Wednesday 29 June 2016

Environmentally friendly bicycle trends

Environmentally friendly bicycle trends
A row of rental bikes in the center of Amsterdam (Photo: Michael Renner)

Bicycles are an environmentally friendly way of getting around because they do not burn fuel to do so. Bicycles rely on human energy to power them. They do not pollute the air with exhaust fumes like cars and other motorised vehicles do at present. Going by bike is one greener way ahead and is something many of us can do to help in turning things around in the world today. Of course, the more people who use bicycles the better, and in many parts of the world they are becoming increasingly popular, but are there any new eco-friendly bicycle trends? Let us take a look at how much cycling is being seen as the way forward?.

Denmark is becoming a cycling nation

Cyclists in Copenhagen (Photo: Colville-Andersen)

The Scandinavian country of Denmark is one of many nations where bicycles have become more and more popular as a way of travelling. Back in the 1960s cars were threatening to replace bikes as the main means of Danish transport but due to the oil crisis, the environmental movement and road traffic problems, the situation changed in a positive way and more people went back to their bikes or took up cycling. Amsterdam in the Netherlands is a very bike-friendly city too, where cycling has been a popular way of getting around the city for many years.

The demand is on for E-bikes

An E-bike (Photo: Jannis Blume)

The demand for Electric bikes or e-bikes is continuing to grow. These bikes are zero emissions transport vehicles which are usually powered by rechargeable batteries. Admittedly the electricity still needs to be generated and the disposal of the limited life batteries they use may be problematic, however, when all is considered e-bikes are more environmentally friendly because they make less environmental impact than cars and motorbikes. E-bikes are also useful for health reasons. They have been successfully used in cardiac rehabilitation medical programmes and to help obese people lose weight.

Wooden or Lumber Bikes

Wooden bike (Photo: Jose Hernandez)

Another growing trend is for lumber bikes made from wood. These bikes can utilise plywood and are marketed as having eco-frames. They look very attractive and are very different to the old-fashioned bicycles with metal frames. Bamboo is another natural material that is being used to make bicycles from and then there are the new D-I-Y bikes that are catching on too. There is something very pleasing about a bicycle you built yourself, and you don’t have to know too much about making things because you can buy a kit to assemble your bike from. You follow the instructions to build your own bike. It is fascinating to see how the bicycle is evolving in different ways.

Of course, e-bikes and wooden bikes, just like the old sort of bicycles we all know, depend on good maintenance to be in good working order. Small components, such as roller bearings, are so vital to safe cycling and a reliable machine!

Monday 27 June 2016

Birdwatching in Tenerife

Tenerife Birds

Blue Chaffinch  (Photo: Public Domain)

Tenerife in the Canary Islands is a very popular destination for sun-seeking holidaymakers but it is also a great place for birdwatchers because of the variety of habitats and variety of birds. Some species are very rare ones too.  Amongst the birds that are in that category is the Blue Chaffinch (Fringilla teydea), an endemic species only found in the mountain forests of the island. With its distinctive blue feathers and rarity, this is definitely one bird to watch out for.

On the subject of rare birds that can be seen in Tenerife, there are two species of laurel pigeon that only live in the  laurel ("laurisilva") forests in the mountains of the island. Bolle’s Pigeon (Columba bollii) and the Laurel Pigeon (Columba junoniae) are both very limited in their range of distribution because they need this type of woodland habitat. These evergreen mixed forests that mainly consist of laurel trees were once plentiful in the Mediterranean area, but now the few patches left in the islands of Tenerife, La Gomera and La Palma are some of the only remaining stands of this form of woodland in the world.

Great Grey Shrike (Photo: Marek Szczepanek)

The Great Grey Shrike (Lanius excubitor) is an uncommon bird in the UK but can be found on Tenerife, especially on the mountains and high on Mt Teide. It is also known as a “Butcher Bird” because of its habit of impaling its prey on the thorns of bushes as a sort of makeshift larder where it can eat them later. The Great Grey Shrike feeds on beetles, grasshoppers and small animals, including lizards and mice.

Water birds

Little Egret in flight (Photo: Public Domain)

Although Tenerife has very little naturally occurring freshwater habitats, the reservoirs, ornamental ponds and irrigation tanks provide enough places for frogs and fish to live that can provide food for birds such as the Grey Heron (Ardea cinerea). The Little Egret (Egretta garzetta), with its white plumage, is a very distinctive bird that can be seen all over the island, including along its coasts and on farmland.

The Coot (Fulica atra) and the Moorhen (Gallinula chloropus) are two widely distributed water birds that both breed in Tenerife. Both species can be seen on the ponds near the village of Erjos.

One strange-looking bird you might encounter on Tenerife beaches is the Whimbrel (Numenius phaeopus). This wader has a very long bill that it uses for probing into sand and rocks where it can find its food.

The Ringed Plover (Charadrius dubius) is another wader that lives in Britain that can be also be seen in coastal areas of Tenerife, including Las Galletas and El Medano. It likes beaches and open areas of ground near the sea or by lagoons.

Birds of Prey

Kestrels (Falco tinnunculus) and Buzzards (Buteo buteo) are the two most commonly seen birds of prey  that live on the island of Tenerife. The Long-eared Owl (Asio otus) hunts by night in many parts of the island. None of the birds of prey are as common as they once were.

The Hoopoe
Hoopoe (Photo: Public Domain)

One of the most exotic looking birds found on Tenerife is the Hoopoe (Upupa epos). It stands out with its salmon-pink plumage, black and white striped wings,  long pointed beak, and a tufted crest of feathers on its head. A rare migrant to the UK, on Tenerife it can be seen in gardens, parks and farmland where it hunts for insects and other small creatures to eat.

Canaries in the Canary Islands

Wild Canary (Photo: Public Domain)

Of course, as you might well expect the Canary Islands have canaries, and although this is not why the islands were named with their descriptive moniker, there are these types of birds living there. The Common Canary (Serinus canaria) is a bird that is very often seen and heard on Tenerife, although this wild type doesn’t have the bright yellow colouring all over its body that the the domestic version you would probably be more familiar with has. Domestic Canaries are sold in pet stores and commonly kept as pets throughout the island.

These are just some of the more interesting examples of birds that can be found in Tenerife, and that birdwatchers can be on the lookout for.