Dismantling in Eastbourne

Made a brief visit to Eastbourne this morning and took these pics of changes taking place within the town.  The first is the dismantling of a fine Wheatley variety of a street elm along Southfields Road due to a large cavity within it and also that it was dying from Dutch Elm Disease (DED), note the dead twigs at the extremities of its crown.  One of the tree surgeons told me that Eastbourne is fairing reasonably well with DED.

Elm trees seem to this spring have produced a very heavy crop of seed – though very little elm seed is viable, it mainly spreading by root suckers.

The second pic is of major demolition of redundant shops along Terminus Road opposite the railway station to make way for extending the Arndale Centre.  I just hope that when it comes to the interior design, they don’t replicate the boring interior of the present mall!

April Sightings  – All and Sundry

Up until the early part of the month (including the winter), I’ve been surprised just how tolerant of people that the dozens of turnstones that wintered/rested on the beaches of St.Leonards and on the ironwork of Hastings pier are.

Moving on, a couple of days ago, many of the birds in the centre of the town flew-up and seemed uneasy for a few minutes; I scanned the skies and sure enough, a couple hundred yards away and high up, was a circling sparrowhawk.

Went for a lovely walk with a friend in the Iden area on Sunday, April 9th – that really warm day.  We walked through an area of working coppice with a beautiful display of bluebells and lesser celandine.  After refuelling, on the return leg we saw two swallows, one settled on a nearby telephone wire giving out that gorgeous trilling song as if to say, ‘well, I’m glad to be back.’  Walking along part of the banks of the Military Canal, we were treated to a short, announcing blast from a cetti’s warbler emanating from out of the bordering reeds.

Back at home, somewhere not far from the house, there seems to be a pair of goldfinches possibly nesting; lovely to sit on the steps by the front door and watch them frequently pass over with their singing, resembling a bunch of high-pitched jangling keys.

I’m now able from my window, to take an interest in the shipping passing down the Channel – ships being a subject that I’ve been fascinated by since a child.  I’m surprised by the sheer number of container ships passing by with quite a number owned by the MSC shipping company – the second largest container fleet in the world with 490 ships, four of which are the largest in the world.

The ill-fated Crystal Jewel anchored off Newhaven, after its encounter with the tanker British Aviator in fog off Beachy Head back in Sept 1961.

 

 

Return to Blogging


I’ve been rather silent on the blogging front lately –

During mid-February I went down with what I term, the ‘flu bug from hell.’  It took me a month to recover from it, I not having been that ill for probably decades.  Since October I have been in the process of purchasing a new property.  What a long drawn-out, inefficient process!  My own solicitor was brilliant but that can’t be said for the vendor’s solicitor or for a property management company involved.  Finally during March, I handed over a large amout of money and the big day arrived and so I now reside in an urban environment – something I haven’t done for some 15 years, within the metropolis of Hastings and I’m really enjoying it!  Seaside, gardening and when I find the time, new areas of countryside to explore.

The bout of illness brought about prematurely, my retirement, something I was intending to do when I moved.  Having been involved with the ponies for some 17 years, the almost 24/7 responsibility was starting to become more and more a grind and I’m not getting any younger!  I set up the Sussex Pony Grazing & Conservation Trust back in 2005 following my departure from the Sussex Downs Conservation Board.  It’s so great not to have any responsibility for livestock!  That said I am servant to my wonderful 3-legged cat who’s also having to get used to a more urban and, a more restricted life-style.

So returning to blogging…  I’m not sure how it will evolve.  I certainly want to get back to publicising and promoting environmental and wildlife issues but it’s likely there will be items from other fields.  So, watch this space…

Magpies & Crows; Pigeons & Squirrels.

After a lot going on in my life during the past month or so including a bout of ‘flu from hell,’ I am going to try to get back into blogging, with hopefully more posts of an observational nature.

Over the past couple of weeks, I have been observing a pair of magpies building their nest in the crown of a fairly large oak about 100m from my house.  But they had a problem.  The local pair of crows also thought what a good spot and hey, somebody has started the nest for us!

The magpies have persevered but with bouts of the crows landing on and around it, hounded by the clacking magpies but due to their differences in size, the magpies being wary of getting too close to the crows.  the crows appear to have now given up and as I look out the window, there is now a sizeable domed nest.

Several evening ago at about dusk, I was watching three wood pigeons foraging below bushes along the side of stream near my house.  What surprised me was that in the same small area was a grey squirrel also foraging.  I would have thought the pigeons would have been most cautious at being so close to a potential predator.

News from ‘British Wildlife,’ January 2017

Flooding.  Two reports have recently been published concerning streamlining and enhancing of the countries response to do with flooding and associated issues: these are by Prof. Dieter Helm, Chairman of the Natural Capital Committee and EFRA’s Future Flood Prevention.  they cover such issues as: natural capital systems, flood defence, remunerating landowners for ‘Payments for Ecosystem Services’ (PES), ending the current dysfunctional organisational structure in favour of a more holistic structure, building on floodplains and insurance of building liable to flooding, protection of soils.  See  http://bit.ly/2exR8kg  and  http://bit.ly/2fghJPD.

Pesticides and Bees.  Recent report written by the Uni of Sussex’s Dave Goulson and available on the Soil Association’s website at  http://bit.ly/2fSepfQ  draws a surprising conclusion.  A majority of the toxic cocktail of chemicals detected in honey and nectar from honey bee and bumblebee nests, seems to be coming via wild flowers such as poppies, hawthorn, buttercup and hogweed even when oilseed rape is in flower.

Weedkillers and Rare Plants.  A study recently completed in western France confirms previous work that herbicides on arable crops are eliminating rare arable flowers and having little bearing on the farm crop yield.  It suggests that current yields could be maintained with an approximate cut of 50% in the use of herbicides.  See  http://go.nature.com/2fSrhCy

Bats and Wind Turbines.  More work is required as to why wind turbines are killing more bats than was previously expected according to the Uni of Exeter.  Better mitigation is required and to discover wht bats are drawn to turbines.  See  http://bit.ly/2fSiwbB

New Threat to Earthworms.  An invasive flatworm which can measure up to 7cm has now been found in the UK and is also spreading on the continent.  It feeds on earthworms and land snails.  It is thought to have arrived on horticultural produce from Brazil.  the Obama worm was first discovered in 2008 on Guernsey.  See http://bit.ly/2fzw9fv

Week Ending Saturday, December 31st

On Thursday, I drove down to Seaford in the afternoon and sat in the car on the seafront for awhile. The memorable item of the day was the passage of about 100 dark-bellied brent geese flying easterly and low over the sea in two separate tight-knit formations at about 2-300m from off the busy promenade.  It was probably just a local movement as it’s far too early for them to be returning north to Siberia.  I found this both deeply symbolic and moving.

Friday, and while having breakfast, I couldn’t fail to be fascinated and enthralled by the capers of up to four grey squirrels in a large oak with an expansive crown to it a few yards beyond the garden. The way they could negotiate about this tree and the speed of their antics was almost incredible!  One came speeding down one of the main stems, actually leaping ahead at one point!  I hasten to add that i’m no great lover of grey squirrels.

Tallest Wave Ever Recorded

https://uk.yahoo.com/news/six-storey-high-wave-sets-record-says-un-160527273.html

Six-storey-high wave sets a record, says UN agency

13 December 2016.

The UN’s weather agency on Tuesday announced the highest wave on record – a behemoth that towered 19 metres (62.3 feet) above the North Atlantic. Scrutiny of data sent back by an automated buoy showed a monster wave rose at 0600 GMT on February 4, 2013 at a remote spot between Britain and Iceland, the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) said. “This is the first time we have ever measured a wave of 19 meters. It is a remarkable record,” WMO deputy chief Wenjian Zhang said in a statement. Taller than a six-storey building, the mighty wave occurred after a “very strong” cold front had barrelled through the area, producing winds up of 43.8 knots (81 kilometres, 50.4 miles per hour). The previous record height for a wave was 18.3m, notched up in December 2007, also in the North Atlantic.

Automated buoys are vital tools for oceanographers, sending back data on sea currents, temperatures and swells for seafarers, climate researchers and others. “We need high quality and extensive ocean records to help in our understanding of weather/ocean interactions,” said Zhang. “Despite the huge strides in satellite technology, the sustained observations and data records from moored and drifting buoys and ships still play a major role in this respect.” The North Atlantic, from the Grand Banks underwater plateau off Canada to south of Iceland and the west of Britain, is the world’s biggest breeding ground for giant waves. At wintertime, wind circulation and atmospheric pressure cause intense extratropical storms, often dubbed “bombs,” the WMO said. The height of a wave is defined as the distance from the crest of one wave to the trough of the next.

The UN agency occasionally reveals quirky weather-related milestones, like its September finding that an August 2012 lightning flash in France was the longest-lasting bolt ever recorded.

Which Are the Healthiest Oils to Cook With?

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-33675975?post_id=1281307675222529_1350253378327958#_=_

Which oils are best to cook with?

28 July 2015

From the section BBC Magazine

 

Choosing the right oil to cook with is a complicated business, writes Michael Mosley.

When it comes to fats and oils, we are spoiled for choice. Supermarket shelves are heaving with every conceivable option. But these days it is extremely confusing because there is so much debate about the benefits and harm that come from consuming different types of fats.

On Trust Me, I’m a Doctor we decided to look at things from a different angle by asking: “Which fats and oils are best to cook with?”

You might think it is obvious that frying with vegetable oils has to be healthier than cooking with animal fat, like lard or butter. But is it really?

To find out, we gave some Leicester residents a variety of fats and oils and asked our volunteers to use them in their everyday cooking. The volunteers were also asked to collect any leftover oil which would then be analysed.

The fats and oils they used included sunflower oil, vegetable oil, corn oil, cold pressed rapeseed oil, olive oil (refined and extra virgin), butter and goose fat.

Samples of oil and fat, after cooking, were collected and sent to Leicester School of Pharmacy at De Montfort University in Leicester, where Prof Martin Grootveld and his team ran a parallel experiment where they heated up these same oils and fats to frying temperatures.

When you are frying or cooking at a high temperature (at or close to 180C or 356F), the molecular structures of the fats and oils you are using change. They undergo what’s called oxidation – they react with oxygen in the air to form aldehydes and lipid peroxides. At room temperature something similar happens, though more slowly. When lipids go rancid they become oxidised.

Consuming or inhaling aldehydes, even in small amounts, has been linked to increased risk of heart disease and cancer. So what did Prof Grootveld’s team find?

“We found,” he says, “that the oils which were rich in polyunsaturates – the corn oil and sunflower oil – generated very high levels of aldehydes.”

I was surprised as I’d always thought of sunflower oil as being “healthy”.

“Sunflower and corn oil are fine,” Prof Grootveld says, “as long as you don’t subject them to heat, such as frying or cooking. It’s a simple chemical fact that something which is thought to be healthy for us is converted into something that is very unhealthy at standard frying temperatures.”

The olive oil and cold-pressed rapeseed oil produced far less aldehydes, as did the butter and goose fat. The reason is that these oils are richer in monounsaturated and saturated fatty acids, and these are much more stable when heated. In fact, saturated fats hardly undergo this oxidation reaction at all.

Prof Grootveld generally recommends olive oil for frying or cooking. “Firstly because lower levels of these toxic compounds are generated, and secondly the compounds that are formed are actually less threatening to the human body.”

His research also suggests that when it comes to cooking, frying in saturate-rich animal fats or butter may be preferable to frying in sunflower or corn oil.

“If I had a choice,” he says, “between lard and polyunsaturates, I’d use lard every time.”

Lard, despite its unhealthy reputation, is actually rich in monounsaturated fats.

Our study also threw up another surprise because Prof Grootveld’s team identified in some of the samples sent in by our volunteers a couple of new aldehydes that they had not previously seen in the oil-heating experiments.

“We’ve done some new science here,” he says with a smile on his face. “It’s a world first, I’m very, very pleased about it.”

I’m not sure that our volunteers would have been quite so thrilled to discover their cooking had managed to generate new, potentially toxic compounds.

So what is Prof Grootveld’s overall advice?

Firstly, try to do less frying, particularly at high temperature. If you are frying, minimise the amount of oil you use, and also take steps to remove the oil from the outside of the fried food, perhaps with a paper towel.

To reduce aldehyde production go for an oil or fat high in monounsaturated or saturated lipids (preferably greater than 60% for one or the other, and more than 80% for the two combined), and low in polyunsaturates (less than 20%).

He thinks the ideal “compromise” oil for cooking purposes is olive oil, “because it is about 76% monounsaturates, 14% saturates and only 10% polyunsaturates – monounsaturates and saturates are much more resistant to oxidation than polyunsaturates”.

When it comes to cooking it doesn’t seem to matter whether the olive oil is “extra virgin” or not. “The antioxidant levels present in the extra virgin products are insufficient to protect us against heat-induced oxidation.”

His final bit of advice is always keep your oils in a cupboard, out of the light, and try not to reuse them as this also leads to the accumulation of nasty side-products.

Know your fats

 

  • Polyunsaturated fatsContain two or more carbon-carbon double bonds. When eaten in as food such nuts, seeds, fish and leafy greens, they have clear health benefits. However, the benefits of consuming sunflower oil and corn oil, although rich in polyunsaturates, are much less clear.
  • Monounsaturated oilsContain just one carbon-carbon double bond. They are found in avocados, olives, olive oil, almonds and hazelnuts, and also in lard and goose fat. Olive oil, which is approximately 76% monounsaturated, is a key component in the Mediterranean diet, which has been shown to significantly reduce the risk of heart disease.
  • Saturated fatshave no double bonds between carbon atoms. Although we are encouraged to switch from eating saturated fats, particularly dairy and other fats derived from animals, the benefits of doing so are being challenged.
  • The percentages of each in the oils below varies somewhat but these values are typical
Type of oil or fat Polyunsaturated (%) Monounsaturated (%) Saturated (%)
Coconut oil 2 6 86
Butter 3 21 51
Lard 11 45 39
Goose fat 11 56 27
Olive oil 10 76 14
Rapeseed oil 28 63 7
Sesame oil 41 40 14
Corn oil 54 27 12
Sunflower oil 65 20 10

 

Song Thrush Singing

Tuesday, December 6th.

Upon getting out of bed this morning, I heard the first tentative, sweet notes of a song thrush singing amongst nearby trees.

We’ve still got to get to the shortest day but sounds of next spring have arrived!