Apr 12

Although it may not feel like it with all the cold weather we’ve been having recently, here in the UK we are well into spring and heading towards summer. As the temperatures begin to creep up, now is the perfect time to get out and about and start exploring the diverse range of habitats the UK has to offer. Being an island, the UK boasts over 6,000 kilometres of shoreline, and heading down to the seaside is a popular pastime for people of all ages. It is said that in the UK you are never more than about 70 miles from the sea, so why not make a day of it and visit one of the beautiful sandy beaches that our coastline has to offer?

Beach photo

Sandy beach at Three Crowns Bay on the Gower Peninsula, Wales

While sandy shores may not seem an obvious place to find wildlife, a wealth of invertebrate and fish species live below the sand, buried out of sight. If you are lucky, you may also spot seals hauled out on the beach, or shorebirds foraging for prey in the sand or among the debris of the strandline. Visitors to beaches such as Studland on Dorset’s Jurassic Coast could be treated to an even rarer sight, as sand lizards can be spotted here in the dunes and heathland which border the beach.

Sand lizard photo

Sand lizard feeding on prey

Studland photo

Sandstone cliffs and sandy beach at Studland Bay

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Certain beaches are renowned for their bird life, such as Titchwell Marsh on the north Norfolk coast. Here you can see curlew sandpipers, avocets, redshank and many other waders, particularly in the summer and autumn. Looking further north, Balranald on the Outer Hebrides is another haven for a number of bird species, inlcuding  little terns which can be spotted fishing along the shore.

Curlew sandpiper photo

Curlew sandpipers feeding at sunrise

Of course, part of the fun of heading to the beach is spotting signs of invertebrate life, and I’m sure that like me, many of you spent hours of your childhood searching for shells and other treasures. If you fancy re-living your youth, or you’d like to introduce the next generation to the wonders that wash ashore, make sure you take along a copy of our beach treasure hunt activity next time you visit the seaside; a PDF version can be downloaded here.

Common whelk photo

Common whelk shell on the beach

Coastal sand dunes are typically formed as the wind blows sand into drifts which get trapped around plants such as marram grass, the roots of which help to hold the dune together. These dunes are a great place to find other plant life too, including species such as sea holly, sea spurge, centaury and prickly saltwort.

Sea holly photo

Sea holly growing on sand dune

Why not take a look at our new UK sandy shore feature page for more information and inspiration, and start planning your next trip to the beach? We’ve got details of the species you might encounter, ideas and tips on choosing where to visit and even suggestions about how you can get involved and help to protect and preserve our coastline.

Claire Lewis, ARKive Researcher

Mar 26

Spring is in the air – daffodils are starting to grow in the hedgerows, birds are beginning to build their nests and frogs are filling up ponds with frogspawn. Unfortunately there is just one thing lacking this spring – the end of the cold, winter weather and the arrival of some sunshine!

Despite the weather’s best attempt, here in the UK ARKive office we have still been thinking about spring – a time often associated with new beginnings and baby animals. To celebrate the arrival of spring (and to cheer ourselves up about the weather) we have put together a list of our top 10 favourite baby animal photos.

Quokka

Quokka joeys suckle for a further 8-10 weeks after leaving the female’s pouch

The ever smiling quokka is a small marsupial found in Western Australia. Unusually for a marsupial, it has strongly developed hind legs which enable it to climb trees. Quokkas have a short pregnancy of just 4 weeks before the female will give birth to a single joey, which suckles in her pouch for up to 30 weeks.

Asiatic black bear

Asiatic black bear image

An infant Asiatic black bear playing

Female Asiatic black bears, also called ‘moon bears’ due to the cream, crescent shaped marking on the chest, normally give birth to a litter of 2 cubs. Born within the safety of the winter den, normally within a tree hollow, cubs usually stay with their mother for 1 to 1.5 years.

Sea otter

Sea otter image

Californina sea otter pup resting on its mother

Sea otters are not only the smallest marine mammal, but their coat is also the densest of any mammal, consisting of around 100,000 hairs per cm². Female sea otters normally give birth to 1 pup, which they carry round on their chest grooming meticulously to ensure their fur remains buoyant and insulated. Sea otter pups will stay with their mother for around 3 to 6 months.

American oystercatcher

American oystercatcher image

An American oystercatcher chick showing of its hide and seek skills

American oystercatcher chicks are quick learners! Within 24 hours of hatching, the chicks are capable of running and leave the nest only 1 or 2 days later. Within 5 weeks they learn to fly and begin accompanying their parents to learn basic feeding techniques, becoming fully independent several months later.

Arctic fox

Arctic fox image

It is hard work being this cute!

The size of an Arctic fox litter varies depending on the abundance of food available; normally ranging from 5 to 10, litter sizes can reach 19 with high food availability. Both parents help rear the young, the female will stay in the den providing milk whilst the male goes out to hunt for food.

Giant anteater

Giant anteater image

Giant anteaters can carry their young until they are nine months old – the world’s longest piggy back!

The giant anteater, the largest of the extant anteater species, can eat up to 30,000 ants in one day! Female giant anteaters carry their young on their back, where they are aligned with the female’s white stripe so they are camouflaged. Despite being weaned after two months, the young may continue to be carried until they are nine months old.

Mountain chicken

Mountain chicken image

A female mountain chicken and a young froglet emerging from burrow

Despite its name, the mountain chicken is not a bird but is actually a critically endangered frog. Unusually, mountain chickens breed in underground burrows as opposed to breeding in water like most amphibians. After the larvae hatch, mothers will lay upto as many as 25,000 unfertilised eggs, upon which the larvae feed.

The mountain chicken features in ARKive’s latest game – Team WILD.  To find out more and to see if you have what it takes to join this team of elite, science superheroes click here.

Giant panda

Giant panda image

It is not hard to see why pandas are so popular

Giant panda cubs are born at a very immature stage of development meaning they are very helpless at birth. It is not until the cubs are five to six moths old that they even start to move about independently! Giant panda cubs will remain dependent on their mothers until they are at least 18 months old.

Harp seal

Harp seal image

A 2 day old harp seal pup showing of its warm, white coat

Harp seal pups are also known as ‘whitecoats’ due to their thick, white and very insulating fur. Weighing around 11 to 12 kilograms when they are born, harp seal pups will gain 2.2 kilograms in weight per day whilst nursing on their mother’s fatty milk.

White-tailed tropicbird

White-tailed tropicbird image

This chick looks like it has an attitude problem!

Though not as cute as some of the other babies featured in this blog, this photo of the white-tailed tropic bird is one of my favourites. This chick may not look vulnerable, but once hatched white-tailed tropicbird chicks are left alone in the nest frequently, leaving them open to attack from other parents looking for nesting sites. No wonder this chick is trying to look tough!

Hopefully these images have brightened up your day! Let us know which baby animal photos on ARKive are your favourites and don’t forget to nominate them for the title of the World’s Favourite Species!

Jemma Pealing, Media Researcher

Mar 22

Last week saw the ExCel centre in London host the 5th annual Big Bang Fair, the largest celebration of science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) for young people in the UK. The aim of the fair is to introduce young people to the wide range of career opportunities available in STEM subjects and quite simply show them how awesome STEM can be. Once again, the ARKive team were delighted to attend, and spent four fun-filled days engaging with the next generation of scientists.

Claire at stand

Over the course of the event, 65,000 visitors descended upon the show floor to take part in all that the Big Bang has to offer, including 60 interactive activity stands and 88 workshop sessions from 180 different organisations. Along with the hordes of children, parents and teachers, the Big Bang Fair also welcomed a famous face or two, including David Cameron, Professor Brian Cox, TV Presenter Liz Bonnin and Business Secretary Vince Cable who opened the fair on Thursday morning. Of course, the two most exciting VIPs in attendance were our very own science superheroes Root and Flora, members of Team WILD’s elite conservation task force.

Brownies

Picnic area at lunch

Root and Flora’s mission at the fair was to help the rest of the ARKive team recruit new members for Team WILD, an exciting new online game which aims to introduce young people to both environmental issues and potential job opportunities in conservation. Through the power of stickers (number distributed: 1,661), word quickly spread around the fair and the number of Team WILD recruits rose rapidly. The new team members soon proved themselves to be of a high calibre, achieving some very impressive high scores. Due to these incredible scores, Team WILD decided to award one special commendation to the top scorer in each of the four mini-games. These prestigious awards go to the following rookie recruits:

Root FloraJungle
Daniel Nichols: 1,237

Aquatic
George Murray: 2,278

Deforested
Elliott: 2,297

Savannah
James: 2,319

 

Massive congratulations to everybody at the fair who came along to take the Team WILD challenge. For those of you who didn’t get a chance to play on the day, or for those of you who want to try and smash your current high scores, why not head over to our Team WILD page and give it a go! If you need any convincing, Team WILD was described by one young fan as being ‘like Super Mario, but with animals’…what could be better?!

Superman

Missed out on The Big Bang Fair this year? Keep an eye on the official website for information about next year’s fair and for details on other similar events near you. See you all next year!

The ARKive STEM Team

Mar 22

World Water Day logo

Earth’s most precious resource?

Water is essential to life on Earth. However, our insatiable demand is putting water, one of our most precious natural resources, at risk.

The enormous growth in the human population over recent decades is placing a huge strain on the world’s freshwater reserves, with our global consumption of water for food production, energy, industrial and domestic uses beginning to reach what are thought to be unsustainable levels. Similarly, rapid urbanisation, pollution and climate change are all exacerbating the problem, further threatening one of the world’s most vital resources.

World Water Day 2013

To draw attention to the importance of freshwater and the need for sustainable management of the world’s freshwater resources, the United Nations (UN) has designated 22 March ‘World Water Day’.

Held annually, World Water Day gives people all around the world the opportunity to take action to raise awareness on water issues and improve the management of the world’s water resources. In 2013, in reflection of the International Year of Water Cooperation, World Water Day is also dedicated to the theme of cooperation around water.

See how you can get involved!

Great crested grebe courtship display

To celebrate International Year of Water Cooperation, World Water Day is also dedicated to the theme of cooperation around water. This courting great crested grebe pair have clearly got the hang of the importance of sharing our finite freshwater resources!

Calling all budding young filmmakers in the UK!

Celebrate World Water Day at the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust with the launch of ‘Hot Water’, a competition with a mission: Can young people create a film that will transform our water-wasting ways?

To kick things off on World Water Day, Cool It Schools is launching ‘Hot Water’. Young people from all over the UK are invited to create an inspirational, behaviour-changing film of TV advert length (no more than 50 seconds) that will aim to help put a stop to our bad water habits once and for all.

Find out more about the ‘Hot Water’ competition and see how you can enter.

Mar 20

Today marks World Sparrow Day, a day to celebrate and take action for the once-common house sparrow.

Photo of male house sparrow drinking from shallow puddle

Male house sparrow

Often colloquially known as the ‘Cockney sparrow’, the house sparrow is well known to many people as a common and widespread small bird. Of the world’s 26 true sparrow species, it is the house sparrow which has colonised the world as a result of global trade, and is now found on almost every continent.

However, although once a familiar sight in many areas, the house sparrow has undergone a dramatic decline in parts of its range. In the United Kingdom alone, its population has dropped by a staggering 71% since 1977, and sharp declines have also been noted in other countries.

Photo of dead house sparrow carried by domestic cat

House sparrows face many threats, from pollution to predators

The exact reasons for these declines are unclear, but may include a combination of pollution, a reduction in food availability, a loss of suitable habitat and nesting sites, increased predation and disease. Urban noise has also been linked with sparrow declines, possibly as it prevents the adult birds from hearing the hunger calls of their chicks.

Celebrating sparrows

The idea for World Sparrow Day, which was first celebrated in 2010, came from the Nature Forever Society, who saw its potential for making a positive difference to the fate of the house sparrow. It is hoped that the day can help convey the message about the need to conserve this and other common bird species, as well as marking a day of celebration of the common biodiversity which we can often take for granted.

Photo of tree sparrow feeding in winter

The tree sparrow is another sparrow species which is in decline in parts of its range

Those involved hope to inspire as many people as possible to join the celebrations and get involved in the conservation of house sparrows and their habitats. Suggested actions include talking about sparrows on social media websites and highlighting their plight, as well as creating sparrow habitats and providing sparrows with nest boxes and feeding stations.

World Sparrow Day is therefore a chance for everyone to rise to the challenge of saving this once-common and much-loved small bird.

 

Find out more about World Sparrow Day at World Sparrow Day and the Nature Forever Society.

You can also find out more about the day at RSPB News – World Sparrow Day.

View photos and videos of sparrow species on ARKive.

Liz Shaw, ARKive Text Author

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