I found this while rummaging through some old files. It's a song I wrote a few years ago when I was a 'Community leader' on the Beddington Farmlands project. It was a metaphor for the destruction of Capitalism within diverse working class communities. Good times!
Sunday, 29 January 2023
Friday, 27 January 2023
Another day in Kent, this time on Sheppey with Sue looking at various investment opportunities . Did a bit of incidental birding which was pretty impressive 6 Wild Swans (presumably Bewick's) , 180 White-fronted Geese, 140+ Red-throated Diver and 2 Hen Harrier was a good haul for stopping and scanning a couple of times.
In other news met up with Zach on Wednesday at Beddington Farmlands- it's all still in limbo over there and apparently we photographed and recorded a moth species in West Papua which will be a first for I-Naturalist (if confirmed to research grade) which is quite sweet here and here . Seems like its a common species in West Papua (here) so all seems plausible.
Back at the Old Vic, the moth year list is underway (we could be here for most of this year so might as well make the most of the good mothing here) - Pale Brindled Beauty, Mottled Umber and Winter Moth attracted to the lights on the side of the house.
Also some of the Portuguese Rarities Committee reports and one paper that we contributed to have been added to mine and other committee members ResearchGate profiles so are now available to read HERE which hopefully will help them coming up in searches more easily.
Finally my gambling is getting better (probably not for long) and my playing around with investing in green transition stocks and shares (admixed with shorter term stocks) has resulted in a position where I am only 0.16% down. Which is the closest I've ever got to actually breaking even. So still loosing but not as bad.
...and even more finally (just catching up with the week's reading), seems like good news for wildlife farmers as DEFRA announces the new farm subsidies regime. It's not all the time I agree with the Guardian and George Monbiot but there seems to be a broad agreement that this is one of the advantages of Brexit. See HERE. For UK Naturalists, Brexit could have been critical , the EU Common Agricultural Policy was basically the single fundamental cause of nearly all the UK's biodiversity problems, these changes in farming policies enabled by Brexit could put the UK in a lead position to demonstrate a global model for sustainable farming. Indeed Brexit could affect the economic dominance of the UK but for anyone who has de-growth sympathies that might not be a bad thing. I always held the view that Brexit was the fastest, most dangerous and painful way to get to where we need to get to and staying in Europe was the long safer but more drawn out road. It will be very ironic if Brexit proves to be the gateway for Leftist ambitions considering how vehemently that camp opposed it. Will be good if that realisation addresses polarisation and brings people back to more central ground. Will see. All still early days.
Here's another interesting development from this week- Triodos bank have loaned £5.2 million to a new wildlife charity (a re-wildling group) who intend to pay the money back through crowd-funding. HERE . Meanwhile in Scotland another millionaire re-wilder is forking out £10 million to get in on the action HERE. The nature conservation gold rush seems to be well and truly on- just got to get in on this!
Tuesday, 24 January 2023
Friday, 20 January 2023
Thursday, 19 January 2023
I met up with local birders Ray and Nicholas Galea this morning. We visited Salina Nature Reserve and had a look for the first-winter Bonaparte's Gull that has been around since early January. It's the first record for Malta. Unfortunately no luck in finding it. We also had a look for a couple of OBPs which have been wintering but no luck with them either, although it was raining so that probably didn't help. Great to meet Ray and Nicholas and hopefully I'll see them again in the future on Corvo as it's on their bucket list to visit there.
There were a few other interesting gulls including Slender-billed, a couple of Caspian Gulls, a couple of presumed Baltic Gulls and lots of Med Gulls.
Wednesday, 18 January 2023
I had a free morning so did some more exploring. I first visited the world famous Hagar Qim and Mnajdra Neolithic temple sites, two of the numerous temples on the island which date back to 5000 BC (Check out the Netflix series Ancient Apocalypse for some dodgy but entertaining pseudoscience that features these temples)
I got a bit distracted from the archaeology as the temple ruins hosted breeding colonies of 'Maltese Sparrows'. The jury is still out on 'Maltese Sparrows', Ebird classifies them as Spanish Sparrows as does various local ornithological texts, but Birds of the World (also Cornell/Ebird) suggests that Italian Sparrows are also present on Malta and one of the most recent reviews into the matter by Massa et al (here) concluded that there is a cline-like situation between Italian and Spanish Sparrows which form a large hybrid zone from Southern Italy to Malta- with birds becoming progressively Spanish Sparrow like as you go south. Italian Sparrow itself could be an ancient hybrid (between House and Spanish Sparrow) although Massa et al suggests there is some evidence that Italian Sparrow originated as a distinct species from North Africa and expanded North (and has since become extinct from North Africa).
So it's a bit messy and if I understand correctly we could have Italian and Spanish Sparrows here which certainly hybridise or otherwise the whole lot are just a big hybrid swarm with no pure Italian or Spanish sparrows remaining or pure birds were never here and colonising birds were from hybrid populations. Considering Malta forms the boundary between Spanish Sparrows in North Africa where Italian Sparrows are not present it seems to make sense that the hybrid wave moved through Malta first so indeed there could have been both pure Italian and Spanish Sparrows here at one point and there still might be.
Anyway here's a few of them that were at the Temples- presumably these sparrows have also been here for the 5000 years the temples have. This isn't the best time of year to look at these sparrows as most of the research done on them is during the breeding season in summer plumage but most of the males were already in summer plumage and were seemingly holding territory (singing and visiting nest sites). Only males distinguishable as the females of House, Spanish and Italian are largely inseparable.
Just heard from Nicholas Galea that 'pure' Spanish Sparrows do occur in Malta on migration in March and October which adds another fascinating layer to this situation.
Update 190123- see comment below for an even bigger twist to the plot. Pre-print on paper referred to in comment here. According to this work the Maltese Sparrows are indeed a population of Italian Sparrows and are cited as being an example of where hybridisation is a pervasive evolutionary force that generates new species. If I understand the paper correctly Italian Sparrows are indeed an ancient hybrid of House and Spanish Sparrow (formed when House Sparrows colonised the Mediterranean) and in Malta they just have a bit more Spanish Sparrow genes in them but are still a 'stable species unit' aligned with other populations of Italian Sparrows.
Tuesday, 17 January 2023
I'm in Malta at the moment on a 'business' trip. This was supposed to be part of our five year investment plan to save up a million quid to buy a private nature reserve/small holding but since the sad passing of Holly's dad this xmas we will probably have to move out of our 'commune' (The Old Vic) because of affordability reasons so I actually don't know what the hell is going on (until after probate). Anyway the wheels are already in motion over here and we are building a new flat on top of a flat that we already own in partnership with a neighbour and local developer in order to double our equity and have a new rental income stream.
So my first work meeting is tomorrow so I had a free day today. Malta is an island of two halves- an eastern over-developed, mass tourism, cruise ship, over-crowded and congested real life matrix-like hell half and a western Mediterranean hidden natural gem half. I did a bit of orientation today and visited areas I've never been to before (I've been to Malta many times as my Mum is from here but this is the first time on my own to do as I please). I started off in the north of the island over looking Comino and Gozo, popped into Ghadira nature reserve quickly and then spent a bit of time at Malta's main national park , Majjistral, mainly an area of Mediterranean Garigue (pronounced gari-goo) habitat. I then explored the escarpments around the Victoria lines before heading back south to my base in Marsascala and spent the late afternoon at Delimara. No point in sharing the Ebird lists as there really aren't that many birds in Malta this time of year but today's highlights included a couple of Greater Flamingos at Ghadira, a Great Cormorant off the Delimara, a few Blue Rock Thrushes, Black Reds, Sardinian Warblers and Zitting Cisticolas.
There are no endemic birds on Malta but there are several endemic plants (including endemic Pyramidal and Spider Orchids) and there is also Maltese Wall Lizard and this is the only place in Europe to see Algerian Whipsnake. There are also good numbers of Mediterranean Chameleons and other decent herps like Western Whipsnake (Black morphs), Cat Snake and Leopard Snake and even a few Terrapin exotics and Painted Frogs. However I'm here at the wrong time of year to see any of that.