Saturday, 27 August 2011

Jesus and Mo

I like this enough to steal a copy from the original Jesus and Mo site and repost it here.

Friday, 26 August 2011

Pitcher gets tit!

Old news, I know, but hey!

According to this BBC article from 5th August, a Somerset nurseryman found the remains of a great tit in this large pitcher plant at his nursery. 

It's not that unusual for pitcher plants to catch frogs, lizards and mice, as well as the insects they presumably mainly target, but this seems to be only the second time a bird-for-lunch has been reported.

The assumption is that the bird landed on the edge of the pitcher, leaned in to steal a tasty insect snack, lost its balance and landed head first in the pan.  When our cat drinks from the bog, I worry that the same will happen to her!

Thursday, 25 August 2011

A week in Canterbury

This year, our cathedral week was in Canterbury, which I think must mean we've arrived, choir-wise.  They don't come much more prestigious than York and Canterbury, so I think we're there.

I was a little apprehensive, following our York experience.  In York the lay clergy were very friendly and welcoming, but the big knobs were distinctly sniffy and remote.  Not the happy experience you hope for at all.

In the run up to last week, our musical director had something of a struggle to agree a music list with the Canterbury folks, some aspects of which seemed perfectly reasonable, and others quite strange, so I started to expect the clergy to be much like those in York.

I'm delighted to say, the reverse was the case.  They were completely lovely, and we had a simply brilliant time. The minor canon who lead us in the responses was a bit concerned when he saw there were only 14 of us on the first day, but when he heard us rehearse, he realised there's no deadwood in this choir - we all make a noise, and when we want to, we can be really quite loud!

We were astonished when we processed in for our first service on Monday, to see a congregation of about a hundred.  Normally during the week there are more of us than them, but this week we never had fewer than about 75, and on Sunday, there must have been 300 in the nave for the eucharist.  Of course, Canterbury is a big tourist attraction and also has significant numbers of pilgrims visiting.  Still, awesome to think that we must have sung to nearly 1,000 people in the course of the week.

I had checked out a very useful website called Canterbury Explorer before we went, so we had some clues about good places to eat, and on Tuesday, six of us had dinner at the excellent, if pricey, Deeson's restaurant. There being just me and five women, I jokingly referred to them as 'my harem'.   There were one or two negative comments from other choristers the next day, none directly to me, that they would have expected to be invited, but that's just bollocks. At no point did I consider organising anything for the whole choir, and they have absolutely no right to expect anything of the sort.  Sorry, I find myself getting cross about it all over again!  GRRR!  The only person who could legitimately feel aggrieved was Cynthia, who is part of our little 'dining club'.  I didn't ask her because she organised the accommodation and I thought (wrongly, as it turned out) that she'd need to be on-site to ensure things ran smoothly.

We had lunch twice in the delightful Café St Pierre (which doesn't seem to have its own website), once in the excellent Goods Shed and once in Café Mauresque, a middle-eastern restaurant.  We also had dinner in the Mexican restaurant Café des Amis and in Café Mauresque.  This might sound as though the food at the school wasn't good, but in fact it was very satisfactory, just we felt inclined to eat out much of the time.

The Goods Shed was a particularly splendid find.  An old railway shed, it had a variety of stalls, selling fresh meat, fresh fish, vegetables, sandwiches, wine and beer, cheese, etc, as well as a restaurant where you could get an excellent lunch.  We bought freshly made sandwiches twice to take as a picnic lunch, and were delighted both times.

On Wednesday after the morning rehearsal, we drove to Whitstable, where we ate our picnic on the beach, then west to Oare, where Jenny had spotted a bird-watching spot.  That was spectacular, with about 50 avocets, hundreds of black-tailed godwits, a little egret, lots of lapwings, dunlin, cormorants and a few redshanks.

The choir always has one day off, when we don't sing a service, though we do rehearse in the morning.  On that day, Jenny and I took our picnic to RSPB Dungeness for a spot of birding.  It was windy and overcast, but we saw lots of really interesting birds, and had a most excellent time.   Marsh harriers, great crested grebes, common terns and lots of ducks of various sorts.  Excellent!

We also had a walk in Blean Woods nature reserve, which was really lovely.  Didn't see many birds, but the wood, a mixture of coppiced birch, mature oak, open heathland, etc, was so still and quiet, we didn't care.  We just ambled gently through, soaking up the peace.

And to round of a very satisfying, if exhausting week, I heard today that our director has had a letter from Canterbury, thanking us very much for singing for them and saying they're looking forward to us returning.  We must have done OK if they're inviting us back!

Wednesday, 10 August 2011

Talking about dragonflies...

One of the things that drives me nuts about dragonflies in particular, is the way so many of them cruise up and down, seemingly without ever stopping for a rest anywhere I can get a decent view of them.  Without clocking a good look, I have no hope of identifying them, and even then, can usually only narrow it down to 3 or 4 species.  I mostly have to get a photograph.

So I was particularly smug when I just waited for much longer than usual on the boardwalk in Fowlmere yesterday, watching this big green and blue jobbie teararsing around, when it finally settled on a twig I could actually see clearly and get a decent photograph.

It's a male Southern Hawker,Aeshna cyanea and I'm pretty pleased with the snap.

I also saw my first Ruddy Darter of the season.  I took this picture in July last year, and have just had to visit to check that it wasn't a Common Darter, but it isn't.

Suppressing adverts

I was just reading a British Trust for Ornithology review of a new British dragonflies DVD and was nearing screaming point, driven mad by the blasted animated adverts cluttering up the page.  I googled for suppressing adverts, and hit gold.  There's an open source add-on for Firefox which suppresses ads, so I installed it, and it's bliss!  I had to share the good news!

You can download it free from here

I'm not exactly sure what the stuff about filters is, but I accepted the default EasyList filter which sees to work just fine.

Oh and in a fine irony (this is irony, isn't it?) the ads on my own blog have been suppressed!  Ho ho ho!

Monday, 8 August 2011


On Saturday we hosted a barbie for Jenny's colleagues at the University Museum of Zoology, which went rather well.  After two solid days' preparation, we had about 25 turn up.  They brought whatever they wanted to cook on the fires plus some booze, while we provided baked potatoes, half a dozen different sorts of salad and three desserts, as well as the backbone of a drinks supply.

We had to borrow stuff from the lovely Lorna and Richard, and had four barbies spread around the garden as well as loads of chairs and a reasonable number of tables.

Jenny and I were very circumspect about the alcohol in the early part of the evening, just to make sure all went according to plan, but once most of the eating had been done, we allowed ourselves to relax a little.  The weather was kind and we spent the whole time outside, a regular trickle of people returning to the kitchen to replenish their drinks.  As dusk came on, the night-scented stocks did their biz and all were suitably impressed!

Some people had driven, and they tended to drift away earlier than the rest, but most had come by train and caught the last train back to Cambridge, which meant it was almost midnight before they left.  We, having had to work pretty hard, were absolutely whacked by this time, of course!

In the morning, nursing hangovers, we broke the back of the clearing up, then just idled the rest of the day away, recovering.  It's rare for us to just sit about reading at the weekend, but that was the therapy we needed, so we indulged oursleves  Sitting in the attic, I was reading a Classic Bike magazine that Richard had passed to me (I pass my Motorcycle Sport and Leisure to him and he passes me Classic Bike!) and started finding myself wanting to buy an early 1950's BSA 500, but Jenny was quick to point out that I hardly use the BMW, never mind a second bike in the stable, so that brought me back to reality!
 I found this picture on the web, which I presumably shouldn't have copied, but hey.  This is a very tidy 1937 example.  BSA made hundreds of thousands of these, especially during the war for the armed forces, and a lot get restored into military style, but I prefer the civilian look.

All academic, of course, as I'm not going to get one!

Thursday, 4 August 2011

Wow! Data transmission by light!

I'm not too impressed by this guy's presentation, but the idea is brilliant.  Summary:  use a new piece of kit to flicker a standard LED lamp so fast you can't tell it's not on continuously, and use the flicker to transmit data to a suitable receiver.  eg Traffic lights could talk to your car.

A trip to Scotland

On Tuesday last week, Jenny and I took the train up to Edinburgh for the reopening of the National Museum of Scotland after a major refit.  It was quite a big investment of time and money, considering we only stayed at the event for a couple of hours, but it was very good to meet up with our old friend Nick Fraser, Keeper of Natural Sciences there.  And it was pretty impressive, with over 1000 attending.

Sadly, I didn't take my camera, and my phone is useless in low light levels, so although I took quite a few photographs, none was worth posting.

On the birding front, I've been maintaining the "What's About?" sheet in Doug's absence, so have visited Fowlmere several times.  I'm rather pleased with this action shot of a kingfisher, taken from Reedbed Hide.

Catching Up

I've been having a few problems with blogger, with which I'm now getting some help from the blogspot forum, so this is a new post just to try out the fixes they've given me. First, I need to upload a photo, so here goes.
This is a juvenile muntjac which walked across the front of Spring Hide on the bird reserve the other day. You can tell it's a juvenile because when I leant out of the front of the hide to take the photo, it watched me, instead of running away. Bambi, you're dinner!

OK, I've been up to other stuff, but that can go in another post after I see what happens with this one.