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Thursday, August 31, 2006

Nostalgia

I read yesterday that it is thirty years since Charlie's Angels was first broadcast. Oh that makes me feel old.

I suppose most people know of Charlie's Angels through the recent film but your blogger remembers the orignal. "Once upon a time there were three little girls who went to the police acamedy ........ but I took them away from all that. My name is Charlie."

The concept was a detective agency with 3 attractive woman and a male boss who you only see on the phone. The original Angels were Sabrina (Kate Jackson) - the smart one, Kelly (Jaclyn Smith) - the Sophisticated one and Jill (Farrah Fawcett Majors) - the athletic one. The show was amazingly successful. FFM left after one series, Kate Jackson after 3 and only Jaclyn Smith went to the end. Apparently there were 6 angels but I can only remember 5.

None of the actresses went on to big things acting wise. Jaclyn Smith became queen of day time movies. Kate Jackson starred in the Scarecrow and Mrs King. However it was Farrah Fawcett who was the big winner. If you are of a certain age you will remember Farrah, all blone hair and teeth. A poster of her in a swim suit sold 12 million copies, aged nearly 50 she did a playboy shoot (it was the biggest selling of the 90's apparently and the answer is no I haven't seen it!).

At the time the show was seen as sexy and popular.It all seems terribly tame now.
Like other hit shows of the time, Starsky & Hutch, The Six Million Dollar Man it feels very dated. It was repeated on Channel 5 recently and I just turned off.

Somethings are best left as Memories.

On the website (see link above)

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

How not to get on with your Sister-in-Law

CNN has had to say sorry after a TV anchorwoman's chat with a colleague in the restroom was broadcast over the top of a live speech by President Dubya Bush.

The Woman was heard praising her husband (good call, lots of browny points) and called her brother's wife a control freak - ooh that will not go down well. Can you imagine the next family get together?

Sad or what

At 10pm last night I was nattering away on Yahoo when my work phone went. Rats!! The problem was a silly one and everything could carry on. The worry was that it might occur in a later job but hey nowt I can do so onwards.....

I was on the phone 'puter for 30 minutes and decided to head back to yahoo for a wind d own chat.

Anway at 4:10 this morning I woke, comfort break, and on my way back to bed got the laptop out and signed on!! I checked and everything else had worked BUT, WHY did I check when there was NOTHING I could do!!

I suppose I would have thought about it and not gone back to sleep but I didn't anyway as I signed on to the web and played with some of the tabs on Diddums learning stuff about her I hadn't realised.

If I suddenly go quiet in yahoo tonight folks I've probably fallen asleep over my keyboard!

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

The RSPB Handbook of British Birds

I have mentioned this before but...

Four years ago my knowledge of birds went Seagull, Blue Tit, Sparrow, Robin, Blackbird, Chaffinch, Pigeon, Duck, Coot, Moorhen, Swan, House Martin (but I was aware of swift and swallow). Then April 19th 2002 I was made redundant and sometime over the next two months I picked up and old pair of bins and the rest as they say....

but not quite.... how did I identify birds? No one I knew was into birds. I bought a cheap guide from the wildlife trusts at a National Trust shop, it had the commonest 125 birds in it. 125 ? Wow 125 birds. And then very shortly I saw a bird I couldn't identify... it was common it was a Grey Wagtail and someone else (Nat Trust chap at Hatfield) told me what it was and it wasn't in my book. Also where else could I go to see birds?

Scratches head..... I did two things I joined the RSPB (which gave me a list of its reserves and I discovered Rye Meads) and I went into Bishops Stortford to Ottakars to look at every bird book they had and decided that this new book The RSPB Handbook of British Birds by a Peter Holden and Tim Cleeves looked pretty good. It referred to Britain not Britain and Europe and it said it referred to ALL birds seen in Britain at least 20 or so times a year.

That book is now dog eared and well thumbed. It went with me on my daily trips to Rye Meads and Hatfield Forest in my first months as a tyro birder. That I don't use it anymore doesn't mean I don't like it just that ... well we'll get there. When I'm old and grey (ok older and greyer) it will still be a treasured possession. Perhaps more than any other book it changed my life.

Sign on to any Birdwatching Forum and ask what field guide to buy and they will, almost to a birder, say the Collins Bird Guide. Even if you say youv'e never seen a Great Tit (I hadn't - well knowlingly) they will tell you to buy Collins, and they are wrong!

Firstly let me say that Collins is superb. The artwork is wonderful, BUT it covers the whole of Europe and for the novice/casual birder this is overkill. I've sat in hides whilst less experienced birders than me have looked at there collins and come up with some wonderful ids. The number of rarities I've heard called - uh its a Pochard! Uh its a Mallard in eclipse. Buy Collins by all means but temper this with a bit of practicality and buy a suitable first guide aimed at the UK market and aimed at the beginner/novice. Learn to walk!

I mention all this because on Saturday I walked into the visitors centre at Titchwell and picked up the 2nd edition.

The RSPB Handbook of British Birds - 2nd Edition - Peter Holden and Tim Cleeves.



The book covers the 282 commonest birds seen in the Britain. The only difference from the first addition is the inclusion of Parrot Crossbill and Hooded Crow. I'm not sure that the book includes everything it should. It excludes a few birds that perhaps really should be included but for the target audience it has a pretty good coverage. The inclusion of Parrot Crossbill corrects one of the two big mistakes of the 1st edition, still no Melodious Warbler though which should be included if disccussing Icterine.

If you've looked at any field guide before you will know that the first bird you are likely to find is the Red Throated Diver and the order of all guides follows the same species order. Recently "the powers that be" have changed the ordering of species. The first bird you will now find is Mute Swan, this is the first guide I've seen using the new system.

The book sticks to a standard format of one species per page. The decision has been made not to slavishly follow the classification order. This is sensible, they've taken the view to move Wood Warbler so that Chiffchaff and Willow Warbler are opposite each other. They've done this a few times. It was one of the drawbacks of the first edition and greatly improves usability.



There are standard paragraphs for each bird these are identification, habits, voice, habitat, food, breeding, movements and migrations, population, conservation and distribution. Each bird has a colour coded banner, these indicate conservation status. The maps are clear and easy to read. I'm told they are generous on distribution. The most obvious changes from the 2002 edition are the population sizes with big falls in birds like Spotted Flycatcher and Turtle Dove.

Pictures are distributed throughout the page and there are a range of plumage types. Artwork is taken from the Handbook of Bird Identification, it is not as universely good as Collins but is more than acceptable. On a few species greater variety of plumages would be helpful but there are space restrictions enforced by the scope of the book.

For each species it gives a list of confusion species (with page numbers). This is rather handy if you know that the bird is similar to something else you've seen but this one is different it gives you a starting point to find it. Although it is a bit odd that Sanderling has the Knot and Dunlin listed as its confusion species where Little Stint has Dunlin and Sanderling (and no Temminck's Stint! - they are opposite I suppose).

There is a glossary at the back listing alternative and local names for species.

The changes from the first edition are marginal but an improvement. If you own the first you have no real reason to buy the second unless you want the updated population statistics.

As I say I don't carry it anymore. This is because an equally good field-guide, the Pocket Guide to the Birds of Britain and North West Europe fits nicely into my belt bag. It includes birds I don't need like Black Woodpecker but I feel comfortable now that I'm not going to make such such big howlers. Its the size that made me change.

The book is not perfect, perhaps it tries to be too much, but to my mind there is so much good stuff here it deserves a place in any birders library. Until someone comes up with my ideal guide to carry in the field (a cut down version of Collins covering about 300-350 commonest species at the size of the Pocket Guide mentioned above) this will still be, to my mind, the best fieldguide for the beginner and novice and it remains a superb one volume guide to British Birds.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Turned out nice again.

I sent Dave a text last night asking if he was birding today.

At around 6-6:30 this morning I was lying on my bed (not a pretty sight) browsing when I got a reply "we're off to Gun Hill fancy it?" to which I replied "how about Titchwell, some waders around and I'll get the Bacon Rolls" "Race you" came the response.

Well I eventually got to Titchwell at 8:45 and we wandered down the path. Loads of little stuff about and 2 Little Stints and some Curlew Sandpiper's added to the year list. What was great was the numbers of waders. Giving you a chance to compare them. You realise that juvenile female Ruff and Curlew Sand look very similar except for the beak. Is that a Stint? No its a slightly smaller Dunlin with a shorter bill.

We couldn't find the "elusive" Temminck Stint. Lots of Golden Plover and some Grey Plover. Snipe, Common and Green Sandpiper, both sorts of Ringed Plover for instance.

Not a great deal off of the coast, Common Scoter, Eider, Sarnie and Common Tern. Juve Gannet and a Skua species (don't ask me what it was). A few Sanderling on the beach and some Grey Plover and Bar Tailed Godwit on fly past.

Back for brunch, we totally failed to see any Spoonbill, saw at least 7 Little Egrets.

Bacon Roll very nice and then back to bird the hides. Still no sign of Spoonbill or Temminck Stint. Fly over Curlew for the day list.

So at this point Dave suggested a secret site for a mega which was all hush hush.

And here is the little beauty.




ah you think he might be a captive? yes well ok Dave had vouchers for Hunstanton Sea Life centre.



There are Seals. The big one Stevie was found and has lost his sight so will always be in captitivity. Some of the others are to be released next week.



A youngster a couple of months old.




Stevie in position



Stevie being fed.


Other seriously cute residents....





Some sharks






Some turtles





Various bits and pieces.







Oh and that bird again



He's a Humboldt Penguin.

We had a late Fish & Chips and set off - ta Joy. The weather was much better than expected!

Until next times guys.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

The Search for Anghiari updated

Some of you remember I commented on an excellent TV program featuring Dr Merachio Serachini's search for Leonardo's Masterpiece The Battle of Anghiari.

For the past three years he has been stopped from continuing his research to prove the Da Vinci's masterpiece was not destroyed. He believe that Vasari saved the painting by building a protective wall in front of Anghiari. He wants to engineer new equipment to activate pigment behind Vasari's wall in a non-invasive way.

It appears that the election of a new government in Italy may give fresh impetus to Serachini's search (city authorities refused to give him permission to continue, for fear of damage to Vasari's work). Francesco Rutelli, the Deputy Prime Minister and Culture Minister, will soon appoint a committee to resolve the issue.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Some stuff from the papers

I bought a paper today. This is a very rare occurence, infact I bought two!!

The most important story, yes more so than the Darrell Hair farce is that spring is arriving earlier every year.

Trees are coming into leaf 10 days earlier (14 in Spain). Migratory birds are arriving 3.7 days earlier, with nesting taking place 8 days earlier. Apparently there are now report of over wintering Martins and Swallows.

The excellent British Wildlife (ok not a paper but the story is news and will interest many of my readers) reports that the near extinction of Hedgehogs in the countryside could be associated with an incease in Badgers. The research is by Richard Young of the Central Science Laboratory. It suggests that Hedgehogs have been eliminated in areas with the highest density of Badgers and that as sett density increased the liklihood of Hedgehogs and there abundance decreased.

There is a BIG advert in the Guardian for the all-new Bill Bryson. It's a memoir or childhood in 1950s America, The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid. Interview and extracts next Saturday.

But lets leave you with something funny!

You really need to watch your emails folks. Lucy Gao (a trainee at Citigroup) sent an email to guests at her 21st birthday party.

The email detailed instructions on how friends should present themselves at her 21st birthday party.

The email included a script to adhere to “When asked, how can I help you Sir/Madam, you reply, I am here for Lucy’s birthday party at the Rivoli Bar.”

How to dress “the more upper-class you dress, the less likely you shall be denied entry”.

Specific times on when each of the 39 guests were to arrive.

Queries should be directed to her Personal Assistant "between 8:30pm to 10pm"

and she added "I will be accepting cards and small gifts between 9pm to 11pm - wink wink, he he he"

Hey Luce, could have been worse. In 2000 Claire Swire's email went round the world describing Oral Sex!

Pottering about locally

I was taking the old folks out for the day but they phoned early to say as it was chucking it down.....

So I went birding, and it promptly stopped raining!

As I hadn't been to Hanningfield Reservoir for a while off I went. I do like Hanningfield, its a big reservoir with possiblities for waders and areas of woodland.

From the causeway, before reaching the visitors centre, I picked up some common ducks and geese and a Common Sandpiper.

The trails to the hides go through the woods. The trails were quiet and what birds there were conspicuous by there absence. The usual stuff on the reservoir including some Ruddy Ducks. A Green Sandpiper was a nice find and I almost missed the Black Necked Grebe, this one was much more in eclipse compared to the Doncaster bird. A point for us all not to assume its a Little Grebe! I did pick out the Garganey, if it hadn't flashed its speculum at me I'd have missed it.

There were Black Swans about as well as Red Crested Pochard. Another Common Sandpiper and a Yellow Wagtail amongst the Pied.

As I was walking between hides I heard and saw "something" through the trees. It was big and not a gull but what it was ..... walks into hide "Did you see the Osprey?" Uh well I guess I did I suppose.

Amongst the Gulls I picked out the Yellow Legs. If Yellow Legs there must be let them be in full plumage.

After lunch I headed to Rye Meads. Soon was on to Southern and Migrant Hawker Dragonflies. The migrants were zipping everywhere. Best spot was a Water Vole !! Nice.

Draper hide had been invaded by Canada Geese well over a 100. They had a Barnacle amongst them (feral? escape?) and a Little Egret.

Spotted a Great Spot on my stroll. Lots of Little Grebes about. Also lots of Migrant Hawkers and the odd Brown Hawker, oh and a Common Darter. The Tits and finches were playing hard to get.

The last find was a female Sparrowhawk.

Quiet day but enjoyable.

Friday, August 25, 2006

Sorry Blog World

I just happened to glance at the blog and thought "bloody hell what are all these people doing here". Of course I've just repost 248 blog entries.

Oh well hope you like something here, say hi. Won't happen again. Sheepish look.

Blog Update

Well I've switched the blog to beta blogger. I'm using the same dull template :) I'm not certain if blogger will still lose your links when you change templates, but it didn't when I moved to beta and selected my old template (which is the default).

It seems be easier to add links and things. You just drag and drop to rearrange your page. You can put your techorati links and site stats in. I did lose my posting functions. I clicked the wrong thing and couldn't get them back. Eventually I went into IE and they were there and so I EVENTUALLY twigged that I had to reload the page in Firefox. A bit painful but hey!

You can't as yet edit the HTML code.

I'm not sure of all the new features of blogger. Certainly one useful feature is that the edit screen now shows which of your posts has comments and you can page through your posts.

One of the more obvious features is the ability to label posts. You will see them under the comments. I promise to go through all my posts and categorise them (Actually sad muppet that I am guess what I will spend my lunch hour doing? Anyway I've done a few for you to see how it works.

Oh I've done 248 entries in 6 month - ah quantity over quality

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Chinese Funeral Strippers outlawed.

Why is it somedays I struggle to think of anything to write about and others...

China has decided to ban the practice of striptease sendoffs at funerals. Apparently in China large crowds are seen as a sign of honour so the events are held to boost the attendance.

a glimpse into a strangers life

Obviously we all get to see parts of other peoples lives. Whether that be family, friends or colleagues.

But of course there are times we glance into a complete strangers life. Most of these are totally mundane and we soon forget them, but sometimes we want to know what that was all about.

So we scroll back till 1990/91 and Beverley Craven was enjoying a five minutes in the sun. Some friends and I went along to watch her play the Savoy Theatre. Now my seat was on the otherside of the aisle, not a problem I have long legs and the Savoy has little leg room.

As I sat there a couple walked down the aisle, looked at their tickets and found their seats too were separated. Now I thought this rather sad. A few minutes later another woman walked down the aisle and sat next to the chap. All 3 were obviously together as they chatted across the aisle.

In her blog CP refers to a friend of hers being an alpha female and making her look like grotbags. Well of these two women the one on her own was definitely alpha female.

Anyway what intrigued me was that during the "big" romantic number, the girl across the aisle seemed to be looking wistfully across at the bloke. And I was wondering what this was all about.

Of course I never found out but for some reason the memory has stuck with me.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Rewriting the Past

As you will no doubt have read or heard on TV/Radio the Defence Secretary Des Browne intends to seek pardons for more than 300 men shot for military offences during World War I.

The family of one soldier shot have been campaigning for years. They argue that there relative was suffering from shell shock.

Mr Browne said that, after 90 years, "the evidence just doesn't exist inside the cases individually".

"I don't want to be in a position of second guessing the commanders in the field who were making decisions," he added.

But injustices "were clearly done".

"We can't be in a situation morally where we cannot redress injustices because we don't have paperwork in relation to an individual case.

"But we can in other cases where we have some paperwork."

Now this puzzles me why only world war I and not other wars? I believe that one of the reasons given was that there are relatives alive today who knew the soldiers shot.

Why stop at "injustices" in World War 1 ? What about the Boer War, Zulu Wars, Crimea ad infinitum.

Mr Browne's actions may appear laudable, because some soldiers shot were undoubtedly suffering from shell shock and related conditions, but he admits that he doesn't have the evidence.

What concerns me is that we are trying to judge the past. Actions need to be judged in the context of the times not by applying the standards of today. If you start doing that where do you stop? I imagine many historical figures would be judged harshly by todays standards.

If you think of the jury system we have today it refers to "peers". Peers must have the same reference point as those being prosecuted.

Mr Browne may have the best of intentions, the families of soldiers shot may feel aggrieved, but I think he is mistaken.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

The world has gone mad

Apparently Children's TV channel Boomerang are going to edit some Tom & Jerry cartoons where the characters are shown smoking.

Some UK parents (may have been one) complained that they were not suitable for children (get a life). Ofcom recognised that the cartoons were made at a time when smoking was acceptable.

"We note that in Tom and Jerry smoking usually appears in a stylised manner," said Ofcom.

However, it said that "the level of editorial justification required for the inclusion of smoking in such cartoons is necessarily high".

"Depictions of smoking may not be problematic given the context," it continued.

"But broadcasters need to make a judgement about the extent to which a particular scene may or may not genuinely influence children."

However Boomerang will only edit those cartoons where smoking appears to be "condoned, acceptable or glamorised". Which I think is two in total.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Wildlife Projects

The RSPB, WWT, Pensthorpe Conservation Trust and Jordans (the cereal people)have got together to re-introduce the Crane to a new breeding site in Britain. There is a very small population in the Norfolk broads that gets supplemented in winter. Curiously though I am not convinced this is the best use of money.

A new(?) organisation the Bumbleebee Conservation Trust is trying to raise £100,000 to buy a reserve in the Outer Hebrides. Two bees that were once common in Britain the Great Yellow Bumblebee and Moss Carder bumblebee are present and the reserve would enable the preservation and protection of the habitat they need.

I presume that money will be more easily available for the Crane than it is for the bumblebee. As Boo would say such is life.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Sunday 20th August

Well I forgot to take a photo of the hotel/pub. I can recommend the Royal Oak, Dacre Bank ****. Worked out at £70 including 3 course meal and 2 large glasses of wine. There was a huge choice of food 31 starters and 30+ mains. Well cooked as well.

I stopped off at Welney briefly to see Golden Plover, Wood and Green Sand, Little Ringed Plovers and Yellow Wagtails amongst others.

So 6 weeks to go to the next one...............

Saturday 19th August

Given it was dry I headed for Mount Grace Priory. This is, apparently, the most compelete remanant of a Carthusian building.







Carthusian Monks each had a two story cell complete small garden, outdoor privy,living room (with fireplace), bedroom, private cloister and work room. The monks only saw each other for services. Food was passed by servants through a hole. Only the Prior dealt with the outside world.

In the early 20th century Cell 8 was restored. It gives some indication of life.













So where now? I headed off to Newby Hall. The house and contents is one of the finest in Yorkshire. The gardens are excellent. There's a fair amount for the family with a childrens play area and a railway.










The church is similar to the one at Fountains. I've been there before.

Friday 18th August

Yesterday I managed to avoid the rain, no such luck today it tipped it down. I abandoned my original plan and ended up at Benningborough Hall.

It's a handsomem red brick building. I enjoyed the simple pleasures of a cup of tea and a good book.

The gardens and grounds are small but attractive. If you think all birding is rush here tick rush there tick then think again I spent a good half hour watching Spotted Flycatchers hunting flies and feeding a youngster.

The National Trust have teamed up with the National Portrait Gallery so there are lots of paintings. There's an exhibition, including hands on, on the top floor.





Anyway I realised I was near a church I hadn't ticked ! So off to Nun Monkton a fragment of a Benedictine Nunnery. The village is real picture postcard stuff with a duck pond and HUGE maypole.




St Mary (603) is very fine. It was much restored by the Victorians and is a bit dark.