Saturday 17 February 2018

The precautionary principle...... Brexit........ and swivel eyed free trade economic illiterates in the UK government. .....I feel a rant coming on...

Back in the 1950s the near extinction of many raptor species was due to the widespread and indiscriminate use of DDT in farming. It worked it's way up the food chain from earthworms through song birds to peregrine falcons. no one had thought through the ecological implications of DDT use, it hadn't been adequately tested;  poisoning of peregrines was an unforeseen side effect of the introduction of DDT.

The precautionary principle
I have said it and written it before and I am unapologetic about saying it again, you cannot show me an environmental problem that isn't an unforeseen side effect of new technology. The link between new tech and environmental damage has long been recognised by the European Union and the , " precautionary principle" underpins environmental legislation just as it does for the testing of new drugs for human health.

Today it has been revealed how ultra right wing free trade think tanks here in the UK together with their US counterparts are lobbying for the end to the precautionary principle when the UK leaves the EU so that the lower food quality standards in the USA will be part of any new bi-lateral trade agreements. Campaign to water down food quality and environmental protection

Brexit isn't just an act of idiotic economic self-harm it is potentially a direct  danger to human health and environmental protection. Then of course there is poultry meat washed in chlorine because the processing plants are so unclean and beef packed with growth hormones. .........

Saturday 10 February 2018

Lunch with a roman god and some other stone work

The Cheviot hills with their wide horizons and old roads from holloways, through Roman military roads to more recent droving routes are wonderful walking country, these landscapes are also littered with stone artefacts from 2,000 years ago to more recent times.

Holloways pre-date the romans they are sunken paths  that tend to follow lines of least resistance between ancient settlements their surfaces worn down by centuries of travel on foot, by wheeled carts, the hooves of livestock and throughout their time by the erosive force of water. Some are so deep you can't see over the edges. They are still footpaths and rights of way in 2018.

Yesterday after a holloway and above a secondary Roman road branching off from Dere Street ( A highway from York into Scotland for the Romans) we had lunch in a rocky depression on the edge of moorland beside a stone image of Cocidius a roman warrior deity.

On the lower slopes of the moor there was a broken water trough hewn more recently from a huge block of sandstone. The rectangular block had to be quarried, dressed to about 1.5 m  x 60 cm x 60 cm then excavated and transported without power tools or a fork lift truck.

A "hogg hole " is more stonework. A hogg is a young female sheep and smaller than it's parent  Hogg holes were deliberately built into dry stone walls to allow sheep to shift themselves from one field to another. They are easily closed with a slab of stone or a hurdle.

Normally they are fairly simple structures with a flat lintel but this one is arched, a work of art really.

The Old Tracks through the Cheviots : Discovering the Archaeology of the Border Roads, David Jones with Coquetdale Community Archaeology, 2017, is available from £14.99p. There is also a walking guide in preparation.

Saturday 3 February 2018

Sea eagles, golden eagles, buzzards and a hen harrier in a twenty minute walk

Last week in a twenty minute walk to the top of the road above my house, "Raptor" the village's other wildlife photographer watched a pair of sea eagles, a pair of golden eagles ,two buzzards and a female hen harrier. It seems that Ormsaigbeg is rapidly becoming Lochaber's top eagle  watching site.

Sea eagles probably from Mull (Raptor)
The sea eagles ( cousins of the American bald eagle) are hard to miss as they are Europe's biggest eagle and fourth largest in the world. They were soaring and diving but not yet doing their aerial mating display, diving to earth with locked talons.

Golden eagles do spectacular aerial display too, diving, dropping sticks and then catching them but it's a bit early for that as egg laying for both species starts around the end of March. This pair bred here in 2017, their wing tags were clearly visible.

Golden eagle harassed by a buzzard (Raptor)
There has been a female hen harrier and a male around for some time and as we don't have grouse moors here our population is free from persecution and hopefully they will breed in 2018.

I didn't see any of this as I am in Northumberland house sitting for friends but I was once told that Northumberland has the greatest bird diversity of any county in England because of it's diverse landscapes, the coast and the Farne Islands. In one day this week I listed 21 species in, around or flying over the garden.

To verify this claim that Northumberland has the greatest diversity of breeding bird species I would have to trawl through the list for every county. I will leave it to you and then you can add a comment!