Nature flexes some muscle

THE VOLCANIC ash which hovered over northern Europe may have caused untold misery to travellers but it also provided a much-needed reminder that we humans still cannot control Nature.

So the best laid plans of many men and women were, once again, sent into chaos by a natural occurrence.

Earthquakes, avalanches, mud slides and tornados - all reminders of the power of Nature - have taken a heavy death toll in recent times, in terms of human life and damage.

Better building techniques and keeping development away from “unstable” areas can reduce the toll but no-one, yet, can actually prevent volcanoes erupting or tornadoes being formed – although American scientists will no doubt be working on both these targets.

Witnessing any of these natural spectaculars, feeling the impact in terms of the stressful inability to fly home on schedule or even being aware of the incidents, has got to be a humbling experience for us all.

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No-one with an ounce of compassion wants to see anyone killed, injured or caused stress by natural phenomena.

But in a modern world controlled by the kings of science and technology we must always remember that Nature, usually so benign, is still more powerful and that the efforts of man may sometimes be exposed as puny and pointless.

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DEER are at least partly to blame for the rapid disappearance of nightingales from the countryside, according to research in Suffolk commissioned by the Thetford-based British Trust for Ornithology (BTO).

Numbers of the birds have fallen by at least 60% since 1994 – and its range has becomelimited to Suffolk, Essex, Norfolk, Kent and Sussex.

Chas Holt, a researcher at the University of East Anglia, found that deer, particularly the muntjac, are eating a large proportion of woodland undergrowth – the nightingale’s key habitat.

He radio-tagged nightingales in Bradfield Woods, the Suffolk Wildlife Trust nature reserve near Bury St Edmunds, comparing plots accessible to deer with some which had been fenced off. The density of nightingales was 15 times greater in the deer-free areas.

The birds fly to Britain each summer after wintering in north Africa where they also face problems.

MY LEAST favourite television advertisement at the moment is one in which a gardener sprays a powerful pesticide over a golden flower.

The flower withers and dies within seconds to a triumphal response from the voice-over. The flower is, of course, a dandelion, but who would want to destroy such beauty in the cause of maintaining a bland stretch of grass?

Anyway dandelions are refusing to buckle under the onslaught. This year’s crop, which can be seen in gardens, on roadsides and in farm meadows, is a bumper one. Enjoy it.

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