Saturday, 31 May 2014

Thursday, 29 May 2014

Seeing the Changes 876


Lots of activity by the nymphs of the Common froghopper (Philaenus spumarius) in Loughor, Bynea and Penclacwydd. Frothing like little Colonel blimps!

Wednesday, 28 May 2014

Monday, 26 May 2014

Seeing the Changes 874


Shades of Darwin! Visited by a Peppered moth (Biston betullaria) in Loughor and the light wasn't even on.

Seeing the Changes 873


In Bynea, Wild mignonette (Reseda lutea) was being visited by a hopeful bumble-bee.

Seeing the Changes 872


Spotted a Common blue (Polyommatus icarus) on a Cut-leaved cranesbill in Bynea.

Sunday, 25 May 2014

Thursday, 22 May 2014

Gulling the Public?


Somewhat disturbing news that a judge has ruled against the RSPB's claim that the Environment Secretary's approval of a cull of over 1000 Lesser black-backed and Herring gulls at the Ribble estuary 'sets a deeply disturbing precedent'  (http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2014/may/21/legal-challenge-to-herring-gull-cull-dismissed). The request for the cull came from BAE systems who have an aerodrome there and feared that gull strikes could endanger aircraft. The cull would remove 20% of the UK breeding population of Lesser black-backs from a protected site. One could make a couple of points. Firstly, gull strikes are much less likely to seriously damage aircraft than encounters with geese, ducks and swans. Would they be next for 'the chop'? Secondly, the RSPB has been criticised, in the past, for culling these gulls on its own reserves to protect breeding programmes of other birds. Thirdly, removal of the gulls is almost certain to cause other birds to move into the vacated area (meaning that culls would have to be carried out over an extended period).

Wednesday, 21 May 2014

Seeing the Changes 869


Visited by a Brimstone moth (Opisthograptis luteolata) in Loughor.

Beesaster on the Bridge?


From the numbers of dead and dying worker Honey bees (Apis mellifera) on Loughor bridge, it looks as if a swarm has had an argument with vehicles.

Tuesday, 20 May 2014

Seeing the Changes 868


Visited at home in Loughor by a female Pale tussock moth (Calliteara pudibunda).

Monday, 19 May 2014

Seeing the Changes 867









Between Bynea and Penclacwydd, noted Yellow iris (Iris pseudacorus), Bittersweet (Solanum dulcamara), Burnet rose (Rosa pimppinellifolia), White clover (Trifolium repens) and Bramble (Rubus fructicosa) were all in flower. Noted a Lily escapee in Bynea and visted by a Small phoenix (Ecliptopera silaceata) and a Juniper carpet (Thera juniperata) moth in Loughor.






Saturday, 17 May 2014

Seeing the Changes 866


Spiderlings hatching on my garage door frame in Loughor.

Beetlemania in the Moth Trap


Along with 3 Cockchafers and some Carpet moths, I discovered this handsome black beetle. About 2cm long.

Friday, 16 May 2014

Seeing the Changes 865


Start of the orchid season, with the appearance of a Southern marsh orchid (Dactylorhiza praetermissa) in Penclacwydd.

Don't Get Your Octopus in a Twist


The octopus is certainly amongst the most intelligent of invertebrates but its 8 arms have an apparently simple way of controlling the suckers. Hochner et al  at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem have discovered that a substance in the skin prevents the suckers fixing on another part of the animal's own body (including another tentacle). These molluscs will sometimes treat amputed arms (that can be regrown) as food but are less likely to gobble one of their own severed limbs unless the skin is removed. It appears that a chemical (or chemicals?) in the skin prevents activation of the suckers (it must be an individual characteristic).

Snail Wars


With slightly contorted logic, some gardeners apparently hurl snails, threatening their prize blooms, into their neighbour's garden (rather than kill them). New research from Queen Mary University and Exeter (http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2014/may/16/snails-homing-instinct-overcome-move-20-metres-away) suggests, however, that you need to throw the errant molluscs more than 20 metres if you don't want core members of the local garden population to return (homing snails?). Gardeners will have to tone up those muscles (or use a catapult)!

Thursday, 15 May 2014

Seeing the Changes 864








Between Loughor and Penclacwydd, noted a Common blue damselfly (Enallagma cyathigerum) as well as blooming Elder (Sambucus nigra), Rough poppy (Papaver hybridum), Columbine (Aquilegia vulgaris), Hemlock water dropwort (Oenantha crocata) with insect visitors, Annual nettle (Urtica urens) and Pencilled cranesbill (Geranium versicolor).

Sunday, 11 May 2014

Seeing the Changes 863


Thrift (Armeria maritima) was in flower by the Loughor estuary.

A Really Useful Hedgehog?


There are reports of 2 Israeli entrepreneurs developing a $7 device called keepod (Hebrew for 'hedgehog'). The item is essentially a USB flashdrive that essentially provides 'an operating system on a stick' (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-27346567). This would enable folks in 'poor' parts of the world (the device is being trialled in Kenya) to fruitfully use even 'tired', old computers without having to pay for expensive upgrades. The information for the individual user would be stored on their own keepod device. The $7 price includes about $2 profit that can be ploughed back into development and rolling out the device more widely. The item sounds almost as useful as the original beast (I love 'em because they chomp the slugs).

Tuesday, 6 May 2014

Brazilian Chainsaw Massacre?


It's amazing how, 'democratic' politics can over-ride attempts to conserve environments. There is disturbing news from Brazil, where a politician dubbed the 'chainsaw queen', who has presidential aspirations is alledging (without any evidence) that environmentalists, indigenous indian groups and landless peasants are all working for 'foreign interests' when they oppose further enroachments on the rainforest. Strangely enough, she just happens to own and run a large ranch and is the head of the Confederation of Agriculture and Livestock. She has reportedly been instrumental in weakening   Brazil's Forest Code and is enthusiastic about extending the road network through the forest, clearance for GM crops and extending the power of agribusiness. All this in the name of reducing food costs. I can't help feeling a tad pessimistic about the survival of an extensive, functional rainforest as the lowest denominator tends to win.http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2014/may/05/brazil-chainsaw-queen-katia-abreu-amazon-deforestation

The Lair of the White Worm


Forget Bram Stoker! There are reports that Gran Canaria is being over-run by the progeny of albino Kingsnakes (originally from California) that have either escaped or have been released by pet owners (http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2014/may/05/invasion-albino-snakes-threatens-gran-canaria-wildlife). These snakes that can reach 1.5 m have apparently increased enormously in numbers and are decimating bird life, rabbits and unique lizards on the island. Even though they are albino, they appear to thrive as they have no predators on Gran Canaria. There is now a programme to try to control the snakes but, as they are largely subterranean, this seems a potentially insolveable problem Yet another example of the consequences of human-mediated introductions!

Sunday, 4 May 2014

Fraudenstein Food


It is reportedly easier for criminal groups to make big money by selling adulterated food than to deal in illegal drugs (http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/may/03/crime-gangs-target-food-fraud-draft-eu-report). This is because a) the volume of activity is much higher, b) the level of testing for fraudulent activity is relatively low and c) the penalties after detection are modest. Apparently, criminals are becoming sophisticated in spotting 'a main chance' and tend to focus on areas such as virgin olive oil (the biggest area where adding a little chlorophyll to cheap oil can produce massive profits), organic vegetables, fish, red wine, saffron, milk, vodka, tea, coffee, honey and fruit juice. It is not only that people are cheated of their money, there have actually been deaths from bootleg alcohol and melamine-contaminated baby milk (the melamine contains nitrogen, confusing tests for protein content). Suggestions that people (especially the poor) buy locally and do their own cooking are not realistic on a large scale. I do think that supermarkets and governments need to increase the level and sophistication of testing and that penalties should more realistically reflect the natures of the crimes.

Saturday, 3 May 2014

Seeing the Changes 862


Drinker moth larvae (Philudoria potatoria) were much in evidence in Penclacwydd.

Birder's Bonus 143


On Loughor estuary, Black-tailed godwit (Limosa limosa) appeared to be changing into summer plumage.

Seeing the Changes 861


It's May. So time for a nocturnal visit by a Cockchafer (Melolontha melolontha)!

Thursday, 1 May 2014

Pre-Medical?


It's not exactly a new story but WHO have reiterated their warning that the development of antibiotic-resistant strains of bacteria could 'return us to an age where even mild infections killed' (http://www.theguardian.com/society/2014/apr/30/who-calls-urgent-action-antibiotics-antimicrobial-resistance). People (especially the very young or the aged) in developed countries would die in increasing numbers from conditions like diarrhoea and pneumonia. It is problematic that a) bacteria, because of their rapid life-cycles and ability to transfer genes to each other, evolve very quickly; b) these infective agents are rapidly transported by air travel; c) there is still much overuse of existing antibiotics in medicine and farming (giving resistant strains opportunities to arise) and d) the incentives for pharmaceutical companies to work on genuinely new alternatives is limited (as any new items would have to be curtailed in their use to limit resistance development). WHO do suggest an increased role for improved hand sanitation but that seems a rather desperate ploy.

Seeing the Changes 1218

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