Thursday, 27 December 2012

Seeing the Changes 537

Amazingly late in the year, saw a Bumblebee feeding from Heather growing in a pot in our Loughor garden.

Wednesday, 26 December 2012

Homing in on Horn Protection?

There is intriguing news that a co-founder of the Zululand rhino reserve has been given permission by the US Government to purchase the Arcturus T-20 military surveillance drone with a view to facilitating the protection of rhinos from poachers ( Record numbers of rhinos have been killed this year for their horns. In Chinese medicine, this compacted hair is viewed as a cure (when powdered) for a number of conditions including fever (the aphrodisiac claim is not taken so seriously) and brings a very high price. The reserve would have to obtain permissions to fly the drones in South African airspace and I suspect (and hope) they would not be fitted with missiles. It is interesting that military pieces of kit can sometimes play a role in conservation.

Tuesday, 18 December 2012

Fishing on Land

There is a report ( that a company called Fishfrom is considering farming Scottish salmon in  large, hanger-like constructions divorced from direct contact with the sea. The fish would be reared on cultivated Ragworm and, it is claimed, the technique could avoid many of the current problems of salmon fish pens (Sea lice infections, interrring with wild salmon viability, decimation of certain salmon food species etc). The 'fish factories' would recycle most of their water and use a combination of solar and hydro-electric power. It is claimed that many of the up-market UK retailers would be attracted to its product. I suspect that this might well be the shape of things to come but I wonder what hidden problems might arise in the future? Cultivating Ragworm and Salmon at high densities always seem to attract difficulties. Fish welfare is likely to be easier to monitor in such a system.

Saturday, 15 December 2012

Seeing the Changes 536

Some of the Gower ponies seem to be having a tough time at Bynea. Finding food appeared difficult and one animal appears to have died (possible starvation or drowning?).

Galactic Mistake?

The news that Virgin Galactic is going to offer 'space' flights to paying trippers ( and the UK Government is encouraging extracting gas from oil shales by 'fracking' ( don't seem exactly supportive of limiting 'green-house gas' emissions? It does seem strange that commerce can always trump environmental concerns.

Saturday, 8 December 2012

Seeing the Changes 535

Frosty start to the day but the Ivy-leaved toadflax (Cymbalaria muralis) remained in flower in Loughor.

Friday, 7 December 2012

Nit Picker's Corner 1

There has been a lot of news this week about the Duchess of Cambridge suffering from hyperemesis gravidum. This was described by the BBC and elsewhere ( as 'acute morning sickness'. Medically, however, acute means 'short lasting' (it's the opposite of chronic or 'long lasting'). They obviously mean't 'severe' and did correct it in later bulletins.

Sunday, 2 December 2012

Natural Pun 2

Heart of oak.

DIY Pollution?

It is claimed that the popularity of Do It Yourself programmes (and tightness of money?) has encouraged people to do their own house plumbing with sometimes awful consequences to nearby rivers ( A failure to understand the pipework apparently sometimes leads to thousands of houses (said to be 3000+ in a specified period in the Thames Valley area) discharging raw sewage and the soapy contents from washing machines into rivers (such as the Chess). This can result in eutrophication, death of a range of invertebrates (often important prey species for other animals), exposure of aquatic organisms to sex-change associated chemicals (e.g. contraceptive pill metabolites) and losses of fish species (to the horror of anglers). It is, of course, not impossible that some 'cowboy builders' might achieve precisely the same outcome. Perhaps we need more regular checking of these discharges? One thing is certain namely that buildings can challenge the health of nearby waterways.

Gross National Happiness?

The tiny, Himalayan Kingdom of Bhutan is advocating a happiness measure based on issues such as care of the environment ( I can see the approach being useful in a small, relatively homogeneous community that largely makes its way by carefully controlled ecotourism but suspect that the approach would be more difficult in much larger, diverse countries where there likely to be much more variation in what people want (or think they want) to engender happiness. Some of Bhutan's thinking (albeit less defined) does seem to 'spill across' its border into neighbouring Sikkim.

Housey Housey

Quite a fuss seems to be developing about the UK Government claim that more building on undeveloped countryside is needed to satisfy demands for new housing by our increasing (but fragmented) population ( There is no doubt that provision of affordable housing in pleasant surroundings is likely to be a vote winner but it might be worth considering whether this would really help the situation. How many people would have the flexibility to take up residence in semi-rural locations (recognising that home working is only an option for certain types of employment)? Some people would argue that the UK actually has too few greenish areas as it stands. The UK obsession with detached houses with gardens is not even replicated in our near neighbours in Europe! It is also pretty evident that we don't always use our existing housing stock very efficiently (some is unoccupied and some under occupied). If it is true that city centre shops are largely doomed to be replaced by out of town shopping malls, there may be more scope for creating new housing on these brown field sites. Perhaps some further thought on the topic is required?

Where's the Beef?

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