Tuesday, February 23, 2010
on my way to work, somewhere a few couple of miles east from Landkey along the North Devon link road, I have just been overflown by something, at about 7.45am.
In my estimation, it was a stork, crane or flamingo, It was perhaps 80 yards above the road and flying east. It was a lot bigger than a heron although for its size its wings were fairly small, although the spread into long flight feathers like storks. I do not think it was a European stork, because for its size its wings were too small and were wholly a light colour, probably white. It had very long legs, but its beak did not seem to have the length or size of a stork. In profile from below, it had a thin neck and larger head, having the shape of cormorant, but with a bit longer beak. The rest of it was largely white or other light colour. I watched it for perhaps 10 seconds as it flew along the route of the A361 towards me and directly above my car.
I am surprised and annoyed but also pleased I don't know what it is. If you hear other reports on the creature vine, it probably achieved landfall down the Taw estuary, but it will be out of Devon pretty fast at this rate!
Hope things are good with you. Will speak to you soon,
Rare ray creates flap in Lake BY MATTHEW KELLY 16 Sep, 2008
LAKE MACQUARIE might be harbouring one of the rarest marine creatures found in Australian waters a Japanese devil ray. The ray, which locals originally thought was a manta ray, has been in the lake for about a month. It has become increasingly active in the past week and breached the lake surface many times on Saturday less than 100 metres off Wangi Point. The creature's presence has drawn the attention of University of Queensland marine biologist and ray researcher Kathy Townsend. Dr Townsend said that, based on the ray's description and location, she suspected it might be a Japanese devil ray, usually found in Indonesia and Japan. Although manta and devil rays belong to the same family, devil rays have a shorter head and cephalic lobes, a white tip on their dorsal fin and a venomous barb. Only 13 devil rays have been found in Australia, the first of which was caught in a net in Lake Macquarie on April 4, 1968."If this is a devil ray, it's a very significant discovery," Dr Townsend, who is also research manager at the Moreton Bay research station, said. "They normally don't travel that far south." It is thought the ray sought refuge from large seas during a winter storm and was attracted to warm waters around Eraring power station's Myuna Bay outlet. Coal Point resident Audry Diggins captured part of the ray's aerial display on video last Saturday. "It was carrying on for quite a while," she said. "When it came out of the water it was rolled up like a sushi roll and then suddenly spread out when it hit the water." The ray was among diverse marine creatures, including a shark, a blue groper and turtles, presently in the area. "We really need a proper study of what's in our lake so we can better understand what's going on," Ms Diggins said.
The ray is not normally indigenous to the area, which begs the question, how many other lake creature sightings are just out of place creatures? I have been unable to find out if the ray is still resident, but an interesting thought for the day.
It was suggested that this may have been a misidentification of a collared dove, which to be honest, were I a twitcher rather than just a keen amateur bird-watcher, might have been the first explanation to my mind as well. However, the pair of doves in question were almost certainly turtle doves and this was confirmed by the appearance of a collared dove in the garden over the past few days, which looks quite different. The turtle doves have a more peach-like tinge to their plumage than the pale grey tinge of the collared dove; the markings of the turtle dove's wings are more ‘busy’ than the collared dove; and the turtle doves are smaller than the collared dove.
I hope to get some photographs or footage of the turtle doves to show you all but for now you’ll have to be satisfied with the fact that I’m a good 95% sure of my identification and that we have a pair of turtle doves visiting the garden that should be somewhere a lot warmer at this time of year.
Whether those doves have migrated back to Britain over a month early or whether they didn’t migrate in the first place I have no idea as the last time I saw them before we put the feeders out was some time around the start of autumn. Despite what the cold weather would have us believe, spring is full flow in North Devon having started, as far as the plants and animals are concerned, almost along with the start of February this year. The snowdrops in our garden, which usually start to flower around the 10th of February, started flowering towards the end of January and our chicken started to lay eggs last week when she usually starts laying at the beginning of April.
Although early springs are often blamed on global climate change by the press the truth is often far more complicated. While climate change plays a part there are a multitude of other factors that can come into play. Some of these factors can be part of the evolutionary ‘arms race’ between plants, herbivores and predators; early emergence can in some cases prove to be a selective advantage meaning there is a greater chance of passing on genes to the next generation before you get eaten. Over several generations plants can start emerging earlier, which has a knock-on effect on the things that eat them emerging earlier and so on up the food chain. A recent extensive study into the timings of the start of spring found that on average, spring starts 11 days earlier than it did 30 years ago (http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/sci/tech/8506363.stm).
Eventually this trend should self-regulate as plants and animals will reach the cut-off point when early emergence’s advantages are out-weighed by the disadvantages cold weather can bring so I would doubt we’d ever see snowdrops and summer birds at Christmas, but for now I’ll be keeping an eye on the local wildlife to see if anything else turns up early.
Without a doubt the kid was pig-ugly and was sent packing, forever to haunt New Jersey. The Jersey Devil was, or could even still be, a long-lived beast for not only was it being blamed for animal deaths in the 1820s it was still going strong into the start of last century.
So which H.P. Lovecraft critter springs to mind when I see a picture of the Jersey Devil? Well, if it isn’t the Nightgaunt. These creatures of the Dreamlands are described as having a pair of inward facing horns atop their heads, clawed hands, a skin that is slick and rubbery, membranous wings and last but not least, a long barbed tail; this long barbed tail was used to tickle any victim it plucked into the air.
Perhaps a couple of pictures will be helpful to make the point: one is of the 1909 Jersey Devil, the other of a rather soft plush Nightgaunt toy (life is easier if you can imagine terrifying cosmic horror as a small cuddly toy).
Dear Mr. and Mrs. Average Pet Owner:
Thank you for contacting us animal rescuers, shelter volunteers, and foster-homes about your inability to keep your pet. We receive an extremely high volume of inquiries and requests to accept surrendered animals (and none of us is getting paid, OK?). To help us expedite your problem as quickly as possible, please observe the following guidelines:
1. Do not say that you are "CONSIDERING finding a good home" for your pet, or that you, "feel you MIGHT be forced to," or that you "really THINK it would be better if" you unloaded the poor beast. Ninety-five percent of you have already got your minds stone-cold made up that the animal WILL be out of your life by the weekend at the latest. Say so. If you don't, I'm going to waste a lot of time giving you commonsense, easy solutions for very fixable problems, and you're going to waste a lot of time coming up with fanciful reasons why the solution couldn't possibly work for you. For instance, you say the cat claws the furniture, and I tell you about nail-clipping and scratching posts and aversion training, and then you go into a long harangue about how your husband won't let you put a scratching post in the family room, and your ADHD daughter cries if you use a squirt bottle on the cat, and your congenital thumb abnormalities prevent you from using nail scissors and etc., etc. Just say you're getting rid of the cat.
2. Do not waste time trying to convince me how nice and humane you are. Your coworker recommended that you contact me because I am nice to animals, not because I am nice to people, and I don't like people who "get rid of" their animals.
"Get rid of" is my least favorite phrase in any language. I hope someone "gets rid of" YOU someday. I am an animal advocate, not a people therapist. After all, for your ADHD daughter, you can get counselors, special teachers, doctors, social workers, etc. Your pet has only me, and people like me, to turn to in his or her need, and we are unpaid, overworked, stressed-out, and demoralized. So don't tell me this big long story about how, "We love this dog so much, and we even bought him a special bed that cost $50, and it is just KILLING us to part with him, but honestly, our maid is just awash in dog hair every time she cleans, and his breath sometimes just reeks of liver, so you can see how hard we've tried, and how dear he is to us, but we really just can't . . . ." You are not nice, and it is not killing you. It is, in all probability, literally killing your dog, but you're going to be just fine once the beast is out of your sight. Don't waste my time trying to make me like you or feel sorry for you in your plight.
3. Do not try to convince me that your pet is exceptional and deserves special treatment. I don't care if you taught him to sit. I don't care if she's a beautiful Persian. I have a waiting list of battered and/or whacked-out animals who need help, and I have no room to foster-house your pet. Do not send me long messages detailing how Fido just l-o-v-e-s his blankies and carries his favorite blankie everywhere, and oh, when he gets all excited and happy, he spins around in circles, isn't that cute? He really is darling, so it wouldn't be any trouble at all for us to find him a good home. Listen, we can go down to the pound and count the darling, spinning, blankie-loving beasts on death row by the dozens, any day of the week. And, honey, Fido is a six-year-old Shepherd-Lab mix. I am not lying when I tell you that big, older, mixed-breed, garden-variety dogs are almost completely unadoptable, and I don't care if they can whistle Dixie or send semaphore signals with their blankies. What you don't realize is that, though you're trying to lie to me, you're actually telling the truth: Your pet is a special, wonderful, amazing creature. But this mean old world does not care. More importantly, YOU do not care, and I can't fix that problem. All I can do is grieve for all the exceptional animals who live short, brutal, loveless lives and die without anyone ever recognizing that they were indeed very, very special.
4. Finally, just, for God' s sake, for the animal's sake, tell the truth, and the whole truth. Do you think that if you just mumble that your cat is "high-strung, " I will say, "Okey-dokey! No prob!" and take it into foster care? No, I will start asking questions and uncover the truth, which is that your cat has not used a litter box in the last six months. Do not tell me that you "can't" crate your dog. I will ask what happens when you try to crate him, and you will either be forced to tell me the symptoms of full-blown, severe separation anxiety, or else you will resort to lying some more, wasting more of our time. And, if you succeed in placing your pet in a shelter or foster care, do not tell yourself the biggest lie of all: "Those nice people will take him and find him a good home, and everything will be fine." Those nice people will indeed give the animal every possible chance, but if we discover serious health or behavior problems, if we find that your misguided attempts to train or discipline him have driven him over the edge, we will do what you are too immoral and cowardly to do: We will hold the animal in our arms, telling him truthfully that he is a good dog or cat, telling him truthfully that we are sorry and we love him, while the vet ends his life. How can we be so heartless as to kill your pet, you ask? Do not ever dare to judge us. At least we tried. At least we stuck with him to the end. At least we never abandoned him to strangers, as you certainly did, didn't you? In short, this little old rescuer/foster momma has reached the point where she would prefer you pet owners to tell her stories like this: "We went to Wal-Mart and picked up a free pet in the parking lot a couple of years ago. Now we don't want it anymore. We're lazier than we thought. We've got no patience either. We're starting to suspect the animal is really smarter than we are, which is giving us self-esteem issues. Clearly, we can't possibly keep it. Plus, it might be getting sick; it's acting kind of funny. "We would like you to take it in eagerly, enthusiastically, and immediately. We hope you'll realize what a deal you're getting and not ask us for a donation to help defray your costs. After all, this is an (almost) pure-bred animal, and we'll send the leftover food along with it. We get it at Wal-Mart too, and boy, it's a really good deal, price-wise. "We are very irritated that you haven't shown pity on us in our great need and picked the animal up already. We thought you people were supposed to be humane! Come and get it today. No, we couldn't possibly bring it to you; the final episode of "Survivor II" is on tonight."
Thank you, Mr. and Mrs. Pet Owner, for your cooperation.
On this day in 1942 a UFO was spotted over Los Angeles. The incident became known as ‘The Battle of Los Angeles’ as a blackout was ordered, barrage balloons were sent out and searchlights combed the sky for the mysterious object. It was never found and 3 people died as a result of the panic. Over the years many possible explanations for the initial sighting have been put forward from hoax or possible scare tactics perpetuated by the Japanese right through to an alien spacecraft or the usual US government standby explanation of ‘weather balloon.’
And now, the news:
Pygmy goat arrives at Wildwood
Island of dwarf dinosaurs
Giant George enters record books as world's top dog
Dengue fever solution
Spaniel survives 90m cliff plunge