This white echidna is the cutest! (Tasmania, Australia)

Regular echidnas are also great. Just look at this majestic little bugger:

Fabulous.

Cozy Couch Throw

I finally finished my very first afghan! Commissioned by my uncle, hence the grey and red. This was about 8 months in the making, and that endless expanse in the middle was utterly mind-numbing. But it’s done!! 

Yarn: Knit Picks Brava Bulky in Cobblestone Heather and Red

Pattern: Cozy Nook Throw

I modified the cast-on and stripe thickness to match a bulky rather than super bulky yarn. I also added a 4-stitch garter edging with slipped-stitch selvage, and used intarsia to keep the edging a solid grey while working the red stripes. I really like the way the stripes sort of interlock with the grey on either side.

Finished size: 35” x 65” — Not as wide as I would have liked, but long enough to keep the toes toasty warm.

While knitting the middle section I worked out that 1 ball yielded about 6” of length, so I started the second round of stripes when I had roughly 1.5 balls of grey left. Worked out perfectly to leave only a bit of extra yarn at the end!

Thanks for looking :)

libutron:

Pied Falconet - Microhierax melanoleucos
Members of the genus Microhierax (Falconiformes - Falconidae) are the smallest falcons in the world. This species, Microhierax melanoleucos, grows up to 20 cm and has a maximum wingspan of 37 cm.
Some individuals of the Pied Falconet have a thin white line across the base of the cere, over the eyes and down to the breast giving the appearance of a white face with large black eye patches.
The Pied Falconet is found in the forests of Bangladesh, China, India, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, and Viet Nam.
References: [1] - [2]
Photo credit: ©阿棋 (Kei) Looking@Nature | Locality: unknown (2011)

This bird of prey, this wild hunter with razor sharp beak and talons, is smaller than an American Robin. 

libutron:

Pied Falconet - Microhierax melanoleucos

Members of the genus Microhierax (Falconiformes - Falconidae) are the smallest falcons in the world. This species, Microhierax melanoleucos, grows up to 20 cm and has a maximum wingspan of 37 cm.

Some individuals of the Pied Falconet have a thin white line across the base of the cere, over the eyes and down to the breast giving the appearance of a white face with large black eye patches.

The Pied Falconet is found in the forests of Bangladesh, China, India, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, and Viet Nam.

References: [1] - [2]

Photo credit: ©阿棋 (Kei) Looking@Nature | Locality: unknown (2011)

This bird of prey, this wild hunter with razor sharp beak and talons, is smaller than an American Robin

fatalbellman:

Barn Owl Viewed From The Side by Vincent Van Gogh, 1887

fatalbellman:

Barn Owl Viewed From The Side by Vincent Van Gogh, 1887

FO: Galaxy Holden

My first ever beaded shawl! I am in love with the colours of this yarn. The red shawl by rahardjo-knits inspired me to add beads, and I am super glad I did! They compliment the yarn perfectly, add some weight to the dainty edge, and bring to mind a starry night sky.

Pattern: Holden (size small)

Yarn: Tosh Merino Light in Baroque Violet

Beads: Size 6/0 Toho beads, iridescent clear (approx 20g)

Mods: 

  • Ktbl the center stitch on RS
  • Sl1wyf, k2 at the beginning of each row
  • knit one less increase row in the stockinette portion, so there were 189 stitches on the needles before starting lace chart

The beads were quite easy to add with a small crochet hook, though a bit tedious. It took me a while to get used to the size of the beads (I would have liked smaller ones), but these ones do suit the lace work well.

I wouldn’t have been able to block this without wires (or a million pins), since I wanted to keep both the scalloped edge and the picot points. I ran a blocking wire through the top, the spine, and through the middle point of each curve on the sides. Then I pinned out the other four points in an arc around the middle one. Turned out perfectly I think!

100% Silk Yarn

My very first silk! Here are two 50g skeins of fingering-weight yarn that I got at a Fibrefest yesterday. They’re the most gorgeous tonal mix of bright red, orange, and a darker red. I’m thinking of knitting Love in a Mist with ruby red beads. 

I saw an example shawl knitted in this yarn at the festival, and it pools quite noticeably. The tonal shades blend really well together though, so I don’t think I’ll alternate skeins to break up the colours. I think the sheen and drape of the silk will really work together with the pooling to create a flickery fire effect. Too bad I’ll have to finish my Christmas knitting first, before I can get this on the needles!

A dash of adorable for a rainy day.

Baby Winter Wren
This little guy was hopping around my feet as I set up my tent at the cottage last weekend. No head fluffies means he’s at least a week out of the nest, but he was still mostly grounded. Fully grown at around the size of a ping pong ball, he couldn’t get any more adorable than this!

Baby Winter Wren

This little guy was hopping around my feet as I set up my tent at the cottage last weekend. No head fluffies means he’s at least a week out of the nest, but he was still mostly grounded. Fully grown at around the size of a ping pong ball, he couldn’t get any more adorable than this!

pickledpennies:

m00nchaser:

If bees become extinct we will have exactly 4 YEARS to live on this planet. I don’t understand how “not giving a fuck” is more important than your life…

okay, I have a thing to say about this. I’m no expert on bees, but I am a biologist (and entomologist) so I think there is something I can contribute that’ll be of worth.

I agree entirely with the sentiment that we must protect honeybees. Obviously they are massively important for biodiversity, as well as pollinating food crops for humans. There is no doubt that if all the honeybees in the world were to vanish in a day that the consequences would be dire.

However, I disagree that the main cause for concern regarding honeybee death is the use of Genetically Modified (GM) crops. I’d be very interested to read a research paper that says ‘GM crops have killed millions of honeybees’, if indeed such a paper exists because in all honesty I find it highly unlikely that this is a true statement.

Let’s start with some facts about GM crops:

1. The development of GM crops is a highly regulated process, bound by strict country-specific legislature. A great number of trials are carried out long before commercial planting of a GM crop is even considered. It is these trials, and accompanying laboratory studies, that ensure a GM crop is safe to non-target organisms (such as honeybees) by investigating direct and indirect effects (Nap et al. 2003).

2. Crops that are genetically modified to express insecticidal proteins (for crop pest control) have a high level of specificity. This means that the insecticidal proteins being produced by the GM plant will only affect a narrow range of insect groups because of the chemical properties of the protein. For example, GM crops expressing insecticidal proteins sourced from the bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) will only target some Lepidopteran pests (caterpillars; Romeis et al. 2006). Furthermore, a recent meta-analysis of the literature found that GM Bt crops do not negatively affect the survival of adult honeybees or their larvae (Duan et al. 2008).

3. GM crops can be tailored such that the novel gene is expressed only in particular parts of the plant. For example, GM Bt rice plants express the toxin in the stems but not the grains (Datta et al. 1998). This technique means that gene expression can be excluded from the flowers/pollen of the crop plant, so that bees and other pollinators would not be affected. Neat, huh?

So those are a token few reasons why GM crops are safer than perhaps many people believe (as the result of a lot of questionable, non-scientific articles). To come back to our main point about honeybee death, I would like to briefly mention a few alternative explanations for the recent decline in honeybee populations. These are as follows:

1. Many bees have died as the result of broad-spectrum insecticide use. These are pesticides that lack specificity, and can be harmful to non-target organisms. Neonicotinoids are a well-studied example of this (Decourtye & Devillers, 2010). Not to worry, though, because many broad-spectrum pesticides including neonics are well on their way out. Indeed, the EU recently banned a large cohort of neonic pesticides. This is still a topic of controversy, mind (Goulson, 2013).

2. Many bees have died as the result of Varroa mite infestation. Imagine you’ve been bitten by several ticks, except those ticks are the size of dinner plates. That gives you an idea of the severity of a Varroa mite infestation on a single developing bee. The parasitisation of bees by Varroa mites and other parasites is often accompanied by disease transmission. This can result in colonies dying within two years after infestation (Johnson, 2011).

3. Many bees have died as the result of ‘colony collapse disorder’.  This is a phrase that has popped up a lot recently, and is basically an umbrella term for the various causes of bee death including parasite infestation, disease transmission, environmental stresses, and management stresses such as poor nutrition (Johnson, 2011). Colony collapse has been attributed to broad-spectrum pesticide use in some instances. However, it is has still been observed in countries where broad-spectrum pesticides have been withdrawn (in the EU, like I mentioned earlier; Johnson, 2011).

So those are my main points. Please excuse the bullet-point nature of this; I was trying to keep it fairly short. Not sure I managed that haha. But anyway, my take-home message is that GM crops are not the enemy when it comes to honeybee decline. If anything, bees are at much greater danger from the use of broad-spectrum pesticides and from parasites and diseases. Using GM can even help to alleviate some of the problems associated with broad-spectrum pesticides, as they greatly reduce the need to apply such chemicals (Romeis et al. 2006).

A finishing note: Do your homework. Go on google scholar and read some of the literature, making sure it is recent (within the past 10-15 years). Literature reviews are a great way to find out what the consensus is on any given topic. Don’t use popular media as your main source of information where science is concerned; they tend to favour scandal and exaggeration. You want to know what’s really going on? Check out some research articles and see for yourself.

Thanks for sticking it through to the end of this impromptu mini-essay! —Alice

References:

Datta, K., Vasquez, A., Tu, J., Torrizo, L., Alam, M. F., Oliva, N., Abrigo, E., Khush, G. S., & Datta, S. K. (1998). Constitutive and tissue-specific differential expression of the cryIA (b) gene in transgenic rice plants conferring resistance to rice insect pest. Theoretical and Applied Genetics, 97(1-2), 20-30.

Decourtye, A., & Devillers, J. (2010). Ecotoxicity of neonicotinoid insecticides to bees. In Insect nicotinic acetylcholine receptors (pp. 85-95). Springer New York.

Duan, J. J., Marvier, M., Huesing, J., Dively, G., & Huang, Z. Y. (2008). A meta-analysis of effects of Bt crops on honey bees (Hymenoptera: Apidae). PLoS One, 3(1), e1415.

Goulson, D. (2013). Neonicotinoids and bees: What’s all the buzz?. Significance, 10(3), 6-11.

Johnson, R. (2011). Honey bee colony collapse disorder. DIANE Publishing.

Nap, J. P., Metz, P. L., Escaler, M., & Conner, A. J. (2003). The release of genetically modified crops into the environment. The Plant Journal, 33(1), 1-18.

Romeis, J., Meissle, M., & Bigler, F. (2006). Transgenic crops expressing Bacillus thuringiensis toxins and biological control. Nature biotechnology, 24(1), 63-71.

lookatthisbabybird:

Little Wings by yo samety on Flickr.

Baby birds make bad days better.

lookatthisbabybird:

Little Wings by yo samety on Flickr.

Baby birds make bad days better.