I presume that a number of readers are getting tired of my stories of growth and expansion, especially when it seems I can’t keep a value straight for two days in a row. There will be at least one more post about this, but for a relaxing change, here are some recent animal pictures…

First, a raptor looking at me straight in the eyes,

and then a shingleback lizard from the Zürich Zoo being handed his lunch on chopsticks:

he (or she) was very lazy about actually starting eating his (or her) cricket, which makes you wonder how things would go in the wild…

And finally a leaf-fish, still from the Zürich Zoo, which is a species I had never seen before:

Birds of the Léman

My last post about birds concerned the great crested grebe (which appears in a most hilarious way in Scoop — “Lord Copper,” he was saying, “no man shall call me a liar unchastised. The great crested grebe does hibernate.”)

Although a more recent week-end excursion on the Léman was richer in raptors, it was also a pleasure to watch the noble heron (Héron cendré, I guess) guarding the piers:

However, the thrilling part was to watch raptors fishing; to be precise, I think most of them were the same species

which — interpreting my bird-book — is quite likely to be the Milan noir (Milvus migrans) (it might be the Milan royal, but that seems much more unlikely). Of course, most of my attempts to photograph the fishing of the milans resulted in blurry pictures of the surface of the lake; however, some succeeded, like this one

or that one

Lago Maggiore

Mathematicians coming to Verbania, on the Lago Maggiore, for tourism may be interested either in Riemann’s grave, in borromean rings or in getting some rest. Charmingly, these can all be combined at will. I haven’t yet visited the first, but visiting the Borromean islands

A Borromean island

naturally leads to

One ring


Two rings

with the

Three rings

second. As for resting, I had an amusing elementary inequality in mind (almost) wherever I went, and that was actually rather nice…

Another highlight was the opportunity to witness the mating display of the Great Crested Grebe (or grèbe huppé, or Podiceps cristatus)


something which — according to my bird book — is not so common. I even took a short movie, but in true Murphy’s Law fashion (probably to compensate for its failure when photographing geckos making hand signals) I just missed the few seconds when the birds actually stood on the lake (as in this picture, though the ones I saw did not hold a fish at that time).

A restaurant recommendation in Verbania-Intra is the Trattoria Concordia; bear in mind that local red wines are, typically, slightly fizzy; it can make for a real vacation feel…

More animals

And now for something completely different: the amazing African Jacana (or Actophilornis africana, for the cognoscenti), another denizen of the Zürich rain forest, which is distinguished by having (relative to size) the longest toes, and the longest claw on the rear toe (if I believe, as I have no reason not to, the official Masoala rainforest guide). Here is a first picture:

Baby and adult African Jacana

Notice the baby Jacana on the left (the adult is likely to be the father, since the male takes care of the eggs in this species).

Here is a closer view of the baby:

Just the baby African Jacana

It gets its big toes pretty young…