Wednesday, 29 August 2012

Seeing the Changes 529

There was an impressive Bolete-style fungus in Singleton Park, Swansea. Continuing the caterpillar theme, a Knotgrass moth (Aronicta rumicis) sprinted over the cycle track at Bynea.

Monday, 27 August 2012

The Beast of Essex?

A frenzy of excitement in the media concerning multiple reports of lion sightings near Clacton in Essex ( Unlike some earlier claimed spottings of big cats, this present event led to a search by armed police supported by a helicopter. Big cats were kept as status symbols in parts of the UK some decades ago and the subsequent passing of the Dangerous Wild Animals legislation might well have resulted in some ill-advised releases of 'pets'. Having said that, all species of big cat need very substantial ranges and it seems to me unlikely that viable breeding populations could be easily established. Lions also generally go in for group hunting, so a lion on its own would be at a disadvantage. Apparently, no paw prints or fur traces were found and the police have given up the search. People can easily have their eyes tricked by distant animals appearing larger especially as the sun goes down. Perhaps it's a large moggie covered in Essex spray tan?

Under the Bridgewater!

Just returned from Worsley, outside Manchester, where the Bridgewater canal still flows near Worsley Old Hall where I spent weekends as a child. This canal was dug by hand on the orders of the first Duke (who lived at the hall) to carry coal from his mines to fuel the Industrial Revolution. It flows past the old Courthouse and has now been 'gentrified' as an amenity. In deed, the canal now has waterlilies in spite of littering and attracts birds such as Canada geese (Branta canadensis) and Grey wagtail (Motacilla cinerea). Topically, given the fact that I will be returning to Sikkim next month, the alien Himalayan balsam (Impatiens glandulifera).

Thursday, 23 August 2012

Seeing the Changes 528

The Japanese knotweed (Reynoutria japonica) is in flower in Loughor and a Grey dagger moth (Acronicta psi) larva appeared in the garden . The larva is much easier to distinguish from the Dark dagger (Acronicta tridens) than is the adult insect.

Tuesday, 21 August 2012

Tiger, Tiger

Confused goings on in India where courts have ruled an, at least temporary, embargo on tourists going to areas to view tigers (Panthera tigris)( The move has been condemned both by some conservationists and by locals whose livelihoods depend on tourist income. It cuts across efforts to encourage people to tolerate endangered, but potentially dangerous animals, because of the benefits they bring in (otherwise people are tempted to kill the beasts and sell the materials to the Chinese folk medicine proponents). The reasons for the ruling were, however, understandable as the person complaining (a conservationist) was concerned that people were not respecting legal rules banning tourists from areas where tigers were breeding and were putting too much pressure on the reserves (numbers of tigers have fallen here) by packing vehicles with visitors. Strangely enough, the same newspaper that had the article was advertising trips to India with tiger watching as a highlight.


Somewhat disturbing news from Jena University in Germany where academics have demonstrated that biodiesel made from rapeseed oil rarely achieves the 35% saving in greenhouse gases claimed by its enthusiasts in the EU ( . They interestingly point out that 3 of the largest EU producers of rapeseed are France, Germany and Italy, all countries with large car-manufacturing industries. They also opine that much of EU policy on further reductions in greenhouse gas release appear to be based on plans for increasing biodiesel when its efficiency in terms of savings is in doubt. If one takes this in conjunction with the claim that 40% of US corn is ear-marked for conversion to car fuel, one can see why some people think that biodiesel production is driving up food prices in parts of the world.

Seeing the changes 257

What appears to be a somewhat unusual visitor to Loughor. The moth looks very much like an Orange swift (Hepialus syvina).

Monday, 20 August 2012

Tutti Frutti

In spite of the relative absence of sunshine and insects, there seems to be lots of berries and hips about. These included those of the Field rose (Rosa arvensis), the Bramble (Rubus fruticosus), the Hawthorn (Crataegus monogyna), Mountain ash (Sorbus acuparia) and Sea buckthorn (Hippophae rhamnoides).

Saturday, 18 August 2012

Seeing the Changes 526

An awful year for flying insects such as butterflies and moths. In a brief period of non-rain in Penclacwydd, I noted a Hairy dragonfly (Brachytron pratense).

Friday, 17 August 2012

The Book of Life?

It has been reported that a 53,000 word book (presumably not 'Fifty Shades of Grey') has been stored by scientists as DNA ( It has been pointed out that DNA is the ultimate, compact data storage tool (better than existing digital) as 1 g can store the equivalent of 455 bn Gigabytes of information. We may be replacing our CDs with genediscs.

Thursday, 16 August 2012

Seeing the Changes 525

In Bynea, noted the flowering of Blue fleabane (Erigeron acer) and Sea aster (Aster tripolium).

Bear Necessities

It must be the silly season, as lots of UK newspapers have led on an apparent trashing by bears of a Norwegian holiday hut that was stocked with 100 cans of lager, chocolate, honey and marshmallows ( The culprits are said to be a mother bear with 3 cubs and, certainly, bears are opportunistic feeders particularily on the described food items. I do wonder, however, how efficient the bears were at opening the lager cans. Might, possibly be some human intervention?

Tuesday, 14 August 2012

Seeing the Changes 524

It's caterpillar tracks out there. In Bynea, noted a scuttling Woolly bear, larva of the Garden tiger moth (Arctia caja). In Penclacwydd, the larva of a Buff-tip moth (Phalera bucephala) sulked on the cycle path.

Sunday, 12 August 2012

Seeing the Changes 523

A few moths about. Noted a Brimstone (Opisthograptis luteolata) and what appeared to be a male Scarce umber (Agriopis aurantiaria) in Loughor.

It's the Humans Wot (Probably) Won It!

Yet another group of humans blames a species of animal for something that they probably contribute to themselves. Fresh water anglers are again calling for a cull of Cormorants (Phalacocorax carbo), a bird they call 'Black death' and blame for a shortage of fish in lakes, streams and rivers ( They never seem to consider that a) humans appear to be producing major changes in water bodies via inducing climate change and b) angling itself will have an impact on fish populations even if the captures are returned to the water. The Cormorants also have little choice other than to try to take the fish that are their only food. It's eat or die out there!

Thursday, 9 August 2012

Olympic Birds?

Nice when a bit of natural history enters the olympics. In the Women's 10k open water swim in London's Serpentine, the pundits argued about the identity of an interferring waterfowl. It was clearly a Coot (Fulica atra) and not a Moorhen!

Wednesday, 8 August 2012

Is It Useful to Cost the Environment?

George Monbiot has argued ( that the recent UK Government obsession with working out the 'value' (exclusively to humans) of the 'environmental processes' (such as woodland, rivers and pollinating insects) is inevitably flawed as it is impossible to separate out the value of components of highly complex and integrated systems, involving many processes. I must admit that I also tend to view such attempts as reflecting an anthropocentric world view where everything is seen in terms of its benefits to humans (and, perhaps, even to certain groups of humans). I am not so sure that the entire planet is necessarily obsessed with catering for our species.  

Wednesday, 1 August 2012

Problems for the Rivers of Sikkim?

The recent problems with electrical supplies in North and East India ( bode badly for the substantial Himalayan rivers that flow through the tiny land-locked state that borders Tibet. There are already numerous planned hydroelectric schemes for this area and the apparently insatiable demand for electricity in the populous areas surrounding the state seem likely to intensify the pressure for such developments. Populations will be displaced and the natures of the downstream rivers and land will be dramatically changed.

Seeing the Changes 522

Soapwort (Saponaria officinalis), Hemp agrimony (Eupatorium cannabinum) and Mugwort (Artemisia vulgaris) were all in flower in Blackpill.

Where's the Beef?

  Industry 'experts' are claiming that the 'use-by dates' on red meat should be extended (