Search This Blog

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

4 Acre Reserve

Its good to be able to record that today I was able to find several specimens of the Bee orchid in our 4 acre private nature reserve. The Small Blue butterfly has also been seen regularly over the last week or so. Meadow Browns are also present. The Pyramidal Orchid was found over most areas last year but has not been seen so far this year but it may still be too early.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Visit to two Devon Reserves on 19th May 2007

This brief record covers an annual outing organised by the Wells Group of the Somerset Wildlife Trust to reserves in other counties. We visited two sites in Devon.They are both SSSI's. The first map shows the Area of the East Devon Pebbled Heath SSSI part of which is the RSPB site on Woodbury Common. Some of our party are shown walking round one of the acidic ponds popular with dragonflies. As we walked we not only heard two cuckoos but saw them fly across in front of us. At both sites we found orchids to photograph. They were very numerous at Dawlish Warren. The second map shows the Dawlish Warren SSSI site on the River Exe estuary.
We were lucky with the weather and all agreed it was a very worth while and enjoyable visit.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

The UK Met Office and research into climate change

As a follow up to my last post I have just checked the link on this blog to the UK Met Office and its Hadley Centre and note that they have provided detailed notes on the several areas of complaint against ill informed comment of the kind seen in the Channel 4 programme:
Here is a link to the relevant Met Office / Hadley Centre web page:

It seems sensible for all of us to look for reliable sources of factual information when we are forming our own opinions on such important issues.
We should be considering the future of our world in the same way as Bill Shankley once described the game of football at Liverpool FC. "It not a matter of life and death , its more important than that".

The web site deals with what they describe as common myths.

Myth 1 - Ice core records show that changes in temperature drive changes in carbon dioxide, and it is not carbon dioxide that is driving the current warming.

The bottom line is that temperature and CO2 concentrations are linked. In recent ice ages, natural changes in the climate (due to orbit changes for example) led to cooling of the climate system. This caused a fall in CO2 concentrations which weakened the greenhouse effect and amplified the cooling. Now the link between temperature and CO2 is working in the opposite direction. Human-induced increases in CO2 is enhancing the greenhouse effect and amplifying the recent warming.

Myth 2 - Solar activity is the main driver of climate change.

The bottom line is that changes in solar activity do affect global temperatures. However, what research also shows is that increased greenhouse gas concentrations have a much greater effect than changes in the Sun’s energy over the last 50 years.

Myth 3 - There is less warming in the upper atmosphere than at the surface which disproves human-induced warming.

The bottom line is that observations are now consistent with increased warming through the troposphere.

Myth 4 - The intensity of cosmic rays changes climate.

The bottom line is, even if cosmic rays have a detectable effect on climate (and this remains unproven), measured solar activity over the last few decades has not significantly changed and cannot explain the continued warming trend. In contrast, increases in CO2 are well measured and its warming effect is well quantified. It offers the most plausible explanation of most of the recent warming and future increases.

Myth 5 - Climate models are too complex and uncertain to provide useful projections of climate change.

The bottom line is that current models enable us to attribute the causes of past climate change and predict the main features of the future climate with a high degree of confidence. We now need to provide more regional detail and more complete analysis of extreme events.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Global Warming

As we understand the Somerset Wildlife Trust will be considering its response to this subject during this coming year it seems appropriate to pick up on a news item in the Independent on May 8th. The story goes back to March 8th when Channel 4 showed a film called "The Great Global Warming Swindle". It caused a bit of a stir at the time and subsequently a number of scientist both involved in the making of the film and simply observers have made very strong complaints about its content. In the spirit of trying to show in this blog the essence of such a story you will find below links to web sites giving the full account of some of the main responses to the programme.
I recommend anyone interested in getting a clear view of the value of the programme as a contribution to the ongoing debate to spend some time following up the links and making up their own mind on the programme.

(1) Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Partial Response to the London Channel 4 Film "The Great Global ...

See the full response at this web site:
Carl Wunsch 11 March 2007
Some extracts from Carl Wunsch's complaint to Channel 4

When approached by WagTV, on behalf of Channel 4, known to me as one of the main UK independent broadcasters …… this seemed like a good opportunity to explain why, for example, I thought more attention should be paid to sea level rise, which is ongoing and unstoppable and carries a real threat of acceleration, than to the unsupportable claims that the ocean circulation was undergoing shutdown (Nature, December 2005).
In the part of the "Swindle" film where I am describing the fact that the ocean tends to expel carbon dioxide where it is warm, and to absorb it where it is cold, ……..By its placement in the film, it appears that I am saying that since carbon dioxide exists in the ocean in such large quantities, human influence must not be very important …. diametrically opposite to the point I was making…which is that global warming is both real and threatening.
……There is nothing in the communication we had (much of it on the telephone or with the film crew on the day they were in Boston) that suggested they were making a film that was one-sided, anti-educational, and misleading. I took them at face value---a great error. I knew I had no control over the actual content, but it never occurred to me that I was dealing with people who would deliberately distort my views.

(2) The Guardian 13th March 2007
Channel 4’s Problem with Science
By George Monbiot.
See this web site for the complete article: e
But there is one scientist in the film whose work has not been debunked: the oceanographer Carl Wunsch. He appears to support the idea that increasing carbon dioxide is not responsible for rising global temperatures. Professor Wunsch says that he was “completely misrepresented” by the programme, and “totally misled” by the people who made it.
This is a familiar story to those who have followed the career of the director, Martin Durkin. In 1998 the Independent Television Commission found that, when making a similar series, he had “misled” his interviewees about “the content and purpose of the programmes”. Their views had been “distorted through selective editing”. Channel 4 had to make a prime-time apology.

(3) The Guardian April 25th 2007

See this web site for the complete article:,,2064925,00.html

Move to block emissions 'swindle' DVD

David Adam, environment correspondent.
Dozens of climate scientists are trying to block the DVD release of a controversial Channel 4 programme that claimed global warming is nothing to do with human greenhouse gas emissions.
Sir John Houghton, former head of the Met Office, and Bob May, former president of the Royal Society, are among 37 experts who have called for the DVD to be heavily edited or removed from sale. The film, the Great Global Warming Swindle, was first shown on March 8, and was criticised by scientists as distorted and misleading.

(4) The Independent 8th May 2007
See this web site for the complete article:
C4 accused of falsifying data in documentary on climate change
By Steve Connor, Science Editor
The makers of a Channel 4 documentary which claimed that global warming is a swindle have been accused of fabricating data by one of the scientists who participated in the film.
Eigil Friis-Christensen, director of the Danish National Space Centre, has issued a statement accusing the film-makers of fabricating data based on his work looking at the links between solar activity and global temperatures.
Dr Friiss-Christensen said that a graph he had produced some years ago showing the link between fluctuations in global temperatures and changes in solar activity - sunspot cycles - over the past 400 years had been doctored.
"We have reason to believe that parts of the graph were made up of fabricated data that were presented as genuine. The inclusion of the artificial data is both misleading and pointless," Dr Friis-Christensen said.

The film has also been referred to the regulatory watchdog Ofcom which is considering a complaint from 37 senior scientists that the programme breached the broadcasting code on the misrepresentation of views and facts.
The scientists who have written to Ofcom include Sir John Houghton, the former chief executive of the Met Office, Lord May of Oxford, a former government chief scientist and past-president of the Royal Society, and Professor Chris Rapley, director of the British Antarctic Survey in Cambridge. In a letter to Mr Durkin they call for changes to the programme before the DVD version is released, even though DVDs are not covered by the Ofcom Broadcasting Code.
"So serious and fundamental are the misrepresentations that the distribution of the DVD without their removal amounts to nothing more than an exercise in misleading the public," they say.

Guided walk in Beer Wood

There is now a small and very select group of members of the Somerset Wildlife Trust who have discovered the unexpected pleasure of an evening guided walk in Beer Wood in the rain. It was of course quite mild which made the rain manageable. Unfortunately even the photographs are soggy.

A group of 6 members led admirably as usual by Peter Baker found plenty of interest. Butterfly Orchids were very much in evidence growing generally on the grass slopes of Turn Hill. A close examination of Dog's Mercury growing throughout the woods showed us the male and female forms of the plant usually in separate groups. Peter was able to show the benefit of management operations to cut back on scrub and tree growth to open up clearings to allow a rich growth of Small Teasel plants which is generally scarce.

The few photographs show one of the few Early Purple Orchids still in flower, some of the Ground Ivy evident everywhere and the Butterfly Orchid which was still coming into flower on the open grass banks

This walk was in Beer Wood but on the other side of the lane is Aller Wood which has recently had some additional area added to it by the Trust, is much more undisturbed and must be the subject of another visit this summer.

Monday, May 07, 2007

Wildlife and Climate Change and IPCC Reports

SWT have been expressing their concern that climate change is going to have a growing effect on wildlife in Somerset. The most important source of data is the IPCC. The build up to the latest reports on Climate Change from the IPCC is difficult to follow but an understanding helps to make sense of it all. Here is a much simplified account.

The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) established the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in 1988. It is open to all members of the UN and WMO.

The First IPCC Assessment Report was completed in 1990. The Report played an important role in establishing the Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee for a UN Framework Convention on Climate Change by the UN General Assembly. The UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) was adopted in 1992 and entered into force in 1994. It provides the overall policy framework for addressing the climate change issue.
The IPCC has continued to provide scientific, technical and socio-economic advice to the world community, and in particular to the Parties to the UNFCCC through its periodic assessment reports and special reports. Its Second Assessment Report, Climate Change 1995, provided key input to the negotiations, which led to the adoption of the Kyoto Protocol to the UNFCCC in 1997.
The major activity of the IPCC is to prepare in regular intervals comprehensive and up-to-date assessments of policy-relevant scientific, technical and socio-economic information relevant for the understanding of human induced climate change, potential impacts of climate change and options for mitigation and adaptation.

We now have the 4th Assessment Report(AR). This is being released throughout 2007 as shown below.

Climate Change 2007:
Working Group III Report "Mitigation of Climate Change"
Bangkok, 4 May 2007

Working Group II Report "Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability"
Brussels, 6 April 2007

Working Group I Report "The Physical Science Basis"
Paris 2 Feb 2007

The final part of the Report is to be published at the end of 2007 and will be the
AR4 Synthesis Report ( SYR).

As defined in the IPCC Procedures the SYR will “synthesize and integrate material contained within IPCC Assessment Reports and Special Reports”. Its scope will include material contained in the three Working Group contributions to the AR4, and it would draw on information contained in other IPCC Reports as required. Cross cutting themes will be considered throughout the report. The SYR should be largely self-contained, but guide readers to the underlying material if they wish to look further.

Saturday, May 05, 2007

Group visit to Babcary Meadows Reserve

This is a white variant of the Green Winged Orchid.

Another photo shows the Heart of the Levels Group members during the tour.

The yellow flower is Yellow Rattle which is often added to grass meadows to restrict strong grasses and make life easier for wildflowers. We plan to sow seed on our 4 acre private nature reserve this autumn as recommended for best results. It occurs naturally here at Babcary Meadows.
The visit went very well in perfect weather and a group of 13 enjoyed a walk around the 30 acres of unimproved meadows under the guidance of the Reserve Manager. The highlight was to see several varieties of the Green Winged Orchid and a probable sighting of a Marsh Orchid.

This is what the SWT says about this site:

The reserve lies eight mile east of Somerton and is part of an SSSI. It is a
site of 12 ha (30 acres) and is a species rich, unimproved, neutral
hay-meadow situated by the River Cary. Over two hundred species of flora
have been recorded on the reserve, fourteen of which are classified 'notable
species' in Somerset, and six of which are orchids.

This outstanding Site of Special Scientific Interest is a traditional
lowland hay meadow, a type of habitat that has declined dramatically since
the Second World War. Agricultural intensification, (increased ploughing,
use of fertilisers, drainage and silage cropping) has reduced it by 97 per
cent. The remainder is still being whittled down year by year, making this
site evermore important on a local, national and international scale. (The
habitat present on this site is not found outside Britain and northern

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Langport International Walking Festival

Details of the festival can be found here:

Please support your Chairman as he attempts 30k ( 18 miles) over the two days to raise funds for our Group. Email or telephone to offer your support.

Here is some of the publicity information from LADT.

Langport International Walking Festival
June 9th & 10th 2007
Come and join us! Get physical and enjoy the Somerset countryside and its delights!

This will be the second Langport International Walking Festival. The inaugural Festival in 2006 was a great success with walkers coming from far and wide to take part. Ages ranged from 6 year olds to those well over 60!
The walks are for pleasure but if you want to raise funds for a charity of your choice you are quite welcome to do so.
The Festival is an opportunity to see the beautiful countryside around Langport while giving yourself a challenge. The walks will be 5k, 10k, 20k and 42k and all will be circular starting and finishing at Langport's Cocklemoor car park . The walks will encompass the Somerset levels and will as far as possible be in the countryside and not on public roads. They will also take in some of the many pubs, small attractions and local cottage industries in the area. Snacks and light refreshments will be provided along the routes. Each person who completes the route of their choice will receive a Certificate.
Car parking is free and will be professionally marshalled. Hot showers will be available on site.

On the evening of Friday 8th June there will be dance entertainment from the Royal Marines Band on Cocklemoor. If you haven't seen this band on TV or at an event, you have really missed something! See here for more information and pictures of this amazing band. Prior booking is required for this event, tickets are £7.50 each. Contact the LADT offices (details below) for tickets.
On Saturday 9th June entertainment will be provided by the Agricultural Orchestra also on Cocklemoor. Tickets for this are £2.50 each, available from the LADT office or on the day.