Saturday, 17 January 2015
Friday, 2 January 2015
There are very few species of small(ish) reptile which are famous outside their native range unless they are venomous or brightly coloured, but the Tuatara Sphenodon punctatus of New Zealand is certainly among that select number. Their fame is due to their being the sole survivor of a unique lineage of reptiles separate from the turtles, the archosaurs, and the lizards, although they are most nearly related to the last, although since they split from the common ancestor with the lizards well over a quarter of a billion years ago even that is not close. The book reviewed here is a summary and survey of the whole of tuatara-related research, and covers not just the biology and ecology of the living animal, but its evolutionary history, interactions with humans, and their past, present, and future conservation status.
Tuesday, 30 December 2014
|Red Kites and crows|
With a trip list for the week of only 66 species, Corsica was not the most species-rich place I have been birding, and birds were often hard to find, but we got good views of the endemic Corsican Nuthatch on several occasions, and the also endemic Corsican Finch twice. The Crossbills we found are not classed as an endemic species at present, but are classed as an endemic subspecies Loxia curvirostra corsicana. Taxonomy of the various forms of L. curvirostra is perhaps best described as “challenging” – there are numerous localised forms with different beak sizes depending on the dominant conifer cones they feed on, and many of these are prone to irruptive dispersal when the cone crop fails.
Friday, 19 December 2014
|Free range domestic pig|
Unfortunately, the only mammals we actually saw on Corsica were domesticated pigs and goats. One wild mammal however features very prominently in Corsican ecology, culture, and cuisine – the wild boar Sus scrofa. Hunting is a major pastime on Corsica, and when we were there it was a peak of the hunting season. More or less every day we would see trucks go by with hunting parties, and often heard shots from the hunters. I have to say that wild boar stews are extremely tasty. For those who have not eaten it, wild boar is a very dark, lean meat more like venison than pork.
Friday, 12 December 2014
There are of course many species of reptiles on Corsica, but as this was a mainly bird and botany focussed holiday we did not go seeking them out especially. Despite this, we found at least three species of lizard, including the endemic Tyrrhenian Wall Lizard Podarcis tiliguerta. This was the most widely seen of all the lizards we found, occurring from sea level up to altitude, and they were obvious whenever the sun was out and they could bask.