Behold, the tree lobster. (Spoiler: not a lobster)

We like to bring you the occasional large invertebrate on this blog. And even a huge vertebrate now and then. But here’s a big insect with a story to tell. And it’s a story that hasn’t – quite – ended yet.

Lord Howe Island stick insect (Dryococelus australis) (c) Granitethighs
Lord Howe Island stick insect (Dryococelus australis)

The Lord Howe Island Stick Insect, or Tree Lobster, Dryococelus australis, is one of the largest insect species in the world. It is a flightless phasmid that lives on trees in the isolated Lord Howe Island chain off the Australian coast. These great creatures were once common enough to be used regularly as fishing bait, but in 1918 a supply ship ran aground there and accidentally introduced the black rat. By 1920 the tree lobster was thought to be extinct, a casualty of the voracious rats which cut a swathe through the native island ecosystem. Continue reading Behold, the tree lobster. (Spoiler: not a lobster)

Review: WakaWaka Power+ and Light

I recently went on holiday for a week to the New Forest – not everso far, I’ll admit, but for me, that counts as an overseas trip. We stayed at Sandy Balls holiday park (yes really) on the western edge of the National Park, right by the Avon river valley.

Knowing I was going to be staying in a holiday park, and likely to be doing some walking in a more rural place than I normally hang out, I took with me a couple of new bits of kit that I’ve recently acquired. The WakaWaka charger and light are solar-powered devices, one is a combo of phone charger and LED torch, and the other is just a torch. I left behind my normal 10000mAh charging brick and took these two relatively light gadgets instead. Continue reading Review: WakaWaka Power+ and Light

Is the Solent the most expensive ferry crossing in the world?

Moaning about the price of Solent crossings is a national sport on the Isle of Wight.

“The Solent is one of the most expensive stretches of water in the world.” Jane Knight, The Independent 

“It’s often mooted that mile for mile, the Solent is the most expensive stretch of water to cross in Europe and … it’s quite believable.” On The Wight

“It has long been contended The Solent is the most expensive stretch of water in the world to cross” David McKinley, IWCP letters

“If I remember correctly, the Solent is the most expensive stretch of water to cross in the universe. or something.” Tank Girl, Urban75 Forums

I have often heard this repeated, but, having been on many other ferries, I still have my doubts. So I thought I’d check up on the figures – read on to see my results.

Continue reading Is the Solent the most expensive ferry crossing in the world?

Are spiders afraid of conkers?

I doubt there’s a spider enthusiast who is not familiar with enquiries about how to keep spiders out of the house. It hardly needs to be pointed out that spider-lovers are the last people who should be asked such a question – indeed, many would probably be interested in how to make spiders come into a house, if such a thing were possible. House spiders can be every bit as interesting as those outside, and a lot easier to observe. I shall not deny the excitement I experienced when I rediscovered the spitting spider, Scytodes thoracica in my house, nearly twenty years after I had last seen one. With such fascinating creatures willing to share one’s home, how anyone could want to have fewer spiders indoors is sometimes hard for me to appreciate. But to pass as a responsible member of society it is sometimes necessary to maintain a certain abstraction, and thus to entertain queries from those who don’t have the same enthusiasm for spiders. Continue reading Are spiders afraid of conkers?

Review: Hi-Tec Trek Plus Activity Tracker

These days I’m out and about a bit, so I got myself a fitness tracker from Hi Tec to see how that worked. I had a rival tracker last year for a while (Misfit Shine), but eventually gave up with it, as it wouldn’t communicate with my phone in any meaningful way. So with a new year, I decided to make a new start – and strapped on the Hi-Tec Trek Plus Activity Tracker.

The wearables market is a crowded one, with a whole load of different companies vying for the attention – and the money – of those comfortable, techie middle-class folk who like to imagine exercise is downloadable. Now I’m not a great one for exercise for its own sake – but I do sometimes get to do some exercise in the course of my work. And I don’t just mean pushing that heavy, heavy mouse around. I was interested to see how the Activity Tracker dealt with that.

It’s now been two months, so it’s time for me to report back.

Continue reading Review: Hi-Tec Trek Plus Activity Tracker

The Ranger re-booted

I’m hoping to spend a lot more time out patrolling the countryside this year, and so I have been on the lookout for a new pair of boots. And given the wet winter we have had, I’ve been looking quite hard at the Hi-Tec waterproof range. So these last few weeks I’ve been testing out a nice new pair of Hi-Tec Altitude Pro walking boots. Are they just stylish weekend hiker-clogs; or reliable workhorses? My old plates have been finding out. Continue reading The Ranger re-booted

Back to rangering for me: joining Gift to Nature

I’m being outsourced. The Isle of Wight Council can’t pay for a full countryside service any more, so some time early in 2016, I’m taking a load of the council’s countryside sites, one of my colleagues, and a lot of optimism off to work for a small Island charity called Gift to Nature. Yes, it’s finally happening, I’m going back to countryside management.

During my time at the Isle of Wight Council I’ve always been countryside manager, but I’ve also variously managed (as well as countryside) parks, beaches, allotments, rights of way, estuaries, AONB, protected trees, ecology, village greens and more. All of these have taught me a lot and – on the whole –  been great to do. But actually, I started as a ranger and that’s what I like best. So I’m very pleased to be going back to it.

Rangers and volunteer working on Brading Down LNR, Isle of Wight
Ranger and volunteer working on Brading Down LNR, Isle of Wight

Continue reading Back to rangering for me: joining Gift to Nature

Angry acid-spitting creatures in Parkhurst Forest

The refurbished red squirrel hide at Parkhurst Forest was launched this weekend by Gift to Nature. I was there to take a guided walk and also a group of children from Hunnyhill Primary School round and show them the hide, plus a few other things!

I promised that I’d show the visitors angry acid-spitting animals – and I did! Parkhurst has some suitably irate wood ants, and by teasing them with a bit of litmus paper on a stick we could demonstrate that they genuinely do spit acid.  Continue reading Angry acid-spitting creatures in Parkhurst Forest

Save living wildlife from the Natural History Museum

by Rowan Adams, the Climate-friendly Gardener

Yes, you read that right. Please help to save living wildlife not just at the Natural History Museum, but from the Natural History Museum

Well, to be more precise, living wildlife at the museum needs saving from some plans proposed by people at the top of the museum. I took this photo on Midsummer Day, 24 June, when I was there for the Wildlife Gardening Forum’s conference on soil biodiversity in the garden. How sad that on the autumn equinox I would be signing a petition to save the garden. Continue reading Save living wildlife from the Natural History Museum