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Jan. 16th, 2017

Dandy

The foggy foggy dew.

Not so cold this morning (9C) but the visibility is awful.The whole world seems dark and gloomy and when I look beyond the garden it is shrouded in mist. Within the garden, attempting to watch the birds, I can see the washing line resonantly vibrating- something has landed but can I see what? I can hear songs and calls-wood pigeon and great tit are prominent and the rest make an anonymous chorus.
There is enough light to see movements and dim shapes and their behaviour and I identify a robin and a blue tit. Another shape glides down and out of sight beyond the end of the house . I expect a blackbird to come hopping back and am not disappointed. It hops around and then dissolves into the darkness under the edge of the shrubbery. A little later I am amused by the whiteness of an apple core dancing in that same darkness, and realise the blackbird is there using the same trick that puppeteers use on stage.
After some on line comments from my son about his bird feeders in his Newcastle garden I decide it is time to check mine. The peanuts do not seem to have moved for days. Sure enough they are rigidly moulded together, solidified futility like so many fillings of peanut feeders before...I don't know what it is with my peanut feeders but the birds do not seem to want to take to them. I've bought the nuts from various sources, it doesn't seem to make any difference. The only way to get them eaten is to scatter them on the ground and the pigeons then come, but that is not the intention...they are far too expensive for pigeon feed. There was a time when a scattering attracted jays, and I thought that was well worth the pigeon risk...but then the jays moved on. The peanut cage is now emptied washed and drying and will be ready to refill shortly. I musn't grumble...I do have a regular clientele that keeps me royally entertained on the other feeders...more on that perhaps on another day.

Jun. 17th, 2016

Dandy

More or less daylight...

Its four fifteen .It's more or less daylight and beyond the window nothing stirs....
but that's not quite true to say "nothing stirs." There is a light breeze and the towering Silver Birch that dominates the view is doing a lazy dance- just swaying a little- feet transfixed somewhere out of view amongst the bungalows.The other smaller trees around it are swaying too.
The sky, not quite uniformly grey awaits the coming of the sun and the world sleeps, no sign of life- no lit window- no wisps of smoke or steam - cars sleep silent by the kerbs and wheely bins four mornings after the Monday collections are yellow stickered with promised penalties if they are not returned to home ground. At 4.34 a corvid silhouetted against the eastern sky skims roof top levels but the ranked stacks of the terrace are void of avian life. A gull drifts across the sky with a hurrying jackdaw pair signalling the awakening of the day and I decide it is time to return to bed for a few more hours of sleep.

Feb. 13th, 2016

Dandy

Top

Don't know how long it will last but Hull City went top of the championship this afternoon. Blackburn's manager commented that the team included a number of Premiership players.... not so: all Hull's players play in the Championship at the moment.

The other club I supported in my youth are also doing OK. Hull RL have won both their opening games of the Superleague season and are currently top of the table with a huge points difference.

Doubly good for the KC stadium, home to both clubs.

Dec. 30th, 2015

Dandy

Almost 90 going on 25: Sir David Attenborough and the Great Barrier reef.

Watched David Attenborough's latest offering on Australia's Great Barrier Reef. What an absolute pleasure it was to watch.

Three things stood out, apart from the glories of modern technology which made the rest of the program possible.

I'm not sure I knew that coral polyps were nocturnal before but to see them all emerging from their coral pits was a wonder to behold.

Then not all the scientific reasoning was given but apparently there has been a re dating of the reef's origin which matches oral tradition about the reef's origins that has been passed on by word of mouth and the enactment of ritual dances for thousands of years, much more recently than thought.

Finally there was the simultaneous spawning of all the reefs corals on a single night...just amazing footage of this.

Well done Sir David....one of the research ship crew said you negotiated the entry to the submarine like a twenty five year old..
and you heading on for ninety....not bad going at all.

Dec. 15th, 2015

Dandy

TOGETHER!

Just watched the BBC2 programme about the launch of a Russian rocket to land a crew of three on the ISS (International Space Station) Truly inspiring.Not the technical achievement, though that was gobsmacking enough. Not the progress in all sorts of ways since Helen Sharman the first Brit in space back in 1991, although it seems as if amzing strides forward have been made not least in the field of satellite communication.
For me what was truly breathtaking was to see an international family of scientists working together towards a common goal.Brits., Russians, Americans and another dozen nationalities that have contributed to the programme in greater and lesser degrees. Amazing stuff...brought to our screens by a scientist and a comedian/presenter with contributions from Helen Sharman who spoke of the encouragement and support she had from Yuri Gargarin, and an American, several times space travelled, who explained in language that laymen (in space terms) like myself could understand,what was happening and what would happen.
More stuff like this please BBC. How refreshing not to finish with worrying about planes shot down over the Ukraine or bombs dropped on IS or refugees drowning in the Med or dying under the wheels of a cross channel train, but with an exchange of greetings between the space station and family members on the ground.

Dec. 14th, 2015

Dandy

Traffic!

I remember the days when I used to use LJ to relieve my feelings about the bad driving I used to see travelling to Newcastle and back to visit T.Not done a post like that for a bit, possibly because at the moment I am not driving at all. DVLA have told me that the equipment that was used to do the eyesight tests that resulted in my having my licence revoked, a few years ago now, has been discovered to have been faulty. A fresh application is in process and I have a test on what is hopefully a better calibrated machine shortly....
.....be that as it may, tonight I was travelling as a passenger into Burnley to take advantage of the nearly empty (of customers) shopping available at Tescos. Approaching waiting traffic at lights we were overtaken by two cars driven at speed which by some miracle managed to pull up at the stop line, one behind the other, only for the second to pull out into the centre lane for oncoming traffic and park beside the lead car.As the lights changed they roared off and we commented that we hoped we wouldn't come across their wreckage a bit further down the road.
Fortunately we did not but there was half the front of a car in one of the side roads that we passed on the way into town, perhaps the result of someone else's bad driving.
Coming home a cyclist wobbled out from the kerb to the centre line, no signal, and only a flashing dim rear light, and head to toe in dark clothing.Fortunately he was seen and our speed was low enough not to endanger the gentleman but we reflected together on what might have been had our two "friends" from the inward journey been in our place, as he made his ill advised and highly dangerous manoeuvre.

Nov. 24th, 2015

Dandy

Wet, wet, wet and then there was a brief spell of dry.

Travelled home from Milton Keynes today. The traffic was generally light and roadworks were minimal compared to some recent journeys, but the weather made the driving horrible for quite a lot of the way and the driving manners of some drivers, considering the conditions was appalling.
Amazingly we only saw evidence of one accident,just after we got onto the M65 from the M6 when we saw a car on its roof on the Westbound carriageway. Police were already in attendance and there seemed to be no one delayed by what must have been catastrophe for the driver concerned.

I have travelled hundreds of miles with warning lights telling me to slow down because of the spray, when there was no spray. Today there was spray,and how!I have experienced rain so heavy that my wipers were completely unable to cope with clearing the water from the screen and I was forced to stop because to go forward at even ten miles an hour with zero visibility seemed to be more foolish than pulling onto the hard shoulder and stopping.

Today the rain wasn't that overwhelming and the wipers coped magnificently with the direct precipitation but there were moments when attempts to overtake were suicidal as waves of spray thrown up by the vehicles in front caused total black out. Fortunately that condition did not persist very long but nevertheless there were times when vehicles in front were very difficult to see. It didn't help that despite the appalling conditions some drivers chose to drive with their lights off.Total insanity...their vehicles just did not appear to be there until they were being closed in on...Radio 2 at teatime suggested that there was a link between those cars coloured grey and their drivers unwillingness to switch on, but as far as I observed there was a general sample across the colour ranges of drivers who it seemed wanted to stay invisible.

At one point on the M6 we hit standing water across three lanes. No warning in advance ..why not? Lets face it all too often we see signs that warn "Flood" when the road is perfectly dry.Just one more example of the disconnection between the warning signs and the road realities that follow on after the signs, which all too often speak of mythical or at least historical events just not apparent as you journey on.And why why why should it be impossible to design a road that does not flood,but allows water to drain freely from its surface.

So much for conditions and signage....what of our fellow travellers? For most of the journey we were bit troubled by the ton up brigade who seem to think that speed limits are meant for ninnies. Just occasionally we were troubled by the centre lane hoggers who sit there with an empty lane on there left, and the even more perverse non overtaking overtakers who manage to travel at just exactly the same speed as the vehicles to their left. Really perversely it is possible to spot three lanes of these idiots side by side and then there are the pass on the left brigade....thankfully fewer than there used to be whose usual driving pattern is to duck and weave from lane to lane,too bad how many drivers they may force into unneccessary braking by their unwelcome intrusions into the driving space in front, from all directions.

Trouble is you just never know when it is going to happen next. There are times when I think the advice I had from my driving instructor many years ago, to drive as if everyone else on the road is a complete idiot was only a shade off the truth.

Aug. 1st, 2015

Dandy

Minions: must be the silliest film I've ever watched

Much to my surprise I had enjoyed "Despicable me" and have subsequently become familiar with the pictures of "Minions" that adorn the local car wash. Our daughter is visiting for a few days and the other night the three of us decided too go to the cinema to watch "Minions" the prequel to "Despicable Me".Five minutes before the start we walked into an empty cinema and were followed by a young couple(at a guess in their twenties) who had bags of shopping with them. At the end when the lights came up it was apparent another young couple(teenagers?) had slipped into seats in front of us....a grand total audience of seven.
Between the three of us we had bought a bag of maltesers, a bag of minstrels, and a container of slush....I only discovered the price of £3.49 per item afterwards when I saw the receipts.....scandalous...
....and the film ....I won't say there were not moments of it that I quite enjoyed but it must pass for the silliest film I have ever seen, even if some of the artwork and graphics were brilliant.
Stayed at home the next night and watched a DVD of "Untouchable" on the television....I almost didn't watch it after the night before...but I'm glad I did, even though it was in French.

May. 29th, 2015

Dandy

Weeds

When I was at school it was an insult to call someone a weed,but reflecting from a distance of fifty years that most of the weeds (botanical) that I have know have been far from weedy.MOst of them grow all too vigourously,
IN some cases what constitutes a weed is a matter of personal taste...I think the only definition that really works is to describe it as a plant that grows where it is not wanted, otherwise any plant growing on its own initiative so to speak is simply wild.
MY present lawn is not quite bowling green perfection but obviously in the past someone has spent time and effort and money eliminating anything that isn't grass. I suppose that might change but it will take time. In West Yorkshire I rejoiced in the Celandine, Speedwells, bugles, pimpernels and a host of other plants that grew wild in my "lawns". I think the only plants I wanted to eliminate were the mosses and the trees:the mosses threated to smother everything else and as for the trees, who really wants a forest of ash and sycamores growing close to ones home. The trees were easy, just a case of pulling them when the were big enough to notice....the mosses were not so straight forward and all my efforts to remove them proved futile. A deluge of chemicals might have dealt with them had they been used but in general I try to avoid them wherever possible. I say that, having just got back from spraying weeds springing up in the paved area in front of church. Individually some of the plants and their flowers may have been fine specimens, indeed some of them were creations of beauty and I must admit to twinges of guilt in applying their doom but their overall effect was that church front was uncared for, which it has been,they were untidy and if left would have been damaging to the paving and the foundations of the walls. Oh well the deed is done. It might have produced more rapid results to have gone at them with a sickle but this way the roots should be killed and the removal should be permanent.

May. 27th, 2015

Dandy

Birdsong

Tonight on Crimewatch, er no, I mean Spring watch, though there were moments when Crimewatch might have been a more appropriate title for what we were seeing, I was fascinated to see the recording of the bittern booming: I know I’ve seen it on Television before but somehow so far the experience in the wild has eluded me: ggod to have the reminder of what I should be listening for.

Bird sounds are absolutely fascinating. Again tonight we saw and heard the Greater Spotted Woodpecker making its drumming sound by beating its bill against the wood of the tree in which it was searching for wood boring grubs. The same word is used for the sound made by the Snipe which produces its drumming in a totally different manner by vibrating its outer tail feathers in part of its mating behaviour.

I’d heard of the dawn chorus before I heard the dawn chorus, which I have come to love, and also experienced the lesser talked about dusk chorus. A major element of bird song is the terretorial singing of the male bird proclaiming its rights over the area around its singing post. One my regular walking route in West Yorkshire I would hear a succession of blackbirds belting out their mellifluous tones from their rooftop vantage points . At start of day I became accustomed to the long trilling song of the Chaffinch interrupted by the dip which invariably marked the end of the trill. The blackcap too belts out his challenge to the world usually from an elevated position.

This afternoon in the garden I experienced a corvid chorus of Jays rasping and Magpies with their more drawn out though equally rough calls. The calls of the corvus genus are really useful in identification and it is good to hear them together or at least in succession,with the increasing depth and strength of call from Rook to Crow to Raven, the smaller jackdaws having a totally different shreik which is totally unmistakeable.

I have friends who hearing a couple of notes of song identify the singer instantly. I do not share that ability but am learning little by little to recognise birds by their songs. It takes time, and listening and watching to see what is singing…and the effort of trying is well worth it.

Perhaps my greatest thrill is having learned a call, to hear it, and then to locate and identify its origin. Kestrel, Goldfinch, Greenfinch, Blue tits and long tails all have songs which sometimes I can pinpoint in this way. Sometimes my learning curve seems mercilessly slow.

Sometimes I get surprises. On holiday on the Fife Coast I expected to hear the sound of gulls…but my dawn chorus consisted of the Wood Pigeon energetically belting out its noise (which I think I can now distinguish from the similar but quieter collared dove) and the repeated deep repeated caw of the Crow.

Speaking of the gulls, we are all I would guess familiar with the screams of the birds we come across near the coast….but are we all familiar with the gentler murmouring sounds of gulls communicating more intimately in a manner somewhat akin to the gurglings of pigeons, or the peep peep peep of the young seagull which sounds in so many ways like the penetrating peep peep peep of the Chaffinch.

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