First we have an Honorary Cat™ (also known as a fox) sent by reader Graham with the note:
As I’m typing this the fox is sitting in the garden, making itself at home and ignoring me. Photos taken with a Pentax K-500 with a Sigma 300 telephoto lens. Hope they’re good enough for your website :-).
And a wonderful series of photos of a rail attacking a crab on the Indian Ocean island of Aldabra (a coral atoll), sent by reader and biologist Dennis Hansen. Note the flightless rail, of which there are several species. All, I recall, inhabit oceanic islands, underscoring the biogeographical observation that virtually all small flightless birds are found on islands. Evolutionists have several explanations for this, but I don’t think we know the answer for sure. Can you think of some?
This bird appears to be classified as a subspecies of the white-throated rail (Dryolimnas cuvieri), and I’m surprised that, given its flightlessness, it hasn’t been classified as its own species. It appears to be the last flightless bird in the Indian Ocean.
We’ve had three previous submissions by Dennis, and you should go back and look at these if you haven’t. One is of the giant tortoises of Aldabra, and the other two on the fearsome coconut crab (here and here).
Dennis’s notes are indented:
I saw to my great consternation that you seem to be running out of wildlife photos to share with your readers. Here’s a sequence of photos I took during fieldwork on Aldabra Atoll last year. The flightless rail (Dryolimnas [cuvieri] aldabranus) is possibly the most feline bird I have ever seen hunting down prey. The elegance with which they dance and jump around is amazing. I am pretty damn happy they are only 20-25 cm tall, or I would fear for my own eyes, too.
#1: The flightless Aldabra rail routinely hunts down the large, terrestrial crab Cardisoma carnifex. The fearsome name of the crab suggests that it is a predator – but not here…
#2: First the rail hacks out the eyes of the crab with surgical precision… [JAC: This behavior is probably genetically encoded, but perhaps it is completely learned. I wonder if anyone’s studied that.]
A photo of the Aldabra atoll from Panoramio. Wouldn’t it be nice to work here? The atoll is about 34 km long.
and here’s a short video of the rail and its chicks: