Sunday, May 25, 2008

Huge moth stuns family

Behemoth: Mitch Ralston has a great story for school after this Hercules moth took up residence in his Port Douglas home,
Measuring 26cm wing tip-to-wing tip, this Hercules moth stopped in at Sue and Iain Ralston’s home near Port Douglas, north of Cairns, for two days, fascinating their nature loving sons Sam and Mitch.

The giant insects have a 10-day lifespan and are attracted to veranda lights, Australian Butterfly Sanctuary manager Anja Bakker told The Cairns Post yesterday.

"We’re really lucky that we’ve got the largest moth flying around here," she said.

"They come out throughout the year but they are more frequent in summer months."

The nine and six-year-old brothers were disappointed when they awoke to find the moth gone from the family’s bi-fold door on their Spring Creek property.

Mrs Ralston said the boys would have liked to preserve the insect at the end of its short lifespan.

"They were slightly disappointed," Mrs Ralston said.

"They wanted it to stay here but they understood it was nature."

The family, who live in a pole home 13km from Port Douglas, usually get snakes, bats and green frogs inhabiting the house but nothing "larger than life".

"We’ve lived 14 years in this house and we’ve never seen anything like this before," Mrs Ralston said.

8 twisters: big storms, small toll

By Bryan Dean and Michael Kimball
Tornadoes destroyed a pig farm near Lacey and heavily damaged a home in southern Garfield County, officials said.

At least eight tornadoes have touched down in Kingfisher, Garfield and Noble Counties, the National Weather Service confirmed.

Chasing the storm Storm chasers share their thoughts on following Saturday's tornadoes.


Some sheds and small buildings were destroyed about three miles south of Perry, but no injuries were reported, a Noble County dispatcher said.

Some roof damage to a shed and small barn were visible just east of State Highway 86.

Storm spotters also reported tornadoes around Orlando, but officials said they had not received any reports of injuries or damage.

A “large, violent, multiple-vortex tornado” was reported about 4:40 p.m. by spotters two miles southeast of Douglas, the National Weather Service said.

That storm severely damaged a home on Bison Road a mile east of State Highway 74.

Jerry Taylor, 55, lives alone in the stone house. He said he was sitting on a hill next to his house watching the storms when he saw the tornado coming and decided to take shelter.

“I just watched it coming at me through the window, and that’s when I could see that all hell was about to break loose, so I jumped in my closet,” Taylor said.

The house was heavily damaged. A shed and stable were destroyed. Taylor said two of his five horses were missing.

An office trailer that was unoccupied was also thrown into the middle of the road at State Highway 74 and Bison Road, officials said. Power lines and trees were also down in the area.

Other tornadoes touched down near Lacey, Bison, Douglas and Orlando.

Daryl Williams, a forecaster with the National Weather Service, said it’s difficult to tell exactly how many tornadoes touched down because many touched the ground only briefly before quickly dissipating.

“It’s really sketchy right now, somewhere in the area of eight or more,” Williams said. “It’s going to take some investigation by the local emergency managers and it will be a day or two until we get some real numbers.”

One of two tornadoes near Lacey destroyed several buildings at Seaboard Foods Farm No. 62, a pig farm.

John Hardaway, production manager with Seaboard Foods, said the six of the farm’s eight barns were completely destroyed and the other two were heavily damaged.

Many smaller buildings and sheds, including a water storage building, were also destroyed.

Several employees were at the farm when the tornado hit, Hennessey Fire Chief Bert Gritz said.

“There were some employees that got in the office and they were hunkered down in the showers,” Gritz said. “It blew some windows out, but they are all OK.”

The farm houses 3,900 sows and their piglets, most of which escaped unharmed, Hardaway said. The barns fell down around them, but the animals were kept in crates that generally withstood the storm.

“The crates actually protected them somewhat,” Hardaway said. “The majority will actually be fine.”

There were some pig carcasses in the area.

Hardaway said the company’s first priority is to remove debris. Construction crews were already on the site a couple of hours after the storm hit. Over the next couple of days workers will bring in water and shade until they can move the animals to another farm. Gritz and Ooten said no injuries were reported from the storm.

“There was an abandoned farm house and a barn that got hit about eight miles west and two miles north of Hennessey, but it hadn’t been lived in for several years,” Gritz said.

Damage was also reported to a grain elevator on Highway 132 in far northwest Kingfisher County, Ooten said.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Brutus, The Fishing Dog

It's not a fluke. Brutus has caught quite a few this year.

Moses Miracle of Jindo in South Korea

Jindo Island, in South Korea, is host to one of the world’s most amazing natural phenomenons, called the Moses Miracle. Two times a year, during a low tide, a land path 2.8 kilometers long and 40 meters wide is revealed, uniting the islands of Jindo and Modo for a period of one hour. A festival is dedicated to this natural wonder and people from all around the world attend every year. However the Moses Miracle was largely unknown until 1975, when a French ambassador visited South Korea and wrote about in a French Newspaper.The legend behind this Korean phenomenon goes like this: a Jindo village was attacked by tigers and all the villagers ran to Modo island for shelter. All, except for a helpless old woman who was left behind, out of despair she prayed to the Sea God, who split the sea and helped her escape the bloodthirsty animals.

The Moses Miracle just took place on May 18th.
eatures of Moses Miracle of Jindo in South Korea

- The festival named Jindo Sea Parting Festival usually takes place three times a year in March, May and July. However with the growing tide of enthusiast tourists the festival is decided to be held in the month of April also.

- For capturing a grand view of the sea dividing in two halves and making a pathway, one can enjoy it either by climbing a hill or you can also take a stroll through the revealed seaway. The Moses Miracle of Jindo is something which should really be experienced in person.

- The Festival events related to the Moses Miracle of Jindo are thoroughly relished by millions of visitors. The Jindo folksongs and the special Korean dance named Ganggangsullae are performed and enjoyed by professionals and visiting tourists alike.

- Other attractions of the Moses Miracle of Jindo comprises of a firework display, laser beam show, an outstanding performance by the Korean Shamanists, and a traditional musical extravaganza along with a drum performance.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Lost parrot recites his name and address

Yosuke, a parrot who lives in Nagareyama, Japan, escaped from his cage and was lost for two weeks. He was found on a rooftop and brought first to a police station and then a veterinary hospital. Fortunately when he met the vet, Yosuke remembered to recite his name and address. From the Associated Press:

"I'm Mr. Yosuke Nakamura," the bird told the veterinarian, according to (policeman Shinjiro) Uemura. The parrot also provided his full home address, down to the street number, and even entertained the hospital staff by singing songs.

"We checked the address, and what do you know, a Nakamura family really lived there. So we told them we've found Yosuke," Uemura said.

Monday, May 19, 2008

How to Create a Butterfly Garden

Add beauty and life to your garden with the inclusion of flowers and plants that attract butterflies. There is a range of specific plants that entice butterflies, are easy to care for and are attractive for the garden. It is important to include "Host Plants" to ensure that the butterfly larvae (caterpillars) have a home and "Nectar Plants" for the butterflies to feed upon.
[edit] Steps

1. Research first. Find out which butterflies are common in your area. Observation over a few days and the use of a butterfly field guide will help you in this pursuit.
2. Choose "Host Plants" for your garden. Note from your research what the caterpillar (larvae) of the local butterflies eat. Two excellent examples are:


Milkweed - this attracts the Monarch caterpillar; and
Parsley - this attracts the Black Swallowtail caterpillar.
3. Choose "Nectar Plants" for your garden. Nectar plants serve as the food source for the butterfly. There is a variety of possible plants and some of them are shown here. Excellent choices include:

A Butterfly Bush - this is suitable for a Swallowtail. Large plant: 4 feet (1.2m) tall, 6 feet (1.8m) wide, make sure it is hardy in your area. Some varieties are considered invasive, so make sure, if you purchase one of these, that you keep it dead-headed to prevent seed production.
Swamp Milkweed - suitable for the Snowberry Clearwing. This plant grows 3 feet (.9m) tall and 18 inches (.5m) wide. It also serves as the host plant for Monarch caterpillars.
Joe Pye Weed - this is suitable for the Swallowtail. It grows to be a very large plant - 8 feet (2.4m) tall and 4 feet (1.2m) wide. It is a perennial.
Aster - Asters grow to 3 feet (.9m) tall and 2 feet (.6m) wide. It is a perennial. Butterflies especially love native varieties.
Bee Balm - this plant grows 2 feet (.6m) tall and 18 inches (.5m) wide. It is a perennial.
Zinnia - this plant is attractive to a range of butterflies and they especially like the tall varieties. The plant generally grows 4 feet (1.2m) high and 1 foot (.3m) wide. It is an annual and is easy to start from seed.

Pentas - suitable for Swallowtails. This plant grows 2 feet (.6m) hight and 3 feet (.9m) wide. It is an annual in cold climates.
Heliotrope - this plant attracts a range of butterflies. It grows to a height of 2 feet (.6m) and a width of 1 foot (.3m), although it is possible to contain it in a pot. It will remain a perennial in temperate zones but is only an annual in cold climates.
4. Plan garden on paper. Draw up a plan, or decide where to add these suggestions to a current garden. Keep in mind the full grown size of plants during this planning stage.
5. Purchase plants or seeds from garden center. You can also get these plants and seeds online. Choose robust and healthy plants to give them a good start.
6. Plant your butterfly garden. Make sure to keep new plants and seeds watered until plants are well-established or seeds germinate. Keep the weeds at bay, to give the plants a good chance.
7. Observe and enjoy the butterfly activity in your garden. Watch for female butterflies laying eggs on host plants. Make notes in a record book of the butterflies that you observe and, if you can, take photographs to add to your record book. A digital record book can be a useful and simple way to do this and can be added to over the years. Observed changes in the types and numbers of butterflies coming into your garden can be information shared with biologists, ecologists and climate change specialists who use local variation information to ascertain species increase or decline, as well as temperature fluctuations and change.

Monarch Butterfly
If there are Monarch Butterflies in your area, they are very easy to attract. Swamp Milkweed (noted above) or Tropical Milkweed (annual in colder climates) are excellent host plants for them. The Tropical Milkweed can be started from seed in the winter.
* Monarchs are very fascinating butterflies. Their migration pattern is one of nature's great stories. Indeed, you can participate in the migration by helping to track the Monarchs that arrive in your part of the world. Report your own observations to this map.


* Always avoid planting potentially invasive species of plants. These plants can spread miles beyond the garden walls and wreak havoc on native ecosystems. If they are planted they will spread.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Giant pythons invade southeastern Florida: study

Giant pythons capable of swallowing a dog and even an alligator are rapidly making south Florida their home, potentially threatening other southeastern states, a study said.

"Pythons are likely to colonize anywhere alligators live, including north Florida, Georgia and Louisiana," said Frank Mazzotti, University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences professor, in his two-year study.

The pythons thriving in Florida are mostly Burmese pythons from Myanmar that were brought over as pets and then turned loose in the wild.

From 2002-2005, 201 of the beasts were caught by state authorities, but in the last two years the number has more than doubled to 418, Mazzotti said in his study published on the university website.

The largest python caught so far in Florida measured five meters (16.4 feet) and weighed 70 kilograms (154 pounds).

Mazzotti said the serpents, despite their awesome size, are not poisonous, but are excellent swimmers and able to cover great distances in little time. Some, trapped and released with radio transmitters, swam 60 kilometers (37 miles) in a few hours.

Highly adaptable, pythons prey on cats, dogs, hares, foxes, squirrels, raccoons and even alligators, allowing them to thrive in a variety of environments.

After populating the Florida Everglades -- a vast marshland -- where it is estimated they number 30,000, the giant python is now spreading across the rest of the peninsula.

"Females may store sperm, so they can produce fertile clutches for years. And a 100-something pound snake can easily be producing 60, 80 eggs a year," said Mazzotti, adding that the reptile could eventually populate the entire southern United States.

Anteater Coolness

The coolest dude among all animals, and then some.

Tamandua(Tamandua tetradactyla) is a smaller species of anteaters, but some would say they are the "perfect" anteaters - just the right size, and just the right amount of coolness.

They are most closely related to sloths and armadillos, but seeing these pictures you will wonder if you aren't related to them yourself. It seems they know how special they look, and don't mind posing in sweaters and other handmade clothes.

TamanduaGirl (see Anteater Entertainment) keeps two South American anteaters - tamanduas Pua and Stewie - in her house.

Waking up and "yawning" shows the true length of their tongue:
The owner says: "They are very smart. They know how to open the fridge, open the doors...""They know how to open the window, open drawers, open cabinets, open containers, climb the door frame, and respond to their name.""The dogs are scared of their long tails; and some tamanduas may use their long claws on almost anything, including your furniture. They like to tear things up when given the chance like coconuts and logs".To avoid puncturing their palms with their sharp claws, they walk on the outsides of their hands. They can wave their arms at you, and almost say "hello" -Do your homework and be prepared to put with many surprises, if you consider an anteater as a pet. First of all, they don't come cheap (up to $4,500) - and they need a special diet (unless you have an endless supply of ants, but even then, they need a supplement) Tamanduas are very loving, but just like cats, they tend to "let you" love them.
However, when they do hug you, it's impossibly cute:
Some clothes just go perfectly with tamanduas:
Traveling in a car does not seem to faze them, only pique their curiosity:They seem to be well aware of their awesomeness:
"OK, ok, no applause will be needed" -When threatened, tamandua will strike a kung-fu pose, showing who is the true master around here:

Monday, May 12, 2008

The Battle At Kruger

The Battle At Kruger is an internet sensation. See the video below.
If you aren’t one of the 30 million people who have viewed the Battle At Kruger video on YouTube then you can see it here. Its been on YouTube for over a year and now the two men who filmed the battle are the subject of a new documentary that will be premiering Sunday, May 11th on the National Geographic Channel.

The video was shot at Transport Dam in South Africa’s Kruger National Park. It was filmed in 2004 by videographer David “Buzz” Budzinski and photographer Jason Schlosberg who watched as a pack of lions gathered on one side of the watering hole and a herd of buffalo were grazing on the other side. The video shows the outcome of the battle over a baby buffalo is captured and fought over by lions and crocodiles. The buffalo eventually fight off the predators and rescue the baby buffalo.

Its a rare opportunity for us to experience nature vicariously through the lens of YouTube!


Friday, May 9, 2008

Sahara dried out slowly, not abruptly: study

Thu May 8, 2008 5:46pm EDT

By Alister Doyle, Environment Correspondent

OSLO (Reuters) - The once-green Sahara turned to desert over thousands of years rather than in an abrupt shift as previously believed, according to a study on Thursday that may help understanding of future climate changes.

And there are now signs of a tiny shift back towards greener conditions in parts of the Sahara, apparently because of global warming, said the lead author of the report about the desert's history published in the journal Science.

The study of ancient pollen, spores and aquatic organisms in sediments in Lake Yoa in northern Chad showed the region gradually shifted from savannah 6,000 years ago towards the arid conditions that took over about 2,700 years ago.

The findings, about one of the biggest environmental shifts of the past 10,000 years, challenge past belief based on evidence in marine sediments that a far quicker change created the world's biggest hot desert.

"The hypothesis (of a sudden shift) was astonishing but it was still taken up," said Stefan Kropelin of the University of Cologne in Germany, lead author of the study with scientists in Belgium, Canada, the United States, Sweden and France.

The scientists, studying the remote 3.5 sq km (1.4 sq mile) Lake Yoa, found the region had once had grasses and scattered acacia trees, ferns and herbs. The salty lake is renewed by groundwater welling up from beneath the desert.

A gradual drying, blamed on shifts in monsoon rains linked to shifts in the power of the sun, meant large amounts of dust started blowing in the region about 4,300 years ago. The Sahara now covers an area the size of the United States.


Kropelin told Reuters that improved understanding of the formation of the Sahara might help climate modellers improve forecasts of what is in store from global warming, blamed by the U.N. Climate Panel on human emissions of greenhouse gases.

The panel says that some areas will be more vulnerable to drought, others to more storms or floods.

The Sahara got greener when temperatures rose around the end of the Ice Age about 12,000 years ago. Warmer air can absorb more moisture from the oceans and it fell as rain far inland.

"Today I think we have the same thing going on, a global warming," he said. And he said there were already greener signs in a huge area with almost no reliable weather records.

"I see a clear trend to a new greening of the Sahara, a very slow one," he said, based on visits to some of the remotest and uninhabited parts of the desert over the past two decades.

"You go to unoccupied areas over a long time and you know there was pure sand there without a single snake or scorpion. Now you see tens of kilometers covered by grass," he said.

In Darfur in Sudan, where U.N. officials say 300,000 people may have died in five years of revolt, slightly higher rainfall was more than offset by a rise in the human population to 7 million from 1 million half a century ago. People and their animals quickly eradicated any greenery.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Cougars making comeback in Midwest

The Missouri Ozarks possess everything cougars need, except for an easy way to find a mate, according to a recently completed two-year study.

Cougars, also called mountain lions or pumas, roamed the Kansas City region's prairies and forests before pioneer guns and habitat changes in the 1800s wiped them out. But wildlife watchers wonder whether a repopulating of the Midwest is under way.

A cougar was shot by police April 14 in north Chicago, in a case similar to a 2002 cougar shooting in Kansas City, North. Meanwhile, Kansas authorities are investigating the first confirmed wild cougar killed in more than 100 years.

Biologists say cougars have plenty of food and woodland habitat in the Ozarks for establishing a reproducing population. The catch is that most cougars wandering in are young males looking for territories.

"We believe there are 2 million or more acres of Missouri habitat suitable for mountain lions," said Rex Martensen, a field programs supervisor for the Missouri Department of Conservation.

The prime cougar habitat in nine states recently was mapped by wildlife ecologist Clay Nielsen of Southern Illinois University at Carbondale. Satellite surveys of terrain and natural growth were matched with maps showing human population density. Nielsen found that 19 percent of Arkansas, 16 percent of Missouri and 3.6 percent of Kansas land was good cougar habitat. Missouri's best cougar country is the hilly Ozark woodlands.

Kansas and Nebraska border established cougar country and have river corridors the cats can use to trek into the Midwest.

Kansas wildlife officials are investigating a cougar shot last November near Medicine Lodge. "Our suspicion is that it was wild," said Matt Peek, furbearer biologist for the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks.

Killing cougars is not legal in Missouri and Kansas, but landowners can shoot them to protect life and property.

Missouri has confirmed 10 mountain lions since 1994. Rumors and reported sightings are far more numerous. But biological evidence so far shows no signs of a reproducing population, Martensen said.

"I don't know if there will ever be tolerance by people for large predators in the Midwest," Nielsen said. "But these animals have shown they are more adaptable than anyone ... would have guessed."

Villagers Flee as Chilean Volcano Erupts

SANTIAGO, Chile (May 3) - Authorities evacuated hundreds of people from villages in southern Chile Friday after a snowcapped volcano considered dormant for thousands of years erupted. The blast sent minor earthquakes rippling through the region.
The 3,550-foot Chaiten volcano belched fire and ash Thursday night, causing more than 60 small tremors in the Los Lagos region, 750 miles south of the capital, Santiago, the government's Emergency Bureau said.

Mild seismic activity could continue for the next several days, said bureau director Carmen Fernandez.

Chile's government declared a state of emergency, evacuating as many as 1,500 people from nearby villages and the town of Chaiten, just over 6 miles from the volcano, the bureau said.

The amount of ash falling in Chaiten had dropped considerably by Friday afternoon, and the wind was moving it southeast, Emergency Bureau volcanologist Juan Cayupi told The Associated Press by telephone there.

Ash from the eruption was polluting water supplies and prompting officials to hand out more than 10,000 protective masks, said Interior Minister Edmundo Perez.

Military, police, doctors and seismologists traveled to the region by sea to avoid the area's remote mountain roads, Los Lagos Gov. Sergio Galilea said.

Winds also carried ash over the Andes mountains to neighboring Argentina, where the Education Ministry suspended classes in several towns, including Esquel and Trevelin -- two popular Patagonian tourist destinations.

Authorities there declared a state of alert on two major highways as falling ash reduced visibility.

The Chaiten volcano has "probably been dormant for about 9,000 or 10,000 years but that's not unusual," said Charles Stern, a professor of volcanology at the University of Colorado, who specializes in Andes volcanoes.

Stern, who has studied Chaiten specifically, said it is still considered "a potentially active volcano."

Chaiten last had "an explosive eruption that generated a very big ash cloud," he added. "I would really worry about the village of Chaiten. I think they would want to get everybody out of there really soon."