There are lots of gulls on Knutsford’s Moor at the moment, almost all black-headed gulls, as on the featured image. Then there is a single larger gull, which stands out from the rest, does its own thing, and is treated with some suspicion by them. It is not one of the gang.
WordPress stats give the top 5 most viewed posts in 2020. This appears to be a strange selection, until you realise that mostly these will be hits from search engines, of subjects not widely covered on the web.
The ‘most liked’ top 5 covers likes over the lifetime of this blog. What most surprised me was the top one, a recent post on psychology and astrology models – which is somewhat peripheral to the main thrusts of this blog.
Towards sundown in winter Tatton Park becomes a place of magic, with wonderful images of sky, silhouettes of trees and the lakes. The recent snow and ice on the lake gave an added bonus this New Year’s Eve.
I couldn’t decide which of two similar images to include, so here they are both.
Winter finally arrives in Knutsford, with a few cold days and snow. A cloudy afternoon sky briefly lights up to give a Brueghel-like image of people, dogs and snowman scattered around, before a background of lime tree silhouettes.
A couple of minutes later, the chance brightness had gone.
Looking back to March, just before transatlantic air travel became pretty impossible, we were lucky enough to get to Brazos Bend State Park. It was a delight to reacquaint with the subtle colour variations of the little blue heron.
This heron is medium-sized, much smaller than the great blue, and more blue.
The central section of Southport’s pier offers photogenic opportunities, such as this one set against a bright late afternoon December sky. Clumps of marram grass and reflections in foreground puddles complete the picture.
The view in the opposite direction (northwards) can also be of interest. Here the low sun catches the normally unremarkable buildings of Lytham St Annes on the Fylde coast, 5 miles away as the crow flies (or 34 miles by road, skirting around the Ribble estuary).
In this post, Matthew Wright gives a sober reality check on whether things are likely to get back to ‘normal’ anytime soon. The real problem is that the neoliberal so-called ‘normal’ was not working and needs a global ‘reset’ to address sustainability of our natural world and a just economic system for all people.
I write this in December 2020, as one of the most difficult years in living memory draws to a close. Globally. It’s rare that virtually the whole planet shares a crisis. Usually it’s due to war. This time, it’s a pandemic, and the whole has been buoyed on an unprecedented swirl of social media.
The result has been a sense that 2020 has been a disaster. What surprises me is the amount of material I’m seeing which suggests that, come 1 January 2021, all will come right – I mean, 2021 couldn’t possibly be a worse year than 2020 – er – could it?
Actually, history tells me that it ain’t over until it’s over. Crises of this nature don’t shut down because the calendar’s rolled into a new year. Nor do they come out of a vacuum. If we dig beneath the surface we find that ‘2020’, in all…
This view from Southport Pier has a great feeling of space. Reflections on the shallow surface water supplement the effect of the clouds themselves. No wonder this is one of my favourite places, especially towards sundown.
Heavy cloud can give good photo opportunities, when there are gaps. Here the pools of water on the beach at Southport, that gap in the cloud, and the low late afternoon December sun combine to stunning effect.
Following their previous encounter, the grey heron and the mute swan stayed around awhile at the same distance from each other, each studiously ignoring the other. This was from a vantage point further around the lake.
The twigs around provide quite a pleasing foreground.
It’s easy to ignore lichen, those vaguely mossy patches on twigs, branches, stones, walls,… Yet lit up by a low November sun they prove to be rather attractive.
Now don’t they look like some sort of vegetation? Certainly the following looks rather akin to a moss.
But they are not. Moss is a plant; lichen is not. Lichen is actually type of fungus, but one that can only exist in symbiotic relationship with algae or cyanobacteria. The algae/cynobacteria provide the lichen with photosynthetic energy, while the lichen provides a protective environment.
According to Wiki, there are over 20,000 species of lichen, covering 6-8% of the surface of the earth. How easily we ignore such an incredibly successful life form.
Branches are mostly bare now at Anderton Country Park, although the younger and more sheltered oaks and beeches still sport plenty of brown and yellow. But here in a Hawthorn hedge is a mass of colour, which on closer inspection turns out to be not haws, but some sort of Malus / Crab Apple, embedded in the hedge. A wonderful sight on a sunny day!
I seem to have come across a few black fungi recently, so tried to identify them.
This one was in grassland on a cliff in Devon in the summer, 1-2 inches across. I’m not sure about this, but it could be indigo pinkgill.
This one was on a dead birch log in the autumn in Cheshire, a few centimetres across, part of a group of varying sizes. I think this is King Alfred’s Cake fungus, so named because it looks like burnt cake. Surprisingly, it can be used as tinder.
The final one is a much larger bracket fungus (6-8 inches) in Derbyshire in the autumn, on a dead beech stump. A common name is willow bracket, but it is found on other broad leaved trees. This is another fungus that was used for kindling.
For less than a minute this grey heron and mute swan faced off on Shakerley Mere. They were perhaps in each other’s way. I managed to pull compact camera out of pocket and take this before the confrontation ended, the heron backing off. The heron seemed to be hissing at the swan, but I couldn’t capture that moment.
The limpid water gave rather good reflections of the individual birds.
I am standing on the steps of Knutsford’s new civic centre. It is ten minutes to eight in the evening, in the mid 1990s. I peer anxiously at the traffic coming from the south, the direction of the railway station at Crewe. Where is he? His lecture was due to begin at half past seven. There is a full house of nearly 200 people waiting. Each of our organising committee for these ‘Knutsford Lectures’ on ‘Visions of a New Renaissance’ is quietly panicking. How long should we wait?
A taxi appears. Thank God, it appears to contain well known environmentalist and former Green Party Leader Jonathon Porritt. He sweeps into the building without a concern; the train was delayed. He’s ready to go on immediately. Panic over!
I don’t recall much of what Jonathon said that evening, but I do recall that it was well received, and he made a major theme of people ‘dancing in the streets’, with a social healing as well as an environmental healing as part of his New Renaissance vision.
All this was very much brought to mind as I recently tuned in to catch up on a Zoom talk recently given by Jonathon in a series organised by the Scientific & Medical Network, chaired by the indefatigable David Lorimer. Unsurprisingly looking somewhat older, Jonathon was speaking on the ideas in his latest book Hope in Hell.
It was interesting to hear Jonathon’s reflections on events over his lifetime and the current world situation. I picked out just a few key points, many of which have appeared in various guises on this blog over the years:
At one time UK was a leader in addressing climate change, not now.
It is good that UK was the first country to commit to net zero emissions by 2050, but current actions do not match this ambition, e.g. far more spent on HS2 than on a green revolution. This is a sort of institutional mendacity.
There is a huge gap between what the science says on climate and the institutional response (c.f. covid situation where the gap is relatively small), despite its being an existential threat to humanity. The current incrementalism is not an adequate response.
The dominant ideology of indefinite economic growth prevents effective action on climate. Only the Green Party has challenged this dogma over the last 50 years.
The other key driver of climate change is population. Because of historic situations it is impossible to have a sensible conversation on this subject.
There have been decades of visionaries and good works that have not fundamentally changed the direction of travel. The problem is political and the answers will only come by telling the truth about climate and effectively challenging politicians to do better – active political engagement for those who can. The establishment may not like it, but Extinction Rebellion did achieve political change.
At heart, what is needed is a change from self-based thinking to humanitarian-based thinking, from head only to head and heart. [Rather contradicts the previous point – the problem is not just political, but lies in all of us.]
Jonathon is substantially right, and was right in the 1990s.
This and many other issues related to a New Renaissance are covered by the wide ranging activities of SciMed, which has embraced the Zoom age with impressive energy. It is well worth joining if you want to become more informed. They even now publish a regular newletter entitled Towards a New Renaissance.
This damp autumn has seen many fungi in Britain. These shaggy ink cap mushrooms were at Shakerley Mere, Cheshire.
These are said to be edible for just a few hours after picking, they rapidly turn black (hence ‘ink cap’) and decompose. According to Wikipedia they “can sometimes be confused with the magpie ink cap which is poisonous”. The usual rule applies – don’t eat wild fungi unless you know what you are doing.
Compare also the recently posted similar but prettier glistening inkcap – same family, obviously.