Tuesday, 31 October 2017

Galloping Greenhouse Gases

Recent reports suggest that the atmospheric concentrations of 'greenhouse' carbon dioxide were in 2016  at their highest level for some 3 million years (https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2017/oct/30/global-atmospheric-co2-levels-hit-record-high). The rocketing CO2  levels (with effects on both climate change and acidification of the oceans) have been blamed on a combination of human activity and the el Nino weather event in the Pacific region but the consequences might well be extreme (and suggest that attempts to limit the release of this gas are currently inadequate). Not a good start for the enlightened 'fight-back' to counter anthropogenic effects!

Cephalopod Capers?

There have been reports of strange land invasions by up to 25 Common octopus (Octopus vulgaris) on the beaches of New Quay in Ceredigion (https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2017/oct/30/mystery-of-octopuses-found-walking-on-welsh-beach). The animals appeared to be disorientated and there has been unsupported speculation about whether this behaviour was triggered by recent storms and/or the confusing effects of the street lighting in New Quay. The behaviour is unusual but is clearly detrimental to the species and needs detailed investigation.

Missing Lynx

A young, female Eurasian lynx (Lynx lynx) has escaped from a small zoo in West Wales (https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2017/oct/30/lynx-search-for-lillith-continues-west-wales-borth-wild-animal-kingdom). This elusive big cat has been extinct in Britain for quite some time (but some enthusiasts would like to bring it back to our forests). These animals seem good at escaping and are not easy to recapture. They generate differing responses in farmers (who regard them as dangers to their livestock) and the zoo keepers (who worry that their 'harmless' beast might be injured by farmers). Evidence of the confusion is evidenced by one caller who was convinced the lynx was in his garden- it turned out to be a sheep!

Sunday, 29 October 2017

Seeing the Changes 1239

Winter is kept at bay somewhat. Winter heliotrope (Petasites fragrans) was in flower in Loughor. A hardy Red admiral (Vanessa atalanta) flitted around Bynea.

Tuesday, 24 October 2017

Acid Trip

There has, perhaps, been too little attention directed to the effects of increased atmospheric carbon dioxide on ocean acidification, as a consequence of the gas's combination with water to form carbonic acid (https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2017/oct/23/ocean-acidification-deadly-threat-to-marine-life-finds-eight-year-study). The focus has tended to be, thus far, on the difficulties reducing the pH would have on shelled organisms, such as molluscs and crustaceans, but recent studies suggest that many advanced species (fish and marine mammals and birds) would also find it difficult to cope with the changed conditions. Acidification would be accompanied by climate change and the only organisms thought likely to deal with this combination are bacteria and other micro-organisms. Perhaps we would be returning the oceans to the primordial soup! 

Monday, 23 October 2017

Thursday, 19 October 2017

Before They Croak

Police in Turkey have reportedly 'rescued' some 7,500 frogs from 5 men with a van and returned them to their wild habitat (https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/oct/18/replenish-the-swamp-turkey-returns-7500-trafficked-frogs-to-the-wild). The frog's legs are delicacies in France and China, meaning that the illegal 'catch' had economic value.  I am not sure how effective the return process was- pouring them into a single location is likely to attract lots of predators. 

Oranges are not only Orange

It has been reported (https://www.theguardian.com/business/2017/oct/18/tesco-stocks-green-oranges-in-drive-to-reduce-food-waste) that Tesco is to stock green-skinned easy-peeler Satsumas and Clementines in an effort to reduce food waste. The fruit are said to be perfectly ripe but the unusually hot weather in Spain has produced the colour change. This seems a sensible move but I suspect that some customers will be resistant to the idea.

Insect Armageddon?

A 27 year study in Germany has looked, using systematic collection techniques, at the total masses of flying insects (flies, bees, wasps, butterflies and moths etc) to be found in Nature Reserves across the country (https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2017/oct/18/warning-of-ecological-armageddon-after-dramatic-plunge-in-insect-numbers). It was found that, over this period, insects, in these generally agricultural regions, declined to about a quarter of their initial values. Flying insects include many important pollinators as well as acting as items in diets of dragonflies, fishes, frogs, some birds and important mammals (including bats). The authors conclude that they have been witnessing a profound breakdown of ecological systems that are likely to be mirrored in many other countries. They seem uncertain whether intense agriculture (with its monocultures) and/or the use of insecticides have leading roles in this phenomenon.

Wednesday, 18 October 2017

Seeing the Changes 1236

Hurricane Ophelia also blew a Green lacewing (Chrysopa 7-punctata) into my house.

Birder's Bonus 176

Surprised to see a Common kingfisher (Alcedo atthis) dart out of a water-filled ditch by the cycle track in Bynea.

Farting Shellfish

It has been reported by Swedish scientists that shellfish including oysters, clams and cockles produce substantial (but not as substantial as cows) amounts of methane and nitrous oxide (https://www.theguardian.com/environment/shortcuts/2017/oct/16/are-flatulent-shellfish-really-contributing-to-climate-change). These are powerful 'greenhouse gases' that are likely to impact on climate change. The effects are likely to be most powerful in locations where these bivalves are cultured (usually in shallow, enclosed areas of the sea) at relatively high densities. 

Friday, 13 October 2017

Sole Survivor

It probably pays not to get too familiar with your catch. There has been a recent report of a man saved from death by choking by a paramedic after 'kissing' the small Dover sole he had hauled up (https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2017/oct/12/paramedics-save-man-after-whole-fish-jumps-down-throat). The fish allegedly 'jumped down' his throat, blocking his airway. The man was saved but the fish died.

Thursday, 12 October 2017

Seeing the Changes 1235

Lots of Sulphur tuft (Hypholoma fasciculare) around the Singleton Park campus of Swansea University.

Wednesday, 11 October 2017

Seeing the Changes 1234

After the rain in Bynea, the hairies emerge. Larvae of the Knot grass (Aranicta rumicis) and the Pale tussock (Calliteara pudibunda) moths.

Railway Sandwiches

Good news that all trains will shortly have to stop dropping human excrement from toilets on to the rail lines (https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2017/oct/10/train-toilets-to-no-longer-empty-on-to-tracks), removing it instead from storage containers in depots. I must admit to being totally unexcited by the news that this move will reduce the crops of tomatoes on some lines thought to result from the well-fertilised seeds from consumed cheese and tomato sandwiches!

Rock On!

The good news and the bad news. The good news is that an asteroid, the 'size of a house' (a small bungalow or a mansion?) will miss the Earth today as it passes between our planet and the moon (https://www.theguardian.com/science/2017/aug/11/close-encounter-asteroid-2012-tc4-size-of-a-house-near-miss-with-earth) being some 44,000 km from our orbit. The bad news, is that we know about this body but many others are, as yet, undocumented. Oh, and by the way, this is a second visit by 2012 TC4 since 2012 and it's getting closer!

Chicken Runny

Apparently reassuring news from the Food Standards Agency that pregnant women; babies and even ye olde folk can again eat boiled eggs with runny yolks (https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2017/oct/11/egg-safety-weve-cracked-it-britons-told-by-food-watchdog). This follows confirmation that flocks in the UK are all routinely vaccinated so as not to carry Salmonella with its risk of food-poisoning (with potentially catastrophic  effects on susceptible groups). Of course, not all eggs on sale here come from UK flocks and people might well not know the origins of their purchased eggs. I must admit that I have always (even since the Salmonella warning) favoured soft-boiled eggs even when driving around abroad!

Saturday, 7 October 2017


Sounds like the bee's revenge? Reportedly, 75% of tested honeys (including the whipped variety?) from all continents (except Antarctica, where there are no bees) contain neonicotinoid pesticides (https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2017/oct/05/honey-tests-reveal-global-contamination-by-bee-harming-pesticides). These pesticides (much loved in some agricultural circles) appear to be be implicated in the wide demise of Honey bee colonies but are also not too healthy for humans.

Tuesday, 3 October 2017

Bags for Death?

It has been reported that 'Bags for Life' can prove to be health (food poisoning) risks if they are used to carry raw meat or fish (https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2017/oct/02/bags-for-life-carry-food-poisoning-risk-if-used-for-raw-meat-or-fish). I would have thought that this was obvious and that people would only put well-packaged meat in their trusty bag (fresh meat and fish can be placed in plastic bags without charge). Perhaps the bags should carry reminders printed on their sides but this would detract from the generally positive messages they traditionally carry. 

Time, Life-forms Please!

News that the 2017 Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine has been shared by 3 American scientists who initially independently attempted to elucidate the molecular mechanism found in the cells of all multicellular organisms that controls the circadian rhythm (https://www.theguardian.com/science/2017/oct/02/nobel-prizes-2017-everything-you-need-to-know-about-circadian-rhythms). Circadian rhythms are, as the name suggests, close to the 24 hours of the day-night cycle imposed on the life forms of our planet by the Earth revolving as it travels around our nearest star. Most life forms are directly or indirectly dependent on solar energy, so it increases biological efficiency if individual cells 'know' (often without direct cues) when it is likely to be light or dark. Studies (largely with the fruit-fly Drosophila) revealed that proteins released from a 'period' gene rise and fall throughout the day in a negative feedback loop (in the same way that a central heating system is controlled- the hotter the room, the less fuel is supplied to the heater). A second gene labelled 'timeless' also produces proteins that combine with those produced by the 'period' gene, facilitating entry to the cell's DNA in its nucleus to 'switch off' the 'period' gene. 'Timeless' essentially controls the periodicity of the biorhythm. Simples.

Mining the Virus?

It has been reported that mines in Canada, USA and other countries are hot-spots for the transmission of Covid-19 ( https://www.theguardi...