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Sunday, January 31, 2010

Watching Some bloke called Federer

I watched the tennis this morning. Andy Murray was trying to be come the first British Man to win a grand slam singles since 1936, in his way stood some bloke called Federer from that well known tennis loving country of Switzerland.

The problem for Murray was the "some bloke called Federer" had won more grand slam singles than any other man in history and is regarded by many as the finest player ever to pick up a racket.

This was Murray's second final and the last time "some bloke called Federer" hammered him.

For two sets Federer thrashed him honestly he did, Murray played ok but Federer was on a different level. The third set started and Murray seemed to up his game and Federer dropped his. Murray broke he served for the set at 5-3 but then Federer roared back to force a tie break.

The third set tie break was a tense affair but Federer found a way to win. Now I'm not a Murray fan, he reminds me of Kevin the Teenager (miserable !!, his brother may not be as good but seems a nice bloke) but I had to admire that he really put a fight up in the third set, it would have been easy to roll over. That said Murray should have won the tie break and yet it was Federer who gutsed out the win.

Federer is class, he really is, there is something poetic about how he moves and plays shots. Murray was obviously devastated but he lost to the best playing somewhere near his best. There is no shame in losing if you give it your all and the other bloke just happens to be better than you.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Stil coughing

I poked my head out of the curtains at 5am this morning (don't ask) to see snow falling.

It didn't amount to much, a centimetre or so, but given I still have a cough I've decided to have a lazy day. Which is damned frustrating as the sun is out.

So in case you are missing some photos look at these.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Bits and pieces

I suppose the big news story of the day is Tony Blair @ the Chilcott Inquiry into the Iraq War. Will someone please explain to me why it was illegal to invade Iraq but it was perfectly acceptable to go into the former Yugoslavia (when there was no UN mandate)? Well I do know why the left liked the later and not the former but I'd like them to admit their hypocracy.

Ashley Cole was convicted of doing 104mph in a 50mph zone. He was banned for 4 months and fined £1000. He also got a £15 victim surcharge and £300 costs were added by the panel to "reflect his income".

His lawyer's request that Cole be allowed 21 days to pay was greeted with laughter by magistrates, who granted it nonetheless.

Cole is thought to earn a six-figure weekly salary.

Apparently he's appealing.

Of much more interest to me and I suspect some of you is a new blog. The blog is about Flanders Moss blog a National Nature Reserve in which lies between Kippen and Thornhill in rural Stirlingshire

The blog is being written by the reserve manager Dave Pickett

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Well I didn't know that

I was going to end yesterday's blog with the following....

I am not a religious person but the bible quote "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you." seems a good one to live to.

For some reason I looked this up and found it's not a quote from the bible!

I came across a site that had misquoted Bible verses

apparently the nearest to the one I wanted to use is

"Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them." -Matthew 7:12

The site listed a few others

"Money is the root of all evil."

the nearest is

"For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil" from Timothy 1. Similar but nuanced very differently.

There were quite a few others which people assume are from the bible but are not accurate.

"God helps those who help themselves." is not related to the bible. That's Ben Franklin!

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

In Memoriam

Today is Holocaust Memorial Day and is the 65th Anniversary of the liberation by the Red Army of Auschwitz-Birkenau.

I am a fairly laid back individual but whenever I see footage of places like Auschwitz and Treblinka my job drops. The horror

Man's inhumanity to man never ceases to amaze and horify me. What we mustn't forget is that others were committing similar outrages at the same time - the Russian murdered thousands of Polish soldiers.

Have we learned? No! outrages have taken place in the past quarter of century in the Middle East (Saddam on the Kurds), Rwanda (Africa) and Kosovo (Europe).

The veneer of civilization is very thin! And there but for the grace of God ...

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Promiscuous Sparrow

Radio 4 was making a big deal of a survey that shows Britain is becoming more liberal on social issues. So it was with some amusement that I came across an article about the US Saltmarsh Sparrow.

Apparently 95% of female salty sparrow's mated with more than one partner.

According to Professor Chris Elphick from the University of Connecticut:

We found that nearly every clutch of eggs was the product of more than one father, and that within broods it was extremely common for any two siblings to have different fathers.

One in three nests had a different father for every chick, and the average brood of chicks had more than 2.5 fathers

The sparrows nest amongst the saltmarshes, and are vulnerable to frequent high tides, which can cause a high level of nest loss.

Very high tides occur every four weeks - the same length of time it takes for the sparrow to raise a family.

Proffesor Elphick believes that the mating strategy may be attempt to minimize the risk of the adverse conditions.

Monday, January 25, 2010

oh for goodness sake

I seem to have picked up ANOTHER cold. As ever with a cold it goes straight to my chest and I cough like a good 'un.

I had a wretched nights sleep and it feels like I never slept at all. As it is I've been looking at the laptop and trying not to full asleep!!! I actually feel more awake than I did this morning.

I think I will be "resting my eyes" this evening.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Bewick Swans divorce!

Two Bewick Swans who have returned to Slimbridge have "divorced".

Over the past 40 years 4,000 pairs of Bewicks have been studied and this is only the second split they have seen.

When the male bird turned up with a new partner staff feared the worst for his partner but a couple of days later his old partner returned with a new male in tow. Both pairs of swans are now over-wintering in close proximity on the lake at Slimbridge.

As for why they may have split, Julia Newth of the WWT said:

Failure to breed could be a possible reason, as they had been together for a couple of years but had never brought back a cygnet, but it is difficult to say for sure.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Dull and Grey Again

I wandered over to Barnes this morning. The weather was grey and dull, terrible for photos so most of these are scenic shots with the GF-1.

Lots of Heron's about this chap was rather bored.

I got a brief glimpse of a Water Rail and as I reached the Peacock Tower to find a Bittern showing. Way too distant for photos. The usual ducks (Wigeon, Teal, Pochard etc) and gulls (Black Headed, Lesser Black Backed and Common).

As I wandered to the other side of the reserve Trish found me. All very quiet but we did find another Bittern oh and a VERY brief view of a Cetti's Warbler.

Let's hope for blue skies VERY soon.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Eye Update

Dad's eye is now clear and he can see normally. The doctors have checked it and no leakage so back in six months.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

On the Buses

As I was sat in traffic last night I turned to my left and saw a sight I hadn't seen in years!

There was a red double-decker bus next to me. It was an OLD one with a reg of
xxx 999 A - approx 1964!! And there was a conductor with a ticket machine !!

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

More on the bees

Research by a French team suggests that the decline in Honey Bees may be caused by reduced plant diversity. Two years ago Anglo/Dutch research suggested that bees and wild flowers are declining in step.

The French team have traced a possible link between the diversity of bee diets and the strength of their immune systems.

Cedric Alaux from the French National Institute for Agricultural Research (INRA) said

We found that bees fed with a mix of five different pollens had higher levels of glucose oxidase compared to bees fed with pollen from one single type of flower, even if that single flower had a higher protein content

Bees make glucose oxidase to preserve honey and food for larvae against infestation by microbes - which protects the hive against disease.

So that would mean they have better antiseptic protection compared to other bees, and so would be more resistant to pathogen invasion

David Aston chair of the British Beekeepers' Association technical committee, described the finding as "very interesting":

If you think about the amount of habitat destruction, the loss of biodiversity, that sort of thing, and the expansion of crops like oilseed rape, you've now got large areas of monoculture; and that's been a fairly major change in what pollinating insects can forage for.

As Dr Aston says bees often do better in urban areas than in the countryside, because city parks and gardens contain a higher diversity of plant life.

The French government has just announced a project to sow nectar-bearing flowers by roadsides in an attempt to stem honeybee decline. Lets hope the British government gives this ago. If nothing else wild flowers are lovely to look at!

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Corn Bunting flocks

The Corn Bunting is a bird which has seen declines of nearly 90 per cent in the UK over the past 40 years. It is estimated that there are less than 20,000 birds in the country. They are certainly not that easy to see!

So it was a surprise to the RSPB when one field in Befordshire had a flock of 700 birds. Apparently no one at the RSPB has recorded a flock that large.

The RSPB is trying to find out why so many birds have turned up at that one field.

Makes you wonder where they've been and come from doesn't it!

Monday, January 18, 2010


There was an excellent Natural World programme on the telly the other week(Bearwalker of the Northwoods) about Prof Lynn Rogers and his relationship with some black bears in Minnesota and imparticular a bear called Lily.

Now Prof Rogers is hoping that the first birth of a wild bear to be shown live on internet.

Lily is now pregnant and Rogers as placed a webcam in her den. Bearcam is being streamed live and it is hoped will provide scientists with new insights into bear behaviour.

Rogers said:

We're putting it there because there is so much that we don't know about what bears do in dens and what behaviour they have leading up to giving birth. And how they take care of the cubs," Prof Rogers told the BBC.

When we are there watching them, we always wonder how much of their wakefulness that we see is because of our presence. This gives us a chance to see what they do when no one is around.

Another reason is that the best way the public can get to know bears and get over all the misconceptions that most people have is to learn directly from the bears themselves, and this is part of that.

Lily has her own facebook page.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Out !

There is something seriously wrong today, there are blue skies and nothing is falling from it!!

So after lunch I popped to Rye Meads a bit quiet but a lovely male Bullfinch flew through.

Still some ice about but these teal were coping.

You will notice something odd about the next few pics, there were two Robins close together and they were quite content!! Wonder if they are pairing up?

Nothing really rare about but a nice stroll.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

In the footsteps of the last King of Old England

Well the snow has gone to be replaced by heavy rain and dark clouds!!

I had thought of going to Barnes when I woke up but as the rain fell I decided stuff it!!

So I headed down the road to Waltham Abbey.

The Abbey church is old, it was founded and 1030. Legend says that at Montacute near Glastonbury, an Anglo-Danish Thegn called Tovi the Proud found a large black flint crucifix buried at the top of a hill, following a dream. He loaded the cross onto an ox-cart, but the oxen would only go in one direction and didn't stop until they reached Waltham, a journey of some 150 miles.

It was refounded in 1060 by Harald II (the loser of the Battle of Hastings and the last Saxon King of England). One of the many rumours of Harald is that he was buried at Waltham (it is also rumoured he was buried at Bosham in Sussex).

There is a legend that Henry I of England met an elderly monk at Waltham Abbey, who was in fact a very old Harold. King Harold had a son posthumously, called Harold Haroldsson, who may have been this man, and may also be the occupant of the grave.

The church was rebuilt by the Normans in 1120 and expanded by Henry II in 1177 (in penance for the murder of Thomas Beckett).

At the dissolution of the monastries Waltham was proposed as one of the new Cathedrals but alas this didn't happen and most of the church was pulled down and today all that survives is the nave of the Norman church of 1120. The church would have been huge (there is a photo below showing the a plaque with showing you how it would have looked).

Waltham still has a 15th century doom painting (poor photo below).

Oh and one of my cousins was married in it!! I think it's the only one of Simon Jenkins top 100 churches that I've attended a service at.

Due to the rain I slipped by little Panny in my pocket and used that.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Sleep Talk

Adam Slavick-Lennard keeps his wife awake at night by talking in his sleep. His wife was more amused than annoyed because what he says is rather funny. She has recorded what he says and there is a blog.

The top 10 sayings are:

10: I don't want to die! I love sex. And furry animals
9: Butter... nut... squash. I like those words
8: You're pretty. Pretty, pretty, pretty, pretty, pretty [long pause]... Now f*** off and be pretty somewhere else. I'm bored
7: Don't leave the duck there. It's totally irresponsible. Put it on the swing, it'll have much more fun.
6: Ooh! My balls are itchy. Have you got the cheese grater?
5: I've got a badger, a dog, a cat and a sack
4: I can't believe in God when I'm THIS good!
3: Avocados? You can shove them up your a*** as well
2: Since when did my underwear look good on you? Take it off. Take it off your face
1: Pork chops are most satisfying. Mmmmmm. Dangle them from the ceiling

Thursday, January 14, 2010

The cold and wildlife

I'm sure we are all aware that the cold snap has a devastating impact on our wildlife.

According to Stephen Moss more small birds will survive this cold spell because more people are feeding birds now. Still this will see big falls in a number of species e.g. Goldcrest.

Waterbirds are having a mixed experience. Plump birds like ducks, geese and swans can cope pretty well with ice and snow. But the skinny ones like like herons, bitterns, kingfishers, water rails and snipe are having a hard time.

Moss reports that there are hardly any lapwings remain in East Anglia and little egrets have headed to the coast or across to western France.

Of course history teaches us that the populations of most smaller birds will return to normal within a few years but rare birds like the Dartford Warlber could be devastated.

However it is not just on land that the cold is having an impact at sea. Thousands of dead crabs have been washed up on Kent's beaches.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Stop Press

You will all be pleased to read that my holidays are now all booked.

April - the Suffolk coast. Where Pete looks for the elusive Bittern, see if any Dartford Warblers survived the cold snap and hopefully visits 3 churches. Oh and takes photos of Southwold a town where a beach hut has gone for £100,000. It's a lovely seaside town though. Wifi will almost certainly not be available

May - The Isle of Wight (with a sojurn in Christchurch - lovely church btw), Osbourne House beloved of Queen Victoria. Lots of sea views and maybe a red squirrel? Wifi !!

June - taking sir to Sussex - wifi not available.

July - ye gods Pete gets his whippet jabs updated and heads for the East York coast. Puffins, Castle Howard and some churches. wifi

August - 4 nights near Rutland water, an Osprey will be nice! Then on to the North Cottswolds. wifi for at least the second bit.

September - taking sir to Norfolk. Please see last Dad to Norfolk blog for itinerary :D Emotional as Mum's ashes are there and it will be her birdthday when we are there. no wifi

October - off to South Devon. To claim my duck dinner from Sarah-Jane at the Belfry. Wifi available.

Some more Nostalgia

I was getting the car out of the garage this morning when I heard a vehicle coming on to the estate. I looked across and there was a milk float coming around the corner!! I haven't seen a milk float around our parts in AGES coupled with repeats on ITV3 of On the Buses it got me thinking of things that have changed out of all recognition.

When I was a lad all the town buses were double deckers (they're now single) and buses had conductors (AKA - clippies) to issue tickets and occasionally an inspector would get on and check tickets were being issued properly. The conductor has long since gone and I doubt they have inspectors anymore!

But a milk float! Everyone had their milk delivered to the door by the milkman (indeed we had a choice of a Co-op or Unigate). He'd put the bottles on the front step and collect yesterdays empties, he also sold eggs, yogurts, bread and fizzy drinks. The milk was invariably delivered before breakfast, it had to be I guess because leaving it out in the sun all day in Summer was not good.

The Milkman also inspired a certain amount of lewd humour, sketch shows used to hint at the milkmans float being parked outside her at no 52. Indeed I'm sure that there was rumours about one of our milkman and a woman down the hill. These were the times when women tended not to work and the milkman/postman was one of the few men they were likely to meet.

Alas the milk delivery is going the way of the dodo. Supermarkets sell it cheaper and people get it with their other shopping and I guess milk keeps longer now than it did 30 years ago. I'm not sure when we stopped getting milk delivered, I guess it was when one milkman retired.

The milkman though had an impact on our wildlife. Blue Tits learned to pick at the foil lids of bottles and would then get at the cream at the top of the milk bottle.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Migrating Greylags

I came across an interesting status update on facebook today. No seriously!!

The BTO rung some Greylag goslings on Orkney on 13th July 2008. Two birds turned up in December 08 in Suffolk and then a day later at Buckenham Marshes in Norfolk. In April the two birds were still together but back in Orkney.

This winter they are back at Buckenham but this time with two birds rung on Orkney in July 09.

Now I always think of Greylags as being sedentary birds and I suppose most birders overlook them in favour of more colourful characters like Pink Footed Geese. Shows what an interesting life common birds have eh.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Oh for Goodness sake!!

I got in tonight and flicked the light on in the kitchen.


Rats !! I wandered upstairs got a spare bulb, took the bowl off of the one in the kitchen and changed the bulb. flicked it on and fine. So then put the bowl back on and like an idiot instead of standing on a chair I did it without and cross threaded it!!! In getting the bowl back off I broke the fitting and pulled a wire lose! Doh!!

Luckily I know I am useless so I have EVERYTHING I can on my homecare agreement with British Gas and so I phoned them up. They are coming between 8 and 1 tomorrow.

Even luckier I had prearranged to work from home tomorrow. I have 800 pages of reports to read!!

Oh I have booked my first ever solo trip overseas. Yes I am going to the Isle of Wight in May!!! Stop laughing!! Both hotels have wifi!!

Sunday, January 10, 2010

The Killer Whale

You learn something new every day. I had assumed there was a species of whale called Killer Whale (or Orca if you prefer) but apparently there are different types and indeed there are two types of Killer Whale found off the coast of Britain!

According to Dr Andy Foote from the University of Aberdeen:

We found that one form, which we call 'type 1' had severely worn teeth in all adult specimens.

The other form, 'type 2', had virtually no tooth wear even in the largest adults

It seems that type 1 is a generalist feeder, consuming fish and seals whilst type 2 is a specialist feeder that scientists suspect exclusively feeds on marine mammals such as small dolphins and whales.

Genetics indicate that the two types come from two different populations.

Saturday, January 09, 2010

Doing nothing

Well I awoke this morning and it was cold - will someone tell the weather to warm up? thank you.

I had considered going to London but it was a very sharp frost and I didn't fancy standing on a cold station so I pulled the duvet up!!

I popped to the shops to get some stuff for dad and dropped that off. The roads were slippery around here.

All I've done is put my feet up, play daft facebook games and read a fair hunk of my book.

Friday, January 08, 2010

The Grey Squirrel

The Grey Squirrel gets a really bad press. It is blamed for the fall of the Red Squirrel and for eating the eggs of woodland birds.

Although I wish it wasn't here I have to accept it is and it is one of the first wild animals that many kids will see.

I was interested to read that a new survey from the British Trust for ornithology claims that the Grey does not have a significant impact on the populations of many of England's woodland bird species.

There is some evidence that grey squirrels may locally suppress the populations of some species but they do not appear to cause the birds any widespread or lasting harm.

The BTO's Dr Stewart Newson says:

Grey squirrels are very unlikely to have driven observed declines in woodland birds in recent years

Of the 38 bird species, a statistically significant relationship between grey squirrel and bird population sizes was found for 12 species.

Of those, squirrels appeared to have a positive impact on seven bird species, a correlation probably caused by both mammal and bird species benefiting from similar changes to their habitat.

Grey squirrels had a negative impact on just five: the common blackbird, Eurasian collared dove, green woodpecker, long-tailed tit and Eurasian jay.

Of these species, the most convincing evidence is for blackbird and collared dove.

The Grey Squirrel may be predating on these two species but the overall number of blackbirds and collared doves has gone even where grey squirrels are common (the increase is greater where there are no Squirrels).

If you are keen to read more.

Thursday, January 07, 2010

The Laptop

No signs of a thaw down sahf. It hasn't snowed much today just a few flurries.

A few weeks ago my laptop died. I think it must have picked up a virus, McAfee said it had detected and isolated a trojan and I thought nothing of it. Then one day it just crashed and since then it got progessively worse until it died.

Now I am sure certain people expected me to buy a new one but I tried restarting it from the disks and this was partially successful. Anyway a colleague has fully fixed it well 99.9%!! Another colleague has given me a new modem which means the internet is a tadge faster.

I've ditched McAfee and installed Vipre virus software and the Sunbelt firewall (which is what is on the netbook). It gets good reviews and is light. I've also stuck Firefox and Chrome on it. I like Chrome as it is generally less resource hungry.

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

More of the white stuff

I woke at about 4:50 this morning, don't ask!! I looked out of the window and there was an inch and a half of snow. Anyhow I set off a bit earlier this morning and was in the office by 6:40.

It has snowed throughout the day and I reckon we've had another 4 inches, maybe more. When you see some places have a foot of snow.....!!

The roads were very sloshy and so will probably be icy tomorrow. Luckily? I have a mass of reports to read so I don't need to travel!

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

The cold and wildlife

As much as we moan about the cold weather we can at least stay in with the central heating (assuming the muppets that run the gas industry have allowed sufficient supplies) and tuck ourselves under the duvet.

Wildlife doesn't have this option and the cold snap will undoubtedly adversely affect many species. For instance birds like Dartford Warblers are at the Northern most limit of there ranges and a hard winter could decimate numbers (like in 1963).

Feeding birds at this time of year is important and you could be rewarded with some unusual new sitings, Redwings, Redpolls, Siskins for instance.

It was interesting to note that the Scottish Government has announced a temporary ban on shooting ducks, geese and other wild birds yesterday as the cold conditions hits their feeding and migration patterns. Freezing temperatures and snowy conditions are making feeding for wildfowl difficult and threatening their survival.

According to the the British Association for Shooting and Conservation (BASC) it is the first suspension of its kind for 13 years.

BASC Scotland director Colin Shedden said:

Some people will be disappointed but most understand the need for these restrictions.

Monday, January 04, 2010

Not again

Well just when you think everything is under control!

Dad told me last night that he has lost the sight in his left eye again.

So he is off up the hospital this morning.

UPDATE - same problem as last time. Wait and see if clears and if doesn't another op.

Sunday, January 03, 2010

Getting the year list moving

My central heating comes on briefly of a morning (to get the chill off as i'm preparing for work). As today's Sunday @ 6:30 (don't ask) I nipped downstairs to turn it back on and make myself a cuppa, an hour later I was laying in bed and thought that it felt nippy out there - DOH! some idiot made the tea but left the heating off!!

Around 9 I wandered off to Amwell. Boy it was a little nippy and the main lake had a lot of ice on it with the Lapwing standing on the ice!

The drake Smew (a really lovely little duck) was way over the other side but the female and a pair of Goldeneye were showy and there were a few snipe in the reeds.

Off to the feeding station. Reed buntings were joining the Tits.

There was a big flock of Siskin in the woods and I was pleased to find a few Lesser Redpoll.

As I was leaving a Sparrowhawk flew over the train line.

on to Rye Meads which was very frozen over. Still a few Bullfinch about and the one lake with any water had a Little Grebe. And I wasn't moaning when a Kingfisher flew in front of Tern hide!

A Buzzard was soaring as I left. A nice spot of local birding.

Saturday, January 02, 2010

so a new year...

As you can imagine like a good little birder I hopped out of bed new years day and went out to start my year list.... yeah right it was flipping freezing! I pulled up the duvet and read!!! I did go and make a cup of tea and looked out of the window to see a Redwing sitting in the tree in the front garden!

After breakfast I went for a stroll. I came across a flock of tits and amongst them... a pair of Siskin!!! I was really pleased with that!

Dad I then went for a ride and stopped at Thaxted.

The Queen of Essex!

Even the new houses are painted!!

It tried to snow on the way back but amounted to nothing. I did see a Bullfinch and a Green Woody!

This morning I left dad's and eventually headed to the forest again. Still incredibly frosty but the lake had a few more holes!!

The ducks were skating!

This chap was absent earlier in the week.

Also a few teal and a shoveler with the Mallards, Gadwall, Canada Geese and Coots.