Look, we have to talk about this feeding the birds lark. I know the RSPB tell you to do it, and the WWT make it a tourist attraction in itself. But neither of them would have any truck with feeding white bread to ducks. Continue reading
It’s no secret that 300 million years ago, the largest insects were a lot bigger than they are now.Â The largest known insect that ever lived is an ancient griffenflyÂ Meganeuropsis permiana. This creature belongs to the extinct order of griffinflies (Protodonata) – related to dragonflies -Â Â and measured an impressive 71 cm across, larger than most birds. There were a variety of other megainsects inÂ prehistoricÂ times, but these days, the biggest ones are considerably smaller. So what happened?
One fact which is widely considered to beÂ relevantÂ is the limitation of insect respiration. As insects don’t have lungs like us vertebrates, they rely upon oxygen entering their body through many tiny tubes. They can help it on its way with various tricks but in essence, if the tube is too long the oxygen can’t get down it far enough. So an insect that got too big would soon run out of oxygen and find it difficult to fly or run. So how did those huge ancient insects get around that limit? The answer is that they didn’t. In Permian times theÂ atmosphere was more than 30 percent oxygen, compared with 21 percent today. So insects had more oxygen available, and could grow larger.
Something’s gone badly wrong at the Greenest Government Ever. To say I’ve been profoundly disappointed at the environmental performance of the Coalition – in comparison to its glowing promises – is only the start of it. But at least, up until now, it has only been the traditional environmentalist’s bogeyman the Chancellor of the Exchequer who has been the boo-hiss villain happy to deride current protection of wildlife and landscapes as a “ridiculous cost” on business.
Now the foes of our native biodiversity are expanding their reach. They are optimistic enough to be openly at work through DEFRA – traditionally the department that is responsible for nature reserves, protected landscapes, biodiversity, and protected species as well as farming, food and fishing. A modest DEFRA proposal for a research project on birds of prey has caused an extraordinary backlash of criticism from a wide range of respected voices throughout the conservation field. Having read it, I can understand why. The project is not large, but the implications are. And as far as I can see there are two possible explanations, neither of which give me any comfort. Either those who proposed this idea have an alarmingly poor understanding of the role and relative importance of native species versus introduced ones; or they don’t, but are confident enough to believe that any resistance to the proposal can be safely disregarded. Continue reading
There’s some surprising advice in the RSPB’s latest press release, “Water your wildlife”. In an otherwise unremarkable bit of seasonal filler they exhort us to put out water for the birds this summer – a good idea, if you like birds.
But for some reason this particular press release goes further than the usually canonical advice on ‘birds and water’, and ‘lawns and wildlife’ on the RSPB’s own website, despite appearing to be at least partly based upon it. Continue reading
Way back in 2005 The Ranger blogged about an unexpected sighting of a flying Great Bustard (Otis tarda)seen over the Channel. It was one of what was then a few reintroduced birds which were at a secret location on Salisbury Plain.
Since then the Great Bustards have been doing pretty well – with quite a bit of help. In 2007 wild Great Bustards bred in England for the first time since 1832. Now they have a great website, too, to explain a bit more about the world’s largest flying birds and the ongoing project to reintroduce them to Salisbury Plain. So, just how big is a Great Bustard? Continue reading
Spotted by Ruth D’Alessandro, The Wildlife Gardener
Southern fried chicken and chimps, anyone? Mmm.
What a splendid Indian Summer we’re enjoying. The Ranger managed to persuade junior rangers Bill and Jack that going for a walk in the countryside was an unavoidable consequence of the sun shining – and after Jack said piteously ‘Oh Dad do we have to go geocaching again?’ agreed that this would just be a gentle stroll with the prospect of an ice-cream at the end of it. For a real relaxing time I always try to visit somewhere I’m not responsible for, usually this means the National Trust. And so it proved again when we set off for a walk up Redcliff onto Culver Down – one of my favourite walks ever.
Oh deary deary. I’ve tried to hold off, really, I have. I’ve been stifling back a really moany post about newspapers’ punctuation and italicisation of scientific names. Really, it’s for my own good. It wouldn’t show me at my best. But while all my attention is on the errant capitals another one sneaks up in the Telegraph today – and this time it’s a corker.
By Richard Alleyne, Science Correspondent: The summer mix of sunshine and rain has helped some of Britain’s rarest wild flowers make an unexpected return to the countryside, claims charity. Perfect weather conditions for plants in recent months have seen a number of the UK’s native species, including carnations and ferns, brought back from the brink of extinction.
The cheeky house sparrow has undergone a drastic population decline in the UK during the last 25 years. In the east of England, for example, there has been a startling fall in numbers of 90% since 1970. Since 2003 the sparrow has been Included in the Birds of Conservation Concern Red List (high conservation concern).
The Ranger had an most instructive and enjoyable trip round the Island’s landfill site recently. Run by Island Waste, it actually includes a lot of very nice wildlife as well as the busy landfill area. He couldn’t fail to notice the squadrons of rooks making their nests in the big oak trees – obviously they have plenty of food, so much so that Island Waste employs a professional falconer to scare away the rooks and seagulls very effectively.
But, interestingly, one tree in the copse was being shunned by the rooks. Almost every other bough was laden with a cackling brood – but not this one. Why not? Continue reading