Thursday, 28 July 2016

Heads in the Sand in Ayrshire?


There is a report (https://theguardian.com/world/2016/jul/27/ostriches-on-the-loose-in-scottish-village-patna) that an ostrich (or ostriches?) is (are) roaming the countryside around the Ayrshire village of Patna. This has caused much excitement as an ostrich can disembowel animals it regards as a threat with a single kick. It has also been pointed out that mother ostriches (the more dowdy bird) can be very defensive when protecting their chicks (and there was been speculation about whether the escaped bird has chicks). After initial vagueness about where the bird(s) came from, one resident has apparently admitted that a bird has gone AWOL. I wonder if it qualifies as a dangerous animal?

Not to be Sniffed At?


The rise and rise of antibiotic-resistant bacteria (like MRSA and VREF) have threatened a return to an age where bacterial infections could not be effectively treated and people died from minor infections.This is largely a consequence of the fact that using antibiotics exerts selection pressure on rapidly dividing bacterial populations, resulting in the resistance being rapidly acquired. This has not been helped by over-prescription of antibiotics (they do not work on viruses) and their employment in farming to encourage growth in animal stocks. Most of the existing antibiotics have copied the chemicals used by some micro-organisms to out-compete their bacterial rivals (penicillin is one used by a fungus). There is now a report that a new antibiotic that is effective against MRSA is produced by a commensal ('friendly') bacterium that lives in the human nose (https://theguardian.com/society/2016/jul/27/scientists-sniff-out-new-antibiotic-inside-the-human-nose-mrsa). It is, of course, likely that many of our regular bacterial residents (including those in our large intestines) will prove to be sources of medically useful compounds. The 'war' between the development of new antibiotics (often not especially attractive to drug companies, if they are little used) and the development of bacterial resistance is likely to be never-ending.

Seeing the Changes 1104



A disappointing summer glooms on but, in Loughor, the berries of Lords and ladies (Arum maculatum) are reddening. In Bynea, a few lonely Gatekeeper butterflies (Pyronia tithonus) flit about.

Tuesday, 26 July 2016

Rats!


News that the New Zealand government intends to develop a programme to eliminate all alien predators seems a tad optimistic ( https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/jul/25/no-more-rats-new-zealand-to-exterminate-all-introduced-predators). The focus is on rats along with stoats and possums as these appear to be responsible for losses of ground-nesting indigenous birds including the kiwi. Such anthropogenic (caused by we humans) effects of accidentally/deliberately introduced alien species are a major challenge to fragile ecologies in many parts of the globe but many experiences suggest that eradications (even on tiny islands without substantial human constructions) are not at all easy, cheap or fast. New Zealand is diverse, reasonably substantial and would, I feel, be a difficult nut to crack. It's a good aspiration but I'm not sure whether it's achievable. Rats, for a start, are pretty adaptable (they can climb and operate in burrow systems as exhibit bait shyness). One might also ask whether companion predators such as domestic cats and dogs- they can become feral and would be just as much a problem- have been considered?

Monday, 25 July 2016

Seeing the Changes 1103





Sudden activity in Bynea with the flowering of Common fleabane (Pulicaria dysenterica). There was also the first decent-sized dragonfly, a Southern hawker (Aeshna cyanea) and an actual living Red admiral (Vanessa atalanta).

Saturday, 23 July 2016

Seeing the Changes 1102


Visited, in Loughor, by a Ribaned wave (Idaea aversata) last night.

Friday, 22 July 2016

Seeing the Changes 1101




The fungus seen in 1099 was revealed to be a handsome bracket. Saw my first Red admiral (Vanessa atalanta) of the summer but it was a RTA on Loughor bridge!