Tuesday, 20 January 2015

'Wild at Heart' Applies to All Animals?

The new BBC series on the 'natural behaviour' of our companion animals or pets uses several interesting techniques and is quite graphic (http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b050d3fx). The remarkable thing, however, is that, if you look carefully, you can see evidence of species-typical behaviour in all domesticated animals including those used in agriculture and laboratories. In deed, such behaviour often gives one a good idea on how to supply the best environments (ones in which they can express as much as possible of their normal behaviour-so long as it is not damaging in other respects-as can be achieved).

Sunday, 18 January 2015

Seeing the Changes 929

At Penclacwydd, Hazel (Corylus avellana) revealed both male and female flowers.

Fracking Good Time?

There is a detailed account of the debate that is developing in the NW of England where the first UK fracking sites appear to be on the verge of trialling (http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2015/jan/17/lancashire-fracking-revolution-uk-shale-gas-exploration-cuadrilla-fylde-blackpool). It is clearly an emotive subject with masses of claims and counter claims but I can't help feeling that with a) the bottom falling out of oil prices and b) the claimed need to leave petrochemical reserves in situ if one is to have any chance of limiting global warming, now is not a good time to persist with this development. We will clearly be in a much better position to weigh the pros and cons when we see what has happened in the USA over several years (if they haven't managed to exceed the warming targets for us). Some of the inducements directed to the fracking companies could probably be more effectively directed to encouraging home insulation and developing solar power.

Saturday, 17 January 2015

Hen Harrier Protection Legislation Getting Claws?

News that a gamekeeper working for a Scottish grouse moor is to be imprisoned for trapping and battering to death a protected Hen harrier is an interesting development (http://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2015/jan/16/grouse-shooting-future-hen-harriers). Prior to this case, offenders (including poisoners) have mainly been restricted to fines and warnings. The case has raised debate about whether a) the activities of gamekeepers should be monitored using CCTV and b) the estate owners can be held to be liable for the actions of their employees. The employee has reportedly lost his job and been expelled by his association.

Hot to Trot?

The news that US scientists have suggested that, globally, 2014 was the hottest year on record (remember that accurate records for the planet are a relatively recent invention) is raising some interesting issues (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-30852588). Many people think that this emphasises our need to try to limit the release of 'greenhouse gases' with their resulting effects on climate change (an overall increase in average world temperature does not signify that every location will be hotter all the time!). Others, I will speculate, will claim that this phenomenon is part of a natural cycle of change. The difficulty is that, if we wait for absolute, irrefutable proof, it may well turn out to be too late to reverse the effects.

Friday, 16 January 2015

High Flyers

BBC Wales carried an interesting story about a Bangor University-led study on the ability of the Bar-headed goose (Anser indicus) to fly over the Himalayas on its annual migration (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-30799436). This was done by attaching tracking devices to the geese in Mongolia that measured acceleration, heart-rate etc, etc. The main focus of interest was how the geese were able to fly (an energetically demanding activity) under conditions where there was very little oxygen. It appears that the geese try to limit the time they spend at the highest altitudes by following an 'up-and-down' trajectory. They also appeared to favour a night crossing when the air is colder and denser. The oxygen-carrying myoglobin in their red flight muscle may also help. Tracking devices are getting both lighter and more powerful but any such item is still a penalty for the carrying bird.

Seeing the Changes 928

At Penclacwydd, the male catkins of Alder (Alnus glutinosa) were clearly visible.