Friday, 31 January 2014

A Drop (In the Ocean of Words)

There has been wars of words about the recent flooding in parts of the UK (and whose responsibility it is to prevent it or to curtail its effects). It seems that there may be votes in these issues. People demand ever higher and stronger flood defenses, pumping of water from land, dredging of rivers etc etc. Most of the available experts, however, appear firmly of the view that, with the onset of climate change, strategic retreating and going back to older defenses (e.g. salt marshes) may offer the best protection ( Much of the flooding is associated with low lying areas (in some cases, these are occupied because the land is agriculturally enriched by flooding events). Dredging rivers sounds a commonsensical 'cure' but it may simply hurry the waters downstream to flood other areas.

Monday, 27 January 2014

Doves of Piece?

Relevations that 'doves of peace' released by the Pope and his followers in ceremonies at the Vatican are frequently attacked by crows or 'seagulls' ( should come as no surprise. It is likely that the attackers are trying to get the doves to regurgitate grain on which they might have been fed rather than to actually kill them. Releasing, however, food items in a predictable location and at a predictable time is likely to generate this behaviour.

Sunday, 26 January 2014

What Does the Fox Say?

There seems to be a real antagonism between people who believe that taming wild animals (like foxes), even when the animals are damaged and never likely to be suitable for release, can provide insights to the capabilities and behaviour of the species and people who think that such animals should be humanely destroyed. I must admit that I find it difficult to come down firmly on one side or the other. What do the people out there think?

Friday, 24 January 2014

How Green is My Greenland?

The melting of the Arctic ice appears likely to produce profound changes in Greenland ( The removal of the white obstacle is encouraging a potential invasion of mining and oil prospectors attracted to the new accessibility of abundant natural resources. Although this might well improve the economy of the region (perhaps at the expense of further exaccerbating climate change), these activities will exert real pressures on the largely Inuit populations. I think a certain degree of caution is needed. There is even a suggestion that Greenland will seek complete autonomy from Denmark.

Making the Grain

More developments in the current Western obsession of taking up 'gluten-free' grains from exotic locations ( After initial enthusiasm for Andean quinoa, Ethopian teff is now the 'hot' 'super-food' grain of choice. It is certainly true that both grains have some interesting properties (in terms of amino acids etc) and increasing their utilisation could well pull needed currencies into the places where they are grown. Generally, however, such fashions tend to increase the prices paid for these crops, often making them too expensive for the local populations who have relied on them. Even nutrionally-inferior alternatives are commonly out of their range.

Tuesday, 14 January 2014

A Fistful for Frackers?

News that the UK Government is 'going all out for shale gas' by increasing the financial inducements for local councils to approve fracking licences is somewhat disconcerting ( This move is argued on the basis ensuring UK energy supplies (only if the quantities produced are truly impressive and other potential environmental issues are avoided) and increasing the number of jobs (only if they are semi-permanent and do not entirely consist of operatives bought in to do the activity). The burning of shale gas (as well as 'escaped' methane) would do little to limit the build up of 'greenhouse gases'. It is, perhaps, also pertinent to note, according to some writers ( note that the same government seems to be responding in an unintelligent way to the recent UK flooding of homes by advocating policies that reduce areas with trees (trees on sites result in absorption of  much more rain water than fields). Agricultural subsidies only go to areas that lack trees and shrubs meaning that there is even an incentive to remove these 'obstacles' from upland areas. People are also being encouraged to straighten and dredge rivers to increase flow through, even though this is known to direct water to built up areas that are prone to flooding. Concrete barriers are not only relatively inefficient but concrete production is one of the largest generators of carbon dioxide.

Monday, 13 January 2014

Seriously Anthropomorphic!

Sometimes the dialogue irritates too much! Heard a presenter on Breakfast Time describe how Natural History programmes always seemed to heave 'jeopardy sequence' where 'cute animals' (e.g. Giant offers) were menaced by 'evil' animals (a hungry Leopard).

Saturday, 11 January 2014

Fungi on the Worm

In spite of the cold and rain, fungi seemed to be blooming on in Rhossili. 


At Rhossili, ancient ant hills had had their tops mechanically removed.

Thursday, 9 January 2014

Early for Aphids?

The first sunny day in Loughor for quite some time! So a 2-spot ladybird (Adalia bipunctata) emerged to warm itself.

Wednesday, 8 January 2014

Seeing the Changes 629

In Penclacwydd, Hazel (Corylus avellana) was revealing both male and female (small red) flowers.

Monday, 6 January 2014

Seeing the Changes 628

Lilac ivy-leaved speedwell (Veronica hederifolia) was in flower in Loughor.

Seeing the Changes 627

The weather doesn't seem to do much for the Spring flowers of Loughor (except to leave them a little wind-blown). In the garden, Primrose (Primula vulgaris) and Snowdrop (Galanthus nivalis) were in bloom. The alien Mahonia was also in flower.

Saturday, 4 January 2014

A Lack of Maturity

The news that the UK Environmental Secretary is prepared to allow ancient woodlands to be hacked down to provide building plots for housing, so long as 100 trees are planted by the developers in other offset areas is a bit disengenuous ( ). Are we talking about social or high-end housing? What species of trees would be used? Where would the offsets be planted? What would happen to the animal and fungal species in the destroyed area? The point is simply that you would not (even with the passage of considerable time) be replacing like with like. There is so little ancient woodland in this country that I think he needs to think a little more carefully.

Friday, 3 January 2014


The wild weather has washed the small, wooden bridges on the cycle path at Bynea away. It's small beer but does illustrate the destructive power of the wind and waves.

Thursday, 2 January 2014

Dangerous Clarity?

A study by climate change modellers from South Australia ( ) suggests that failures to consider reductions in cloud cover that would normally reflect a percentage of solar energy the Earth receives back into space have resulted in a marked underestimation of the likely rate of global warming. Their models predict that, rather than the increase, by 2100, being limited to a dangerous but containable 2 degrees Centigrade, the average rise will be a catastrophic 4 degrees. That's the kind of clarity that makes me nervous.

Where's the Beef?

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