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Is It Right To Interfere? (Letting Nature Take Its Course)

As an animal enthusiast I can’t help but feel a strong desire to want to interact with them, but I’ve become increasingly wary of how my own actions might affect them. For example, I use to enjoy feeding bread to the ducks – as I’m sure many of us have done -, but later found out that the wrong food can damage their feathers. I’ve noticed that some parks now sell a healthier alternative to give them. We feel like we’re being kind by feeding them, but quite often it’s not the right thing to do. After we’ve gone the animals still have to continue finding their own food and it’s important they know how to do this. In Canada they don’t want you to feed the chipmunks because they’ll struggle in the winter if they become too reliant on us. There are also many other considerations, such as how attracting wild animals can cause problems for the people that live nearby.

A while ago I watched a photography program where they were observing nature down by a river. At one point a duckling fell away from its mother and couldn’t find its way back again. The photographer could do nothing but sit and watch the events unfold, tears brimming in his eyes. He later explained that he follows a rule of no interference. I’ve seen a few wildlife documentaries where it might seem harsh for the camera crew to just sit by filming, but from a journalistic point of view the goal is to show nature doing its own thing with as little interference as possible. While not everything in the world is pleasant to see, it’s still important to document and we can learn a lot about animals by watching how they perform activities such as hunting. Depending on the situation it might not be feasible or safe to help out either.

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Canary Island Cats

cat07One thing that quickly becomes apparent when you visit The Canary Islands is that there are a lot of stray cats. We usually try not to get involved with such cats, but we were given very little choice. On our first visit we were taken off guard by a large group of kittens gathering outside one of the windows. We opened the shutters to let the sunlight in and they were just sat there, staring up at us meowing. Then a brave ginger one made a leap and the rest followed. Before we knew it we had dozens of cats running around the bungalow and had to guide them back out. I think the previous resident had been feeding them or something because they seemed to hang around where we were staying. I couldn’t sit on the patio without having them attempt to jump up onto my knee. They were very entertaining however; On this one night they were playing on this lilo, jumping onto it from a greater height and bouncing off. Although the lilo looked deflated the next day so I wouldn’t recommend leaving them out.

Making themselves comfortable in our lodgings

Making themselves comfortable in our lodgings

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Identifying Butterflies

A few weeks back I noticed a really cool idea on the blog ‘Nerd In The Brain.’ They plan to set challenges every couple of weeks as an opportunity to go out and learn something new. The one that I saw was to spot insects in the garden. I wanted to give this a go, but didn’t have much luck finding anything interesting and quickly gave up. I thought back to the post after visiting a butterfly house however. Normally I’d label my photos with boring titles such as ‘butterfly on a flower,’ but instead I decided to try and identify the subjects. I actually found it to be quite fascinating once I started to read up about it.

How To Identify A Butterfly

There are many different species of butterfly and they can look similar, especially in flight, so it can be a challenge to identify them. Ideally, you need to spend a bit of time looking for field marks, such as shape, colour and patterns, while they are still. The edges of the wings can vary from smooth to wavy to pointy and with tails on the end. The patterns can be chequered, spotted, veined or include bands of colours. The way the wings rest can also be an indication as to the type of butterfly, some lie flat while others at a slight angle. Check the ventral side (below the insect) of the wing too.

There are different families and sub-families of butterflies to look out for, each with its own distinctive qualities:

  • Papilionidae – These are usually large and colourful. A majority of them are Swallowtails, named so for the distinctive tail on their hind wing. They can be found in every region except for Antarctica.
  • Nymphalidae – This is the largest of the butterfly families. They are medium to large in size and have colourful wings that lie flat when resting. The ventral side is usually dull and fairly plain in contrast, giving them the appearance of dead leaves. Most of them have a reduced pair of forelegs. This family includes Monarchs and Angelwings with the greatest number found in the tropics.
  • Pieridae – These are medium-sized and vary in colour from white to orange. Many also have black markings or spots on their wings. The colouring is caused by waste products in the body. They may also have ultraviolet markings, used during courtship. This family includes Whites and Sulphurs and they are mostly found in the tropics.
  • Riodinidae – Small to medium sized. Their wings come in vibrant structural colours of brown, red, yellow, orange and white and may also include metallic markings. Males also have reduced forelegs. Examples include Duke of Burgundy and Palmers Metalmark. They are found in the neotropics.
  • Lycaenidae – Small and quick, with brightly coloured, sometimes iridescent, wings. They have slender bodies and narrow heads and their antennae is sometimes striped in appearance (usually with white bands.) This family includes Hairstreaks and Harvesters and they inhabit temperate and tropical areas.
  • Hesperiidae – Small to medium in size with duller colours such as brown, orange and cream. They also have thicker and hairier thoraxes with smaller wings giving them a moth like appearance. When resting the forewings and hindwings rest on different planes. The antennae also have a curl or hook at the end as opposed to the usual rounded club shape. They have a quick dart like movement. Not always considered to be true butterflies, example include include Skippers, Duskywings and Cloudywings. A majority of them live in the tropics.

Sometimes moths and butterflies can be confused, but they have distinct differences. Butterflies tend to be thinner and smoother while moths have thicker and hairier bodies. Moths also have feathery antennae and are usually duller in colour. When resting their wings are held flat against their bodies as opposed to butterflies that hold them vertically. It’s also important to consider that there can be differences between the sexes such as colour, but the patterns usually remain similar.

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Born Free – Douglas The Hippo

Douglas

A while ago I was watching a show called ‘Animal Orphans’ starring Paul O’Grady. During one episode he visited a baby Hippopotamus called Douglas and – probably like many others –  I just couldn’t help but fall in love with him. My sister then went on to adopt him under my name. Douglas was found close to death – abandoned at just two weeks old – but is now thriving and making the transition back into the wild.

douglas drawing

Suffering With Arachnophobia

For the most part, I’m quite brave when it comes to animals. I’ve held a bird of prey, allowed a snake to be wrapped around my shoulders and even stroked a crocodile. I’m a lover of most animals… well… most…. The truth is, I can’t stand spiders or many other creepy crawlies for that matter. It’s currently my least favourite part of the year where they seem to grow in numbers and start invading the house; The start of Autumn must be spider mating season or something.

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Celebrate The Small Things: 11 July

squirrel

  • Finished and uploaded The Stoops website. I’m still tweaking bits here and there, but I’ve told them I’m happy to continue helping out with the site in the future should they need it. They allowed me to put a link to my stuff on the site and they also know of someone else who is wanting a site building and will be passing my details on to them. I’ve never really built much for other people before, but having the experience is a really good way to practice your skills.
  • The weathers been quite nice lately. I went on a walk over the weekend not really expecting to capture much, but then a squirrel posed for me and I’m really happy with the photos I got.
  • I started work on a new game. I haven’t done much game development in a while because I’m trying to update my web development skill set, but I really missed it and it felt good to be back programming game logic again. It’s going to be quite a simple game that I’m hoping won’t take too long to build so long as I get enough spare time to add to it.
  • Joined up to a free course about narrative in online games. Really looking forward to starting this.
  • Had a nice time out with my friends yesterday. We got a Pizza!

f5f01-vik-smallthings2

 

Protecting the Environment (Not a black and white issue)

The one thing that has become apparent to me while growing up is that things are very rarely black and white; Often two different sides can be argued each with relevant accuracy to the issue at hand. I recently watched a program called ‘I Bought a Rainforest,’ a series following wildlife photographer and animal enthusiast Charlie Hamilton James. He hoped that through the purchase of 100 acres of rainforest he would be able to prevent illegal logging in the area, but soon came to realise that his viewpoint had been a little naïve. He came to realize that the people logging the forest were actually doing it out of necessity to support their families. It was a really interesting program to watch as he grew in understanding towards the people living there while also wrestling with his own conscience.

I remember being taught about the destruction of the rainforest in school and it seemed like an obvious issue; the people doing it are in the wrong and they should stop. Another example is animal testing which I’ve always considered to be a great evil, but on the other hand many medicines have been discovered this way and it has saved lives. Overall I care about animals and the environment, but it’s not as simple as pointing the finger of blame. In the final episode of ‘I Bought a Rainforest’ he realised that the people would also have to be the solution and that by supporting them they would in turn feel more inclined to help the forest.

I think it’s natural to need things from the environment. For example, just as animals prey on each other to survive it’s ok that we also need to kill to eat. I dislike it when the destruction feels needless – like in the case of sport or unproven medicines – or isn’t done in a sustainable way. I always wonder what the people that hunt animals – for things like medicine – will do when they all disappear. What will we do if the resources run out?

“Using his burgeoning intelligence, this most successful of all mammals
has exploited the environment to produce food for an ever increasing population.
Instead of controlling the environment for the benefit of the population,
perhaps it is time we control the population to allow the survival of the environment.” – David Attenborough

How to Deal with the Loss of a Pet

So its been about a year now since my feline companion passed away. When we make the decision to own a pet we know that chances are we will probably outlive them, and yet when the time comes this knowledge doesn’t make it any easier to deal with. The situation is often made harder by the fact that it can also be difficult to know how to mourn such a loss; Not everybody understands what it is like to allow an animal to enter your family, and it can seem strange to them that you would need time to grieve when you could just go out and buy another pet (for example I was asked too soon afterwards “so are you getting another cat then?”)

For some people having the opportunity to spend your energy on a new animal can help, but it could also make things worse because you’ll constantly be comparing them to the one you just lost as if you’re replacing them. Just like people, no two animals are the same. My cat was very affectionate and didn’t like being left alone, whereas many other cats are more independent. When I lost her it was so upsetting that I actually declared that I wouldn’t ever want another pet because I couldn’t bare to go through the hurt again; I’m an animal lover though and now that I’ve had the time to deal with it I would actually really like to be able to share my life with a cat again. When you are ready to make this move it is a good idea to not think of this as replacing the previous animal, but to instead thank them for offering you such wonderful companionship that you would once again like to share your life with another.

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Celebrate The Small Things: 23 May

Gosling

  • I went out to take some photos despite the dull weather, but then the sky started to brighten up as the day progressed. I managed to capture some gorgeous Goslings and Ducklings; I’ve uploaded a few photos to Flickr and Redbubble.

  • My mum took me clothes shopping and treated me to a few things including a new Gothic handbag.

  • Managed to complete a decent chunk of programming for a website I’m currently working on. It’s a task that I’ve been putting off so I feel quite relieved to have gotten most of it done now.