Category Archives: campaigns

Living Simply, Living Sustainably: Wildlife Friendly Farming and Awkward moments.

Being back in the UK over the festive season has many positives when being with family and friends but the pace of life begins to get hectic and at times bewildering. A friend of mine said that she finds when she speaks to people for goods and services it can be so much more frustrating nowadays. Hers was – have you had an accident or breakdown – for a pothole blowing a tyre. Took longer as she had gone through on breakdown and was told she would have to ring again for accident! Her cry was but I just need road side assistance.
My frustration came in a local well known supermarket. I was looking for where the muesli was. I decided to ask but the young girl didn’t really understand. This can happen in London as there are many non native speakers ( enter the awkward linguist who struggles with her Spanish). However,the young lady was very helpful and took me to a group of suited managers and asked. They didn’t seem to want to understand her attempt to say muesli so of course I chip in too. Then the reply is – We don’t sell that product here – of course, I am now exasperated as I know they have their own brand of It. I try to re pronounce it. I do this so often with my Spanish. Can I not now pronounce Muesli? I go for MEWSLI after trying MOOSLI. I then end up saying – well cereals then- . The lovely young girl takes me along and there is the big sign CEREALS next to another big sign MUESLI. So is muesli not cereal now ? Oh well, never mind. I give the young girl a brief English lesson on the origin of the word muesli and a comment that she now knows more than her managers. Here ends the Awkward Linguist part of the post and we then move onto the Awkward Environmentalist. The awkwardness is thanks to a great blogging site for wild flowers : The Awkward Botanist; A great name for a great blog.

Then I explore the endless variety of muesli products. Usually we opt for the cheapest and most simple mix but I thought to add in a granola; not a type of muesli? I am looking at the packaging for sugar content and product origin. Shopping can be so complicated now. I am not going to do product placement but the product I bought had an aim of only buying the cereals used from wildlife friendly farmers. Have tried a photograph of the packetand it does advertise the name all the way through the comments on how they help wildlife. So maybe that’s ok. If they really do. So complicated to know the whole truth but at least a company taking a step in a positive direction.
I bought it because of this. Good advertising? Responsible choices? Should we demand more of this? It was a bit on the expensive side and I remember a friend commenting on why she couldn’t afford free range eggs. For me, I couldn’t afford not to. Dare I say quite tasty and less sugar if added to bog standard MOOSLI!

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Gannets- a very British responsibility or a very Scottish responsibility. Over 50 % of gannets in the world use the British Isles and Ireland for their nesting colonies

Conservation and cooperation across human borders?  Marine reserves, Seabird reserves. Wildlife knows no boundaries.

Feature Picture by Lesley Martin
24/05/12
‘The population of gannets on the Bass Rock, off the East Lothian coast in Scotland, has reached an all time record. There are now around 150,000 birds which will increase further once this year’s chicks have hatched. The Bass Rock is the largest single gannet colony in the world and was described famously by Sir David Attenborough as ‘one of the wildlife wonders of the world’.’

We hope that on this referendum day for Scotland  whoever wins  the power  will protect the amazing range of wildlife that also has its home in and around Scotland.

On my recent visit back to the UK we  went to visit the RSPB reserve at Bempton Cliffs. Here we were able to watch at close view gannets flying, soaring by from cliff top viewing points. For me far better than taking a boat out to sea and far off rocks. Still haven’t quite recovered from my 24 hour ferry from Santander!

We learnt some interesting facts about gannets and can now possibly age them as under five years old or over.  The young are quite black and then become more speckled until when mature at 5 and ready to mate their plumage becomes brilliant white with contrasting black wing tips. Around their brain is a kind of jelly that protects against the cold of the sea and their rapid dives in to catch fish.

Another place that we saw gannets a couple of years ago was off the coast of Ireland. We were visiting our friend in Kerry and went on a boat trip to the mystical and wild Skelligs. On Skelligs Michael in May there were also plenty of puffins and other sea birds  such as Razorbills.  Two places well worth a visit for the wildness and the wild inhabitants. Photos below with thanks to Nature Watch and other wiki sources. Last one …. My iPhone…..

 

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Gannets at Bempton cliffs, Yorkshire. An RSPB reserve.

More seedy thoughts and photographic art

Some follow up photos and thoughts on  waking up the seeds at Wakehurst Place, the  Royal Botanical Millenium Seed Bank. Many of the seeds conserved so far have been UK indigenous and endangered. Some of these seeds collected are being used to restore wild flower meadows in UK.  I am pondering how to maybe use some of the wild flower seeds on the Finca. Should I offer a helping hand?  Or interfere with natures’ ways? Is too much endangered and we need carefully planned conservation of  habitats that support biodiversity. IMG_2509 The view walking down to the Millenium seed bank looks as if you are walking towards greenhouses! However the Southern roofs all have solar panels to give the power needed to conserve the seeds that are in deep freeze way down below in the vaults of the building.

Phaenocoma prolifera Cape Strawflower Banked 2006
Phaenocoma prolifera
Cape Strawflower
Banked 2006

IMG_2498 This seems all very high tech as you can watch the botanical scientists at work in the airy and light atrium.   There are also some photos and beds of seeds from the seed bank. Some of the endangered seeds from hot dry habitats are shown. These have been grown from seeds once frozen.BUT not all seeds can be preserved by deep freezing. This seems to support the case for trying to conserve habitats but in some areas this is difficult due to many human factors and I will include drought in that as it is likely that is due to man made climate change. IMG_2500 IMG_2507 Another thought that occurred to me having read a fascinating blog on orchids and their seductive nature for key pollinators is the need to conserve the pollinators too! Thanks to Pipmarks for that and the comment on previous post should link anyone interested in orchids. I will end with one of the photos that had won the photography competition on display at Wakehurst. Such detail and so complex a beastie!

Paul Harcourt Davies 1st place Wildlife in the Garden
Paul Harcourt Davies
1st place Wildlife in the Garden

Wake Up call at Wakehurst Place. Home of the Kew Gardens Millennium seed bank.

IMG_2536.JPGWakehurst Place is a large estate with a diverse range of trees from different areas of the globe. It is the country home of the Royal Botanical Gardens in Kew and there is the space for not only many trees but different botanical areas and the Millennium Seed Bank. Our visit in August gave us a glimpse of many of  the flowering plants showing off the glory of their seeds in the garden areas. This seemed quite fitting as housed  deep under some long glass barn shaped buildings is the Millennium Seed collection. This is part of the conservation work of Kew Gardens and  involves collecting as many of the rare and endangered plant seeds and preserving those that can be kept at very cold temperatures. The aim is to protect the biodiversity of plant life as habitats come more under threat. It will also ensure future research into the amazing range of plants and their properties.  The seeds I have taken photos of are in the lush gardens by streams and ponds.

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Stinking Gladwyn Iris foetidissma, S>W> Europe, N Africa

Adopt a seed and save a species is a campaign set up by Kew. It seems that four plants a day are at risk of disappearing forever. At present Kew has stored 30,000 species. More info on www.kew.org/adoptaseed

The Seed Bank is already helping with conservation and an online seed list makes 900 collections of over 450 species available to organisations. These can then help in the conservation of other species.

IMG_2556.JPGWakehurst Place also has many sculptures and art and photography exhibitions. We also enjoyed the labyrinth set up in the woods. And a finger one on the stump of one of the many trees lost in the 1987 hurricane that hit the south of England.I am determined to try a labyrinth shape in one of my fields in Spain! I must also try some more painting and sculpture. So much to do! Or just enjoy the close ups of the seeds themselves  that provide plenty of sculpture and in many forms.

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Consider the lilies: Consider the bins! A walk through the mean streets of Manchester!

imageimageConsider the lilies:  Consider the bins!

imageA walk through some Manchester streets to Whitworth park showed an interesting variety of care for the environment. In some key streets there were so many gardens with great  white lilies and other flowers, but certainly the lilies were outstanding. Unfortunately there was also a lot of litter and overflowing bins not far away.  How some people can show so much care and then so nearby there are bins that could be cleared of the rubbish shows the variety of human attitudes there are. It  is not fair on those that take a pride in their surroundings and go the extra mile to grow and water flowers.  Manchester City council has a system similar to North Lincs where the bins are only collected every other week. Well!  Well done to the London Borough of Hounslow that collects and recycles every week. Sad to say the streets here in my local area would be far worse if this was not the case.

Whitworth park was founded by Joseph Whitworth around 1890 and as an industrialist he gave the land and created a park with a boating lake for the people of the city of Manchester. How many corporations are buying prime real estate in cities and  giving it to the people who live there as a green open space ?Are the city planners allowing for more green space as the need for building more homes, bigger schools increases and developers want to gain as much profit as possible from land bought?   Are there any more benevolent capitalists like Joseph Whitworth?

imageThere are charities like the wildlife trusts that buy land for conservation of wildlife and rely on the contributions of ordinary folk.

 

 

Some of the photos show how people in Manchester do care about having gardens and alleyways with flowers, small plots of green, and support for their green spaces. Manchester City Council has recycling bins but could maybe step up to having some of those bins collected more often than twice a week!

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And the symbolism of Lilies? Well, one was Cleanliness!  From a bit of Internet trawling the biblical lilies of the field in Palestine might not have been white; possibly red.  It seems that lilies might have been a very generic term like daisies.  Maybe Jesus was referring to a wide variety of flowers from the Liliaceae family with a variety of colours.

 

So from the sacred insight to the more profane. We humans love to appropriate the world around us. If lilies are used to represent death, loss and funerals they can also be symbolic of birth and reproduction Look carefully inside the lily. White Lilies are supposed to have a pistil like a phallus and be highly erotic. This is from the Greeks who also felt the pollen symbolised fertility. No close up photos at present! Well I was asked to spice up my blog!

Some extracts from internet on Lily symbolism and myth.

Purity, modesty, virginity, majesty, it’s heavenly to be with you. The white lily is linked to Juno, the queen of the gods in Roman mythology, by the story that while nursing her son Hercules, some excess milk fell from the sky creating the group of stars we call the Milky Way, and lilies were created from what milk fell to the earth. The Easter lily is also known as the symbol of the Virgin Mary.

(I have just read  an  intriguing fictional insight into a Mary’s  grief , by Colm Tobin ‘The Testament of Mary’)

 

And from the Tarot, there are three cards which have lilies portrayed in them!  The magician one looked the closest resemblance to white lilies in the background.

I have been told my garden in Spain is surviving my absence while visiting family and friends in the UK.  Thanks to friends there! Maybe I will be back in time to see if my lilies are still in bloom. The wild part will hopefully have had some rain but from now there can be long periods of dry weather.

 

Supporting the Natural World, Donana Bird Fair, Conservation issues.

Lynx artwork at the visitor centre hosting the Birdfair.
Lynx artwork at the visitor centre hosting the Birdfair.

At present in the UK and in the rain! I had wanted to post this about a week ago and have been busy visiting friends and attending a Quaker conference on ‘Creating Peace in a Violent World’ At times the prospects of peace in terrible conflicts seems daunting but there are many ways to be actively peaceful. This might not mean a peaceful life and can be challenging when so much needs to be challenged. There also seems to be so much violence inflicted on our environment and I hope that all these newly elected MEPs will take this up rather than focus on the fine or distracting details of migrating humans. There is so much irony in the economic sense of the word’growth’ Can sustainable growth exist ?

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In Spain the SEO organise a bird fair on the outskirts of the Donana Reserve and have been celebrating 60 years of campaigning for birds and habitats. SEO would benefit from an even wider base of support within Spain but are part of Birdlife International which includes the RSPB in the UK. These organisations have to work tirelessly to defend habitats for wildlife and to look into the complex issues affecting our environment. When we visited the bird fair we were fortunate to see all the tree nesting storks in the area, flamingos swimming in the lake, birds of prey, bee eaters and a tiny siskin as we were guided around the reserve Dehesa de Abajo. The SEO have a very good website and now there are the Latin names, Spanish names and English ones!

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We also met up again with Rafa, a young and passionate naturalist who has created many books now on identifying birds in our area the Sierra Aracena and books on trails across the Sierra Morena. Later in the day we went to another part of the areas on the outskirts of Donana and saw the glossy ibis and different types of herons. We also had ourselves photographed by Natura Red with a butterfly gesture for nature. The organisation is supported by the EU and other wildlife organisations and the aim is to keep the network of wild places and habitats across the EU free from exploitation.

Donana is always under some threat and there have been pollution disasters here. However there are successes and the bird life is vibrant along with the breeding of the endangered and beautiful lynx. But there are always threats and on return to the UK there was an article in the RSPB magazine which mentioned the EU directives for nature ; Natura Red means Nature networks or web as Red is also the Spanish for the Internet /Web. Parts of Scotland were also mentioned as under threat of some form of development when these are protected spaces. An article in a Wildlife Trust magazine also tried to think outside the box and try to look at the economic benefit of keeping and extending wildlife habitats for both animals and people.

On arriving here in Humberside by the Humber Flats and estuary I read about the success of all the above organisations working with the companies involved in order to protect and develop habitats for the birds and more along this estuary.  A complex struggle to preserve or develop more suitable habitats. Every little helps but takes time and support for the smaller organisations trying to uphold wild spaces and the desperate need to create more whereas the big companies have finance and access to lawyers and a government often ready to overturn existing protection because there is a overriding ‘need’ for the development.
Below is another of the disturbing bird/man sculptures in the Dehesa de Abajo ‘s visitor centre exhibition!

 

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