Country Life Today: World’s fattest parrot on brink of extinction, and a solution to the misery of leaves on the track

Today we look at New Zealand's charming kakapo parrot, how 21st technology can solve the oldest problem on the railways and enjoy wonderful footage of birds in springtime.

World’s fattest parrot on brink of extinction

The charming and amusing kakapo parrot, a native of New Zealand, earned itself a worldwide fanbase with its amorous behaviour towards a BBC cameraman a few years back.

Sadly, it is in real danger of dying out. There are just 142 adult kakapo parrots left, and a serious respiratory disease called aspergillosis has seen a number of them die in the last few months — including a recently-born chick at Auckland Zoo. About a fifth of the population are currently being treated.

Full story (The Guardian)


One of the great joys of Spring, in 29 seconds

The weather outside is frightful, but those great tits are so delightful.


Those pesky leaves on the track have been defeated at last

When the leaves hit the track, it’s time to grab the dog and walk to work…

A train full of people weighs approximately 2,000 tonnes. A leaf weighs 5g. You’d think a meeting between the two would be a complete mismatch.

Yet somehow ‘leaves on the track’ is still one of the most common causes of rail delays in Britain. Help is here at long last, however, with The Times reporting a very 21st century solution: a camera linked to a computer that can spot leaves before they fall.

‘The footage is fed into the AI system, which is able to predict where problems will emerge, including trees about to fall, branches hitting train windows and trees about to shed their leaves. Network Rail will then be able to tackle the vegetation before it delays trains.’

You read that right. They’ve still not figured out how the 2,000 tonne super heavyweight can beat the 5g bantamweight, but at least they’ve discovered how to stop the bantamweight getting into the ring in the first place.

Full story (The Times – subscription required)


Stat of the Day

59,000,000

The amount of carbon dioxide, in tonnes, emitted on an annual basis by the US military. That doesn’t just sound like a lot; it IS a lot — more than the entire CO2 emissions of Portugal.

Full story (The Guardian)


Increasingly chunky passengers force Britain’s steepest cliff railway to reinforce its suspension

As it approaches its 120th birthday, the 200ft-long Bridgnorth Funicular Railway is being reinforced in order to cope with the increased average weight of the passengers. ‘We are faced with people having become larger and heavier,’ said the brilliantly-named Malvern Tipping, director of what is the nation’s shortest and steepest railway.

Full story (Daily Telegraph)


Good news for snail lovers — and Chester Zoo

As a counterpoint to the kakapo story above, here’s a a good news story proving that all is far from lost when people rally around to help endangered species. The Greater Bermudan Land Snail, which until recently had been thought extinct for decades, is thriving.

The creature had been thought to have disappeared in the early 1970s, but a small colony were found in 2014 in an alleway behind a restaurant. Several were taken to Chester Zoo for a breeding programme, and now 4,000 have been released back onto the island.

It’s more good news for the zoo just a few days after they happily confirmed that their baby elephant has shurgged off a nasty virus.

Full story (BBC)


And finally… Positive thinker of the Day

‘The way I see it, if you want the rainbow you’ve got to put up with the rain.’

 – Dolly Parton, who we can’t help thinking probably hasn’t spent many summers in Britain