Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Maginot chamois babas

Thought I would post up an ever so slightly clearer picture of chamois taken in the Alpes Maritimes this summer. It is no exaggeration that I had to creep through a trench of the former Maginot line in order to capture this image, which as you could imagine was pretty exciting. The goat-antelopes were pretty timid and disappeared after a few seconds. It seems that even major wartime fortifications are not enough for me to display decent field craft.

It was great to see you last week Graham. What is more, our Mammalogging fieldtrip provided a mammoth list of 2 species if my memory serves correct. Three if you are still counting sheep!


Wednesday, 17 August 2011

Squirrel drivel


In an earlier post about marmots, you threw in a couple of squirrels 'for good measure'. Well, I must say that is no way to treat squirrels. They are refined rodents that fully deserve to get their own dedicated post crammed full of essential facts.

So here goes...

Although squirrels are often despised by the mammalogerati, they are as interesting as any other rat up a tree. In the UK lots of folk get very exercised by the invasive Eastern Grey Squirrel and very excited by the persuasive Red Squirrel. Chestnut just looks that bit cuter, but remember underneath the fur lies the same nut-gnawing greedy guts. It is not the fault of the Eastern Grey, or should I say Eastern Gray, that is passed the pox onto its rufous Euro cousin and loves nothing more than bark stripping or munching on some baby Blue Tits.

vulgaris, moi?


Tuesday, 16 August 2011

Fight! Fight! Fight!

Hi Graham,

Long time no post, so I hope that you are well. Looking forward to seeing you next month - are you thinking of staying for the weekend beforehand? If so then maybe we could manage a Mammalogia field trip into the highlands ...

In the meantime, here is the first of my photos taken in the French Alps this summer. Antagonistic behaviour Alpine Marmot style.

Maybe they are laughing at the fact that I can't ever get a shot in focus?...


p.s. that's another point (and tick) to me I think

Wednesday, 27 April 2011

Pig headed stupidity

Well Graham, once again please accept my most sincere apologies, etc. etc.

I feel that I should respond to each of your last three posts - in deference to our avid readership and fan-base, of course.

Firstly, I think it would be quite acceptable to add your Siberian Chipmunks to your list. After all they are a feral and self-supporting population. Also it allows you to get into the lead 13-12.

Secondly, I, like you, have had the pleasure of turning cock-a-hoop in a gondola (as you most eloquently describe it) at the sight of Chamois. In my case I was ascending the Schilthorn and celebrated the sighting in style by sipping champagne with G et al. in a revolving restaurant. Sadly, my photographs were not as sharp or frame-filling as yours so I will refrain from posting them. Oh, I think that makes the score 13-13...

Thirdly, I do indeed have a picture of the boar Bush Pig that 'encountered' us in South Africa.

Nice, huh? I thought this picture was totally black until I did a little bit of judicious twiddling in iPhoto and revealed this menacing beast guarding his herd.

This photo was taken shortly before he started running in circles - a warning behaviour presumably intended to give us the opportunity to back off. Seeing this sort of antagonistic display, only fools would move closer on foot in the dark African bush, repeatedly misfiring flash-guns in the direction of the angry boar. In this heightened behavioural state any small additional factor could tip the boar over the edge into full-on attack. It wouldn't need to be anything like a Verreaux's Eagle Owl swooping by to attempt to take one of his piglets...

... but that would do the trick. As you know, when agitated, a Bush Pig can run very fast. Luckily, and unexpectedly, so can we...

Well, with that lesson safely under our belts we didn't do anything silly for the rest of the trip.

Come here piggy wiggys.

Saturday, 16 April 2011

Pigs might fly

Hi Geoff,

I understand you're suffering from the burden of knowing that at any moment I'm poised to overtake you in the mammal count stakes - a lead you've kept since the early days of Mammalogia. Worse still, you must be wallowing in the heavy psychological doldrums that come with the knowledge that your all-time mammal count record - a magnificent 10 species - is soon to be broken. By a non-birder, nay an un-birder, to boot. I share your pain.

But there's hope on the placental horizon. I thought for our next joust we could share some old African memories. And where better to start that our old friend the bush pig, Potamochoerus larvatus. Now, I'm not sure either of us got a snap of the mad beast that charged us that dark and eventful evening. Sensing we were part of the Verreaux's owl mob, the old male's protective instincts - not to mention his rather large tusks - were heart warming if a little too close to our fast-retreating buttocks for comfort. But if you have even the fuzziest, darkest image of the mythical beast, I think it only fit that you post it pride of place on Mammalogia. And while we're on the subject of pigs flying - let's face it, that old bush whacker flew at us like a guided missile - I include a snap of a randy young warthog, Phacochoerus africanus, chasing a rather attractive warty female.

Graham 12, Geoff 12

Hope all's well.


Tuesday, 22 March 2011

Matterhorn Mystery

Hi Geoff,

Just back from a week in the Swiss Alps. Heavy snow - 60cm fell in one night. So much for spring. But the blizzard conditions did drive a group of mammals down to the forests just above Zermatt. Realising that some of my previous photos have been rather too large, sharp and perfectly exposed, I'm rather proud of this snap on my Blackberry. It was cold, the brandy was taking effect, the gondola was shaking... Just the sort of lbj challenge that I know you love. As C can testify, I was cock-a-hoop. A new species for me. But can you work it out?

On second thoughts, you should simply get points for spotting any mammal in this shot. So I'll save you the hair pulling - it's a Chamois, Rupicapra rupicapra. Our first bovid on Mammalogia I believe. Apart from my 736 sheep of course.

And here's the Matterhorn for good measure - the dots are, as you would know, alpine choughs.

So it's a nice round 10 species each.


Sunday, 27 February 2011

I'll cap that with a capybara

I should have known I couldn't fool a fooler, Geoff.

Yes, the mountain critter in question was an alpine marmot with the enigmatic bionomial Marmota marmota. Snapped above Zermatt in Switzerland.

Groovy chipmunk. And not one I can match. We have our own chipmunks in the Foret de Soignes in the south of Brussels. Very cheeky chappies, particularly as they're feral Siberian chipmunks. I won't count that one, but just wanted to show my striped squirrel credentials.

Talking of rodents, I thought I should share a snap of the king of the gnawers - capybaras living in a tributary of the Peruvian Amazon. And while we're about it let's throw in a red and grey squirrel each for good measure.

Geoff 10, Graham 9

Keep those binoculars handy...