Making new homes for swifts

Swifts are incredible birds, spending most of their lives on the wing and only landing when it’s time to nest. After flying its nest for the first time, a young swift may spend two or three years in the air, eating, drinking, sleeping, bathing and even mating! The swifts that nest in the UK arrive here in late April – May and may spend just 3 months with us; soaring and swooping over rooftops catching insects to eat.

But they’re in serious trouble here, with numbers down to less than half of what they were just twenty years ago. Modern buildings lack the nooks and crannies they need, and swifts are struggling to find homes.

Fortunately there are ways to help these birds. There are special swift nestboxes available, and if you’re having a building constructed or renovated, there’s also the option of the ‘swift brick’. This replaces a standard house brick and can easily be installed by a builder. Swift boxes and swift bricks can work especially well when put up in groups, as these birds like to be near other swifts.

via Making new homes for swifts

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Plummeting insect numbers ‘threaten collapse of nature’

More than 40% of insect species are declining and a third are endangered, the analysis found. The rate of extinction is eight times faster than that of mammals, birds and reptiles. The total mass of insects is falling by a precipitous 2.5% a year, according to the best data available, suggesting they could vanish within a century.

The planet is at the start of a sixth mass extinction in its history, with huge losses already reported in larger animals that are easier to study. But insects are by far the most varied and abundant animals, outweighing humanity by 17 times. They are “essential” for the proper functioning of all ecosystems, the researchers say, as food for other creatures, pollinators and recyclers of nutrients.

via Plummeting insect numbers ‘threaten collapse of nature’ | Environment | The Guardian

Are your cuppas costing more than you thought?

Here’s a trick question for a quiz: which uses the most electricity every year? An electric oven, hob, microwave or kettle?

The answer? The humble kettle, which eats up about 6% of all the electricity supplied to British homes.

An oven may use more power when it is on, but constantly filling a kettle – usually boiling far more water than we need – uses enough power annually that equals half the output of one of the world’s largest offshore wind farms, the London Array, off the Kent coast.

via Energy bills: are your cuppas costing more than you thought? | Money | The Guardian

Unlike other energy saving methods, this requires no initial outlay – just that you pay a little attention (experiment, once even) and only use the amount of water you need.

Wood burners and open fires face restrictions in new clean air plan – BBC News

The most important activity that contributes to particulate pollution is the burning of fuels such as wood and coal in open fires and domestic stoves.

Farming is also a major problem, as emissions of ammonia have increased in recent years. This gas reacts in the atmosphere with other chemicals to produce particulate matter that can be carried on the wind to major population centres.

To deal with domestic burning, the government will ban the sale of the most polluting fuels and ensure that only the cleanest stoves are available for sale by 2022.

They are also consulting on phasing out the sale of traditional house coal and on limiting the sale of wet wood, the type found on garage forecourts. The government’s plan for these fuels is expected within months.

via Wood burners and open fires face restrictions in new clean air plan – BBC News

Good. The smell of coal fires was a distant memory for me. Its shocking that in the 21st century, increasingly you can smell smoke hanging in the air from peoples fires.

Missing CHRISTMAS LECTURES | The Royal Institution

We are asking people across the country and beyond to search the long-forgotten contents of dusty attics or little-used store cupboards, to help unearth past series of the CHRISTMAS LECTURES from the Royal Institution, described by Sir David Attenborough and other past Christmas Lecturers as ‘national treasures from a golden age of broadcasting’.

We are in the process of making the entire BBC archive of these broadcasts available on our website for the first time. However 31 episodes broadcast between 1966 and 1973 are missing. Included in the missing episodes is footage of Sir David Attenborough not seen since it was first broadcast live nearly 50 years ago.

via Missing CHRISTMAS LECTURES | The Royal Institution: Science Lives Here

Hopefully someone out there has them on tape somewhere. The list of missing lectures and who to contact are listed on the site.

Final call to save the world from ‘climate catastrophe’ – BBC News

The researchers have used these facts and numbers to paint a picture of the world with a dangerous fever, caused by humans. We used to think if we could keep warming below two degrees this century, then the changes we would experience would be manageable.
Not any more. This new study says that going past 1.5C is dicing with the planet’s liveability. And the 1.5C temperature “guard rail” could be exceeded in just 12 years, in 2030.
We can stay below it – but it will require urgent, large-scale changes from governments and individuals and we will have to invest a massive pile of cash every year, about 2.5% of global gross domestic product (GDP), the value of all goods and services produced, for two decades.
Even then, we will still need machines, trees and plants to capture carbon from the air that we can then store deep underground – forever.

via Final call to save the world from ‘climate catastrophe’ – BBC News

Brazil National Museum fire: Key treasures at risk – BBC News

The National Museum of Brazil in Rio de Janeiro is a treasure trove which contains more than 20 million scientific and historical items.
A massive fire spread through the 200-year-old institution on Sunday engulfing almost all of its rooms and gutting large parts of the building.
Most of its priceless collection is thought to have been burnt.

via Brazil National Museum fire: Key treasures at risk – BBC News

A huge (if not total) loss.

There is a movement to create a virtual museum with appeals for any previous visitors who have photos of exhibits to submit them and effectively digitise the museum. If you have any photos, consider sending them.

Where have all our insects gone? | Environment | The Guardian

The start of summer is the time of year when the nation’s insects should make their presence known by coating countryside windows with their fluttering presence, and splattering themselves on car windscreens. But they are spectacularly failing to do so. Instead they are making themselves newsworthy through their absence. Britain’s insects, it seems, are disappearing.

via Where have all our insects gone? | Environment | The Guardian