Dinosaur of the week: Brown Skua

 

brown skua

Skua taxonomy is a wee bit confusing, but I think this is a Stercorarius antarcticus which I saw on King George Island on my trip to Antarctica a few years ago.

Skuas seem to have amazing cognitive abilities. Like crows and pigeons, they can recognize individual humans (doi: 10.1007/s10071-016-0970-9).

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Dinosaur of the week: Egyptian Goose

Alopoegyptian goose

These two Alopochen aegyptica were part of a feral population in Regent’s Park, but I’ve also seen this species in southern Africa in its natural habitat.

The overall numbers of these geese are declining because of shooting and poisoning.

Dinosaur of the week: Common Ringed Plover

plover

Small birds and waders are tricky to catch, and small wading birds in full camouflage even more so. I almost overlooked this Charadrius hiaticula which I encountered around sunset some years ago on the west coast of Scotland.

Among other issues this migratory species is threatened by petroleum pollution and wetland drainage for irrigation. We really need to get on with the Half-Earth project and population control of Homo sapiens.

Dinosaur of the week: Brahminy Kite

eagle

This Haliastur indus was hunting over a river in southern Cambodia. Australians call the species red-backed sea-eagle.

From the IUCN Red List:  The population is declining, especially in South-East Asia, owing to loss of habitat, persecution, over-use of pesticides and, possibly, increased human hygiene resulting in reduction of available scraps.

Algeria – Misserghin, Home of the Clementine

Misserghin is a small town just south of Oran on the banks of the salt lake Sebkha. It’s most famous for the Clementine, named after abbot Father Clementine who bred it towards the end of the 19th century. My guide book said one could visit the remains of the abbey, so while my parents were over for a visit we took the opportunity to go exploring.

We hired a taxi for a day (6000 Dinar). The driver had never been to the place but was also curious, and after a bit of asking and some U-turns we eventually found the entrance to the property. I immediately fell in love with the gardens. No abbey to be seen anywhere though, at least nothing that I would have recognized as such.

Turns out, when the French Catholics were here, they made use of much older buildings of Ottoman origin. The people who run the place now have turned it into some kind of agricultural commune, and welcomed us warmly. Communicating was a wee bit tricky since none of us had more than a smattering of French or Arabic and our hosts next to no English or German, but our enthusiasm for gardening and history more than made up for this.

We got a tour of the old office buildings of the abbey plus the stables with very content looking cattle and then we ventured underground. Tunnels! Originally, those had been used to hide from whoever was the enemy of the day. Nowadays, they’re used for growing mushrooms.

Then we were taken for a tour around the fields and the flower garden. Along the way, our hosts explained about the different grains, vegetables and what most people would call weeds and how they’re used as spices or ingredients for a salad. And at every stage we were given some samples to taste or to take with us.

It was incredible. Of course, we also admired a field with young Clementine trees. Fruit growers from all over the world still come to Misserghin to learn about the plant and how to handle it.

clementines

church

 

Towards the end of our tour we visited the old abbey church too. These days, it’s used as a community centre. When we were there, about a dozen people were learning about apiary. It was fascinating to watch how they got the tiny larva out of the honey comb to put it into a nourishing solution – if I understood correctly this is done to produce queen larvae. Tell me in the comments if that makes sense as I know nothing about bee-keeping.

So, a day full of new discoveries and plenty of organically grown food. Many thanks again to our hosts at the now-farm former-abbey in Misserghin.

apiary

Dinosaur of the week: Greater Flamingo

flamingo

A few weeks ago I spent a handful of days in the south of France. This Phoenicopterus roseus and its hundreds of kin were foraging in the Parc Ornithologique Pont de Gau near Montpellier. The species is threatened by pollution in the water and shriking wetlands.

I think Half-Earth is such a wonderful idea. Homo sapiens should stay in restricted areas and be limited in numbers (birthcontrol), and all the millions of other species get back their space.