If you happen to be in the ancient Caledonian pinewoods of the Scottish Highlands during April or May, you may hear a very unusual sound. It is often likened to a champagne cork popping and the liquid being poured, but in reverse – starting with the liquid gurgle and ending with the ‘pop’ (listen to it here). These bizarre noises are the spring display calls of the male capercaillie, one of our most impressive and dramatic birds.
If you’ve been following this blog for a while, you may know that for the past six months, we’ve been posting Freaky Frog articles every fortnight. During our journey through the weird and wonderful world of these amazing amphibians, we’ve looked at the delightfully named ‘scrotum frog’, we’ve examined the remarkable defensive mechanism of the ‘wolverine frog’, and we’ve marvelled at the cryogenic wood frog. There have been frogs that brood their young in their vocal sacs. Toads that brood their young inside pockets in their own skin. Frogs with moustaches. Frogs that practise ‘reproductive necrophilia’.
Last August, I wrote two articles on the coronavirus pandemic – one explaining how the virus passed from animals to humans, probably via a wildlife market in China, and another exploring how the subsequent lockdowns impacted wildlife and the environment across the world. They were meant to be brief, exploratory articles rather than comprehensive studies and, barring any future major events that directly affected the natural world, I had no plans to write any follow-ups.
The Congo African grey is an understated beauty sporting ash-grey plumage, which partially conceals the flash of red in its short tail (it is not to be confused with the smaller, darker Timneh grey parrot). This species is found, as its name would suggest, in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), along with Kenya, Tanzania and parts of Angola. Already globally threatened, it is more important than ever to understand how the political environment in the DRC is exacerbating the numerous and varied problems facing this gorgeous parrot.
South Africa is in the midst of a rhino poaching epidemic. The statistics concerning this illegal practice over the past decade or so make for very grim reading. Between 1990 and 2007, there were relatively few rhino poaching incidents in South Africa. Five in 1991, nine in 2001, and thirteen in 2007, to give just a few figures. Poaching was increasing every year – but only slightly.