When I got up this morning at about 05.30 there was a robin singing in the garden, I could hear another in the far distance singing in response. I nipped back indoors and got my recorder, clipped the mic to a twig in a nearby tree, put the recorder on top of a waterbutt and pressed record. Here’s the results (best listened to with headphones):
Yes I know I only posted about this yesterday but Ken Lamberton’s latest newsletter dropped into my inbox this morning and it got me thinking about my garden bird list. I’ve been keeping a list since we moved in here. The list has a basic set of rules, each year I keep a log of all the birds that I see in the garden or see or hear from the garden. Given the urban nature of our local area it’s quite a small list, and there are a few birds on it that I’ve only ever seen/heard once:
red kite, tawny owl, hobby, merlin, green woodpecker, lapwing, little egret, cormorant, chaffinch, coal tit
The last two are very common birds and I see them all over the place outside of our garden, but hardly ever in it. Interestingly both records for those two are from 2016, which is the year with the second highest number of individually recorded species.
Ken Lamberton has a theory of quantum birding and I’m hoping that I can evoke my own here, but mentioning this and seeing if those latter two species – or any of the other eight for that matter – will make another appearance.
You know that scene in the Hitchcock movie where all the birds are lined up on the telegraph lines and the ridge lines of the houses, they’re on the ground, they’re everywhere. Well the garden is a bit like that at the moment. I just went out and filled the bird feeders and the word obviously got out because there are birds everywhere.
I daren’t move either, I’m afraid that if I move this will scare away the birds. So I think I can sit here and type, the movement of my fingers on the keyboard doesn’t seem to be too alarming to them, but I suspect getting up to make a coffee might not be feasible.
I’m not sure where this week has gone, but it feels like it’s been quite constructive. I do seem to have broken something on the blog though as ads appear to have returned. I’ll try working out how to turn them off.
I took Wilson back to the vet’s on Tuesday, a pre-booked appointment to have some stitches removed but also to see if they had received the outstanding test results. We achieved both, the tests were delayed by a covid outbreak at the lab where they do the analysis but they had now had the outstanding ones. It turns out he has an autoimmune disorder – Pemphigus Foliaceus – on top of everything else that he has. This latter point dictates a certain treatment regime and he’s started on a course of medication. We’re back at the vet’s this coming week for a blood test to see how the treatment is working. I’ve now been able to file an insurance claim and I hope that will be accepted.
I didn’t manage to make it to the 1984 Symposium this week. George Orwell’s – Eric Arthur Blair – was born on 25th June 1903.
Reading. I read an article on The Last Word on Nothing this week that sent me down another rabbit hole. It bought back memories of sitting and watching coastal birds through a telescope in the early 1990’s, in Devon I was counting Avocets. I sat and sketched an avocet and made plans to dust off my telescope and go out and look at coastal birds through it again. The article also mentions a book by Peter Matthiessen – The Wind Birds – which doesn’t look like it was ever released here in the UK, probably because it’s about US coastal birds. I did track down a paperback copy though and I would like to read it, given how much I have enjoyed many of Matthiessen’s other books including the Birds of Heaven, The Cloud Forest and The Snow Leopard.
Watching. The final season of Bosch was released this week, it’s only an eight episode season and I’m nearly finished watching it. If you haven’t watched it yet I recommend it, it’s consistently good from season one through to eight and I’m pleased that it gets to go out on a high. A spin-off series is planned, so there might yet be more.
Great to see the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness video podcast back again
Allotment. I’ve been pretty busy in the garden and allotment this week, I’ve had a lot of Hollyhock plants to transplant into bigger pots, and I still have a tray of seedlings which I’m planning on transplanting out around the garden. These won’t flower until next year, assuming that they survive, but I’m investing in future colour in the garden. I don’t know quite what colour they will be as they are saved seed from a number of different plants and I suspect that there has been some cross pollination. They could be anywhere from jet black to a light pink colour.
My neighbour gave me some sweetcorn plants that she had spare and I’ve planted them out onto the allotment, I didn’t grow any myself this year because of the risk that the badgers will come and knobble them before I get to eat the cobs. So at some point I’ll have to construct some sort of frame around them to keep the badgers at bay!
I’ve also sown Tuscan kale, pak-choi and mixed mizzuna seeds this week.
That’s it for the week ahead. I have a few diary commitments this week but many are weather dependent. Whatever you are up to take care and stay safe.
I have a sense of Deja vu today, once again it’s Saturday, it’s raining hard enough to mean the allotment isn’t on the cards for the time being and I’m writing a blog post.
THis week the garden has been full of baby fledgling birds. Mostly Starlings and Great Tits. The starlings arrive in big rowdy gangs, a few adults and lots of youngsters. It’s a bit like watching an out of control school trip of teenagers come marauding through town. They arrive at the bird feeders and proceed to strip them bare. It only lasts for a few days and is fun to watch, but the youngsters aren’t all that adept at flying and will crash land all over the garden.
The Great Tits are the opposite. Unless you know they’re there, you’d miss them. Like their bigger brash cousins their flight skills are wanting but they are more prone to “hiding” in the top of a flower pot or under the hedge and waiting for their parents to bring them food.
Throughout this we keep a relatively low profile, the birds have the garden apart from when we spot a cat or a magpie and then we just go for a walk across the garden to deter the interloper.
Already the young Starlings are improving in their abilities and will now visit the feeders without crashing into them on approach and sending them spinning around like a fairground carousel. My guess is the Great Tits are still a few days behind, but hopefully will soon be exploring the wider world.
I also saw my first Swift of the year this week, only one and not where I normally see them so probably an early arrival or perhaps one just passing through on the way elsewhere.
In other news I took Wilson for his latest vet check-up midweek, so far so good in terms of the outcomes but we’re still waiting for the results of a blood test before we decide on next steps.
Allotment. As mentioned above, no allotment this morning but hopefully later on or tomorrow. Since last week however, I finally managed to get down to the plot with the mower and give the paths a haircut, and do some digging after the rains of last weekend. It was perfect timing, particularly for digging with the rain softening up the ground just enough to make it easy going. I’ve just got a couple more bits to do and now things seem warmer, more plants to get out. I’ve been planning where the last few things will go, so in the next few weeks things should start to properly resemble a veg plot.
Reading. Another week of reading little bits and pieces of lots of things. I’ve been reading a little about the life of Ernest Hemingway and separately about the life of adventurer Beau Miles. You may recall that I’ve posted some of his videos here before, most recently about his 90km commute to work on foot or like this one below about sleeping overnight in a 100 year old Gum tree. Both are fascinating, both a little crazy and both worth my time.
Work. It’s been a quiet week workwise, and has enabled me to spend more time walking in the woods and breathing in the world around me a bit more, and thinking about work in general.
I did hear that the bid I worked on over the bank holiday has been put on hold. The potential client is having a rethink about what they want. Sadly this happens all the time and is very frustrating because you’d assume that the client has decided on what they want by the time they go to the market. These things are always undertaking some unpaid work on the assumption that it might lead to a period of paid work, even if you might lose out to a competitor, but when the client pulls them and no one gets the paid work, that is even more frustrating. With work very suppressed at the moment because of the pandemic and it already being a competitive marketplace it’s increasingly apparent that having more than one source of income is important. Working on that.
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I had to update my “new” cars software this week. This involved a lot of toing and froing between the car and the computer with a USB key and following a sequence of button presses that was a little like trying to pat your head and rub your belly at the same time. I think we got there in the end but when did cars become this complicated?
Well that’s it for this week. My diary for the week ahead is looking quite empty, so the world could be my oyster (subject to following whatever covid guidelines are in force). Whatever you have planned, take care care and stay safe.
Welcome. I’ve just been potting on some plants destined for the allotment, although not just yet. Nights are still cold so they won’t be going outside just yet. I’ve been looking back at what was happening 12 months ago and despite the obvious I was spending some time in the garden reading and enjoying the sunshine, but it’s been much chillier than it was 12 months ago. It might be warming up again, but who knows.
It’s been a busy week.
Reading. I’ve reading more in Susan Cooper’s Dark is Rising sequence this week, finishing The Dark is Rising and then Greenwitch and The Grey King. I have forgotten more about this series than I remember and there’s just one book to go.
Watching. I finally got around to watching 1917. I can see why it won some of the awards it did, but I have to say it left me feeling a little underwhelmed.
Work. I’ve been having several conversations this week about potential work. Some collaborative projects that might come to fruition. Early days but it would be good to get things going a bit more than they have been over the past year.
It’s also the time of the year when I have to start looking at my tax return. It’s not going to take very long this year I suspect given the impact that the pandemic has had on my work.
Allotment. In addition to the plants mentioned above I spent some time on the allotment this week weeding the overwintering onions and preparing some beds for transplanting more onions that I’ve been bringing on in the potting shed. If there is an uptick in temperatures they might go out in the week ahead.
I also had the pleasure of seeing the pair of buzzards above fly right over my head while I was enjoying a coffee break. They’re amazing birds and much more prevalent than they once were, but in some quarters still persecuted.
I also picked up our new car this week. It is more or less the same make and model as our old one, but in the intervening years the technology has grown and now there are many more things that could go wrong. Hopefully it will prove to be reliable and last as long as our previous one.
I’d hoped that when we had to buy our new car it would be an electric powered one but sadly it’s not something that we can afford at this stage even a second hand electric is beyond our budget. I know all of the arguments about electric vehicles being cheaper to run etc and they are totally accurate but sadly you still need that bigger chunk of capital at the time of purchase to be able to afford it. We’re not there yet. So we’ve brought the most fuel efficient, least polluting non-electric vehicle we could. It still runs on fossil fuels and that does make me feel uncomfortable, but I have made concessions in other areas over the years, for example I haven’t been on an aeroplane since 2015, for personal flights I haven’t been on one since 2007. We do what we can, we’re not perfect.
That’s it for me this week, next week I have to take Wilson to the vet and have a couple of other things in my diary. Whatever you’re up to stay safe and take care.
Another week has come and gone, filled with books, pancakes and a little bit of drawing.
We indulged in pancakes on Tuesday, it’s about the only time we eat pancakes so it’s a nice treat. I still prefer a simple lemon juice and sugar topping after nearly 50 years that hasn’t changed.
A year ago I used the Lent period to give up social media. I’m not going to do that this year as I think I have a healthier relationship with it now, and probably won’t be giving up anything else for that period this year either.
Reading. I’ve been reading a lot this week. I mentioned Joseph Anton by Salman Rushdie last week. It’s a long book – 600+ pages – so it’s taken me quite a while to work through. Also Ann bought me a copy of Kurt Jackson‘s Sketchbooks for a Valentine’s present and that interrupted my reading of Joseph Anton because I picked that up straight away to look at. I also read the latest Jackson Lamb book by Mick Herron, Slough House. I was a little bit underwhelmed by the latter, I didn’t think that it was one of his best. I haven’t settled into anything else yet, and I still keep dipping back into Sketchbooks.
I’ve had some Audible credits building up in my account. Without travelling, my opportunities to listen to audiobooks has been drastically reduced so I haven’t always been using up my monthly credit but I did use one of them on the Complete Shakespeare, given that it’s nearly 100 hours of audio I don’t suppose I’ll be getting through it anytime soon.
Working. I’ve completed and submitted the proposal that I was asked for last week. No feedback yet, but it’s early days and I’ll follow up once they’ve had a chance to look at it. When I’d completed the proposal I picked up my own sketch page for a bit and drew the picture of the blue tit above. I don’t draw very often, but I’ve been doing more during the last couple of lockdowns to occupy my mind and spare time.
Allotment. The weather aligned this week to bring a dry, warmish (i.e. not frozen) spell of weather and I was able to get down onto the plot. I managed to clear the long grasses from around the base of the fruit trees and just enjoy being on the allotment for a period of time. I didn’t stay long as my plot neighbour arrived with a new shed. Our shed’s are next to one another and to give enough space for social distancing etc it was easier for me to give him the space to do what he needed to do and come back another time.
I have a “window” visit with my Mum in the week ahead. It will probably only be ten minutes or so and it’s not the same thing as being actually able to sit at either end of the same table as we did back in the summer but it’s a step up from a phone call (the irony is we still actually talk on the phone as otherwise we can’t hear what we’re saying because of the window).
That’s it for now. I hope you have a good week – take care and stay safe.
Happy St. Valentine’s Day everyone.
Welcome back, if this weeks post looks a little off kilter it’s because I broke my glasses at the beginning of the week and I’m typing this wearing my “spare” pair.
I did manage to repair my original pair and then subsequently broke them again a day or so later, so have had to reglue them for a second time. I’m leaving them a little longer to make sure that the glue has really hardened before trying to wear them again.
I really should go to the opticians and get a replacement but as it’s been just over two years since my last eye test and I can tell that my eyesight has deteriorated I really ought to have a fresh one. At the moment however I don’t feel comfortable getting that done. Maybe in a few more weeks time, I’ll feel a little more comfortable about it but for the meantime I think I’ll just be muddling through.
We’ve been visited by long-tailed tits everyday this week. They call by in the mornings when I’m working in my office and make full use of the trees just outside my window. It’s one of life’s more pleasant distractions in these times.
After saying last week that we hadn’t had any snow we had the meerest dusting on Tuesday morning, but it was gone by the afternoon. It has been very cold though, our water butt froze as did the ground on the allotment. Frozen solid there hasn’t been much that I’ve been able to do down there this week. Additionally the broad beans are looking very sorry for themselves. I hope that they might recover but it might have been just that little bit too cold for them.
Reading. I’ve mostly been reading Len Deighton’s Berlin Game this week, which I enjoyed. It’s the first part of a series of three trilogies – is there a name for a trilogy of trilogies? After that I’ve picked up Salman Rushdie’s memoir Joseph Anton, after reading a recommendation in my friend David’s article here. I wasn’t aware that he’d written this account of his time under police protection after a Fatwa was issued against him by Ayatollah Khomeini for writing The Satanic Verses. I’m only about a quarter of the way through but am finding it strangely gripping. It’s a little strange to be reading it now, after having some clear memories of it at the time.
Interesting to read Austin Kleon’s thoughts on blogging as a forgiving medium.
Work. It’s been a week of Zoom and Teams again this week with discussions with a client over some work that they’ve asked for a proposal for. I’m a little cautious about this as this client has asked for proposals before and then not taken the work forward, but there seems to be a need for them to have this work done, so it might go somewhere.
I also gave an evening Allotment talk this week to a group in Derbyshire. Giving these talks over Zoom isn’t the same as being in the village hall and being able to see the whites of the eyes of the audience, but it does give me a chance to talk to groups that I would otherwise not present to because of the cost of travel / accommodation.
I make a point with these talks of always asking for feedback and on this occasion someone wanted more recipes in my talk, I’m not sure that would have been particularly interesting to listen to me read a list of ingredients, but I will give it some thought.
Well I guess that’s about all I have this week. Lockdown certainly curtails what I’ve been up to, and these posts seem to become shorter each week. Anyway stay safe and take care.
It’s been wet this week, really wet, full wet weather gear wet. Where other parts of the country have been having snow, we’ve just had rain. I’m not sure which I’d prefer, but at the moment a bit of a dry spell would be nice!
Last weekend was the Big Garden Birdwatch. As citizen science goes it’s a pretty big project and other the years I think I’ve contributed most years. I keep a running total for our garden anyway and over the last few weeks the birds have been pretty abundant with a couple of species present that aren’t around often. However I swear that the birds no what’s happening and stay away for the crucial hour when the count is taking place. It happens every year and the results are normally pretty low and boring and in my opinion not representative of our garden, but the standardisation of counting is important so once again our numbers were low. Of course the moment the hour was up I looked out again and there were more birds to be seen than had been present the whole of the preceding hour.
If you missed it I ran a giveaway earlier in the week for Matt Gaw’s book Under The Stars if you’re interested in being in with a chance to win a copy there’s still time. Follow the link above to enter.
Reading. I got back into the last two Inspector Morse books by Colin Dexter; reading Death is Now My Neighbour and then planning to leave a gap before reading the final one, The Remorseful Day, but realising that I couldn’t settle into something else I picked it up. It was a fitting end to the series and I felt a little bit lost after finishing it knowing that there wasn’t another one to follow. I’ll likely go back and read some of the earlier ones again, but in the meantime I’ve been reading Garden of Angels by David Hewson, which is possibly one of his best books and set in Second World War Venice and the modern day. Recommended.
Watching. I’ve finally been able to watch Greyhound which is the Tom Hanks dramatisation of C S Foresters book, The Good Shepherd. If you haven’t seen it, it’s a good movie, but the book is better. I recommend both though. I watched it alone as Ann wasn’t interested but we’ve both been watching Long Way Up, Charlie Boorman and Ewan McGregor’s trip on prototype electric Harley Davidson’s from the tip of South America up through to Los Angeles. I admire them for doing this with both gear and infrastructure that isn’t quite there yet for this type of journey but then that’s probably the best reason to do it.
Listening. I caught a rerun of Stephen King on Desert Island Discs this week. I missed it first time around and it’s a good highlight reel of his career (up to about 2006 when it was recorded), and his choice of music is pretty good. You can listen here, but I don’t know if that link will work outside the UK, without a VPN.
Work. I’ve been sorting out some work related meetings for the coming week, as well as finalising my presentation for my allotment talk on the 12th.
That’s all I have for this week. Take care and stay safe!
Greetings! As I write this there are long-tailed tits in the tree outside my window again. They’ve been regular visitors, normally coming at the same time each day. Looking for insects in the tree and then checking out the bird feeders before getting on with their day. Love ’em.
We also had a buzzard fly-by – the local gulls were not impressed but the buzzard really couldn’t care less.
I filled in a “wellness” survey from my local council this week. It asked all sorts of questions about lockdown 3.0 and other things. It was a bit of an insight into what the council considers and doesn’t consider to be wellness.
Part of my mental wellness has been to massively shift what finds its way into my twitter and other social media feeds. On twitter I’ve been using lists much more, and have now curated an artists list so that I get some beautiful images to look at. If you’re interested in adding it you can find it here. I’ve printed out a few of these pictures and pasted them into my journal.
I watched a bit of the US Presidential Inauguration ceremony this week. The Bernie Sanders memes have been pretty much all over the internet this week but the poet Amanda Gorman was the show stealer for me. You can read / watch her here.
Reading. I read Colin Dexter’s Daughters of Cain this week. A good Inspector Morse mystery, and although I’d worked out what had happened there was a nice twist to story towards the end that I didn’t spot. This is one of the later Morse books, and Morse’s health is beginning to fail and the tv series is starting to show much more in the character of Morse than in the early books, pre-tv series. In those early books, Morse is a slightly different character to the later ones, not in a bad way and it doesn’t detract from the story but if you read the books and watch the tv shows it is noticeable. It’s also interesting how the “young Morse” tv show – Endeavour – is picking up on some of the interactions that appear in the books but again the character of the younger Morse is very different to how he appears in the books later in life.
I bought this box set secondhand in a charity shop back at the end of 2019, when I was still doing regular trips down to Somerset to visit a client. Those days seem like such a long time ago now. I hope that charity shop has managed to keep going during the pandemic, it was quite small but always had some interesting stock and fantastically friendly staff.
Watching. We finished our Game of Thrones binge with the final season. If you haven’t seen it I won’t spoil the plotlines, but I didn’t enjoy how it ended.
We’ve also been watching reruns of Endeavour (see reading above), although these are reruns they’re new to us, I’m not sure why we never watched these when they were originally broadcast.
Work. Another quiet week overall, although the allotment talk I mentioned last week has been confirmed and I had a second enquiry. It got me thinking that maybe groups are thinking that there won’t be much in-person speaking happening during the main part of the year for these things (Spring and early summer) so there might be mileage in online talks for at least part of their membership.
Allotment. We’ve had some shed break-ins on the allotment site this week. Last year the site management installed CCTV because there had been some thefts, and then they extended the system because the thieves simply moved to parts of the site that weren’t covered, and that’s exactly what has happened this time. I was skeptical about the installation of the CCTV and it’s one of those things that you can’t prove how many thieves it has deterred and how many have simply just worked around the placement of the cameras. I’ve been lucky and my shed has been left alone – not that there’s anything much in there worth stealing – but the plot below mine had the door removed from the shed but nothing taken.
That’s all I have for this week. Take care and stay safe.