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Monday, June 27, 2011

Local Wildlife Group Five years old!

Sent this brief report off for publication in our Somerset Wildlife Trust magazine. You can read it first here. World scoop!!   There is a 200 word limit on what we can say which is why it is so short!

The Heart of the Levels Group has just celebrated the fifth anniversary of starting our Group.

Five years into a new venture is a good point at which to look back on what we have achieved as a small group of volunteers.

Here are some of my personal highlights.

A talk by Chris Sperring accompanied by live owls was special.

Our one day workshops on Art and Wildlife and recently on Wild Flower
Photography were a great learning experience.

The setting up of our Botany Study Group with the professional help of Dr Anne Bebbington and John Bebbington.

Learning about nature has been inherent in all our activities. Starting a local Wildlife Watch Club was another big step forward.

Funds raised through our activities enable us to make a contribution to SWT Appeals and to support our Watch Club.

We submitted comments to DEFRA on Badgers and the Natural Environment.

We are currently writing a short guide to our local reserves.

Helping SWT set up a new reserves working group for the East Polden Hills is in progress.

Writing a natural history Blog on our activities and environmental issues.

Starting our local group was the best way to learn about wildlife.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Common Blue butterfly

To say this butterfly is common is often only one step away from ignoring it. So this Blog is simply paying a tribute to the evolutionary process which has resulted in a most amazing small insect. The patterning on the under side of its wing is fabulous. This particular specimen happened to come to rest in the late afternoon today on a lavender bush. It wasn't feeding and it just sat there in the late sun whilst I got my camera together . A tripod to minimise hand shake and a 90 mm Macro lens and also a remote button for extra measure. I even had time to experiment with auto, AV and auto macro. The best results with the sharpest and clearest image was definitely using the tripod and macro lens. Click on the picture to see a larger image. Can you tell which one used a 50mm standard lens and which used a macro  90 mm lens and tripod and remote control? Both images are shown with a reduced file size for faster uploading.

Image A

Image B

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Aspects of nature from the Somerset wetlands

Its definitely raining. We've been longing for rain to keep the garden growing and to encourage the orchids in our meadow for some time now. We hope it will produce a visually exciting spectacle  for visitors. Today I'm spending  time uploading some photos and revising my  "to do" list. Yesterday with the help of the family offering advice and better still some with hard work, we were able to complete the construction of a new small pond in our "wild patch"  and fill it with rain water for the first time. Its about three metres by two and 35 cm deep at one end. We emptied three water butts in doing so but this morning the rain is quickly refilling them. A small ceremony has just taken place in the rain with photographs of us adding some pond weed.

The photo's I'm showing you below were taken during a visit on 29th May to the Avalon Marshes visitor centre in Somerset. The occasion was the Avalon 24hr nature watch. Amazingly 12 hardy watchers received a certificate to confirm that they had indeed watched through the night. Owls and bats and moths at night and otters and various activities during the day.
I took a friend from Buckinghamshire along to see what was going on and we managed to do a quick tour of the Centre itself and three adjacent nature reserves. I think he was impressed by the  peace and tranquility of walks on the reserves and the extent of the organisation going in to the extensive conservation work demonstrated.
The photos are just snaps really of items of interest ( to me at least)

This is an impressive set of wood carvings to symbolise the well known local feature of the Starling display each winter as they come in thousands to roost at night.

I thought this was an odd form of Tufted Vetch ( Vicia cracca) until I got closer and then realised the stem was covered in aphids (I assume) . They were all the same colour as the flowers which were missing. Is that because they were feeding on the plant? There were plenty of plants with flowers which are very attractive.
 Natural England were playing a big part in running the 24 hour event with tractor rides around the nearby reserve.

Goats-beard, sometimes called Jack-go-to-bed-at-noon  (Tragopogon pratensia ) is really impressive growing on the banks of a Rhyne.  ( Somerset name for a  drainage ditch)

Caterpillars in large numbers may not be everyones "cup of tea" but here they show the way they start their lives as moths or butterflies. Can someone tell me which and name them ?
Benches are placed around these very quiet reserves, rarely disturbed by planes or traffic noise. Sitting watching the fish coming to the surface now and again was a very impressive and satisfying experience for my guest and myself.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

John Bebbington FRPS

I try to take photos of wildlife subjects with very mixed results but if you want to see something special try this link here.

John is Chair of the RPS Nature Group and recently gave his time to run a wildlife photographic workshop for us.

For nature watchers I can report seeing the first Marbled White on our reserve yesterday. Also saw a Hummingbird Hawk Moth  about 11 am in a local lane.

Tuesday, June 07, 2011

George Monbiot on the value of nature

George has made some interesting comments on the National Ecosystem Assessment referred to in my last post. I recommend your read the whole article in the Guardian newspaper.
Here are a few quotes to wet your appetite.
Posted: 06 Jun 2011 01:07 PM PDT
The well-intentioned dolts putting a price on nature are delivering it into the hands of business.
By George Monbiot. Published in the Guardian 7th June 2011

"Under the last government, the Department for Transport announced that it had discovered “the real value of time”. Here’s the surreal sentence in which this bombshell was dropped: “Forecast growth in the real value of time is shown in Table 3.”
Last week the Department for Environment announced the results of its National Ecosystem Assessment, a massive exercise involving 500 experts. The assessment, it tells us, establishes “the true value of nature … for the very first time.”(2) If you thought the true value of nature was the wonder and delight it invoked, you’re wrong."

"How do they calculate these values? The report tells us that the “ecosystem services” it assesses include “recreation, health and solace”, and natural spaces “in which our culture finds its roots and sense of place”"

"Cost-benefit analysis is systematically rigged in favour of business. Take, for example, the decision-making process for transport infrastructure. The last government developed an appraisal method which almost guaranteed that new roads, railways and runways would be built, regardless of the damage they might do or the paltry benefits they might deliver(8). The method costs people’s time according to how much they earn, and uses this cost to create a value for the development. So, for example, it says the market price of an hour spent travelling in a taxi is £45, but the price of an hour spent travelling by bicycle is just £17, because cyclists tend to be poorer than taxi passengers"

"Its assumptions are utterly illogical. For example, commuters are deemed to use all the time saved by a new high speed rail link to get to work earlier, rather than to live further away. Rich rail passengers are expected to do no useful work on trains, but to twiddle their thumbs and stare vacantly out of the window throughout the journey. This costing system explains why successive governments want to invest in high-speed rail rather than cycle lanes, and why multi-billion pound road schemes which cut two minutes off your journey are deemed to offer value for money(10). None of this is accidental: the cost-benefit models governments use excite intense interest from business lobbyists. Civil servants with an eye on lucrative directorships in their retirement ensure that the decision-making process is rigged in favour of over-development."

I'm not sure I agree entirely with George. The whole subject needs some thought

Saturday, June 04, 2011

Reports from the UK National Ecosystem Assessment

Before getting onto the serious stuff. Can anyone identify this butterfly. Taken on the Island of Guernsey about 2 weeks ago?

Been following up on this new report which promises to generate a great deal of comment. As you can see below there is so much interest in it that the full report is not yet available and their web site is so busy you might have difficulty seeing even the Synthesis. This report should be a very useful tool for anyone campaigning for more action to support wildlife and to deal with our headlong rush towards climate change
This will take some time to assess.

Reports from the UK National Ecosystem Assessment

Synthesis of Key Findings (6 MB)

**The UK NEA website is currently experiencing high traffic levels which is causing problems for some users wishing to download the Synthesis report and Technical Report chapters. We are aware of the problem and hoping to rectify it as soon as possible. Alternatively, a copy of the report has been made available temporarily on the Defra website:** 

Here is a video clip  about the new report: