Wednesday, 31 July 2019

Harry Lyme

It has been suggested that the incidence of Lyme disease in the UK has been vastly underestimated (https://www.theguardian.com/science/2019/jul/31/uk-lyme-disease-cases-may-be-three-times-higher-than-estimated). The disease is normally transmitted from deer to humans by biting ticks , so where the 2 species congregate is a good place (in the USA, it's under oak trees) for getting the infection. It has been estimated that there are circa 8000 cases of the disease in the UK but many doctors have little experience of the condition (which can be debilitating).

Saturday, 27 July 2019

Hardly 'Ice Cool in the Arctic'

It's somewhat scary to hear that many wild-fires are blazing in the Arctic in locations from Greenland to Siberia (https://www.theguardian.com/world/2019/jul/26/unprecedented-more-than-100-wildfires-burning-in-the-arctic-in-worst-ever-season). The smoke can be seen from space and, as well as adding to the greenhouse gases of the atmosphere, the ability of our polar regions to reflect a percentage of the sun's rays back into space seems to be coming impaired. Climate change appears to be progressing much more quickly than even the most pessimistic predictions. It seems like the 'gloomsters' have it!

Friday, 26 July 2019

Seeing the Changes 1345

In Loughor, Canadian golden-rod (Solidago canadensis) was in flower.

Thursday, 25 July 2019

Seeing the Changes 1344

A few more spots from Crymlyn burrows with a Holly blue (Celestrina argiolus) and a female Six-spot Burnet moth (Zygaena filipendulae) being mated as she emerges from the pupa.

Wednesday, 24 July 2019

Birder's Bonus 191

A late arrival by Swallows (Hirundo rustica) in Bynea.

Environmental Crimes

Some scientists are reportedly advocating adding 'environmental crimes' as a fifth heading of precluded acts of war under the Geneva convention (https://www.theguardian.com/law/2019/jul/24/make-environmental-damage-a-war-say-scientists-geneva-convention). Rather predictably, their focus is the damage inflicted by warring factions on wild animals and conservation areas. These are very real issues and would include killing elephants to fund particular groups of combatants or the use of Agent Orange to defoliate trees in the Vietnam war. Having said that, it does appear difficult specify what should be included as an environmental crime. Some people would argue that adding to the generation of greenhouse gases by encouraging space tourism for the rich might well constitute behaviour that deserves the label. What about the extraction of hydrocarbons, over-fishing or destruction of the Amazon rainforest?  

Gull-able

An article poses the question as to whether (sea) gulls are getting more aggressive, with stories of their carrying away chihuahuas, attacking other pets, keeping people 'marooned' in their houses for days and nicking 'their' ice-cream cornets (https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2019/jul/24/it-carried-our-dog-away-are-the-uks-seagulls-getting-more-aggressive). Councils are also reportedly spending masses of cash to deter these birds. The first thing to note is that Herring and Black-headed gulls are not limited to the sea but an association was evident as these ground-nesting birds have tended to rear their chicks on cliff locations that are not easily reached by predators such as foxes. We humans have now constructed lots of flat-topped buildings (often in city centres) which the birds see as prime chick-rearing real-estate (pseudo-cliffs). So we have, more-or-less, invited gulls to spend more time in proximity to people. These birds are opportunistic feeders with no sense of ownership which makes 'our' rubbish, pets and food fair game to them (the taking of these items is not personal). It is also pointed out in the article that some of the cases of 'aggression' directed by gulls to humans are really attempts to protect their eggs and chicks (in deed, they tend to occur at times of the year when reproduction is underway). The short answer seems to be that gulls are not getting more aggressive but the opportunities for gull-human interactions are making conflicts more likely. Lucky we are not getting more Greater black-backed gulls taking up urban life!

Tuesday, 23 July 2019

Seeing the Changes 1343



More critters at Crymlyn burrows. A Common darter (Sympetrum striolatum) lurked whist Meadow brown butterflies (Maniola jurtina) mated. A Dark green fritillary (Argynnis aglaja) sunbathed and a carpet moth posed. A Brown argus (Aricia agestis) fluttered and a cranefly (Tipula maxima) crash-landed. What seemed to be a Ammophila pubescens checked out flower tops for caterpillars to collect.

Monday, 22 July 2019

Seeing the Changes 1342


A single White meliliot (Melilotus alba) flowered in Bynea and a Potter wasp pottered.

Who Do You Think You Are?

Home testing DNA kits are raising problems for the NHS in the UK as they generate many false negatives for rare genes and fail to detect others entirely (https://www.theguardian.com/science/2019/jul/21/senior-doctors-call-for-crackdown-on-home-genetic-testing-kits ). The now relatively cheap kits are generally used by people in attempts to assess their ancestry but the data can be directed to other online specialist 'health advice' companies who 'interpret' the data in relation to health risk (although they claim that this is not a 'diagnosis'). There have reportedly women turning up to surgery asking for a bilateral mastectomy as they have been told that they carry a faulty gene that dramatically increases the risk of breast cancer. More sophisticated (and expensive) DNA testing by the doctors have revealed this not to be the case (although one woman is said to have asked for the operation, anyhow, "just in case"). It seems that these tests (sometimes given as jokey birthday presents) are wasting stretched medical time and resources.

Friday, 19 July 2019

Bearly Adequate?

The Bristol zoo proposal to put both Brown bears and wolves into an area of ancient British woodland for the first time in hundreds of years, clearly has soon issues (https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2019/jul/19/the-risk-to-woodland-of-putting-wolves-and-bears-back-together). The area designated is tiny in comparison with the required ranges of both species (they need thousands of square kilometres) and both species (with rather different dietary requirements) will need to be fed in humane ways. This is more Longleat than Ancient Briton.

Painted Ladies Pop Over

Appeals have been made to help count a large influx of migratory Painted lady (Cynthia cardui) into the UK (https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2019/jul/19/britons-urged-to-help-record-influx-of-painted-lady-butterflies). It is thought that this year may rival 2009, when an estimated 11 million butterflies arrived here from overseas. The species breeds here and late season adults make a reverse migration south before the cold sets in.

Science versus Tradition

It's problematic when commercial considerations clash with traditional cultural beliefs in a particular location. It is, however, still an issue when scientific imperatives run counter to belief systems. The latest example of this is the construction, at a cost of circa $1bn, The Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT) on Mauna Kea on Hawaii's Big Island that is being picketed by some native polynesians (https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2019/jul/18/hawaii-mauna-key-protest-arrests-observatory). The elevated location (it's the island's highest mountain) and the lack of light pollution (it's in the middle of the Pacific) make it a perfect place for observatory (giving, it is believed, spectacular views of our universe). Some native Hawaiians, however, regard the construction as desecrating the Sky Father, Wakea. It might have been easier to resolve if earlier astronomical telescopes were not already based on the mountain and construction of the TMT had not started in 2014.

Thursday, 18 July 2019

Seeing the Changes 1341

More developments in Crymlyn burrows with the flowering of Red bartsia (Odontites verma) and Traveller's joy (Clematis vitalba). Lepidoptera included the Buff footman moth (Eilemma depressa); a battered Small copper (Lyeaena phlaeas) and mating Small blues (Cupido minimus).

Tuesday, 16 July 2019

Seeing the Changes 1340










More action at Crymlyn burrows with Weld (Reseda luteola) and Wood sage (Teucrium scorodonia) in flower. Six-spot Burnet moth (Zygaena filipendulae) pupae and adults were much in evidence and the Meadow browns (Maniola jurtina) were mating. Problems for Lepidoptera with the Shield bug (Picromerus bidens) and the crab spider (Diaea dorsata) with and without prey.

Monday, 15 July 2019

Seeing the Changes 1339


By the Loughor estuary, Good king Henry (Chenopodium bonus-henricus) was in flower and the Dog rose (Rosa canina) went all hippy.

Sunday, 14 July 2019

Tinkling the Ivories?

It has been reported that a 'gold-rush' is underway in Siberia as the melting permafrost has made it much easier to access ivory from mammoth tusks (https://www.theguardian.com/world/2019/jul/14/permafrost-thaw-sparks-fear-of-mammoth-ivory-gold-rush-in-russia). People can, reportedly, make fortunes by selling the material as 'ethical ivory' to the Chinese market. Although removal of material is claimed to be 'regulated', the prospecting (using motor-boats and water jets) is speeding up the thawing and releasing yet more 'greenhouse' gases.

Saturday, 13 July 2019

Fishes of the Desert?

I must admit to being surprised that what is now the Sahara desert once had a seaway and that fossils of giant fish and enormous sea snakes were found around Mali (https://www.theguardian.com/science/2019/jul/12/sahara-was-home-to-some-of-largest-sea-creatures-study-finds). It just reinforces that geographical areas can show impressive (and unexpected?) changes.

Seeing the Changes 1338

Water mint (Mentha aquatic) in flower in Penclacwydd.

Another Nail in My Heart?



The finding of billions of iron-rich particles in heart tissues (of deceased individuals?) is yet another indication of the damage done to humans by the air pollution generated by cars in our cities
(https://www.theguardian.com/society/2019/jul/12/billions-of-air-pollution-particles-found-in-hearts-of-city-dwellers). I seem to remember, not too long ago, that officials in London sat on an air pollution report that indicated the level of risk in pupils (children are a group that are strongly impaired by air pollution) attending schools in the area. Even limiting petrol and diesel fuelled vehicles from driving in such areas may be insufficient to generate a healthy environment as the tyres and braking systems of cars also generate clouds of nanoparticles.

Thursday, 11 July 2019

Lip Service?

It seems that the UK Government response to climate change is to 'kick it into the long grass' by coming up with aspirations to make changes in emissions in the future (often well after the people making the 'pledge' will have stepped down from the scene but enabling the country to boast of being 'world leaders' in decarbonisation). It seems more pertinent to note the opinion of the Committee for Climate Change who appear convinced that there are actually no meaningful plans for dealing with heatwave or flooding crisis events in the country (https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2019/jul/10/uks-preparation-for-climate-crisis-like-dads-army ).

Birder's Bonus 190


What looked like a female Sparrowhawk (Accipiter nisus) on the Bay campus of Swansea University.

Wednesday, 10 July 2019

Seeing the Changes 1337




Vegetation from all over. Noted Vervain (Verbena officinalis) in flower in Loughor. Himalayan balsam (Impatiens glandulifera) was blooming in Fairwood, whilst Carline thistle (Carlina vulgaris) put in an appearance in Mumbles. In Bynea, Sea buckthorn (Hippophae rhamnoides) was fruiting.

Tuesday, 9 July 2019

Seeing the Changes 1336

In Loughor, noted an Aeshna mixta a woosie, possible car victim.

Seeing the Changes 1335


In addition to the usual items at Crymlyn burrows, noted a plant similar to ones I have seen in Brittany (probably a Yucca). Additional critters included what was possibly a Short-winged conehead (Conocephalus dorsalis); a plume moth (Capperia britanniodactyla) and Gatekeepers (Pyronia tithonus).

Pestilential?

I suppose that nobody is likely to be surprised that President Bolsonaro of Brazil reacts crassly to Greta Thunberg's complaint, abou...