Last swarm of the season (we hope) waving goodbye-or is that hello?- in their own unique way. I wondered about that title when I uploaded this video to YouTube, even with the ‘Nature’ subject heading on it (or maybe especially with that subject heading). But I decided to take my chances.
This was the 4th swarm from our garage bees, occurring on 23 May (I always run a few weeks behind on these blogs especially in summer). We had someone from one of our local bee collectives come and collect (he’s the one who spotted our warring robins). So, 2 swarms escaping our grasp and 2 re-homed by us and another.
I think we are over the swarming. We have let them settle a bit and just this week did an examination of the garage hive and the nuc-ed swarm. More about that in the next bee post, but let’s just say we are keeping a watch on the garage bees….
For some reason, I enjoyed this year’s Springwatch more than in previous years, perhaps because I focused more on the webcams and some of the more interesting extra film footage instead of the general foolery and such declarations as “my all-time favorite bird” (what are they, 10 year-olds? Next they’ll be telling us about their favorite color and the gross food they won’t eat).
But I digress, for aside from all that and the obsession with male animals (ok stop now), they did surprise me a couple of times by their presentation of more startling views, the kind that would certainly rattle the “I love nature” brigade.
Firstly, they had a regular slot on tawny owls, film footage taken by a guy in Cheshire called Dave Cully who actually is better known as a sparrowhawk enthusiast (you can see footage here http://www.sparrowhawk-island.co.uk/live_sparrowhawk_and_wildlife_cams.php). Way back in the beginning of the year, the female produced four eggs over a period of 10 days. Of course, once they hatched, there were rather significant size differences between the chicks. So far, so warm and fuzzy. However, things started looking a bit grim, resulting in a scene best expressed by the UK Daily Mail:
Springwatch viewers horrified by footage showing live owl being ripped apart by its own mother and fed to its siblings in ‘Game of Thrones’-style scene
Now, anyone who has read this blog somewhat regularly will not be surprised that I actually considered this one of Springwatch’s finest hours. The “I love nature” brigade need to know that it is not all Disney, that animals do not have some kind of inherent morality (aside from the ones dictated by hunger and self-preservation). And in this, they are quite similar to the apex of all apex predators, humans. The BBC could have edited this, they didn’t. Good for them.
This clip and the reaction instantly reminded my husband of this:
The second rather controversial view they aired took place in an interview with a guy named Fred Pearce, author of:
According to the Amazon blurb:
In The New Wild, Pearce goes on a journey across six continents to rediscover what conservation in the twenty-first century should be about. Pearce explores ecosystems from remote Pacific islands to the United Kingdom, from San Francisco Bay to the Great Lakes, as he digs into questionable estimates of the cost of invader species and reveals the outdated intellectual sources of our ideas about the balance of nature. Pearce acknowledges that there are horror stories about alien species disrupting ecosystems, but most of the time, the tens of thousands of introduced species usually swiftly die out or settle down and become model eco-citizens. The case for keeping out alien species, he finds, looks increasingly flawed.
One of his contentions is that usually non-native species will flourish in environments which have been decimated (by guess who?). For instance, red squirrels only flourish in one kind of forest, one that happens to be almost virtually destroyed in England. Grey squirrels are more flexible. Although Pearce can be argued on specifics, his premise is one that is worth considering.
The BBC gave his view a pretty sympathetic airing (on red-button Unsprung, though, not on prime time Springwatch), despite at the time filming from a reserve maintained by an organisation which has set its cap against more than one non-native species. I have to give it credit for that.
And now I have to go lie down, being overcome as I am from all my open-mindedness….
I have to recognize that, in a world of climate change, non-native species may fill gaps left when our natives cannot cope with change. However, as one whose forest trees are falling because of the fatally invasive Emerald Ash Borer, I can’t say that I’m thrilled with the pace of change. Even planting at full tilt (which I am) the new trees won’t be able to fill in as quickly as needed. We’ll be left managing a forest with a couple of “lost generations.” So, I do what I can. I’m diversifying the forest. I’m planting bracketing anticipated climates–for a flexible future. Tell me again that invasive species are a good thing.
Didn’t say all non-natives are a good thing, and neither does Fred Pearce. But we do have to take each case as it comes and look at the whole picture. Sometimes, the apparent havoc wrought by a non-native is a symptom of large forces at work. And eradicating the non-native is not the answer. What you are doing is a better response, looking at the environment and thinking about how best to counteract. Good luck!
A funny and thoughtful post–up to your usual standards! I don’t know any of the programs or the book you’re referring to, but this Mr. Pearce may have some valid points. (Excuse me while I fetch my smelling salts.) The fact is that there really are so few pristine native habitats left that judicious use of non-natives are and will be the bandage fix for most places. It gives me little pleasure to admit that.
Nature is gruesome. But then again, so are the slaughterhouses that prepare the beef/chicken/etc. that the offended folks get their dinner from.
As for your bees–I’m impressed that you captured some of your swarms. I’m too chicken for that.
I don’t really think there is or was any kind of environment that could be considered pristine. Then again I’m not sure I known what pristine means in this context: do you mean environments that are not human built environments? Then, yes, it would seem as the human population grows, these do decrease. I think nature is what it is, neither good nor bad. And swarming is not as scary as you think: bees are actually at their most docile, as they are drunk on honey and footloose and fancy free with nothing they need defend. An enviable condition!
If the footage of the dead chick helps people realise the struggles birds face, then good.
I used to love watching nesting cams…. Barn owls cured me. I have enough drama in my yard… Interesting these bees
Yes, Springwatch also had a camera on some barn owls, and there was a fatality there as well although not on par with the tawnies. Whichever, it made for very uncomfortable viewing. I know what you mean by drama. I am forever breaking up bird feuds. What they do out of my eyeshot is their business, but they are not going to be pecking each other on my turf!
Interesting to read your comments about Springwatch. I see Chris Packham had a one off programme that has been highly regarded although I havent seen it myself, here is a link: https://gerryco23.wordpress.com/2015/06/13/chris-packhams-natural-selection-designed-to-be-intelligent/
Yes, I understand he had George Monbiot on it. I hadn’t realised he was so big on the Yellowstone wolves….
Animals definitely lead grisly lives–Game of Thrones is very mild in comparison!