Saturday, 31 August 2013

Seeing the Changes 615


In the Autumnal sunshine of Penclacwydd, Common darters (Sympetrum striolatum) were making hay!

Seeing the Changes 614


Welcomed back from France to Loughor by a Black arches moth (Lymantria monacha) and a hairy caterpillar of The Miller (Acronicta leporina).

Sunday, 25 August 2013

En France

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Coming to the end of a holiday in the Vendee region of France. Animal highlights include enormous jellyfish, a home-loving centipede (Haplophilus subterraneus), Hummingbird hawk moths (Macroglossum stellatarum) and a Red squirrel (Sciurus vulgaris) at La Tranche sur Mer. I also saw a High brown fritillary (Argynnis adippe) and a male Oak eggar moth (Lasiocampa quercus) at Port St Pere, as well as an introduced North American Muskrat (Ondatra zibethicus) by the lake at Pont L'Eveque.

Wednesday, 14 August 2013

It's A Gas, Gas, Gas!

I suppose that my home location makes me susceptible to a charge of nimbyism but I must admit to being none too keen on the proposal to pump oxygen into the coal strata under Loughor estuary to generate coal gas (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-wales-23699166). Even with carbon scrubbing technologies (and I haven't seen these mentioned), the process (supposedly to be used to generate electricity) would certainly do nothing beneficial for global warming. It also seems appropriate to at least worry about potential subsidence or even the possibility that the currently stable  river deposits that are heavily impregnated with metals from the industrial revolution phase of history could be accidentally liberated. It also seems a shame to even risk a biologically important estuary.

Tuesday, 13 August 2013

Pandering


I must admit to being broadly in agreement with the view that pandas are over-invested in as conservation entities (http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2013/aug/09/unthinkable-stuff-the-pandas?INTCMP=SRCH). These bamboo-eating, breakers of wind are treated with great reverence (see the summer obsessions with the possible pregnancy of the Edinburgh Zoo Great panda) but 'cuteness' (real or imagined) should not be a major criterion for directing limited aid to them. I suppose that part of the problem is that they are the flagship species of the WWF and nobody likes to see a flagship go down with all hands.

Friday, 9 August 2013

More Moths

The combination of rain and hot weather seems to have stimulated moth activity in Loughor. We were invaded by The Magpie (Abraxus glossulariata), Scalloped oak (Crocallis elinguaria), Willow beauty (Peribatoides rhombodaria), July highflier (Hydriomena furcata) and Oak nycteoline (Nycteola reveyana). There were also masses of tiny Agriphila tristella.

Micro-Agriculture

On the Alexanders of Bynea, there were 'herds' of aphids being tended by meadow ants.

Tuesday, 6 August 2013

Cricket Con Carne?


A more convincing article (compared to the stem cell burger story) for solving the increased human demand for 'protein, considers placing a greater reliance on insects as food sources (http://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2013/aug/05/can-eating-insects-feed-world?INTCMP=SRCH). This points out that, although we in the 'west' tend to turn our noses up at locusts and mealworms, these are quite popular food items in some parts of the world (insects are also not too different from highly appreciated prawns, shrimp and lobster). In contrast to the stem cell burger, insects quickly and cheaply generate high protein foods from a wide range of pretty basic plant material, using 'low tech' cultivation systems. The article also suggests that, if you don't like the idea of seeing insects in toto in your food (shades of old style school dinners), the material can be ground into 'protein flour' that can be added to cereal bars and other foods (one company is apparently even planning to add this material to tomato puree). So come on- grub's up!

Monday, 5 August 2013

Test tube Burger?

Much excitement in the media about a £250,000 beef burger grown in a vat in the Netherlands from bovine stem cells (undifferentiated cells that can be persuaded to develop into any other cell type, including muscle). The cells had to be 'exercised' with electricity and the product, flavoured and dyed but the project was greeted with enthusiasm by some animal welfare groups who see it as a technique to reduce animal suffering by removing actual meat animals from the equation (http://www.theguardian.com/science/poll/2013/aug/05/stem-cells-meat-industry?INTCMP=SRCH).  There are some downsides to this (even if the process can be scaled up and made much cheaper) in that the eating activities of cattle are useful in modifying grasslands for biodiversity, there actually would be many fewer animals to see and farming could be largely changed to a wholly industrial process (to a much greater extent than factory farming). One point that hasn't been mentioned is that human stem cells would actually produce a protein closer to that containing our optimal balance of amino acids. So why not use these in the process? Or would this be cannibalism?

Saturday, 3 August 2013

Thursday, 1 August 2013

Seeing the Changes 612

In Loughor, Lords and ladies (Arum maculatum) was in fruit. In Bynea, spotted a battered male Ghost swift moth (Hepialus humuli) and a bee-like fly (probably Fallenia fasciata).

Seeing the Changes 611

Got an interesting moth in Loughor (any ideas?) and noted that Bittersweet (Solanum dulcamara) berries were bright red in Bynea.

Rotterdam Natural History

In Het Park there were Little Japanese umbrella fungi ( Coprinus plicatilis ). In the centre of Rotterdam, well away from water...