The Link between Dinosaurs and Ostrich

Ostriches crossing a sandy corridor in a gale.

Imagine if you will Tyrannosaurus rex running through the landscape, and how compelling this scene is knowing that evidence now points to birds being the dinosaurs’ closest living relatives.  Back in 2004 scientist Mary Schweitzer at North Carolina State University made this exciting discovery when studying the soft tissue of an ancient leg bone of a T.rex. which had been dug up in a site in Montana.  Proof of the evidence came when she compared samples of the dinosaur bone with ostrich and emu bones which show near-identical features.

Since then further fossil finds are revealing more information on feathered dinosaurs and evidence to their link to the evolution of modern day birds particularly the ostrich.

WPC: Bridge

Winter seas in False Bay

It’s calmer on the False Bay side when the nor’westerly Atlantic swells push onto the coast; though the wave height may not be as high as along the western edge of the Cape Peninsula there is still power in the break.   We watch with great anxiety for the otters and penguins as they exit the surging waters.    Fortunately the Boulders’ penguin colony is sited in a sheltered sandy cove, with a defence of boulders breaking up the force of the water.  Still these sturdy little creatures risk being tumbled in the surf.   Once on land they head for shelter from the strong winds.   Interesting to see the Cape cormorants happily hunkered down amongst the penguins. (Note the little penguin with the missing foot.)

Close by the Cape clawless otters (Aonyx capensis) maintain secret holts on land where they can hole up out of the rough seas.  We’ve been fortunate to observe a pair which have returned to the area near our garden since the vegetation has regenerated after the devastating fires.  Unlike the penguins’ sandy beach landing, the otters negotiate a rocky shore and often suffer from  injuries.  Pyjama shark is the catch of the day. If you’d like to read more details about the otters Wilf Nussey’s enthralling stories are here.

 

 

Rain: 1.6% rise in Cape Town’s dam levels

Baboons huddling together to keep warm.

The welcome rain continues to bring relief to the parched veld and urban gardens.  Within days new shoots are greening up and animals appear to be coping, if not revelling in the fresh rainwater.  Though we have a long way to go before the strict water restrictions can be eased.

Interesting to note the animals’ fur ‘fluffled up’ to create thermoregulation which helps to insulate and retain body heat.

Baboons huddling together to keep warm.

 

Doñana National Park: Coastal Wetlands

A highlight, on a recent trip to Andalucia in southern Spain, was discovering the extraordinary beauty of the wetlands of Doñana National Park.  It is sited along the banks of the great Guadalquiver River at it’s estuary on the Atlantic Ocean. It’s an immense expanse where water has a language described in terms of flowing or still; of lagoons, marshlands, aquafires, ponds, pools.  It’s well known as a gathering place for millions of migatory birds.  It’s present area covers 50,720 ha. and it’s ecological value is recognised under  Ramsar  status and as a UNESCO World Heritage site.

The Guadalquivir river runs over a watercourse 657kms in length and exits at an estuary stretching out into a marshy delta known as Las Marismas del Guadalquivir.  It’s Spain’s only navigable river with historic links back to Seville and in Roman times reaching as far as Cordoba.  The park has a diversity of ecosystems of caños and cotos, marismas and dunes; it is notable for its biotopes – the lagoons, marshlands, fixed and mobile dunes, scrub woodland and maquis. Five threatened bird species make their home here. It is also one of the largest heronries in the Mediterranean region and is the wintering site for more than 500,000 water fowl each year.  Thousands of greater flamingoes come to nest over the spring to summer months.  Wading birds, spoonbills and herons and amazing numbers of raptors hover in the airspace above.

Only guided tours in 4×4 vehicles are permitted and we booked a half day tour through the company “Discovering Doñana “.  Sonia Alís, our guide picked us up early in the morning and we set off on an exciting tour.  Along the sandy road Sonia soon picked up the spoor of lynx and fox.  Sonia worked for some time at the Iberian Lynx project and was most knowledgeable on their habits.  Soon we were spotting fallow and red deer; wild horses and birds, birds, birds.  We appreciated her indepth knowledge on the varied environments and biodiversity of the park.  As a protected area it plays a vital part in the ongoing health of migratory bird life, and the interconnection of it’s supporting flora and fauna.

Reference: Wikipedia

“The following is a list of birds that inhabit the park: velvetleaf, bee-eater, hoopoe, dunnock, vulture, curlew, gadwall, mallard, widgeon, snipe, black-tailed godwit, imperial eagle, booted eagle, short-toed eagle, Bonelli’s eagle, Montagu’s harrier, marsh harrier, hen harrier, alcatraz, shrike, lark, greylag goose, bean goose, redshank, lapwing, avetorrillo, eared owl, griffon vulture, black vulture, great reed warbler, teal, white stork, black stork, stilt, ringed plover, Kentish plover, cormorant, crow, cuckoo, spatula, crested coot, toed eagles, sandpipers, duck, quail, redstart, redstart, merlin, black starling, starling, Flemish, coot, horned coot, whiskered tern, black tern, common bargain, egret, squacco, herring gull, Audouin’s gull, black-headed gull, dark gull, purple heron, gray heron, barn swallow, red-rumped swallow, sparrow, house sparrow, tree sparrow, Moorish sparrow, jackdaw, honey buzzard, peregrine falcon, crested tit, tit, goldfinch, eared owl, barn owl, kingfisher, heron, black kite, red kite, common blackbird, glossy ibis, common fly, cattle egrets, teals, bittern, little egret, white wagtail, yellow wagtail, purple gallinule, moscón bird, woodcock, brown nighthawks, wood pigeon, shoveler, robin, spotted woodpecker, finch, woodpecker, moorhen, pochard, totovía, little grebe, mistle thrush, song thrush, curlew, magpie, swift, greenfinch, oriole, Cetti’s warbler, nightingale, little bustard, great crested grebe, shelduck, pied flycatcher, spotted flycatcher, common flycatcher, tufted duck, pochar, ferruginous duck, rabilargo, buzzard, common buzzard, common scoter, short-toed lark, stonechat, merganser, firecrest, gull-billed tern, lugano, water rail, bunting, reed bunting, ortega.”