Duke of Wellington

Old Hooknose passed by this way a few times.  The Duke of Wellington is said to have planted Elms in the city of pomegranates and there are certainly lots of Elms to be seen here in Granada.

When I see an Elm I often think “What’s that? I’m sure I know that tree.’ which, I guess, says something about the status of this once abundant hedgerow tree in the west of England where I grew up (although, I am still growing up).

The virulent form of Dutch elm disease (it seems slightly unfair to name a disease after a nation whose scientists did important and useful research) arrived in the UK in 1967 and I better remember the landscape dotted with dead and dying trees than how it looked before the disease arrived.

But here in Granada, looking up at the Alhambra, there are Moroccan Orange Tip butterflies, Crag Martins and also lots of Elms apparently unaffected by disease.


Giving up lead ammo – an American hunter writes…

I’m not sure why this type of thing is not commoner in the UK – try reading this article by a hunter from the USA.


Education U-turn

By Ramblersen – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=17276375

The government has just realised that teaching anything, including grandmothers to suck eggs, is counter-productive. All attempts to up-skill the English workforce are doomed as people never are inspired by what they are taught in school.

No-one has ever been inspired to read or write by English classes and no scientist has ever got the bug by doing some simple experiments in the laboratory.

In a cunning plan to reduce further the wildlife-literacy of the UK population the Westminster government is seriously considering making natural history a taught subject at school.

A Department of Lack of Education (DoLE) spokesperson said ‘We have shown that this government hates nature apart from Pheasants and Red Grouse and our next move to turn off the population from the natural world is to introduce a GCSE in Natural History.’.

Do you know? I think this might backfire – if you agree then click here.


Dolphins and seabirds

Andy Gilbert of ORCA

It used to be the case that a ferry trip was relaxing because there was not much to do except eat, drink, sleep and read a book.  These days, we know that there is wildlife out there to be seen and missed which changes the game completely.

The first person I came across as I boarded the ferry in Portsmouth was Andy Gilbert of Orca who said he’d be starting to look for cetaceans at 6am the next morning.  There went my lie in!

I joined Andy at around 06:35 and stayed watching until around 09:00.  I wouldn’t normally count Osprey as a seabird but there was one far out at sea, heading north, somewhere in the Bay of Biscay, and that was the best bird of the watch.

Through the day a band of us kept our watch and saw a few Common Dolphins (which aren’t a common sight in Northants so I was very pleased to see them) and a smattering of Gannets, Bonxies, Fulmar and Manx Shearwaters.  The dolphins we saw delighted all who saw them from kids to grandads and from those who had spent hours looking to those who happened to be passing by as we pointed them out.  You can’t beat a good dolphin – and anyway, you shouldn’t as they are protected.

It wasn’t a mind-numbingly good crossing for cetaceans but whale watching is like many other forms of nature watching – you put in the hours and eventually reap the rewards. Anyway, it was fun.  I’m looking forward to the return crossing next week.

And our data will go into the Orca database and form a useful part of the picture.  This report, The State of European Cetaceans, shows what can be achieved by proper collection and collation of ferry-based observations.

So when I re-cross the Bay of Biscay next week I’ll be hoping for Basking Sharks, Fin Whales, Cuvier’s Beaked Whales and more.  We’ll see.


Sunday book review – Foxes Unearthed by Lucy Jones

I enjoyed reading this book (which is now out in paperback).

This book is about Foxes: hunted Foxes, urban Foxes, hen-eating Foxes, Foxes in literature and country lore. Foxes in our heads and in our hearts. It’s a well-written largely affectionate but not sentimental look at Foxes from lots of angles and it’s a very good read.

It reminded me of what I always thought to be a strange contrast between the conversations I would sometimes have at Game Fairs (well, I was mostly expected to listen rather than discuss) when I was told how verminous the Fox was and that they had to be killed for their own sakes, for the sake of wildlife and to protect the very fabric of rural society, and the huge numbers of prints of drawings and paintings of wily old Renard, dressed as a country gentleman which were on sale at the same event and presumably sometimes found their way into the houses of the spluttering countrymen who were telling me what was what.  We should all read this book to see Foxes from different angles and to have some myths dispelled.

I rarely see Foxes – I wish I did.  When I do see them it is more often walking rather confidently down a London street as I head back to my bed for the night than out in the countryside.  I don’t recall ever seeing a Fox in my street or even in my small rural town in over 30 years of living here.

Foxes Unearthed: a story of love and loathing in modern Britain by Lucy Jones is published by Elliott & Thompson.