Sunday, 12 May 2013

A plea to our naturalist societies.

Hi everyone. Well following on from last weeks post regarding the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust's practice of pinioning their captive birds, I said I had asked the question why they didn't trim the flight feathers instead of mutilating the birds. It took a while, but eventually through the power of Twitter they replied to say the following: 
Reintroduction programmes only work well in specific conditions and when absolutely necessary, captive populations are a safety net in our rapidly changing world. Some birds feather trimmed but has pros/cons. Birds handled regularly as feathers grow back. Can be more stressful for bird. [sic]
A friend who I talk to on a regular basis tells me that this statement from them doesn't explain why they are pinioning mute swans, a species that's hardly in danger and is native to this country? I know that some decisions in conservation are never easy, but to actually mutilate animals at birth (or not long after) for the sake of conservation, is something that I cannot agree with. So what can be done? There might be a petition or two out there on the net somewhere that you can sign, but I think the biggest protest you can make is by spreading the word and voting with your feet. Boycott them, don't go to their centres and give them money to continue their practices. Once their income starts to fall, maybe they will begin to take notice of the feelings of their main funders, the general public. So it's simple really, if you don't agree, don't go!

New arrivals

A couple of weeks ago, whilst doing essential maintenance to the pond filters, I came across these two little fellows in between some blocks of wood:

Hiding in the crevices around my garden.

Now I know I, like many other gardeners/DIY'ers, have come across these before and have either moved them to a safer place, or just tossed them aside considering them to be some ugly creepy crawly. Well, this time I had an opportunity to actually find out what these little things were. I placed them on a tray on a bed of soil and then placed this in a small glass tank with a towel over the lid. I then set up a camera to take a picture every 2 minutes, which it did for just over a week. I was hoping to make a mini film of the creature hatching from the case. But every day, I would replace the battery with a charged one, re-format the memory card and reset the interval timer. But all I ever recorded was that the bottom case would occasionally move its tail from one side to another. So, I thought that maybe it wasn't time for this creature to emerge yet and stopped the photographing to wait for more positive changes to happen.
However, Thursday, when I got home from work to find sitting on the side of the tray this beautiful Angle Shades Phlogophora meticulosa moth

P meticulosa newly emerged. Sorry for the poor picture quality.
So it just goes to show, that something dull and creepy looking can actually hold something of great beauty within it. I'm so glad I kept this by to see what emerged and was even happier to be able to watch it warm itself up on my hand and fly off into the night sky later that night.
As for the other case, nothing, not even a wiggle of the tail. It seems a lot harder and darker than the first one and I'm thinking that it may be dead. But hey, I'll wait and see what happens and keep you posted.

On the subject of finding new things, last night whilst again working in the same area of the garden, I found between the same blocks of wood a caterpillar.

A nice friendly caterpillar
I had no idea what species this caterpillar might be, but it wasn't long before I found out. Again, thanks to the power of Twitter, within 30 minutes I was informed it was a Dot moth Melanchra persicariae. Needless to say, I placed it on a buddleia leaf which it wasted no time in devouring. 

A plea to societies of all things nature

As you may have noticed on several occasions now, I keep mentioning that dreaded Twitter. For those of you who are not on Twitter or just think it's for self consumed, brain-dead teenagers with no interest in life whatsoever, I tell you now, you're wrong. I too used to think like that and often referred to it as Twatter, but all that changed when I help set-up the bat group. For publicity reasons, I used to tweet the groups upcoming activities on it, began to follow other people (Tweeps) with similar interests and soon found myself setting up my own Twitter account. I found the key thing about Twitter is that, yes, it might be full of mindless zombies tweeting about Justin Bieber's new haircut, or Beyonce's new baby or whatever, but you only see these tweets if you follow those type of people. But if you follow people with similar interests as yourself, then you're only going to get tweets that are of interest to you! Simples. 
Now with this in mind, I feel it's about time some organisations (especially naturalist type organisations) bit the bullet and stepped up to the mark and got themselves a Twitter account, otherwise, I'm afraid to say the future for them looks bleak.
A few weeks ago I attended the Suffolk Naturalists Society AGM, where the talk drifted onto the subject that they seemed to be lacking the younger generations in their ranks, and looking around the room, I could see that I was one of the youngest there and I'm 45!
Yesterday, saw me in Snaresbrook for the British Naturalists Association's conference, again, I wasn't the youngest, but there weren't many much younger than me around. I got speaking to a lovely chap, sorry, can't remember your name (I'm terrible with names), but he belonged to the Essex Birdwatching Society who were considering a move to Twitter. After our little chat where I told him a few bits of information I found from a photo recently published on Twitter.

The role of Twitter in Science publication and Communication
As you can see, Twitter has its uses in the science community and I feel it's important now for Naturalist groups up and down the country to embrace this FREE service if they want to survive. Its uses are immeasurably immense, as I stated earlier, I use it for ID'ing in the field (beats carrying a bookshelf of books with me), for information on our environment, for events from local bat/moth/badger/mammal/birding/insect/whatever groups and collaborations between like-minded users. Honestly, I can't promote Twitter enough (they should be paying me for this). As me and another naturalist discussed whilst on a Spider safari walk yesterday, Britain has a well known history of naturalists who studied various flora and fauna, Darwin, Bates, Wallace, Huxley, Bellamy, Attenborough, Oddie, Dilger, Packham and more. We have ancient societies that don robes for special occasions and revel in each other eccentricities. We have wonderful old people (I don't mean that in a derogatory sense either) who have a wealth of wonderful information on genres of animals that they have chosen to make their life's work. Information that no book or internet page will ever give you and the really sad thing is, there is a whole new generation of youth out there who will never know about it, or what it is like to open a moth trap and find a rare moth, or look in the bottom of a sweep net to find a new to science spider and all because our societies and organisations are still stuck back in a time before the war (WWII that is) where we used crushed laurel leaves in a pot for cyanide to kill a hoverfly so we could take it home to ID it. 
There was a talk yesterday at the conference by Professor James Hitchmough who was responsible for all the landscaping at the Olympic park. One thing he kept reiterating was that for all those lovely wildflower meadows that were planted at the Olympic site to work, they had to be attractive. They had to have impact, they had to have wow factor and I feel that this is something these old societies require just to survive. They need to embrace new technologies, new ways of doing things, new kinds of workshops, we need to show the youth out there that it's not all about old dusty books and tweed jackets, it's not about following strict rules of societies. It's about getting out there in the world, anywhere in the world, examining the far flung corners and crevices of our little rock called Earth, it's about looking at those old and dusty books and saying "That's a bit out of date, I can do better!" then going off to study, re-write and produce an even better publication. It is time to look at our ancient institutions, dust them down, rip off them old tweed jackets and stick them in jeans and an old T-shirt saying something like 'ECOLOGY ROCKS' and get a Twitter/Facebook account. Get them involved in creating iPhone programs for use in the field, get them inspired to invent and find new ways to study the wonderful flora and fauna of our wonderful planet. The technology is out there, it's getting cheaper by the day and there are university students out there who are looking for projects for their final dissertations, the opportunities are endless, please societies, grab this wealth of raw untapped talent and with it grab survival. Otherwise, like the dusty remnants of out of print books, be forgotten and whither away into nothingness. Something which I hope doesn't happen. 
Talking of collaborations, I've now joined the Garden Moth Challenge which is like a league table in lepidoptera spotting. It's just a bit of fun, but gets people out in their gardens recording moths for their county moth recorders, valuable work. It's open to anyone, go get involved I say!

Till next time folks

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