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African Birds: The Bush
The bush in Africa usually refers to lowveld or savanna and is often associated with game reserves. While the main attraction of game reserves is the large game animals, the rich and varied bird life is a mecca for birding enthusiasts, or twitchers. Many reserves boast over 300 species of birds, which are either resident or seasonal visitors, and include raptors, insect eaters, seed eaters, fruit eaters, wading birds, waterfowl and omnivores.
The lion (Panthera leo) is one of the five big cats in the genus Panthera. Some males can exceed 250kg making it the second largest living cat after the tiger. Wild lions currently exist in sub-Saharan Africa and Asia. They are classified as a vulnerable species on the IUCN Red List. Lions typically inhabit savannah and grassland, and prides consist of related females and their offspring and a small number of adult males. They are apex predators and hunt mainly at night, sleeping during the day.
The Eurasian treecreeper (Certhia familiaris) is a small passerine common in woodlands across Europe and Asia. In the British Isles, it prefers broadleaved woodland where it can be seen creeping up tree trunks using its long claws searching for insects in the bark with its long, curved bill. Its upper plumage is brown mottled with black and white, which provides excellent camouflage against tree bark, with a white underside and brown trail, which it uses for support as it ascends the tree.
Isle of May guillemots
With around 45,000 guillemots (Uria aalge) present during the spring and summer, the Isle of May is an important breeding colony for these large auks. Guillemots, or murres, spend most of their time at sea, only coming ashore to breed. They make no nest, but lay a single egg on the bare rock of cliff faces. Bridled guillemots with a white ring around the eye are a polymorphism that represent about 10% of the population on the Isle.
Isle of May puffins
Around 90,000 Atlantic puffins (Fratercula arctica) breed on the Isle of May, Firth of Forth, Scotland. The 1-mile-long isle is a National Nature Reserve and an important breeding colony for these and other seabirds. Puffins spend much of their time fishing for small shoaling fish, such as sandeels, but come onshore to lay their eggs in burrows dug in soft soil in April-May. Once the eggs hatch, the adults bring beaks full of fish to the burrow to feed the pufflings, which fledge in June-July.
Isle of May razorbills
As one of the rarest auks in the world, the 2500 breeding pairs of razorbills (Alca torda) on the Isle of May are an important stronghold for this species. They are the closest living relative of the extinct great auk (Pinguinis impennis). Razorbills only come ashore to breed, spending most of their time at sea, diving up to 120m to feed on small fish. They pair for life and lay a single egg each year, although less than 70% of chicks survive to fledgling on the Isle of May.
Despite being the northern most country in the UK, Scotland is often referred to as the 'Land of Light'. Due to the changeable weather and often low angle of the sun, it's remote hills and glens and extensive coastline often produce magical-looking landscapes when bathed in light. Scotland has a long and complex history dating back thousands of years, and there are many historic monuments that add to its appeal. As a result, over 15 million tourists visit the country every year.
South African Birds: Coast, Forest and Fynbos
The extensive coastline of South Africa is primarily bordered by areas of forest or fynbos (fynbos is the heathland of the Western Cape containing exceptionally high biodiversity). Many of the birds in the forest and fynbos are highly adapted and are often endemic. Despite the extremely dynamic and rich coastal waters of South Africa, these waters contain many predators, and coastal birds need to be adapted to live in these dangerous waters.