Stories tagged Scotland

Aug
25
2008

A gull bomber: See? They're gross. Gross and bad.
A gull bomber: See? They're gross. Gross and bad.Courtesy Sanchezn
That’s right, Buzzketeers, you heard it here first: Scotland has declared war.

Muskets are being cleaned, shakos brushed, wigs powdered, kilts pleated…

And who or what is this war on? England? No, Braveheart settled that one with an academy award. Personal hygiene? I’m afraid that war was lost centuries ago. Drugs? Maybe, but Trainspotting was so much fun.

So what’s left?

Birds, y’all, birds. Scotland has finally declared war on the birds. Actual birds. I don’t mean, like, a cockney version of national misogyny. Seagulls, in fact, are the targets here.

Why? Why ask why, I say. Have you ever seen or heard a seagull and not wanted to destroy it and all of its ilk? That, by the way, is a rhetorical question.

Scotland has drafted a more formal—though only just—list of complaints against the bird nation: they thrive on litter, and their aggressive behavior towards humans and other animals is increasing. They are, in short, “a menace.”

The Environmental Minister even whipped out the story of a paper delivery boy (called a Scottish Flat-hat Lad, I believe), who has had to abandon his duties for fear of bird attack. Wars have been started over less.

The initial campaign will kick off in the southwestern town of Dumfries, Scotland, during the gulls breeding season. The Scots are clearly taking seriously the old saying “Hit ‘em where it hurts” (the genitals). Anti-gull task forces are being formed to destroy nests and drive the birds off. It’s going to be like a Scottish Starship Troopers.

There may be another solution here—this article points out that the gull population of Britain began rising sharply and steadily after the introduction of the Clean Air Act in 1956. It isn’t that gulls thrive in clean air (they probably hate it, rats that they are), but that the act prohibited the burning of garbage by local landfill owners, giving the horrible birds all the delicious trash they could ever hope to eat.

So Scotland needs to start firing up those landfills! Sure, it’s dirty, but we need to consider the perils of off-balancing animal populations. Just look at zebra mussels and, like… zebras. Get out your bagpipes and claymores! Fill the sky with the greasy black smoke of victory!

Jul
11
2008

It was horrible: just horrible.
It was horrible: just horrible.Courtesy Steveie-B
A pipistrelle bat, local to Aberdeen, Scotland, was shocked and disgusted to find the naked leg of a 19-year-old woman thrust into the soft contours of its new cave.

Having just moved from the grim crawlspaces of an Aberdeen flat, in favor of a cozier, denim living space, the two-inch flying mammal assumed that it was set for life.

Shortly after settling in for the day, however, the pipistrelle was bludgeoned into consciousness by the colossal, pale shank of a Scottish receptionist. The invading limb was squeezed through the cloth tube like a kielbasa in the neck of a beer bottle, leaving the bat little choice but to hunker down and wait for the flesh-storm to subside.

Unfortunately, the young receptionist remained maddeningly unaware of the presence of the sorely abused batty for the better part of an hour. It was not until her mother was driving her to work that the nerve signals from her monstrous appendage apparently completed the arduous journey to her brain. The screaming and thrashing that followed was no doubt tortuous for the small creature’s delicate bones and hyper-sensitive ears. One can only imagine how painful the experience must have been to the tiny merkel cells lining the bat’s wings, as the delicate, single-haired structures were meant only to sense subtle changes in air flow, not to endure the scraping of Scotch legs.

The bat was shortly evicted from its new home, and placed into a holding cell, where it was given the humiliating nickname “Rat-bat.”

“My name,” the pipistrelle was quoted, “is Henry Fitzroy-Lennox, and I want to go home.”

Lamentably healthy, the bad wondered how things might have been different, had it been a carrier of rabies. The virus, present in the nerves and saliva, could have been easily passed to the receptionist through one quick bite (or, less likely, but intriguingly possible, via an aerosol through the mucus membranes). The infection would have necessitated an injection of immunoglobulin near the infection site, and another intramuscularly away from the site, followed by several shot of vaccine.

If the receptionist had neglected to seek proper treatment for the Henry’s well-deserved revenge, she could have looked forward to the rapid passage of the virus along her nerves, through her central nervous system, to the ultimate destination of her brain, where it soon would have caused encephalitis—painful and deadly inflammation of the brain.

There’s some small chance that a drug induced coma could have saved her brain from further damage at this point, but very likely the damage would have been done, and irreversible symptoms would soon begin to appear. Initially symptoms would be flu-like, but before long the woman would have suffered from insomnia, confusion, agitation, partial paralysis, paranoia, terror, and severe hallucinations. The receptionist would have become distinctly drippy, as her body would produce excessive amounts of tears and saliva. Her slight paralysis would have prevented her from swallowing, causing the characteristic “foaming at the mouth” of rabies. She may have developed hydrophobia—a fear of water—because the excess fluid in her mouth and inability to swallow could bring her to a panic when presented with liquids to drink (indeed, “hydrophobia” was once synonymous with rabies, so characteristic was the symptom).

Approximately one week after developing symptoms, the receptionist would have died.

So, all in all, it seems that she really dodged a bullet after throwing herself in front of a gun.

Mr. Fitzroy-Lennox was released into the wild (of Aberdeen) at the end of the lucky and inconsiderate woman’s shift. He will never again put himself into a position where a receptionist could abuse him so awfully.

More from Science Buzz on bats and rabies.

More on receptionists.

More on Aberdeen.

Jun
06
2008

I think these are ghost beavers: But are they sad ghost beavers, or vengeful ghost beavers?
I think these are ghost beavers: But are they sad ghost beavers, or vengeful ghost beavers?Courtesy Lawrence Whittemore
There’s another story in the news about reintroducing wildlife to Scotland.

Unlike that last story, however, this one has heart and a moral. The heart, to be clear, is a beaver, and the moral is this: don’t just go tossing your beavers around, because they might get full of salt water and die. Take that to heart (actually to heart this time, not to beaver).

The story goes thusly:

First, the mystery. Beavers were believed to be on the loose in Scotland in April. Now, here in Minnesota that’s not such a big deal—out of control beavers are pretty much the norm. But in the British Isles, where beavers were hunted into extinction 400 years ago, it’s apparently a horrifying prospect. You see, the punishment for loosing a beaver is two years in prison or a 40,000 pound fine. Fortunately for the Brits, there seemed to be only a couple of beavers to deal with. “They are by themselves,” said the BBC’s beaver expert of the situation, “spring is in the air, [and] they might be looking for mates which they're never going to find.”

Remember, in Britain, “mates” means “friends.” Why couldn’t these beavers ever find friends? What were they running from? Therein lies the real mystery, but the Scottish police became distracted by more superficial elements of the case: “We must capture the beaver to find out if it’s clean and got no diseases,” said constable Douglas Ogilvie.

No doubt everyone just wanted to forget about the case, but that became impossible in May, when a dead beaver was found on a Scottish beach. Despite suggestions that its remaining there might improve the beach, the corpse was removed for the purpose of investigation.

Beaver autopsies being what they are (complicated and time-consuming, apparently), it was only this week (one month later) that the results finally came in: the beaver drank itself to death—possibly because of loneliness—on seawater.

An official program to reintroduce beavers to Scotland was announced last month, but this poor, salty rodent was probably intentionally released by a numbskull working on his own.

“Beavers need freshwater,” points out a local wildlife crime officer, “ and the only open water this one found was the sea. Its stomach was found to be full of water, otherwise it was found to be a healthy animal.”

And so we’ve come to the tragedy portion of our little tragimystery. A little beaver, far from home, set loose like White Fang, only to accidentally poison itself. What a bummer.

Let this be a lesson to you: just because you think something is a good idea doesn’t mean you’re not an idiot. And also be kind to beavers, because they’ve had a rough spring. And, um, don’t put them in salt water.

Jun
03
2008

Just a crazed wolf man: Looking a little more crazed than usual, it should be said. He had a long night.
Just a crazed wolf man: Looking a little more crazed than usual, it should be said. He had a long night.Courtesy Miguel Ariel Contreras Drake-McLaughlin
I’m trying a little bit of a new format out here for Buzz posts, so bear with me. If it’s successful, my soft fingers will be saved much harmful typing, and science news can be enjoyed like a blockbuster preview, or maybe a musical montage. And so…

“Scotland…”

“Multi-millionaire Paul Lister…the son of the founder of a UK furniture retailer…”

“‘I am not just some crazed wolf man.’”

Hulda and Hercules…a $31,630 pair of moose…now roam alongside newly released wild boar.”

“‘It’s not about conservation…it’s about restoration.’”

If bears and wolves were introduced, business…would increase tenfold.”

“‘I am not just some crazed wolf man.’”

“Farmers, ramblers and neighboring landowners remain skeptical…of wolves.”

“‘It’s almost like a scientific experiment.’”

Control the deer populationexpensive cullingtrampling of saplings.”

“A historical character called the Wolf of Badenoch…a highland clan chieftain…a raider…a rampager.”

“‘I am not just some crazed wolf man.’”

“Proposed reintroduction of the beaver.”

“‘It would probably run away if you came upon it.’”

“Wolves…complicated and costly…killed livestock…wolf population can multiply and spread rapidly.”

Have them neutered.”

“‘Biodiversity has lead people astray…’”

“‘I am not just some crazed wolf man.’”