As the name suggests Himalayan Balsam comes originally from the Kashmir and Uttarakhand areas of the Himalayas. It was first introduced into Kew Gardens in 1839 as an annual greenhouse plant. Being easy to grow and having attractive pink/white trumpet shaped flowers it became a very popular plant with gardeners. Within 10 years it had escaped from the confines of gardens and begun to spread along the river systems of England.
Himalayan Balsam grows very quickly and once established in an area, forms dense thickets of up to 2 meters high. Each plant can produce up to 800 seeds, the seed pods once ripe, explode shooting the seeds up to 7m away from the parent plant. If the seeds land in a waterway they float down stream before settling in soft mud banks and germinating. The seeds can remain viable for up to 2 years.
Himalayan Balsam image Wikipedia
Why do we need to control Himalayan Balsam?
It smothers native vegetation by crowding and shading out light, in the winter it dies back leaving bare earth which is then subject to erosion. This can cause major problems along river banks. The dead plant debris can block waterways causing flooding and more damage to local habitats. Being very rich in nectar its flowers attract a wide array of pollinating insects. Studies are taking place on how this effects the pollination of our native plants. Initial finding suggest that it does have a detrimental effect as reduced numbers of insects are visiting other flowering plants.
Controlling Himalayan Balsam
Being a non-native plant it has no natural enemies to keep it under control. There are two traditional ways of removing Himalayan Balsam from a site hand pulling or spraying of chemicals. The best time of year for tackling the plant is May-July, before the seeds have set. Not all sites are suitable for either of these methods and trials of introducing a rust fungus from India are currently taking place in England and Wales.
Why am I writing about Himalayan Balsam? We have an escalating local problem, nearly all our local waterways have some Himalayan Balsam contamination. We are looking for volunteers to form a ‘Balsam Bashing” party to tackle an area at Aberglaslyn. This site can only be controlled by hand pulling due to the closeness of the Afon Glaslyn. We will be working along side Snowdonia National Park and other volunteers at the end May/June.
Are you interested in helping? Please let us know in the comments.
Pete and I are probably the only people in the world that are pleased to see this event has been pushed back to May 2022 as this means we will be able to attend after all. We hope to put into place our original plans and are hoping others can join us.
“GC7WWWW 20 Years of Geocaching Prague 2020 – Edition 2022 Although we were hoping for better news, the situation is unfortunately not such that it will be possible to carry out a gigaevent in 4 months. This event will not take place in September 2021 because of health and safety concerns related to COVID-19. It will be rescheduled to 13-15 May 2022. Hopefully, the situation will be stabilized next year. We believe that it will be possible to organize a grand celebration in a joyful and relaxed spirit, so that both participants and organizers can enjoy it. Once it is rescheduled, we will post an Announcement and update this page.”
Global Positioning System (GPS) when first developed was only available to the US military. Later civilians were allowed access with Selective Availability (SA) but the GPS signal accuracy was greatly reduced.
May 2nd 2000, on the instructions of President Bill Clinton, the US government turned off its Selective Availability. By “flipping the switch” everyone had access to high accuracy GPS signal. Twenty-four satellites around the globe processed their new orders, and instantly the accuracy of GPS technology improved tenfold. Tens of thousands of GPS receivers around the world had an instant upgrade. Even though there was not a blue switch, for some unknown reason, geocachers refer to this day as Blue Switch Day.
With the availability of accurate GPS signal the world changed forever with the introduction of new technologies that today we take for granted. Gone are the days of the road atlas!
May 3rd 2000 saw the first geocache hidden by Dave Ulmer in Oregon and the beginning of the game that we know today.
In celebration of this Blue Switch Day geocaching first introduced a souvenir in 2017. To obtain your Blue Switch Day 2021 souvenir simply find either a geocache, an Adventure Lab or attend an event anytime between May 2nd to December 31st.
If you found yourself dropped into a random location on Earth, would you be able to use clues about the vehicles, vegetation, landscape, buildings, and signs to figure out where in the world you have been placed?
GeoGuessr is an online game that uses Google Street View to provide 5 locations for you to work out where you are, sometimes it’s easy, say being dropped in the centre of a large city with plenty of recognisable landmarks and street names, however being dropped on the Mongolian Altai alpine meadow with no recognisable structures is way more challenging (hint, yurts a good sign that you are in Mongolia). Like Geocaching this game increases your awareness of the ordinary world as you become more conscious of different writing systems on signs around the world, or styles of building, vehicles, dress even road markings sometimes provide a clue and to where you are.
The scoring is different by game but consistently a “perfect” guess is worth 5000 points with descending scores depending on the size of the map and eventually decreasing to 0 for being at the point on Earth’s surface diametrically opposite to the target (antipode). A typical game lasts five rounds, so 25,000 points would constitute a perfect game score.
There are various Modes available,
Daily Challenge – only one go at this allowed per day with 5 rounds, each with a 3-minute limit to get as close to the Landing point as possible. There aren’t any formal rules for the Daily Challenge or GeoGuessr, like Geocaching you set your own rules, to us Googling somehow seems to be cheating and we avoid that.
Explorer mode – Pick a country to play from the map or the list and explore. This is single player mode with unlimited time to explore, medals are awarded for high scores, with the goal of a gold medal for each country available.
Country Streak– this can be played either as a single-player or challenge mode where players can compete against each other. The simple objective in this mode is to guess the country you are in rather than guessing the specific location. There are several options for this where you can restrict movement, panning and/or zooming and if that isn’t enough pressure a time limit can be set as well. Players are challenged to attempt at scoring as many correct guesses as possible in one attempt, the game finishes when the player guesses a country wrong.
Battle Royale – compete with others, where one by one player are eliminated until only the winner remains.
There are many other options such as ‘famous places’, ‘urban worlds’ and even a ‘dumb test’ with ultra-easy maps to explore.
Free vs Paid In 2019 Google increased its prices for using Street View and Google Maps forcing GeoGuessr to limit the free play game. Charges are kept at a minimum with the present cost of pro membership being $1.99 per month or $23.88 per year. Pro members get unlimited maps access to Daily challenge, Pro Leagues where you can set up your own league with your friends. Games are scheduled automatically, and notices sent to your fellow explorers. Also making and sharing your own maps is available at this level.
This is an addictive game in both the limited free and pro versions, it’s a substitute for actually being there and exploring and well worth the subscription fees as a replacement for Geocaching whilst we are ‘locked down’
Sunday 18th April 2021 This week saw our first sighting of an Orange Tip butterfly fluttering along the side of the river. They are one of my favourite butterflies as it indicates the warmer, longer days are here and summer is not far off. Our damp boggy fields are an ideal habitat and support a large colony.
They fly from late March to June depending on weather conditions. This butterfly lives in damp meadows, ditches, woodlands and hedgerows as this is where the caterpillars food plants grow, cuckoo-flower, garlic mustard and many other plants in the mustard family.
Orange Tips are a very common butterfly, the male has the distinctive orange tipped wings which the females lack so they are not so easily recognised and can be mistaken for Small Whites.
The under wings of both sexes have dappled dark green patterns with black scaling this gives excellent camouflage when the butterfly is at rest.
The females lay single barrel-shaped, grooved eggs on the underside of leaves and flowers of the food plant.
The eggs take around 14 days to hatch and change from yellow/white when first laid to orange and then grey just before they hatch. The caterpillars are blue-green with small black dots and broad white stripe. It takes about 5 weeks for them to become fully grown when they change into a narrow, curved, green or brownish chrysalis attached by a girdle to a plant stem. Here it hibernates over winter emerging as an adult the following spring.
Although official Geocaching Events are not available just yet, Socially distanced gatherings of up to 30 persons will be permitted from the 26th of April under the latest guidance from the Senedd. As we haven’t met up as a group for quite a while, a CITO is the perfect socially distanced event. A suggestion is that we could combine an unofficial CITO and the “Let’s improve the outdoors – Locationless Cache GC8NEAT” which adds both an Icon and Souvineer to your profile. So with all that in mind how about meeting on 2nd May Saturday Afternoon Near Tescos Caernarfon and hitting some of the hot spots in the vicinity. Please let us know if you are interested, the number will of course be limited to 30.
We have relaunched the 9 Usual Suspects website today, with an improved look, easier to use and the Russian hackers locked out! It will still be primarily for Geocaching but will include anything that catches our collective attention, so if you have anything to contribute please let us know. e.g. the favourite cache series that has been started, what’s your favourite and why? Also, there is an improved diary section, if you want an event added give us a shout.
Every year there is much media attention when the Glaslyn Ospreys return to the same nest site, it heralds the start of spring, although this year they have bought some snow with them. You can monitor them in close up on the next via the live stream which is hosted on the Glaslyn Osprey website or here if that link isn’t working
Three Ospreys have returned to the Glaslyn Valley so far this year.
25th March saw Mrs G return for her 18th season.
29th March Aran join Mrs G for his 7th season.
31st March Aeron arrives a chick hatched in 2017 recognised by his Blue Z2 ring.
Mrs G was first discovered breeding at the Glaslyn nest in 2004. As she is not rung her age and previous history are not known. From her plumage and the time of year she first appeared it is thought that she was about 3 years old making her around 21 years old. To date, she has successfully raised 41 chicks, and has at least 100 grand-chicks and four great grand-chicks. Her first mate was Ochre 11 (1998) and together they raised 26 chicks. He failed to return in 2015, which was when she attracted her current mate, Aran. They have raised 15 chicks together so far.
Aran arrived at Glaslyn end of April 2015 again without a ring his previous history is unknown. From his plumage and his behaviour, it is thought he was 2 or 3 years old. His name comes from the mountain Yr Aran as this was the direction he was first spotted.
Ospreys return from North Africa around the end of March and usually in the second half of April the female lays two or three eggs at 1-3day intervals. The eggs are incubated for 37 days per egg with each egg hatching a few days apart, surprisingly there is little aggression and dominance shown by the older chick. Like most birds of prey, ospreys divide the nesting duties clearly between the pair. The female does most of the incubating, brooding and direct feeding of the young. She guards them throughout the nestling period, but will share the hunting at later stages when the chicks are larger. The male, on the other hand, is the major provider of fish for the female and young. After fledging at c. 53 days, both parents provide food for the young, which stay close to the nest for a further two months. The beginning of September sees them leave North Wales on their long migration journey to North Africa. Many juvenile birds die before they reach maturity at three years old. Those that reach breeding age can expect to live on average about eight years. The oldest known wild osprey was 32 years old.
The site is managed by Bywyd Gwyllt Glaslyn Wildlife a local community interest company who took over the stewardship from the RSPB in 2013. The success of the Glaslyn Ospreys and other wildlife projects are entirely reliant upon the kind donations of their visitors and supporters.