Tag Archives: Environment

Mystery sticky substance back to pollute birds

Staff at the RSPCA West Hatch Wildlife Centre wash a guillemot covered in a unknown pollutant

More than 30 guillemots have been rescued after being washed up on beaches across the south coast of England covered in a sticky substance.

The birds were collected from beaches stretching from Mevagissey in Cornwall to Plymouth and Whitsand Bay. They were affected by what appears to be same sticky substance that harmed their colonies two months ago.

Most of the birds were transported to the RSPCA West Hatch wildlife centre in Taunton. “Five birds transferred to West Hatch last night were in an extremely poor condition and were put to sleep to end their suffering,” said a spokesperson for the charity. “There is still no indication whether this is a new pollution incident or not.”

In February, scores of sea birds were injured and hundreds more killed by the pollutant, which affected a 200-mile stretch of coastline. About 300 birds, mostly guillemots, were treated at the West Hatch centre.

Experts at Plymouth University found the mystery substance was almost certain to be polyisobutene, an oil additive known as PIB, which has a chemical mixture ranging from oils to solids. But the Maritime and Coastguard Agency said it was unable to trace the source of the spill and confirmed it has closed the investigation.

Staff at West Hatch first tried to clean the birds with normal soapy water, which was not successful in removing the sticky substance, but eventually had more success with margarine.

Freezing weather endangers British wildlife

Hedgehog MAIN_0

Britain’s long cold spell is threatening ever greater numbers of animals, birds and insects. The length of the current cold spell is unprecedented, with temperatures are unlikely to return to their average level until the end of April. By that time, a great deal of harm could have been done to the nation’s wildlife.

A report in The Observer warns that the freezing weather is particularly affecting creatures that are already struggling to survive the loss of their habitats and changes in climate, including:

  • Hedgehogs that are still hibernating. “The weather is not yet warm enough to wake them,” said Fay Vass, Chief Executive of the Hedgehog Preservation Society. “Usually they would be up and about by now. The problem is that the longer a hedgehog remained asleep, the weaker it gets and the less energy it has to restore itself to wakefulness. In general, the longer the cold weather lasts, the greater the number of animals that will not wake up at all. Hedgehogs that have already woken up are having a hard time finding any food.
  • Seabirds along the east coast are also badly affected, struggling to catch fish in the current stormy conditions. Puffins, guillemots, razorbills, cormorants and gulls are all affected.
  • Owls and small birds, such as goldcrests, long-tailed tits and wrens, which mainly feed on small insects, are finding the current cold weather very tricky.
  • Frogs have spawned only for their ponds to have frozen over, while many plants and insects are emerging late, which has a knock-on effect on species that feed on them.
  • Butterflies wake-up in April and, if it is still freezing, that could have very serious consequences for their ability to get food.

The RSPB says everyone can help by making sure their bird feeders are regularly topped up, and The Hedgehog Preservation Society recommends that nature lovers leave plentiful water supplies and food, either meaty cat or dog meals or specialist hedgehog food.

Plastic waste linked with UK shops kills whale

National Geographic

Pic: National Geographic

There was some sad news today when it was reported that a dead sperm whale washed up on the southern Spanish coast had swallowed 17kg of plastic waste dumped into the sea by farmers tending greenhouses that produce vegetables for British supermarkets.

The 4.5 tonne whale had swallowed 59 different bits of plastic – most of it thick transparent sheeting used to build greenhouses in southern Almeria and Granada, reported The Guardian. The plastic had eventually blocked the animal’s stomach and killed it, according to researchers from Doñana national park research centre in Andalusia.

In all the whale’s stomach contained two dozen pieces of transparent plastic, some plastic bags, nine metres of rope, two stretches of hosepipe, two small flower pots and a plastic spray canister. All were typical of the Almeria greenhouses where plants are grown in beds of perlite stones and drip-fed chemical fertilisers.  Tesco, Waitrose and Sainsbury’s are all valued customers.

Environmentalists complain that local riverbeds are often awash with plastic detritus and  some ends up in the sea. “The problem of degraded plastics that are no longer recyclable still remains,” said Renaud de Stephanis, lead researcher at Doñana. “These animals feed in waters near an area completely flooded by the greenhouse industry, making them vulnerable to its waste products if adequate treatment of this industry’s debris is not in place.”

The news came just two days after British actor Jeremy Irons told a conference that people must overhaul their habits of “unadulterated consumerism” if the EU is to curb its huge waste problem.

The European Commission hosted the conference in Brussels  to announce the publication  of the EU’s green paper on plastic waste. It aims to launch discussions about how to make plastic products more sustainable throughout their life cycle and reduce the impact of plastic discards on the environment.

“We have time for things we think are important,” said Irons. “If people were made aware of the follow on [of waste disposal]… Unadulterated consumerism will not work. Now it is really time to think. The old model, especially in this part of the world, hasn’t worked well.”

Not your everyday station buskers..

Alex Moorehead's Photography Blog

March 1st 2013 marked the beginning of the 3 week ‘tiger tracks’ programme at St Pancras International station in London. The idea of the event being to help raise awareness of tigers in the wild and steps that everyone can take to help keep them from future extinction.
To kick the event off on the stage in the Grand Terrace, we’re none other than Legendary guitarist and song writer Brian May and West End star Kerry Ellis. It started at 6pm and was a free 30 minute piece for anyone in the station to see.
I managed to catch the end of a quick rehearsal about an hour before, so stayed around for 6pm too. Below are some of the images I took at the event.

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Campaigners take fish fight to Westminster

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Pic by PA

TV chef Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall led a march to Westminster on Monday to urge the Government to do more to protect UK seas.

He was accompanied by hundreds of supporters, many in fish-related fancy dress, waving banners and placards that urged ministers  to increase the number of marine conservation areas to give badly damaged habitats and depleted fish stocks a chance to recover.

The march gathered outside the Houses of Parliament, calling for the creation of 127 marine conservation areas. The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs has so far planned to create 31 sites by the end of this year, but the celebrity chef warns this is not enough.

“This is the sort of opportunity that may not come again,” he says. “We might not have such a vital and appropriate time frame as we’ve got right now to make real changes. If we leave it too much later, too much damage will have been done. It will be hard for a lot of the areas to recover.”

Waitrose puts Shell partnership on ice

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Waitrose has suspended plans to expand its partnership with the Arctic oil drillers Shell, after 12 days of  intense campaigning by Greenpeace.

The UK supermarket had been considering opening new shops in Shell petrol stations across the country, but Waitrose managing director Mark Price has confirmed that these plans have been put on ice until after 2013. The supermarket has also declared its support for the creation of an Arctic sanctuary, a move that would help protect endangered species, such as the polar bear, Arctic fox and narwal, by making the polar region off limits to oil drillers like Shell.

The announcement was made after nearly 40,000 people signed a Greenpeace petition urging Waitrose to break off the partnership with Shell. Activists also sent emails, posted hundreds of messages on Facebook, and staged demonstrations in Waitrose stores, including the appearance of  a life-size polar bear in Islington.

Greenpeace, which has worked with Waitrose to develop its sustainable fishing policies, said it was “shocked” that the retailer, which prides itself on its environmental initiatives, would link itself to Shell. This summer Shell tried, and failed, to drill for oil in the Arctic, after a catalogue of disasters which included breaking the oil spill response equipment during testing.

You can support Greenpeace’s campaign to save the Arctic by visiting http://www.savethearctic.org

National Tree Week 2012

It’s National Tree Week and communities all over the country are being encouraged to celebrate the winter tree planting season by getting involved and doing something for the environment.

Every year, upward of half a million adults and children take part in thousands of events across the UK, arranged by The Tree Council‘s member organisations, many of its 8,000 volunteer tree wardens, local community groups and schools.

Most events involve tree planting, but many also use other ways of raising tree awareness such as woodland walks, tree identification tours, workshops, talks, tree surveys as well as Wood Fairs with woodturning demonstrations and storytelling. Many local authorities also give out free tree packs to those who wished to plant their own.

Launched in 1975, as a response to Dutch Elm Disease, the national week takes on special significance in 2012 because of the rapid spread of ash dieback, which is affecting increasing numbers of our ash trees.

The Tree Council’s Director-General, Pauline Black, said: “We couldn’t have foreseen that we’d be faced with the losses of ash dieback just as we go in to National Tree Week. But this seems a timely moment to ask the public to think carefully about what will happen to their view across the countryside and in their towns, and what they will do to restore it for future generations. Anyone with land of their own, whether it be a garden, woodland or field, can make a difference to their view by adding a tree.”