Friday 29 April 2022

SAVE THE FROGS DAY 2022 Report from Portugal

 Special report from Quinta do Conde for SAVE THE FROGS Day! 

With my friend, fellow singer-songwriter Ana Lisa Meier, for this year's SAVE THE FROGS Day, we decided to create a report about frogs and wetlands in the Quinta do Conde area of Portugal where we are. Ana is very lucky because she has a colony of Iberian Water Frogs in her garden. They live in, and around, the two garden ponds, which shows how valuable ponds like this are when it comes to amphibian conservation.  Here I am enjoying listening to the frogs and the birds singing.

We went to explore the wetland areas near where we live, took some photos and captured some video footage there. There is an area of wetland behind a sports stadium that depends on a lot of winter and spring rainfall to be of any use to amphibians. This year the rains came very late, after a winter drought, presumably due to the Climate Crisis. The water sadly drains away fast and feeds a river nearby, as well as being absorbed by the sandy ground. I feel this area could be greatly improved as a wetland habitat if some restoration work was done there so that the water was retained longer. 

We went to look at the river, which some years gets nearly dried up, although there are usually some pools left standing. Frogs can be found here and at this time of year you can hear Iberian Water Frogs singing, though they are very difficult to spot. 

I once saw a European Pond Tortoise here too. I wasn't able to get a photo because it dived in the water. This species is endangered, so I was pleased to see that at least one was surviving in a wildlife habitat near where I live.  Further along this river there is a bridge and the frogs can be heard loudly there, although we were unable to actually see any. They stop calling when you approach. 
Sadly right by this bridge we encountered some highly polluted water from a drain entering the river. This is really bad because this river feeds an Ecology Park further along its course.  Water pollution is a serious threat to amphibians, fish and other wildlife. 
Back by the stadium and right by a main road are a lot of temporary pools that fill up in winter and spring and are always used by local amphibians. Tadpoles can be seen in the cloudy water but it is always a race against time for them because the pools always dry up, leaving just cracked mud until next rainy season. making the situation worse, people enjoy driving through these pools. I once saw a vehicle stuck in one of them with the mud flying up. I must admit I thought it was funny and had no sympathy for the driver. It was as if this was "Instant karma."
Ana and I next went to take a look around the Ecology Park of Quinta do Conde, a place I have written about before in this blog. There is a small lake there and when I last visited, it was full of water and there were plenty of frogs about. Sadly this was not the case this time, though Ana spotted one tadpole. The water was very low and we discovered yet another source of pollution because there was oil floating on the surface at one end of the lake and a trickle of oily water entering it there. Someone had thrown a shopping trolley into the water and a landing stage for visitors to stand on to get a better look over the water had been demolished for some reason. 

The Ecology Park was showing neglect and was disappointing, although there are extensive reed beds there, and many other smaller pools and dykes in an area used for allotments that local people grow fruit and vegetables in. Because the water was so low in the lake I thought that Herons and Storks had probably caught a lot of the frogs and any fish that live there. Storks congregate in the fields next to the park, and Herons are also seen here. Storks and Herons, of course, have to find food, and are just as important as frogs. Although our visit to this park was somewhat disappointing, it fitted in with what we were trying to do, which was to conduct an exploration of our neighbourhood, to keep things local. I think it is important for anyone who wants to help with conservation of amphibians and other species of wildlife, to do what you can in the area you live in. This applies wherever you are in the world. If you have found this report interesting and would like to find out more about what you can do to help SAVE THE FROGS, please visit the SAVE THE FROGS website! Now I'm off to help SAVE THE FROGS! 

Friday 18 March 2022

Butterflies flying in March in Portugal

Butterflies flying in March in Portugal

There are many butterfly species currently flying in the area of Portugal I live in. They are enjoying the warm spring sunshine. I saw several Green Hairstreaks (Callophrys rubi), two Clouded Yellows (Colias crocea) , two Red Admirals (Vanessa atalanta),

lots of Speckled Woods (Pararge aegeria aegeria) and several Large Whites (Pieris brassicae) on a short walk today. As well as these butterflies, I spotted two Spanish Festoons (Zerynthia rumina). I live in Quinta do Conde and like to walk through some forest and scrub on my way to the local supermarket and back. I usually see butterflies unless it is very cold, wet or windy. There are plenty of plants the Green Hairstreak butterflies can lay their eggs on here. They have a choice of Gorse (Ulex) or the Rockrose (Cistus) species. I was watching a Clouded Yellow female carefully searching in a short grassy area for Clovers and Medicks that are sprouting after some recent rains. Like all butterflies, the success of a species is very much linked to the distribution of plants they need for their caterpillars, and how well these plants are growing at the right season. Even if the correct plants are available in a given area, heat and drought can shrivel them up or prevent them growing at all. This is a disaster for a female butterfly. Every year we get several months in the summer period when the vegetation mainly goes brown or dies back to the ground. It can even be difficult finding some green blades of grass.

This is a big problem for the butterflies, like the Speckled Wood and Meadow Brown (
Maniola jurtina), that have larvae that feed on grasses. The latter butterfly flies later in the year and does surprisingly well here, though I have seen them sheltering in the shade of trees when it is very hot. I always wonder how they find enough grass to lay their eggs on. For the Speckled Wood in February and March this is not a problem because the grass species grow back after the winter rains. This year there has been a terrible winter drought so the land is very dry. Nevertheless many plants, including grass species, have survived, though they are nowhere near the usual size. I have been especially glad to see the small colony of the Spanish Festoon is still thriving. Last year, I didn’t see any of this species and feared that the brutal cold of the winter of 2020-2021 had wiped them out. I was obviously wrong because I have seen several of this species in the area they are found in here. Speaking of the Spanish Festoon, and its potential problems, it took me years to find the food-plant they are using in my locality. The Spanish Festoon needs any of the species of Birthwort (Aristolochia).
The species that grows here is the Round-leaved Birthwort (
A. rotunda). It is a delicate plant that winds its way amongst bushes and undergrowth so is not that easy to spot, especially in shaded areas. It only grows in one part here, where it is found in a lightly wooded area with a pathway and a bank. I can see for myself how this species is bound to stay where its food-plant grows because every year this location is the only place I can find this spectacular butterfly. I say spectacular because its wings are marked with darker zigzags and red dots on a yellow background. I am a migraine sufferer and the jagged lines remind me of the aura formation many people who get migraines are used to seeing.
Horrible as migraines are, the Spanish Festoon is a truly beautiful species of butterfly.

All photos by Steve Andrews

Thursday 3 March 2022

Helping the Red Admiral Butterflies

Red Admirals need Nettles

Red Admiral Photo: Steve Andrews

The Red Admiral (Vanessa atalanta) is a very pretty butterfly you are probably familiar with. You can’t miss it with its striking red, black and white wings, and in the UK, it is one of the last butterflies to be seen in late autumn. We all love to see butterflies but many people don’t realise how important the plants the caterpillars need to feed on are. In the case of the Red Admiral, the main food-plants are Nettle species. The Stinging Nettle (Urtica dioica) is the most commonly used plant but here in Portugal where I live, the Annual Nettle (U. urens) is the species they use.

Annual Nettles Photo: Steve Andrews
These nettles spring up as a garden weed and on waste ground in the autumn and winter when rains fall. Sadly because they are regarded as a weed, many people destroy them, either manually with care, due to the stinging threat from the plant, or with herbicide, and any Red Admiral eggs, caterpillars or chrysalises, get destroyed too. 
I saw a large patch of Small Nettles growing on some rough ground in a shortcut between two roads in my neighbourhood. I checked for Red Admiral caterpillars and soon found some, which I took into care, just in case anyone came along and killed the plants. I am very glad I did because some council workers turned up and removed all the vegetation that was growing there.
There is a skill to finding Red Admiral caterpillars, but it is very easy to learn. The caterpillars are usually found towards the top of a nettle stem and they fold leaves around themselves as shelters. The leaves are held with a small amount of caterpillar silk. They eat surrounding leaves and you can spot the holes in these leaves and their ragged appearance where they have been eaten away.

Sometimes the Red Admiral caterpillar will pupate inside their shelters too, but not always, because they will also transform into chrysalises that hang suspended from nettle stalks or possibly on a wall, fence or other object near where the caterpillar has been feeding.
I keep the caterpillars in sandwich boxes with a paper towel on the bottom to help absorb any dampness and to make it easier when cleaning out the container and providing new food. Often I find that the caterpillars will choose to pupate after spinning a pad of silk on the plastic top of the sandwich box. The chrysalises are brown but some are speckled with gold. As the butterfly inside becomes more developed and nears the time for emergence it becomes much darker and you can see the wings colouring up in the wing-case on each side of the chrysalis.

When the Red Admirals finally emerge, or eclose, as lepidopterists would say, they need to dry their wings thoroughly before they take their first flight. It is very important at this stage that they are not disturbed and that they don’t fall off whatever they are clinging to. This can be a problem for all species of butterflies at this stage of their life-cycles. Fallen butterflies can become cripples if they fail to expand and dry their wings properly. Usually all goes well, though, and the Red Admiral is all set to fly away. This butterfly can fly a long way. Many of those seen in the UK are migrants, though this species can hibernate in Britain too. In Portugal they have more than one generation but need nettles. I usually see them in autumn, winter and spring. In summer it is too hot and dry. There is a place in some woodland near where I live that I can almost guarantee I will be able to find a male Red Admiral every year in the right seasons. Of course, it isn’t the same butterfly but is obviously an ideal spot for a male of this species to create a territory he can patrol.

All photos by Steve Andrews

Monday 28 February 2022

Filming a music video for “Mother Nature Rap.”

 My next release is "Mother Nature Rap."

Photo by Bianca Ferreira
I have a new release coming out on 21 March, as a song and a music video, and it’s a big change of genre for me, because it is entitled “Mother Nature Rap.” I thought that I would take action as a singer-songwriter by becoming a rapper, rapping about threats to the environment. I think I may well be one of the oldest rappers around too, seeing as I will be 69 on my next birthday, which is also on 21 March, the Vernal Equinox and the first day of spring. I recorded the basic song at Verdelho Studio, here in Portugal, with Ricardo Verdelho as my producer and he created the backing rap track behind my vocals and guitar. I sent the result to my good friend Crum, who has been a member of Hawkwind, as well as in Shockhead and The Moonloonies. He has a new band now called STARRATS, and has been a synth player in all these bands. Crum added his synth wizardry to “Mother Nature Rap,” just like he did on my other recent recording, “Time For Ocean Aid.” So my rap song has a distinctive space-rock and synthwave sound to it too. I asked my friend the acclaimed Portuguese filmmaker Pedro Augusto Almeida if he could make a music video for this song, and so it was that I spent 20 February being filmed. We started off at Sergio Dimiendes’s Nimbo Studio in the countryside outside Setubal. Pedro had come up with an opening scene in which I am filmed sat outside the studio reading a newspaper. Maria Calheiros Lucas calls me and I go up some steps and into the studio where I am filmed rapping my song.

Later in the afternoon we went to Sende Portugal, an amazing co-working space, also outside Setubal, and run by Edo Sadikovic and Maruchi Rodriguez. There are acres of woodland and it was in these that I was filmed singing and dancing as the late afternoon sun’s rays grew less, making the lighting conditions a lot better. Taking a short break from the filming, I was introduced to a game known as malha in Portugal but is also called petanque, and is played in France. It employs rather heavy metal balls that players throw into a circle drawn on the ground. I was happy to find that as a newcomer to this game I managed to play well enough, though I failed to win. Pedro’s fiance Bianca Ferreira was in charge of taking all the still photos, and she captured a photo of me holding the malha balls.
After a delicious evening barbecue and meal came the last of the filming for the day. I was dancing and rapping to the camera in a woodland clearing illuminated by coloured lights. And finally I was filmed raising my outstretched arms with a psychedelic video being projected on a screen behind me. I am really looking forward to seeing how the music video turns out but am sure it is going to be as brilliant as Pedro’s other work.  In the meantime, here are the lyrics:

Mother Nature Rap

You wanted a utopia, you’re living in a dystopia,

Too many people with myopia in the world today.

Mother Nature don’t care about neatness, so leave the wildflowers grow,

Help to save the wildlife, you reap what first you sow,

Mother Nature ain’t here for your dream, you’re in hers so let it be,

Respect all her creation, and go and hug a tree,

But all the forests you’ve cut down, you know that should never have been,

The Mother’s lungs have been cut out, it’s happened but it’s obscene.

The oceans you’ve filled with plastic, and the land you’ve poisoned badly,

We’re in the beginning of the end, and the future’s looming sadly.

The children know what’s happening, and the grown-ups have let them down,

The Arctic ice is melting, and the cities on the coasts could drown.

You wanted a utopia, you’re living in a dystopia,

Too many people with myopia in the world today.

Monday 7 February 2022

Time For Ocean Aid is a new release

Time For Ocean Aid” was released on 2 February, World Wetlands Day. My song features synth and piano by Crum, who has played in Shockhead, Hawkwind, and The Moonloonies, but now fronts STARRATS. His keyboard wizardry gives my acoustic protest song a space-rock and psychedelic flavour. Psyche-folk is a new genre for my music. Daz, also from STARRATS, has created the music video for “Time For Ocean Aid.” I had recorded the basic acoustic track with the help of Ricardo Verdelho at his VerdelhoStudio in Quinta do Conde in Portugal. The lyrics for “Time For Ocean Aid” were included in my new book, Saving Mother Ocean, which was published on 26 November, 2021, by Moon Books. It tells the story, not only of “Time For Ocean Aid,” but also for my song “Where Does All The Plastic Go?” and how I responded to the call to action I felt.
In my songs and book I am hoping to motivate many more people to take action in any way they feel, to help save not only the oceans but the environment, wildlife habitats, and life on Earth! The lyrics are:

We've got to save the birds, we've got to save the bees, We've got to save the forests, we've got to save the seas. When I look at all the mess we've made, I think it's time for ocean aid. Micro-plastic pollution, it's bound to make you think, it is even in the air and the water that we drink. The Amazon has burned so much, Australia's been burning too, Wildfires are the new normal, so what are we gonna do?

We've got to save the birds, we've got to save the bees, We've got to save the forests, we've got to save the seas. When I look at all the mess we've made, I think it's time for ocean aid.

There's an insect Armageddon, a sixth great extinction underway, But keep the economy growing, There's more jobs I hear them say.

We've got to save the birds, we've got to save the bees, We've got to save the forests, we've got to save the seas. When I look at all the mess we've made, I think it's time for ocean aid.

Where are the real world leaders? Please tell me where they are. The ones in the media are just talking more blah-blah.

We've got to save the birds, we've got to save the bees, We've got to save the forests, we've got to save the seas. When I look at all the mess we've made, I think it's time for ocean aid.

“Time For Ocean Aid” is part of my much bigger, in fact mind-bogglingly massive, “Ocean Aid” project. You see, I am hoping that one day there will be a stadium-sized “Ocean Aid” concert, or concerts, with many internationally famous rock and pop acts taking part. It is an international campaign too because the oceans are under threat worldwide. Plastic pollution, overfishing, seabed mining, oil spills, nuclear waste, “dead zones,” coral bleaching, military testing and sonar, as well as, last but certainly not least, climate change, are all taking a heavy toll on marine life and the health of the oceans. I want to raise funds for Sea Shepherd and was honoured by having Captain Paul Watson, who founded Sea Shepherd, endorsing my book Saving Mother Ocean. My message is finding media coverage around the world but I need it to keep on doing so. So far I have been in Filippo Solibello’s book SPAM Stop Plastic A Mare, published in Italy, I’ve been featured twice in The Portugal News, been on the radio in Spain, Ireland and the US, been featured in the GONZO Weekly in England, given coverage in The Wave magazine of the Rotary Club of Wyndham Harbour in Australia. In Wales, the country I was born in, I am delighted to have the full support of Mike Kennedy, who runs SWND Magazine and the SWND Records label. “Ocean Aid” has been featured in a 2-page article in the SWND Magazine.

Please help me spread the word about “Ocean Aid!” It is certainly time for helping to save the seas!

Wednesday 26 January 2022

It's Time For Ocean Aid

“Ocean Aid” has been an idea, an aim, a developing international project, and now a song. I have talked about “Ocean Aid'' in books, in magazines, a newspaper, on websites, on podcasts and on the radio. “Ocean Aid” has been featured in articles or interviews with me, in Italy, Portugal, Wales, England, Ireland, Spain, Australia, and the USA. Like, I said it is an international project. Italian radio host and author, Filippo Solibello, gave me a 4-page chapter in his book SPAM Stop Plastic A Mare

He was touring Italy promoting his book and also telling people about my song and ideas. I was looking forward to going over to Italy to join him at some point but then the pandemic struck. Despite lockdowns and restrictions I have kept working doing what I can online and in any media that will give me a platform to spark out on. I am reaching out to people all around the world to take action to help save the oceans and the marine life in them. The idea for “Ocean Aid” originally came to me when I wrote my song “Where Does All The Plastic Go?,” which I recorded and released in 2019.

Everyone will remember “Live Aid” and the massive concert that went under that banner, with many internationally famous acts performing for the event. I thought that ideally a concert of that sort of magnitude could some day take place at a stadium sized venue somewhere. The aim would be to raise awareness of the threats to the ocean, as well as raising funds for a charitable organisation like Sea Shepherd, an organisation that is already working hard at reversing the terrible damage to the seas and marine life in them. I chose Sea Shepherd because I believe it is the organisation most committed to saving the seas, and that it is treating the matter as a top priority. Captain Paul Watson, who founded Sea Shepherd has said: “If the ocean dies, we die.” I started my new book Saving Mother Ocean with this quotation from Captain Paul. It shows how urgently we should all be thinking about what we can do to save the ocean. It is a call to action, as is my book, and songs. I use the plural “songs” because I wrote another, with the title “Time For Ocean Aid.” I have been playing it live and online, and opened an Ocean Aid concert that was performed in Feb, 2021 with the help of the regular singers and musicians from Rew Starr’s ReW & WhO? Show from New York. We raised some funds for Sea Shepherd, and I had seen my idea become an actual reality, even if on a small scale. Since then I have been telling musicians and promoters to organise their own “Ocean Aid” concerts. I want to see this type of event taking place all around the world, because saving the seas really should be a priority around the planet.  I recently recorded my song “Time For Ocean Aid” at the Verdelho Studio, in Quinta do Conde, in Portugal, where I am based.

My good friend Crum, formerly of Shockhead, Hawkwind, and the Moonloonies, and now with a new band called STARRATS, very kindly added his keyboard wizard skills to overdub some piano and synthesiser. This has really added to my song and given it a space-rock feel which works well with the basic acoustic protest song. Daz, also from STARRATS, has created a music video to go with it. I will be releasing “Time For Ocean Aid” on 2 February, which is World Wetlands Day, and which seemed an apt time to do this. It really is TIME FOR OCEAN AID!

Tuesday 25 January 2022

Saving Mother Ocean is a new book about saving the seas

With my neighbour Ana 

My new book Saving Mother Ocean is part of the Earth Spirit series from Moon Books and was published on 26 November 2012. It opens with a quote from Captain Paul Watson, founder of Sea Shepherd, and he says: “If the ocean dies, we die.” I chose this quotation when writing my book because it sums up what a serious situation this is. Most people are aware of the plastic pollution problem but there are many more threats to the oceans. Overfishing, seabed mining, acidification, sonar and military testing, nuclear waste dumping, pollution from other sources besides plastic, and climate change, are all taking a heavy toll. Coral reefs are in danger from coral bleaching. I cover all these subjects in my book, taking a look at the problems. I look at solutions too and explain my personal journey, and what taking action has meant for me. Really this is an important part of my message to readers, because I am hoping to inspire as many people as possible to take action that is suited to their lives. We can all do something to help save the seas, and save the environment and life as we know it on this planet. I mention Greta Thunberg several times as an example of a person who decided she had to do all she could and to encourage others to do likewise. In fact, I have devoted a whole chapter, entitled “Let The Children Lead Us” to young activists who have spoken out and made changes in their lives because they felt a calling to do this. Speaking of young people, who are activists, I included 13-year-old Lilly Platt, who is a Global Youth Ambassador and is most famous for her lillysplasticpickup project.

Lilly collects plastic and other litter and displays what she has done on social media. Many people around the world are cleaning up beaches and their local environment, and this is spreading. I talk about how reduction is so important, reduction of the amount of plastic we buy, reduction of the amounts going into the environment, and reduction in all the ways that the consumerist world we live in is destroying nature. I have included the story behind my songs, “Where Does All The Plastic Go?”

and “Time For Ocean Aid” and how I came up with the idea for “Ocean Aid” concerts. I have been getting publicity around the world, for my songs, book and idea. So far Italy, Portugal, Spain, Wales, England, Ireland, Australia, and the US, are the countries that have given me a platform to discuss plastic pollution and other threats to the oceans. Taking action can open all sorts of unexpected doorways. An example of one of these, has resulted in me becoming a Rotarian. The Rotary Club of Wyndham Harbour in Australia discovered me on Instagram and featured me in their The Wave magazine pages 80 and 81. I began attending Rotary meetings online and discovered not only were there many Rotarians keen on listening to what I had to say, but also very many who were environmentalists and activists worldwide. I went on to join ESRAG (Environmental Sustainability Rotary Action). The fact that it was an Australian club that featured me fitted well with how I look at the problem of the threats to Mother Ocean. The oceans do not belong to anyone, we all share them, and depend on them, so the more countries that want to help me raise awareness the better. I am really pleased to be able to announce that Saving Mother Ocean is available from good book suppliers in most parts of the world. Just try Googling it where you are. I am also delighted with the endorsements my book has had, and the reviews that are starting to be shared.

I was honoured to have Captain Paul Watson’s endorsement, which is included on the back cover, and I will leave the last word to him: “Steve Andrews understands that the key to defending and protecting life and diversity in the Ocean is to use what you are good at to find solutions to seemingly impossible problems. The strength of an eco-system depends upon diversity and interdependence within it. By harnessing our passions to the virtues of courage and imagination we can find impossible solutions to seemingly impossible problems. Saving Mother Ocean is inspiring, informative and a call to action by all of us to save the Mother to all of us - the Ocean.”