Black Swan Smackdown – TWTW # 21

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I feel a little like I’ve been running around a lot this last week. Ruled to some extent by the timings of appointments with my Mum’s doctor and with our vet, for Wilson. Just one of those weeks, and the upcoming one is looking like being a little similar, although with a different set of appointments and people to see and places to be.


On Tuesday I walked down to the creek to see if the Mute Swans that nest there had hatched any cygnets yet, and I was treated to a bit of a surprise. Here’s what I wrote on Instagram:

This Black Swan got a little too close to the nesting Mute Swan pair, and kept coming back despite being chased off by the Cob a couple of times previously.

The Cob eventually went all in and pursued the Black Swan up on to the mud where he pinned it to the ground and then proceeded to attack, pecking at the back, neck and head of the Black Swan. It was brutal to watch and went on for several minutes. Here’s the last 30 seconds where the Black Swan managed to escape and appears to be okay.

Nesting Mute Swans are very territorial and won’t tolerate other swans on their “patch”. The female is still sitting on the nest, no sign of chicks yet.

The video is below, it’s a bit blurry because I was so far away, but you get the gist of what was going on.


I’ve been watching Jo and Michael’s travels on their narrowboat on YouTube for a while. They posted this video yesterday of their crossing of the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct (best watched full screen).


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I’ve been reading “The Sixteen Trees of the Somme” by Lars Mytting this week. It’s probably one of the best books I’ve read this year so far and I thoroughly recommend it. It’s a little different to my normal fair, and although there is a mystery at the heart of the story it is much more about the characters and the people.

 

 

 


img_20190607_155746699I also got sent some surprise back-catalogue books from my friends at Elliott & Thompson Books. I haven’t had a chance to properly look at them yet but hope to get to them later this coming week.

 

 

 

 


How do authors earn a living


Six Weeks, One Hundred Miles of Walking in Japan


That’s about it for this week, I’m hoping to get my tomatoes set-up in the potting shed this week at some point, and there are several other things that I’d like to get done in the gaps in my diary. We’ll see how that goes!

 

The Seafarers – A Journey Among Birds by Stephen Rutt: A Review

Last week I was sent a copy of Stephen Rutt’s first book – “The Seafarers – A Journey Among Birds”, by the publishers, Elliott & Thompson.

It was an unexpected surprise and “The Seafarers” is one of those great joys of a book that is part autobiographical of the author, biographical of the birds he writes about and full of information and detail of those birds. Be they the charismatic Puffin or the extinct Great Auk the author writes a treatise on each and every bird he sees on his journey, and their homes and habitats.

Stephen Rutt has written a lyrical and delightful story, it is a book written from the heart and takes the reader to the homes of the birds where the author has been as part of his career and where he has escaped to, away from a more hectic life. He writes delightfully about each of the species he encounters, some that will be very familiar to the reader, but possibly many that won’t be and in each case he writes so that we all become familiar with each one. He makes the facts and details of those species accessible to the reader in such a way that it is easy to loose oneself in the story and picture each bird for it’s own character.

The book is also full of references and sources so that the reader can also look further for those species that capture their imagination or want to know more about – I found myself tapping in urls to look at other details of species. I know that I’ll be returning to this great book to reread the sections on those species that are close to my heart, but also as a point of wider reference to other species.

I look forward to reading the next book from this author, although I acknowledge that he has set his own bar very high.

My Rating: 5 out of 5 stars.

From The Publisher:

In 2015 Stephen Rutt escaped his hectic, anxiety-inducing life in London to spend seven months at the bird observatory on North Ronadlsay, the most northerly island in the Orkney archipelago. His time there among the seabirds changed him.

The Seafarers is published on 23rd May 2019 by Elliott & Thompson.

About The Author:

Stephen Rutt is a writer, birder and naturalist. He studied on the literature and environment MA at Esses University and has written for Earthlines Magazine, Zoomorphic, The Harrier, Surfbirds and BirdGuides amongst others. As a teenager, he interned with Birdguides.co.uk and in 2015 he spent seven months at the bird observatory in North Ronaldsay. Stephen lives in Dumfries and The Seafarers is his first book.

I Saw Four Swans

Went for a walk and an early breakfast in Emsworth this morning. As I walked back along the old mill pond I saw four swans in the space of about 50 metres. Not one of them was alive.

The first was on the name plaque of “Swan Cottage”. The second was a garden ornament. The third was a stained glass doorway. The fourth a silhouette also on the side of a house.

There were also plenty of living swans too, but this morning it was those representations that caught my eye.

Percy Sweeps The Chimney

We’d been having problems with flies over the last few days. There were way more getting into the house than is normal, and even with the hot weather it was abnormal.

I was pretty sure that this meant something had died somewhere and the life cycle of death was taking place. If you look this up on the internet you find that there is a sequence that takes a few days and manifests first as blowflies (you’ll probably think of them as “Greenbottles”), and then the aptly named flesh flies.

I reached the point yesterday where I’d had enough. The majority of flies seemed to be in the lounge and so I shut myself in there and spent 20 mins trying to kill every fly in the room. I was pretty sure that I’d gotten them all so I sat for another half-an-hour looking at the window, where the flies had seemed to be gathering. I was thinking that perhaps they were in the wall cavity, and had found a gap somewhere that they could squeeze through.

And I sat.

And then a fly flew over my head, from behind me. I thought it was one that I’d missed from the early genocide, so I dispatched him to join the others.

And I sat.

And then another fly flew over my head, from behind me. Even I’m not that inefficient.

And then it dawned on me. The chimney.

There’s no longer a fireplace there, but the chimney is still there and open to the elements. We’ve had a sparrow fall down before and get caught behind the board that’s in front of the opening to prevent draughts, and we assisted him out. So it made sense that perhaps there was something else that had fallen down and was now decaying behind the board.

I cleared everything out of the way and moved the board, and several flies buzzed around my head, but I couldn’t see anything else untoward, until I shone my torch up the flue pipe and there, was a dead wood pigeon, jammed in the flue.

I donned some protective gear (I couldn’t find my dust mask, so had to go a bit wild west), and with a bin liner in one hand , carefully positioned beneath the flue, I reached up with the other hand and dislodged the pigeon.

In the end it wasn’t a difficult job, and there wasn’t too much mess to clear up, even though the pigeon had done a pretty good job of sweeping the chimney on his way down.

It’s also cleared up the fly problem almost instantaneously.

RIP Percy Pigeon, I’m not sure how you came to fall down the chimney in the first place, and I’m not sorry to see you removed from your temporary resting place, but I am grateful you’ve taken all your winged companions with you.

Swallows Return (Quick Links 121)

My car went in for it’s annual MOT this week, unfortunately it failed and needed some work, but all has been put right now, and it’s good to go for another year. I’ll need to get a couple of new tyres soon as well, but they’re good for a few more miles.

Not having a car for a couple of days meant a slight change in plans but I managed to get everything done, just perhaps not in the order I’d originally planned.


I mentioned last week about the blue tits gathering dog hair from the garden. Well I managed to capture them in action in this short video.


I saw my first Swallow of the year this week (a week later than last year). I haven’t seen any Swifts or House Martins yet, but they’re normally later sightings for me anyway. I also saw a couple of black caps just across the road from my house. They used to be regular garden visitors but I haven’t seen one in the garden for a couple of years, so it’s good to know that they’re still about, and maybe they might find the garden again.


Work – I heard back about the work that I was involved for the tender for a few weeks ago and unfortunately we were unsuccessful. This was very disappointing as I thought the bid was strong. As yet we’ve not had detailed feedback so I don’t know where we fell short, but I am quite interested to find out. This means that at the moment there is no paid work on the horizon, so I need to hustle a bit and get that changed around.

Had a couple of work related meetings but they’ve been in the diary for a while.


Allotment – The forecast for the weekend was wet, but in reality it has mostly been dry to this point at least. It meant I managed to finish clearing the old purple sprouting broccoli patch, dig it over and add some compost, ready for new crops. It will likely be the site of the coming years leeks and sweetcorn. For the latter I still need to devise my badger proof enclosure to stop them eating all the cobs before we get a chance.


Currently Reading – I finished   “Turning: Lessons from Swimming Berlin’s Lakes” by Jessica J. Lee [LINK]. Haven’t really gotten into anything else at this point, been a bit busy with other things.


The Week In Wildlife In Pictures – [LINK]


Total Ban on Neonicotinoids – [LINK] I’ve written about this numerous times here, but at long last a total ban on these chemical pesticides has been declared. Hopefully it’s in the nick-of-time, but it is good news for once. Understandably the manufacturers are not happy about it (but they wouldn’t be really would they), but everybody else seems happy.

 


A short one this week, hope you all have a good week ahead.

The Spuds Are In! – (Quick Links 118)

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Gate Detail At Emsworth Slipper Sailing Club

I took my Mum out for breakfast on Tuesday, something that is maybe becoming a regular thing. We went to Emsworth, and for a brief moment it wasn’t raining, so we were able to go for a short walk after we’d eaten. The photo above was taken there. We had a good chat over breakfast and did a couple of other chores while we were out.

I like Emsworth as a place, and I could actually see myself living there (although I doubt I could afford the house prices).


I had an interesting conversation about how technology has changed the way we think and see the world now, and how everything is much more immediate. It’s probably something that many people have thought about and I suspect the sides are both well rehearsed, but I’m not sure that all of the technology that we have now can actually be regarded as progress.


Pretty sure that we have a pair of Great Tits setting up a nest in one of our bird boxes. I’ve seen one of the birds taking beaks full of nesting materials into the box a couple of times, and they seem to be around the garden a lot. I’m conscious that they are around and am trying not to unduly disturb them, so that they can get on.


Our new furniture arrived on Friday. So far so good, very comfortable. Just need to get used to the room feeling a little more crowded than it did for the past couple of weeks when there was hardly any in there!


I was given an R2D2 travel mug for an Easter present, and gave it a test run on the allotment. It seems to work well and kept my  coffee suitably warm while I was down on the plot.


Work – It’s the financial year end, and I’ve spent a little bit of time getting my business expenses in order and a few other tasks so that I can do my tax return. I have plenty of time to get this done, but I don’t like to leave it to the last minute.


Allotment – The weather really hasn’t been compliant this week. We had a wet Easter bank holiday weekend and this continued until Thursday morning, when for the first time we had a dry day. I did get some seeds (pumpkin, patti-pan squash, tomato, cucumber and sweetcorn) sown indoors and finally on Saturday got my early potatoes in and transplanted out my “spare” broad beans. It then rained overnight which is a good thing but I still haven’t been able to get to do much of anything else. I still have brassicas to go out and some seeds that need to be sown. I’m hoping for a couple more dry days and then perhaps sometime next week I can get a few more things done.


Currently Reading – Not really sure what I’ve been reading this week. I am part-way through A Time of Gifts by Patrick Leigh Fermor [LINK] but otherwise I don’t think I’ve really been reading much. As an author Fermor has fascinated me for some time. A war hero and adventurer, he seemed to live a very full life.


The Week In Wildlife In Pictures – [LINK]



That’s all folks, next week I have a couple of work meetings as well – hopefully – some more time on the allotment planned. Have a good week wherever you are.

The Last Week Of The Year – Quick Links 31st December 2017

This is going to be short. I wasn’t sure whether it was going to exist at all or not.

It’s been a quiet and busy week in equal measure. We had a pleasant Christmas Day and Boxing Day, sharing them with my Mum, and exchanging a few gifts. I’ve got quite a few new books to read over the coming weeks, so that should keep me out of mischief if nothing else does!

The turkey was mysteriously very tough to eat, and not really that nice, which is a shame when you’ve gone to the trouble, but the rest of the meal was more than substantial, although I still didn’t have much of an appetite after being sick last week.

Unfortunately my Mum’s car broke down on Boxing Day – although we didn’t actually realise it at the time – just as she got home. She asked me to look at it the next day and although at first I couldn’t find a problem, when I took it for a drive it was evident that it was undrivable, and had to call the breakdown service. They were able to diagnose the problem but couldn’t fix it roadside, so towed the car to the garage where it stayed until they were able to get the relevant part and return it to us on Friday. No great problem, but a bit of a nuisance and a change in plans for the remainder of the week.

 


Work – I’ve been checking emails, and not doing much else. I still need to finish my 2018 planning and targets, but I wanted to reflect on these over the Christmas break and finish that in January.


Allotment – We’ve had snow, a lot of rain and some high winds this week, so not much  to report from the plot. I am however starting to think about next season, and I really need to look at what seeds & plants I need and get them ordered.


Currently Reading – I started Kim Stanley Robinson’s “New York 2140” [GoodReads] and enjoying it so far. I suspect that it will see me into the New Year as it’s quite a big book and I seem to be reading quite slowly. Once that’s done I’m not sure what’ll be next as I have quite a few to choose from after Christmas.


That’s it for this week folks, I did say it would be short. There’ll be a Quarter Four review later and possibly something for the New Year on Monday. For now though, I hope you have a great New Years celebration if you do, and service will probably return to normal next Sunday or the Sunday after.

 

Merry Christmas – Quick Links 24th December 2017

Well ’twas the night before Christmas and all that. Whether you read this before, during or after I wish you a very Merry Christmas.

Not sure what I’ll be posting next week, as both my Sunday Quick Links and my fourth quarter review are due on the same day. You may get one or both, but hopefully something. I also normally try to post something on New Years Day as well. Not that I am expecting anyone to read it on the day it goes live, as I’m sure you have much better things to do than read my ramblings. Anyway, if you have been reading these posts, thank you.

I was expecting a quiet week this week, and other than an appointment I attended with my Mum I’ve not really been anywhere. This is probably just as well as I’ve not been feeling very well, and think that I managed to catch a stomach bug on one of my rare trips out. I’m recovering now, but did at one point wonder whether it was going to be a pre-Christmas instant diet or something that would drag on over the festive period. Hopefully it’s the former.


Work – I’ve been doing my end of the month admin a little early, so that I can pretty much be work free next week. I’ll be checking my emails, but that will be about it and I’ll pick things up again the following week. I’ve been working on my targets for next year, and things need to get serious to develop at least some income.


Allotment – Not much to report this week, it’s been quite a mild week, and the ground has been a little soggy at times, so I’ve been staying off of the beds now that they’re dug.


Currently Reading – I read Stephen King’s “On Writing” [GoodReads] this week, there’s quite a bit of his life story in there as well as tips and approaches to writing, although I felt that I had read most of it in other places.


Neil Gaiman Reading A Christmas Carol – Audio version of the author reading the classic Dickens Christmas tale. [LINK]


Open Railway Map – Open source map of many of the worlds railways [LINK], pretty cool to look up your local lines.


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The Week In Wildlife – In Pictures


Brexit Is Going To Be Titanic – Exactly like the ship


Merry Christmas From The Muppets


Bird Spikes In Trees – Although this only came to light in the last week, it seems that this has been going on for a while – but why? As this other article points out, we are seemingly blind to the damage that we are doing to the planet.


Alarming Customer Service Fail From Amazon when they started sending “coded death threats” to a customer [LINK]. If this had been me I’m not sure I would have noticed, as I do read quite a few crime novels anyway.


Dolphins – Nice piece by author Philip Hoare [LINK]


The Future Worlds of Work – Although I haven’t read the full report yet, I do intend to but these different scenarios [LINK] for what the future of work will look like in 2030 are quite interesting on the surface. I think I far prefer the Green or Yellow versions but I suspect without intervention that the world is heading towards the Blue scenario. I might come back to this again once I’ve had a proper read.


That’s it for this week, catch you all again soon.

Starling Madness

I’ve been trying to capture a video of the starlings in our garden “eating” from our mealworm feeder – decimation would be a better adjective as they can empty it in minutes. I’m not sure whether this is deliberate to share the worms with their fellow birds or whether it’s just a consequence of their rather mad feeding behaviour on the feeder.

There are often three or four on the feeder, but this is a small proportion of the total flock of around 15 birds. The remainder are on the ground under the feeder, hoovering up the fallout.

Hope you enjoy the video, which is a series of clips edited together.