Thursday, 25 September 2014

An Ex-Parrot?

It seems that a £260k programme to eradicate the South American Monk parakeet (Myiopsitta monachus) fr SE England has been largely successful ( The bird is apparently down to its last 50 feral members. The problem of this particular bird is that it apparently builds messy communal nests, often on electrical installations which can produce 'shorts' especially when they become water-logged. About 30% of the birds have been killed and many eggs destroyed but one wonders whether any of the 're-homed' individuals will again escape (this is presumably how the birds came to be in London in the first place). The fate of the equally alien Ring-necked parakeet seems less urgent as it isn't into communal nesting.

Tuesday, 23 September 2014

Greenpeace Unwelcome in India?

There is a recent report that a Greenpeace worker with a valid visa has been refused entry to India in Delhi  to attend a conference ( Apparently, the government feel that this organisation is slowing down their rate of economic growth by e.g. campaigning against coal mining in areas where the local human and animal life seem vulnerable. Greenpeace is reportedly being investigated by the Indian security services and contributions to their accounts in that country have been frozen. This appears to be yet another example of tensions between environmentalists and politicians. Thinking of an analogy: Biological DNA is programmed to replicate itself whereas Political DNA is programmed to get itself re-elected. Short-term economic considerations often appear to trump long-term sustainability? The 'life' of a government is much the shorter. Having said that, one must be careful about imposing 'foreign' values  on other cultures.

Friday, 19 September 2014

What Population Increase?

The modellers have been busy again and have decided, contra earlier predictions that were relaxed in assuming a levelling off, that the world population of humans is likely to hit 11bn by the end of this century ( Things can (and do) change but I have felt for some time that numbers of humans on the planet are getting towards the unsustainable end of things. The human population is very demanding in terms of its requirements for water, food, power, space, health care, entertainment etc. Unsurprisingly, most people aspire to the best possible living conditions for themselves, their family and their friends (it's a natural response) but it is difficult to see how other organisms (on which the 'health' or intrinsic beauty of the planet may depend) will fare. What one can do about this gathering problem (other than facilitate contraception) is uncertain but it appears that over-population is back on the agenda.

Monday, 15 September 2014

Butterfly Count May be Patchy

The UK butterfly count has apparently suggested, in spite of the autumnale August, that species such as the Small tortoiseshell (Aglais urticae) are continuing to recover ( This species has has been seen 'on the wing' and nettle, the food plant, have done well. Having said that, this species can survive cold spells by hibernating as the adult. In my area, there is very little sign of larvae feeding on the nettles. Perhaps the 'recovery' is a bit in doubt. Certainly, surveys (using the same level of intensity) need to be carried out over an extensive period.

Saturday, 13 September 2014

19 Days in France: Natural History Highlights

 These are a few of the items seen on my recent trek across France. From the top, they are a beetle larvae on the sand dunes of Le Touquet. A Hummingbird hawk moth (Macroglossum stellatum) at Voves. At Pouilly sur Loire on the river bank, I spotted Field scabious (Knautia arvensis), Greater knapweed (Centaurea scabiosa), an Edible snail (Helix pomatia), a summer brood Map butterfly (Araschnia levana), a Large tortoiseshell butterfly (Nymphalis polychloros) and a Common wall lizard (Podarcis muralis). At the chicken capital of Bourg en Bresse, I was treated to a mass migration of White storks (Ciconia ciconia). Arriving at Martiniere in the Chartreuse region, I noted Large-flowered hemp nettle (Galeopsis segetum), Meadow saffron (Colchicum autumnale), Bistort (Persicaria bistorta), Crown vetch (Securigera varia), and Devilsbit scabious (Succisa pratensis). Critters included larvae of the Small copper butterfly (Lycaena phlaeas), a Great-banded grayling (Brintesia circe), an unidentified long-horn beetle, a Strangalia maculata beetle, a Leptura rubra beetle, an Argiope bruennichi spider, what looked like an Eagle and Munjac deer (Mutiacus reevesi).

Friday, 12 September 2014

Frogs Go Home to Roost

There is a nice conservation story about the Mountain chicken frog (Leptodactylus fallax), so-called because it tastes like chicken and makes a clucking sound, being returned from UK zoos to its Caribbean location where its numbers have been decimated by a fungus (

Sunday, 24 August 2014

Going Native?

Concerns have been noted about UK Government plans to legislate on what are and what are not 'native' species of animals and plants by using a list of 'troubled' as well as 'troubling' species. No one would argue that Japanese knotweed and Rhododendron are not species that are problematic in the UK (although in the Himalayan region of NE India, there are conservation programmes for the latter).   Apparently, the list might result in species such as the Red kite (re-introduced by conservationists following its extinction at the hands of man) and the Barn owl (which had restrictions placed on releases because these were often into inappropriate areas and might well have spread diseases detrimental to the species) being classed as 'vermin'. One of the problems taxing a number of societies and organisations is that the proposed legislation does not provide an effective definition of what should reasonably be regarded as 'native'. Does it only mean animals and plants that have been here a long time (and, if so, how long)? That would rule out re-introductions and could endanger species making their own way to these shores as a consequence of climate change. One might also question, for example, whether it is realistic to remove all (introduced from North America in Victorian times) Grey squirrels from all UK locations. Most commentators seem to think that legislation is needed but they obviously feel that the level of understanding of the issues is imperfect. I suspect that there might well be a lot of anguish to follow.