Monday, 12 August 2013

No clear solution

Well, thank you to all those who took part in last weeks discussion regarding the issue over Harlequin Ladybirds (Harmonia axyridis). There were some valid points made and an example given of someone who actually tried (in vain it seems) to stop the harlequins reaching his small village, thanks Martin.
Graham brought up the issue around the legality of releasing non-native species, which not many people know of, but it's true for example that if you caught a Grey Squirrel, you would not be allowed by law to release it again because it's non-native. So, I wonder if the same goes for rabbits, fallow deer and even some snails? Where do we draw the line?
As Sven and Tracey pointed out, the whole issue becomes a minefield of more and more questions and issues. I, like Tracey, am in favour of re-wilding and would love to see wolves roaming the Scottish highlands again. But I would imagine the farmers and locals would have something to say about that. The re-introduction of the beaver has had to happen in secret, undisturbed locations as there are many landowners who are against such animals and it is this in part, which has lead us to the very rocky state of our environment that we find ourselves now in. We as a species, do not really consider ourselves as being a part of that all encompassing, biological network we call nature. We see ourselves as a spectator, owner, controller of it all. We seek to order it, confine it and structure it in to something of our choosing. If we don't like what we see, we remove it, kill it, eradicate it, destroy it and bring in something more appeasing, more colourful, more enchanting and it doesn't matter whether it belongs in this part of the world or not. We move things around our fragile world without giving a seconds thought for what the implications may be, how it might be needed where it came from and what problems it may bring to where it's going. No, no questions are ever asked and no solutions are ever sourced. It's a do it now, ask questions later approach and it's an approach that has left not only our environment in the UK paying the consequences, it's environments around the world that are suffering. One example is the introduction of the Buff-tailed bumblebee (Bombus terrestris) to Chile to help with pollination has had a severe impact on an Argentinian species of bumblebee. The Buff-tail spread into Argentina from Chile at a rate of 275km a year and wherever the Buff-tailed showed up, Argentina's only native bumblebee (Bombus dahlbommi) disappeared within weeks.
Even the very way we move goods around the world, is enough to upset the delicate balance even further. Take this recently issued Asian Hornet warning, thought to have entered France via a shipment of pottery.

A new invader
I've collected containers from our ports that have come from China, India and other far flung places, that are covered in mud around the base of the container. This is where they have sat on the ground being loaded. The mud dries, is collected and then shipped and yet, in that dried lump of mud there could be insect eggs, bacteria, fungus' and all manner of organisms that could be detrimental to a native organism in this country, which could be released as soon as it rains, while the truck is travelling down the M1.
Sorry, I digress, but I feel it's an issue that is all too often swept under the carpet, another elephant in the room that no-one wants to address. No government wants to impose strict biosecurity laws for the fear of how the costs will affect their sponsors. He who pays the fiddler calls the tune.
At the end of the day, I think Martin Harvey's comment about his friend who tried to prevent the harlequin from reaching his village and failed summed it all up for me. No matter whether I kill it or release it, the difference I make to the whole grand scheme of things will be nowt. So, from now on, I will only record what I see and not kill it in the vain hope I'm making a difference. 
Thank you to everyone who took part, I value your input immensely and I hope you will continue to contribute whenever you feel the need to do so.

Creatures of the night

Over these next couple of weeks, clear skies permitting, the International Space Station will be passing over the UK and will be clearly visible to the naked eye. I often set my alarm to remind me when it's passing and love watching it go over. It really is awe-inspiring to see such a magnificent achievement whizzing above our heads and I thought I'd pop out into the garden and have a go at getting some photos. Alas, the skies weren't that great with some skittish cloud about and as I sat in the deck chair waiting for it's arrival I noticed that there were quite a few moths flapping around the buddleia. Yes, most people only think that moths flap around lights and forget what moths actually do. But, as I've stated in previous posts, moths are exactly the same as butterflies and they spend all their time feeding on those flowers which don't close for the night such as buddleia. here's a few I managed to snap:
A Small Magpie (Anania hortulata)

The same Small Magpie from the side. You can clearly see its long tongue it uses
to get the nectar from the flowers.

A small micro moth ponders the night.
Another micro moth pondering the cosmos on a cosmos. (Sorry, couldn't resist)
This time a macro moth the Silver Y (Autographa gamma). I love the colour of the eyes
on this shot. 
A Buff-tailed bumblebee that left it too late to get home.
An Earwig looking for a meal of some decaying vegetation. They're harmless to humans.
A Harvestman, NOT a spider, also seeks out a meal amongst the flowers.
And here's the picture I originally went out to take, the passing of the International Space Station. Unfortunately, the lighting wasn't that great and was reflected by the cloud, so the pass doesn't stick out that much. But I will try again dear follower, maybe in a place with darker skies.
Not as good as I would have liked, but that white streak across the bottom was
the ISS.
If you too would like to see the space station fly over your house, and I strongly recommend that you see it at least once, then you can find out its fly past time at the Heavens Above website. Simply click on the link, then, where it says "Configuration", click on the link that says "Select from map". This will take you to a map of the world, zoom in to your current location and double click the place where you are (the local town will be enough) and then submit. You will then be taken back to the home page where you can click on the satellite "ISS" and you will then be shown the visible times of its passing.
If you click on the time of the pass you want to see, it will actually show you a map of it's path across the sky. Tonight (12th August 2013) will have two really good passes at 21:24 hrs and 23:01 hrs and it will only take 6 minutes for it to cross the sky, so set your alarms and pray for clear skies. Their low 'mag' of -3.3 and -3.4 means they will be very bright, so much so, you may think it's a plane passing over.
There is also the peak of the persieds meteor shower tonight, so you may even see the odd shooting star or two.

Muncher update

Well, the first one of my Poplar Hawkmoth caterpillars has gone into pupation stage. I was sitting at my desk the other day when I suddenly noticed that the constant noise of munching leaves, was suddenly being replaced by the sound of scrunching newspaper. Investigating, I saw that the biggest muncher of them all was on the floor of the flexarium pulling up the newspaper. I knew that this was his time to start pupating, so I collected some fresh (from the bag) compost, placed it in a tank about 2-3 inches deep and then placed him in it. He walked about for a bit before finding a little divot and then began digging down. Once he was full buried I placed a little dated post-it note where he was, so I could find him again. I'll leave him here for a couple of weeks whilst he changes into his pupation stage, and then I'll place him in the fridge to overwinter. Please note I said fridge and NOT freezer, I need to keep him cool, not frozen. Then come spring I'll bring him out and eventually he'll emerge into a beautiful Hawkmoth, I hope.

Till next time dear follower.


  1. A thought provoking blog post and a lovely photo of the Silver Y

  2. Great blog Hawk!
    Still haven't seen the ISS this time. Thought I might see it tonight (Wed 14) but it's cloudy. Sod's law!

    1. Thanks mate. Ain't it always the way, when you get the time it all goes pear shaped. Fear not though, Friday night is looking good. :)

  3. I agree that re-wildling is an exciting prospect but I believe that a LOT of thinking is needed before re-introducing species such as Grey Wolves, Brown Bears, and Bison. Because our country has been lacking these species for so long, you just don't know what impact it might have on the species we have now.
    I also think that people shouldn't get too wrapped up in the prospect of re-introducing amazing large animals - we have the most amazing animals now, so let's try and protect THEM!
    By no means am I saying that you are wrong, it's just my personal view on the matter.

    By the way, I really enjoyed this post.

    1. Hi Jacob,
      I quite agree with you, I think predatory animals such as bears and wolves will never be re-released back in to the UK. Mainly for the fact that they will mainly kill farmers stock rather that hunt deer or salmon as it would be easier. There's also the issue with safety considering our ever growing population, no government is going to risk a member of the public being harmed by a wild animal they released. So, like I say, I doubt very much if releasing wolves or bears would happen.
      Another thing, as you suggested, is that we do have a wonderful diversity of fantastic creatures out there that really do need protecting, and the best way we can do that is by protecting their environments. Especially is this day and age of build it quick developments.
      And don't worry, I don't mind people saying I'm wrong, everyone is welcome to share their own viewpoints, no matter how controversial they may be.
      Glad you enjoyed the blog, I also enjoyed your comment and active participation, thank you.

    2. A book that considers re-wilding is Feral by George Monbiot. Although I have not read the book, I do know that Monbiot considers introducing Asian Elephants into the UK! This species has never actually existed here, however a similar, now extict Mastadon was once present.
      Other species that he considers are Lynxs. Re-introducing this species might have a massive impact on Stoats, because both these and Lynxs feed heavily upon Rabbits.

    3. Hmm... Elephants roaming the countryside, that could be a sight. Lynx however, are a possibility, but again I would imagine farmers would not agree as it would be likely the Lynx would go after the easy prey of lambs in fields than rather hunt fast, nippy little rabbits.
      I must put that book on my 'to read' list.