Monday, 28 March 2016

Seeing the Changes 1037

Caswell bay in bloom, with Sweet violet (Viola odorata) and Alexanders (Smyrnium olustarum), with flies, both in flower.

Birder's Bonus 161

Lots of Stonechat (Saxicola torquata) activity around Caswell bay.

Sunday, 27 March 2016

Seeing the Changes 1036

In Pontneddfechan, the Opposite-leaved golden saxifrage (Chrysosplenium oppositifolium) and Navelwort (Umbilicus rupestris) were much in evidence.

Saturday, 26 March 2016

Controlling Themselves?

News that the UK Government is planning to repeal animal welfare codes because they are more demanding than the systems used by some other countries ( and might make things a tad more expensive for UK exporters. The idea is that people could still be charged with animal cruelty but the industries would become referees on their own activities. Just how forceful they would prove when faced with problems seen in a major player in their field (who is probably paying for the inspection) is somewhat unclear.

Poles Apart?

Disturbing news that Poland's Government has reportedly approved large scale logging in Europe's last primeval forest ( This short-sighted development, will not only decimate a unique environment (surely with economic attractions for natural history enthusiasts) but is a big negative in terms of trying to deal with carbon emissions and climate change. This is likely to be another reflection of the short-termism that blights politics.

Friday, 25 March 2016

The Lowest Common Multiplier?

News from Craig Ventner's laboratory that they have created, what appears to be, the simplest living cell ( The synthetic 'bacterial' cell can do all the living processes (such as respiration, growth and cell division) in spite of having only 473 genes rather than the 20k found in ourselves and the ubiquitous fruit fly. It is striking that, although they know what 67% of the genes do in their stripped down creation, the roles of the remainder are still a mystery. This certainly suggests that the origins of living systems are a good deal less complex than those now found on the planet ( in that evolution of life might be a relatively simple process) but I am less enthusiastic (but resigned) about the prospect of developing synthetic micro-organisms to generate new fuels et cetera.

Thursday, 24 March 2016

Wednesday, 23 March 2016

Ashes to Ashes

Grave news, as it appears that a combination of a fungus (Ash dieback) and a burrowing beetle (the Emerald ash borer) are poised to wipe out all the Ash (Fraxinus excelsior) trees in the UK and Europe ( beetle-attack-likely-to-wipe-out-all-ash-trees-in-UK-and-europe). This is yet another example of the problems that can be associated with the movement of materials from one continent to another. Garden centres need to be especially careful with imported trees.

Saturday, 19 March 2016

Seeing the Changes 1034

The first carpet moth of the year in Loughor. Field mouse-ear (Cerastium arvense) was in bloom.

Friday, 18 March 2016

Seeing the Changes 1033

A warm day in Loughor, so the Small tortoiseshell (Aglais urticae) was out and about from hibernation.

Monday, 14 March 2016

Seeing the Changes 1032

Saw my first Brimstone butterfly (Gonepteryx rhamni) of the year at the National Wetlands Centre Wales. A small bee (Stelis punctulatissima) foraged in a dandelion.

Sunday, 13 March 2016

It's No Place Like a Gnome!

Anna Middleton, a genetic counsellor, is enlisting the help of an advertiser to help explain terminology in genetics to the people she has to deal with ( Apparently, many of the people questioned thought that genomics was something to do with gnomes! They also believed, a la CSI, that DNA was something only left at crime scenes. It was recognised, however, that genes could run in families. It does seem important to get the language understood if you want to advise people about their options in this area.

Tuesday, 8 March 2016

We Don't Need No Education (sic)?

It seems that we British rapidly forget what we have learned in school ( For example, around 20% of people surveyed don't remember how to calculate fractions or percentages and circa one third have no recollection of what a median value is. In English, about one fifth don't remember the rules for using apostrophe, semi-colon or colon and a third have no idea what an oxymoron is. The situation for Science is even more scary, as one quarter didn't know the names most of the planets in our solar system, one fifth couldn't explain the 'greenhouse gas' -induced climate change concept and a massive 40% had no understanding mitosis. This suggests a) some folk are not really in a position to use employment in a flexible manner and b) some voters have only a very weak understanding of some of the issues presented to them. I know this sounds a tad elitist but I really think society would be healthier if we found a way of making education 'stick' and encouraged all to carry on accumulating new skills and knowledge.

Monday, 7 March 2016

Lercing in the Undergrowth

I know that the decision is Natural England's (and we are often told that folk based elsewhere shouldn't comment on English matters) but the decision to axe the funding of some 40 Local Environmental Record Centres (Lercs) seems a bit perverse ( Although many of the contributors were enthusiastic amateurs, there is a lot of expertise out there and the modest funding also encouraged people to take an active interest in the natural history of their localities. At a time of major environmental upheavals, you got a very big bang for a modest buck! 

Saturday, 5 March 2016

Eat Away the Allergy?

An interesting study ( seems to show that exposing 3 month old babies to modest amounts of foods associated with food allergies (such as peanut butter and egg white) can reduce the incidence of actual allergies in later life. This is in comparison to babies exposed to these substances in later life, at 6 months. Perhaps infants 'identify' foods as being appropriate (or not) in a similar way to the development of the immune system (where the foetus makes an early distinction between proteins that are 'self' and 'non-self')? The allergy might be a response to a food protein that was not encountered early enough!

Friday, 4 March 2016

Seeing the Changes 1030

More bloomers on the Swansea University Singleton campus with what looked like Common comfrey (Symphytum officinale) and the garlic-smelling Ramsons (Allium ursinum).

Bee Bereavement?

Bees are very important insect pollinators. Some species are, of course, also commercially-important because they produce honey and bees-wa...