The lily and the voles

Merendera montana (L.) is a small, autumn-flowering plant, largely endemic to the Iberian Peninsula (Spain and Portugal). It is a member of the lily family (Liliaceae) and is widespread and common on heavily grazed grasslands, to which it is peculiarly adapted.  A high concentration of alkaloids – such as colchicine (1) – in the leaves ensures that it is…

Zebra doves: an appreciation

Zebra doves (Geopelia striata) are small ground doves found throughout South East Asia.  They are commonly seen in parks and gardens where they walk about with a slow and purposeful manner, looking for food or feeding on grass seed.  They are an attractive bird with a soft cooing call, and are frequently kept as pets…

In praise of LBJs (Tree sparrows)

Tree sparrows (Passer montanus) are rather special birds in the Family ‘little brown jobs’ (!), having declined drastically in numbers in the United Kingdom since the 1970s, most probably as a result of changing farming practices.  There was even an Operation Tree Sparrow, which was launched by the RSPB and Natural England to try to halt…

Thai Cruiser feeding on poinsettia flowers

I came across these butterflies feeding on poinsettias in early November (2013) when I visited the headquarters of the Doi Suthep-Pui National Park, Chiang Mai, Thailand. The butterfly is the Common Cruiser (or Thai Cruiser) Vindula erota erota Fabricius, 1793 (female). This species, especially the female, exhibits seasonal variation, and this is the dry-season form,…

Ang Ka Nature Trail – Doi Inthanon

The Ang Ka Nature Study trail is a ca. 360 mm wooden boardwalk near the top of Doi Inthanon, the highest mountain in Thailand (2,565m), which was reportedly designed by a Canadian biologist. It is very popular with bird watchers as well as other visitors wanting to experience a walk through the moist evergreen forest…

A potter wasp – Phimenes flavopictus

Potter wasps make beautifully crafted pot-shaped nests out of mud and saliva: nature’s own potters! They are solitary insects and lay one or more eggs inside the nests (or pots) which they then provision with insects such as caterpillars or beetle larvae, for their offspring to feed on. I came across this beautiful specimen on…

Camouflage – in whose eyes?

When we look at beautifully camouflaged insects, such as certain butterfly species which look so much like the leaves or vegetation of their environment, we sometimes forget that they are not camouflaged for our eyes, but for those of their would be predators, which might have better eyes than us (like a hawk or owl).…

Predation on butterflies

Many butterflies we see happily flying around are not perfect specimens! Far from it; they often have chunks missing from their wings; presumably as a result of some lucky escape from a pecking bird. Such imperfections often only become noticeable in photographs, as these two examples show. Yet these are survivors; their camoflague, or behaviour,…