Monday, 27 September 2010

Cheering up Birds- Rufous Fantail and New Zealand Fantail

Good Morning! Today's Cheering up bird is the Rufous Fantail, Rhipidura rufifrons; an Australasian insect-eating bird. The image above is by Brett Donald and has a creative commons attribution share alike 2.5 licence- you can find details of that [here]

There are more details about this active little bird on wikipedia [here] and about its relatives - the fantails of Asia and Australasia -[here]

The obvious birds of New Zealand are things like the various Kiwi species, Apteryx spp, the Kakapo, Strigops habroptila, and the Kea,Nestor notabilis, but the country also has some fan-tail species, including the aptly named New Zealand fantail, Rhipidura fuliginosa (pictured below).

Pied fantail (also called New Zealand fantail)- picture by Tony Willis. This image has a creative commons attribution share-alike 3.0 licence- you can find details [here].

Sunday, 26 September 2010

Links of the day-The great pacific Garbage patch, Harvest mice photo gallery

Today's first link does exactly what it says on the tin- it is a gallery of photographs of some harvest mice released from captivity and followed in the wild for a year-

Today's second link is also a photo gallery- this time from The Sun newspaper. The paper gives pride of place to a stunning image of a hummingbird and a green pit viper by Hungarian photographer Bence Mate but also includes some other stunning pictures. There is a scene of masses of frog spawn at the bottom of a mountain pond and one of a hermit crab taking shelter in a bottle-top, in lieu of a shell-

On the subject of waste bottles, one article I have been meaning to link to for some time is this piece by Ed Cumming of The Daily Telegraph on "The Great Pacific Garbage Patch". The article, was originally published as "Bottling up a Problem for the Future" on 16th March of this year in the paper version of the newspaper. It looks at the enormous problems posed by (mostly) plastic bottles in the ocean.
This quote gives an idea of the sheer scale of the problem-

"In 2006, the United Nations Environment Programme estimated that there were 46,000 pieces of floating plastic in every square mile of ocean. With its stubborn refusal to biodegrade, all plastic not buried in landfills – roughly half of it – sweeps into streams and sewers and then out into rivers and, finally, the ocean. "

to put this in a biological context, as Mr Cummings's article explains, "there [is] eight times as much plastic as plankton in the North Pacific". The problem is that this material ultimately gets broken down into "nurdles": a really great word, if ever I saw one. Unfortunately, nurdles- tiny grains of plastic- are not a great thing, not in the ocean, at any rate, since they are not only harmful on their own, but they are very absorbent, and "soak up waterborne toxins, such as pesticides and cooling agents". The poison-saturated nurdles are ultimately eaten by filter-feeders at the very bottom of the food chain, and then make their way up it. As any good biologist knows, toxins become increasingly concentrated up the food chain. Aside from the environmental damage this situation will cause, since humans, are at the top of their food chain, this is all bad news.

You can find Ed Cumming's full article online under the title "The Biggest Dump in the World"- [HERE]

Wednesday, 22 September 2010

Sweet Peas and Autumn Trees....

Image: "Autumn Trees" by Victoria Neblik. Now available as a print (for details, e mail

Link of the day today is this article about a breakthrough in skin-graft technology,using sweet pea Lathyrus odoratus ; the article is from The Guardian newspaper-

Monday, 20 September 2010

Return of the Cheering up Bird- Hummingbird

Good Morning. Happy Monday.
The Cheering-up bird is back on Weirdbeautiful today
with this wonderful image of a Hummingbird leaving some Montbretia (Crocosmia sp.) flowers. The picture is by Mila Zinkova and it is not the first time her work has appeared on Weirdbeautiful (or wikipedia, for that matter). Mila Zinkova also took this swallow tail butterfly image (posted on Weirdbeautiful back in March) and this picture of the Californian quail (cheering-up bird number 20) .

Today's hummingbird image has a creative commons 3.0 GNU licence (for license details click [HERE]).

While I am on the subject of beautiful images, take a look at this shot of a Cabbage white butterfly (presumably) feeding on Buddleia- This is from Chris Owens's photostream on Flikr.

Thursday, 16 September 2010

Links of the day- baby sloths, photosynthesis and self-assembling solar panels

First Link-of-the-day today is this to gallery of pictures of baby sloths from a wildlife resuce centre in Costa Rica: sloths don't generally rank highly on most people's lists of cute animals: these pictures may change your mind-

Today's second link is this article reporting research into solar panels/ photosynthesis: according to the link, scientists at MIT have created a synthetic process that imitates photosynthesis. By combining phospholipids and carbon nanotubes, they have been able to produce a "self-assembling solar panel": this is an over simplification, of course, the details are here-

Tuesday, 14 September 2010

Link of the day- bull-sharks, ants, trees and elephants...

Image: Bullshark- photographed in Beqa Lagoon, Fiji by Terry Goss (Mr Goss is known as "Pterantula" on flikr- you can find his photostream [here])This image has a GNU free documentation licence- details [here]

Hi. Welcome (back) to Weirdbeautiful.

First link-of-the-day today is this article in the New York Times (and International Herald Tribune) talking about how ants living in certain specific trees protect them from elephant attack- essentially by swarming and biting any approaching elephants. The ants, which feed on a sweet secretion released by the tree, thereby protect the tree from damage/being eaten and safeguard their own food source and habitat. The full length article gives more details-

The second link-of-the-day is this blog post by J. Freedom du Lac from The Washington Post; it talks about an 8-foot (2.4 metre) long bull shark (Carcharhinus leucas) being caught in the Potomac river in Maryland, USA. This is further north than the species' usual range, but the creatures are believed to be feeding on rays and crabs in Chesapeake Bay. The post is here-

Thursday, 9 September 2010

Monday, 6 September 2010

Link of the day- Natural Wonders of the World...

Socotra dragon tree, Dracaena cinnabari - image by Boris Khvostichenko- this image has a creative commons 1.2 licence- details [here]

Hi. Welcome to Weirdbeautiful.

Link of the day today is this feature/ gallery of natural wonders of the world by MSN-

look out especially for the "Andean Penitentes" - bizarre ice formations found mostly in Chile and Argentina- ,

for the stunning volcanic crater known as "Hell's gate" in Turkmenistan-

the weird plants of Yemen's Socotra Archipelago- notably the famous Socotra dragon tree-

and the otherworldly landscape of the Salar de Uyuni saltflat in Bolivia-

Penitentes- image by "Arvaki"- this image has a creative commons 1.2 licence- details [here]

Blog post by Victoria Neblik- for more details of Victoria's latest photographic book- "Rock in the Landscape", click [here] or search for "Victoria Neblik" on

Thursday, 2 September 2010

Quote of the week- Gerrard Battail, Kalevi Kull and Biological signals

[mainstream biology]"remains basically concerned with the flow of matter and energy into and between living entities, failing to recognise [that] the information flow is at least as important" - Gerrard Battail, Telecom Paris-Tech

- this is actually a quote from an article by Liz Else in This Week's New Scientist magazine (No 2774, 21st Aug 2010) about the growing field of "biosemiontics". "Biosemiotics" could be roughly deinfed as "the study of biological signals and their importance to living organisms". Liz Else's article also quotes Kalevi Kull from the University of Tartu in Estonia on the same subject; generating this more complicated description of Biosemiotics and its importance-

"Biology has studied how organisms and living communities are built. But it is no less important to understand what such living systems know, in a broad sense; that is, what they remember.....what they recognise (what distinctions they are capable and not capable of), what signs they explore (how they communicate, make meanings and use signs) and so on. These questions are all about how different living systems perceive the world, how they model the world, what experience motivates what actions, based on those perceptions"

Liz Else's full article is onsale in New Scientist magazine. The article also recommends this link