Friday, 28 November 2014

Chicken Licken?


The news that the FSA has found that no UK supermarket has chicken on sale with a less than 60% contamination with compylobacter is disturbing (http://www.theguardian.com/business/2014/nov/26/chicken-campylobacter-contamination-supermarkets-fsa). The bacterium can cause dangerous food poisoning and many of the stores appear to sell raw chicken meat products with high levels of this agent (or even on the outside of packaging where it can contaminate other foods. One should note that buying 'free-range' chicken is no protection against this agent. The only thing that you can do is to prevent the purchased meat contaminating anything else and to cook it thoroughly.

Tuesday, 25 November 2014

Clicking Away at the Ecosystem


A quick study by the International Fund for Animal Welfare has found some 33,000 'protected' living animals  (such as tiger cubs and poison arrow frogs) and prescribed products from such beasts (such as ivory and an entire rhinoceros horn) offered for sale online (lhttp://www.theguardian.com/environment/2014/nov/25/wildlife-crime-study-sale-onlinee-online). This little illegal hoard was valued at least £7m. This easily accessible activity seems likely to be the tip of a very big iceberg. One can only hope that ways will be found to discourage this form of e-commerce. Victorians at least had the excuse that most thought their natural history collections were obtained from an infinitely bounteous Earth whereas today few operate under such delusions.

Sunday, 23 November 2014

Climate Change: An Update


There is a very substantial review of the science of climate changes and the choices that (a few select people) have for the future (http://www.theguardian.com/science/2014/nov/22/-sp-climate-change-special-report). One might point out that most people on this planet have zero choices.

Seeing the Changes 924



Got an interesting angle on a visting Feathered thorn (Colotois pennaria) in Loughor and noted a small Slowworm (Anguis fragilis) chillaxing on the cycle path in Bynea.

Tuesday, 18 November 2014

Snowed Under With Penguins?


News that the BBC is to produce a program, entitled 'Snow Chick', that is intended to follow an Emperor penguin from egg to adulthood (http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/nov/18/bbc-snow-chick-follow-emperor-penguin-battle-for-survival). I appreciate that people seem very taken by penguins (note the current John Lewis Christmas advertisement) but I am not certain that this beast actually has the hardest life of any animal species on the planet (as is apparently claimed) and I am not too keen on these birds that strongly reek of fish. I would also be amazed if the 'life drama' actually followed one egg to adulthood. The thing about penguins is that you can splice material together from several individuals without anyone noticing the variation.

Watching the Detectives?


It seems that Interpol is finally starting to take environmental crime seriously (http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2014/nov/17/interpol-launches-first-appeal-for-environmental-fugitives) as it has been recognised that big players in this area can extract billions of dollars (the proceeds of  which could be used for all sorts of additional unpleasant illegalities), can seriously threaten important species with extinction, can damage the economies of entire countries and can even damage the health of human populations. I would simply add, however, that going after 9 individuals is a bit limited as the thousands of smaller offenders must also collectively have very powerful effects. Of course, dealing with different scales of offence may require different solutions. Smaller offenders might be more fruitfully deterred by educational programs and giving them financial stakes in species conservation and pristine environments.

Saturday, 15 November 2014

Seeing the Changes 923




Lots of material at Broughton on the Gower with the appearance of Yellow fieldcap (Bolbitus titubans). Strangely, there was also an active Clouded yellow butterfly (Colias croceus) and lots of festive European robins (Erithacus rubecula).

Monday, 10 November 2014

Cut Us Some Slack?


It is somewhat scary that even US elections seem to conspire against people taking any meaningful action to curb carbon dioxide emissions (http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/8c0d3370-689c-11e4-af00-00144feabdc0.html#axzz3IewvCovn). The giant Peabody Powder River Basin mine in Wyoming is now reportedly the world's largest coal mine and coal is said to account for 40% of US electricity generation. There are reportedly billions of tons of coal available for strip mining in this area. Although the technology exists, there also appear to be remarkably few coal-fired power stations with carbon capture in that country. Apparently, economic commentators feel that the recent Republican electoral success marks the end of any meaningful action by Obama to limit carbon emissions as a consequence of coal, gas and oil extraction. It is interesting that spokesmen for Peabody do not, apparently, deny that climate change is happening: they just deny that it has anything to do with human-generated carbon dioxide release. They seem to feel that environmental concerns damage the economy. Ho-hum.

Thursday, 6 November 2014

Heath(cliffe)


Interesting news that the National Trust has purchased Slepe heath in Dorset which will link together two areas of this protected and rapidly vanishing habitat (http://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2014/nov/06/national-trust-dorset-slepe-heath-thomas-hardy). Much is made of the purchase providing a location that might appeal to Thomas Hardy readers ('Return of the Native' and all that) but one should remember that heathland is essentially a human-created environment (in Dorset, it was a by-product of the Industrial Revolution) and has be be maintained by controlled burning and removal of organic material to prevent transition to scrubland and, eventually, forest. Still, this is good news for animals such as the Smooth snake and the Dartford warbler

Seeing the Changes 922


As the nights draw in, in Bynea, the Michaelmas daisy (Aster novi-belgii) becomes prominent.

Tuesday, 4 November 2014

The First Cut is the Deepest?


Advice from the UK Environmental Secretary that one can help bees and other pollinating insects by 'leaving the lawnmower in the shed' are a bit disingenuous (http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2014/nov/04/bees-uk-protect-liz-truss-pollinating-lawnmower). Certainly more flowers would be helpful to these useful organisms but urban lawns tend not to have much plant diversity (unless this is planted for) and there even seems to be economic inducements for people in some areas to replace lawns by hard-standing for car parking (this can, apparently, be a 'nice little earner' in London and some other locations). Urbanisation is a problem for pollinators but the current plights of these insects seems more closely linked to agricultural practises including the use of neonicotinoid insecticides that the government to loath to ban.

Monday, 3 November 2014

Condemning the Commons?



A recent study of bird numbers recorded in 25 European countries suggests that there has been a 421 million decline in totals over the last 30 years (http://news.yahoo.com/europe-421-million-fewer-birds-30-years-ago-004353783.html). Although one should, perhaps, have reservations about the absolute figures, it does seem evident that bird numbers have shown a dramatic fall over this time. The situation is, however, patchy as there have been increases in the numbers of some rarer birds such as the Wren and the Blackcap where they have been subject to conservation programmes. Simultaneously, there have been striking declines in the numbers of 'common' birds such as the House sparrow (down almost 150 million i.e. by 62%) and the Starling (down by 53%). Although bird declines have often been blamed on changing farming practises (and habitat loss), some of the decimated species are not farm-land birds. In such cases, urbanisation (or even conservation efforts directed at rarer species) may be closer to the root causes. Perhaps we shouldn't be so obsessed by real or apparent rarity?

Rotterdam Natural History

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