So, why is this particular play structure different to the pile of pallets your dad nailed up in the apple tree at the end of the garden? Continue reading
We like to bring you the occasional large invertebrate on this blog. And even a huge vertebrate now and then. But here’s a big insect with a story to tell. And it’s a story that hasn’t – quite – ended yet.
The Lord Howe Island Stick Insect, or Tree Lobster, Dryococelus australis, is one of the largest insect species in the world. It is a flightless phasmid that lives on trees in the isolated Lord Howe Island chain off the Australian coast. These great creatures were once common enough to be used regularly as fishing bait, but in 1918 a supply ship ran aground there and accidentally introduced the black rat. By 1920 the tree lobster was thought to be extinct, a casualty of the voracious rats which cut a swathe through the native island ecosystem. Continue reading
It has come to our attention that a ranger from the Antipodes has landed on our shores, and we suspect he has an agenda. While claiming to be ‘on holiday’ we believe he will target current and former park staff in his quest to assemble the definitive collection of park / wildlife / conservation management uniform insignia.
So our advice to rangers in the UK is to guard your sleeves closely, and beware of alluring offers to exchange agency insignia for similar items featuring exotic-looking species from southern lands (eg: Tasmanian devil). If interested in supporting this project by having your park / agency represented in the spirit of international cooperation, please contact Barry Batchelor, a ranger with Tasmania’s Parks & Wildlife Service by email at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Evicted from his office by the noisy Isle of Wight Festival today, the Ranger instead spent the day on a tour of the Osborne Estate, Queen Victoria’s island retreat, still lovingly maintained much as she left it. Just occasionally there are privileges associated with being a Ranger, and today was one of those rare moments. Although Osborne is a fantastic visit for the paying guest – highly recommended, if you’re wondering – much of the estate is not open to the public, and so this was the first time the Ranger had ever been around many of the quieter corners of this royal estate, including Queen Victoria’s own beach at Osborne Bay, one of the very few private beaches on the Solent. It was an extraordinary experience. A few images will perhaps serve to convey a little of the splendour of that isolated cove. Apologies to those who subscribe by email but if you want to see them you’re just going to have look at the webpage.
The public have no access here
Jumping spiders are, on the whole, pretty tiny things. And I say ‘pretty’ deliberately as they are amongst the cutest, funniest and most decorative of spiders. The game of ‘hide and seek’ with a passing zebra spider never grows old. But what if they were bigger? A lot bigger? They’d be irresistibly cute, surely! Well, Hyluss diardi, a south-east Asian species, is one of the biggest jumpers there is, growing up to 10mm long. And here he is:
In days gone by, we hear from time to time, people used to make their own entertainment. Indeed they did; and in 1946 a slim tome was published by Wm. A Bagley called ‘Things to make and do’. The descriptive powers of Mr Bagley set out to inspire the youth of post-war Britain to engage in such frugal but beneficial pastimes as ‘Whittling a bunch of keys’, ‘More whittling: a curious tripod’ and even ‘To create some bottled mysteries’.
Most striking to me though, in the table of contents, was the Wasp Scissors. Bagley explains the purpose of his Wasp Scissors with the following arresting scenario:
During late summer days the following comedy, or something like it, will be frequently performed at picnics, camps and other alfresco meals. A fat wasp will land on the jam pot and everyone (especially the ladies) get excited. Father, attempting to swipe the wasp with a rolled-up newspaper, knocks the milk over into the sugar. The wasp, now thoroughly alarmed, stings someone, and whilst the sting is being attended to, about a dozen other wasps get stuck in the jam. Mother thereupon scoops out the contaminated jam, and so wastes a lot.
Safe and Simple
Now, if you only had the pair of wasp scissors shown in the drawing you would not have all this bother. One little nip, and the wasp is quickly, cleanly, and humanely extinguished. You can make a pair in one evening at very little cost. They sell very well, too, among friends and neighbours, or at sales, etc.
You want to see the wasp scissors? Of course you do!
So what’s the big idea with puffer fish? Puff out, frighten off your enemy and make yourself too big to eat. It’s apparently quite a successful strategy.
But just occasionally even the best-laid plans go awry.
The worlds’s cutest spider. It’s a hard-fought contest, with the jumping spiders invariably on the podium. But I’ve got a soft spot for another family altogether, the eresids or Velvet Spiders. I think they’ve been unfairly overlooked and I’m going to see if I can redress the balance.
The UK’s only eresid is the Ladybird Spider Eresus sandaliatus, of which I have written before. I’ve never seen one, and there’s a chance I shan’t ever do so as it’s fearsomely rare in this country.
But hold on, there might be hope – both for the spiders and me. There’s now a Buglife campaign to increase the tiny population of this delightful, but very rare, animal. I recently found out that Buglife give an unusual promise “For donations over £1000 we can arrange a visit to a site for you to see the Ladybird spider in its natural habitat and experience this important conservation project first hand” So I’m starting a campaign to donate £1000 to Buglife for this wonderful spider. All donations gratefully received, if we get to £1000 I shall write, photograph and blog the visit ad nauseum. It might take a while but I intend to get there!
Here’s a story that is doing the rounds in the ‘Believe it or not’ columns of the newspapers. Some boffin is rubbing his hands delightedly, as they’ve actually persuaded the municipality of Jerusalem to commission research into a DNA testing programme… for dog poo. Yes, wardens will be able to do DNA tests on any stray turd in the street, match it to a database of registered dogs, and the convictions will roll in.
It all seems so simple, and obvious. Why isn’t every city using this wonderful new technology? Why indeed. Let’s see if we can find out. Continue reading