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Friday, December 15, 2006

Typical arguments about global warming

From time to time I get into conversation with people who have doubts about what is happening to our climate, usually based on their observations about the weather and what is happening in their garden. To come up with well thought out replies is not easy and so I've looked up such answers on the " How to talk to a Climate Sceptic Guide" blog and as an example I am copying one such answers here. If you wish to visit the blog you can use the link provided on this post or click here:

This is what you will find as a typical question and answer, using the statement: Climate change is just a natural cycle..

Thursday, February 23, 2006

This is Just a Natural Cycle

(Part of the How to Talk to a Climate Sceptic guide)


The current warming is just a natural cycle.

I always find this one a little amusing in the sense that you might as well call it "magic", because natural cycles do in fact have causes. So this is really just trying to insist that the climate science community is as ignorant as whoever it is writing this objection.


While it is undoubtedly true that there are some cycles and natural variations in global climate, anyone who wishes to insist that the current warming is purely or even just mostly natural has two challenges. Firstly, they need to identify just what this alleged natural mechanism is because absent a forcing of some sort, there will be no change in global energy balance. So natural or otherwise we should be able to find this mysterious cause. Secondly, a "natural cause" proponent needs to come up with some explanation for how a 30% increase in the second most important Greenhouse Gas does not itself affect the global temperature.

In other words, there is a well developed, internally consistent theory that predicts the effects we are observing, so where is the sceptic model, or theory whereby CO2 does not affect the temperature and where is the evidence of some other natural forcing?

There is a fine historical example of a very dramatic and very regular climate cycle that can be read in the ice core records taken both in Greenland and in the Antarctic. A naive reading of this cycle indicates we should be experiencing a cooling trend now, and indeed we were very gradually cooling over the length of the preindustrial Holocene, something around .5C averaged over 8000 years. It is informative to compare those fluctuations to today's changes. Leaving aside the descents into glaciation, which were much more gradual, the very sudden (geologically speaking) jumps up in temperature every ~100Kyrs actually represent a rate of change roughly ten times slower than the rate we are currently witnessing.

So could the current change be natural? Well, there is no identified natural cause (and they have been looked for), there is no theory of climate where CO2 does not drive the temperature and the natural cycle precedents do not show the same extreme reaction we are now witnessing.

(That would be a "No")

Other Guides, by Category

posted by coby @ 2/23/2006 01:07:00 PM

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Nature Reserve comments

The photo shows the peaceful scene as the upper reaches of the River Cary cross a farm track alongside the Babcary Reserve. A second photo shows the information board for the reserve which as noted below you can only see after finding your way down the lane to the ford. The entrance to the reserve is just before the river.

Three members have sent me comments partly in response to the questionaire on reserves , the subject of an earlier post, which I think are probably representative of the experience of members.

The first reflects the situation for many people who are not used to spending time in woods these days espcially if they live in an urban area. The Trust magazine by coincidence has a feature on urban wildlife!

I think the general public like being nannied, they like carparks,
information boards with map of the site ,defined paths and boundaries. They
are afraid of going off paths in case its not allowed or they might damage
something. I'm aware that we as a family don't get out enough and am intending
dragging the kids to some of the trusts reserves in the coming months. I
think organised events like the fungi hunt at Aller do encourage people to
return on their own. We were intending to get to the fungi hunt but
something else took priority, maybe get there next year.

The second I suggest links the need for people to become aware of the connection between the survival of wildlife and damage to the woods and fields,caused by human activity e.g. pollution.

On climate change, an important message to get over is the individual responsibility of us all. What can I do or change? Rather than/as well as ideas and policies. In answer to that today , I am helping to explore a Greenfest in June 07 in Taunton. In the light of Gordon Browns speech, find out what SCC is doing to adress the need to monitor/regulate energy use in our schools.

I've added some photos of Orchids in Great Breach Wood taken last year and an information board for two small reserves conected to it i.e. all on the same site.

As I have posted before I use The Great Breach Wood a lot as a place to walk and enjoy at all seasons of the year. Access to this, if you dont know how to get there, presents some problems. Particularly for access by car which unless you cycle is the only practical access.

The reserve its self is some way from a road 1/4 to 1/2 mile walk in the middle of a larger wooded area.
The reserve is signposted when you get into the part of the larger woodland where the reserve is located, but from the initial access points there are no indications where the reserve is.
Pathways are mown in the reserve in the autumn and judging purely from the degree that these become muddy and apparently used quite a lot, people find the reserve. Though it must be said that one doesnt often meet up with other visitors.
The other reserves that are near to me, Green Down and Babcary Meadows have similar access issues. Unless you are aware of their existance, finding them is not easy as there is no signposting for the reserve untill you are on the boarders. In the case of both these reserves, while the signposts for the pathways that you need to travel over are in place (South Somerset District Council are to be commended). There is no linkage between these and the Trust's reserves.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Attention to human rights is needed in tackling climate change

This report is on the BBC web site and seems to me to show a significant change in attitude to global climate change. The following is an extract from the news report.

Last Updated: Monday, 11 December 2006, 01:58 GMT

Rights focus sought over climate

Poor nations are said to be most at threat from climate change

More attention to human rights is needed in tackling climate change, former Irish President Mary Robinson will say in a lecture.

Her speech at Chatham House, a think-tank in London, will argue that climate change is now an issue of global injustice.

The ex-UN high commissioner for human rights will urge policymakers to adopt "a radically different approach".

She will also urge rich nations to meet their climate change obligations.

"We can no longer think of climate change as an issue where we the rich give charity to the poor to help them cope," she is expected to say.

"Climate change has already begun to affect the fulfilment of human rights and our shared human rights framework entitles and empowers developing countries and impoverished communities to claim protection of these rights."

Ms Robinson will argue for the revival of multilateral efforts that led to the global eradication of smallpox and the phasing out of CFC gases.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Change of format for blog in process

It may take a few days to sort out the layout for this blog now that I've changed to what they call the Beta Blogger . It should be possible eventually to improve the appearance and the ease of use for visitors.

With reports of tornados and floods and colder weather to come here in the UK I am including a photograph taken from the house of a friend living in South Africa. It looks a good place to be!

And here is a wild flower seen on a walking holiday last year in Croatia

Finally a typical meadow flower popular with butterflies in the summer just to cheer us all up. (greater knapweed)

Monday, December 04, 2006

Nature reserves

The Somerset Wildlife Trust recently asked members to complete a questionnair on the subject of: "Access to the Natural Environment for All, Prioritising Reserves for Improved Access."

I thought it might show something of the behind the scenes activity by the Trust to share my response on this blog. My comments,shown below, reflect the fact that we, as a new conservation group, have limited experience of the Trusts reserves but we are learning.

Here are some of the questions.

How many visitors use your reserves?
How are reserves used currently?
What are the main age groups of visitors?
What are the main benefits to the public of reserves?
What if any are the barriers to people visiting the reserves?
Are there any disadvantages of the public visiting the reserves?
Are there other users of the countryside that have caused problems in the past?

"My comments on the reserves are limited because neither I nor most of our committee have much awareness of our reserves. That's not very good I know but now we have the Heart of the Levels Group we are conscious that we need to rectify the situation. Last summer I tried to find out where our nearest reserves were and at least find the locations from the grid references. No small task I found.
You sent me four sheets. Aller and Beer Woods, Westhay Moor, Catcott Heath, Catcott Lows.
I have been to the first two, on two or three visits only.
I have no info on how many people visit the reserves.
I can only make general comments on the benefits of reserves and possible barriers to visits.
I also will attach my listing of reserves that are either in our area or nearby which includes the last three above. There are 20 reserves listed.
All the Westhay areas are out of our local area in any event. Beer and Aller Woods is probably our largest , most accessible and scenic local reserve. The list includes info I have been given about managers which I know is out of date now as David Reid has retired.
I have taken the opportunity of checking through the new booklet and comment on the entries there.

The booklet is very neat, handy size and well produced.
It took a little while to work out the way to use it though. I started by looking at the map, finding a reserve and noted the ref number.
I eventually realised that the ref number is not the page number and you need to go to the contents page which provides the page number but not the reserve ref number. Once I'd got that straight it is fine.Perhaps the contents page could say at the top left, page number and have on the right Reserve Map Ref Number.
I find the location map very useful but now it doesn't show the "other " reserves. Some of the others are our best sites i.e. Babcary Meadows and Dundon Beacon.
The individual maps are the same as for the old booklet. As I tried to find our reserves I found the maps too restricted in area and references to local roads. Hence it took a little effort to find them from grid references and the diagrams and to tie them down on OS maps.
Some don't have notice boards i.e.Fivehead Arable fields.
Despite the references to cycle and foot access many people will approach them by car and car parking arrangements are a bit limited in most cases so people really need to be forewarned with best, nearest, places to park. In some cases this is given.
Some reserves don't have diagrams at all, e.g. Beer and Aller Wood, Green Down.
I appreciate that it seems the intention to concentrate on a limited number of reserves which covers 8 of my list of 20. We could also include West Sedgemoor RSPB site and no doubt others. Then there are private reserves which we may try to identify and seek permission for visits.
Even with the new book I think we might be able to add detail for our local members to make it easier for them to get out to the reserves. Perhaps we will end up concentrating on a few.
If you ask me again in 12 months time I hope to be better informed.

What do we members get out of reserves?
The Westhay starlings display is out of this world on a good day! It really makes you realise how amazing the natural world is and its on our doorstep.
Seeing the herons nesting at West Sedgemoor is impressive.
Going on a fungus foray in Aller and Beer Woods in remarkable and fascinating.
"Clouds" of butterflies in a wild flower meadow can be quite startling for its unexpected beauty.
Places like Westhay even on a quiet day are so peaceful and natural with occasional sighting of birds getting on with their lives.
I must get to Green Down next summer on one of the visits to see the Large Blue butterfly.

What are the barriers?
All the points I mention above might help to reduce barriers.
Area Groups and Reserve Managers could perhaps cooperate more to get members to visit. Once they have had an escorted tour they will be much more likely to visit on their own initiative. This is our aim as far as possible.
It should help to be better informed about climate change issues and farming methods and management of the countryside.
I think Carymoor should be useful for us locally as an educational resource and I hope to visit soon. ( Dec 8th in fact).
School visits arranged by Area Groups might help.
As much information as possible about the best times to visit and what to look for must be important."

Monday, November 20, 2006

Stop the Chaos rally

press releases: Climate Chaos: Hottest Issue, Coolest Event of the Year


STOP CLIMATE CHAOS: 25,000 gather in Trafalgar Square, London
‘I Count’ event: Saturday 4th November, Trafalgar Square

More than 25,000 people packed Trafalgar Square and closed surrounding roads today to make their voices count, each one calling for urgent action on climate change.

The carnival-like event was the first of its sort for ‘I Count’ - an unprecedented and rapidly growing public campaign which brings together a huge range of supporters from the Women’s Institute members to Razorlight.

Tens of thousands of ‘I Count’ supporters travelled from across the UK, some by bike, canoe, on foot and even in biofuel green taxis to highlight what many believe to be the greatest man-made threat ever. Surfers Against Sewage arrived wearing wetsuits and carrying surf boards.

The I Count Campaign calls on the UK government to provide:-
• Action internationally: ensure that global greenhouse gas emissions are irreversibly declining by 2015.
• Action for justice: deliver assistance to developing countries to adapt to climate change and give access to clean energy to meet their developmental needs.
• Action in the UK: introduce a Climate Bill to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by at least 3% per year.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Shopping over the internet can raise money for the Trust

I've been checking out the Trusts shopping link and because it seems a good idea here is some information to help you look for yourself.
Shopping over the internet is growing in popularity and if you wish to let the Trust benefit all you need to do is to start from the Trusts web page as shown below.

Click here to go to their web site.

Many of the big names can be accessed from this web site. By using this link from the Trusts web site the retailer automatically registers your purchase and makes a small contribution to the Trust. If all internet shoppers in Somerset used this device it would add hundreds of pounds to the Trusts finances. Look for the "Buy At" link.

Help raise funds for our vital conservation work by shopping on the internet.

Click here to visit 'Buy At', where you can purchase gifts from retailers including Marks and Spencer, John Lewis and Amazon and earn the Trust commission at the same time. And don't leave without visiting our shop where you can 'Adopt a Dormouse'

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Climate Change news

A feature of producing a blog is that it reflects the interests of the blogger. What I am finding interesting is the wide ranging views and debates in progress around the world on global warming and climate change. Here are some brief reviews of two of today's news stories.

As you may know a world conference on this subject has just ended in Nairobi. Run by the United Nations and called the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. ( UNFCCC) This particular meeting is called the COP12. That is short hand for the 12th Conference of the 189 parties(countries) to the UNFCCC. To no doubt save aviation fuel it is also the COP/MOP2. That is the 2nd meeting of the 166 parties to the Kyoto Protocol. This complex organizational nightmare was of course all started back in 1992 at the Rio Earth Summit.

Here is an extract from a BBC report shown on their web site at

Last Updated: Saturday, 18 November 2006, 18:42 GMT
Climate talks a tricky business
By Richard Black
Environment correspondent, BBC News website, Nairobi

"Busting the jargon

So let us look behind the jargon of COPs and COP/MOPs and SBSTAs and Ad-hoc Working Groups and Joint Implementation and Base Years - believe me, I could go on - and look at what the Nairobi talks actually agreed.

The headline outcomes include:

* a less than firm commitment to begin negotiations on further Kyoto Protocol emissions cuts in 2008, and no target date for concluding them - despite an acknowledgement that emissions need to fall by about 50% in the near future

* a decision that the protocol has been reviewed at this meeting, as its original wording demanded - many of us must have missed the review when we blinked

* a commitment to have a full review in two years' time

* an extension of work on technology transfer to the developing world, but only for a single year, which brought condemnation from the Chinese delegation

* agreement that Belarus can enter the Kyoto Protocol's trading mechanisms in a way which could allow it to make money without reducing emissions; this decision will have to be ratified

* a decision that carbon capture and storage (CCS) projects should not yet be eligible for money from the Protocol's Clean Development Mechanism

* agreement that the Adaptation Fund, a pot of money to help developing countries adapt to the impacts of climate change, should be primarily under the control of developing nations

Away from the main negotiations, a number of other initiatives were announced, the most striking being a UN fund to build capacity among African governments, enabling them better to bid for clean technology projects and protect against climate impacts."


Meanwhile the Independent newspaper has published an interview with Tony Blair in which he defends his governments progress in green issues. Here are some extracts from the article.

Blair: Who says I'm not green?
by Michael McCarthy, Environmental Editor
Published: 18 November 2006 Here is the web site address.

"Britain is seeking international agreement on a global target for stabilization of greenhouse gases, which would halt the progress of global warming, Tony Blair has told The Independent."

"The target Mr Blair and his officials have in mind would seek to halt the growth of greenhouse gases somewhere below 550ppm CO2e, perhaps between 500 and 550 - the figures are still being discussed, but 550 is regarded as the upper limit.
It would involve legally binding cutback agreements from those who signed up to it, and has been put forward by the UK to be taken on during the German presidency of the G8 next spring. The initiative - which has German support - would offer a major way forward for when Kyoto comes to an end in 2012."

"He also implicitly ruled out aviation taxes, another measure favoured by the green lobby, insisting that a much better way forward was to deal with aircraft emissions under the European Union's emissions trading scheme."

""I've given my view that if we want to deal with energy security and climate change, we've got to have the right policy for the future, and it's got to include nuclear.""

"Mr Blair also revealed that Britain would seek agreements to make future EU coal-fired power stations carbon neutral through improved technology."

"And he hinted that a planned Energy White Paper would address the issue of personal carbon allowances - the idea that each individual would have a carbon "budget" to spend on motor fuel, electricity and other activities that impact on the environment."

Thursday, November 16, 2006

A talk about the facinating life of Dragonflies

Dr Mike Parr a local member of the Trust talked about his experiences in the UK and Africa whilst studying dragonflies. His often amusing accounts of the habits of these remakable creatures left us wanting to know more. Above is a photograph showing Dr Parr and our blog editor before the meeting started. Below is our press note sent to our local paper and we look forward to its publication.

"Members of a new wildlife group for the Langport, Somerton and Curry Rivel area became so engrossed in the topic of dragonflies at their latest meeting, they decided to go on a field trip to study the creatures in the summer.

Expert Dr Mike Parr told the Heart of the Levels group that the biggest threat to dragonflies and damselflies is habitat loss, followed by pollution, drainage, and road vehicles which kill “a lot”. But the Somerset Levels are a hotbed for certain types of these insects, he said.

So many people asked questions about the water-loving creatures – which predate the dinosaurs by “a long way” – that Dr Parr, who has spent much of his career studying the insects, offered to organise a field trip for members next July, a suggestion readily taken up by the meeting, in Curry Rivel."

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Green Power!!! "Stop the Climate Chaos" rally

As people travel to London today for the environmental rally in Trafalger Square I felt the least I could do was to offer my support and encouragement.
The daily papers are covering the event and I was impressed that the Daily Mail should publish good news photographs of the countryside looking at its best including views of the Somerset Levels ( my home ground and two of my local photos included above). The Independent gives details of the lead up gatherings and interviews with a 72 year old lady from the Bury St Edmonds WI alongside a comment from Johnny Borrell (no age given), the lead singer from Razorlight. That is covering the generations and social standpoints in a big way. They even mention our own local Wildlife Trust member Bill Butcher who has cycled all the way from Somerset to be there( I hope he has made it).
If anyone reading this has attended the rally or any other such event please share the experience with us.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Blog features

While I'm posting I'll add a photo showing the start of the Fungi Foray in Beer Wood. It wasn't raining at the start but did get a bit wet by the end but mild.

Searching this blog can make it more user friendly and easier to find items of interest to you.

Since starting in Jan 2006 there have been 61 posts. To see earlier posts you can either work your way through the archives or you can use the "search this blog" button on the top of the page. Select a post reference and click on it which will bring up the actual post.

If you use the search button this is part of what you will see:

Sorted by relevance - Sort by date. 61 posts matching - showing 1 through 10

GM crops and DEFRA consultation
28 Oct 2006 by David

My post dated 27th Sept 2006 (which can be seen in the Archives section below) drew attention to the consultation by DEFRA on the proposed introduction of GM crops. Somerset County Council has just published its own submission to the ...

Heart of the Levels Wildlife Group -
test post
28 Oct 2006 by David

in case you are interested. I have found that after writing a post I wasn't able to publish it and got an error message to do with a java problem which I don't understand. I'm writing this from another computer to see if it publishes ok. ...

heart of the levels wildlife group -
Difficulties posting to the blog
28 Oct 2006 by David

Apologies for some disruption in the posts. I hope to clear it soon.

Heart of the Levels Wildlife Group -
GM crops consultation
28 Oct 2006 by David

I read in the local paper that the County Council had had its own consultation. A large number of individuals and organizations attended a meeting of the Councils Executive Board on 11th October at which the Council’s policy position ...

Heart of the Levels Wildlife Group -
RHS Rosemoor. Lichens
27 Oct 2006 by David

Having mentioned lichens, see my last post, I should add a few notes to go with these photographs. I had of course seen many lichens during our recent fungus foray but they were ignored whilst we concentrated on the fungi. ...

Heart of the Levels Wildlife Group -
more fungi, some lichen and a short story
26 Oct 2006 by David

its often surprising how we meet unexpected coincidences. This short story starts on the Sunday after the foray into the woods. During the clearing up in the village hall, after the expert identification display I saved some of the ...

heart of the levels wildlife group -
Fungi Foray II
26 Oct 2006 by David

Here are a few photos taken during our Fungi Foray, first out in the woods and later in the local village hall where the collected fungi were laid out for identification.I hope to get the correct names soon.

Heart of the Levels Wildlife Group -
Beer Wood Fungi Foray
22 Oct 2006 by David

If you have never been on an autumn trek into the woods in search of fungi then I can assure you, you have missed a treat. Today I was in Beer Woods, one of the best reserves in Somerset with about 60 other enthusiasts. ...

Saturday, October 28, 2006

GM crops and DEFRA consultation

My post dated 27th Sept 2006 (which can be seen in the Archives section below) drew attention to the consultation by DEFRA on the proposed introduction of GM crops.
Somerset County Council has just published its own submission to the DEFRA on the subject.
Here is a link to the SCC web site.

SCC is opposed to GM crops.

Below is a condensed version.


Somerset County Council response to the DEFRA consultation document on proposals for managing the co-existence of conventional and organic crops October 2006

There is great concern in Somerset over the governments intention to allow GM crops to be grown in the UK. The term GM is used rather ambiguously in the consultation document and Government Policy statements, the Councils concerns relate to plants in which the genetic material has been altered in a way that does not occur naturally.

A large number of individuals and organizations attended a meeting of the Councils Executive Board on 11th October at which the Councils policy position on GM crops was discussed in addition to the response to the DEFRA consultation. The public speakers included representatives from:

* Yeo Valley Organics
* Friends of the Earth
* The Castle Hotel, Taunton
* A farmer and worker with the Bath and Wells Diocese

Written representations were received from:

* Friends of the Earth
* Bowerings Animal Feeds, Bridgwater
* Somerset Wildlife Trust
* Somerset Organic Link and Somerset Organic Link Producers
* Somerset County Federation of Womens Institutes
* Keinton Mandeville Parish Council

All public speakers and all of the written submissions expressed the strong and unanimous view that there should not be any GM crops grown in the UK. In considering the Councils position on the commercial growing of GM crops in Somerset the special characteristics of the Somerset countryside and economy are important:

* Somerset is a rural County with a national park, 3 areas of outstanding national beauty, 3 environmentally sensitive areas, 126 site of special scientific interest, 11 national nature reserves and 19 local nature reserves

* The total area of Somerset is 345,233 hectares, 269,371 hectares (78%) of which is under agricultural management employing a total of 14,000 people.

* 38% of the total organic land area in England production is in the South West.

* 3000 hectares of organic land in Somerset is used for organic crops

* Somerset is home to 23% of all farmed bee colonies in the South West

Councillors on the Executive Board were unanimous in their view that GM crops must not be grown in the UK. They also want the government to press for a change in current EU law to give legal recognition and protection to local areas that wish to remain GM free.

The Board agreed the following resolution:

(a) That the Council does not believe that GM crops should be grown.

(b) To require all new tenancy agreements for County Farms to contain a clause prohibiting the growth of GM crops.

(c) To request that existing County Farm tenants be requested not to grow GM crops.

(d) To ensure that all County Farm tenants be kept informed of the Councils policies on genetically modified organisms (GMOs).

(e) To recommend that the Government adopts a zero tolerance to labelling genetically modified foods.

The Councils stance on the development of GM crops in the UK is one of zero tolerance on co-existence. There are no circumstances under which GM, non-GM and organic crops can be grown together.

* GM contamination of conventional crops, organic crops and the food chain is unacceptable
* GM crops present a major threat to organic farming which is an important and growing industry in Somerset and one which DEFRA itself promotes
* Honey production is threatened by GM crops as there is no way that any coexistence measures will prevent the contamination of honey with GM pollen
* The rights of gardeners and allotment holders to grow their own GM free produce have been completely ignored in the consultation and dismissed as unimportant

The Council is also very disappointed that in launching this consultation on coexistence the government has chosen to ignore the results of its own national debate on GM which found that

“There is little support for the early commercialisation of GM crops.........."

We look forward to the governments response to these comments and trust that the overwhelming wish of the UK public, that GM crops have no place in British agriculture, is acted upon by the government.

Test post

In case you are interested. I have found that after writing a post I wasnt able to publish it and got an error message to do with a Java problem which I dont understand. I writing this from another computer to see if it publishes OK. Here goes.

That went through OK. I'm now trying the edit mode which also refused to work.

Difficulties posting to the blog

Apologies for some disruption in the posts.

I hope to clear it soon.

Friday, October 27, 2006

RHS Rosemoor. Lichens

Having mentioned lichens, see my last post, I should add a few notes to go with these photographs.
I had of course seen many lichens during our recent fungus foray but they were ignored whilst we concentrated on the fungi. At Rosemoor the RHS has gone to the trouble of producing a leaflet with the help of The British Lichen Society, which describes in some detail some of the 150 or so species which they claim have been found on the site. It has been a feature of this venture to start up our group, nearly a year old now, that as we slowly get more involved in the reality of the wildlife around us, so we discover worlds within worlds. We move from watching birds in our garden to watching flocks of Starlings at Westhay Nature Reserve, similarly with butterflies and learning about Green Down Reserve where the Large Blue is being rescued from extinction. An interest in trees in general led to a walk in the spring in the Beer Wood Reserve to see wild flowers, orchids and the Green-Veined White Pieris napi butterfly and this followed this autumn by the visit to discover fungi.
It was the coincidence mentioned in my last post which took me to Rosemoor and the remakable introduction to lichens.
The most obvious evidence of these plants and related algae was seen on some wooden benches left out in the gardens. In their leaflet they say;
" The four benches.....illustrate how some lichens prefer damper situations on ledges at the backs of the benches and other drier, sunnier positions where birds perch and their droppings provide nutrient enrichment. The small leafy bright orange lichen Xanthoria polycarpa on the shoulders of the bench backs, is an indicator of nutrient-enrichment. ......Note , especially, the distribution of crustose( crust forming), leafy and shrubby forms on the beautifully lichen-covered old bench just round the corner...."
To conclude, we were in a garden famed for its rose bushes and had seen how all around were equally bueatiful and fascinating fungi and lichens and even forms of alga.

Two of the photographs in this post show the benches and the other two show yellow stemmed banboo growing clos to a rock sporting the dramatic bright orange coloring of Trentepohlia

Thursday, October 26, 2006

More fungi, some lichen and a short story

Its often surprising how we meet unexpected coincidences.
This short story starts on the Sunday after the Foray into the woods. During the clearing up in the Village Hall, after the expert identification display, I saved some of the specimens from the rubbish bin and filled a bag to take home. I could tell that my wife and a friend who was visiting us were both very impressed when I emptied my bag of damp, quite smelly and suspiciously poisonous looking fungi to show them what I had found. Unfortunately I couldn't identify more than one or two. However the next day we had arranged to visit the RHS Rosemoor Garden and we felt sure they would have a guide to fungi in their bookshop. Which they did and so putting my new field guide in my pocket we set off to tour the rose gardens and woodlands. To my surprise I found that there was also a significant number of fungi growing amongst the formal display. I have never before noticed such a display in a formal garden. I was quite happy to spend the next hour or two peering under and round the roses taking photographs some of which are shown in this post. Returning home I was able to start trying to put a name to the rest of my haul from the previous day.

Fungi Foray II

Here are a few photos taken during our Fungi Foray, first out in the woods and later in the local village hall where the collected fungi were laid out for identification.I hope to get the correct names soon.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Beer Wood Fungi Foray

If you have never been on an autumn trek into the woods in search of fungi then I can assure you, you have missed a treat.
Today I was in Beer Woods, one of the best reserves in Somerset with about 60 other enthusiasts. Peter Baker, Reserve Manager, gave us a short introduction to what we might find and then it was up to us to spend the next hour and a half rooting around on the steep escarpment.
We certainly found plenty of specimens and headed back to the village hall for lunch and to let the experts examine our haul. Perhaps you can imagine the sight when all the fungi had been displayed with what looked to me like a hundred or so different species with many different shapes and sizes. It was remarkable. I was busy throughout taking photos and hope to show you some of them soon. I was also able to set up a small table display with information about our new local group which generated interest.
Even some rain towards the end of the collection did little to spoil the day.
More later!

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

The Goldilocks Enigma

You may be someone like me feeling my way in the wonderful world of computers and new fangled things like Blogs! Everything seemed to be going as well as could be expected until I took expert advice and changed my browser to Firefox. I did so because I was experiencing a problem with Internet Explorer which started to shut down whilst I was looking at web sites for no obvious reason. Firefox does have some good features and I shall continue with it now I have overcome my latest difficulty.
I changed browsers on Oct 11th and in the next few days made two new posts on the blog.
Neither posts appeared to be published and I tried various ways to find why as they both appeared in Dashboard. This morning I received a comment on the Goldilocks Enigma post which was a surprise because I thought it hadn't been put on the web. Checking the Blogger help web page I found a reference to pop up problems with Firefox. Lo and behold going to Tools/Options/Content and entering the blogger web address and ticking boxes has now allowed my computer to see my own blog. So if you find yourself bewildered by computers I know how you feel.

Now about the comment which you can read by clicking where it says "1 comment" at the bottom of the post concerned. Its good to get comments otherwise you can get very lonely just typing away for your own amusement!

"island" has given me food for thought and I've followed the links to see much more on this subject. However I don't follow the logic in this sentence:

"So the implication is that global warming is an inherently instinctive tendency that progressively offsets the cumulative effect of glaciation that normally sends the Earth into the 100,000 year long ice-age that we are currently overdue for."

If man is by his own actions changing the atmosphere then this can not be classed as an instinctive tendency on the part of the earth as a whole.

And in this sentence: "So the implication is that we will reach a level of technological development that enables us to take advantage of the next most difficult energy-form, right *about* the time that we run out of oil."

It seems that this might be seen as clutching at straws and putting all your faith in technical salvation and giving ourselves the freedom to continue with our lifestyles as if nothing need trouble us.

I hope that makes sense.

Monday, October 16, 2006

The Goldilocks Enigma

Nobody can say that this blog avoids the big issues in life and these short reviews and extracts from a book by Paul Davies prove it .

The book is reviewed on the BBC web site where longer extracts can be seen.

The Goldilocks Enigma - Professor Paul Davies.

The Goldilocks Enigma tackles fundamental questions about the nature of the universe and our attempts to understand it. Scientific breakthroughs, he argues, have brought us to the brink of comprehending the underlying structure of nature or "a final 'theory of everything'".
Central to finding this solution, he says, is answering the Goldilocks Enigma - why is it that "the universe seems 'just right' for life"?

THE GOLDILOCKS ENIGMA is published by ALLEN LANE, an imprint of Penguin Books.

By Paul Davies

Why are we here? How did the universe begin? How will it end? How is the world put together? Why is it the way it is? People have always sought answers to such 'ultimate' questions in religion and philosophy, or declared them to be completely beyond human comprehension.

There have been two major developments.
The first is the enormous progress made in cosmology. Observations made using satellites, the Hubble Space Telescope, and sophisticated ground-based instruments have combined to transform our view of the universe and the place of human beings within it.
The second development is the growing understanding of the subject known as high-energy particle physics. It is mostly carried out with giant particle accelerator machines (what were once called 'atom smashers') of the sort found at Fermilab near Chicago and the CERN Laboratory just outside Geneva.
Combining these two subjects provides tantalizing clues that deep and previously unsuspected linkages bind the micro-world to the macro-world.
These spectacular advances hint at a final 'theory of everything' in which a flawless account of the entire physical world is encompassed within a single explanatory scheme.

If almost any of the basic features of the universe, from the properties of atoms to the distribution of the galaxies, were different, life would very probably be impossible. Like the porridge in the tale of Goldilocks and the three bears, the universe seems to be 'just right' for life.
Until recently, 'the Goldilocks factor' was almost completely ignored by scientists. Now, that is changing fast."

In a second extract Davies looked at the coincidences which are required to make the universe fit for life.

A good way to think about this is to imagine playing God and setting out to design a universe. Suppose you had already settled on the basic laws of physics but you still had some free parameters at your disposal. The values of these parameters could be set by twiddling the knobs of a Designer Machine. When would it make a big difference, and when would it scarcely matter? Maybe you can't raise the mass of the electron and lower the strength of the strong nuclear force together because these two properties of nature are connected in some deep way that forbids it.

Finally Davies looks at existing theories of existence.

"So, how come existence? At the end of the day, all the approaches I have discussed are likely to prove unsatisfactory. In fact, in reviewing them they all seem to me to be either ridiculous or hopelessly inadequate: a unique universe which just happens to permit life by a fluke; a stupendous number of alternative parallel universes which exist for no reason; a pre-existing God who is somehow self-explanatory; or a self-creating, self-explaining, self-understanding universe-with observers, entailing backward causation and teleology. Perhaps we have reached a fundamental impasse dictated by the limitations of the human intellect. I began this book by saying that religion was the first great systematic attempt to explain all of existence and that science is the next great attempt. Both religion and science draw their methodology from ancient modes of thought honed by many millennia of evolutionary and cultural pressures. Our minds are the products of genes and memes. Now we are free of Darwinian evolution and able to create our own real and virtual worlds, and our information processing technology can take us to intellectual arenas that no human mind has ever before visited, those age-old questions of existence may evaporate away, exposed as nothing more than the befuddled musings of biological beings trapped in a mental straightjacket inherited from evolutionary happenstance. The whole paraphernalia of gods and laws, of space, time and matter, of purpose and design, rationality and absurdity, meaning and mystery, may yet be swept away and replaced by revelations as yet undreamt of."

How will such revelations if they come about influence us in our attitude to conservation and global warming?
How does this all relate to the thinking of James Lovelock and his Gaia Theory?

Somerset Wildlife Trust AGM October 14 2006

Before I start on the AGM here is a photograph taken from home early in the morning a few days ago. Why would anyone want to live anywhere else than Somerset?

Now for the AGM.

There were some memorable points of interest at the AGM yesterday. The large audience of around 160 was impressive as was the buffet lunch provided by the hosts, the West Somerset Area Group, and offering local produce. Apart from the food I was struck by reports of new projects such as the enormously significant large scale landscape conservation work on the Mendip Hills. The project is aiming to link the many existing reserves with adjacent private land to rebuild biodiversity across the area. This concept of working outside the confines of reserves was touched on by different speakers and relates to concern for the state of the countryside everywhere. The Mendip scheme covers 29 nature reserves managed by SWT and other conservation groups, 17 Sites of Special Scientific Interest, 93 County Wildlife Sites and the surrounding intensively farmed land.

It was good to hear about the merger of the Carymoor Environmental Trust with the Somerset Wildlife Trust. There was plenty of information about the facilities that are now part of SWT and there is no doubt that the centre near Castle Cary will provide an excellent education and training resource for anyone interested in doing something to help wildlife in Somerset. It would be well worth while organizing a visit from our committee and any other local members so that we can see for ourselves what is available.

Bringing new experience to the Council of the SWT was David Watson. Of interest to me was his work on the creation of species rich grassland at Carrymoor. He is a Principle Lecturer in Biology and Assistant Head of the School of Science and the Environment at Bath Spa University. He has worked as a volunteer with a number of Wildlife Trusts in different parts of the country.

Reports on campaigns showed that responses were generally good. News was awaited on the DEFRA intentions for a possible cull of Badgers; Raising funds for Fyne Court repairs is going well as had been the case for the Beer and Aller Woods purchase of additional land. The Big Switch Campaign had highlighted the need for individuals to save energy consumption to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The Trusts concern about proposals to raise water levels over parts of the levels to encourage tourism was reported with the warning that members of the Trust might be asked to support a formal objection if concerns were not meet.

The afternoon was given a very stimulating conclusion by the guest speaker Rosie Boycot who gave her own views on the current climate change state of play. In brief she made it clear that whilst individual actions were important only government action could make the major changes necessary. She was sympathetic to questions from members and agreed that only some major event which had a serious economic impact was likely to get politicians to ignore the displeasure of voters and force changes in lifestyles. The situation calls for urgent change to many elements of our social structure such as planning changes to make all new houses energy efficient.

I found it interesting to compare the three presentations on global warming I have heard in the last week or so. First Bill Butcher of SWT and SERC, then Al Gore, the man who once was the next president of the USA. And finally Rosie Boycot. Their views all overlap with some differences of emphasis but all committed to the seriousness of the situation.
Bill Butcher gave details at the AGM of coach parties to go to London on the 4th Nov for the Stop the Climate Chaos rally. Members should if at all possible make the trip.

Bill and Rosie both recommended a new book by George Monbiot called "Heat". Here is a link to The Guardian and an extract from the book.,,1875762,00.html

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

News update

I intend to write up recent news in the next few days and the list of topics to cover includes:

A brief review of a new book titled " The Somerset Wetlands- An Ever Changing Environment". A preview shows it promises to be a major review of "the past , present and possible futures of this fascinating but fragile landscape".

One of the Editors is Dr Pat Hill-Cottingham who will be giving our next talk for members on the often neglected subject of ferns found in Somerset. The meeting is in Langport tomorrow , Thursday 12th Oct.

My visit to the cinema yesterday to see the film "An Inconvenient Truth" A very impressive presentation of the reality of global warming.

My recent response to the Govt consultation on GM crops.

A walk round meadows near Taunton with sections of the River Tone and the Bridgewater and Taunton canal. The two photos at the top were taken during the walk. They are I believe Brown Knapweed and Tansy

Extracts from a book on conservation written by Richard Maybe in 1979 which is highly relevant to 2006 especially in view of the debate on badgers and bovine TB.

To round off the week there is the AGM of the Somerset Wildlife Trust on Saturday.

A report on these items next week.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Climate Change

Here is our press release sent to local papers after our public meeting last week on Climate Change.

A leading environmentalist from Somerset Wildlife Trust has told an audience that he is ‘desperately worried’ about climate change.

If we don’t all make ourselves use much less energy from gas and oil in the next ten years, our world will be back to the stone age by the turn of the century, Bill Butcher, Director of Somerset Environmental Records Centre (SERC), said in Somerton.

Mr Butcher said that speaking out on climate change was a new direction for the Trust. He would pull no punches about how serious the situation was – but there were things we could all do now to make our lives more energy efficient. “Climate change is the biggest issue facing the world,” Mr Butcher said at the talk, hosted by the Trust’s Heart of the Levels group.

“You’ve heard it from David Attenborough, from the Archbishop of Canterbury and every party political leader: climate change is real – there is no debate about that any more. No serious scientist says it isn’t happening – just a few paid by the oil companies – and 99.8 per cent of climate scientists say it is a reality.”

Why is the Wildlife Trust getting involved? “We fear that everything we have achieved will be as nothing if nothing is done – the rate of change would be so fast that our wildlife would not be able to adapt. We are worried about all Somerset wildlife.”

One positive step is that a wide range of disparate, concerned, organisations – from The Wildlife Trusts and the WWF to Greenpeace, the WI and Christian Aid – have joined together to encourage people to act on climate change. The world is in a rapidly warming period and the situation is ‘very dangerous’, said Mr Butcher, who warned about tipping points. As glaciers and ice floes melt they are less able to reflect heat away from the earth and so the rate of warming increases. If this rises above two per cent, accelerated warming would kick in and would almost certainly lead to a catastrophic five to ten degree increase in heat by the turn of the century. At this point, there would be climate chaos – the Amazon would burn, the tundra would release tonnes of methane, and there would be massive crop failure and 150 million refugees worldwide.

A third of land-based creatures would face extinction by the middle of the century – the figures are from the RSPB and not an obscure group, he said. Mr Butcher quoted examples of global warming happening now – for instance, NASA has said summer ice in the Arctic has been at a record low and is in irreversible decline. It is vital, he said, that the earth should not heat up beyond two per cent. It has warmed 0.6 per cent since pre-industrial times and we have 1.4 per cent to go. It’s predicted we will reach two per cent in 20 years . To stop it rising further, everyone in the UK “must reduce their carbon emissions by 87 per cent by 2030 for us to have a reasonable chance of avoiding climate chaos.” But it must be an even reduction, starting now, rather than a huge and sudden reduction, which would bring about global economic collapse.

“How do we do this? We have to make choices about the way we live,” said Mr Butcher. In the UK, each person is responsible for ten tonnes of C02 a year – about ten hot air balloons’ worth a year. “By 2030 we need to reduce that to 1.3 tonnes, or one and a bit hot air balloons.” To reduce our individual production of carbon by 400 kilograms every year, we would need to make choices from these options:
• giving up 1,000 car miles a year to sustainable transport, like buses and bicycles
• using low energy light bulbs
• reducing, or stopping flying
• buying local, organic food from a local market (“Food miles is a big issue. Tesco fresh food could have been transported for anything from several hundred to several thousand miles.”)
• switching to a green energy tariff – ideally one where energy comes from 100 per cent renewable sources.

Mr Butcher revealed he has given up flying completely. “Flying takes up a huge proportion of our carbon allowance. I’m happy to go by train to the south of France.” He has also given up his car. He cycles to the SERC offices in Wellington about three days a week – it’s a 40 mile round trip. “I have an electric bike, with big panniers, which gets me up the hills, as I’m not as young as I was.” Agreeing that electric bikes obviously use a small amount of electricity, he said, “If you use a green tariff, then you know it comes from renewables.” Mr Butcher also uses buses and, occasionally, when he has to, the trust’s pool car. “Catching the bus is fine. It can be frustrating waiting when it’s late sometimes, but it can be done. I get to where I want to go.”

In a question and answer session Mr Butcher said that a personal carbon trading scheme based on a credit card system is a possibility for the future. Carbon could be rationed and a carbon bank set up, with no government involvement.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Climate Change

These photographs are from the BBC competition on their web site at:
Mallard Ducks at dawn was taken by Arnaud Darondeau in Central France and the other of Terrapins by Manoj C. Sindagi in Southern India.

Our local group meeting last week on Climate Change was a great success, especially important for us as it was our first public meeting. A talk by the Director of the Somerset Environmental Records Centre was a no punches pulled affair and was in fact quite worrying because it got over the stark message that unless we all change our life style to dramatically cut the volume of green house gases we are individually responsible for, the planet will soon be in real trouble. Those of us who live in wealthy countries are faced with a serious problem.

By coincidence the latest issue of the Somerset County Council newspaper arrived today and gives details of its involvement in a UK Govt initiative to tackle climate change. The web site address is:

On their web site it says: "This website is part of the Climate Change Communication Initiative led by Defra, in partnership with the Environment Agency, the Carbon Trust, the Energy Saving Trust, the UK Climate Impacts Programme, the Department for Transport and the Department of Trade and Industry."

So it looks as if this is a main strand of the Governments action on the issue and it puts communication top of the pile.

The Wildlife Trusts and many other groups ( as listed below) are all working together for a major campaign to persuade the Government to take action to save the planet. Quite a serious demand. (As I write the web site wont respond so perhaps its being updated as we speak, must try again later). This is the web site:

As you might expect The RSPB and Friends of the Earth are taking a lead in the campaign but, may be surprisingly, so is the Womens Institue. Here is their web site which gives a lot of details about their involvement:

I've extracted a few bits from their web pages including the 2005 resolution which gave their national committee a mandate to act on the behalf of members.

Climate Change
Stop Climate Chaos was launched on September 1st 2005 aiming to build a massive coalition, that will create an irresistible public mandate for political action to stop human-induced climate change. The growing coalition, of which the National Federation of Women's Institutes is a part, contains most of the UK's leading environmental and international development organisations as well as other women's organisations, activist groups and faith-based campaigns.
The NFWI joined the Stop Climate Chaos coalition as part of the
Care of our Environment campaign.

Here is the resolution :

Care of our Environment - "This meeting calls on WI members to take further action to reduce waste and conserve resources in their own homes and communities; to lobby manufacturers, retailers and decision makers to reduce waste in the production, packaging and transportation of public and consumer goods." 2005

Here is a list of campaign members.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Making comments

Just a reminder that it is not necessary to register with Google or anyone else in order to comment on this Blog. Just click on the word " COMMENT " at the bottom of this and every post and you can make an anonymous comment.

These two photographs taken in my garden are not my best work but make the page look more interesting

GM Contamination

Did you know that the EC has already directed that GM crops must be allowed?
Did you know that the UK Government is asking for the public's views on how that should be achieved?
The Friends of the Earth are asking people to use the consultation process which ends on Oct 20th to express their concern about the effective ending of their right to have a choice of non GM food.
More details here:

The FOE are not alone in their campaign which is paralled by the expansion of the Organic food sections in supermarkets and the growing use of farmers markets especially in Somerset. In whose interest is to push this food production change?

On the other hand perhaps you agree and approve the change?

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Stop the Climate Chaos

The Wildlife Trusts and the RSPB often work together in the interests of wildlife. Many of our members are also members of the RSPB and so it is useful I think to show here an email notice I have just received from the RSPB. Its copied below for your information. Here is a link to the relevant RSPB web site:

Our own local group have an important meeting this Thursday 28th on the subject of Climate Change and so this is very relevant. The Wildlife Trusts are part of the national campaign.

Message from the RSPB:

Get the facts
What is Stop Climate Chaos?
Join our climate rally on 4 November
Why climate matters for British wildlife
What climate change means for you
What climate change means for the planet
About the petition
How our climate is changing already
Can the world meet the challenge?
Frequently asked questions
Calculate your carbon budget
Join our climate rally on 4 November
Join thousands of people on Saturday 4 November in Trafalgar Square for the launch of the 'I Count' campaign - calling for more Government action on climate change.

The rally has been arranged by the Stop Climate Chaos coalition and will create truly large-scale public pressure for climate action.

Exclusive RSPB pre-rally event
We're inviting you, your family and friends to an exclusive event immediately before the Stop Climate Chaos rally.

Learn more about how and why the RSPB is campaigning to limit climate change, listen to presentations from several expert speakers and meet other RSPB supporters. There will be RSPB staff on hand to answer any questions you may have.

This special event is being held at the Emmanuel Centre in central London. Doors will open for registration at 11 am, when tea and coffee will be available, with formal presentations beginning at 11.45 am. A light packed lunch will then be provided before we depart at 1 pm and walk to Trafalgar Square to join the Stop Climate Chaos mass rally.

Places at the RSPB's event are free, but they are limited. To avoid disappointment, book online now. If you have any questions about the event please telephone Anna Hughes on 01767 680551, or e-mail

Join us in Trafalgar Square
The Stop Climate Chaos mass rally will feature a range of top name speakers as well as music, film and messages of solidarity from those around the UK who cannot be there in person. The public pressure generated through the mobilisation of thousands of people on 4 November will combine with the tens of thousands of pledges of support we have gathered so far, and send out a strong call for Government leadership on climate action in advance of the United Nation's climate talks, which begin later that month in Nairobi.

The RSPB, as part of Stop Climate Chaos, is calling for more Government action to limit climate change. Specifically, the UK Government must:

Do all it can to ensure global greenhouse gas emissions are falling by 2015
Set a Carbon Budget to ensure UK greenhouse gas emissions fall by 3% every year from now
Help poor countries cope with disasters caused by climate change and get access to clean energy to help eliminate poverty
Without urgent action, up to one third of land-based plants and animals could be committed to extinction by 2050. If we can limit the average rise in global temperature to less than 2°C, we can prevent the worst damage to wildlife and people.

We hope to see you on Saturday 4 November, for what promises to be a really worthwhile and enjoyable day.

29 August 2006

Saturday, September 23, 2006

An Inconvenient Truth

According to the web site shown below as a link, the Al Gore film about global warming and climate change will be shown in a few local cinemas as follows:
Sept 22: Bath , Little Theatre and Bristol at the Vue.
Sept 29th Exeter in the Picture House.
Oct 6th Wells at the Film Centre.
Oct 13th Yeovil and Bristol at Cineworld.

Try this web site to check:

Friday, September 22, 2006

Group news update

After the quiet of the summer holidays the pace of wildlife activities has stepped up a gear.
Here are brief notes on current events and news.

  • I think I'm correct in saying that the film made by Al Gore is now available in the UK or soon will be. Judging by the trailer shown on the web site it should be seen by anyone seriously interested in the effects of global warming. As soon as I can find out more about its showing locally I'll let you know.( Or you can tell me if you find out first) See post 29.08.06

  • The last major reserve on my list of local sites called Thurlbear Wood has been located. (See posts July 21st and 29th.)This afternoon I managed to find my way through some exceptionally narrow lanes on the foot hills of the Blackdown Hills to get to one of the several entrance points to the wood. Its described as ancient woodland which means it has been in existence for many hundreds of years maybe thousands. I must go back and spend some time there next spring. Its particularly interesting because I happen to be reading an excellent book by Richard Maybey called The Common Ground published in 1980. It was written "to widen the public debate on nature conservation". Its surprising to see that at that time the author was using terms such as climate change, loss of species and habitats and recording the way industrialized farming was causing so much damage to wildlife. So not much has changed in the 25 years since then. I recommend the book to anyone interested in understanding why the countryside is the way it is now so that a better way forward can be achieved. More on the book later.

  • The Reserve Manager at Babcary Meadows has contacted me to offer an organised walk to his site next spring when the Green Winged Orchids will be in evidence and much else I'm sure. This has got to be a must for our spring programme. Having made a brief visit last August just after the hay and flowers were cut it will be good to see it at its best. See post 21st and 29th July.

  • All of this ties in well with the news that our private initiative in Curry Rivel to acquire a four acre grass meadow to be maintained and improved if possible for its wild flowers and butterflies has received the blessing of the Somerset Environmental Records Centre and will now be registered as a County Wildlfe Site. This gives formal approval and a much welcomed new status from the point of view of grants and planning control. This was very good news.

  • Having joined the Private Nature Reserve Network because of our four acre field I am making contact with others in a similar situation so as to compare notes on management. It will now be more meaningful with our new status.

  • This Sunday is the Trusts Open Day at the Bishops Palace in Wells and I intend to be there most of the day and hope to see a few of our local members. The programme includes an interesting selection of the Trust activities in addition to those we organise as local groups.

  • Next Thursday we hold our first open meeting in Somerton on the subject of Climate Change and hope to see many of our local members. Contact us if you want to come along and need more information. See post Aug 20th and Sept 10th.

As you can see there is much to report and I'm sure members will be able to add many other news items to this short list. Dont forget to email us with your wildlife reports.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Meadows created in a Wildlife Garden

These first two photos were taken two days ago in the wildlife garden described in the post

These last two photos were taken in June this year in the four acre meadow referred to in this post
Meadows are a big part of the work of many conservation organisations not least the Wildlife Trust. I've mentioned before my involvement in a local initiative to ensure the conservation of a four acre field which has been lying idle for several years. Luckily the owner did get the grass cut once a year. A flora survey has identified plant species under three headings; woody species ( in the old hedges) total of species 15; Dicotyledons, ( flowers ) total of species 61; Monocotyledons ( grasses, lilies and orchids) total of species 29. A grand total of 105. To get an understanding of how to look after such a site I have been reading information from many sources including the web site shown as a link at the start of the post. The name of this wildlife garden which is "Sticky Wicket" is well known in for its association with campaigns against such developments as GM plants. On a recent visit I was particularly interested in learning how the owners had developed the several areas of wildflower meadow. Even by taking off 8 inches of top soil to give wild flowers a chance against the stronger growing grasses. If you are interested visit the web site given here as a link. ( In future posts I expect to be able to summarise our progress in managing our 4 acres.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Do bats fly in the middle of the day?

I have posted several photos taken by Steve Dyer. He has also had a letter published in the current edition of Natural World issued to all members and which local members should have received by now. ( see p6). With it is a photo taken by Steve It was taken on the 8th of April this year at around 2.00pm in Burtle. As Steve says in his letter it is very odd sighting indeed!It is clearly a pipistrelle bat flying in daylight on a sunny and cold day. It is a rare event.It shows the value of having your camera with you when out of doors!

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Memo to members

This is a local photo looking, from a hide on the Ham Wall RSPB reserve near Shapwick, across the moors towards Glastonbury Tor , copyright Steve Dyer.

You will see on this blog a trial run using adverts hopefully selected by Google to relate to the content of the Blog. If any payments arise from this arrangements they will be transferred to the local group funds to support our programme of meetings and events. If it detracts from the blog too much it will be cancelled.

This memo was sent out to some 50 local members of our local Group this week. I'm posting it to show how we try to communicate with members by email.

Dear Members,
As usual I'm sending this message as a blind copy.
The committee met last Wednesday and gave most of its time to the detail arrangements for our autumn meetings. Alongside events we have organised there are some run by the Trust and other groups which may interest you. As a reminder they are, in date order, as follows:

a.. Sept 24th. Members open day at the Bishops Palace in Wells. I intend to be there most of the day to explain our group activities and meet people. The programme is shown in the latest Trust Magazine. Free entry to members with a card or the latest magazine!

b.. Sept 28th. Our meeting on Climate Change in the United Reform Church hall in Somerton at 7.30pm. Bill Butcher Director of the Somerset Environment Records Centre will explain this subject which has many implications for wildlife and ourselves. £1.50

c.. Oct 12th. We have invited Dr Pat Hill Cottingham to share her enthusiasm and knowledge of Ferns with us. A chance also to meet members over a cup of tea or coffee. In the All Saints Church Hall, Langport at 7.30 pm. Parking by the library. £1.50

d.. Oct 14th. The Trust is holding its annual general meeting which is always much more than just a business meeting and is a chance to find out what is going on in the world of wildlife in Somerset. In Oake Village Hall 3 miles west of Taunton. Car sharing recommended! There is a web site for the Hall at for more information which is also in your magazine.

e.. Oct 22nd. A Fungus Foray is organised in Beer and Aller Woods. Run by the Woods Management Committee, which we are very pleased to be associated with, and the North Somerset and Bristol Fungus Group. More info in the events diary.

f.. Nov 9th. Our meeting on The lives of Dragonflies. They seem very numerous this year so come and find out more about them. In the Curry Rivel CE Primary School Hall, Church St. At 7.30 pm. Dr Mike Parr will talk, show slides and answer questions about these fascinating creatures. £1.50 A chance for us to meet local members.

Not satisfied with all that we have started to think about 2007 and welcome your ideas.

As its Adult Education enrolment time again I notice that there are three courses that might interest you:

a.. Discovering Wildlife. A general review of wildlife around our special County of Somerset. Held in Langport and Chard.

b.. Landscape and Heritage of Somerset. This course covers the Levels, Cheddar and The Quantocks. Held in Langport, Wells and Frome.

c.. Organic Gardening. A timely subject. You have the option of sitting a City and Guilds Test if you wish. Held in Chard only.

All run by the Somerset County Council. Info in local libraries. I hope to do the Landscape course myself and I know the Wildlife one is very good.

I hope you will have noticed that I have been running a diary on the internet since last July. It aims to show some insights into the groups development and some of the wildlife topics which have arisen since we started. I see it as a very useful way to exchange views, ideas, questions and suggestions about our group and our experiences of wildlife. Its not academic or intended to be formal and if you can share with us all your interest in wildlife you will be most welcome. To comment on any of the entries on the diary just find and click on the word comment at the end of the item. Simply write in the box provide as if you were writing an email message and click on Publish. Your notes will be sent by the blog system to me by email and I will then be able to add them to the diary page. Please give it a try or simply send your comments to me direct in an e-mail and you can include your wildlife photos.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Comments on July 29th post

As you may have gathered I'm learning as I go with this blog. Uploading photos and getting the layout OK has taken a bit of time to sort out but is not too bad now I think! Comments I havent got organised yet mainly because the settings for comments are a bit difficult to follow for me at any rate.
So I am now resorting to pasting comments from Atholl which appear under my blog of 29th July, now in the archive section, and to which the comments apply. They give usefull local knowledge which is hard to acquire unless you spend some time walking the countryside. As an objective of posting messages about the reserves was to make it easier for members to visit the reserves the comments are most welcome.
PS Who is Atholl? My dictionary says Atholl is a district of central Scotland and "Atholl brose" is a mixture of whiskey and honey left to ferment before consumption!! Very useful on long walks no doubt. Intriguing.

Atholl said...
Perry Mead is a small reserve best visited in late spring or early summer. At this time of year the there are a mass of wild-flowers as can be seen from the photograph later on in David’s Blog. These are either harvested during Hay Making or eaten by the cattle that graze the reserve. On the north side of the reserve is the River Carey which though in the last few years has looked pretty much like a large ditch, floods the access road to Foddington when there are heavy rains. One result of this is that Perry Meade is sometimes quite waterlogged and there is even a mini rhyne in the middle. The public access footpath that is sign-posted in David’s photograph not only goes more or less along the river side to Lovington. It also joins up with another, which passes over the river onto the golf course, up to Wheathill and across both the railway-line and numerous fields to East Lydford. It’s quite a good varied, circular walk if you come back across the B3153 and down the lane towards Foddington. The other feature of note is the large Dew Pond to the east of the reserve. This has had in wet years, magnificent Bull rushes.

Monday, September 04, 2006


Here are some photos of fungi taken in Somerset.

All these photos are copyright to Steve Dyer and were taken locally.

Top left: Red Cup
Top right: Wax Agaric Scarlet Hood
Middle left: unknown
Middle right: Hygricybe Ceracea
Bottom: Coprinus Domesticus

All photographs copyright Steve Dyer.

Now that we are into September and the summer is drawing to a close it will soon be time to join one of the organised walks to go looking for fungi. The woods in our area are often chosen for such fungi forays with experts on hand to help with identification. If you think I've got these names wrong please let me know by email!
A Fungus Foray is shown in the Somerset Wildlife Trust events diary on Sunday October 22 between 11AM and 3PM in the Beer and Aller Woods.

Thursday, August 31, 2006

Media reports

Two items caught my attention today. One relating to loss of biodiversity and the other highlighting how mankind benefits from an understanding of the rest of the animal kingdom.

Having made several posts on biodiversity loss on this blog, I was pleased to see The Independent newspaper today ( page 10, Save our Species) also highlighting the threat posed by the loss of ponds. It appeared to be referring to information given in the English Nature booklet noted in my blog of Aug 25. It reports the significant loss of ponds in the UK and that "one new complex (of ponds) in Oxfordshire contained a quarter of the UK's freshwater plant and animal life after only 5 years". It gives the web address of Pond Conservation for more information. Which is at:

"About Pond Conservation"

"Pond Conservation is the UK's leading centre for information and practical advice on the conservation of ponds. We also have an extensive programme of research, policy and practical work on rivers, lakes, ponds, canals and drainage ditch systems.
The organisation was founded in 1988 as Pond Action, subsequently merging with the Ponds Conservation Trust in 2001, and is now known as Pond Conservation: the Water Habitats Trust."

The trust publishes a number of fact sheets including the following:

Good Wildlife PondsA short guide to creating your own wildlife pond.
Planting Up PondsDo's and don't's of planting for a wildlife pond.
Problem Pond PlantsHow to manage algae, duckweed and other floating plants.
The Importance of Ponds: A guide for Planners and DevelopersGuidance when a development includes or affects ponds.

It was also interesting to read a technical journal published by the Institution of Engineering and Technology. ( Engineering and Technology, September 2006, page 30.)

An article describes links between biology and research into ways to prevent computer virus attacks. Engineers are working with biologists to learn from the human immune system, which is likened to a " very interesting adaptive computational system", to develop intrusion detection software.

The well known dive of the Gannet, which allows the bird to rapidly plunge in a vertical dive into the sea in pursuit of fish has led to another line of research. The bird has to judge the latest moment to fold its wings before hitting the surface of the water using feedback from visual signals. The same idea of feedback is being applied to software to detect malicious programmes
The IET web site is at: