Thursday, 29 October 2009

Quote of the Week- Martin Luther- Trees

"Every green tree is far more glorious than if it were made of gold and silver"
- Martin Luther (1483-1546)

Monday, 26 October 2009

Cheering-up bird 10- Heron

This week's cheering up bird is a Heron- for technical reasons that I don't really understand, I cannot reproduce more than 1 pixel of the original image here. So let me provide a link instead- the image is "Heron in a Hurry" by Dave Karnes and was originally posted at this address-

Saturday, 24 October 2009

Diary of a Nomadic Naturalist- October 2009

British birds bore me rigid. I can offer no justification or excuse for my total lack of enthusiasm for them- I just cannot get excited about a small brown winged creature flitting between the balding branches in the shrubbery. Overseas, it is a completely different story- I have no sooner landed in foreign climes than been transformed into the most insufferably obsessive twitcher. I cannot be alone in this as almost all countries seem to sell laminated brochures of their common wildlife –especially birds- for the interested tourist.

This month, I am in Israel and, as on previous visits, I am getting good use out of my laminated bird-leaflet: in this case, “Birds of Israel- A pocket Guide to common species”. The “Nature in Israel” people have clearly gone one step further than many of their foreign counterparts in selling, not only general guides to wildlife and bird leaflets, but specific pocket guides to trees and shrubs, wildflowers and mammals, all of which I am working through.

The wildlife in this region is a curious mix of European, African and Asiatic species, with a few endemic species, thrown in, as if for good measure. Turkey is famous for its birdlife because it lies at the intersection of continents. Israel has a similarly favourable location and some wonderfully diverse landscapes; the lush north of the country invites very different species from the barren sands of the Negev Desert to the south. Of course, many of the birds here would be familiar to any Briton – great tits, house sparrows, goldfinches, chaffinches and so forth- even greenfinches, plovers and barn owls, but there are other more exotic creatures, too. The spectacled bulbul- a black, white and grey bird, with a striking yellow patch under its tail is a familiar garden resident. Hoopoes, which theoretically visit Britain from time to time, actually do inhabit Israel all the time.

Pigeon fanciers in Britain talk about “ash red” pigeons- really a brown variant of the better known grey/blue racing pigeon. However, in Israel, the feral pigeons really are red. Or, to be more accurate, the urban pigeons familiar across Europe, are largely replaced in cities by their similar but strikingly red-tinged cousin- Streptopelia senegalensis- the Laughing dove, which, as its name suggests, is also an African species.

Of all these birds, the one of greatest interest to me is the one I have been unable to find- a beautiful medium sized green animal with a vivid blue face and broad, sharp black stripe across its eyes. My guide calls it Merops orientalis , or the “Little Green Bee Eater”, which somehow implies that there is only one in the country (perhaps why it has proven so elusive, so far). So, my aim this month is to track down the Little Green Bee Eater, wherever he is hiding, and photograph him- if not for posterity, at least to show my British bird-watching friends- a creature that is most certainly not brown nor drab- now that is a bird worth getting excited about.

- Victoria Neblik, Jerusalem, Israel, Oct 2009. (c) Victoria Neblik 2009.

-This post is an extract from my forthcoming book- "Weirdbeautiful". The book will combine my pick of extracts from this blog with exclusive, unpublished wildlife photos, diary articles, interviews, quotations from famous scientists and other short science-themed articles. When the book is released, I will make an announcement on this blog. To join the mailing list for advanced notice of release, e mail: with the subject line "Weirdbeautiful book mailing list". Thank you for reading.

Thursday, 22 October 2009

Quote of the Week- Galileo Galilei- the stars

"I've loved the stars too fondly to be fearful of the night"
-Galileo (1564-1642)

Tuesday, 20 October 2009

A week in the life of a Wildlife Writer

I wrote a diary-piece about a week in the life of a wildlife writer (the wildlife writer in question being me)- for contractual reasons, I cannot reproduce it on this blog, but you can find it at this address:

thanks to Nurit Intrater for help with posting today

Monday, 19 October 2009

Cheering-up moth- Oleander Hawkmoth

In place of a cheering up bird, this week, we have an Oleander Hawkmoth (Daphnis nerii) ; this stunning photo was taken by Subharghya Das in Mysore, Karnataka, India. This impressive hawkmoth has pale blue caterpillars and is found in large parts of Africa and Asia, even Southern Europe in the Summer.
This image was originally published by Subharghya Das here- and is just one of many beautiful photographs in Mr Das's photostream.

Thursday, 15 October 2009

Quote of the Week- Isaac Asimov-problems and ignorance

"If knowledge can create problems, it is not through ignorance that we can solve them" - Isaac Asimov, American Scientist, (2/1/1920-6/4/1992)

Monday, 12 October 2009

Cheering-up bird 9- parakeet in flight

Image (c) Victoria Neblik, 2009 - from the forthcoming book "Weirdbeautiful".
I will put an announcement on here when the book is on sale, but if you want to join the mailing list and receive advance notice, please e mail

Thursday, 8 October 2009

Quote of the Week- Lord Kelvin- physics, stamp collection and flight

"All science is either physics or stamp collecting."
Lord Kelvin (1824-1907)

however, Lord Kelvin also said that

"Heavier-than-air flying machines are impossible."

I am very grateful to , which is the source of many of these quotes -of-the-week.

Monday, 5 October 2009

Cheering-up bird 8- Golden Pheasant

This week's cheering-up bird is the golden pheasant. Images V. Neblik.

The image quality here is not great, but it is such a pretty animal that I wanted to post these pictures anyway.

Saturday, 3 October 2009

Articles online

I'm happy to say that several more of my articles have now been published on e-zine

They are-

"Ask a particle physicist"- an interview with Dr. Jeanne Wilson- full text version

and 3 articles that have previously appeared in on this blog-

"Finding China's Lost Pandas" (-a Science Report summarising published research) (

"Bees and Bacteria" - ( a summary of published scientific research on bees and on oil-slick digesting bacteria) ( puiblished here as two articles - and

"Nutty Chimps"- (scientific research on chimps using tools to crack nuts) ( published on this blog some time ago

I am also happy to say that I have a couple of print articles coming out soon- one being an interview with snake expert Joel La Rocque- due out soon in Practical Reptile Keeping magazine - more details of that when it is available in the shops.

Thursday, 1 October 2009

Quote of the Week- Hippocrates- astrology

"A physician without a knowledge of Astrology has no right to call himself a physician."- Hippocrates (460BC- 357BC)

(It is really Such a shame he's not alive to have a televised debate on the subject with Prof Richard Dawkins... )