Monday, 30 September 2013

Of Cars and Women

The attempts to prevent Saudi women from driving appear to get ever more desparate (http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/09/29/us-saudi-driving-idUSBRE98S04B20130929). It used to be claimed that they couldn't have a driving licence as checking their photographic profile would involve removing the veil. Now, a cleric suggests there is 'medical' evidence (sources unrevealed and how would they know as there are no samples of women to compare?) that driving damages the ovaries, distorts the pelvis and can result in children with abnormalities! There is nothing on the dangers of driving to the testis (perhaps by over stimulating the organ?) or on the actual difference in risk for women between simply sitting in a car and driving it! This seems to be yet another attempt to distort 'science' to support the unsupportable.  

Saturday, 28 September 2013

Poached Elephant

There is a particularly horrific report of poachers in Zimbabwe poisoning water-holes where African elephant go to drink (http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/sep/25/zimbabwe-poachers-kill-80-elephants-cyanide). It is claimed that up to 80 animals had died from an important herd of beasts and that several tusks were 'recovered' from investigated people's homes. Conservation is especially difficult when the workers have to deal with this kind of action. 

Second Time Around?

There is a recent report (http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2013/sep/26/beaver-bison-european-species-comeback) on 37 European species that have been helped by conservationists to come back from the brink of extinction. The European bison, European beaver and the Wolf are included as success stories. Less successful has been attempts to 'save' the Iberian lynx. One thing that strikes me, however, is that all the species refered to are vertebrate 'mega stars', so it would have been nice to see some less obvious (but perhaps more environmentally crucial) animals and plants in the list.

Birder's Bonus 134

Lots of Cormorant (Phalacrocorax carbo) activity by Loughor Bridge!

Monday, 23 September 2013

Whether the Weather is Changing

It seems that everyone (from climate change scientists to people with an interest in selling more gas) have an opinion on climate change. We all experience the weather and 'know' what's happening to us. There is a new update on the latest science in this area (http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2013/sep/21/climate-change-ipcc-global-warming) but it seems that more and more of the general public are thinking the the scientists have got this thing wrong. Of course, you can't absolutely prove anything with science but you can determine probabilities. How many of us you argue against the protection offered by vaccinations (I know that small cohorts do) or that antibiotics can be useful in treating bacterial disease? There are areas where the general public trusts the collective view of scientists and others where they don't. Strangely enough, the latter examples often appear to involve situations where the contras have well-funded campaigns by vested interests.

Saturday, 21 September 2013

Revealing the Spiders (From Mars)


The one decent thing about unforecasted drizzle is that it highlights the locations of all the Garden spider webs in the vicinity!

Friday, 20 September 2013

A Strange Confirmation?



I find it a bit strange but I suppose that being called 'an Eco freak' by UKIP ( http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2013/sep/20/ukip-shale-gas) must be seen as a sign that my reservations about tracking are not 'off the wall'.

Sunday, 15 September 2013

Cooking Up a Storm in Honolulu

News that 1,400 tonnes of molasses flooded into Honolulu harbour from a leaky pipe linking the material to a ship that was intending to transport the material. This has killed enormous numbers of fish and other marine organisms and has led to worries about encouraging shark attacks in the area (http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/sep/12/hawaii-honolulu-molasses-spill-fish-dying). This is another illustration of how a relatively 'simple' error can have enormous impacts on natural environments (although 1,400 tonnes is an awful lot).

Tuesday, 10 September 2013

Seeing the Changes 618


On the banks of the River Loughor, at Bynea, there was Sea aster (Aster tripolium), actually with some of the outer, purple petals still attached. There was also Glasswort (Salicornia europaea).

Saturday, 7 September 2013

The Fall and Fall of the Water Vole


Yet another study confirms that the UK population of Water voles (Arvicola terrestris) continues to plummet (http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2013/sep/06/water-vole-population-slump). This
 present account suggests that numbers have declined by a further 20 percent and lays much of 
the blame at the door of the alien North American mink (they seem to find Water voles both 
delicious and easy to catch). I suspect that the picture is more complex as habitat degradation 
must play a role and there are other carnivores out there including Grey heron and otters.


Friday, 6 September 2013

Seeing the Changes 617

It's an excellent year for fruit and in Bynea there were masses of sloe, the berries of the Blackthorn (Prunus spinosa). A good year for gin?

Thursday, 5 September 2013

Moths or Tree?

My Silver birch has an infestation of Buff tip moth (Phalera bucephala) larvae. I like the tree but I also like the moths!

Seeing the Changes 616

In Bynea, Japanese knotweed (Reynoutria japonica), Britain's most hated alien plant, was in flower.

Tuesday, 3 September 2013

Lake District Down the Plug Hole?

There is a somewhat jaundiced article by George Monbiot (http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2013/sep/02/lake-district-wildlife-desert-blame-wordsworth) on yet another application from the Lake District to be granted UNESCO World Heritage Status. His basic point (for which I have a deal of sympathy) is that agriculture (in this case sheep farming on the hills) has largely created a 'wildlife desert' (although even 'deserts' benefit certain species). The sheep have certainly denuded the location of its original trees and most substantial plants (actions that would certainly make the area uninhabitable for many animal species).  Monbiot freely admits that the Lake District is associated with some of the early enthusiasms for  environmental issues but feels that the pastoral enthusiasms of Wordsworth and Ruskin were a result of looking at this world through rosé-tinted spectacles in their times. Hill farming, he points out, requires big subsidies and limits the numbers of people required (perhaps not wholly a bad thing?). Granting the location World Heritage Status would probably further fix things in aspic?

Monday, 2 September 2013

Ocean Hiatus

There is news (http://www.independent.co.uk/environment/climate-change/how-the-pacific-has-put-global-warming-on-hold-but-not-for-long-8788403.html) that global warming is occurring somewhat more slowly than anticipated by the computer models. This is thought to be due to the deep oceans absorbing some of the heat. The effect is, however, only likely to act for a short time and the precise consequences to climate change of changing the temperatures of deep waters are distinctly uncertain. I suspect that enthusiasts for non-renewables will try to use this information to deny that there is any real problem.

Seeing the Changes 1241

There are some impressively bright lichens on the wooden bridge in Bynea.