“Scientist and photographer Igor Siwanowicz has made a name for himself previously documenting the phenomenal range of shapes, colors, and structures of creatures in the natural world. His many images of unique caterpillars include wild variations like feathery blue spikes, curling burnt-orange horns, and long black whiskers. Siwanowicz also works as a neurobiologist at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Janelia Farm Research Campus in Virginia. He shares more than ten years of his photography on photo.net.”
And if you think those are spectacular, you will be awestruck by the incredible wonder of life on Earth as seen under Igor’s laser-scanning microscope
“The most beautiful thing is to fly in the heavens with the angels that are the birds”
says Frenchman Christian Moullec, and he should know. For the last 20 years he has dedicated his life to helping those angels with their migration.
It all began in 1995 when Moullec heard that lesser white-fronted geese were struggling with their migration from Germany to Sweden. He made it his mission to reintroduce the geese to the area of northern Sweden we know as Lapland. So he made himself parent to orphaned chicks, and acquired a microlight aircraft – like you do – to guide the youngsters safely to their destination.
One of his favourite memories is the 5-week trip leading the geese to Lapland with his wife – then 5 months pregnant with their first son – in the passenger seat of the microlight.
This delightful video show him teaching his ‘offspring’ a few vital goosey tricks.
You’ll be delighted to learn that his reintroduction plan for the geese was a success. He continues with his conservation work, taking to the air almost every day. For the last few years he has taken paying passengers with him, which helps fund his work for birds.
He explains, “A third of wild birds have disappeared from Europe during the last 30 years, because of man. It’s a disaster. My beautiful images with flying birds should be used to tell this story. The famous French writer Victor Hugo said that the beautiful is more useful than the useful, so I hope that the beautiful images of my birds in flight will be useful to migratory birds and to humans.”
For him, and he believes for his passengers who he hopes will mirror his deep respect for the natural world, flying with birds is “an overwhelming spiritual experience.”
The words of a gentle soul, true friend to, and lover of Nature.
If you want to fly with the birds, and who wouldn’t, check out Christian Moullec’s website. Or take a virtual flight and check out some of his mesmerising videos
“Even though the science is out there, until we feel it in our hearts and minds we are not moved to take action.” PhotographerTim Flach
Tim’s aim in his new book ‘Endangered’ is to demolish the barrier of ‘otherness’ that prevents us seeing the fellow creatures we are in danger of losing forever, as the persons they really are.
With the wildlife crisis we find ourselves in today – with 30%, or even as many as 50% of all species heading towards extinction by the end of the century¹ – “there is an increasing acceptance that highlighting the emotional connection between humans and animals can help reverse this destructive trend.” The Telegraph
And that is exactly what this remarkable photographer does with superlative skill – he shows us the person behind the species label – not just a pangolin but this particular unique pangolin person. And look – she, like us, has a mother.
“Now here we are in this mechanistic world where for most of us our only contact is with a dog, or a cat, and we are more likely to encounter a chicken in the supermarket than one with its feathers on. How do we engage with animals? We have somehow been separated. We know animals in a virtual sense better than ever before through the films of David Attenborough and such. Yet in actuality, we have never been more separated.”
We are in danger of losing everyone of these beings with whom we share the planet. If Tim’s portraits don’t bring the tragedy os such a loss home to us, nothing will.
We may never have the chance to encounter these amazing beings in the flesh, but the next best thing is Tim’s exhibition at London’s Osborne Samuel Gallery.
If you can’t make it to the exhibition, I urge you to check out the entire Endangered collection here. It will blow your mind.
Whatever you may think of PETA, this is a genius move IMHO. By honoring Naruto, the crested black macaque with a famously goofy grin, as “Person of the Year” the organisation is emphasising that “he is someone, not something”. And what a person he is! I only wish he were able to revel in this accolade – though as long as he is safe and happy…. Go Naruto!
Brian Valente’s photo of a laughing seal is a finalist for the 2017 Comedy Wildlife Photo Awards. (Photo: Brian Valente/Comedy Wildlife Photo Awards 2017)
The 2017 Comedy Wildlife Photography Awards finalists have been announced, and this year’s crop doesn’t disappoint in the humor department with hilarious expressions, amusing antics and even a little fun with perspective.
While you may laugh out loud (or at least crack a grin), keep in mind the contest has a serious goal: highlighting wildlife conservation efforts.
‘Let Me Clear My Vision’ is one of 40 finalists in this year’s contest. (Photo: Arkaprava Ghosh /Comedy Wildlife Photo Awards 2017)
This year, more than 3,500 entries from 86 countries were submitted to the contest, which was started by photographers Paul Joynson-Hicks and Tom Sullam.
From 40 finalists, the category and overall winners will be announced Dec. 14. The overall winner gets a week-long, all-expense-paid, photographer-led safari in Kenya.
‘Hitching a ride’ is a 2017 finalist. (Photo: Daisy Gilardini/Comedy Wildlife Photo Awards 2017)
“Conservation was always at the heart of the competition, along with the fact that people seemed to enjoy images of animals doing entertaining things,” said Sullam in a statement. “But essentially living in a country that has some of the best wildlife in the world — Tanzania — and seeing how destructive human actions can be to this wildlife, made us want to do our little bit to help.”
A terrifyingly big grin in ‘Smile.’ (Photo: Eugene Kitsios/Comedy Wildlife Photo Awards 2017)
Joynson-Hicks and Sullam recently released a new book of some of the funniest photos (the “best of the best,” they say) to come through the Comedy Wildlife Photography Awards. Some of the proceeds go to the Born Free Foundation, a wildlife conservation charity.
Any mom will immediately understand why this photo is called ‘MOM MOM MOM MOM.’ (Photo: Barb D’Arpino/Comedy Wildlife Photo Awards 2017)
Take a look at more of our favorite finalists, including the fed-up mother owl above who has had it with her little ones.
‘Animal encounters’ is a 2017 finalist. (Photo: jean-Jacques Alcalay /Comedy Wildlife Photo Awards 2017)
He needed to get a better view — or maybe he really likes crowd-surfing.
‘WTF’ is a thing even in the animal kingdom. (Photo: George Cathcart/Comedy Wildlife Photo Awards 2017)
Redditors would have a field day with this elephant seal photo as a meme.
Fun with perspective in ‘Outsourcing seatbelt checks.’ (Photo: Graeme Guy/Comedy Wildlife Photo Awards 2017)
It looks like this giraffe is peering into the plane as it comes in for a landing. Maybe this airport employs wildlife as part of the security team.
All aboard the ‘Foster Monkey Escape’! (Photo: Katy Leveck/Comedy Wildlife Photo Awards 2017)
These two monkeys in Indonesia are making a getaway on a borrowed motorcycle.
What a cutie in ‘Cheering sea otter.’ (Photo: Penny Palmer/Comedy Wildlife Photo Awards 2017)
This sea otter is living his best life and loving it. We should all be so lucky.
How in heaven’s name did that wildebeest get up there – insane!
These little creatures are as fascinating as they are beautiful. In fact, they are SO amazing, they’re inspiring a futuristic design for harnessing green energy. Look out for the new fact I’ve added to this article, no. 17!
These psychedelic pixies of the bird world are all magic and moxie.
There are a lot of magical creatures on this planet, but it’s really hard to outdo the hummingbird when it comes to enchantment. They are the nectar-fueled, jewel-hued fairies of the bird world – and they have the moxie to match. These teeny wee things display some of the most vivid colors in the animal kingdom and have prodigious talents unique to themselves – like, you know, they hover – all in a Lilliputian package that weighs as little as a paperclip. I’m not sure they could be anymore bewitching – but if you need convincing, start here.
1. They’re not called hummingbirds for nothing
While they could have been named purringbirds or whirringbirds, the fact remains that they create quite the buzz, befitting of their onomatopoetic name. A hummingbird beats its wings around 70 times per second in direct flight and over 200 times per second while diving.
2. They are aerial acrobats
Hummingbirds can fly up, down and all around – forwards, backwards and even upside down. They can beat their wings in a figure-eight pattern, which makes them the only vertebrates capable of sustained hovering. They can fly 30 mph, and exceed 45 mph during courtship dives.
3. They put their flying to good use
Hummingbirds are found only in the New World, from southeastern Alaska to southern Chile – and of the 340 species of hummingbirds, many of them migrate at least 500 miles every year. The rufous hummingbird migrates 3,000 miles (4,800 kilometers) from Mexico to Alaska every year; ruby-throated hummingbirds can fly 18 to 20 straight hours to get across the Gulf of Mexico.
4. And of course, they are tiny
Much of the enchantment of these spectacular birds is that they pack so much magic into such a small creature. And in fact, the bee hummingbird of Cuba (pictured below), is around two inches long and weighs in at under 2 grams, is the smallest bird in the world. Theoretically, 16 of them could be mailed first class using a single stamp.
5. They are remarkably flamboyant
Those of us east of the Mississippi only get to enjoy the ruby-throated hummingbird, and in all, only 17 species regularly nest in The States – but in the tropics? The place is humming with them. And like other creatures who live in the lush habitats of South America, many of them are vividly candy-colored with all kinds of frippery to add pizzazz – as can be seen in many of the photos here.
6. The men are dandies
Purple cheek pompoms, exuberant crests, wildly burdensome-looking tails – along with some of the most beautiful colors known to nature, male hummingbirds come with all kinds of wild add-ons to woo the ladies. The tails of species like the long-tailed sylph (Aglaiocercus kingii) and the booted racket-tail (Ocreatus underwoodii) – who also sports some perfectly poofy pantaloons – are completely improbable. (Both pictured below.) Which is also the point; the males who can survive with such beautifully burdensome tails prove to the females how hearty they are and what splendid mates they would make.
7. Their nests could be the work of fairies
Hummingbird nests are the tiny homes of the bird world, usually not exceeding the size of half a walnut shell. They are velvety little cups formed from moss, leaves and plant bits, woven together with spider silk. And into the nests, mama birds deposit one to three tiny eggs the size of small pearls.
8. They have the quickest hearts in town
With heart rates exceeding 1,200 beats per minute, hummingbirds have the fastest beating hearts in the animal kingdom.
9. They are gluttons for nectar
To keep their exuberant metabolism fueled, these little guys and gals need a prodigious amount of food, mostly in the form of nectar. One study noted that a hummingbird of 3 grams can devour 43 grams of sugar water in a day; that’s 14 times its body weight. They also eat tree sap, as well as insects.
10. Bill, please
One of the hummingbird’s hallmarks is its long crazy bill that is specialized to fit into tubular flowers to get the goods. Different species have differently shaped bills in accordance with the flowers they prefer. Some are dramatically curved, others are very long. In the case of the remarkable sword-billed hummingbird, pictured below, so long that they have to hold it upright in order to stay balanced when perching! In fact, it is the only species of bird with a bill longer than its body.
11. Their tongues would demolish a lollipop
Hummingbirds have a long, split tongue that they use to vacuum nectar from flowers; it is such a fast-working tongue that it can flick at a rate of up to 13 licks per second.
12. They never forget
Believe it or not, those wee heads hold a lot of brainpower! One study found that the hummingbird’s hippocampus is significantly larger, relative to telencephalic volume, than any bird examined to date. Why? Because of their extraordinary nectar lust, they visit hundreds of flowers each day. “In order to feed efficiently,” notes the researchers, “they must remember what flowers they have visited, the locations of high nectar-rewarding flowers and a host of additional spatial–temporal information. A combination of field and laboratory studies demonstrate that hummingbirds can remember the nectar quality and content of individual flowers, nectar-refilling rates, spatial location and distribution of flowers, avoid revisiting recently sampled flowers and rely on ‘episodic-like’ memory for daily foraging.”
13. They find walking passé
Have you ever seen a hummingbird walk or even hop? Probably not, since they don’t bother. Their feet are so small and their flying so adept that they have pretty much done away with using them for anything other than perching.
14. They have great eyes
While hummingbirds can’t smell very well, they can see a whole array of colors that we can not, thanks to their ability to process ultraviolet light.
15. They have built-in flying goggles
Hummingbirds are one of the lucky animals that come complete with a third set of eyelids. These “nictitating membranes” are like a translucent curtain that can be drawn to protect the eyes during flight. They’d be all set for Burning Man.
16. Their collective name is a “charm”
Just like we have flocks of sheep and packs of dogs and gaggles of geese, we have charms of hummingbirds. Because, of course – few creatures are as charming as a hummingbird, let alone a group of them!
Epilogue: Amazingly, hummingbirds were almost rendered extinct in the 19th century thanks to the Victorian penchant for vibrant feathers and the fashionable collecting of specimens by nature connoisseurs. Thankfully we’ve come to recognize the folly in that, yet these most beautiful of birds, like so many of the planet’s species, now face other risks. Namely, habitat loss and destruction. We can only hope that future generations will be able to admire hummingbirds and look back feeling grateful that 21st century humankind wised up before it was too late.
My comment: How grateful future generations will be to us humans alive today remains to be seen. The best step we can take individually to ensure that there will be left of this wondrous planet something to be grateful for, is to move towards a more plant-based diet. Check out Take Extinction off Our Plates and Eat for the Planet. As lovers of wildlife, we do owe it to Planet Earth as a matter of urgency.
And here’s my no.17. Let’s hope this will help with a greener future for us all.
A design for wind turbines inspired by the world’s only bird capable of hovering and backwards flight — the gorgeous hummingbird.
It’s a world first in biomimicry says Tyer Wind, the company trialing this design. The hummingbird’s flight dynamics have never been reproduced in a mechanical device before.
How is this an improvement on the standard turbine model? “This design is a highly efficient wind converter. Million of years of natural selection have turned hummingbirds into some of the world’s most energetically efficient flyers.”
If you’re interested in the biodynamics of this remarkable little bird’s flight, you can see more in the video.