Sunday, 30 June 2019

Glastonbury Single Use Plastics Free?

Sir David Attenborough made a 'surprise' appearance at Glastonbury and praised the event for banning single-use plastics for water-bottles ( This is helpful (every little counts) and his words might inspire the younger folk (as well as older festival regulars?) to make more substantial life-style changes that could help the planet. Nit-pickingly, one has to say that much more has to happen than simply changing drinking water containers. The carbon foot-print for attendees and head-line acts travelling to Glastonbury and back must be pretty substantial! It was also interesting to note that the festival was lauded as a spectacle by virtue of the flares thrown by the crowd!

Seeing the Changes 1370

Hedge bindweed (Calystegia sepium) socially climbs in Loughor. In Bynea, Field bindweed (Convolvulus arvensis) was evident. On the cycle path, a first Painted lady (Cynthia cardui) and a Small tortoiseshell (Aglais urticae) were seen.

Saturday, 29 June 2019

Pray for the Birds?

There has been a call to ban the 'cruel' practise of zoos and other institutions of tethering birds of prey for extended periods, preventing them from engaging in their 'natural behaviour' of flight ( It is certainly the case that these animals need regular exercise to maintain their fitness and this is generally done with inanimate lures by people who use these animals in flight displays. One should note, however, that wild raptors generally have a life-style (as do many predators) characterised by long periods of rest interspersed by short bouts of vigorous activity when attempting a kill. I would agree that using very restricted caging is likely to detrimental to these birds. The complainants talk about the need to allow the birds to carry out their full range of natural behaviour, so-called 'environmental enrichment'. Naturalistic killing of vertebrates would not, however, be legal in UK zoos/ birds of prey centres and would be difficult to control without tethering. One must also caution that hand reared raptors are often imprinted on their human handlers and deviate from the naturalistic behaviour of their species (this makes it inappropriate to release them to the wild). This is a very difficult area in which sorting out the rights and wrongs is actually quite complex. 

Seeing the Changes 1369

In Penclacwydd, noted the flowering of Hemp agrimony (Eupatorium cannabium) and the flight of the Six-spot burnet moth (Zygaena filipendulae).

Thursday, 27 June 2019

Seeing the Changes 1367

Back at Crymlyn burrows, Great willowherb (Epilobium hirsutum); Common centaury (Centaurium erythraea); Hogweed (Heracleum sphondylium) and Sea holly (Eryngium maritimum) were in flower. The hot weather brought out masses of Small skippers (Thymelicus flavus) and Dark green fritillaries (Mesoacidalia aglaja).

Tuesday, 25 June 2019

Marathon Runners Bugged?

I have heard of performance aids for distance running but never expected that bacteria in the large intestine might play a role ( A limited study on some Boston marathon runners suggests that they have increased populations of 'bugs' that break-down lactate (a cramp-causing metabolite increased by anaerobic respiration when oxygen levels are limited). Transferring the bacteria to mice also reportedly made them more 'athletic'. It could, of course, be the case that the guts of marathon runners provide a superior home for lactate busting bacteria!

Seeing the Changes 1366

More items at Crymlyn burrows. Goatsbeard (Tragopogon pratensis); Marsh valerian (Valeriana diocia) and Crow's garlic (Allium vineale) were blooming. Meadow brown (Maniola jurtina) and Painted lady (Cynthia cardui) were in flight.

Monday, 24 June 2019

Seeing the Changes 1365

Peacock butterfly (Inachis io) larvae thunder across the cycle path at Bynea.

You Were Allright, Jack!

Yet another one bites the dust! I knew Jack Cohen (pictured on the left with his ex-tutee, Nobel Prize winner, Paul Nurse) for around 50 years. He was described in his recent obituary ( as a 'Reproductive Biologist' but I used to think of him as an Embryologist (I should have guessed that he had graduated from my old University, Hull, where such interests were once popular in the old Zoology Department). Jack was a larger than life character who straddled Science and Science Fiction (he ran SF events in the Midlands and was a friend of Terry Pratchett, of Discworld fame as well as advising many SF writers on convincing characteristics their alien life forms might have). All this and advising on IVF treatment as well! Jack, most notably was a real enthusiast for ideas and had a wicked sense of fun. Real 'old school'!

Natural World Into Extra Time?

The UN Wildlife Chief appears to be pessimistic about our chances of saving the natural world  by reducing the current obsessions of the 'adults' (our politicians and industrialists) with deforestation, over-fishing and over-exploitation (, all in the interest of supposed economic development, jobs and food. She seems to feel that mass extinctions of animals and plants is likely to continue, along with the effective destruction of the planet's ecosystems (particular species are like cogs in a complex mechanism). Her view that the 'young' are clearly apposed to these destructive trends appears to provide a chink of optimism but one has to ask whether this will amount to 'too little, too late'.

Sunday, 23 June 2019

Playing Fast and Loose?

It has been reported that so-called 'fast fashion' (very much a focus in the UK) has a very major impact on the planet in terms of greenhouse gas production and water use as well as exploiting poor workers in many countries ( Having said that, some companies are doing very nicely (in terms of profits) from the sale of £4 dresses and £1 bikinis. One can only hope that their young fashionista clients will quickly improve their understanding of the costs of this trend and develop an aversion to it!

Music to Save the Planet By?

You would hope (if there is to be any hope) that the audiences at music festivals would embrace 'green' issues. Recent evidence ( suggests that this is happening, most notably with drives to 'rehome' as many of the tents that are abandoned after the event as possible (although it is noted that many of these plastic items cannot be saved meaning they have to be incinerated). There are even attempts to generate totally recyclable cardboard shelters that can survive several days of heavy rain to replace cheap tents. Organisers of some festivals are also reported to be involved in attempts to minimise disposable plastic use, have moved to constructing compost-based toilets, have investigated improving the energy-efficiencies of electrical generators and have limited (or banned) meat and fish consumption at their events.

Seeing the Changes 1364

More action in Loughor with the blooming of Orange hawkweed (Hieracium aurantiacum). I thought the new external light at my front door didn't attract moths but perhaps they were not present until now. A beetle (possibly Legria hirta) came to the light along with a Great oak beauty moth (Boarimia roboraria). A Zebra spider (Salticus scenicus) tucked in.

Saturday, 22 June 2019

Seeing the Changes 1363

In Bynea, the alien Butterfly bush (Buddleja davidii) and Rosebay willowherb (Epilobium augustifolium) were coming into flower.

Seeing the Changes 1362

Yarrow (Achillea millefolium) in bloom in Loughor.

The Dark Side

Interesting news that David Gilmour of Pink Floyd has auctioned 126 of his guitars and raised $21.6m to donate to help counter resistance to urgently dealing with climate change ( At the same time, some artists are refusing to work with institutions that receive funding from BP, on the basis that this petrochemical company is a major contributor to the release of greenhouse gases ( Artists supporting Science? Both activities (and others) are clearly helpful but one has to ask why such individuals feel the need to take these actions. Could it be that they don't trust our industrialists and politicians to do the right thing?

Friday, 21 June 2019

Seeing the Changes 1361

Not much change today but the Woolly thistle (Cirsium eriophorum) was blooming in Penclacwydd.

Who Does the Terrorising?

The film 'Jaws' clearly exacerbated the over-hyped fear, in many quarters, of sharks and the news media have subsequently been very quick to take up stories of attacks by these marine predators on humans. Having said that, many more sharks are killed by people than vice versa and this is most commonly to obtain their fins used to make the famous Chinese delicacy soup. Presumably recognising that these ancient fish are an important component of marine ecosystems, Canada has reportedly just become the first G7 country to ban the import of shark's fins ( It would be useful if other economies followed suit (as the financial rewards for obtaining these items are currently too tempting to fishermen).

Farewell Frogman!

Sad news about the death of Tim Halliday ( ) a man who was a real advocate for urgent imperatives to attempt to reduce the rate of extinction (due to a mixture of climate change, habitat loss, pollution and fungal infections) currently faced by the world's amphibia. I remember teaching with Tim at Open University summer schools in the mid- 1970s and found him to be an innovative and enthusiastic Zoologist. I also reviewed the excellent book he edited in 2002 with Kraig Adler, The New Encyclopedia of Reptiles and Amphibians. Amphibians (and Reptiles?) will need to rapidly find new protectors (it is reported that Tim worried that he was becoming an 'extinction Biologist' rather than a conservator).

Thursday, 20 June 2019

Seeing the Changes 1360

A few more items from Crymlyn burrows with Ribbed melilot (Melilotus officinalis) in bloom. Also appearances by the Cinnabar (Tyria jacobaeae) and Yellow shell (Camptagamma bilineata bilineata) moths.

Wednesday, 19 June 2019

Seeing the Changes 1359

In Loughor, Lords and ladies (Arum maculatum) was in berry. In Bynea, Ragwort (Senecio jacobaea); Sea mayweed (Matricaria maritima) and Creeping thistle (Cirsium arvense) were in flower. Ragwort was also being nibbled by the larva of the Cinnabar moth (Tyria jacobaeae).

Tuesday, 18 June 2019

Seeing the Changes 1358

More activity in Crymlyn Burrows with Eyebright (Euphrasia officinalis); Downy rose (Rosa tomentosa); Yellow wood violet (Viola biflora) and Hedgerow cranesbill (Geranium pyrenaicum) in bloom. Also lots of Lepidopteran action with 6-spot Burnet moth (Zygaena filipendulae) larvae; a female Common blue (Polyommatus Icarus); a Small heath (Coenonympha pamphilus) along with male and female Small blues (Cupido minimus).

Bee Bereavement?

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