Categories
Snakes

The King Cobra

by Annette J Beveridge

Editor Annette J Beveridge

Few snakes strike fear into the heart as much as the king cobra (Ophiophagus hannah). Found in jungles in southern and south-east Asia, the King Cobra is the longest venomous snake in the world with an average length of 10-13 ft (3 -4 metres). The largest recorded king cobra was discovered in Thailand and reached 18ft 4 inches.

The King Cobra is dangerous but often misunderstood. Highly venomous, they will try to avoid confrontation but will provide an intimidating display if....

Capable of lifting 1/3 of its body off the ground, the king cobra moves from side to side in a threatening pose. With black, penetrating eyes, they are identifiable by the hood that flares outwards when the snake feels threatened. The hood is actually the ribs and muscles.

A group of king cobras is called a quiver

 

These are smooth snakes with a yellow, brown, green and black scaly pattern. On the back of the neck, there is a distinctive pattern of colour. Some king cobras are leucistic, and this is where much of the colouration is missing due to a partial loss of pigmentation. The snake may have white or patchy colouring.

These snakes are primarily killers of other snakes and lizards and will take rat snakes, green whip snake, pit vipers, kraits, pythons, and other cobras as a primary food source. If food becomes scarce, they will feed on small vertebrates. Once the snake has eaten well, it will not need to eat again for months due to a slow metabolic rate. King cobras have been known to constrict prey but this is not typical.

Categories
Nature Experiences

The Hunt for the Ocellated Lizard

Editor Annette J Beveridge

By Annette J Beveridge

My brother and I spent a great deal of time searching for the elusive ocellated lizard while living in Spain. He had practically stumbled across an impressive male in the rough scrubland nearby and had rushed over to my house excited about his latest discovery. Both keen conservationists, I was eager to find one too and knowing these beautiful lizards were ‘almost’ on the doorstep was tantalising.

Near to the house, an area of desert-like scrub stretched for miles all the way to a small beach town on the far distant horizon. The terrain was hot, arid and in places, difficult to navigate. Having done a little research, I knew that the habitat – made up of dry, bushy shrubs, sparsely dotted trees, scrubby woodland in places and rocky, sandy areas, were perfect for this lizard.

We started searching in earnest trying to glimpse any movement. I searched for abandoned rabbit burrows too knowing that these lizards would make use of them. The heat sapped our energy. There was little shade and the sun was torturous at times. Spending hours in 40+ degree heat is really not easy. At times, I had to give in.

Categories
Mammals

The Secret World of The Banded Mongoose

By Annette J Beveridge

Nature holds many secrets. By glimpsing inside the everyday life of certain species, it enables us a much stronger interaction and connection with the natural world. Most mongoose species live solitary lives but the banded mongoose is different as they live in colonies with complex social structures. They make use of dens – including termite mounds and colonies may have up to 40 animals although can be larger on occasion.

Native in the Sahel to Southern Africa, these animals thrive in open forests, grasslands, and savannas. Food is varied from millipedes to beetles and they will take small reptiles, birds, ants, crickets, and caterpillars. On occasion, small snakes will also be on the menu. Foraging takes place in the morning and late afternoon, so they avoid being out in the heat of the day. With a keen sense of smell, they dig up their prey using powerful claws and often monitor the piles of dung made by herbivores as these attract beetles.

Categories
Ocean wildlife

The Strange World of the Sunfish

by Annette J Beveridge

The oceans are filled with strange creatures and the sunfish is no exception. Using their large dorsal and anal fins to swim, they can move at speed when avoiding predators or, when they locate prey but are mostly seen simply drifting in the ocean currents. They are the heaviest of the bony fish weighing up to 1500 lbs – their size is impressive and they dwarf divers who are fortunate enough to swim with them. At birth, they have a back fin but this disappears as they mature. It appears to fold into the fish itself. Lying on one side as they manoeuvre through the ocean, these are spectacularly odd-shaped fish that have been mistaken for sharks when they emerge from the depths.

Descended from bony ancestors, the sunfish has cartilaginous tissues which is lighter than bone and as an adaptation, enables the fish to grow to an immense size. The teeth are fused – resembling a beak and they are unable to close their mouths. Sunfish have few enemies once they reach maturity but they do fall foul of boats when floating just beneath the surface and are at risk of becoming entangled in drift nets. Immature sunfish are predated on by sharks, whales. or sea lions.

Categories
Birds

Introducing the Charismatic Nightjar

Editor Annette J Beveridge

by Annette J Beveridge

The elusive nightjar arrives in the UK in late April to Mid-May opting for heathland, moorland or young conifer woods in England, Wales and in southern Scotland. They are most numerous in southern England with the New Forest being a prime breeding area. The male occupies his territory and then advertises his presence, patrolling, chasing off any birds that may trespass. Fanning his tail, he holds his wings in a V shape.

European Nightjar

Masters of camouflage

With black/brown plumage resembling old leaves or tree bark, these birds are truly the masters of camouflage. During the day, they blend into the background remaining quite still. With a flat, wide head, large eyes and a bill with a large gape, the surrounding bristles help them to hunt. For identification, males have white patches on the wing and tail. They have a wingspan of 60cm and are 26-28cm in length. The average lifespan for a nightjar is 4 years.

Categories
Birds of Prey Nature Experiences

Griffon Vultures – Up Close and Personal

by Annette J Beveridge

Editor Annette J Beveridge

Gliding across an expansive sky, wings outstretched, Griffon vultures are a sight to behold. Their flight appears effortless as they counter any changing winds, adapting, and using air thermals to gain height. Vultures may not be the most charismatic of birds – considered more as the undertakers of the bird world. Griffon vultures are no different feasting on the soft tissue of animals – the muscles and viscera where they have to plunge their heads deep into the bloodied carcasses. Their highly acidic digestive systems are able to manage rotting meat. It may not be pretty but these birds are vital for the health of the environment, for other animals and for us.  

Griffon vultures are so impressive. They are large – growing up to 38 inches in height and with a wingspan reaching up to 9ft, they soar effortlessly for miles reaching altitudes of up to 3,500 metres above sea level.

Where it began

My affinity for these impressive birds began about 9 years ago while living in the foothills of the Pyrenees. Living in a purpose-built eco home perched on the lower slopes of the Pyrenees, my daily views were of a green landscape, the valley below, and distant snow-capped mountain peaks. Every day, it felt as if the scene refreshed. At times, I could see the snow-capped peaks. At other times, those same mountain peaks were obscured, wrapped within shrouds of low clouds. Sunsets were a spectacular mix of vibrant hues spreading low over the horizon and the thunderstorms, which were magnificent, seeming to zone in on the mountains.  

Categories
Wildlife Gardening

How Bog Gardens Add Nature Appeal

Yellow Iris

By Annette J Beveridge

If you are trying to make your garden more welcoming to nature, think about adding a bog garden. There are so many beautiful plants that thrive in bog gardens and you can make it both beautiful and dramatic. They are perfect for attracting bees, butterflies and other insects. If you have an existing damp area in the garden, this is ideal and if you have a pond, consider adding a bog garden as a feature at the side. They are easy to create and so worth the effort forming a connection between ecosystems.  Here is everything you need to know….

Categories
EcoRIGHTS Environmental

EcoRIGHTS – Making A Stand

Annette J Beveridge

When you look around your local area can you see the so-called signs of progress as new housing developments take over glorious open spaces? Do you find yourself wishing you could turn the clock back to a time when life was simpler and nature thrived?

Ever since the pandemic struck, it is true to say that many people have developed a renewed understanding of the benefits of nature. With life standing still, many of us embraced local walks, listened to bird song, took pleasure in sitting in woodlands or, by rivers and have enjoyed the changing seasons. Nature offered solace and a way to offset anxiety. But although we may recognise the importance of nature, our government seemingly, still does not. The mantra Build, Build, Build says it all. As a nature-depleted country, we cannot afford to lose more land unnecessarily. Right now, there is a lot of promises to protect the environment but very little action. Environmental issues are rife…..here’s why.

Categories
Hiking

Love Hiking? Intensify the Experience with Mindfulness and Meditation

There is no better feeling than embracing life in the great outdoors. To experience nature by immersing yourself within it is therapeutic and it connects you to your intrinsic self.  We are all a part of nature and so, we must feel it and believe in it and live it. This is where the truest benefits are gained. The experience is not just at surface level where we admire the views, but the sense of tranquillity, awe and emotional release is experienced at core level. If you love hiking, you can increase the potency of the whole experience by utilizing mindfulness and meditation. So, whether walking through woodlands or hiking up hills or along mountain trails, use the sensory stimulus all around and draw it deep within. Here’s how.

Categories
British Garden Birds

Blue Tits – Inquisitive Frequent Visitors to the Garden

Blue Tits have long been favourite visitors to the garden. They are so inquisitive and easily encouraged to a bird table or feeding station. Supply them with a variety of food – from mixed seeds, meal worms or fat balls and they will visit regularly.  Blue Tits are highly adaptive, small birds with a short life span generally. On average, they live around 2.5 years but the oldest Blue Tit on record lived for an incredible 21 years. Blue Tits are fascinating….here’s why.