Archive for the ‘Nature’ Category

Red Kites In The Sunset

Red Kites have become a frequent visitor to the fields by the house, there may even be a pair nesting in the copse on the wold about half a mile away. Its 12 years since they were re-introduced to the area and they have slowly increased in number and should soon pass the 100 mark. Its a remarkable success for nature conservation that Red Kites flew over England for the first time in nearly 200 years. They are a spectacular sight and occasionally come right up to the back of the house when searching for food.

However, there are many other species that seem to have declined to very low levels or have disappeared altogether. Locally we still get lost of newts, including the Great Crested Newt, frogs, toads and bumble bees, but like most places there has been a huge decline in butterflies, song thrushes, starlings and honey bees. My childhood was spent in a post war housing estate close to open farmland and forests. Finding wild animals was easy, slow worms, snakes, lizards, field mice and dormice were a common site and were often collected as pets, much to the anger of my mother who knew we would soon get bored of our uncooperative captives and she would have to let them go free before they died of starvation or disease.

Three years ago a grass snake set up home by our pond and feasted on several goldfish. One has also been found on the compost bin on the local allotments. It was the first time I’d seen one in the wild for more than 40 years. Many of these animals are still around, but they take a considerable amount of skill to find. The return of the Red Kite is to be celebrated but there is far more work to do if we are going to secure the future of all the other species for whom the sun is slowly setting.

Money But No Strings Please

Catching up with the news of the Government’s increased stake in Lloyds TSB, I was astounded to read that the bank’s bosses were concerned at the planned level of political involvement in the bank’s activities. As a first step they have been instructed to help the country by providing £28 billion of extra mortgage and business lending over the next two years. It would seem to be a quite reasonable request in view of the level of commitment the Government has made to the bank.

The banks bosses apparently expressed the view that only they know how to run the bank and the politicians and Treasury should keep their noses out. What a bunch of plonkers. Err, who decided to buy a bankrupted bank in the first place. If they had done their due diligence properly in the first place, they would not have been bounced into a deal that has dragged them down such a long way.

At the time it was probably more about their egos than objective business decisions. Flattered at the approach from the PM they lost focus and basked in the limelight. Having now realised the mess they are in, they want the Government’s cash but not Government involvement. It would seem they still have not learnt their lesson.

Animal Magic

I have mixed views about the use of animals in the Circus. Remembering back to my youth I can recall the magic of the circus where the lion tamer, horse riders, elephants and performing dogs were a big part of each show. One circus even had a troop of lamas that seemed to naturally play along with the clowns slapstick act ensuring everyone got covered in gunge except themselves.

The last time I saw animals perform was about fifteen years ago when I took the grandson to a small circus in a nearby town. The show started with the lion tamer inside a steel cage that filled the whole ring. This put the first row of the audience just a few feet from the action. One of the Tigers made his own opinion clearly known to everyone by turning his rear to a rather noisy child and squirting pee all over him. We all laughed, the, now wet and smelly child cried.

The RSPCA object to the use of performing animals on welfare and ethical ground. I can understand such views but find it hard to relate this to all the other ways we use animals that can be more harmful. We race horses with the risk they may get injured and have to be shot. We cram chickens into dimly lit sheds, we lock up hamsters in small cages and we make pets of many exotic animals. How is all that better than the pampered life of the circus elephant that has never known any other life.

A Link In The Food Chain

The recent news of a spate of shark attacks on Sydney beaches and the story of a five year-old child being eaten by a crocodile reminded me of a question we debated at school (many years ago).

Where does man fit in the food chain?

The first reaction of many people was to say we were at the top. We are the most intelligent, the most civilized and the most successful life on the planet. However, mention the possibility of being eaten by sharks and these views start to shift as other large carnivores are mentioned. Polar bears, lions, tigers, Komodo dragons, wolves, the list is quite long and the reports of victims are not uncommon. We may not be the normal food of these animals but in unarmed combat we would come off worst almost every time.

But this was not the end of the debate. The contention was raised that we are very low down the food chain. Sitting at the top are all the microbes and fungi that cause illness, death and which will ultimately digest the human body. Next come the lice, fleas, leaches and blood sucking flies that cause great irritation and can, through introducing diseases, kill. Then we have the man-eaters such as crocodiles, bears and sharks followed by mankind. Below us are the smaller animals, fish and reptiles a few off which have become the staple food of anyone who is not a vegetarian or vegan.

But even among these smaller animals there are many that can kill humans through poisoned stings and bites, or simply by their overwhelming numbers. In fact, there are many plants and fungi that can kill humans because of their protective toxins. The outcome of the debate was the consensus that humans are truly somewhere near the bottom of the food chain.