Monday, 30 December 2013

And Another Thing!

In the same Countryfile programme, they also suggested that the Beaver was being 'returned' to our ecosystems after 400 years but seemed to treat 'escaped' wild boar as a totally novel invader. They did suggest that the boars were useful as they gave Oak trees a missing transport system for their acorns. I did think that squirrels, Jays, deer etc managed to do this to some extent. I'm feeling a bit "Disgusted of Tunbridge Wells", a pity as I normally like the programme.

Sunday, 29 December 2013

Countryfile Bumpkins

I was some what surprised, when watching the Countryfile programme on animal conservation winners and losers ( ) to see, in a section on the re-introduction of the Large blue butterfly to the Cotswolds to see a Large skipper (Ochlodes venatus) dismissed as a 'moth'. 

Saturday, 28 December 2013

Seeing the Changes 626

I have never seen the ditches along the cycle track near Penclacwydd so full of rainwater.

Thursday, 19 December 2013

Seeing the Changes 625

Awful weather in Loughor but the Winter heliotrope (Petasites fragrans) was in flower.

Sunday, 15 December 2013

Sex in the Grass!

Earthworms (Lumbricus terrestris) mate in my garden! A bit of a risk at this time of the year.

Friday, 6 December 2013

Birder's Bonus 137

With the calming of the weather, One Grey heron (Ardea cinerea ) and Six Little egrets (Egretta garzetta) were fishing off Loughor bridge.

Seeing the Changes 624

Had a visit from a male Winter moth (Operophtera brumata). It's amazing how they thrive in cold, wet and windy conditions.

Thursday, 5 December 2013

Birder's Bonus 136

Spring tide on Loughor estuary and ducks or geese shelter from the strong winds.

Wednesday, 4 December 2013

Rights and Wrongs?

It has been reported ( that a 'human rights lawyer', Steven M. Wise is petitioning for chimpanzees to be granted protection from 'unlawful detention' and be freed. I have much sympathy with the plight of (genetically) our closest relatives on the planet and there is little doubt that some animals are kept in inappropriate conditions but there are a few problems with this move. Giving 'human rights' on the basis of genetic commonality is a bit arbitrary (we share 30% of genes with yeast) and, as many people have pointed out, rights generally imply responsibilities (difficult to enforce in non-humans). Where would the captive 'chimps' be released to? Chimpanzees are powerful animals and beasts that have been in captivity for periods of time would find it extraordinarily difficult to survive in 'wild' locations, even if appropriate locations can be found (even then substantial and expensive pre-release training is needed). A  blanket ban on captivity might also make a range of conservation attempts directed to this species very difficult. It seems to me that what we need is enlightened and humane treatment of animals rather than lawyer's devices.

Tuesday, 3 December 2013

Rising to the Boris Bait

I promised myself I would not rise to Boris Johnson's comments about IQ and the worth of members of the human species ( ) but I find myself compelled to comment (in spite of it striking me as self-serving). I 'failed' (actually I was classed as 'borderline') my 11+ twice (once at 11 and once at 13). In mitigation, I was on strong medication (phenobarbitone) at the time. To continue with the fishing analogy, I remember being confused by a particular question in the General Intelligence section circa 1956. "Which one of the following is the odd one out? Whale, kipper, salmon, cod or plaice?" Even Molesworth 'knos' it could be any. A mammal, a smoked food, a fish with myoglobin migrating between fresh and salt water, a pelagic fish with white flesh captured by trawlling and a bottom dwelling fish with both eyes on one side of the body! What is a biology-mad kid to make of this? Relegated to a Secondary Modern, I luckily received unpaid coaching from a teacher (Mr Cooper in his spare time) with 2 English 'O-levels' and managed another 3 in addition, enabling me to do 'A' levels at a Technical College (granddad paid for my text books). This mean't I was the first member of my family to go to University (again, luckily, Hull didn't require a Modern Language- I hadn't done one). Obtaining a first class honours degree, mean't I was given the only available studentship to do a PhD. I then became a University academic, generating more than 200 peer-reviewed papers, helped write the 1st 2 QAA benchmarks for Biosciences, became President of an International Society and helped edit an International journal for more than 30 years etc. It seems to me, that early allocation to the 'select' and 'reject' groups is not always 100% accurate.

Taking the 'P' Out of PISA?

It's that time of the year again (shortly after 'manic Monday') when the Pisa 'comparisons' between school systems in many (but far from all) of the world's countries are made on the basis of testing samples of selected students in mathematics, reading and science ( ). In fairness, even the people who run the tests point out some of the problems (e.g. some languages are more phonetic than others, some countries show big geographical diversities in attainment, different levels of extra-curricular coaching is evident in some groups, happiness doesn't always equate with success in the tests, many subjects are not tested, the tests don't attempt to measure creativity etc, etc). Yet everytime these tables are published, the media and politicians of all stripes go bananas. The power of a table!

Seeing the Changes 1218

In Loughor, masses of black flies were emerging from a hedge. In conditions also attracted green lacewings ( Chrysoperla carnea ) to ...