This week we’re hearing from Harold Greeney, author of the forthcoming Helm Identification Guide, Antpittas who is offering you the chance to contribute to his book, published by Bloomsbury Wildlife.
In recent years the nesting behavior of antpittas has become fairly well known. Concurrently, the development of feeding stations has made antpittas go from one of the least photographed to one of the best photographed group of birds out there. This latter change now provides us with the perfect opportunity to learn something about what happens to baby antpittas AFTER they leave the nest. As an example, let’s take one of the showiest (and rarest) of the antpittas, the Jocotoco Antpitta. Here is an adult feeding their youngster in early August of 2009.
Although its plumage did not even remotely resemble that of an adult, it left the nest a few days after this photo was taken. Flash forward 5 months and here is our little guy, still with its parents, in mid-January of 2010.
Help us figure out how the plumage develops in the Jocotoco Antpitta and other species! Every photo helps to complete the timeline. For the Jocotoco Antpitta we are tracking plumage development in fledglings from 2006 to present. So, if you visited Tapichalaca and had the chance to take a few snaps, please send in your photos. In addition, at feeding stations across the Andes, we are beginning to track juveniles and plumage changes for many other species! To learn how to contribute your images for possible inclusion in the book I am writing for Bloomsbury, and how they can help with research into these magical South American birds, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Autumn is upon is – and although it means saying goodbye to those balmy summer nights, it does mean we can turn our minds to something else: mushrooms. Time to get off the hammock, and in to the woods for some foraging.
Wild mushrooms are abundant in Britain and Ireland. They flourish in the warm, wet month of September and can continue right through the autumn. And whether it’s dinner you’re after, or simply a new unknown species, there is a whole other world to be discovered scrambling around on the forest floor.
But to make sure the goods that you bring home, won’t be your last supper, there are some essential guidelines to follow:
- Wear disposal gloves when touching mushrooms.
- Don’t mix mushroom types in the same container.
- Don’t wrap mushrooms in cling film, but paper – they need room to breathe.
- Examine each mushroom carefully for insects, slugs or grubs. If the mushroom has been nibbled in any way, discard.
- Ignore folk tales on mushrooms like ‘Poisonous mushrooms are brightly colored’ – in contrast, two of the most deadly are white and brown.
- Be careful if you are a pet owner and want to take the dog foraging – they are the highest on the list of victims of poisonous mushrooms.
- Do not leave the house without a mushroom field guide to help you identify mushroom types.
Recommended mushroom books:
Nicola Chester invites you on a trip to see that well-loved British mammal, the otter.
I am obsessed with all manner of British wildlife, but particularly so at the moment with otters – having just spent the past year writing about them. I read about otters, track them and, very occasionally, see them. But this winter’s flooding has meant my usual riverine haunts are off limits – changed and overwhelmed.
So I dream about them more, think I see them in unlikely places: I have an otter curled up wetly in my brain like a strange hat, leaking river water out over my eyelashes.
The flooding will have displaced them, as it has so many other species, including our own. The tunnelled tracks through the grass, the slides and the sprainting ‘seats’ on the tumps of greater tussock sedge – all my touchstones, as well as their holts – are still under water.
On my last foray, I went as far as my welly-tops allowed, to stand in awe at lakes gated and divided by fences, drowned snowdrops gleaming below the surface like a submerged village. Half-forgotten streams, brooks and bournes had risen and swelled, rioting like a pack gone wild, hunting downstream to re-plumb their map of old routes and break over new ground to pour into a river already too full of itself.
Even now, as I look for the river’s edge through the wood, leaves from the tall poplars still carry the reverberations of all that rain like tuning forks; their frisson of rustling making the sound of rushing water. I find my way in at half-past-five, testing alternate steps for solid ground. Barbed wire and bramble arches are festooned with rags of reeds tugged from the water’s flow.
It is impossible not to avoid the crack of so many fallen branches or creep quietly over such sticky, sucky ground. I concentrate hard, and before I have time to register a singing whine of steel rails, a train rushes up from Exeter and a brief moment of panic nearly sends me into the river as it blasts right by. I had forgotten the track was there at all. I compose myself in the quiet afterwards, and find a tree to lean on.
This benign chalk stream, famed for its gin-clear clarity, is not like itself. It is flint green and grey as bath water and moving frighteningly fast. I think about the local stories of otter cubs being rescued downstream. Otters are intelligent, resourceful, curious and nomadic creatures and, although the challenges are many and varied, experienced, independent adults are equipped to deal with such a rapidly changing environment.
Just before the light starts to fail and I must go, something eel-like rises from the water in a curve and vanishes, downstream to where I’d been looking. There was no splash and it was not a fish. I watch the river until my eyes sting and run, but nothing re-appears. I know that, sometimes, this is all you see of a passing otter: a wave of its thick rudder tail as it dives, having spotted you first. What I saw whispers otter – but does not shout it. It could have been a branch, smooth and turning in the strong current – and I know, to be here at the precise time the otter was passing, in a river in spate such as this – and to see it? Almost – but not quite – impossible.
Nicola is the author of RSPB Spotlight: Otters
Also look out for: