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Monday, December 27, 2010

Cold Christmas

Christmas now over and recovery in progress, temperatures rising again over 5 degrees C after what seemed like an eternity of freezing conditions. Snow melting away quite quickly today and the grass showing in the fields. The photos were taken yesterday.
Last week watched a small flock of Redwings in our front garden where the pyracanthus berries are rapidly disappearing. It appears that Redwings  are keeping the Blackbirds away whilst they strip the bushes. Tough on the Blackbirds who have had it all their own way for several weeks now. Interesting to compare the tactics of both birds. Where as the Blackbirds more or less act alone and even chase away other Blackbirds the Redwings work together and strip the bushes in a day or so.
The Blackbirds were sitting around in a tree looking quite fed up and cold.

If you're interested in the question about whether this cold spell is part of global climate change then you might like to read the reports and comment on the Blog:  "Real Climate", ( link here) which I personally find very informative on any aspect of climate change and very topical.

I was surprised to get as a present, a new book by Prince Charles,  called Harmony. I haven't read it yet so I can only note that its chapters cover a very wide range of subjects all of which are relevant to how we should live in harmony with one another if we are to conserve a world fit to live in. I will post comments in due course. He starts with a quotation from Shakespeare. The  lines underlined are quoted in the book  and are part of a longer speech which shows more of the context in the play:

As You Like It
Act II. Scene I.
The Forest of Arden.
Enter DUKE Senior, AMIENS, and other Lords, like Foresters.

Duke S. Now, my co-mates and brothers in exile,
Hath not old custom made this life more sweet
Than that of painted pomp? Are not these woods
More free from peril than the envious court?
Here feel we but the penalty of Adam,
The seasons' difference; as, the icy fang
And churlish chiding of the winter's wind,
Which, when it bites and blows upon my body,
Even till I shrink with cold, I smile and say
'This is no flattery: these are counsellors
That feelingly persuade me what I am.'
Sweet are the uses of adversity,
Which like the toad, ugly and venomous,
Wears yet a precious jewel in his head;
And this our life exempt from public haunt,
Finds tongues in trees, books in the running brooks,
Sermons in stones, and good in every thing.

I would not change it.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

British Butterflies

If you missed the one hour programme on British butterflies on BBC 2 on Thursday, " Butterflies: A Very British Obsession"  your really should have a look at BBC  I Player using this link, click here:
You've got 6 days left to view it.
Amazing photography and information about many of our favourite butterflies plus interesting stuff about people involved in butterfly conservation.
Controversial reporting about reintroduction of rare species by breeding off site for instance.  But also an account of how important it is to manage habitats to ensure their survival. Somerset Wildlife Trust is very proud of its reintroduction work for the Large Blue.
My only slightly negative comment on the  programme was  however that  I did find the background music a bit intrusive at times.
As a humble offering I'm including a photo of my own showing a pair of Small Coppers enjoying the sunshine in the grass, and a Large Blue  from the Somerset Wildlife Trust library.

Here's a brief extract from the programme notes.

"Wildlife documentary featuring the fascinating lives of Britain's beautiful butterflies filmed in exquisite detail and also a celebration of their enduring appeal to the British people. Butterfly-costumed carnival-goers dance at Notting Hill, street artist Nick Walker uses their image to brighten bare city walls, burlesque dancer Vicky Butterfly recreates butterfly dances and at Britain's biggest tattoo convention women reveal their butterfly tattoos.
Britain's butterflies have never been so threatened, three quarters are in decline. A search for butterflies leads to some of the most beautiful parts of Britain. It opens up the intriguing possibility that a passion for butterflies could help us preserve the landscapes that we love.

Two more links on the subject of moths and butterflies in Somerset.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Traditional Orchards

Been looking back at our our local involvement with orchards.

 To highlight their Biodiversity importance we held a public meeting earlier in the year and more recently got involved in supporting a one day workshop to talk about and give practical help in the care and preservation of orchards. Photos show talks in the morning, walk in the orchard pm and an unusual apple,   red  like a tomato!
This morning I have written a letter of support for a County Project for the conservation and development of our traditional orchards. As the photos show there is a lot of interest in this subject and a lot to learn as well.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Climate change.

This seems a good step in the right direction. I'm sure all the NGO's involved will take it as a big opportunity to press hard for all governments to start to take action. How will the UK respond now?

Here is part of the official press release from the UN conference.

UN Climate Change Conference in Cancún delivers balanced package of decisions, restores faith in multilateral process

(Cancún, 11 December 2010) – The UN Climate Change Conference in Cancún, Mexico, ended on Saturday with the adoption of a balanced package of decisions that set all governments more firmly on the path towards a low-emissions future and support enhanced action on climate change in the developing world.
The package, dubbed the “Cancún Agreements” was welcomed to repeated loud and prolonged applause and acclaim by Parties in the final plenary.
“Cancún has done its job. The beacon of hope has been reignited and faith in the multilateral climate change process to deliver results has been restored,” said UNFCCC Executive Secretary Christiana Figueres. “Nations have shown they can work together under a common roof, to reach consensus on a common cause. They have shown that consensus in a transparent and inclusive process can create opportunity for all,” she said.
“Governments have given a clear signal that they are headed towards a low-emissions future together, they have agreed to be accountable to each other for the actions they take to get there, and they have set it out in a way which encourages countries to be more ambitious over time,” she said.
Nations launched a set of initiatives and institutions to protect the poor and the vulnerable from climate change and to deploy the money and technology that developing countries need to plan and build their own sustainable futures. And they agreed to launch concrete action to preserve forests in developing nations, which will increase going forward.
They also agreed that countries need to work to stay below a two degree temperature rise and they set a clear timetable for review, to ensure that global action is adequate to meet the emerging reality of climate change.
“This is not the end, but it is a new beginning. It is not what is ultimately required but it is the essential foundation on which to build greater, collective ambition,” said Ms. Figueres.

Richard Black on his BBC Blog gives his own view. Click here to read Blog.

Cancun: The chihuahua that roared

Richard Black | 11:29 UK time, Saturday, 11 December 2010

If Copenhagen was the Great Dane that whimpered, Cancun has been the chihuahua that roared.
And what a surprise it was.

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Progress report on Cancun

The pace seems to be hotting up a bit in Cancun and Richard Black has reported on current activities.
Click here to see his Blog:

The future is not looking good if these talks fail to achieve positive results. The form of the talks is interesting as a process and the results may give hope for the future of world agreement's.

Here are some of the points Richard  covers in his Blog.:

From the UN Conference in Cancun, Mexico.

Richard Black report.    See the full report:

Mexican Foreign Minister Patricia Espinosa, president of the UN Climate summit conference, has asked 10 ministers working in five pairs with developing country paired with rich world counterpart, to find compromise solutions to the most difficult problem areas and they have just three days to save the planet.

Sweden and Grenada are trying to find a description of what countries want this process to achieve. Currently there are at least three distinguishable visions.

Spain and Algeria are discussing adaptation.

Australia and Bangladesh are looking at finance, technology and capacity building. Areas which really deal with how rich countries help poorer ones to deal with climate change.

New Zealand and Indonesia have to debate the big issues concerning the developing countries, the US, and the long-term goals.
Finally the UK and Brazil are just left with the future of the Kyoto Agreement.
Mr Huhne and Ms Teixiera have so far talked to Japan, the G77 group of developing countries, Australia, the African group.

Monday, December 06, 2010

CBC News - Edmonton - Ad mocks Alta. oilsands at UN climate meeting

Just been checking to see what is going on in Cancun. It seems all 15,000 officials have been working hard over the week end to try to get some agreements over the last week of the conference. Here are a couple of reports in the world press.

CBC News - Edmonton - Ad mocks Alta. oil sands at UN climate meeting

An ad in a Mexican daily newspaper on Monday mocks Alberta Environment Minister Rob Renner’s attendance at the United Nations conference on climate change.
A Canadian environmental group designed and paid for the ad, which features a grinning Renner wearing a sombrero. Under the photo, a fake oil association thanks the minister for keeping oil flowing from the oil sands.
Renner is in Cancun to defend the oil sands at the International Climate Conference and to talk with other countries about carbon capture and storage.
The ad appeared in Novedades de Quintana Roo, a Cancun newspaper.
“The mood going into Cancun, expectations were fairly low," said Gillian McEachern, a spokeswoman for the group Environmental Defence. "People were disappointed coming out of Copenhagen. We're trying to use a little bit of humour to lighten the mood but draw attention to a serious issue.
“It is just trying to be a bit tongue in cheek and lighten it up a bit, but coming back to the fact that this is actually a quite serious issue and we need governments in Canada to start taking it seriously and acting."
The Cancun conference is heading into its final days. About 15,000 officials are taking part.

Read more:

CANCUN, Mexico – U.N. climate talks moved into their decisive week Monday with the agenda dominated by future cuts in carbon emissions and keeping countries honest about their actions to control global warming.
Government ministers arrived in force to begin applying political muscle to negotiations that in the past week have narrowed some disputes, but which are likely to leave the toughest decisions for the final hours of the 193-nation conference on Friday.
Delegates were feeling pressure to produce at least a modest agreement from the two-week U.N. meeting to restore credibility to the talks after the last summit in Copenhagen failed to agree on any binding action to rein in emissions of global-warming gases.
"We cannot leave Cancun empty-handed," warned Connie Hedegaard, the European Union's top climate official.
The conference seeks decisions on establishing a "green fund" to help poorer nations rein in greenhouse gases and to adapt their economies and infrastructure to a changing climate; an agreement making it easier for developing nations to obtain patented green technology from advanced nations; and pinning down more elements of a system for compensating developing countries for protecting their forests.
"I can see a workable result that gets decisions across all the major areas. I can't predict whether we're going to get there," said U.S. special envoy Todd Stern.
New negotiating documents put on the table over the weekend were generally well received, despite criticisms of flaws and omissions.

Sunday, December 05, 2010

Archerontia atropos, Deaths Head Hawke Moth

 These two photos were taken by John Bebbington, Chair of the Somerset Moth Group. On the Moth Group web site John gave a brief introduction:

"Mon 22nd November 2010 15:22 by John Bebbington
Successful emergence of Death's Head Hawkmoth
Of the four A. atropos larvae from Somerset which were in my possession 3 produced deformed pupae which died but one pupated successfully (despite having to change foodplant from Woody Nightshade to Potato to Tomato and back to Potato!). It emerged last night and I hope to encourage it to feed so that it can be shown at the AGM on Friday night. What a superb moth!"

 Click here for a link to the Moth Group web page.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Climate change

Just in case readers think that Badgers are a big problem here is a really big problem which defies any attempt to define its scope!

Click here for an update on Cancun 2010

Or use this URL

Here is an extract:

"The main issues, though, are economic and geopolitical in nature.

Many governments are worried about losing their economic competitiveness through curbing emissions, particularly against key global or regional rivals.

Main players in the summit itself are optimistic that something worthwhile can emerge, despite these obstacles.

Christiana Figueres, executive secretary of the UN climate convention, recently said: "At this point, everything I see tells me that there is a deal to be done.

"Cancun will be a success, if parties compromise."

The lesson of Copenhagen, though, is that this is likely to prove a very big "if". "

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Badger control consultation

I've spent some time going through notes on this subject from the SWT, that includes a 13 page report by Liz Deane Chair of the SWT Council in which she reviewed a wide range of published papers and reports on the subject.( Its very comprehensive). Also notes from  the Badger Group and the NFU. Finally I've looked at the DEFRA web site and browsed the extensive set of documents which make up their consultation doc.It all confirmed my view that the proposals are based on so many assumptions based on inadequate research and lack of relevant knowledge  that they are not at all certain to achieve their intended objective. The only certainty is that a large number of animals will be killed many of which will be healthy. 
If you want to see the DEFRA docs they are all available at this link here.

I've gone through the 8 questions they invite comment on and here is my response. Qu 1, 7 and 8 are the only ones I have written much about the others are all "No".

Of course we also want to encourage individuals to respond  as they see fit, the more the better regardless of what is said. A bigger post bag means more people are concerned about the subject one way or another.  Here  are my comments with the DEFRA question shown in bold:
Submission to DEFRA.
Qu 1.  Comments are invited on the options, costs and assumptions made in the Impact Statement.  ( that is Annex F )
The Impact Statement includes many assumptions which are unlikely to prove accurately assessed. Consequently it is not possible to predict a successful outcome and this is not an acceptable basis for killing a large number of animals.
We do not agree with a policy of culling badgers.
We consider such a policy to be unnecessary and not adequately supported by scientific evidence.
The Consultative Doc also shows many areas of uncertainty especially in the culling method statements.
Qu 2  Do you agree with the preferred option? 
Qu 3  Do you agree that this approach, of issuing licences to farmers/ landowners, is the most appropriate way to operate a badger control policy? 
Qu 4  Do you agree with the proposed licensing criteria for culling and vaccination?
Qu 5  Do you agree that the proposed methods of culling are effective and humane?
Qu 6  Do you agree with the proposed use of vaccination, particularly its focus on mitigating the perturbation effects of culling?
No , not as part of the culling process.
Qu 7  Should anything further be done to encourage the use of vaccination?
Yes. The use of vaccination should be promoted as the long term sustainable solution. Development of oral vaccine should be given greater urgency. Biosecurity should be strengthened.
Qu 8 Do you agree with the proposed monitoring?
No. We have no confidence that monitoring will be comprehensive enough  to ensure that the proposed procedures will be followed.
Signed and dated

Support Somerset Wildlife Trust and our local volunteer group. Read our Blog at:
and  on://!/levelswildlife
and our diary of events at:

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Friday, November 19, 2010

Traditional Orchards Network

Orchard Network

Welcome to Orchard Network - website of the Habitat Action Plan (HAP) group for Traditional Orchards. We are a partnership of organisations working together for the conservation of Traditional Orchards as a wildlife habitat. We hope you find this site a useful resource for finding out about the wildlife that thrives within our orchards, the issues that surround their conservation, and ways that you can get involved.
Click on this link to go to a video about traditional orchards which I think is inspiring and motivating

Friday, November 12, 2010

Badgers. Consultation ends Dec 8th

It was a very interesting and stimulating meeting last night. Aidrian Coward gave a detailed account of the life cycle of a badger and illustrated his talk with excellent photographs and some skulls and other exhibits from his collection which were passed round. It was clear from the audience reaction that badgers have many supporters.
Aidrian ended his talk by informing us about the Government plans for controlling Bovine TB which are currently likely to include the killing of badgers in large numbers, many of whom will be healthy animals. There is so much to know about this subject and Aidrian demonstrated a very detailed knowledge.
Rather than try to recall all that was said including answers to  numerous excellent questions I am giving you a link to the Badger Trust. Click here
The Badgers Trust and the Somerset Wildlife Trust are both making similar statements based on an understanding of the scientific work carried out in recent years.

You can read SWT's views on the DEFRA proposals here

And for the sake of completeness here is a link to the relevant DEFRA site, here.
Or use this url:

Sunday, November 07, 2010


Need to keep our next public meeting at the top of my Blog.

Just sent a Tweet to help promote the event.   See my Twitter account here

A public meeting on Badgers should be good value for £2.50! Hear the latest news, get answers to your questions. Nov 11,   Somerton 7.30pm.

Adrian Coward, professional ecologist and chair of the Somerset Wildlife Trust Badger Group will be talking about the lives and habitats of badgers.
United Reform Church Hall.West Street, Somerton.

Saturday, November 06, 2010

Beer and Aller Wood

This is one of our best local SWT nature reserve. In recent years we have always had a Fungi Foray here led by Peter Baker. Peter moved away last year and we must find a replacement to lead next years event
This year we organised a spring flower walk with Anne Bebbington as leader. There is always something different to see here from season to season and year to year.
To give you a feel for the woods I'm including a video clip made by SWT and showing on the web site for their nature reserves where you can see others.

Thursday, November 04, 2010

Convention on Biological Diversity

 This post is a follow up to my previous post.

 The UN web site shows links to what it calls "Advanced unedited text" which I not going to try to follow or give extracts. If your interested you can just follow the link below.
There clearly is information available and probably there are so many changes and amendments to the first drafts that it will take some time for the Secretariat to produce a final set of documents.
In that respect George is correct.
Trying to follow the thread through UN documents is a challenge all on its own!

Convention on Biological Diversity » A Ghost Agreement

 As a sobering foot note to the press accounts of the success of the recent UNEP Convention on Biological  Diversity in Nagoya ,the link shown below paints a more worrying picture. Next I'll follow up by visiting the UNEP web site to see what they are making available » A Ghost Agreement

Friday, October 29, 2010

New agreement reached in Nagoya: statement from Environment Secretary Caroline Spelman « Defra News

 This has got to be good news , even if its not perfect!

New agreement reached in Nagoya: statement from Environment Secretary Caroline Spelman « Defra News

To hear an explantation of why Biodiversity is important you can view this Natural History Museum video clip:  ( apologies for the overlap on the video!)

Another interesting web site commenting on this agreement is run by Kew Gardens and you can read their report on this link.

Kew welcomes Nagoya biodiversity agreement

Kew's Director, Professor Stephen Hopper talks about Kew's response to the agreement reached in Nagoya last week to protect the natural environment. A positive outcome for conserving the world's biodiversity.

Forestry in England

DEFRA has plans for selling off forests.

Link here.

Japanese environmentalist protester outside Nagoya meeting

At our recent public meeting on the fascinating subject of plant reproduction processes ,our speaker, Dr Anne Bebbington, a professionally qualified Botanist,  commented that she was disappointed that while listening to a radio programme about Biodiversity loss that there was no mention of plants.  I added a comment that schools who cover science subjects still appear to ignore Botany. Instead they cover physics,chemistry and biology.
Is it a lack of Botany teachers?
So it was refreshing to see a photo from the Nagoya conference on biodiversity which promoted plants.

Japanese environmentalist protester outside Nagoya meeting
It looks a bit silly you might say but then perhaps that is because of our attitude towards plants and flowers whereas if the protestor was dressed in a gorilla outfit we would feel more comfortable with the image. Or is it just me!!!?

Monday, October 25, 2010


Hopefully readers have made their comments on the Natural Environment consultation and can turn their attention to another important issue.

We have organised a public meeting on Badgers on November 18th in Somerton and the subject of Bovine TB is rising up the public agenda. For some that's because the Government is considering culling together with other measures whilst others don't think that will work and is consequently a bad idea. There is a great deal of information on the DEFRA web site to cover all aspects of the subject.
Somerset Badger Group and the Somerset Wildlife Trust have issued a statement to draw attention to public consultation in progress now and concluding on DEC 8th. Here it is.
The Government is consulting on proposals to cull badgers as part of a strategy to control bovine tuberculosis.  The Governments preferred option is Option 6:  Issuing licences under the Protection of Badgers Act 1992 to cull, vaccinate or carry out a combination of culling and vaccination.
Somerset Wildlife Trust’s response
  • Bovine TB is a serious issue for farmers. Government and the farming sector should take a science-led and comprehensive approach to tackling bovine TB, using all available sensible measures to control and eradicate this disease.
  • We do not support the current Government proposals for culling badgers, as these are not supported by scientific evidence and will be difficult to implement effectively in practice. Far from helping to control bovine TB, the proposed badger cull could actually make the problem worse.
  • The recently available badger vaccine could help to control bTB if used systematically over a period of years.
  • All possible biosecurity measures should be enforced on farms to help control spread of the disease.
  • The Government must put its energy into removing the barriers to development and use of a cattle vaccine for bTB, with a commitment to bring this into widespread use as soon as possible.
Please respond to the consultation
Make your voice heard to help the Government make the right decision. The Government consultation closes on December 8.   It can be found at:

Post to:           TBBC mailbox
                        Nobel House, 17 Smith Square,
                        London, SW1P 3JR

Please contact the Somerset Trust Badger Group for further information:

Adrian Coward          01749 671065
24/7 Help Line:          07850 604585

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Fungi foray. Phallus impudicus , Stinkhorn

We havent had a proper Fungi Foray this year so did a bit myself at Hestercombe Garden today. Mostly in the rain! This was the most impressive specimen found.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Natural Environment White Paper comments. No8

This is probably my last post on this subject before the deadline.Its up to you now! Eight days to go.

I have just submitted my comments on the four questions to DEFRA which I'm pleased to see still exists and has I hope received my views via the Internet.
I thought it a bit odd that it didn't ask me to include my name or address etc but I have identified myself!

I used the on line form which was quite simple and I just copied my comments previously posted on this Blog.
To do the same just click here to go to DEFRA and follow the simple instructions.

You can see the fuller Discussion Doc with its 15 questions on this link, click here.

If you want to respond to the full 15 questions then after reading the document you are invited to submit your comments as follows:
( you may find the web links don't work too well but good luck!)

The deadline for responses to this document is 30 October 2010
Please email your responses to:
Or submit comments over the Defra website at
Or post them to:
Natural Environment White Paper Team
Area 3D
Nobel House
17 Smith Square

Tuesday, October 19, 2010


A few months ago I had a look at using Twitter to help communicate with the world about Wildlife in Somerset.
I found it a bit strange and time consuming and didn't do much with it. Now however with so many other conservation organisations running a Twitter site I am trying to get in on the act!
Question can you identify this plant?
Its all a bit of an experiment but as Nick Baker said at our AGM last week its vital for wildlife to find ways to spread enthusiasm for exploring the natural world as widely as possible.
Click  here to visit my Twitter site.

PS This is post number 300!!!

Friday, October 15, 2010

Natural Environment White Paper. My comments. No7

I've written up some comments for DEFRA based on the SWT paper  (available on their web site linked here)

DEFRA discussion paper on the Natural Environment White Paper:
Comments  based on suggestions from the Somerset Wildlife Trust and our local experiences.

1)   Which parts of the natural environment matter most to you?
It is very important that the Government takes action to protect, restore, and proactively ensure the recovery of our natural environment, for people and wildlife.
The Government should recognise the uniqueness of Somerset’s rich natural environment, and appreciate that it matters to all of us. A healthy, wildlife-rich natural environment benefits us all, and is irreplaceable.
A large scale network of high quality habitats will allow wildlife to thrive in our county in town and village, along hedgerow and verge and through fields and gardens. We must include our coastal areas and our wonderful hills for all to enjoy. By making space for nature, we will enable our natural world to become more resilient to future climate change.

2)   How do you feel you benefit from the natural environment?
Wildlife-rich landscapes and seas support our society and economy and recreational activities. A healthy, bio diverse environment provides us with a range of natural, life-supporting services, such as crop pollination, food production, flood prevention, clean air and water.
By restoring natural processes we all benefit – such as flood protection, carbon absorption, crop pollination and water filtration, so they can operate to their full potential for people and wildlife. All are fundamental to our health, well-being and a successful local economy.

3)   How do you think we could improve the natural environment?
I support the Wildlife Trusts strategy based on a Living Landscape approach to nature, which should act as guiding principles in the development of the Natural Environment White Paper.
A comprehensive strategic framework for the natural environment is required to secure the health of our natural environment.
We should protect and enlarge ‘core’ wildlife-rich areas – value and conserve existing protected places such as Local Wildlife Sites (LWS) and Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs) which lie at the heart of this new era for nature conservation. We should create more such areas which must not be allowed to be traded in or eroded.
We should put wildlife back on the map – map out priority areas for restoration on a landscape scale. Plan to create connections between core wildlife areas in the form of corridors and stepping stones, providing connectivity for wildlife across the landscape. Expand and buffer these areas and make the wider landscape more wildlife-friendly.

 4) What would encourage you to get involved in protecting the natural environment?
People need access to nature on their doorstep: high quality natural spaces should be available in town and country to encourage access to, and action for, the natural environment.
Ensure there is wildlife everywhere and support educational initiatives to inspire every community to develop local solutions to the particular challenges for restoring nature in their area.
The Trusts are well placed to generate a new type of partnership to act together with central and local government, agencies, the private sector and voluntary bodies to inspire and enable cross-boundary co-operation in planning and delivering a new vision for nature.

David German.
Chair of the Heart of the Levels Area Group of the Somerset Wildlife Trust

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Natural Environment White Paper SWT views and comments No 6

The Somerset Wildlife Trust has published on its web site its views on the DEFRA consultation on the natural environment. It includes suggestions for members to use in their own comments.
October 30 th is the deadline for the receipt of comments.
Use this link:

or visit the SWT web site.

Costing the Earth and the Fake Plastic Sea

"Climate change" seems to be proving impossible for world governments to cope with according to press reports from the recent international conference.
Which made a Radio Four programme of special interest as it covered the growing move towards legal action against companies which can be shown to be adding to the pollution of the atmosphere and contributing to climate change. There are two episodes of the programme, the second deals with the growing problem of plastic objects floating in huge islands in the worlds oceans.
Here is a link to replay the programme:


or click here. 

Below are the programme notes from the BBC web site copied today 14.10.10

"Climate change has already claimed its first victims. Displaced people from the Carteret Islands, Bangladesh, Ethiopia, Kenya and the Niger delta have already become climate refugees but from whom can they seek refuge or even compensation?
Environmental Justice Foundation is calling for legally binding agreements to protect those displaced and there are various legal cases in action that could set a precedent for compensation.
400 Alaskan residents are suing energy companies for creating a public nuisance and for conspiracy (in funding research to 'prove' there is no link between climate change and human activity). Tuvalu, the low lying nation in the pacific, has threatened to sue Australia and the United States for their contributions to climate change and in the latest and most high profile case Katrina victims are taking the big oil companies BP, Shell, Chevron Exxonmobile, to court.
So far displaced people have not been defined as refugees so they have no legal rights but countries could be expected to take a number of migrants equivalent to their contribution or compensate victims for their loss.
Myles Allan of Oxford University has set up models to predict how much climate change attributable to man has caused extreme weather conditions like the flooding here in the UK in 2000. Sophisticated modelling could make it easier to attribute blame and a recent ruling in the European Court means that victims of environmental crime should find it a lot easier to take their cases to court. Big insurance companies are already warning their clients to expect compensation suits but there is still some way to go before precedent has been set in the case of climate change and nobody knows what will happen once these floodgates have opened.
Tom Heap talks to victims of Katrina who are already taking lawsuits and flood victims in the UK on the anniversary of the 2000 flooding to find out whether the courts can really offer compensation where international governments have failed to act."

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Spiders. Walnut orb- weaver. Nuctenea umbratica

I think its the time of year for watching spiders. Their webs are very obvious on a misty morning and that's why I found myself taking a few photos.

 Here is one taken in our garden shed at about 11 pm using a torch to try to focus on a quite strange looking black spider I noticed as I was putting our lawn mower away. That's my excuse for a poor picture. I am fairly sure I found its identification on the web site linked here.
Part of the description says that this spider shuns the light and hides at day. Sure enough when I went back next day it could not be seen. It is also one of the few UK spiders which can give a bite similar to a wasp sting so I will not be getting much closer. Its body looked quite like a walnut shell and quite unlike any other spider I've seen round here.

Friday, October 08, 2010

Acherontia atropos, known as the Death's Head Hawkmoth

I found it hard to accept that I was being shown a real live moth caterpillar but it was true. The third photograph shows its size and we understand it is not fully grown.  The moth itself we didnt see. Its the lava of the Deaths Head Hawkmoth.
More information can be obtained from the Somerset Moth Group.
Top picture  by John Bebbington others by Roger Harvey.
Here is a link to a photo showing the moth. Click here.

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Why is it important? | Natural Environment White Paper

I hope this is self explanatory. This is a link to the Royal Society of Wildlife Trusts. Here you can see the views of  others and guidance  about the consultation from the Wildlife Trusts. This should help you to make your own response to the DEFRA invitation to comment.
Click on the link:

Sunday, October 03, 2010

Somerset Wildlife Trust AGM

The Trusts AGM is on October 16th.
Guest speaker will be Nick Baker, well known wildlife TV presenter.
Try this link to a video showing Nick in action.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Climate Change

Today I went on a visit to Plymouth.
Today the Royal Society published its brand new report entitled, " Climate Change: a summary of the science".
In Plymouth I stood on the spot where Sir Francis Drake and Sir Walter Raleigh and the Pilgrim Fathers all set out to sail across the Atlantic and around the world and into battle.

Now having read a little about those sailing adventures and rushed through a copy of the Royal Society  report , downloaded from the web, I am struck by a common  characteristic of all these accounts of human endeavour.

In each case history making actions and decisions were taken on very imperfect information and knowledge.

Our imagination helps us feel the act of faith of the early sailors  in for example, 1620 and now the Royal Society under pressure from Members and climate change sceptics using its resources of a wide range of highly qualified Fellows of the Society,  has reviewed the science and concludes its report with these comments:

"Paragraph  59: Like many important decisions, policy choices about climate change have to be made in
the absence of perfect knowledge. Even if the remaining uncertainties were substantially resolved, the wide variety of interests, cultures and beliefs in society would make consensus about such choices difficult to achieve. However, the potential impacts of climate change are sufficiently serious that important decisions will need to be made. Climate science – including the substantial body of knowledge that is already well
established, and the results of future research – is the essential basis for future climate projections and planning, and must be a vital component of public reasoning in this complex and challenging area"

In other words important actions almost always have to be taken with imperfect knowledge and action to respond to the scientific evidence about climate change will have to be taken.

Click here to see the RS report.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Government Consultation on the natural environment. No 5

In previous posts on this subject I've drawn attention to the full DEFRA  consultation document. But there is a simpler form which introduces the full set of questions and it is probably more likely to appeal to most people, including me, who just wants to quickly show their interest and concern about the natural environment.  It gives the following questions:

What are your views on the natural environment?

If you live in England, tell us which parts of the natural environment matter most to you and how we can best protect and enhance them.
Whether you live in a rural or an urban area, tell us your views by visiting our online survey and answering four short questions:
  1. Which parts of the natural environment matter most to you?
  2. How do you feel you benefit from the natural environment?
  3. How do you think we could improve the natural environment?
  4. What would encourage you to get involved in protecting the natural environment?
The deadline for responses is 30 October 2010.

Thus is much easier to cope with! I'll try to post my answers soon.


Sunday, September 26, 2010

Government Consultation on the natural environment. No 4

I've just looked through all the questions in the Governments consultation document and quite honestly I will find it very hard to come up with sensible answers.
I got to  the the last one which is :

Question 15: If you could choose just one priority action for the Natural Environment White Paper
to drive forward locally, nationally or internationally – what would it be?

 I'm attending a meeting of the Somerset Wildlife Trust on Tuesday and I hope to get some guidance to bring to my Blog and to help me make a sensible submission on behalf of our local Area Group of the SWT.

The deadline for public responses is in 34 days time on Oct 30th!

Curry Rivel Community Website | Autumn glory | Stunning, Rose

Here is my recent posting of autumnal photos on our local community web site.Click on the link shown below.
The post showed an unusual growth on a self seeded wild rose growing in our local meadow new hedge. I now have the following explanation:

The growth on your rose is caused by a small gall wasp belonging to the Family Cynipidae. These galls are commonly known as Robin's pin cushions!
I'll add the photo here now.

Curry Rivel Community Website | Autumn glory | Stunning, Rose

There seems to be a problem getting to see the photos which are on a Picasa Web Album and not on the local web site at the moment. Please use this link here to view.
Or use this URL :  

As usual I found myself wondering what this Robins Pin Cushion was all about so Wiki gave me a great deal of information. Click here for the link.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Government consultation on the natural environment. No 3

Having checked the references given in my last post I have extracted all the questions asked by Defra and listed in the Summary Doc which can be seen in full  here.

To make sure I read each question myself and respond I intend to post each one and make a comment as a preliminary reply to send in to Defra.

Question 1: What do we need to do to embed the true value of our natural resources in decision making at all levels?

 This is a hard one. What does it mean? Who is going to take the action implicit in the question?  The summary doc gives some guidance and says:

" whilst we have made important progress, we have also continued to see piecemeal degradation –
leading to an ongoing decline in the quality and sustainability of many of our natural assets. These pressures are different from those which we have successfully addressed and require new approaches and solutions.
The White Paper will need to address a range of overarching challenges for future policy on the natural  environment including:
• Climate change – both the challenge to the natural environment represented by climate change and the role of the natural environment in managing the impacts of climate change on people and business as  well as being the source of the renewable energy that will help us mitigate climate change.
• Demographic changes – not just global population growth but also key changes in patterns of
consumption at home and across the globe.
• Incremental impacts – all the apparently minor choices we make that lead to piecemeal degradation of  our natural environment and which together can lead to permanent damage to the natural systems we  all rely on."

My off the cuff answer:    The White Paper shall require every decision taken by all levels of Government to start by making a statement showing its assessment of the effect the decision will have on all aspects of the environment. This would need to cover all levels from Parish Councils all the way to the top of the tree.

Your comments welcome!?

Government consultation on the natural environment. No 2

Chancellors Farm copyright Steve BondI have been neglecting my Blog and as a short term answer I am copying a posting from the Somerset Wildlife Trust web site just to get things moving again! 
From the SWT Web site, link  here
The White Paper on the Natural Environment provides a real opportunity to lay the foundations of nature conservation for the 21st Century. In the build up to the General Election, The Wildlife Trusts called on the next Government to introduce a White Paper for Nature to identify the policy changes needed to restore our natural environment and ecosystems. Now it is time for you to play your part in nature’s recovery.

Act Now…. Your Support Could Make All The Difference

1. Complete the Government’s online survey ­- make sure you, your family and friends complete the Government’s online survey and comment on ‘An invitation to shape the nature of England’ by 30 October 2010.
2. Contact your MP ­- ask your MP to champion an ambitious White Paper to restore nature. Keep us in the loop.
3. Support us ­- join Somerset Wildlife Trust or make a donation to help us restore the natural environment.

A Recovery Plan for Nature in Somerset

Somerset Wildlife Trust has a vision for A Living Landscape. This is a recovery plan for nature to help create a resilient and healthy environment rich in wildlife and provide ecological security for people. Find out about our local Living Landscape projects.

Government Plea to Somerset Wildlife Trust Members

Caroline Spelman, Defra Secretary of State for the Environment, has recorded a video message for Wildlife Trust members inviting them to contribute to the White Paper discussion. Click here to view it.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Government consultation on the natural environment.

This might be one of the most important or at least most timely posts since this Blog started.

Our new coalition government has announced that it invites comment on a White Paper for the Natural Environment.

Click here to go to the Defra site where you can find your way to giving your comments on line.
You can see the Discussion paper issued on 26th July before you make your comments.
Here are some extracts from the Defra site ( 23.08.10)

Comment on our discussion paper

On 26 July 2010 we published our discussion paper “An invitation to shape the Nature of England”. We invite all comments and submissions from anyone with an interest in the Natural Environment White Paper.

What are your views on the natural environment?

If you live in England, tell us which parts of the natural environment matter most to you and how we can best protect and enhance them.
Whether you live in a rural or an urban area, tell us your views by visiting our online survey and answering four short questions:
  1. Which parts of the natural environment matter most to you?
  2. How do you feel you benefit from the natural environment?
  3. How do you think we could improve the natural environment?
  4. What would encourage you to get involved in protecting the natural environment?
The deadline for responses is 30 October 2010.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Jersey Tiger Moth

Jersey Tiger on Agapanthus in our garden
Just happened to notice this moth flying in the garden around 2pm in the sun on 10.08.10. In flight it looked a very orange butterfly. It obligingly stopped to rest on this lovely garden flower

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Blog Problem

There appears to be a problem with the layout of my Blog. If anyone can think why it has suddenly changed its layout please let me know!

2nd Aug and I'm still trying to work out what happened and I still cant get the layout back to where it was a week ago. It may be because of the new templates and preview arrangements that something has changed and its all a bit puzzling. It doesn't seem to have happened to my other Blog.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Heart of the Levels Wildlife Watch Club - Picasa Web Albums

Our new Watch Club for children and their parents is running well now. We are continuing to promote it through local schools and expect the numbers attending to pick up after the summer holidays.

Here are a few photographs of our last session .

Heart of the Levels Wildlife Watch Club - Picasa Web Albums

Carl Sagan

Now here's a challenge for you.

Carl Sagan was a very distinguished and respected scientist. You can read up about his life and work on Wiki, which I have just done. What I found surprising was that he had spent a lot of time in using the media in all its forms to communicate about science. This included musical adventures, perhaps experiments might be nearer the mark!

This is in tune with our recent Arts and Wildlife Workshop which aimed to encourage a creative approach to wildlife. 

The challenge is to visit a Blog and view a You Tube clip in a recent post and to comment.  (Here is a  link )

Then if you want to find out more about the production of the video and about Carl Sagan you can go to this web site:

Monday, July 12, 2010

2020 Vision : For a wilder Britain

Is anyone involved in this project. Click on the link for more info

2020 Vision : For a wilder Britain

Latest Sightings

The photograph shows John with the rare moth during the field visit. See note below.

Click on this link to go to the Moth Group web site     Latest Sightings

This is a link to the Somerset Moth Group web site where they show a quite rare moth which was found and photographed by John Bebbington on a visit to Fivehead Arable Fields nature reserve. Its called a Celypha rosaceana. The same species ( perhaps even the same moth!!) was found in the field again yesterday during out Group vist to look at the arable "weeds".

Wildlife in Somerset

You will see from this brief report which I have just submitted for publication in the Trusts magazine that we have been quite busy. My Blog has been neglected as a consequence. Life of course continues to make its demands regardless of wildlife or blogging!
I hope to include a photo or two from some of these events eventually.

Heart of the Levels summer highlights.

 “International Year of Biodiversity  2010”

Now in our 5th year our Group has staged some rewarding wildlife events. We enjoyed a great spring flower walk with a new leader in Beer Wood. Anne Bebbington opened our eyes to its wonderful woodland flora.
Our new Wildlife Watch Club opened in Hambridge.  Children will gain an enthusiastic introduction to wildlife through practical and fun activities.
On June 27 our third and most rewarding Arts and Wildlife Workshop so far engrossed 16 members for a day in Isle Abbotts. A walk along the River Isle for observation and ideas generated creative nature writing, stunning photographic images, painting and sketching.
Our Botany Study Group committed itself to continue for another year to develop our understanding of the structure and characteristics of wild flowers.
Anne and John Bebbington gave us a treat on 11th July by leading our visit to the Fivehead Arable Fields to find 22 special flowering plants many of which are becoming rare or even facing extinction.  It was very satisfying to know that we and the Ilminster Group had joined with many others to support the  management of this  important SSSI reserve.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Naturewriting Resources and Inspiration

I was chatting to a friend about our Wildlife and Arts Workshop tomorrow. We talked about creative writing and Blogging which is close to my heart even though there is nothing very creative about my writing. However I was intrigued by her thoughts on the subject and references to Nature Writing in this format. I have very hurriedly searched for such Blogs and to my amazement found some interesting examples, not all on Blogger!
One of the first to review was this offering and like some others I found it draws inspiration from Henry
Thoreau. Here is the introduction and an excellent quotation.

Nature Writing Resources and Inspiration

Nature Writing for readers and writers

Henry David Thoreau's Birthday—July 12, 1817

"My theme shall not be far-fetched. I will tell of homely everyday phenomena and adventures...What you call barrenness and poverty is to me simplicity. God could not be unkind to me if he should try. I love the winter with its imprisonment and its cold, for it compels the prisoner to try new fields and resources. I love best to have each thing in its season only, and enjoy doing without it at all other times. It is the greatest of all advantages to enjoy no advantage at all."
Henry David Thoreau in The Journal 1837-1861,
New York Review Books. Edited by Damion Searls, 2009.

Celebrate Henry David Thoreau's birthday by enjoying things seen in nature only in the summer, and by reading his journal. This new edition is inexpensive and compellingly organized for inspiration and enlightenment.

Thoreau, in his journal, says several times that people often rush to far lands when the wondrous gifts of nature are close to home, all the time. We need spend no money to experience their riches. "My themes shall not be far -fetched. I will tell of homely everyday phenomena and adventures. " In the spirit of Thoreau, Kathy Handyside shares with us the story of a common bird that brought a gift to her life: A Starling in the House.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Our next event

3RD Annual Workshop for Art and Wildlife.

Somerset Wildlife Trust , Heart of the Levels Group.
Reminder of event.
For the third year we are running our Art and Wildlife workshops on June 27th. Jenny Graham, a well known Somerset artist will help us look at the countryside and wildlife through artist’s eyes. Our challenge is to explore and capture our own artistic interpretations in drawing, photography, creative writing or some other way. Perhaps this year someone will compose music!   Eve Kerswill will again help and encourage us to put ideas onto paper through writing. 

This year Isle Abbotts Village Hall is the venue and we will follow the same programme as before. We start with an introduction , then a walk  for ideas, then practical interpretation in the Hall.  Bring a lunch,  tea and coffee provided.

We hope this workshop will continue to be a relaxed  and friendly way to try your hand at  capturing  images of nature and wildlife. If photographers can bring a laptop it will be helpful for viewing digital photos.If you received the Winter 2009 Wildlife Trust magazine you will have seen on the cover a photo taken during one of our sessions last year. I'm sure you could do better and we will submit it to the magazine editor for future use!

Isle Abbotts is a lovely and  small village surrounded by open countryside which should provide plenty of ideas for workshop activities. We are grateful to Jenny for supporting our event.

Here are the details:

Walk plus  Arts and Wildlife Workshop
Is it suitable for families ?– No special facilities for under tens will be provided.

Sunday June 27th,     10 am to 4 pm                                        

Jenny Graham, well known local artist will help  and advise us . ( Her web site is at: )

Meeting Place/Map Ref:   Isle Abbotts Village Hall.   ST 350 207

Closest Town  Ilminster

Where to Park: in road.

Is Venue Suitable for Wheelchair-User/Limited Mobility:  Restricted.

Admission fee:    £5   to cover cost of hall.    
Items which may be required:   Bring a lunch , Tea and coffee provided. Own painting materials.  Camera.

If you wish to bring along something you prepared earlier that would be most welcome.
Please confirm your attendance to us in advance to help with catering and to keep  within reasonable numbers.

Monday, June 14, 2010

BBC News - 'Green light' for global biodiversity science panel

Whats all this about! It seems that world governments have actually agreed on something ,which is a pleasant change. I assume that includes the USA?
On Friday 11th June at 10:51 local time in the South Korean port city of Busan a new international organisation was set up to monitor biodiversity and to advise governments in the same way as the IPCC has been doing for climate change.

 Read more about it here:

BBC News - 'Green light' for global biodiversity science panel

Obviously this is a Yellow Iris! I found a multitude of them in a damp gully on the north Cornwall coast last week. Beautiful. I also saw a Green Hairstreak butterfly. First time I've seen one in the countryside.

Today I received an invitation to attend a Somerset County Council Forum titled, "Post 2010. What next for biodiversity in Somerset" . That should be interesting with looming Gov cutbacks on spending.

Friday, May 28, 2010

International Year of Biodivesity : Biodiversity is Life. IUCN.

The International Union for Conservation of Nature   (IUCN)

Click here  to find out more about the IUCN and its world wide work to conserve wildlife. 
Or use this address:

And here is a video to show some of the threatened species

Conservation success stories.