Friday, 29 July 2011

Planning Blight?

Disturbing news that Eric Pickles (the Local Government Secretary) is advocating (with support from Vince Cable who views it as an economic boost) changes to the planning regulations that will change the presumption to  there being likely approval for builders who want to build more houses and supermarkets on green field sites (http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2011/jul/28/localism-bill-sacrifice-countryside-market?INTCMP=SRCH). It seems to me that green field sites need more (not less) protection. Everything that gets built on (and that currently seems every scrap of spare land around here) results in losses for what is an already pressured natural world. The only thing I would add is that, as agriculture appears almost as destructive of biodiversity as housing developments, the need to protect manicured farm land from the builders may be less imperative than keeping them off 'scruffy' scrub!

Terrapins Terror

A rather sad tale about the fate of terrapins flown by, a charity, the British Chelonia Group (http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2011/jul/28/terrapin-haven-tuscany-derelict-carapax?INTCMP=SRCH) to spend their days at a sanctuary. The terrapins were generated by an earlier fad for 'Ninja turtles'. With the decline in enthusiasm for the programme and these reptiles, the owners handed them in or released them into UK environments (where they had detrimental effects on wildlife including young waterbirds). The collected terrapins (the released ones had to be recaptured at great expense) were freighted to 'Carapax' (the European Centre for Chelonian Conservation) near Pisa in Italy. Although food was provided, it turned out  that the pools at the location were inadequate for the numbers of animals and many have died leading to closure of the 'sanctuary'. There are several messages here. The first, is that one should, if possible, avoid animals being purchased as a result of a fad (often the children and their parents have little idea about what they are getting into). The second, is that releasing the unwanted 'pets' into our natural environment is a distinctly bad idea (although it is likely to be the default response of most owners). The third, is that 'sanctuaries' have to be properly evaluated before being used (and even then, they may not prove to be a viable long-term solution).

Wednesday, 27 July 2011

Seeing the Changes 423

Around Westcross, Mugwort (Artemisia vulgaris) and Red goosefoot (Chenopodium rubrum) were in flower.

Monday, 25 July 2011

Seeing the Changes 422

In Loughor, lots of fungi made an appearance. In Penclacwydd, Black garden ants (Lasius niger) were having their nuptial flight.

Tuesday, 19 July 2011

Seeing the Changes 421

Got some nice shots in Bynea of the densest collection of Cinnabar moth (Tyria jacobaeae) larvae I have ever seen on Ragwort. I also got a good view of two amorous Rhagonycha fulva beetles.

Sunday, 17 July 2011

Birder's Bonus 97

On the cycle path between Bynea and Penclacwydd, spotted a male Bullfinch (Pyrrhula pyrrhula).

Seeing the Changes 420

In Penclacwydd, spotted Meadowsweet (Filipendulae ulmaria) and Himalayan balsam (Impatiens glandulifera) in bloom.

Thursday, 14 July 2011

A MamMoth Trapping Event

I looked this morning at some of the captures in moth traps left out last night in and around Swansea by Dan Forman, Neil Price and Ian Tew. Amongst the numerous items were Elephant hawk moth (Deilephila elepenor), Swallowtail (Ourapteryx sambucaria), Buff ermine (Spilosoma luteum), Gothic (Naenia typica), Buff tip (Phalera bucephala), Peppered moth (Biston betularia), Plain golden 'Y' (Autographa jota), Angle shades (Phlogophora meticulosa), Scalloped oak (Crocallis elinguaria), Dot (Melanchra persicariae) together with  Bright line brown eye (Lacanobia oleracea), Peach blossom (Thyatria batis) and Buff arches (Habrosyne pyritoides). To end the day, I encountered an Emperor moth (Saturnia pavonia) charging along the cycle path near Blackpill.

Whiten Up Our Day?

A new species of UK butterfly, the Cryptic wood white (Liptidea juvernica) has been identified in Northern Ireland (http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2011/jul/13/new-butterfly-northern-ireland-wood-white). This species looks identical to the endangered Wood white but is not found in England, Scotland or Wales. It has more chromosomes than the regular Wood white and seems considerably older as a species. This is not, however, the type of species likely to be identified in the 'Big Butterfly Count'.

Wednesday, 13 July 2011

Seeing the Changes 419

At Blackpill, the Soapwort (Saponaria officinalis) is in flower.

Big Butterfly Count?

It is usually maintained that UK butterflies are good indicator species of environmental change. There is a scheme to get the general public to do a UK wide survey (supported by Marks and Spencer) based on 15 minutes of counting of butterflies and day-flying moths in locations near them over part of July and August (http://www.butterflyworldproject.com/media/news/articles/countdown-to-the-big-butterfly-count-at-butterfly-world/?id=0000000017). It is, of course, already known that some species (e.g. Small tortoiseshell) are in decline whereas others (e.g. Comma) are expanding their ranges. I am not certain whether the results will actually help to identify the reasons for population changes (these might well vary from species to species) but most butterflies are 'relatively' easy to identify and there are fewer than 60 species to contend with in these islands. The timing of the survey might also be a problem as a number of species will not be visible so late in the season. I suppose the activity might at least stimulate some interest in the natural world.

Tuesday, 12 July 2011

Seeing the Changes 418

Coots (Fulica atra) were busy feeding their chicks at Sandy Water-park (Llanelli).

Monday, 11 July 2011

Seeing the Changes 417

Lots of plant and animal activity on the cliff path between Caswell and Langland. Flowers  included Purging flax (Linum catharicum), Broad-leaved everylasting pea (Lathyrus latifolia), Tormentil (Potentilla erecta), Common rock rose (Helianthemum nummularium), Spurge laurel (Daphne laureola), Small scabious (Scabiosa columbaria) and Woodruff (Galium odoratum). Lords and ladies (Arum maculatum) in the area won the race to develop orange berries. In terms of butterflies, there was lots of activity by Large skippers (Ochlodes venatus), Small blues (Cupido minimus) and  Graylings (Hipparchia semele). The beetles included Violet ground beetle (Carabus violaceus), a probable Leptura livida and Rhagonycha fulva males trying to force apart mated pairs. The insects attracted the attention of Viviparous lizard (Zootoca vivipara) whilst triads of Buzzard (Buteo buteo) circled.

A Tax Too Far?

It seems that the Australian Government (a Labour/Green party coalition) is in trouble over a relatively modest (according to many commentators) carbon tax (http://www.businessgreen.com/bg/news/2092749/gillard-australian-carbon-tax-promises-clean-energy-future). The proposals (hitting the 20 or so major polluters in the country) have led to furious demonstations and claims that the measures will 'destroy the Australian way of life'. This seems superficially odd given the fact that the Australian economy seems to be the most vulnerable (consider the 'fire storms', droughts and floods of recent times) of the developed nations to the effects of climate change. Australians are, however, on a per capita basis major generators of carbon dioxide release and big business, with media help, seems intent on not even entertaining the possibility of anthropogenic effects on climate.

Saturday, 9 July 2011

Seeing the Changes 416

They seem to be doing something on the river bed on the seaward side of the Loughor Bridge. Meanwhile in Bynea, Sea buckthorn (Hippophae rhamnoides) was in berry and Sea mayweed (Matricaria maritima) in flower.

A Song Unheard?

There is a somewhat odd finding that highly toxic Pumpkin toadlets from Brazil apparently cannot hear their own mating calls ( https://w...