction.


5 fantastic senses of hearing.

1) Quite simply the Bat - Eared Fox Otocyon megalotis is an extraordinary predator with an incredible pair of ears, which may grow up to 5.3 inches long. These ears are essential for hunting and can detect the sounds of feeding termites on short grass or larvae chewing their through their dung beetle ball underground. 2)

2) The Great Grey Owl Strix nebulosa, surely one of the most beautiful birds in the natural world is another predator which owns an outstanding sense of hearing, essential for detecting its rodent prey under the thick snow.

3) African Elephant Loxodonta africana of course no section on hearing could be written without this most iconic of species being included. These magnificent animals have the ability to hear each other’s calls and subsequently reply to it from over 4 kilometres away. 
Image taken by author.

4) The Tiger Moth Arctiidae has evolved remarkably to deal with the threat of predation by bats. Their hearing is so sensitive they can hear the ultrasonic chirps of bats resulting in them being able to escape their predators.

5) Pigeons as a family (also in the same family as Doves), have remarkable hearing, able to detect sounds at frequencies as low as 0.1 Hz.

That is all on this occasion everyone, I really hope you enjoyed this blog and be sure to keep an eye out for the next one, have a good week! George.

Thursday, 21 March 2013

A new series and a disgusting trade.

  Hello and welcome to my latest blog, hope you have all been well and enjoying everything life has to offer. I have been very busy with coursework and also with writing my entry for the BBC wildlife travel writing competition, more on that in the weeks to come. This edition marks the start of a new series Senses, which will highlight the incredible adaptions of nature which never fail to amaze us. This week smell is chosen sense, prepare to be amazed by the capabilities of the animals and birds we share the planet with. I also look at a trade which sadly shows no sign of stopping and can be described best as inhumane and sickening. As always I hope you enjoy the blog.

                                     5 Super sensitive noses

1) Sharks are one of the top predators in the underwater world and a keen sense of smell is hugely effective for locating prey. A shark can detect one drop of blood in a million drops of water and can smell blood from a quarter of a mile away ( Enchanted Learning 2013).

2) The Spotted Hyena Crocuta crocuta has a keen sense of smell and is able to detect a carcass from several kilometres away ( Predator Conservation Trust 2013).

3) The American BisonBison bison has such an acute sense of smell,it can detect other animals from over two kilometres away which can prove to give valuable early warning about the approach of predators (American Bison Online 2007).

Photo: American Bison, Bison bison.

Natural History Notebooks 2007

4) The Polar Bear Ursus maritimus, surely has one of the most amazing senses of smell in the animal kingdom. Food can be scarce for this top predator so being able to pick up the scent of a seal from five miles away is an invaluable asset.Even being hidden under snow and ice up to three feet thick is not enough to prevent a seal from being detected from this Arctic hunter (Petersen 2008).

5) Several species of Fruit Bat from the genus Pteropus, has the ability to seek our over ripe fruit as a result of their long muzzles which provides plenty of room for olfactory receptors. The tree or bush from where the fruit is fed upon as a result is kept healthy and free of problematic Fruit Flys Tephritidae (Petersen 2008).

                            A disgusting trade.

The pictures do the talking in this highlighting a truly vile trade. Why people think this is an acceptable way to treat any living creature is incredible. The driving force behind this trade is of course human greed and until something is done to ban this most horrendous market, there will always be people who are either uninformed about the suffering of the animal or whose only concern is to jump on the bandwagon of the next must have craze regardless of the suffering it may cause to continue to fund an obscene trade.

That's all from me this week, I hope you enjoyed it and have a good rest of the week,
George .

Wednesday, 27 February 2013

Quick update.

Hello everyone sorry it has taken me so long to give write this however time has been limited recently with coursework and work taking priority. This edition really is as the title suggests a quick update as to what I have been up to recently. I hope you all have been enjoying the dry but colder weather recently ! so without further delay here is the latest edition !

    Plovers, news and humour.

On a recent excursion to a nearby seaside town I was surprised and pleased to see a Ringed Plover confidently patrolling the pavements picking up scraps of food no doubt dropped y passing pedestrians. I watched for several minutes as it seemed unfazed by the strange bipedal creatures which shared its adopted feeding station. Eventually it it moved off, most likely in search of more dropped tasty morsels.,d.d2k&psig=AFQjCNFX_kkgXM-6u31-Gteot6xJTJyx-Q&ust=1362073252914970

 Flights booked! my return to South Africa has picked up pace with the confirmation of my flight to Durban. I will be out there for a little over two weeks to work with some of the most endangered large carnivores on the planet the African Wild Dog. This is a project I am very excited about participating in and hopefully in some way contributing towards making a   difference in  the conservation of this most incredible predator.

Image taken by author

I was pleased to hear that the Zambian government has recently banned the trophy hunting of Leopards and Lions. The government received an income of 3 million dollars a year from the "sport" which was deemed not enough to justify the impact this has on wildlife. Tourism minister Sylvia Masebo had this to say "why should we lose our animals for 3 million dollars a year? the revenue we get from tourists is much higher".
Source BBC Wildlife magazine March 2013.

A source of amusement via Mathew Button

This is really funny have a look at this !

And this as well I'm sure there are people out there that can relate to this !

Thats all from me for this week untill the next time take it easy and thanks for reading,