Wednesday, 30 April 2014

Crab Spider

This shot of a crab spider (Misumena vatia) was taken in the Itchen Valley Country Park in April 2014. It was taken with a borrowed macro lens (Tamron SP AF 90mm f/2.8 Di Macro).

Crab spiders can be found throughout the southern half of England and Wales. They are most commonly found on the borders between grass and scrub. They hide on flowers and wait for flies or other small insects to land near them, then pounce and catch them with their front legs.

Mature female crab spiders can change colour between white and yellow to match the plant that they are hunting on. When on a yellow flower, this is done by secreting a liquid yellow pigment into the outer cell layer of the body. On a white flower, this yellow pigment is transported into lower cell layers so that inner glands, which are white, show through. To change from white to yellow takes between 10 and 25 days, whereas to change from yellow to white only takes six days. Mature males are smaller and predominantly brown.

Wednesday, 23 April 2014

Black Kite

This portrait of a Black Kite (Milvus migrans) was taken at Liberty's Owl, Raptor and Reptile Centre in Ringwood, Hampshire in February 2014.

Black Kites can be found throughout the continents of Europe, Asia, Africa and Australia. They are mainly migratory, with birds from the temperate parts of Europe and northern Asia travelling to sub-Saharan Africa for winter. Birds that are resident to tropical regions do not tend to migrate. They are not resident in the UK, but can occasionally be seen during their migration.

Their diet primarily consists of carrion, small mammals, fish, and birds. They soar on thermals as they search for food, then swoop with their legs lowered to snatch the prey. They also scavenge food from household refuse.

Black Kites are currently classified as "least concern", with an estimated six million individuals worldwide. They are one of the most common raptors in the world, despite a decline in the overall population due to poisoning, shooting, pollution of water, overuse of pesticides and loss of habitat.

Wednesday, 16 April 2014

Lake Alpsee, Germany

Lake Alpsee is located in the Alpine foothills near F├╝ssen in southwest Bavaria, Germany. SUPS travelled to Munich in January 2014 for our annual international trip, and we visited the lake when we went to see the nearby Neuschwanstein Castle.

The lake is the largest natural lake in the region. It covers an area of nearly one square kilometre, with just under five kilometres of shoreline and a depth of up to 62 metres.

Wednesday, 9 April 2014

Snow Leopard

This is Marwell Zoo's male snow leopard (Panthera uncia syn. Uncia uncia) cub Ajendra at eleven months old. This photo was taken in March 2014 with a borrowed lens (Canon EF 300mm f/4L IS USM).

Snow leopards are found throughout the mountain ranges of Central Asia, where they are well adapted to their life on the cold and steep mountain sides. They have a very thick coat to protect against the cold. A long flexible furry tail is used for balance, as well as to wrap around themselves for further warmth. They have large paws and short fore-limbs for walking on snow, and large hind-limbs for leaping.

The main prey for snow leopards are wild goats and sheep which live in the mountain ranges, though they will also take smaller prey such as hares and large birds. They are mostly solitary animals, except for when a mother has cubs. The cubs remain with their mother until they are independent, which is usually around 18-22 months.

There has been a lot of debate as to the classification of snow leopards. Traditionally the term "big cat" has been applied to the cats that can roar, which includes tigers, lions, leopards and jaguars. These are all members of the genus Panthera. Snow leopards cannot roar and so originally they were not thought to be big cats, and were classified as Uncia uncia. However, recent studies have revealed that the snow leopard is closely related to the big cats, in particular the tiger. They have been considered part of the genus Panthera since 2008, being classified as Panthera uncia.

Snow leopards are currently classified as "endangered". The primary reasons for this are loss of habitat and prey due to human expansion, illegal hunting for their fur and traditional Asian medicine, and herders killing them to protect their livestock. It is currently estimated that there are between 4,000 and 6,500 snow leopards left in the wild.

Wednesday, 2 April 2014

Blue Tit

This shot of a Blue Tit (Cyanistes caeruleus) was taken from the Woodland Hide at Blashford Lakes Nature Reserve in Ringwood, Hampshire. It was taken in March 2014 with a borrowed lens (Canon EF 300mm f/4L IS USM).

The Blue Tit can be found throughout Europe. They are a resident and non-migratory bird, and are commonly found in woodland, hedgerows, parks and gardens. They eat insects, caterpillars, seeds and nuts.