Jan 25

January 25th marks the Birthday of Robert Burns (1759-1796), an iconic Scottish figure and one of the world’s most famous poets. Admired for his poems, love songs and cheeky character, Robert Burns created works which are still well known today, such as Auld Lang Syne, one of the most popular songs in the English language. Since Burns’ early death over 200 years ago, people have gathered together every year to commemorate his life and work. Burns Night is one of the most celebrated events in Scottish culture, and the occasion is recognised all over the world. Typically, a supper is held on or around January 25th, which includes a traditional Scottish meal, Scotch whisky, music, speeches and recitation of Robert Burns’ work. In memory of Robert Burns, we thought we’d delve into the ARKive collection and celebrate all things Scottish!

Spear thistle

Spear thistle image

Spear thistle in flower

Legend has it the Scottish army were alerted to the onset of Viking intruders after one of them stood on a thistle barefooted and cried out in pain. The thistle has been the national emblem of Scotland for centuries, and the earliest record of it being used as a royal symbol is on coins issued by James III in 1470. Although the actual species of thistle is disputed, some believe that the spear thistle is most likely to be the true ‘Scotch thistle’, as it is abundant and native to Scotland.

Red deer

Red deer image

Red deer stag roaring during rut

Britain’s largest land mammal, the red deer is widespread throughout Scotland, with an estimated population of 300,000. In winter, the red deer tend to move from the hills and remote glens to lower areas with shelter and a more abundant food supply. In winter the coat is brown or grey, but it changes to a reddish-brown in the summer.

Puffin

Puffin image

Puffin

In April, puffins begin arriving around the Scottish coast to breed. Almost one million puffins choose to breed in Scotland, and most are concentrated in just a few colonies in the north and west. Puffins nest in burrows or in rocky crevices, and normally lay a single egg in May. The best time to see puffins in Scotland is in mid-July, when the adults are busy collecting sand eels to feed the pufflings.

Scottish wildcat

Scottish wildcat image

Scottish wildcat resting in woodland

It is thought that fewer than 400 ‘genetically pure’ wildcats remain in Scotland today. This is because wildcats breed with domestic cats, creating hybrids which are diluting the population. The wildcat is solitary and usually hunts at night. It catches rabbits, hares, voles and mice, but it may also feed on small birds, frogs and even insects.

Osprey

Osprey image

Osprey carrying a fish

Ospreys arrive in Scotland to breed in late April to early May after an amazing journey from western Africa, which takes about 20 flying days. There are around 200 breeding osprey pairs in Scotland, and the best places to see them include Loch Garten and Loch of the Lowes. Ospreys return to their wintering grounds in West Africa in late August to mid-September. If you can’t make it to Scotland this summer, why not watch this fantastic osprey video – it’s the most popular one on ARKive!

Scots pine

Scots pine image

Scots pine forest

The Scots pine is native to Scotland and is a dominant tree in the Caledonian Forest, which is also made up of birch, aspen, rowan, oak and juniper. Although pinewood forests were once spread over most of the Highlands, only 1% of the original forest remains, split into smaller, fragmented pockets. The oldest scientifically dated Scots pine in Scotland is Glen Loyne, which was estimated to be 550 years old in the late 1990s.

Bottlenose dolphin

Bottlenose dolphin image

Bottlenose dolphins breaching

Bottlenose dolphins inhabit the waters around the Scottish coast throughout the year, but they are easiest to spot during the spring and summer. The Moray Firth is home to the most northerly resident bottlenose dolphin population in the world, and is one of the best places to watch dolphins in Scotland. Compared to bottlenose dolphins in warmer climates, such as Florida, the Moray Firth dolphins are larger and fatter to insulate them from the colder water.

Eurasian beaver

Eurasian beaver image

Eurasian beaver feeding

Between May 2009 and September 2010, 16 Eurasian beavers were released into the wild in Knapdale Forest, Mid-Argyll, as part of a monitored trial. The first beaver kit (named Barney) was born in spring 2010, making him the first to be born in the wild in Scotland for over 400 years! At the end of the trial, decisions will be made about the future of beavers in Knapdale Forest and other possible reintroduction sites in Scotland. You can see some videos of the introduced beavers on the Scottish Beaver Trial blog.

Let us know if your favourite Scottish species is missing from our blog! How are you planning to celebrate Burns Night?

Jan 18

The third Monday in January is advertised as being the most depressing day of the year. This might be just be a bunch of pseudoscience but we’re here to brighten up this particular Monday in January with some of the natural world’s most amazing blue species.

Forget about The Smurfs, Dory, Aladdin and the Cookie Monster– nature’s got its own pretty cool line-up of blue characters.

1. Blue-footed booby

Blue-footed booby

These rather comical-looking characters use their fabulous bright blue webbed feet as part of their mating rituals. The male birds strut their elaborate feet in front of prospective mates. The bluer the feet, the more attractive the mate. Just check out those dance moves…

2. Sun-tailed monkey

Sun-tailed monkey

 First described in 1986, males of this Vulnerable African monkey species have a rather conspicuous bright blue scrotum.

3. Blue shark

Blue shark

The graceful blue shark is easily identified by its beautifully coloured slender body with deep indigo-blue across the back and vibrant blue on the sides. Unfortunately, this striking species is one of the most heavily fished sharks in the world, with an estimated 10 to 20 million individuals caught each year.

4. Parson’s chameleon

Parson's chameleon

The largest chameleon in the world might look rather blue but it’s only temporary. Like all its fellow chameleon species, the Parson’s chameleon is capable of colour change and it’s not just for camouflage. This rather bizarre-looking lizard with its independently-moving eyes and fused toes is thought to change colour in response to other chameleons (when fighting or mating) and temperature.

5. Dyeing poison frog

Dyeing poison frog

The bright colouration of this alluring frog species is thought to function as a warning to predators that it is poisonous. The dyeing poison frog is named from an old legend in which native people used the frog to change (dye) the plain green feathers of parrots into red feathers.

6. Southern blue-ringed octopus

Southern blue-ringed octopus

Named for the small, iridescent blue spots it develops when alarmed, the southern blue-ringed octopus is one of the world’s deadliest venomous animals. The toxin in its venom is 1,000 times more powerful than cyanide.

7. Blue pipe

Blue pipe

A member of the iris family, the blue pipe is one of the many species of Gladiolus that grow in the incredibly biodiverse Cape Floristic Region of South Africa. The blue pipe is a geophyte, meaning that it is capable of surviving long periods of unfavourable conditions by using an underground food storage organ. During the dry season, the above ground parts of the blue pipe die back, but the plant persists in the soil as a short, swollen stem known as a corm. When it rains, the dormant corm is triggered to renew its above-ground growth, causing the plant to flower once again.

8. Ribbontailed stingray

Ribbontailed stingray

The brightly-coloured skin of the ribbontailed stingray acts as warning colouration to alert other animals that it is venomous. Distinctive blue stripes also run along either side of the tail, which is equipped with one or two sharp venomous spines at the tip, used by the ray to fend off predators.

9. Common blue damselfly

Common blue damselfly

This beautiful damselfly is one of only two species of damselfly that can be found in both Europe and North America, its range almost completely circling the Northern Hemisphere.

10. Blue whale

Blue whale

And finally, even the largest animal to have ever lived, the blue whale, rocks the colour blue!

Sep 9

Communicate is the UK’s leading conference for environmental communicators, with around 150 delegates from over 80 different organisations attending for two days of inspiring content, interactive workshops and engaging discussion. This year’s Communicate takes place over the 10th and 11th of November in Bristol, UK in the At-Bristol Science Centre.

-® JonCraig.co.uk 81_

Credit: JonCraig.co.uk

This year’s theme, Challenging Partnerships, explores the possibility of collaboration between environmental groups and those from other sectors. The  urgency  of  the  threats  faced  by  the  natural  world  demands  new  ways  of  working  because these problems are too big and too complex for any single organisation to tackle alone. We must be open to collaboration, innovation and doing things differently – to partnerships of possibility. We must transcend the boundaries of our individual brands, sectors and ideologies to challenge the status quo and create a compelling, unified story for change.

Communicate 2015 will explore the following questions: How do we as communicators break beyond the environmental bubble of usual suspects and what can we achieve working with, rather than against, more unusual bedfellows? What can we learn from scientists, journalists, corporations and politicians to help us challenge our own preconception sand influence genuine positive change for nature in policy, evidence, attitudes and actions? How can we unify the sector to build a single, compelling, consistent environmental story?

-® JonCraig.co.uk 101_

Credit: JonCraig.co.uk

Visit CommunicateNow.org.uk for more information and to reserve your ticket or follow @Communicate_15 on Twitter to keep up to date with exciting programme additions!

Aug 17

The Wildscreen Exchange is a dynamic new conservation initiative by the creators of Arkive. Using some of the best filmmakers and photographers on Earth, Wildscreen are creating films and photos that tell the stories of some the natural world’s most overlooked yet beautifully unique species and the amazing people who have dedicated their lives to help them. Please help us tell their stories while we can still do it in the present tense.

You can vote once a day, every day (if you’d like to!) by writing ‘I #vote for @WildscreenEx #UpgradeYourWorld’ on Twitter or Instagram. Or you can vote on Facebook by tagging the Wildscreen Exchange Facebook page and writing the same phrase as above. Voting closes on August 23rd.
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You can see some of the images created by Exchange photographers, alongside thousands of other images that have been kindly donated by some of the world’s best wildlife photographers, on our website. These images are freely available to conservation organisations to use in their non-commercial communications, saving vital resources, budget and time.

Watch the Exchange promotional video featuring Sir David Attenborough here.

Thanks in advance!

Nov 26

In the United States, folks are gearing up for a major meal tomorrow centered around one, iconic bird … the turkey! The theme of Thanksgiving is just that, to give thanks. So we’d like to shed some light on turkey species around the globe and give a little thanks for the great diversity of species we have on Earth. Some species you know and some we bet you’ve never seen before.

Any of these turkey’s ring a bell?

Ocellated turkey

Ocellated turkey photo

Check out this beauty! The ocellated turkey is a conspicuous, vibrant-colored bird that can be easily distinguished from one of its closest turkey cousins, the larger and less colorful North American wild turkey.

Turkey-chick

Turkey-chick photo

Maybe not a turkey that you are familiar with, but a “turkey” nonetheless! The peculiarly named turkey-chick is a geophyte; a plant that can survive periods of unfavorable conditions due to an underground food-storage organ. One of these would be mighty helpful during the average Thanksgiving Day meal, wouldn’t you agree?

Turkey vulture

Turkey vulture photo

So a turkey vulture isn’t exactly the same as the typical bird that comes to mind on Thanksgiving, but at least this turkey has feathers! Did you know that flocks of tens of thousands turkey vulture migrate together from North America to South America each year? Imagine a roost of that size for Thanksgiving dinner!

Wild turkey

Wild turkey photo

A much more familiar turkey, the wild turkey, which is the wild relative of one of only two domesticated birds to have originated in North America, the wild turkey (Meleagris gallopavo) is one of the largest and most distinctive members of the Galliformes (a group of game birds which includes grouse, pheasants and partridges.

We hope you enjoyed our mini-turkey tour and from all of us at Arkive, we wish you a Happy Thanksgiving!

Ari Pineda, Program Coordinator, Wildscreen USA

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