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Weird Nature

Updated on October 18, 2012

Weird nature is potentially an endless subject since nature has so many variations, most of which can seem pretty strange to us humans. Even humans can seem strange to each other, so it's not surprising that other life forms fascinate us and occasionally weird us out. To narrow down the field I have selected only weird nature that I have come across in person, whether at a zoo, wildlife parks or on my constant lookout for strange things as I walk my dogs.

Male eider ducks
Male eider ducks | Source

Eider Ducks

The male eider duck is a slightly odd looking duck with some putty green and pink amongst their plumage and a rather Roman nose shaped beak. The females are mottled brown. What I find strange about them is the sound. Ducks quack - right? But not this one. They sound a bit like a very surprised pigeon and I find it hard to watch a group of eider ducks going "oooOOOOOOH oooOOOOOOH" to each other without chuckling.

Unfortunately you won't see eider ducks on your local pond because they normally live out at sea. You can enjoy watching a captive population of them at Wildfowl and Wetland trust sites such as Martin Mere in Lancashire, where they are being bred to help increase the numbers.

Eider ducks are best known for supplying the softest down for very expensive top quality eiderdowns. Their rather lovely Latin name Somateria mollissima alludes to this, meaning something along the lines of very soft sleep.

Daniadown 0000006 Double Eiderdown Quilt
Daniadown 0000006 Double Eiderdown Quilt

Eider down reportedly makes the softest warmest duvets.

 

Before you worry that eider ducks are being killed to provide down for duvets, you may be reassured to know that eider duck farming, which mainly occurs in Iceland, merely involves farmers attracting the ducks to nest sites and protecting them whilst they nest. The female eider uses her own down, which she plucks out to line the nests. This is necessary to protect the eggs from the cold ground which she nests on. Once all the ducks have raised their chicks and moved on, the farmers collect all the down and clean it before selling it for eiderdowns. This goes some way to explaining why genuine eider downs are so expensive, but at least you can purchase them with a clean conscience knowing that you are helping to protect a wild duck species.

Eider ducks are UK natives and interestingly an attempt was made at eider farming in Scotland by Gavin Maxwell, of 'Ring of Bright Water' fame. He had very limited success.

Hungry Tree
Hungry Tree | Source

Hungry Tree

Walking down Ightenhill Park lane in Burnley I was very surprised to see what appears to be a hungry tree chomping away at a metal sign which someone had the temerity to attach to it. You possibly wouldn't want to park your car next to this tree in case it started on that next!

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Stinkhorn slime with fliesStinkhorn egg phase and adultStinkhorn mushroom
Stinkhorn slime with flies
Stinkhorn slime with flies | Source
Stinkhorn egg phase and adult
Stinkhorn egg phase and adult | Source
Stinkhorn mushroom
Stinkhorn mushroom | Source

Stinkhorn Fungus

The world is full of amazing fungi. An unmissable species which is found in the UK is the stinkhorn - a fungus which should probably be x-rated. You'd struggle to describe the shape as anything other than phallic and as for the jelly at the base - hmm well! Its Latin name, Phallus impudicus, isn't subtle either.

It does have some interesting habits. It starts off egg shaped usually partly buried. The stalk then erupts from the egg growing to 4-10 inches high with the head initially covered in a smelly greeny brown slime. This attracts flies which end up covered in slime and spores which they disperse elsewhere. Once all the slime is gone the head is white like the stalk.

As you might expect, stinkhorn fungus was once thought to be an aphrodisiac and when young it is edible. However, according to Roger Philips (Mushrooms 1998) it doesn't taste great.

Falcated duck's bottom
Falcated duck's bottom | Source

Unusual Bottom

Quite a few animals have slightly weird bottoms - the blue and red of a mandrill's bottom springs to mind. One of my favourite animal bottoms is that of the falcated duck (Anas falcata), best viewed when they've upended themselves in a pond whilst dabbling for food.

The falcated duck's bottom looks to me like a penguin crossed with a Pokemon pikachu. If you stare at it for long enough you might think the same.

Although this duck isn't native to the UK, I have been able to see them at Martin Mere, Lancashire because they have a captive bred collection of wildfowl species which are declining in numbers in the wild.

Earless rabbit
Earless rabbit | Source

Earless Rabbits

Not nature strictly speaking since Fraud the earless rabbit was my own pet, a little weird none the less to have a rabbit without external ears because rabbits are so particularly known for their ears. Fraud's earlessness wasn't a result of a genetic mutation. From time to time mother rabbits, most often inexperienced ones with their first litter, chew their babies's ears off. Whether this is because of over enthusiastic grooming which they take too far or for some other reason is unknown. It does seem to be quite distinct from the behaviour of killing (and sometimes eating) their own young, which can also occur.

Fraud had another brother with no ears and two sisters with 1/2 an ear missing each. Fraud had very short ear stumps which would turn this way and that, but he was a long haired rabbit, so these were hidden by his hair.

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Rainbow birthCow and calfExhausted cow and calfNewborn calf
Rainbow birth
Rainbow birth | Source
Cow and calf
Cow and calf | Source
Exhausted cow and calf
Exhausted cow and calf | Source
Newborn calf
Newborn calf | Source

Rainbow Birth

This next one was beautiful rather than weird. I was out walking my dogs when I simultaneously saw this rainbow and the calving cow. I was some distance off and was concerned that she was lying down and not paying the calf any attention.

I was very cautious about approaching with my dogs. In the UK there are reports most years of dog walkers being trampled to death by cattle. Cows protecting their calves are more likely to behave aggressively but I was keen to check the situation out, so went zig zagging towards her and watching her response.

Getting closer I could see that the calf was still partly covered by the birth membrane and the afterbirth was half hanging out of the cow or maybe she was prolapsing. I was relieved that she had enough energy to look up at me, but could see that she was exhausted and needed help.

I walked to the nearest farm and found the farmer. Even though she wasn't one of his cattle he assured me he would go up and check on her. His own cattle are very well cared for so I knew that she and the calf would be in good hands.

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    • hawaiianodysseus profile image

      Hawaiian Odysseus 4 years ago from Southeast Washington state

      Very interesting, clever, and captivating. Thank you very much for producing this wonderful combo package of terrific video and great writing. Thumbs up!

    • Marcy Goodfleisch profile image

      Marcy Goodfleisch 4 years ago from Planet Earth

      You are truly in touch with Nature - this entire hub has fascinating observations and captured images. I'm particularly touched by the tender way you looked after the mama cow that was exhausted after birthing her calf. The rainbow is almost symbolic of the blessings you gave her by being there at such a crucial time.

      Many votes up!

    • Nettlemere profile image
      Author

      Nettlemere 4 years ago from Burnley, Lancashire, UK

      Hawaiianodysseus, thank you for such a lovely and enthusiastic comment - I'm pleased you liked it so much.

      Marcy - thank you for visiting and commenting positively. I liked the symbolism with the rainbow and the calf too and I was glad I'd chosen to walk through the field on that day.

    • tsadjatko profile image

      TSAD 4 years ago from maybe (the guy or girl) next door

      Great hub - nice to bring nature here where you have an audience of hubbers many of whom may never encounter these tidbits on their own.

      Your rainbow birth is cool - reminds me of a time I was running through a field of tall grass at dusk and had to leap over a newborn fawn nestled in the grass!

      I'll add another weird nature tidbit - eastern box turtles are immune to poison mushrooms which are part of their diet, but the toxins remain in them so if they are eaten it could kill you.

    • Imogen French profile image

      Imogen French 4 years ago from Southwest England

      Nettlemere - this is a fantastic assortment of weird nature facts, all told from first hand experience so very original, and it is a very interesting read. I love the ducks video, and your photos are great too. I hope there will be a sequel!

    • Nettlemere profile image
      Author

      Nettlemere 4 years ago from Burnley, Lancashire, UK

      Tsadjatko - it must have been amazing to encounter the fawn so unexpectedly, what a lovely experience - and interesting about the box turtles - I shall avoid eating them!

      Imogen, I'm delighted you enjoyed it, I shall keep dog walking enthusiastically and hopefully see enough weird and interesting things for a sequel.

    • aviannovice profile image

      Deb Hirt 4 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      This was a terrific piece. I have never seen an Eider, but would sure love to. I heard about their odd noises, but never HEARD them. Thanks for the great material. Awesome and up.

    • bac2basics profile image

      Anne 4 years ago from Spain

      Hi Nettlemere. I was in Lancashire only last week. I once saw Eider ducks on the ribble. I used to live overlooking it and one snowy winters day went for a walk to take in the beauty and saw the pair. I had to check out my bird book when I got home to identify them. I also once had a very quick glimpse of a kingfisher too. It´s amazing and beautiful what´s knocking about in the Ribble valley don´t you think ? Lovely entertaining and funny hub, I really enjoyed it. Hope you are well Nettlemere and not too soggy LOL . All the best. Anne :)

    • Nettlemere profile image
      Author

      Nettlemere 4 years ago from Burnley, Lancashire, UK

      Aviannovice - I'm pleased to have been able to bring the sound of the eider to your ears! Thank you for visiting and voting.

      Anne - how exciting to have seen Eiders on the Ribble - not something you'd expect! I have a real soft spot for the Ribble too having been born virtually on its banks in the Yorkshire end. It is very soggy here, but with some much needed Autumn sunshine in between times.

    • kashmir56 profile image

      Thomas Silvia 4 years ago from Massachusetts

      This is a fantastic and interesting hub thanks for sharing this !

      Vote up and more !!! SHARING !

    • Nettlemere profile image
      Author

      Nettlemere 4 years ago from Burnley, Lancashire, UK

      Thank you so much for visiting and sharing Kashmir.

    • AliciaC profile image

      Linda Crampton 4 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      Thanks for an interesting and enjoyable hub, Nettlemere. The video and the photos were lovely.

    • Nettlemere profile image
      Author

      Nettlemere 4 years ago from Burnley, Lancashire, UK

      Thank you for visiting Alicia, I pleased you enjoyed it.

    • pstraubie48 profile image

      Patricia Scott 4 years ago from sunny Florida

      Awesome...I love the video ....the fellas ooooooohh away and as you say the females do seem to be underwhelmed. Cool, awesome, interesting, and many superlatives. Voted up and interesting and shared.

    • adjkp25 profile image

      David 4 years ago from Northern California

      I am a big fan of nature and everything it gives us. The photos were very nice and I learned some things about these ducks that I didn't know.

      It was interesting that the females are louder than the males, I don't think I will mention that to my wife or teenage daughter though.

      Voted up and beautiful.

    • Nettlemere profile image
      Author

      Nettlemere 4 years ago from Burnley, Lancashire, UK

      pstraubie - apologies for my belated reply - thank you for your lovely positive comment and sharing - I'm so pleased you enjoyed the eiders.

      adjkp25 - thank you for visiting and commenting as a fellow nature fan!

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