I begin today's blog by thanking @shaka for the beautiful photo he gave the LMAC community to work with this week. Making a collage out of the photo was a pleasure.
The Template Photo by @shaka
As soon as I saw the picture, the idea of fantastic, ground-dwelling creatures came to mind. One part of the image especially suggested these entities. Look at the rock formation delineated by the rectangle in the picture below.
In that formation I saw the green-headed creature featured in the foreground of my collage. From there, the scene grew and eventually the idea to write a blog about animals that nest on the ground. More about the collage later, but now a brief essay on the perilous existence of ground-nesting birds.
Image credit: Jackie During. Used under GNU 1.2 license.
In the picture of the soaring bird featured above, you will see a physical representation of natural balance. The black harrier has a magnificent wing span and relatively small body mass. This tradeoff between wing span and light weight allows the bird to coast for long periods as it searches for prey in its habitat.
The black harrier nests in grassy areas, on flat ground. There the bird is more vulnerable than it would be in a less accessible location. However, the grassy areas offer abundant food sources. When a mated pair is nesting, the female guards the young while the male soars overhead in search of prey. The male must provide dinner for both the young and their mother.
De Hoop Nature Reserve, Nesting Area for Black Harriers
Image credit: gossipguy. Used under CC Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported, 2.5 Generic, 2.0 Generic and 1.0 Generic license.
Balance. This term could well express the circumstances in which the black harrier thrives. A balance between wing span and body weight. A balance between security and food supply. And the balance that is imposed by the harrier as it consumes small mammals that inhabit its territory.
The harrier helps to temper the growth of the prey population, mostly rodents. If there are too many rodents, they will overrun the habitat. If there aren't enough, the harrier and other predators will starve. Plus the rodents are an ecological asset to the nesting area.
The rodents feed on insects and seeds. The rodents help to control insect populations and play an important role in seed dispersal. These behaviors contribute to the health of the grassy areas in which the black harrier nests.
Striped Mouse (Rhabdomys pumilio) of South Africa
Image credit: Derek Keats. Used under a CC 2.0 license.
Because the black harrier builds its nest on the ground, it requires a pristine environment in which to raise its young. The presence of black harriers in an area is considered an indication that the territory is ecologically healthy: clean and biodiverse.
If you have a few moments there is a beautiful, informative video on YouTube about the black harrier. The video features the biologist and ornithologist Rob Simmons.
According to the website Birdlife of South Africa, the black harrier is Southern Africa's "rarest endemic raptor". The conservation status is endangered. There are estimated to be less than "1000 mature breeding birds" in the species.
Pollutants, such as organochlorine compounds (pesticides used in agriculture) are found in significant amounts in black harrier blood samples. The concentration of pollutants is evident even in birds that live in preserves, away from agriculture. The presence of these chemicals is evidently extensive throughout the environment, so that the birds cannot escape them.
Black Harrier, (Circus Maurus) Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park
Image credit: Stephen Temple from Cape Town, South Africa. Used under CC 2.0 license.
Black Harrier Facts
**The birds are mostly monogamous. Occasionally the male will have a second mate, but generally the second mate fares less well than the first.
**Although they are essentially ground nesters, some black harriers do nest in the mountains. These birds tend to breed less successfully.
Future of the Black Harrier
Despite the efforts of committed conservationists, prospects for the black harrier are not great. Habitat loss is the bird's greatest threat. Not only must it deal with the incursion of agriculture and contamination by pollutants, but the planned construction of wind turbines is also seen as a threat to the bird because of inevitable collisions. Finally, a decline in rainfall has negatively affected the grassy areas in which the birds make their nests.
I start this section of my blog by thanking three contributors to LIL. Their images were indispensable to the completion of my collage. What would I have done without the eggs? Can't have nesting birds without eggs. Or the fantastic trees in my magical forest (all came from one seed plant)? Or the beautiful flower? All the flowers in the foreground were adapted from one, single petal. So, thank you,
As is my custom I only used LIL images and my own resources to make this collage. The creatures chattering in the foreground were created from the one rock formation I indicated at the top of this blog. The blue nesting birds were created from a frustrated attempt to draw a vulture. Since that didn't work, I just let my imagination go.
In several of my sketches, filters from Lunapic helped to accentuate a fantasy impression. In addition to that, I used Paint3D, Paint, and GIMP to size, arrange and organize the frames of the collage.
Please join us in our weekly art fun, if you haven't yet. No art skills necessary, just a desire to create. This week's contest announcement may be found on @shaka's blog, here. Although I don't compete, every week I come back and create a collage.
And, please feel free to borrow from LIL. We invite everyone to contribute images to LIL. Procedures for that may be found here.
As always, I end my collage post by thanking @shaka for the adventure, and thanking everyone who participates in the LMAC contest for making this a dynamic community.