(Places category) - Quiraing, Isle of Skye, April 06, 2013. The Quiraing is probably one of the most photographed locations in Scotland. I spent the whole previous day looking for a different point of view, since almost all pictures of this vista seem to have been taken from the same standpoint. Taken at 5.30 AM after many attempts. The lighted hill on the right is just what I was waiting for to get a much more interesting light.
(Nature category) - A Little Owl (Athene noctua) defends its feeding position from a Great spotted woodpecker (Dendrocopos major) with both birds showing their full colours with dramatic full wing extensions.
Reversing local extinction: scientists bring the northern bald ibis back to Europe after 300 years
by Federica Di Leonardo
The northern bald ibis (Geronticus eremita), also called the hermit ibis or waldrapp, is a migratory bird. Once, the bald ibis lived in the Middle East, northern Africa and southern and central Europe, but due to hunting, loss of habitat and pesticide-use, the birds disappeared from most of these areas and is currently considered Critically Endangered.
It became extinct in Europe 300 years ago; the bird is almost gone in Syria, with only a single individual recorded at the country’s lone breeding site in 2013; and the only stronghold left is a small population of around 500 birds in Morocco. But now, a team of scientists from Austria is working to reestablish a self-sustaining, migratory population of bald ibis in Europe.
In 2002 Johannes Fritz, who had been a doctoral student in biology at the Konrad Lorenz Research Station in Austria, came up with the idea of taking northern bald ibises from zoos and imprinting them, in effect becoming their foster parent to teach them a new migratory route to Italy…
Some Seemingly Harmless Snakes Possess a Secret Venom Gland
by Rachel Nuwer
Usually, we think of snakes as falling into one of two groups—venomous and nonvenomous. But to the surprise of herpetologists, a new group has emerged, which seems to fall into a previously unknown grey area between venomous and not.
This discovery occurred after victims who received bites from “harmless” snakes—Thrasops flavigularis in Africa and green whip snakes in Europe—began showing suspect symptoms, including problems with neuromotor skills. Upon closer examination, herpetologists noticed that both of those culprit species possess something called the Duvernoy’s gland.
Researchers have long puzzled over what this gland’s purpose is; some think it’s used for helping the snakes swallow and digest food, while others believe it’s a primitive version of what scientists consider true venom glands. With these latest findings, however, herpetologists writing in the journal Toxin propose classifying it as a true venom gland…
The European Robin (Erithacus rubecula) is a small insectivorouspasserine bird that was formerly classed as a member of the thrush family (Turdidae), but is now considered to be a chat. Around 12.5–14.0 cm (5.0–5.5 in) in length, the male and female are similar in colouration, with an orange breast and face lined with grey, brown upperparts and a whitish belly.
The Common parsley frog (Pelodytes punctatus) is a very small and slender frog with long hindlegs, flat head and vertical pupils. Males reach only 3.5, females 4.5 centimetres.
Range: Southern Europe. Common parsley frogs are found in open or semi-open, even arid landscapes, that are typically characterised by the occurrence of Pine and Holm oak stands. They seem to furthermore prefer calcareous soils…
When threatened, it’s capable of swinging its ribs outwards so that their sharp points actually pierce through its own skin to act as defensive barbs. At the same time, its skin secretes a poisonous substance, coating the exposed ribs and turning them into ‘stings’ that can deliver the poison into the thin skin of an unfortunate predator’s mouth.
Surprisingly, the newt doesn’t seem to suffer any ill effects from doing this. Its efficient immune system and ability to regenerate damaged body parts allow it to heal the self-inflicted wounds quickly and carry on just fine.
They’ve also been sent into space on at least six different missions, studying how well they’re able to breed and regenerate in microgravity.