Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Creature Features 15-24 December

422: Leopard Shark

423: Limpkin

424: Linsang

425: Lion

426: Lionfish

427: Lizardfish
428: Llama

429: Loach

430: Lobster

431: Loggerhead

Tiriki's Night Before Christmas

Christmas Eve and all was still and calm. Striped stockings hung along the mantlepiece and the tree stood in the corner, dressed in red and gold. Nothing stirred, except for a tiny mouse perched on a side table, where she chewed delicately at the edge of a gingerbread cookie.
Then with a FHUMP and a WUMP something feathery and green dropped down the chimney. It tumbled and rolled from the fireplace. Then stood and shook out his rumpled feathers, casting dust all over the rug. He was a sleek green parrot with large hooked beak and bright, curious eyes: a kea.
The tiny mouse gave a terrified squeak and tumbled from the table. She scurried under the couch and back into her hole.
The kea laughed his trilling laugh and puffed out his chest. “Kia ora,” he cried. “Tiriki is here! Time for the party to begin.” Then he paused, and cocked his head, casting his beady eyes about the silent room. “Perhaps I have the wrong address,” he muttered to himself, then shrugged. “Well lookee there – they've laid out some snacks.”
With those words, he hopped over and flapped up onto the side table, his claws catching in the tablecloth. First he stuck his head into the glass and lapped up all the milk. It was creamy and good, but sticky on his head feathers. He gave himself a jolly good shake, sending pearly white droplets all over the room. Then he clasped his claw about a carrot, crunched down on one end, spitting goblets of orange all over the floor. Finally, the cookies. They crumbled in his beak, crumbs raining down on the hopeful mouse below. She had crept from her hole, eager to share in this feast.
Feeling satisfied and full, Tiriki the Christmas bandit wiped his beak clean on the tablecloth and flapped over to the mantlepiece. Here he turned his attention to the decorations.
Down came the joyful fat santa with his big round belly, in his pearly white sleigh.
Then down, one by one, came the reindeers Dasher and Dancer, Prancer and Vixen, Comet and Cupid, Donner and Blitzen. Last but not least, Tiriki came to Rudolph. He picked up the red-nosed reindeer by its long neck and with a flick of his head and his long strong beak, sent the reindeer flying across the room. Rudolph hit the far wall with a horrible CRACK and one antler broke off.
But Tiriki's random acts of destruction were not done yet. Oh no, they had only just begun!
With a snip here and a snap there, the row of christmas stockings drifted one by one to the floor.
Then it was over to the tree in a single gliding swoop.
Tiriki caught his reflection in a big silver bauble. “Who's a pretty boy then?” he cooed before hooking it with his beak and flinging it at the mouse.
With a startled squeak she dropped her cookie crumb and scampered back to her hole.
Missed,” Tiriki mumbled, turning back to the tree. With a tug and a flap, the tinsel fell free, great loops cascading to the floor. Off came the decorations, one by one: the white dove, the christmas cottage, a gingerbread man, all tumbling to the carpet.
Finally, there was but one decoration left at the very top: the pretty white angel with golden hair and feathered wings. Beak-over-claw and claw-over-beak, Tiriki clambered up the tree, grabbed the angel about her waist.
Then with a CLUMP and a THUMP something landed on the roof.
Tiriki froze, claw raised, beak poised; ready to wrought his final act of wanton destruction.
Another thump, another whump and something very large landed in the hearth. It was a big brown sack. This was followed by another thump, as a plump old man with a bushy white beard landed on the sack and stepped out of the fireplace.
Tiriki cocked his head at this strange, big man. He looked like the ornament on the mantlepiece, except that instead of a white-trimmed red coat he wore a red t-shirt and shorts, more suitable clothing for the warm summer night.
HO-HO... oh,” Santa said. “What has happened here?” He stared straight at Tiriki.
The kea froze beneath that piercing blue gaze, his skinny knees knocking together with guilt. He slowly released the angel.
Have you been a bad, bad boy?” Santa asked, his voice low and scary. “Do you know what we do with bad, bad boys?”
Tiriki shook his head. He fluffed out his feathers in fear and opened his beak in a nervous grin. “No,” his voice came out as a whispered croak, “what do you do with bad boys?”
We turn them into good boys,” Santa replied cheerfully, clapping his hands together. “My, what a mess you've made. Can you imagine how upset the little girl and boy will be, when they rush down here in the morning? And they've been such good children too.”
Tiriki backed away, head hanging in shame. “Sorry,” he croaked.
You admit you're sorry,” said Santa, “that's a good start. But now you must show them that you're sorry. Now you must clean up this mess you've made.”
Tiriki looked up, his eyes shining with sadness. “But I don't know how,” he said. “We kea, we break – we don't mend.”
Well, my lad, then let Santa show you.” And with those words, Santa set down his bulging burlap sack and strode across to Rudolph. His hands were big, but gentle, as he scooped up the broken deer and cradled it in his palm. With delicate fingers, he plucked the broken antler from the carpet and pressed it back where it belonged. There came a small sparkle of silver light, the sweet scent of milk-and-honey, and the antler glued itself back in place. There was not even a single crack to show it had ever been broken.
Santa held out his arm and gestured to Tiriki. The kea took flight, gliding across to land on Santa's wrist.
Now,” said Santa, “you must put Rudolph back where you found it. Be gentle, mind.”
Tiriki scooped up the deer as gently as he could, and flew back to the mantlepiece, setting it back where it belonged. Under Santa's gentle coaching he then returned Blitzen and Donner, Cupid and Comet, Vixen and Prancer, Dancer and Dasher to their proper place. Santa placed the final piece, laughing as he did so.
A jolly good rendition,” he remarked, “although I do think it makes me look rather fat.”
The stockings were pegged back in place, the tinsel returned to the tree. Each and every decoration re-hung: some a little crooked, and some not in their right place, for Tiriki's memory was not that good. But in the end, the room looked much as it had before his unruly visit.
Santa patted him on the back. “You've done a fine job, my lad,” he said. “Now, it's time for me to do what I'm here for. You can help me, if you like.”
He reached into the sack and pulled out parcel after parcel. He passed each one to Tiriki, who hopped along the mantlepiece, slipping them into the stockings one-by-one.
For Johnny and Sarah,” Santa said, “and their mum and dad too.” He paused, grinning a great big smile at the kea. “And, oh look, there's one left.” He held up a small parcel, with shiny silver paper and a big red bow.
Tiriki cocked his head to one side. The stockings were bulging and full, they could fit no more, so who could this one be for?
This one,” said Santa, “is for you.”

Sunday, December 14, 2014

The Week That Was 7-14th

414. Leatherback Turtle

415. Lechwe

416: Lemming

417: Leech

418: Lemur

419: Leopard

420: Leopard Cat

421: Leopard Gecko
For more information on these species, visit:

Saturday, December 6, 2014

The week that was, in Creature Features

To see more, visit:
406: Lancetfish

407: Langur (aka Lutung)

408: Lapwing

409: Lark

410: Lily Leaf Beetle

411: Leafbird

412: Leafy Seadragon

413: Leaf-tailed Gecko (Satanic)

410: Unidentified Leaf Beetle

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Animal-a-Day has moved!

Yes folks, in lieu of the game's pending release and the fact that I wanted a dedicated Animal-a-Day blog (without the other stuff), I have started a specialised blog for it:

That's not to say that this blog will be abandoned, however. I shall still be cross-posting my entries here, but possibly on a weekly rather than a daily basis.

If you wish to, you can still follow me on 

Friday, November 28, 2014

Creature Feature#405: Lamprey

Despite his reputation, not all species of Lamprey are blood-sucking parasites. This one, the Sea Lamprey however, is. Lamprey are primitive, jawless fish, who instead of a mouth are equipped with a tooth-rimmed suction-cup and a sharp tongue. Once he locates an appropriate host, he latches on and begins to scrape away at the skin with his tongue and teeth. He secretes a substance that prevents the host's blood from clotting and it will eventually succumb to infection, if it doesn't die of blood-loss first. This fish spends his early days in freshwater, moving into lakes or a marine environment to feed parasitically for a year, before returning to the river to spawn and die.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Creature Feature #404: Lammergeier

The Lammergeier, or Bearded Vulture, is found in the high country across southern Europe, Africa and India. She typically is found above the tree line. Her diet is carrion, although she favours bone marrow over flesh - the only bird species specialised for this diet. Her digestive system quickly digests the bone and she can crush pieces up to the size of a lamb's femur. Larger pieces are carried up into the air, then dropped onto the rocks until they splinter and crack open, allowing her access to the somewhat juicier interior. This is a learned behaviour, and it can take her seven years to master it.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Creature Feature #403: Ladybird

There numerous species of Ladybird - over 5000 -  found all over the world. Most are characterised by their colourful elytron (wing covers) which in many species are spotted. Some species are vegetarian, and have become something of a pest in agriculture, but most species favour a carnivorous diet with a particular fondness for destructive insects such as aphids.  As such, they are generally regarded as the gardener's friend. Although, introduced Harlequin Ladybirds are currently engaged in a full-on invasion of the United Kingdom, where they are spreading at a rapid rate and out-competing their native species.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Creature Feature #402: Lacewing

Lacewings are small insects named for their delicate wings, which are cross-veined and resemble lace. She is nocturnal or crepscular in nature and feeds on pollen, nectar and honeydew, as well as the occasional tiny arthropod. When handled, some species will release a vile stench from their prothoracal glands. This has earned her the name "stinkfly". The spiny nature of the larvae attracts grime and sand, providing the juvenile with an element of camouflage.  Larvae are voracious predators, attacking any arthropod of appropriate size and even biting humans. To feed, she injects her prey with venom, liquifying its insides and allowing them to be sucked out.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Creature Feature #401: Feral Cat

Today's critter is more-or-less by popular request, and also because I needed an "invasive pest" to introduce into the forest portion of my TCG. Hence why we are dropping out of the alphabet, temporarily.

A Feral Cat is not just a domestic cat that is living wild, and it is not a stray - when a cat truly "goes feral" she is like an actual wild animal. She has never been socialised with humans. This probably means that her ancestors were strays. Feral Cats can be found in urban environments, as well as woodlands, temperate forests and open countries - anywhere there is relevant prey. Whilst in urban areas and some suburban, she can do little harm, it is isolated habitats that suffer the most impact from her introduction. Many islands are home to birds and small mammals, but may lack in mammalian predators, and for these the addition of this feline - an apex predator - spelled disaster. The extinction of six New Zealand bird species can be attributed to cats. The most well known of which is the Stephen Islands Wren. A tiny bird, almost flightless, and the entire population lived on one small island. There are tales that suggest one cat was responsible, but it is more likely that it was a plague of feral cats, some related to the lighthouse keeper's cat who was probably not called Tibbles) or otherwise dumped on the island. Within a few months the birds were gone.

Domestic cats are interesting in that they are one of the few sociable cat species. Unlike their ancestors, the European wild cat, they will share territory, although unneutered males will fight for dominance. A colony of cats is called a clowder. In some countries, like New Zealand and Australia (where the felines have had a detrimental impact on native mammals) there is talk of banning cats, and hunting ferals is encouraged. However, many people adore our feline companions, even the ones that utterly shun human contact, and the idea of killing cats is anathema. Some countries, including New Zealand, run a trap-neuter-release program, in which ferals are captured, neutered and then returned to their initial habitat. This means that the cat can no longer breed, but can still kill millions of birds, reptiles and bats before eventually sucuumbing to disease, injury or death-by-auto. Sometimes feeding stations are set up in which volunteers feed the half-starved felines. Needless to say, there is a lot of controversy surrounding such projects.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Creature Feature #400: Kusimanse

Today is the 400th "Animal a Day"! How exciting is that? It is also the last of the Ks. Tomorrow we have a special random entry and then on tuesday the 25th, one month from Christmas, the Ls shall begin.

Meanwhile, here's a dwarf mongoose:

This is the Kusimanse, one of several Dwarf Mongoose species. He is a diurnal forager and an excellent digger, hunting for insects, rodents, crustaceans and other small prey.  Groups consist of related Kusimanse and follow a strict hierarchal structure. Only the primary members are permitted to breed. If subordinates produce offspring, these will be killed and eaten.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Creature Feature #399: Kultarr

Keeping up the trend of adorable mammals with long hindlegs, I present the third (or fourth if you count "kangaroo") that begins with K.

The Kultarr is a tiny marsupial, related - but not closely - to the Kowari of two days ago. She makes her home in the arid interior deserts of Australia, inhabiting gibber plains and sandy deserts. Here she hunts alone, at night, for insects and other tasty invertebrates. During the day she hides away in soil cracks or burrows made by other creatures. Her long hind-legs enable her to move in hops and give her a superficial resemblance to jerboas and hopping mice.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Creature Feature #398: Kudu

The Kudu are two species of large woodland antelopes. The Greater Kudu can be found in eastern and southern Africa. Here the females form herds with their calves, whereas the bulls lead a more solitary existence. Only the male sports the long, curling horns and these are used for disputes over mating privileges. Generally the two males will lock horns and wrestle until one surrenders but on occasion they will become trapped together. If this happens they will either starve to death or be killed by a hyena or other large predator.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Creature Feature #397: Krill

Krill are tiny crustceans occuring in every ocean, worldwide. They play a critical role in the ecosystem. Krill feed on phytoplankton, and occasionally zooplankton. In turn they are preyed  upon by fish, mammals, birds, cephalopods and other arthropods. During the night they migrate towards the surface, sinking deeper into the depths during the day. More than half the population is predated each year, requiring a fast and fecund life-cycle. Climate change poses a threat to Krill populations, as can other disturbances.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Creature Feature #396: Kowari

Although it somewhat resembles the Kangaroo Rat from several weeks ago, the Kowari is not related to it (although it is related to the Kultarr I will be uploading within the next week). She is a marsupial from central Australia, where she makes her home in grasslands and deserts.  She is a voracious predator, devouring mostly insects and spiders, but also birds, rodents and reptiles.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Creature Feature #395: Kouprey

The Kouprey is a species of wild cattle, once found throughout Cambodia, Vietnam and Laos. Alas, uncontrolled hunting led the population into sharp decline and the last living specimens were seen in 1988. It is classified as critically endangered, possibly extinct. There is no captive population. In the wild, his natural habitat is forested areas. The cows form herds, led by a dominant female, and the bulls join them during the dry season.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Creature Feature #394: Kookaburra

The Kookaburra of Australia and New Guinea is one of the world's largest Kingfishers. He is noted for his raucous laughing call, which rings out with frenzied excitement as he marks the boundaries of his territory. Families tend to stay together, the young from previous broods helping to defend their home range from intruders. His habitat is versatile, and he is as likely to be found in forest, arid grasslands or urban parks. He follows a carnivorous diet, and will eat almost anything he can gobble up - from lizards, rodents, baby birds, and he is may steal koi fish from zoos and ornamental pools.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Creature Feature #393: Komodo Dragon

Reptiles are hard to draw - I always struggle with lizards, and thus I knew this fellow was going to prove to be a challenge. I wanted to do one in perspective, however, have him coming out of the page, and thus I embraced the challenge.

And succeeded, more-or-less.

Komodo Dragons are extremely large lizards, found only on a small number of Indonesian islands, including Komodo. Males can grow more than 3 m long, with females being slightly smaller. He uses his tongue to detect, taste and smell stimuli and can sense carrion from nearly 10 km away. Carrion is his preferred diet, although he is also capable of stalking and ambushing prey. It can take him some time to swallow an entire animal, and to stop him suffocating, he breathes through a small tube under his tongue.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Creature Feature #392: Kokopu

Today was mostly spent getting the dummies designed and printed for the traading card game. It's going to be a thing! How exciting! If you wish to know more, put in pre-orders or what-not, please drop me an email. Playtesting will begin next weekend if all goes well.

Consequently, today's critter almost didn't get drawn. But, here he is in his speckled brown glory - another of the New Zealand fish Galaxias tribe, the third Galaxid I've drawn.

The largest of the NZ Galaxids, this Giant Kokopu spends the majority of his life living off the coast, although some populations have become locked into freshwater streams. He is the only native fish able to withstand the trout intrusion, but even so, his numbers are declining. When the time comes to spawn, the fish swim a little-ways up the river, find themselves a nice shady bank to shelter under and do the deed. The young fry swim out to sea as part of the whitebait run. An opportunistic feeder, he dines upon invertebrate prey - both larval and terrestrial - and will take the occasional other fish, especially if he is "land-locked".

Friday, November 14, 2014

Creature Feature #391: Kodkod

The Kodkod is the smallest feline of South America, with the smallest distribution. She is only found in central and southern Chile, occasionally crossing the border into Argentina. She favours evergreen temperate forest but will venture close to settled and cultivated land. During the day, she remains under the cover of the trees hunting for birds and rodents. Whilst an excellent climber, she tends to hunt on the ground. At night she may venture out into more open areas and has been known to raid chicken coops.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Creature Feature #390: Koala

The Koala is a arboreal maruspial. His diet consists predominantly of eucalyptus leaves. These leaves have a high water content, meaning he does not have to drink often. They are not, however, provide much energy and the Koala spends up to 20 hours of his day asleep with short periods of active feeding spread throughout. He does not travel far, and will often stay in the same tree for an entire day. Asocial in nature, he does not willingly interract with others outside of the mating season. Mating is noisy and often brutal, with the female fighting off her potential suitors and the males fighting amongst themselves. She will eventually sucuumb to the most dominant.

So that's it folks, this cute and cuddly animal is in fact lethargic, viciously antisocial and prone to forcing copulation - sometimes with females who aren't even in oestrus. 

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Creature Feature #389: Knocking Sand Frog

I was going to draw a Koi, then realised I had more-or-less covered them with "Carp". So here, instead, is my amphibian for K.

The Knocking Sand Frog of Africa, was first discovered in 1973. Following a period of heavy rainfall, large numbers appear in the Kruger National Park. He is named for his distinctive call, which one must conclude from his name, sounds rather like someone knocking. He favours sandy soils, and inhabits disturbed areas. He breeds in temporary waterbodies, presumerably after the floods. Information seems to be pretty skint, mostly the same wikipedia article (which doesn't indicate if his discovery is linked to the heavy rainfall mentioned above), but I shall delve further into detail tomorrow, if possible.

I have started designing trading cards with these creatures, and have the vaguest idea for a game, but no real concept of the game plan as of yet. It is tremendously fun to create them though!

Here's my favourite so far, the kingfisher:

The yellow logos indicate his diet - fish and insects, with the green one indicating his "type" (small bird).
I suppose I should add amphibians to that diet chart, and reptiles... Hrm, some of the omnivores will likely fit anywhere! For simplicities sake, we'll stick with fish and insects for now. Of course, this means that the frogs might end up not being eaten by _anything_.

Perhaps there should be bonus points for players that create the longest food chain!

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Creature Feature #388: Klipspringer

The Klipspringer is a diminutive antelope from South Africa. He makes his home in the rocky koppies of the woodland and savannah, where he leaps agily from rock to rock. He balances on the very tips of his hooves and can fit all four on a piece of rock the size of a coin. He forms a lifetime partnership with his mate, and the two of them forage together, sometimes with their young offspring. When one is grazing, the other will keep watch, whistling to alert the others of danger. His main diet is vegetation and he gets all the moisture he requires from consuming succulents  - he never needs to drink water.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Creature Feature #387: Kiwi

The Kiwi is a rather unusual bird, found only in New Zealand. As this isolated island had no land-dwelling mammals, the kiwi evolved to fill a similar niche to that of the badger. Her body temperature is lower than most birds, closer to that of a mammal. She is flightless, her wings little more than a hook of bone. To compensate, she has sturdy legs. During the day she sleeps in hollows or burrows, venturing out at night to forage. Her long bill probes in the leaf litter and she is the only bird in the world to have nostrils at the tip. These help her sniff out tasty invertebrates.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Creature Feature #386: Kit Fox

The Kit Fox is a small fox living in North America. Here he occupies the arid areas in the south-west: from central Oregon down to southeastern California and across as far as southwest Colorado. Distinctive subspecies occur in San Joaquin Valley and the Mojave Desert. He leads a nocturnal lifestyle, coming out at night to hunt for kangaroo rats and other small prey. When prey is scarce, he has been known to eat tomatoes and cactus fruits. Towards the end of the year he forms a monogamous partnership.  Cubs are born around March and grow fast, within 5-6 months they are independent, and at 10 months they are ready to breed.