Posts Tagged ‘England’

UK’s first ‘poo bus’

UK’s first ‘poo bus’ goes into service between Bristol and Bath

The 40-seat “Bio-Bus” runs on biomethane gas generated through the treatment of sewage and food waste

The UK’s first bus powered entirely by human and food waste has gone into service between Bristol and Bath.

The 40-seat “Bio-Bus” runs on biomethane gas generated through the treatment of sewage and food waste.

The eco-friendly vehicle can travel up to 300km (186 miles) on one tank of gas, which takes the annual waste of about five people to produce.

It is run by tour operator Bath Bus Company and will shuttle people between Bristol Airport and Bath city centre.

The biomethane gas is generated at Bristol sewage treatment works in Avonmouth, which is run by GENeco, a subsidiary of Wessex Water.

GENeco general manager Mohammed Saddiq said: “Gas-powered vehicles have an important role to play in improving air quality in UK cities but the Bio-Bus goes further than that and is actually powered by people living in the local area, including quite possibly those on the bus itself.”

  • A single passenger’s annual food and sewage waste would fuel the Bio-Bus for 37 miles (60km)
  • Its combustion engine is similar in design to diesel equivalents in conventional buses
  • Compressed gas is stored in dome-like tanks on the roof of the Bio-Bus
  • The gas is generated through anaerobic digestion – where oxygen starved bacteria breaks down biodegradable material to produce methane-rich biogas
  • To power a vehicle, the biogas undergoes “upgrading”, where carbon dioxide is removed and propane added
  • Impurities are removed to produce virtually odour free emissions
  • Compared to conventional diesel vehicles, up to 30% less carbon dioxide is emitted

Source: BBCNews Read more

Nature Ramble

Sometimes Nature Ramble looks at things other than animals and birds. Today we’re looking at people, bird watchers and their behaviour as well as their quarry, in particular.

The Great Knot

Bird-watchers flock to Breydon Water to see great knot

Thousands of twitchers have tried to spot the great knot on Breydon Water

Hundreds of bird-watchers have flocked to the Norfolk coast in the hope of catching a rare glimpse of a migratory great knot in Britain.

The elusive wading bird, more at home on the Australian coast, has only been seen in the UK on three occasions since 1989, experts said.

Brian Egan, from the Norwich-based Rare Bird Alert, said the “enigmatic bird” was “exciting for many people to see”.

It was first spotted on Breydon Water, near Great Yarmouth, on Sunday evening.

Great knot breed in a tundra habitat in Siberia and migrate as far as the Australian coast,” said Mr Egan.

The great knot (Calidris tenuirostris)

  • Estimated worldwide population of 380,000
  • Classified as “vulnerable” by BirdLife International due to declining numbers
  • Species first spotted in the UK in Shetland in 1989, when the bird stayed for just a day
  • Then seen in Cleveland in 1996, when it earned the name “Great Dot”, something which has become part of birding folklore
  • Last spotted in the UK in Lancashire in 2004

Sources: Rare Bird Alert/BirdLife International

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“Where this bird has come from is difficult to say for sure, but it’s likely to have been on the Asian coast and has got its route drastically wrong.

“It was around for 24 days, but was mostly seen from a very long distance so it became known as the ‘Great Dot’. Now whenever people speak of great knots in Britain, Great Dot gets a mention and at times the bird on Breydon Water has lived up to this.”

Source: BBCNews Read more, see more photos

Nature Ramble

When one thinks of orchids, usually one thinks of exotic climes, damp rainforests and the like.

One does not usually associate England with orchids.

Orchids hidden in a chalk pit

Barton Hills, Bedfordshire: In the thyme-scented bowl of an old chalk pit, we were overwhelmed by abundance

A twayblade orchid: ‘The flower holds an exquisite detail.’ Photograph: Sarah Niemann

A great green tide had advanced partway up these Chiltern Hills, low trees and bushes stealing up from the valley floor to claim the downland slopes as their own. Along the upper boundary of this creeping copse was a strandline of fresh hawthorn sprigs. Leafless, gnarled, sun-bleached stumps looking like planted driftwood were evidence of battles fought every winter to stem the tide and hold back natural succession.

On an early summer’s day, the war looked well worth fighting. Though the hills appeared green from far away, close to, the grass was full of colour. There were yellow rosettes of rock rose pressed down on the turf, sun-bright beds of horseshoe vetch and purple patches of milkwort. There were many ghosts of flowers, too – the frilly seed clocks of pasque flowers, a plant that dares to combine yellow and purple in a single bloom.

In a gully sheltered from the wind, inconsequential flickering shapes could be pinned down during brief rests with binoculars. A brown argus butterfly showed a fringe of startled orange spots. A dingy skipper revealed itself as anything but, wings fizzing with tawny streaks and flashes a whiter shade of grey.

In the thyme-scented bowl of an old chalk pit we were overwhelmed by abundance. Here were orchids showing their flowering spikes in a spectrum that ranged from white through pink to mauve. We stopped for a break, sitting carefully to make sure we crushed nothing, and then realised there were other orchids around our ankles, under our bent knees, between our stretched fingers. The invisible orchids were twayblades, named for the pair of broad oval leaves (the twayblades) at their base. These dowdy plants lack the colourful showiness of their cousins, for they only bloom green, but the flower holds an exquisite detail. I looked down to see each floret in the shape of a cherubic angel raising its tiny wings to heaven.

Source: The Guardian

Here’s another view:


The Common Twayblade Neottia ovata

An individual flower

An individual flower

Nature Ramble

This week, something I have never considered.

So strange, in fact, that I marked it for a Nature Ramble the moment I read it.

More than 700 seals counted in Thames Estuary

Conservationists and volunteers record 708 grey and harbour seals in the first count carried out by air, land and water

Harbour seals near Whitstable, Kent. Photograph: Gareth Fuller/PA

More than 700 seals have been spotted in the Thames Estuary in the first ever count carried out by air, land and water.

Conservationists and volunteers recorded 708 grey and harbour seals along the Thames in a survey stretching up the estuary to Tilbury, the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) said.

The survey involved recording seals spotted from boats, from the air or by teams on the ground investigating small creeks and rivers, with the GPS co-ordinates of sightings noted.

The aerial survey enabled researchers to count seals on the outer sandbanks of the estuary where colonies of up to 120 seals were recorded in remote and undisturbed spots away from people and boats.

Boats were used for surveying areas of the Medway and Swale estuaries, while researchers on foot were able to get to spots the boats could not reach.

It is the first such complete assessment of the seals in the Thames following a boat survey by ZSL last year.

The survey was timed to coincide with the annual seal moult, when harbour seals shuffle onto sandbanks to shed their coats and grow a new layer in time for the winter, making them easier to spot.

The scientists estimate there were around 500 harbour seals and 200 of the larger grey seals, although the exact figures need to be confirmed through further analysis.

ZSL’s conservation scientist Joanna Barker said: “We knew there were a lot of seals in the Thames but 708 is pretty incredible.

“In previous results there’s been a good few hundred in the Thames, but it’s great to have a figure we can use as a baseline.”

She said the survey would be repeated in future years, enabling scientists to see if numbers were increasing, staying the same or declining.

“Now we know the numbers and where they are, it can help with conservation,” she added.

The presence of so many seals is good news for the Thames Estuary, which was declared biologically dead in the 1950s as a result of heavy pollution, but has since largely recovered.

Barker said: “It’s a really good indicator because the seals are the top predators in the marine food chain, and it shows that the marine environment is relatively good and is producing enough food for the seals to eat.”

She added: “At the moment it seems we’ve got a healthy population in the Thames.”

But she warned there had been drastic declines in numbers of harbour seals recently across Scotland, and that seal populations elsewhere could be vulnerable.

The reasons for the declines are unclear but could be down to disease, climate change, the shifting of prey species and competition with grey seals.

With the declines in Scotland, the Thames’ harbour seals are a more important part of the overall European population, Barker said.

The ZSL study will produce the first complete count of harbour seals in the Thames and south east coast, which will help scientists accurately monitor the species to better understand and protect them, Barker said.

In addition to the survey, ZSL also runs a reporting scheme for members of the public who spot seals and other marine mammals in the Thames. Sightings have been recorded at Richmond, by the London Eye and at Canary Wharf.



Fancy that, seals on the River Thames. I have always associated seals with cold places, places with ice and snow. I was totally taken aback when I read this. Mind you, we get Magellan penguins in Rio de Janeiro, but we know that they are lost, forgot to get off the bus at Argentinian Patagonia.



A ‘fatberg’ in the sewers? What a waste

For much of history, the fat found in a giant ball clogging London sewers would have been put to a surprising array of uses

The fatberg – a 15-tonne lump of fat and other debris – coagulated inside a London sewer. Photograph: AP

A colossal “fatberg” of wet-wipes, sanitary products and food fat clogging a Kingston sewer threatened to send raw sewage spurting into London streets and homes in late July. Looking like some kind of B-movie monster, this 15-tonne abomination reminds us that waste is getting harder to keep underground.

But for most of history, a fatberg would have been a valuable commodity. Rather than shooting high-powered water-jets at the monster, the green solution would have been to make it into tallow candles – the chief source of light for most people before gas or electricity. Hence the job of “grease-dealer” – a person who made their living by collecting the grease of domestic kitchens, scraping it into a tub, and presently re-selling it. Once, you made energy from anything you could – including, sometimes, your pets: “My old dog Quon was killed … and baked for his grease, of which he yielded 11 pounds,” wrote a Dorset farmer in 1698.

Read more

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Nature Ramble

England this week; and a toxic pest that is invading the country.

The oak processionary moth.

Thaumetopoea processionea


On the march: The oak processionary moth – which is toxic during its caterpillar stage – is spreading out of control in England

Toxic: The caterpillar is covered with bristles that can be blown in clouds in the wind causing serious irritation to eyes, lungs and skin

Source: Daily Mail

Oak trees at risk as caterpillar peril spreads in south of England

Caterpillar of oak processionary moth, which devastates oaks and causes skin rashes, has taken hold in London

Oak processionary moth caterpillars feeding on oak leaves. Photograph: Alamy

Tree experts are urging the public to help stop the spread of a moth that devastates oak trees and whose caterpillars cause rashes on people who touch them.

The oak processionary moth (Thaumetopoea processionea) has taken hold across several south London boroughs and one site in Berkshire, after arriving in the UK on oaks imported from continental Europe to south-west London in 2006. Its caterpillars, which have been emerging from eggs since late April, not only strip whole oaks bare of leaves in large numbers, but have microscopic hairs which can be blown on the wind and are toxic to people and pets, resulting in rashes that cause serious irritation.

The Forestry Commission says it is no longer possible to eradicate the species in south-west London, where it is found in Richmond Park, Kew Gardens, and public parks. But plant health scientists hope sightings reported by the public can help avoid the species becoming so widespread in England that the fate facing the country’s ash trees from a deadly fungus – which the environment secretary, Owen Paterson, has admitted cannot be stopped, only slowed – is not repeated with the oak.






Wallasea Island Nature Reserve

Turning back the clock.

Returning land to nature is something that we rarely see these days. It’s a step in the right direction.

Wallasea Island nature reserve project construction begins

Wallasea Island

Construction work has begun on Europe’s largest man-made nature reserve, located in Essex.

Wallasea Island is being transformed from farmland into a 670-hectare (1,500-acre) wetland.

The site is using 4.5 million tonnes of earth excavated from the Crossrail project, for which a 21km (13 mile) tunnel is being bored through London.

The land will be transformed into marshes, lagoons and mudflats to attract birds and other wildlife.

The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) reserve is due to be completed by 2020, and will cost about £50m in total.

Excess earth

It is making good use of the excess earth being generated from the separate £14.8bn Crossrail project. The twin-bore tunnels being dug out to link east and west London would have seen six million tonnes of earth in need of a new home – but three-quarters of this will head to Wallasea Island via freight trains and ships to create the new reserve.

A new jetty has been constructed to allow the material to be unloaded on the island, which is nine miles (14km) north-east of Southend.

The extra earth will be used to raise the site, which is currently about 2m (7ft) below sea level.

For hundreds of years, ancient sea walls held back the tides to allow this land to be used as farmland. But in 2006, small sections of sea wall were breached to let the waters flood back in, and more will be breached from 2015 onwards.

he RSPB hopes the wetland will attract species such as the spoonbill and Kentish plover, as well as boost numbers of geese, wigeon and curlew.

It also says saltwater fish such as bass, herring and flounder should thrive in the coastal waters.

Read more

Nature Ramble

Late again, I know it’s Monday, but life goes on.

I wanted to finish my new “Sunday Nature Ramble” design for the post, somewhat egoistic I know.

But there you have it.

If you were to go on a nature ramble in England today, there’s something you won’t find.

Bombus subterraneus

Yes, they’re AWOL from the British scene.

Queen B. subterraneus – Nikki Gammans

Oh, you want to know what a Bombus subterraneus  is…

The Short-haired Bumble Bee.

They’re extinct in the British Isles.

But they’re about to make a comeback, there are efforts to import queens from Sweden to re-establish them.

“The short-haired bumblebee, Bombus subterraneus, was once widespread across the south of England, occurring as far north as Humberside, but post-1950’s its population distribution became isolated and patchy. This bee was last recorded in the UK in 1988 near to Dungeness, Kent and officially declared extinct in 2000. ” – Hymettus

So hopefully ramblers in the future will be able to find them.

But it raises the question, why did they disappear?

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