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Monday, October 12, 2009

Blog covering Ranthamhore Tiger Reserve

Found a good blog: 'All About Ranthamhore Tiger Reserve'. It's run by Aditya Singh. He doesn't post all that often, but his articles are often lengthy and always very interesting. He knows the park inside-out.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Meat chickens facing crowded future - to do something about it, email Defra via the RSPCA

The RSPCA is urging the Government's Minister for Animal Welfare, Jim Fitzpatrick to reject new EU legislation which would increase the numbers of chickens allowable per square metre in British chicken farms. The Quash the Squash campaign is supported by the RSPCA, Compassion in World Farming, and the World Society for the Protection of animals.

British chicken farms are already too crowded, the minimum space required for each chicken being only a little more than the area of a typical mouse mat. The increase that the new legislation would allow is from 17 to 21 birds per square metre. Research has shown that there is a sharp increase in health problems at densities of over 15 birds per square metre.

In April this year the chef Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall and members from Compassion in World Farming protested outside the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. More pressure needs to be applied. You can read about the campaign and get an email template for a letter to Jim Fitzpatrick here.

More information:

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Raban's Ravens

Is This Odin's Bird?

Excerpt from Passage to Juneau, by Jonathan Raban:

"I awoke to voices. The VHF radio on a neighbouring boat was turned up load, and two fishermen were gossiping over the airwaves. I couldn't quite make out what they were saying in this exchange of laconic growls, punctuated by bursts of gruff laughter. Pulling my right wrist from under the bedclothes, I looked at my watch: 5:40. Magnified voices trading incomprehensible punchlines tortured me out of bed. Groggy with lost sleep, resentful of my inconsiderate neighbour, I dressed and slid the hatch cover open.

The village was blanketed in mist, the water as still and grey as sludge. No one appeared to be up on any of the boats nearby. The radio voices belonged to two ravens, perched on adjacent pilings, who continued to natter to each other, oblivious to my movements ten feet below.

Exactly as Roger Tory Peterson described, the ravens had goitre throats and Roman noses: it was impossible not to see such human-sounding birds in anthropomorphic terms. Even after realizing my mistake, I couldn't stop trying to decode their conversation. Maybe they were talking in some lost Tsimshian dialect, but they were definitely talking; and if I couldn't make sense of their vocabulary, I could clearly hear their grammar, as in Noam Chomsky's famous demonstration piece, the sentence 'Colourless green ideas sleep furiously.' Peterson, so vivid on the raven's appearance, hardly did justice to its voice: 'A croaking cr-r-ruck or prruk; also a metallic tok.' Had he listened to the Klemtu ravens, he would have heard the mordant chuckle; the tone of sly, disdainful irony; the taste for talking, like William F. Buckley, in sentences extended by multiple dependent clauses; the habit of raising rhetorical questions and immediately answering them; the Bertie Woosterish what? what?; the old-womanish tut! tut!; the chronic grumbler's repertoire of nagging complaints and self-justifications.

In the stories, the raven is cleverest of all the animals: a master of disguise, a brilliant conman and thief, a gourmand and lecher, an inveterate survivor. Among his many adventures, Raven steals the box containing daylight from an old man, gets control of the tides from the tide-woman by sticking porcupine needles in her bottom, makes the waves, has sex with a princess by pretending to be a shaman. In Swanton's version of the Tlingit Raven cycle, a great deal of what Raven does has to be printed in Latin. In some stories, Raven creates the world.

The character of the guileful Raven was grounded in the everyday habits and behaviour of the ravens that were to be seen in any village. Anecdotes about real ravens needed only a little tweaking to be transformed into the happy extravaganzas of the Raven cycle. There is a perfect continuity of theme and character between the Indian stories and those told be Lawrence Kilham, the great popular expert on Corvidae and author of The American Crow and the Common Raven. Kilham's first experience of ravens was in Iceland in 1933, when he fired at one with his 20-gauge shotgun. A single feather drifted down from the sky while the raven, 'seemingly undisturbed', continued to circle.

The raven was back sooner than I expected. Just as I looked up he took a shot at me. A large purplish splotch (the raven had been eating crowberries) landed on the front of my hat. I took it off and gazed in astonishment. One can say that it was all fortuitous. But that is not the way it seemed to me. The experience left me with a feeling that ravens, in addition to being sharp mentally, may have a sense of humour.

In Kilham's book, a raven distracts some young wolves from their kill by pretending it has a broken wing, so its mate can steal food from behind their backs. A mute swan is similarly distracted, and three ravens rob its nest. Ravens dive-bomb gorillas, for 'deviltry', and reduce them to paralysed terror. Ravens take turns tobogganing down a snowbank on their fronts. Tame ravens attempt to court and mate with their human masters.

Painting the raven as a devious trickster, comfortably able to outwit grizzly bears, killer whales, and men, the coastal Indians had to invent very little. Most of what Raven does - short of actual fornication with an actual princess - is found in Kilham, not as legend but as natural history. Like the stories of the Flood, the Raven chronicles were essentially true to the observed facts of life on the Northwest coast, even as they nudged their material into the domain of the mythical and the marvellous.

Watched, without interest, by the gossiping birds, I undid the boat from the dock and pushed off."

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Hares Doing Well in UK

Hare numbers are up by 35% since last year, according to a survey of 60 farms carried out by the Wildlife Trusts. 

Hare Today

"Farmers are leaving wide grass margins in arable fields where the grass grows long to provide shelter.

Hare numbers had fallen due to by the conversion of grassland to arable farming, changes to planting regimes and reductions in different habitats in the countryside.

The farms managed with help from farm wildlife habitat scheme Wildcare, have also been helping adults and young - known as leverets, by delaying grass cutting.
When they do cut, they start in the centre and work outwards to give the hares the best chance to escape into neighbouring fields.

Other measures include breaking up large areas of cereal crops with grassland and leaving stubble over winter to provide shelter for the animals.

John Cousins, head of agricultural policy for the Wildlife Trusts, said: 'This news - that the brown hare is flourishing on these farms - is both encouraging and rewarding evidence farmers can make a difference.'"

Friday, February 27, 2009

The Red-legged Partridge (Alectoris rufa)

Red-legged Partridge


Another species that has become naturalised to the UK, the red-legged partridge was introduced as game by Charles II. They now outnumber the UK's native Grey Partridge but there is no evidence to suggest that the red-legged partridge is responsible for the decline of the grey. Unusually, red-legged partridge can use two nests, with two sets of eggs looked after independently by the male and female.

You can now see them in much of England, particularly in the east, parts of Wales and in eastern Scotland. Populations also exist in Northern Ireland (on the east coast) and on the Isle of Man. 

Red-legged partridges are most often seen in groups in arable farmland. I often see them in central Hertfordshire along with numerous pheasant. Like the pheasant they much prefer walking to flying. They are very attractive and photogenic birds, providing good photo opportunities in groups. The two pictured above were taken in Glen Lyon, Perthshire, using a car as a hide.

More Red-legged Partridge data:

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Emperor Penguins Head for Extinction


Emperor Penguins
Originally uploaded by BrynJ
Based on predictions from climate change models, the world's Emperor Penguin population may be reduced to 600 breeding pairs by 2100.

The reduction in sea ice will affect krill and fish populations that the Emperor Penguins depend upon during their winter breeding season.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch: 24-25 January 2009

This year's RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch takes place on 24-25 January. It really helps the RSPB and only takes an hour. "Watch the birds in your garden for an hour and record the maximum number of each species you see at one time." Full details here: www.rspb.org.uk/birdwatch/about/index.asp