lagopus lagopus

Willow ptarmigans (Lagopus lagopus) in the Arctic change colour throughout the year, from completely brown in mid-summer to completely white in mid-winter. The transition (which starts from the head and moves down) is triggered by changing day length, not by temperature.

With a warming Arctic, we are now seeing snow-white birds in a snow-less landscape. Where once they were perfectly camouflaged as the seasons changed, now they are sitting ‘ducks’ for predators. The climate change is happening too quickly for them to evolve to meet the new conditions.

The willow ptarmigan’s scientific name, Lagopus lagopus is derived from Ancient Greek lagos (λαγως) ‘hare’ + pous (πους) ‘foot’, in reference to the bird’s feathered feet which allow it to negotiate frozen ground.

Thanks, Max Romey, for introducing me to this bird and its story.

iconic wildlife

Enjoying the rainbow lorikeets (Trichoglossus moluccanus) in the palm trees at dawn.

This guy was on the kitchen floor this morning, barely alive. I thought it was a leaf and picked it up, then noticed a leg waving weakly. I put it outside and it must have recovered somewhat because when I came back with my sketchbook, it was gone.

Only a few more days in Aus, so it may be my last honking big spider for a while.

rhipidura albiscapa

Australia is famed for its colourful birds, but the little monochrome ones can be just as fascinating. Grey Fantails live across most of Australia. Hyperactive, agile and graceful, they perform rapid aerial acrobatics, constantly splaying out their tail feathers into a fan. They feed on flying insects which they chase out from the edge of shrubs and bushes and snap up mid-air. Cute!

pandion haliaetus

I often see this raptor at the lagoon, always solo.

The osprey (Pandion haliaetus), also called sea hawk, river hawk, and fish hawk, is a diurnal, fish-eating bird of prey. It’s large, reaching more than 60 cm (24 in) in length and 180 cm (71 in) across the wings.

The osprey is unusual in that it is a single living species that occurs nearly worldwide. Another oddity: osprey and owls are the only raptors whose outer toe is reversible, allowing them to grasp their prey with two toes in front and two behind. This is particularly helpful when they grab slippery fish.