Sunday, 30 August 2015

On The Menu

Looks like a volunteer!


Staying at Quiberon. There is lots of habitat conservation and the place seems to abound with flowers (lots of Scabious), Hummingbird hawk moths, lizards, birds (including a Hoopoe and Yellow hammers) and yer rabbits!

Wednesday, 26 August 2015

A Name For It?

I have never been able to envision things in my 'mind's eye' and do not have visual dreams. In spite of this I have had a reasonably successful career in the behavioural sciences with much of my work based on video images of animals. I am also not too bad at 'putting names to faces', so long as the viewing gaps are not too long. Having scored a measly 9 out of 40 on a test ('s+eye), it looks like I have a condition now termed 'Aphantasia' (which is not an aversion to Disney but I willingly admit to that also). It does suggest that I remember things in a different way from most folk and could account for my enthusiasm for digital photography (it's like having an electronic mind's eye).

Monday, 24 August 2015

Birder's Bonus 157

Spotted a pale Barn owl (Tyto alba alba) flying in full daylight near the Loughor estuary at Bynea.

Seeing the Changes 1004

An out-break of sex-mad sawflies in Loughor.

Sunday, 23 August 2015

Seeing the Changes 1003

In Bynea, the Bullrush (Typha latifolia) was in flower.

Seeing the Changes 1002

In spite of the rain, visited by a Canary-shouldered thorn (Ennomos alniaria) in Loughor.

Friday, 21 August 2015

Seeing the Changes 1001

It must be the wettest 'summer' on record here, so it was apposite to see Water mint (Mentha aquatica) in bloom in Bynea.

Messages and Money?

The news that President Obama has given a green light to Shell's Arctic oil exploration has been greeted with alarm ( He may well have been convinced by economic arguments such as, with proper safeguards, the extracted oil would a) save on the environmental costs of its transport and b) make the US less dependent on foreign supplies of the black stuff. He may have also added into the equation, a belief that the American public would take quite a long time to wean off petrol-fueled automobiles. Having said all that, this agreement will not help in his reported mission to make a start on driving down world-wide greenhouse gas emissions. The Arctic is regarded by many people as being a pristine, sensitive area where oil extraction problems could well be magnified and appealing to the world to start countering climate change sits oddly with this move. Perhaps the message should be more important than monetary considerations?

Wednesday, 19 August 2015

To Bee?

Nice that the Post Office is putting bees on some of its stamps. Apparently, people approve of bees but most can't name any!

Monday, 17 August 2015

Seeing the Changes 1000

Around Penclacwydd, Hemp agrimony (Eupatorium cannabinum) was in flower. Signs of Autumn as Blackthorn (Prunus spinosa) and Hawthorn (Crataegus monogyna) were dripping with fruit.

Friday, 14 August 2015

If You Must Burn Hydrocarbons?

The recent twists of the fracking 'debate', raises in my mind the question "why, in the UK, we appear so resistant to incinerating rubbish in state of the art establishments (like the one in Rotterdam harbour above) to generate electricity?" Masses upon masses of 'free' plastic packaging is collected by councils from outside people's homes every week in this country- some of it to be exported before, in some cases, returning to our shores. If we must burn hydrocarbons to keep the lights on (and I am not especially enthusiastic about doing so) why not use this material with carbon capture and other cleaning processes to reduce its negative effects?

Thursday, 13 August 2015

Not So Much a Northern Powerhouse: More a Land of Fracking Resisters?

The threat by the UK government to 'step in' if pesky councils in far-off places like Lancashire and Yorkshire 'drag their heels' over giving a rapid go-ahead to the Fracking Industry (, sits strangely with their simultaneous strengthening of local people's abilities to object to land-based wind turbines (I know that that has been much 'discussion' about the relative merits of these 2 technologies but many of the comparisons are a bit dodgy on both sides). The Secretary of State for the Environment has promised to "deliver shale" which is not strictly true as she actually means giving the extractors a quick opportunity to squeeze out hydrocarbons from these deposits even if locals object to the disturbance. Other sound bites that could be used might include 1. "Taking materials from under your land, whether you approve or not"; 2. "Getting hydrocarbons more cheaply to burn and add to global warming"; 3."Possibly increasing the incidence of seismic events and water contamination in your locality"; 4. "Resistance is useless" and 5. "Getting rid of that green crap". Actually, 5 has been used before.

Wednesday, 12 August 2015

The Great British Food Throw Away

There an impressive overview on food wastage including noting that, if waste was cut by a quarter (and if we could send it efficiently to where it was both needed and accepted), we could solve world hunger ( Apparently, the world wastes 1.3 billion tonnes of perfectly good food each year. In the UK, some 45% of fruit and vegetables (a quarter of melons are never eaten), 35% of seafood and fish, 30% of cereals and a full fifth of both dairy and meat products all go to waste. The average UK family is said to waste £700 worth of food every year. I suspect, however, that the amounts wasted are highly variable (and not especially helped by 'sell-by' dates). Waste can also be measured in consumed water (at a premium in some parts of the globe), generated carbon dioxide et cetera. Even developing countries may also generate more waste by not having facilities for effective preservation of foods.

Fashion for Flowers is Good in Many Ways

Swansea Council has taken to seeding verges, bits of waste land and even roundabouts with mixed 'wild flower' seeds. This not only looks nice and presumably encourages insects but it keeps the maintenance costs down by reducing the need for cutting.

Earning Their Stripes

There has been much debate about zebra's stripes including whether they are white on black, vice versa or neither. There has also been speculation on whether they are temperature-related (zebras from warmer locations have more) and whether they help reduce predation by making the animal difficult to track and/or make biting flies less effective. The tracking idea has been recently tested by a PhD student, Anna Hughes, getting humans to try to follow a range of images including stripes ( She casts some doubt on the notion that the stripes generate motion dazzle but human eyes are not quite the same as those of lions and biting flies.

Tuesday, 11 August 2015

Seeing the Changes 999

Rather late in the year but spotted what looked like a newly emerged Holly blue (Celestrina argiolus) female in Loughor.

Sunday, 9 August 2015

Birder's Bonus 156

An LBJ complained in Oxwich dunes.

Seeing the Changes 998

More stuff at Oxwich with a Dune waxcap (Hygrocybe conicoides) fungus and flowering Purging flax (Linum catharticum). There was lots of material in fruit including Crab apple (Malus sylvestris); Burnet rose (Rosa pimpinellifolia) and Rowan (Sorbus aucuparia). A day-flying Silver 'Y' moth (Autographa gamma) explored whilst a male Common blue butterflt (Polyommatus icarus) hung around hopefully. The Six-spot burnet moth (Zygaena filipendulae) larvae pupated and a hunting wasp (Ammophila subulosa) was busy in the dunes.

Friday, 7 August 2015

Seeing the Changes 997

No moths to the light in Loughor but visited by a Green lacewing (Chrysoperla carnea).

Monday, 3 August 2015

People, People Everywhere?

The Guardian has strongly advocated the view that 'limiting population growth, on its own' will not reduced carbon emissions because more 'advanced' countries, with declining birthrates, counter-intuitively produce more green house gases ( This link may well be currently true (and shouldn't be used by developed nations to escape responsibility) but populations in 'developing' nations generally seem to at least aspire to the living standards of the 'west'. It is claimed that there are more people currently alive on the planet than in all of recorded history combined. Some of this may well be down to people living longer and, no, I don't advocate not trying to find better ways of controlling disease. But more people do require more resources (land, food, water et cetera) and even in the 'depopulating, advanced economies' the rest of the species on the planet (on which we depend) appear to be pressured by anthropogenic effects. So perhaps limiting population growth (as an aspiration) may not be a bad thing?

D Day?

'Experts' have suggested that the sun-starved inhabitants of the UK need to take Vitamin D supplements in order to remain healthy ( This seems especially the case this summer but I wonder if they will concomitantly modify the advice on sun screens?

Sunday, 2 August 2015

A Bit of Extra Change?

Got one of the above in my change this week. Allegedly worth a bit more than the standard 50p.

Copper-bottomed schemes?

News that Zambian villagers are taking a copper-mining company to court over pollution that they claim is damaging their health ( It does appear that extractors of minerals have to be more careful about their activities in a world where perceived problems quickly get out into the world's media. This is, in general, no bad thing as it should keep organisations 'on their toes'.

Creepy-Crawley Celebs?

The Royal Society of Biology is apparently going to ask Britons to vote for their 'favourite bug' as a means of drawing attention to the effects of pesticides, habitat loss and climate change on such organisms ( This is all very timely but I can't help but feel that the vote will not be as meaningful as the recent vote for the favourite bird (the European robin, a species that all the people voting in that poll will have seen). The trouble with invertebrates is that there are many, many more candidates and most people will not have even noticed more than a few of them. Ladybirds might get a lot of votes from the children's book series or the nursery rhyme but, I suspect, spiders (in spite of also having a nursery rhyme) have less positive PR. Wasps are also generally misunderstood. Many of the candidates listed in the article seem to be the bigger and brighter species. How many votes is the Beautiful demoiselle (Calopterix virgo) likely to glean?

Seeing the Changes 996

In Loughor, conditions seem perfect for Hogweed (Heracleum sphondylium)!

Seeing the Changes 1470

Traveller's joy ( Clematis vitalba ) in flower in Loughor.