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Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Happy New Year

And so it is New Year's Eve, that time when we all stay up to see in the new year.

Well not me. I can never understand the point, i'll be tucked up asleep.

BUT hang on its a new year which means yet again I start a new Bird yearlist. I have know idea why I do this as I often can't be bothered to drive 20 miles to tick something. Still I'll be up early tomorrow to head somewhere to start ticking.

As far as this blog is concerned it'll be more of the same, holidays, birds, churches and pictures:D

Anyway I do hope that all my readers have a great 2009 and that all of your hopes and dreams are fulfilled.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

If it's not one thing...

Well Dad has been to the Doctors again. The clot is not dispersing quickly enough so its operation time.

Apparently it'll involve a few days in Hospital which understandably he is not looking forward to.

FYI

The National Trust have a couple of useful/interesting links on their site.

One is a series of walks to Walk off the Turkey.

There is also a list of National Trust properties which are good for Snowdrops. I can particularly recommend Anglessey Abbey in Cambridgeshire, I was there last February.

Monday, December 29, 2008

This is the voice of the Mysterons.....

I didn't have dinner with Dad Sunday lunchtime instead we had it at night. I arrived just as the afternoon film was ending and it was followed by a compilation of episodes of Stingray.

Hang on Stingray? Ruddy 'ell that's my childhood!! Actually I was never a big stingray fan but shortly after it there was a programme about the creator of Stingray Gerry Anderson and his work.

For those who don't know Anderson was best known for a series of puppet shows for Children in the sixties. The two works I remember, with much affection, are Thunderbirds and Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons. I had a Dinky model of Thunderbird 2 and a Captain Scarlet SPV !!

In this age of CGI Anderson "Supermarination" puppets might seem old hat but that is a little unfair. Anderson's "heroes" are a follow on from the 1950's comic book hero Dan Dare.

Thunderbirds tell the story of International Rescue an organisation created to help people in grave danger using hi-tech machinery. It has lots of bangs, flashes, rockets and excitement and yes it is excitement. They showed an episode of Thunderbirds immediately after and very enjoyable it was.

To see an example. Frightenly I remember this!!

Captain Scarlet is darker and in my view the better work. A team of explorers accidentally destroys an alien base on Mars. The Mysterons threaten terrible revenge. As they have the ability to replicate and then control any person or object they first kill or destroy, through their power of "retro-metabolism", they use it to conduct a war of terror on the Earth. Captain Scarlet is killed by the Mysterons and replicated however when the replicate falls to "its" death he doesn't die and the original personality restablishes itself. The replicate body can repair itself and can sense the Mysterons.



There have been remakes of both but neither were as good as the originals.

Yes I know i'm 40ahem and I still read comics and enjoy this sort of thing. Why not? I guess todays kids find it all terribly dated but this old fogey thinks its great fun.

It was a year today

Sigh, it was a year today that Mum passed away, not something you can forget and less so at this time of year. You can't help remember that last Christmas Day you were rushing to and from hospital.

Of course its MUCH harder for dad. You "know" you will outlive your parents, whereas he always expected to go first (high blood pressure and diabetes) and they were married 55 years and known each other for 61. And of course he finds the house empty.

Someone asked me last night how I coped, well I just think of how she was at the end and I know she never wanted that.

I'm going to have dinner with Dad tonight and of course I'm thinking about Mum.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Last Forest visit for the year.

I dragged myself out of bed this morning and headed to Hatfield Forest for the last time this year.

Woodland birds seen included Green and Great Spotted Woodpeckers, Nuthatch, Marsh Tit and Fieldfare. The partially frozen lake had the usual Mallards, Coots, Moorhen, Canada Geese, Black Headed Gulls and a pair of Great Crested Grebes (I presume one of the breeding pairs). These were joined by Tufties, Gadwall, Shoveller, Pochard and Teal. Duck variety is always greater in winter.

I do like the first Mallard pic.




Saturday, December 27, 2008

And that's Christmas over.

I did very little except go for a walk Christmas Morning and look VERY briefly around some sales for an hour Boxing day morning. My chief job was tea and coffee maker which I dutifully did and even got up of a morning and brought dad tea in bed!!

I did read a fair bit.
P G Wodehouse - "Aunts aren't Gentlemen" *** - ok but not one of his best.
Charles De Lint - "Promises to Keep" ***** - a short novel about the young Jilly Coppercorn.
Marion Zimmer Bradley - "Winds of Darkover" - *** entertaining short fantasy novel.
All 3 books were under 200 pages each so I'm now 2/3 of the way through Agatha Christie's a Pocket Full of Rye

This morning I departed chez Dad, it was VERY frosty but frost means clear skies !! Sun!! and of course as soon as the camera appeared so did the cloud - ARGH.

Anyway I strolled around Rye Meads and Amwell. Snipe, Water Rail, Stonechat, Siskin, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Goldcrest, Goldeneye, Coal Tit and Kestrel being the highlights.




Thursday, December 25, 2008

Happy Christmas

And its that time of year again. As I said yesterday I'll be decamping to Dads.

I hope you all have a HAPPY CHRISTMAS what ever your religious beliefs or lack or them.









Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Tis the season.....

And so here I am in the office and colleagues there are none and nor will there be! As a good little manager I've let my staff take the day off and I am covering this office on my own(I do have two guys covering the other office). Well most of them have kids and anyway I take my leave when the sun is shining. Well meant to be shining!

Apparently a warmish October meant a second breeding season for Hedgehogs and there are lots of little ones about many caught out by the recent cold snap. Apparently Wildlife Aid in Leatherhead Surrey have had 50 handed in so far, a new record. Click here for a VERY cute pic!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Ramblings

My Boss is on holiday for the next two weeks. I mean how dare people take holidays, that's what I do!!

I promptly put in my entire holiday request for 2009/10 into the system, hey future planning!! They'll take place beetween April and October. I haven't actually booked anything mind just the time off work. I have printed some accomodation for hols with Dad and I'll show him them tonight.

As the boss is in Ireland I wasn't expecting approvals to the new year but they came back approved within an hour. WEY HEY!!

I was sitting in the office yesterday lunchtime reading when a colleague came up to see me. Of course reading in ones lunchtime is no great sin but I guess when you are a middle aged manager you can expect funny looks if you are reading the Judge Dredd Megazine (a comic).

I decamp to Dads tomorrow evening for a few days. Plans? uhm to do very little, I'll take the camera and may take some local pics over the few holidays.

The telly looks rubbish, still there is a new Wallace & Gromitt and a Dr Who special.

Out of interest why does every North American wish me Happy Holidays? or Season Greetings? It's Christmas!!! Muslim and Hindu colleagues have no problem wishing me a happy christmas and can't see the problem either.

hey ho.

Monday, December 22, 2008

The Euro in your pocket

The current Economic crisis is hitting hard but there are a few intereting developments.

When the Euro was introduced Eurosceptics laughed when it fell to about 68p against the pound and decried it as a weak currency. This laughter must be ringing a bit hollow now that parity is looming.

Curiously the frontline between the pound and the euro is not in the European parliament or the City of London its between Northern Ireland and the Republic. Apparently lots of Irish citizens are crossing the border to buy their shopping in the North. The Asda store in Enniskillen has 60% of its customers from South of the Border and its the 6th busiest store in the Wal-Mart empire. The Asda in Strabane had sales up 54% compared to the same week last year.

Irish Finance Minister Brian Lenihan recently tried the patriotism card:

When you shop in Northern Ireland, you're paying Her Majesty's taxes, you're not paying taxes to the state that you live in.


But shoppers seem to be ignoring this and are heading North, where VAT rates were cut to 15% recently whereas in the South they were increased to 21.5%.

Northern Irish shops are accepting and giving changes in Euro.

Personally I've always felt the pound will disappear eventually, with the globalisation of the world and the amount of travelling people are doing within Europe who want to keep changing money paying fees on it and accepting a currency risk.

Bet that upsets someone!

Sunday, December 21, 2008

A morning at Barnes

I met up with Trish at Barnes this morning. As usual we walked around one side and then back via the cafe and on to the side part of which has the collection.

At the cafe I had intended to have a cup of tea (it was 11:30) but Trish was keen on brunch so I joined her.

Birds seen? well it was a bit quiet but highlights included Little and Great Crested Grebe, Green Woodpecker, Siskin, Snipe, Stonechat and Goldcrest. The Bittern didn't show to us and we never saw the Jack Snipe hey ho.

The light wasn't ideal but here is a mix of wild and collection birds.

Ring Necked Parakeet.





Grey Squirrel


Pair of Tufties



Little Grebe



Long Tailed Duck (collection)


American Wigeon (collection)


Pair of Eiders (collection)



Marbled Teal (collection)




White Headed Duck (collection)


Shovelers






Goldeneye (collection)


Female Smew or red head if you prefer (collection)


drakes not being obliging (collection)


female Smew again (collection)



Australasian Shoveler (collection)

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Its my blog and I'll quack if I want to

Well the weather was much better this week so I took dad out for a ride. We picked up a few bits and pieces and I got a new pair of wellies! The old ones had developed a leak, not much use in a pair of wellies.

Dad cooked me Gammon Steak for tea.

Didn't go anywhere you haven't seen many times before but a pair of ducks! Don't you think the drake Mallards bill is rather yellow?


Friday, December 19, 2008

Well well

I read a heart warming story today.

39 years ago a Sheffield man Jim Webb lent an impoverished Australian backpacker £5. Recently, while Mr Webb was out, a card and £200 was delivered to Mr Webb by Gary Fenton, to repay the money he borrowed when they met in Ostend, Belgium.

The note read "To Jim Webb, a good man. From Gary Fenton, a tardy payer of debts."

Isn't that an amazing story? A yorkshireman lending someone money!!!

The End of an Era

The modern world marches on and alas another anachronism from a bygone age seems to have gone.

I read on the net that Nikon have stopped producing there last film SLR the F6. I suspect this was actually stopped a while back but after reading of its demise I noticed that warehouseexpress have removed it from their site this week.

The F6 was introduced in 2004 when digital was well on its march to dominance. The last of a long line of Nikon F film bodies.

I am new to photography only owning a dSLR but part of me knows that I'd have learnt alot from shooting film. With digital you don't need to think so much point click ad check screen. Oh delete and if its still wrong when you download have fix with a tool like photoshop.

With film each shot is money so you have to get it right.

I read that a dSLR has better image quality than film but I'd be interested to know how a good film camera like the F6 would compare to a Nikon d300/d700 or a Canon 50d.

I guess now film can't compete with digital but it does seem sad.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Fish & Chips

I was sitting in the office yesterday when suddenly the aroma of Fish & Chips wafted under my nose. Now there is something about the smell of Fish & Chips from a Chip shop that worms its way into my stomach and says EAT ME!!

Regretabbly Fish & Chips is no longer as popular as it once was. In Britain today we're more interested in the latest ethnic trend. "OOH Tarquin there's a very nice Bolivian takeaway opened in Esher."

Anyway my colleague couldn't finish it and offered it around. Naturally I WANTED it but being the good boy I am I resisted, but it was interesting to see the person volunteering to finish it off was Moroccan and he said he loved Fish & Chips.

To me Fish & Chips is best eaten in the paper and the flavour is enhanced by sitting in a car or on a bench to eat it.

Alas I don't eat it much these days, my last time would have been at Hunstanton with Dave & Joy two years back or on a trip to see the Puffins at Bempton Cliffs. There is someting about sitting in your car looking out to see eating Fish & Chips.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

The Greater Mekong

The WWF are reporting that over 1000 new species have been found in the South East Asia's Greater Mekong region.

These include 519 plants, 279 fish, 88 frogs, 88 spiders, 46 lizards, 22 snakes, 15 mammals, 4 birds, 4 turtles, 2 salamanders and a toad. Greater Mekong comprises the six countries the Mekong River flows through which includes Cambodia, Lao PDR, Myanmar, Thailand, Vietnam and the southern Chinese province of Yunnan. It is estimated that thousands of new invertebrate species were also discovered during this period.

You can see a few photos here and here.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

EU vote for Cormorant Management

The Irish Times is reporting that the European parliament has voted 558 - 7 to support a pan-European Cormorant Management Plan.

European Angling groups have long complained that cormorants are causing widespread devastation to fish stocks and as a result affecting the quality of angling in Europe.

I do wonder why people are surprised, if you artificially stock a lake with fish then naturally that'll attract predators. In the same way you see many for Gulls in towns nowadays, why? Well the amount of food thrown on our streets, birds aren't stupid if they can get an easy lunch they will.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Walking the Coast

In 2004 two teenagers got stuck in the mud in Weymouth Harbour. This provoked a search involving a coastguard helicopter, a Dorset Police helicopter, two coastguard land-based teams and two RNLI lifeboats costing some £20,000.

Now we could put this down to a pair of idiotic teenagers but 4 years on one of the pair has made some amends. On Feb 1st Seb Green set off with his border collie Flash to walk 5,821 miles (9,367km) around the coast of Britian.

In doing so he has raised more than £20,000 for the Dorset and Somerset Air Ambulance and Starlight Children's Foundation,

You have to admire him for it.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

A spot of local birding

Well after the non-stop rain of yesterday, today it's just a dull grey.

I wandered down to Amwell Gravel Pits for the first time for a while. No sign of any Smew but there was a nice male Goldeneye to join the regulars. There was also a big flock of Siskin around (I never spotted a Redpoll). A Buzzard flew overhead.

From the viewing there were two Water Rails showing and one was taking a bath!! and a Chaffinch chased a Blackbird, well odd!!

Anyway a few pictures. The light by the feeding station was AWFUL.

Blue Tit


Male Chaffinch



Robin


Great Tit


Blue Tit




Great Tit


Male Great Spotted Woodpecker




Long Tailed Tit




Male Chaffinch