An interesting programme on BBC Radio 4 last night called ‘Can Facebook Survive?’ It was a sober assessment of the issues this tech giant has thrown up, things I guess which we are mostly familiar with. I listened eagerly awaiting to hear what Facebook’s most recent recruit, ‘Sir’ Nick Clegg (Facebook’s new Vice President of Global Affairs and Communications) had to contribute, but sadly his voice wasn’t heard. Nor was that of ‘Lord’ Richard Allan, who was Clegg’s predecessor LibDem MP for Sheffield Hallam constituency until he voluntarily stood down in 2005—leaving Clegg a healthy majority. I can’t imagine why Allan became a peer, apart from being Clegg’s campaign manager in the subsequent general election. And why would we want to hear from ‘Lord’ Allan? Could it be because he went on to become Facebook’s European Director of Policy? What a cosy little club! It’s not what you know . . .
I thought I would find out what the new LibDem leader Jo Swinson ‘CBE’ had to say about Facebook. Searching on the internet all I discovered is that she is a massive user of Facebook. And apparently took money from a fracker, but that’s neither here nor there. I didn’t see a critical mention of Facebook on her website. Anyway, I’m sure she has something to say about it (presumably after consulting Nick and Richard). I was rather struck by a comment on the BBC programme which said that different users of Facebook can be targeted with different messages from the same source, depending on what that source thinks those people might believe. Sounds like the LibDem’s ‘Focus’ newsletter. Plus ça change.
Nature Notes: I’m inspired to write this after witnessing a most cruel and brazen piece of savagery this morning on my walk. There on the wall by the road on Scarborough’s Marine Drive was a Herring Gull tucking into a young, helpless and still alive Kittiwake. What could one do? The Kittiwake was somewhat hopelessly flapping its wings, but it was a gonner, even if I’d shooed the Gull away. Yet only the other day I was down here and saw a pod of four or five Bottlenose Dolphins happily swimming 200 yards offshore, a rather different portrayal shall we say of cuddly nature which brings out our cameras and pointed fingers ’Ooh Aaah.’ But nobody was watching the gull eat the Kittiwake, with their cameras out and going ’Ooh Aagh.’ Presumably Dolphins don’t eat other creatures, or perhaps to suit our sensibilities they only do it out of sight. I once watched a Sparrowhawk eat a Sparrow in my garden—to make matters somewhat more dramatic it was winter when we actually had some snow, so the blood was more evident. Sparrowhawks don’t eat feathers so far as I can tell so its feast began with plucking off its victim’s plumage. Not a pleasant sight. Since I’ve now got several Sparrow families nesting in my ivy I keep an eye out for the Sparrowhawk, and frighten it off if I’m in the garden. But it has to eat somewhere doesn’t it?
I was never sure whether the squealing birds of summers yore were House Martins or Swifts—but now there are hardly any. There were bats too, but since I have not been sat out at dusk so often, perhaps I’ve just missed them. One has to be eagle eyed to detect a bat—it is but a small, fleeting shadow in the twilight.
A few days ago I rescued a fledgling Herring Gull from the garden. The second time this has happened in ten years. This time the young bird hadn’t landed awkwardly in one of my water butts, but was lurking around in the undergrowth. Despite its young age, it was remarkably big—and not something to mess with. But there was no way it could escape the garden, there being no easy flight path for it. I managed to capture it and release it in the back alley, where it may have been able to reconnect with its parent or at least take off. Whether it did or not I don’t know, but I noticed two days later there was in the middle of the road outside the house a dead young Herring Gull, laid down as if it had just given up, there being no sign of injury. So that’s my nature notes. At the present time my only wish is not to wake up at three or four in the morning only to discover yet again that at this time of the year Herring Gulls never go to sleep but wail, cry, cluck, click, shriek and generally bad mouth each other all night long. Apparently, it’s called mating.