A Driving Instructor's Blog

Nature

Silver Birch - summer 2017My article about early leaf drop in Silver Birch trees is very popular – but it has really peaked this year (2018).

My own trees started going yellow this time around in mid-June. After a lot of research, I concluded that it was due to heat stress as a result of the prolonged warm weather and low rainfall we have experienced. I know that some places have had torrential downpours, but it isn’t enough. The temperature has remained pretty much in double digits the whole time, and has been in the mid-20s and low-30s most days for almost two solid months, and with no end in sight.

I commenced deep watering right after I found it as a remedy in June, and it has worked like magic. Right now, I simply set the sprinkler going for about an hour in each of three separate locations, and I do this each night (next year, I’m going to install deep-watering spikes to help the water get deeper into the soil). I have also found a way of watering and fertilizing at the same time.

When trees are stressed as a result of high humidity and low rainfall, they can’t get enough water and begin to shut down just as they do in the Autumn. It doesn’t kill them unless it happens year after a year, but obviously you can take steps to deal with it once you notice it.

My Silver Birch in 2017One thing I have noticed with the benefit of hindsight is that the foliage on virtually every Silver Birch I have seen this year is thinner than in previous years (that’s also true for a lot of other trees I’ve seen). The leaves are actually smaller. The reason I say “hindsight” is that about a month into deep-watering and my tree has put out some significant new growth and the leaves on that new growth are much larger, and just like the photo I took last year.

Note that we have no hosepipe ban, and I wouldn’t be doing this if we did.

Once I commenced the watering, the yellowed leaves all fell over the next week or so, but no more were produced. Right now, not a single leaf has fallen in the last month at least and the whole tree is green with the aforementioned new growth. It is also producing fat catkins.

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The Access Irrigation Fertlizer DilutorLet me introduce you to my new toy – the Access Irrigation Static Dilutor.

One of the most popular posts on the blog is the one about Silver Birch Trees shedding leaves in the middle of summer as a result of nutrient deficiency in the soil. The remedy involves applying fertilizer and watering it in so the trees can get at it.

In 2018, though, another cause of premature yellowing has surfaced. The prolonged hot weather has stressed many trees, and the remedy for that is deep watering.

Ever since I found the solution to the nutrient problem I had toyed with the idea of semi-automating the fertilizer/watering process by combining the two and applying it via a sprinkler system. Indeed, I toyed to the extent that I bought a cheap Venturi mixer – which should have worked, but didn’t. I concluded that my water pressure was not sufficient to provide the necessary lift in the Venturi, because I just couldn’t get it to suck anything up. So I gave up on the idea for a year or two until 2018, when watering became such an issue in its own right.

I started Googling and many things came up, but they were all on a small scale – watering plants in greenhouses or by drip-feeders. But there was an American dilutor which apparently did exactly what I was after. You put your fertilizer in the mixer container, connected it to a tap, connected the other side to a hosepipe, and let it do the mixing before sending it down to your sprinkler or spray nozzle. The problem was availability in the UK. It came in various sizes, and the only one carried by any UK-based seller had a capacity of one pint (damned American units), which is no bloody use at all except for window boxes or greenhouses. The next size up was only available from American suppliers, so apart from the $100+ price tag, there was also the $100+ shipping fee – not to mention whatever UK Customs & Excise (who have become very sharp of late) slapped on it when it came into the country.

I was just steeling myself to order the American product, but while I was searching for the best price I accidentally came across the Access Irrigation Static Dilutor. It hadn’t come up on any of my previous searches over the last three years, and even when it did this time it hardly stood out until I followed the link and read the specification sheet and user manual. As an aside, whoever designed the Access Irrigation website decided to use images of text for product titles instead of just plain old searchable text. As a result, Google isn’t indexing them and normal search terms like  “inline fertilizer dispenser” or “fertilizer dispenser using sprinkler” don’t stand a chance.

Access Irrigation were very helpful with my pre-order questions, so I went ahead an ordered it. It came next day.

Gardena ZoomMaxx SprinklerI’ve also recently bought a new sprinkler – a Gardena ZoomMaxx. Depending on water pressure it can water over a range of between 3m and 18m, or an area between 9m² and 216m² in an almost circular pattern (though the pattern is adjustable). In my case, with a water flow rate of 7L per minute (which is classed as “low pressure”), it was able to cover an area of around 80-90m² – which is about 5 times what my old bar sprinkler could manage.

The Access Dilutor consists of a thick plastic bottle which can hold about 9L of liquid. A screw-fit head assembly consists of a Venturi unit with a choice of Hozelock or GEKA fittings (Hozelock fitted as standard, but both types supplied).

For anyone who is interested, a Venturi is so-called because of the Venturi Effect. This is where a fluid flowing through a constriction in a tube creates a pressure drop, and this can be used for various effects. I became familiar with it when I was still at school, because we used small Venturi devices connected to laboratory taps to produce a partial vacuum when filtering liquids using conical flasks. In the case of the Dilutor, water flowing from your tap goes via the Venturi and down to the sprinkler head, and the pressure drop created inside the Venturi is used to pull liquid fertilizer from the bottle and into the main water flow. There is a bit more to the device than that, though, because as the fertilizer is removed, it is replaced by clean water to keep the bottle completely full. Since the fertilizer solution is more dense than water, this clean water sits on top, so you have a distinct border between fertilizer and water. Access Irrigation says you should use food dye if your fertilizer is colourless so that you can see when it is all used up. In my case, my mixture contains chelated iron, so it is almost black. Incidentally, this is why they call it the “static” dilutor, because you mustn’t move it when you’re using it, otherwise the divided liquids get all mixed up.

Until I tried it I was sceptical, but it really does work. The Dilutor is supplied with a range of nozzles which fit on the end of the dip-tube that carries the fertilizer. This allows you to control how quickly the fertilizer is used up. In my case, since I wanted to irrigate for an hour at each of several locations, and since my water flow was 7L/min – or 420L/hour – I used the light blue nozzle corresponding to this volume of water (edit: I have since changed to the grey nozzle, which uses the fertiliser more quickly, my logic being that I want to get the fertiliser on the lawn, then make sure it is watered in properly). I was doing my first run in the dark – literally – and using a torch the border between the black solution and clean water was dramatic. It was all used up in slightly more than one hour.

Previously, and as I have pointed out in my article about summer leaf drop, I was dissolving solid ericaceous fertilizer in water (which takes a couple of hours), and using this as a concentrate in five watering cans-full each liberally spread over 10-20m² (about half an hour overall), then watered in using a bar sprinkler for about half an hour in each of five locations to get the coverage. Overall, it was maybe 8 hours involving frequent interventions by me.

Now, using a liquid version of the same ericaceous fertilizer, I can make up a full batch in the Dilutor in about three minutes, and just set the sprinkler running for an hour. Then, I make another batch, move the sprinkler, and repeat. It only takes a couple of hours now to get the same coverage – and I’m doing a lot more irrigation because of the heat stress problem this year.

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Our Silver Birch in June 2017This post has gone ballistic in 2018! Listen up, people: this year it is the hot weather and lack of water which is likely the cause of your problems.

The high temperatures combined with lack of water leads to heat stress – and yellowing or even shrivelling of leaves – in trees. I’ve written about it separately here.

The original article dealt with chlorosis and nutrient deficiency, also leading to leaf-yellowing and shedding. Whilst this is still an issue – indeed, it may even make heat stress problems more likely – it is the hot weather causing trouble right now (end-July).

The following is the original article – edited periodically since 2014 – dealing with premature leaf drop.

Back in 2014 our silver birch tree began to yellow and drop leaves mid-June! We were worried, and Googling for an answer was next to useless. Most of the technical advice was North American, and focused on the Bronze Birch Borer (a beetle that feeds on white birches), or the perils of trying to grow trees in either a desert or a swamp. Our trees had none of the beetle infestation symptoms other than leaf drop, and although the British never shut up about the bloody weather, we were not growing ours in anything other than normally-drained garden soil.

After a lot of research, and sifting out the crap, I discovered that yellowing/leaf drop can be caused by two different things. You can’t do any harm if you just apply both remedies. [Note that as of 2018, there are three things to watch for now that heat stress is also in the frame.

The problem we had was characterised by bright, canary yellow leaves – just like in Autumn – which began falling off the tree. As I said, it started in mid-June, and although the yellowing wasn’t as widespread throughout the tree as it is during Autumn proper, it was worrying all the same. I can’t honestly remember where I found this now, but somewhere in the hundreds and hundreds of forum pages and obscure “ask the expert” sites rattling on about the bloody Birch Borer I came across two ideas that made absolute sense, and which can be implemented without calling in David Attenborough and Rentokil.Fertiliser and Iron Treatments

Summer leaf-drop and leaf yellowing is caused either by a deficiency of nitrogen in the soil, or a deficiency of iron (or a combination of the two). It affects many plants – not just silver birch trees.

Nitrogen deficiency is resolved using ericaceous fertiliser (for lime-hating plants, which is what birch trees are). It is available from various manufacturers, such as Miracle-Gro, and can be bought from most decent garden centres and from many online retailers (including eBay and Amazon, where I get mine). It only costs about £5 a box, and there’s enough to manage a decent sized tree for at least half a season. You can also get liquid and slow-release varieties. (Update – take a look at my new solution to watering and fertilizing at the same time).

Normal fertiliser is no good – it has to be the ericaceous stuff – and you just dissolve it in water and spread it around the tree. Remember that the roots extend outwards quite a long way and you’ll need to cover a wide area, but concentrate on the drip-zone (the area covered by the branches). The slow-release granules of the same fertiliser are just sprinkled on the ground and watered in, and they apparently work for up to 3 months.

Leaves suffering from chlorosisLeaves that look like those in the images here are suffering from iron deficiencyknown as chlorosis.

Leaves are green because they contain chlorophyll, which is green. Simplifying the issue, chlorophyll allows plants to convert light into energy. Chlorophyll contains iron, so if there isn’t enough iron you get less chlorophyll. That’s what you can see here.

This problem is also easily dealt with using sequestered (or chelated) iron, such as Maxicrop, shown above. It comes as a liquid, and you can mix it with your fertiliser and water it in all in one go.

Close-up of leaves suffering from chlorosisAny soil nutrient deficiency may also lead to new leaves being small and misshapen, instead of the classic Birch leaf shape. Some of ours were like that in 2014.

In our case, after a single application of fertiliser treatment in 2014, leaf drop stopped almost immediately once the already-dead leaves had fallen. The tree even threw out some catkins, which had been absent up until then. In 2015, I started feeding every few weeks from March with both fertiliser and iron and we had no leaf drop at all. In 2016, it was the same, with very fat catkins hanging from the branches, along with quite significant new growth. In May 2017 our tree looked like the photo at the top of this article, and here’s a close-up of the leaves from that year. Does that look healthy, or what?

Close-up of our tree's leaves in June 2017An additional treatment for the longer term is to water-in iron (ferrous) sulphate periodically. This replaces iron in the soil, too, but it also acidifies the ground over time, which is good for ericaceous plants. It’s also very good for your lawn – iron sulphate is a moss-killer and a grass-greener (it’s sold for these purposes).

You have to bear in mind that when trees and plants die back in winter, the leaves they shed return nutrients to the soil as they decay. In urban gardens, concerns over appearance mean that people usually sweep up the leaves as soon as they fall – so nutrients end up being removed from the garden and transferred to wherever the refuse collectors take them. Obviously, your trees and plants suffer the most, which is why you need to give them this extra help to recover what they have lost.

Well, I say “obviously”, but it’s funny looking back, now. I used to think that if you planted a tree you just forgot about it and let it grow, when it turns out you need to look after them almost as much as you would a tomato plant or an ornamental cactus! Judging by the increasing number of hits I get on this article, a lot of other people are discovering the same.

A final few words. You have to keep the treatment going about once a month between March and September, and you have to follow the same routine each year (or at least over alternate years). And as I have discovered in 2018, be aware that in very hot weather or during drought trees can become stressed and a leaves may yellow (or brown) and drop for that reason alone. This isn’t too much of a problem, and a weekly deep-watering is all that’s required (hosepipe bans notwithstanding).

A final words. In early June 2018, my trees were healthy green and not a single leaf had been shed. Overnight some time in late June quite a few yellow leaves appeared and began to fall. Further research threw up the heat stress problem, and I began deep watering as described in this supplementary article. After the yellow leaves fell, no more appeared, and the tree looks very healthy again.

Can you rescue leaves which have turned yellow?

No, probably not. Not the ones which are canary yellow, anyway, since they’re already dead and will have to fall off the tree (a bit of wind speeds that up). The important thing is that by feeding the tree you can stop any further yellowing – and believe me, the first time you do it the effects will be quite noticeable within a short time.

I would imagine that chlorosis could be reversed if it is caught early, since the yellowing is not initially due to leaves dying – they’re just iron-deficient. In that case, you might be able to save some yellowed leaves by applying the chelated iron treatment. I have a real example of that. In early June 2018 (before the heatwave) I noticed my neighbour’s usually-dark green Cherry Tree leaves were pale and many yellow ones were falling. I told her about the iron treatment and she bought a bottle. The leaves on that tree are now dark green again and no more have fallen.

Do you have to keep treating the trees?

Yes. If you don’t, the problem just comes back once the tree has used up what you’ve fed it, and you’ve binned the leaves again the following autumn. Huge trees will suck up all the nutrients, and if you’re raking up and binning the leaves each year nothing gets returned to the soil. It stands to reason, really, but I was as blind to it as anyone else until I encountered the problem.

Treat your trees from March until September. Feed at least once a month (even two to three times during the earlier months) – and water regularly in hot weather anyway, as they do need moisture.

How often should you feed?

I initially started doing it once a month in the first season, and carried on at the same rate into the second and third. However, I now do it twice a month because one year – and I can’t remember which – towards the end of the season I noticed a few signs a chlorosis about a month before the normal autumn change.

Can heat and drought cause them to lose leaves?

Yes. If they are stressed you may get them dropping a few leaves. It’s a good idea to water them deeply during hot, dry periods. Once or twice a week should be enough, though more frequently won’t hurt if the dry period is prolonged.

Let me point out again that the hot weather we’re experiencing as of the start of summer 2018 caused my trees to show a some yellow leaves. I commenced deep-watering from June, as well as feeding as described elsewhere in this article. This is the first time heat/drought has been a problem, so it caught me out a little. However, after a week of deep-watering leaf-yellowing stopped completely, and the trees are now looking healthy again (as is the lawn around them, which was parched brown).

Is there any other way to deal with the problem?

You have to get nutrients and iron back into the soil. Yes, you could use your own mulch or bought compost, but obviously this is not so attractive in a normal garden (removing it is what got you here in the first place). It would also take longer to have an effect. But it would still work, given time.

When do Birch trees normally start to shed their leaves?

The short – and very obvious – answer is: in the Autumn. It can vary a little up and down the country (just as Spring tends to start earlier the further south you are), but in the Midlands they usually start to show sprays of yellow from early October. The leaves will begin to fall from that point – very lightly at first, then increasing as the yellowing spreads.

In 2016 (almost overnight during the first week or so into October), ours produced a lot of yellow on the inside, whereas the outer canopy remained green – it looked rather nice. The neighbours’ trees had much sparser canopies than ours and they had clumps of yellow all over.

Autumn officially begins in mid- to late-September and you probably can’t do much to fix your trees after August if you’ve got the early yellowing problem. I’d still recommend a good feed or two, but not beyond the end of September. But be ready to start feeding from March.

It’s worth noting that a few isolated yellow leaves on a tree which fall in windy weather are not really indicative of a major problem. When you have sprays of yellow, or if you’re losing dozens of leaves in one go, that’s when you should take action.

How do you apply these treatments?

You make up the required solution as directed on the pack, then water it into the area specified. A single watering can is usually spread over 10 square metres (a medium sized tree probably requires watering over as much as 100 square metres). You can also buy mixer units which have a small tank and connect to your garden hose. You put the concentrate into the tank and the device mixes it with water as you spray the ground under your trees.

What I do is make up a concentrate in a 5L measuring container, then use 1L of that in a 15L watering can topped up with water. It’s quicker this way. I put 250g of Miracle-gro and 250mls of Maxicrop in the container (marked with 1L divisions) and make up to 5L with water. Once dissolved, I just pour out 1L into my watering can, top up from the garden hose, and evenly spread it over about 10-20 square metres, making sure I include flower beds as well as the lawn. I do it at least once every four weeks throughout the growing season (March-September), though I’ve upped that to fortnightly this year.

For the iron sulphate, I dissolve 375g in water in the measuring container made up to 5L, and again use 1L portions in my watering can made up to volume from the hose. I apply this treatment once a month or so – staggered with the fertiliser treatment. Iron sulphate at this concentration will kill moss within a few hours, so don’t worry about any black patches that appear on the lawn – it’s just dead moss, which can be raked out.

I try to time applications of fertiliser to just before (or during) rain to be sure it is fully watered in where the trees can get at it. Otherwise, I put the sprinkler on for a bit. I let the iron sulphate go to work on the moss and let the weather take a natural course – acidifying the soil is a longer term thing.

My tree is losing branches and twigs

If the tree is weak then it is understandable that twigs and small branches might fall off. Once they’re stronger this will stop.

Another likely problem, though, is crows. Yes, the winged variety. From March they will be nest-building, and they are very, very selective in their choice of twigs for the purpose. We get great amusement watching a pair that have nested near us for the last 10 years or so. They will tear off a hundred twigs and drop them until they get the one they want. It’s nature, so we don’t worry.

Mind you, I’ve never seen a crow carry off a branch – they stick to the smaller stuff – so if your tree is dropping large branches you might need to get a tree surgeon in to have a look at it.

My tree is taking a long time to show any leaves

I’m not an expert, but if this happened to me – and knowing what I know now – I’d start feeding it pronto. Of course, it might just be slow – some trees do seem to lag behind others – but a good feed can’t do any harm. Mine is in full leaf now (May 2018) whereas neighbour’s trees are still in the process of producing leaves judging from the light that passes through their canopies.

In the worst case, it might not be in good condition at all, but you’d have to call the experts in for that.

I’ve got catkins but no leaves

Someone found the site in April 2018 with that query. You’ll probably find that in a couple of weeks you’ll have lots of leaves. As I have said in this article, I start feeding mine from March onwards. Leaves started sprouting a week or two earlier than the neighbours’ trees in 2018, and the foliage on mine is much denser. The catkins came before the leaves.

I strongly recommend feeding them regularly as a matter of course.

Are the leaves changing early this year?

This was a generic search term used to find the blog in mid-July 2017. The short answer is no, they are not – not in July, anyway.

In hot and dry weather, many trees can become “distressed” and start to shed leaves. Silver birches are affected by this. Also, greenfly infestations can also cause leaves to die and fall. If a lot of leaves are turning yellow on the tree then you have a problem – quite possibly the one which is the main subject of this article. However, a few leaves falling is probably nothing much to worry about.

In 2016 the first show of yellow up here on all trees was during the first week in October. In 2017, yellowing began a month earlier, and by mid-September they almost all were clearly changing. July yellowing is/was not down to autumnal changes.

Do Weeping Silver Birches lose their leaves in Autumn?

Yes.

When do Silver Birch leaves go all brown?

They don’t. The leaves should go yellow and fall off in the autumn.

I’ve had quite a few visitors from this search term, and when I looked it up it seems that extreme cases of chlorosis can result in leaves turning brown, as can extreme heat and drought (see this supplementary article). It could also be a disease or infestation which you could treat, but the tree itself might also be dead – especially if it has been having any of the problems I mentioned above over previous years. Best to call in the experts.

Does this advice only apply to Silver Birch trees?

No. Chlorosis can affect many plants, and lack of nutrients is going to be a universal issue. You might need a different fertiliser to address any nutrient problem, but iron will likely fix chlorosis.

Recently, someone found the blog as a result of premature leaf drop in their Betula utilis. This is the Himalayan Birch, famed for its peeling paper-like bark, and it is a member of the same family as the Silver Birch. In the Himalayas, it often grows among Rhododendron plants (look at that fertiliser again – are you seeing the connection, here?), so the advice given above would work for the Himalayan Birch, too. And it also worked for my neighbour’s Cherry Tree, as I mentioned earlier.

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The Lake District - How it Should LookOr, how to destroy the environment and get paid loads of money for doing it.

This BBC news article reports on campaigners’ claims that the Lake District National Park Authority (LDNPA) has “violated [the park’s] World Heritage status”.

They cite the dramatic increase in “off-roaders” on motorbikes and 4x4s, who have damaged the landscape. The LDNPA actually encourages morons to come and tear up the countryside.

Let’s not play games here. Absolutely no 4×4 or quadbike/motorbike rider who goes to the Lake District to ride “off-road” – not a single one of them –  gives a flying f*ck about the environment other than how they can turn it into mud every weekend. If they did, they wouldn’t have a 4×4 in the first place, and as for motorbike/quadbike riders… well, there’s more processing power in a mosquito’s genitalia than there is in the typical biker’s head area, and all they want to do is make a noise and send mud flying in the air.

That’s why the comments of Mark Eccles, the alleged leader of LDNPA, are laughable:

We encourage users to behave responsibly on what can be vulnerable tracks to minimise environmental impact and respect other users.

This idiot WANTS off-roaders to come to the Lake District and to “behave responsibly. There’s more chance of a squirrel becoming Pope.

He then says something which is almost the exact opposite:

[It would be] preferable if people did not take vehicles on these routes” [but it is legal].

If he had any balls, he’d stop them or deter them. It would be easy to justify simply on the basis of how much damage they cause. But he is no doubt one of that modern breed of men who have artificially balanced hormones, and for whom “equal opportunities” is the mantra that governs every decision they make. He’s no doubt of a mind that trees have to be cut down to make every corner of the Lake District accessible by wheelchair, and is probably considering painting it pink to try to attract more female visitors. So, in this case, he mustn’t discriminate against monkeys who like things that make a noise and go fast.

For anyone who doesn’t know, The Lake District National Park covers almost 1,000 square miles. And it looks like the photo above when there are no off-roaders around. Once they’ve been and gone, though, it looks like this.

The Lake District - How Off-roaders leave it

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A red panda sitting on a branch?I’ve noticed a serious downward trend in spelling and grammar these days on usually reputable websites. Even the BBC isn’t averse to mistakes.

This screenshot from an MSN newsfeed aggregate made me smile, though. It’s apparently a picture of a red panda sitting on a branch in New York.

I have visions of someone submitting this for their school homework.

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Naruto the macaqueThis story beggars belief. It started in 2011, when a British photographer went to Indonesia to photograph macaques. After a bit of bonding, he managed to get the monkeys to press the camera shutter, and the image above is the now infamous “monkey selfie” that has caused the trouble.

In 2014, David Slater, the photographer, asked Wikipedia to remove the image from their site since he had not given permission to use it. Wikipedia – which is renowned for being written by monkeys anyway – refused, arguing that the copyright belonged to the macaque in the photo, and not to Mr Slater.

As an aside, I wonder if Wikipedia got the monkey’s permission to use the photo?

Although the US Copyright Office ruled that animals cannot own copyright, it didn’t stop PETA finding someone who would represent the monkey – whose name is Naruto, by the way – and sue Mr Slater back in 2014. The case has dragged on and on since then. Well, we’re talking about America here, so it shouldn’t come as much of a surprise that you can’t just state the obvious and say that “monkeys can’t own copyright” and throw the case out. As a much more detailed account of the story indicates, if they did that, PETA would just sue again and again. All they’d have to do is find someone else to stand up on the monkey’s behalf, and everything would just kick off again, and since PETA obviously has nothing better to do with its time, it wouldn’t hesitate to do that.

The best part is that no one is actually certain that the monkey, Naruto, is the one in the picture.

With hindsight, it would probably have been better if Mr Slater had not tried to have Wikipedia remove his photo. But then again, why should a bunch of arseholes get everything their own way just because they ARE a bunch of arseholes, and are prepared to prove it to the power of ten by involving other arseholes if you point it out to them?

The big question is: if the monkey won, who’d get the money? What would a monkey do with several million dollars? Buy a huge banana?

I have a solution to this potential nightmare. They should decide in the monkey’s favour, then award all damages to Mr Slater – since he is the only one in all this who actually had the monkeys’ welfare in mind. PETA would win, so it couldn’t sue again, and Mr Slater would not be anywhere near as much out of pocket as he will be if he has to pay the scumbags at PETA.

Unfortunately, I am only joking. If the monkey were to win, there’d be a flood of similar cases as a result of the new precedent. And then we might end up with a Planet of the Apes scenario, where they start to get involved in politics. One might even run for POTUS. Oh, wait…

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I wonder if anyone proof-reads BBC articles anymore? They’re riddled with spelling and grammar mistakes, with numerous typos thrown in for good measure.The Moon

But it’s the content that has me worried. Take this article, entitled How to see biggest supermoon in almost 70 years.

Well, just like on any other night, the usual trick is to go outside and look upwards towards that big, round, glowing thing in the sky and hope that there aren’t any clouds. I almost feel embarrassed at having to explain this.

Incidentally, the photo above is one I took last year. I didn’t have any trouble finding the moon in this instance, nor did I have to look up how to do it.

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The local BBC News site had a warning after some local troglodytes were seen waving bags at stags in Wollaton Park. Bear in mind that it is the rutting season, and the last thing any sane person needs is a pair of deer antlers up their backside.Stags fighting

But this bit is funny:

Kath George, museum assistant at Wollaton Hall, said…

“Our advice is always the same, no matter what the season, or whether the deer have children with them – DO NOT approach them!

“They are wild animals…”

I always thought a young deer was a fawn. But it seems that we’re now anthropomorphising them for some reason.

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The answer is when it is Trent University – which is more of a glorified sixth form that takes people from around the country instead of just locally. I say this after seeing this story in the week. It laughingly refers to the people ultimately responsible for killing a hedgehog as “researchers”.

In case any Trent University “researchers” are reading this, it is probably worth reminding them what a hedgehog normally looks like.A healthy hedgehog

However, this is what one looks like after Trent University “researchers” have got to it.Hedgehog festooned with a radio and various other tags

The dirty silver thing is a radio transmitter, and the various coloured tags are shrink- or heat-wrapped to the hedgehog’s spines. You have to wonder what sort of retard would attach THAT many tags to a single animal. Well, actually you don’t have to wonder too much when you think of sixth-formers pretending they’re scientists.

Wildlife experts have commented that the coloured tags are far too long and would most likely interfere with the animal’s normal behaviour. They could easily have become entangled. Apparently, the radio transmitter was twisted around the animal when it was found by someone in their garden. Experts have pointed out that such a bulky device would have prevented the animal from crawling under low hedges, gates, and fences, and would thus have put it at risk from predators.

The vet who treated the hedgehog removed TWENTY SIX tags.Tags removed from the animal

The hedgehog was:

…dehydrated, underweight, had mange, severe colitis, broken toes on one foot and [sic] intestinal fluke, and died despite attempts to treat him.

This is the part where you need to make your mind up for yourselves. Do you think that a hedgehog festooned with 26 tags, all of them at least six times longer than its spines, and a radio transmitter the size of a matchbox bearing – if you look at the picture – an antenna which appears to be approximately the same length as the animal itself, is going to be adversely affected?

Or do these two quotes convince you otherwise?

Hugh Warwick from the British Hedgehog Preservation Society, which part-funded the study, said: “Over 30 years of work there is no evidence that our research interferes with the well-being of hedgehogs at all.

“The heat-shrink plastic tags that are now the standard marking technique do not require plastic to be melted onto the spines and cause the hedgehog no trouble at all. It is not far off humans getting hair-extensions.”

Nottingham Trent University said: “The animal is completely unhindered and able to go about its activities – such as feeding and breeding – in the usual way.

“Research is crucial to furthering our understanding of the threats hedgehogs face and to develop appropriate responses to those.”

Hugh Warwick is clearly one of those pseudo-scientists who likes to anthropomorphise things. However, I think it is safe to say that what was done to this hedgehog had f__k all to do with human hair extensions (which, incidentally, cause MAJOR problems for humans if done incorrectly).

And Trent University – who are clearly too embarrassed to identify the cretin of a “researcher” responsible – have managed one of those brilliant paradoxes. They say they want to further their understanding of “threats to hedgehogs”. Obviously by becoming one.

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Following on from that story about the Americans shooting a gorilla as a precautionary measure n their attempts to deal with crass stupidity on the part of their citizens, at least the Aussies are more sanguine about such episodes.Crocodile - not necessarily an Australian one

Oh, I know they were looking down their noses at us over that bloody Boaty McBoatface debacle, but they’re still refreshingly down to earth otherwise. As this story today demonstrates quite clearly.

If the victim had survived in this case, then she would automatically have been in the finals for the 2016 Darwin Awards. Such was the level of stupidity on display.

It happened in the Daintree National park, in Northern Queensland. The presence of signs, local warnings about it being a known crocodile habitat, Queensland’s “be croc-wise” safety policy, and I would suspect a fair degree of understanding of the dangers of living in Australia in the first place, not to mention those associated with just being Australian at all did not deter this 47-year old woman from attempting to swim in waist-deep water. At night. It seems that the only thing she didn’t do was bring some extra crocodiles with her just to be sure. Unfortunately for her, though, one of the resident crocs was also taking a swim nearby, and saw its chance for a snack.

Unlike the Americans, who you can almost imagine tripping over themselves to get their guns in order to blow away a gorilla who had not actually made any threatening moves towards a four-year-old (some reports say he was actually three) child whose parents had been so monstrously neglectful as to allow him to climb through a fence and fall into a moat surrounding an enclosure, the Aussies are a little more logical over this incident. A local politician, Warren Enstch, said:

This is a tragedy but it was avoidable. There are warning signs everywhere up there.

You can only get there by ferry, and there are signs there saying watch out for the bloody crocodiles.

You can’t legislate against human stupidity. If you go in swimming at 10 o’clock at night, you’re going to get consumed.

Meanwhile, Australian police have been practising the art of understatement:

We would hold grave fears for the welfare of the woman.

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