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Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Advertising and Wildlife

This is an interesting view on a major influence on our efforts to conserve wild life. Please read the full article in the Guardian to see George's argument in full. The title below should link to the article. Our problems in wildlife conservation are all linked to the demands put on our environment by our human demands for endless development, growth and prosperity. Advertising must make it harder to find a sensible balance. George Monbiot gets to the heart of a big issue as usual. Posted: 24 Oct 2011 12:25 PM PDT Extracts. Advertising trashes our happiness and trashes the planet. And my income depends on it. By George Monbiot. Published in the Guardian 24th October 2011 We think we know who the enemies are: banks, big business, lobbyists, the politicians who exist to appease them. But somehow the sector which stitches this system of hypercapitalism together gets overlooked. I am talking about the industry whose output frames this column and pays for it: advertising. For obvious reasons, it is seldom confronted by either the newspapers or the broadcasters. Advertising claims to enhance our choice, but it offers us little choice about whether we see and hear it, and ever less choice about whether we respond to it. Since Edward Bernays began to apply the findings of his uncle Sigmund Freud, advertisers have been developing sophisticated means of overcoming our defences(3). In public they insist that if we become informed consumers and school our children in media literacy we have nothing to fear from their attempts at persuasion. In private they employ neurobiologists to find ever more ingenious methods of bypassing the conscious mind.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Tell Hicks Herpetologist extrordinary.

                                                                                                    Lace Monitor
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We had an excellent talk and presentation on Thursday on the fascinating subject of research and  field studies for the identification of rattlesnakes. Tell Hicks was the speaker who has a life time spent studying these beautiful creatures and painting them in oils. The Lace Monitor above shows the range of Tell's work..

Although Tell started his interest in snakes when he was a teenager in England he soon left home and started travelling round the world trying to learn all he could about his chosen subject. He started finding snakes in the most isolated places much of the time in the USA. Without any formal art training he was soon producing a range of fine and very detailed oil paintings of the numerous sub species of Rattlesnake.His paintings have been awarded professional recognition in recent years and are much in demand.

In an hours talk he could only touch on the subject but nevertheless the trials and tribulations of herping were very amusingly brought to life. He brought with him prints from his extensive range of work normally undertaken on commission together with caps and tee shirts all sporting his designs. It became clear that observing and studying wildlife is the same the world over and requires a lot of patience and field knowledge. Tell's work  has taken him to the dramatic Grand Canyon as well as our local  Quantocks in Somerset
He has a web site where you can see much more of his work.  Click here

Included on his home page is a well known US citizen who wished to acquire a tattoo based on Tells work. In the talk I had to clarify that the gentleman was not in fact Tell himself despite a slight resemblance.
He did end his presentation with a slide showing a beautiful English Adder which he agreed was as striking as any overseas rattlesnake.

Tell has given many talks to us in the Wildlife Trust in Somerset and elsewhere in the UK and spends a fair time in the USA so we were very pleased to get the chance to meet with him again.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Starlings roosting displays.

Just checked the Hot Line for news about the starlings.

The Starling Hotline at 07866 554142 is NOW OPEN and starlings have been gathering locally round Langport for some time now. Last year the Hotline recommended visiting during the week or at DAWN which it says is just as good. Ham Wall is said to be the current  roosting locations.

See my earlier posts on the subject.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

The Bolas spider

A friend has sent me a link. to a video clip showing the hunting habits of the Bolas Spider.
Its a good job my wife didn't open it ! Being curious about the origin of the clip I did a bit of web searching.
The clip seems to be a copy of an extract from a BBC programme in which Sir David Attenborough describes how the spider catches its prey , in this case moths.The same clip seems to be used by others but with out credit to the BBC so I prefer to use this way of showing it.
Viewing the clips posted by others means that you are shown lots of adverts.
To view the BBC clip go to this link here.
This way you don't get all the distractions. 

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Draft National Planning Policy Framework

Against the context of the NPPF  today I came across some interesting background Blogs and Web sites. Starting with a 2010 report on biodiversity:

Making Space for Nature:
A review of England’s Wildlife Sites and Ecological Network
Chaired by Professor Sir John Lawton CBE FRS
See the report here

A brief summary of the report says:

We propose that the overarching aim for England’s ecological network should be to deliver a natural environment where:
Compared to the situation in 2000, biodiversity is enhanced and the diversity, functioning and resilience of ecosystems re-established in a network of spaces for nature that can sustain these levels into the future, even given continuing environmental change and human pressures.

Prof Lawton has also been reported as saying:
Professor Sir John Lawton FRS described the coalition government’s proposed ‘dismantling of the planning system‘ as ‘truly terrifying‘ and the ‘backpedalling‘ on climate change in George Osborne’s conference speech as being ‘deeply worrying‘.

Another interesting blog is here  where Sir Johns speech to the RSPB is reported. and the same blog gives a link to the:

Planning Officers Society Final #NPPF Response

Click here for the link.
All these reports help to clarify the extent of the debate about the proposed changes.

Tomorrow , the 17th Oct is the closing date for the consultation period. I managed to send off some additional comments this afternoon!

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Botany for Botanical Artists

The detailed construction of a wild flower is well shown in this photograph taken by John Bebbington of the Yellow Archangel.

 It's a good illustration of the detail needed to be able to translate nature into a drawing or painting.
Its good to be able to give some publicity to a workshop to investigate this form of art.. Our local group of the Wildlife Trust has had the benefit of working with Dr Anne Bebbington for two years now and we wish her latest  venture every success described in outline below.

'Botany for Botanical Artists'

'Botany for Botanical Artists' is an informal course especially suitable for people with some experience of illustrating, who want to explore and enjoy the intricacies of plant structure, function and development. A successful pilot of 10 sessions was run from September 2010 – July 2011

Course tutors Anne Bebbington and Mary Brewin, together with their students, invite you to see an exhibition of their work and hear more about the course, how it might be shared more widely
and even how you could become involved in the future if you wish.

To be held at: Nature in Art, Twigworth, Gloucestershire GL2 9PA

All enquiries for this workshop should be addressed to Sue Nicholls by email at:
Please use form shown below to confirm your interest. By clicking on the form you can increase its size.

With the support of the Institue for Analytical Plant Illustration.
( )

Saturday, October 08, 2011

Wildlife Gardening.

The Somerset Wildlife Trust has an active and productive gardening section. Click here to visit their web pages.
With a bit of luck you will also be able to see some relevant photos.

I had this in mind whilst talking to a couple who run a local plant nursery. Note not a garden centre. I liked what I saw and suggested that, locally we in the Wildlife Trust, could cooperate with them in some way to encourage people to make their gardens as wildlife friendly as possible.

They have a web site and a Blog and here are a few quotes from their site.

"We are surrounded by the Somerset Levels, with flora and fauna abundant and no noise or pollution. Just the sound of nature in a relaxed and tranquil setting.

Throughout the Nursery you will find plants that originated from all corners of the world. We owe a great debt to the Plant Hunters who were willing to risk danger and disease so that we could enrich our gardens with colour, fragrance and beauty.

It makes sense to ‘buy local’ and help your environment grow: healthier and cleaner.

We strive to be environmentally friendly, by collecting rainwater from our tunnels to irrigate and mist the plants. We let the birds, insects and amphibians control pests and we carry out good plant husbandry techniques to eliminate diseases."

I hope something can come from this exchange of thoughts on an important subject.

Friday, October 07, 2011


Just received the Autumnwatch newsletter from Somerset Wildlife Trust and was pleased to see a link to a short video with local fungi expert Michael Jordan on site in our local Great Breach Wood just up the road from Somerton. We  have a a fungi foray arranged for October 30th in Beer Wood close to High Ham and this video is a good introduction to our event during which we expect  to find a large number of species of fungi. We usually get a good selection.We start the day with an hour or two in Beer Wood followed by a sandwich lunch in the local village hall and a display of our findings with identification provided by local experts.



Autumwatch in Somerset


Watch our fungi film

Autumwatch kicks off on Friday, Nov 7 so tune in to BBC2 8.30pm Fridays. To wet your appetite for all things autumnal take a look at our new fungi foray video with nationally renowned expert Michael Jordan as he explores our Great Breach Wood nature reserve.


Thursday, October 06, 2011

London Olympic Games 2012.

295 days to London Olympic Games 2012

Click for more information.

328 days to London Paralympics

328 days to go to London Paralympics

Campaign for the Protection of Rural England

There is unprecedented activity by all the major environmental groups, all saying much the same thing, all demanding the Government to think again about its planned changes to planning law.
So accepting a risk of boring my readers I am posting on this reference to the CPRE campaign. You might agree that it is of considerable interest to compare the approach adopted by the environmental groups. Its the sort of topic I could easily have come across in my Open University studies!
So here is the CPRE approach:
Click here to visit their web site.
or use this url.

Bill Bryson and friends stand up for the countryside

Led by CPRE President Bill Bryson, 16 major public figures have issued the following joint statement urging the Government to rethink changes to the planning system which threaten the countryside:

"We urge ministers to listen to the deep concerns being expressed by people across the country".

"The NPPF marks a significant relaxation of protection for the majority of our countryside — so-called “ordinary countryside”. It also moves away from a “brownfield first” approach to development that has been in place since 1995."

"In the final stages of the government's public consultation on the draft NPPF, we urge ministers to listen to the deep concerns being expressed by people across the country and make substantial changes that will protect and enhance our extraordinary countryside for generations to come." Bill Bryson President, Campaign to Protect Rural England

I like the reference to the " ordinary countryside"  which happens to fit nicely with views expressed so vividly by Richard Maybe in his books "Nature Cure" and "The Unofficial Countryside" .

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Planning reforms in England

As the subject is so important for the future of the natural environment I'm sharing my letter to my MP.
For more background click here:

David Heath MP
House of Commons
London    SW1A 0AA

October 5th 2011

Dear Mr Heath,

I hope you will be able to add my voice to the many others expressing concern about the headlong rush to make damaging changes to our planning laws. Over sixty odd years I’ve seen the pressures on the natural environment grow. Recent progress in creating some protection now appears to be stripped away simply to make life easier for developers. 

I’m using advice from the Wildlife Trusts to seek your help in influencing the Government’s reforms to planning in England. I’m also drawing on my involvement in the conservation of a four acre Local Wildlife Site here in Curry Rivel.

The planning system is vital for securing the long term public interest.  However, I am concerned that the Government’s draft National Planning Policy Framework does not include enough protection for the natural environment and gives too much weight to economic growth. 

I strongly believe the Government needs to make the following changes to its planning policy:
·         Re-instate the importance of the natural environment in national planning policy;

·         Require councils to plan for nature’s recovery in their local area as well as new homes and other development;

·         Give specific planning protection to 40,000 Local Wildlife Sites across England; otherwise these important places for wildlife will be under threat.
I hope you will help change Government policy on this vital issue for the future of our country.

I look forward to hearing from you.
Yours sincerely,

David German 

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Planning reforms in England: local wildlife under threat | The Wildlife Trusts

Click here to read the Wildlife Trusts comments on the Governments planning changes.

Planning reforms in England: local wildlife under threat | The Wildlife Trusts

Somerset Wildlife Trust is doing its bit with the other county organisations to alert the public to the implications of this Government proposed change to the way our planning system works.
I think we need to be very careful about making it so much easier for planning applications to get the go ahead. Planning applications have always been heavily weighted in favour of the developers because they have the financial strength to employ professional people to present their case in the best possible light and then pay for legal help to follow it through.How can you or I stand against such power. We need to support the Wildlife Trusts on this.