Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Snippets: Interesting and Bad

American research has revealed that godwits fly direct from Alaska to New Zealand across the Pacific Ocean. Recent microchipping enabled scientists to track the birds. They were amazed to find that the birds flew in a direct line without stopping. They gorge themselves all autumn, take off when there is a good tail wind and fly south. There are no feeding grounds along the way. Apparently they land exhausted and sleep for a day. There are few predators, crocodiles or snakes so they are safe. The article did not reveal how they get north. Is it the same way or do they go via the marshes of China and Korea as those bound for Siberia do. Nature’s magnificence.

Another bit of animal research. Most male animals try to attract the female by a show of strength and power. The male topi antelope adds subterfuge. That species has a specific snort which means danger, lion or cheetah etc. It’s basically used as a warning to the predator, ‘we’ve seen you’. With one exception, courtship. The female topi comes into heat only for one day only once a year so a gentleman topi hasn’t much time. The longer she’s around the more opportunity he has to mate. So when she goes to leave his territory he snorts. She retreats back into his space. According to the researchers who observed the process it worked.

This isn’t research. It’s observation. For months I’ve had a wax-eye pair visiting the abutilon daily. They spent quite a bit of time each day in the shrub. Now they seem to have merged into a larger flock, bevy, group, flight – call it what you will – that also visit once a day but for a much shorter time. A large number of the little birds suddenly descend, whirl through the flowers, pick obviously a few late aphid off the roses, and equally abruptly leave.

I read that one of Egypt’s main exports is potatoes. I presume they are grown from soil irrigated by the Nile. Strange to think of Europeans eating spuds grown with African water. Still, the ancient Romans thought of Egypt as their granary. The recent Iceland volcanic dust-clouds greatly disrupted the Kenyan flower-trade with Europe. It’s an interesting world that of modern commerce.

It’s a menacing world. The Gulf of Mexico is still an emergency site as the collapsed well gushes oil into the sea. American law is that in the event of a spill it’s the company responsible that must clean it up. The President, however, has the ability to mobilize national or state forces to ensure the work gets done. The longer the spill continues and BP fails to cap the well the more criticism the President will face. I note that many Americans who clamour for the Federal Government to keep out of business also clamour for it to clean up the mess if one results. You can’t have it both ways. Obama, dooms if he does and doomed if he doesn’t.

It looks like Obama is going to face another test of strength over Korea. The evidence does point quite clearly to the fact that a North Korean torpedo did sink the South Korean ship. My question, Why? Was it a Government order or the stupid act of a local commander hyped up by propaganda. Either way it’s a disaster course. The South cannot ignore it. But the consequences. The North has some nuclear capabilities. If desperate, despots could resort to their use. The possibilities are frightening. I don’t like the prospects.

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