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Live for today but work for everyone's tomorrow! Any views expressed here are my own and do not necessarily reflect those of any organisation/institution I am affiliated with.

Sunday, 21 February 2021

The Porpoises' Tale.

Illustration: Lucy Molleson

The conservation of harbor porpoises (Phocoena phocoena) appears to be failing in Europe. There are particular concerns about this species in the Baltic Proper, Black, and Mediterranean Seas, as well as in the Northeast Atlantic, including the Iberian population, off the Spanish and Portuguese coasts. The Baltic Proper porpoise is “critically endangered,” with a population only in the low hundreds, and the Scientific Committee of the International Whaling Commission has repeatedly called for action to ensure its survival. In 2020, the Committee issued a series of recommendations relating to it and the Iberian population. Similarly, the Black Sea harbor porpoise, Phocoena phocoena ssp. relicta, is classified by the IUCN as endangered. Another population which may be genetically distinct is the West Greenland harbor porpoise, which is hunted without quotas or close seasons. European cetaceans and their habitats are covered by a number of international and regional conventions and agreements and, under European Union law, are “highly protected.” In practice, however, these legal protections have failed to generate effective conservation. For example, Special Areas of Conservation (SACs) are required for them and, although sites have been designated in some marine areas/countries, in the absence of appropriate management plans, SACs cannot be expected to help improve the harbor porpoise's conservation status. Compared to many other species, porpoises are relatively long-lived with low reproductive capacity and only poor public recognition. Conservation and management efforts are caught up in a complicated nexus of interactions involving a web of commitments under international conventions and agreements, European environmental laws, and European fisheries policy. 

Full story HERE



Sunday, 24 January 2021

Winter tracks

 A decent layer of snow reveals who is walking around the fields and woodlands.

First a view over the hills of Somerset after the fresh snow fall.


A medium-sized bird; perhaps a black bird.


A much larger bird - a pheasant.



Here some human 'tracks' - sledge marks on the hillside.


And finally the hoof prints of a very small deer. The shape is not distinct but there is little else that could make these regular marks. 


Wednesday, 20 January 2021

The Making of the End of Year Picture

 So, towards the end of each year since I was in my teens I have tried to make a special picture and I use this picture as a greetings card for friends and family. 

Over time this odd little ritual has moved from cartoons to something usually based on my favourite wildlife encounter from the preceding months of the year. Sometimes these pictures have just been sketches. Some have been drawn in pencil or pens but, when I have had some more time, I actually get my paints out and attempt something more serious! (Well, I think it is serious.)

This last year of the great lock downs, I was very fortunate to discover the deer living near by (described in earlier blogs), which if it had not been for my daily exercise walks I might never have seen. 

So, for the 2020 picture I knew it would have to have a roe deer focus. The background idea was provided by the golden light of a local woodland in the Autumn when the light was low, but bright, and the malingering leaves shone on the young beech trees rising from a carpet of  leaves and dark green ferns.

I decided that the deer would be based on one of the beautiful does I had 'met' and I wanted to try and catch the calm, quizzical but careful manner that she had used to watch me. I wanted her to look out of the picture but also to be at an appropriate distance from the observer. If necessary, she can get away!

These were the essential elements and in the photos below I show my work bench (the kitchen table) and how the picture came together. The medium was water colours.

First, stretch the paper and tape it wet onto the board. Next, some washes of colour as background; in particular to make sure that the blue of the sky would shine through the trees. Add the main trunks; dark shapes from which branches will flow.


Layers of details follow... twigs, leaves, ferns and a small blank space for the deer,


Finally, the doe. Her image is quite small and my thinnest brush was deployed very carefully to try to get her shape and colours, including the two distinctive white spots on her otherwise black muzzle right.(I am pretty happy that she is recognisable as a roe deer doe and she is looking out of the picture from a distance. (Her distinctive, big fluffy ears caused some problems but there is a limit to how many times you can repaint in water colours.) 

More skinny trees, more twigs and leaves and ferns and some highlighting later, the final picture emerges and the doe is fully there. She does not dominate but she is central and in the blinking of an eye she could just elegantly bounds away, as they do!

Here is the final thing.




Tuesday, 19 January 2021

Happy New Year Walks

 Firstly - sorry to be slow to extend New Year wishes. All was well, I was just busy. But I don't think that it is too late for this -



Just a few images here from walks across the Somerset countryside over the holidays.

Is it a path? Is it a stream? Well according to the local map. it seems it is both!


Here some linnets - a flock of forty or so that have taken up residence in the fields close to where I live. This is a UK red list species.

The low winter light can be very pretty.


And something more unexpected - a cormorant out in the countryside but he is close to a significant river and a small lake.










The fox was out on New Year's Day and took a good hard look before running off. 



Sunday, 29 November 2020

Lovely Little Linnets

I was wondering, and to be honest quietly hoping, that my winter walks into the edge of the Somerset countryside would bring more revelations from nature during the ongoing pandemic. 

Despite the first lock-down, and the fear of the unknown implications of the plague that still enwraps the planet, Spring brought a series of small blessings (many of which I have shared here): the baby badgers, the unexpected roe-deer, the butterflies and beetles and many interesting plants and birds.

My expectations for autumn and winter are lower, but I have certainly relished the changing colours in the trees and little local woodlands, especially where there are mighty beeches and along the canal, where low November light brought beautiful fiery reflections.

And now I find a new species! Attracted by their gentle twittering song, I recognised something new, a small flock (maybe forty or so) of finches; small brown birds that favour an old ash tree along the narrow margin of an unworked field. These proved to be linnets, Linaria cannabina, and are on the UK's Red List, having suffered a calamitous population crash. 

I hope they will do well here in the fields just beyond my home. Here are some images of them.









Sunday, 8 November 2020

November - reasons to be cheerful!

 The lock-down in England has resumed, the temperature is falling, the frost has returned  and November has rolled in. 

Reasons to be cheerful?

Young swans a calling!

Handsome well-loved canal boat homes!

Wild flowers still blooming in November!

Surprise garden visitors! (The sparrowhawk again.)

Cheeky starlings!

Equally cheeky squirrels!


Have I mentioned the flowers still in bloom?

The golden beech trees along the canal!

Trees!

Discovering new trees!

And sunsets!

Lovely sunsets!




Oh and ducks.... ducks always make me smile!


Wednesday, 4 November 2020

Requiem for a dolphin

One of the best-known dolphins in the world is missing and believed dead. Fungie, the bottlenose dolphin who had lived in Dingle harbour on Ireland’s west coast since the early 1980s, rarely strayed from the harbour and therefore, sadly, death is a reasonable assumption.

In fact, Fungie had a whole dolphin watching industry built around his enduring presence....

Full article HERE.





Monday, 2 November 2020

The Halloween Badger

As is now tradition, the pumpkin heads are re-purposed as containers for a few snacks at the Badger Halloween party. 


 



And how did badger react to the pumpkins stacked up?






Friday, 16 October 2020

Canal Life October

 Just some pictures from on and around the Somerset Coal Canal on a bright Autumn day.




Dunedas Aquaduct which spans the railway and the River Avon


Dunedas Aquaduct from above.



River Avon - swollen after heavy rain