Waitrose Pigeons

May 21, 2015


In another of my awful photos to be blogged is this one, taken earlier this evening. My better camera phone is the older mobile, which runs out of power very quickly, and indeed had run out of power, so I had to resort to the newer, but not so good one. I had popped into a local supermarket (being en-route home), to get something to eat for tonight. As I was leaving towards the car park, I had heard some odd tweets (the bird song kind). As I walked out of the automatic door, it was even more noticable. Looking up, I found a pigeon’s nest above the door, with one or two youngers with an adult. So I tried to take a photo (the nest is top right). I didn’t use flash as that might have scared the birds (even if people consider them close to vermin).

Oddly enough, no-one else who walked past me in the five minutes I was there – I also was using my mobile to try and check to see if an eagerly awaited email had arrived, which proved to be quite a task – no-one else noticed, or at least showed any interest at all to the tweets of the chicks, The adult was keeping quiet, and probably trying to keep the chicks quiet as well. It noticed me, which was one reason I did not use the flash on the camera phone.

These pigeons are the common variety, that have been at home in the suburbs and cities for decades if not hundreds of years. It is a different species to the Wood Pigeons which now are conquering the suburbs . Also, the Wood Pigeons still seem to maintain their distinctive plummage, whereas the Common Pigeons are far scruffier, probably akin to their many more generations living in cities.

The local wildlife.

April 19, 2015

Having taken possession of the house I grew up in, and there is a lot to do. But it has struck me how the local wildlife has changed.

Thirty or fourty years ago, there were house sparrows and starlings, with the “cheep” of the former being very loud in the summer, and the mimicry of the starlings sometimes causing confusion – immitating car alarms, telephone rings etc. Along with these were blackbirds, robins and the occasional finch.

These days the bird population is completely different. The blackbirds and robins are still around, and the occasional sparrow, but now it’s wood pigeons and collared doves that make all the noise. Magpies, chaffinches and wrens are also seen and heard, and there were blue tits but I’ve not seen one this year so far.

While wheeling above them all are the red kites. A few days ago there must have been twenty or more red kites trying to get something from a garden – diving down, swooping back up – it was quite a sight. But if I got too close, in order to try and take a photo, they stopped what they were doing, and moved away – only to return once I had gone.

Some of the twenty or more Red Kites performing aerobatics or perhaps trying to pick up some food...

Some of the twenty or more Red Kites performing aerobatics or perhaps trying to pick up some food…

I know that these are little better than silouettes, and I’ve had to crop the image quite a lot to not upset bad neighbour, but you can see one Red Kite diving down. I never saw any of them actually pick anything up, and it was the second time in three days I saw them doing these aerobatics above the same garden.

Interestingly, other wildlife seems quite unperturbed

A wood pigeon on the roof apex, apparently unconcerned at the aerobatics of the Red Kites around it.

A wood pigeon on the roof apex, apparently unconcerned at the aerobatics of the Red Kites around it.

A couple of years ago I was almost hit by a couple of red kites, one chasing the other, I was amazed that they’d get so close to a human – literally inches away from me, a spectacular piece of flying. The same day I saw what I discovered to be a moth fly into the garden, hover (like a hummingbird) by a flower, and then fly off again.

Other wildlife has changed. There were and are foxes, hedgehogs, but rats are more noticable these days – there is some scrub land, apparently belonging to no-one – at the end of the garden, so no surprise where the rats probably reside.. There is the odd squirrel. Even at night things have changed, as I’ve heard owls and seen bats these days, I never remember seeing them here before. One of the local cats – no one really knows which family it resides with – managed to catch (probably) a rat recently – it was night, but I was awake, and I heard its triumphant cry.

As far as plants are concerned, the pests include some kind of (wild) geranium, a monster form of hairy bitter cress, the ash and sycamores (the original trees probably were planted, their seedlings a constant menace), but bad neighbour had an pyramidal orchid growing in their unmown front lawn. I felt guilty in pointing it out, as the next day they just mowed the strip of lawn with that poor orchid in. There are the garden escapees, thankfully the nearest Japanese knotweed is about half a mile away at present, but several other plant thugs are present.

First signs of Autumn?

August 25, 2013

Although I have much to do at the moment, I decided to spend an hour in the garden this afternoon – mainly hacking back the ivy. The orchard is doing well, loads of apples, but it looks as if they will be small this year. Sadly the pear tree has died in recent weeks, no real idea what finally killed it off. I did take a photo or two of the blossems on it in the (latish) Spring.

While I was up in the canopy, I saw that the Discovery apples were ripe – some were being attacked by Wasps.

Apple - variety Discovery

Apple – variety Discovery

Discovery as a variety is early, and a recent, well, discovery, but it’s certainly not an apple to store. A week, basically. But I have a fondness for this, as under the guidance of my father, when I was pre-teenager, it was I who grafted the bud onto an existing tree (which was not the variety it was said to be, or perhaps the original graft failed and it is the rootstock that fruits). It doesn’t do very well as the main tree is dominant, but there are a few fruits every year. So, the first apples from the orchard this year. All four of them.

The other two known variety trees, Adam’s Pearmain and Mutsu, also have lots of smallish fruit on.

A still growing Adam's Pearmain

A still growing Adam’s Pearmain

The Mutsu has a lot of fruit on as well.

The Mutsu has a lot of fruit on as well.

Another sign of Autumn is the first flower of Cyclamen Hederifolium. This again has links to my father. The mother plant was from an original sowing at least forty years ago. Many years ago a slug got to the mother plant, and I cut out all the dead and decaying part of the corm, hoping to save it. I did.

The first flower of Cyclamen Hederifolium

The first flower of Cyclamen Hederifolium

It continues to flower every year, and has many daughter plants. And one of the daughter plants has just opened the first flower of the year.

This photo of the flower is rather bleached out. It happens with both my phone cameras. I had similar problem with a saffron crocus a couple of years ago. No idea why this should be the case, the flower is rather more pink/purple than this photo shows.

I was hoping to put all the corms into a new bowl, but again time just has run away.

Ophrys apifera

July 28, 2013

Otherwise known as Bee Orchid


40-odd years ago, there was a school class competition to identify as many wild flowers as could be found. A copy of the Rev Keble Martin’s ‘Concise British Flora in Colour’ was the ‘Bible’ to rule out garden escapees. I later was given a 1/3rd size paperback copy of the book, which I still have.

Then you were supposed to pick a flower to show you had found it – mostly illegal these days, but also just about everyone has a camera with their mobile phone (as the picture above) so there is no need to pick the flower (although I have seen evidence of picked flowers).

Over that weekend, my family went to what is now my favourate location, and there, in the middle of the path, was a Bee Orchid. I could not believe it, but nor could I say anything about it.

The path had been diverted away from where the orchid had been many years ago, and in any case there were many years in between when wild flowers that I knew used to be there – cowslips, for example – had disappeared.

After the death of my mother, my brother and I went for a walk there, partly as a memorial walk. Walking along what is a new path, provided by the landowner in order to enclose much of the land, I suddenly noticed a rather familar form – it was a bee orchid, post flower, with seed pods – again, in the middle of the path.

So last year, at about the expected time, and now spending time at the weekends rather closer to it than in the week, I made weekly visits. So, at the appropriate time, I found eight plants – the one in the path, and another seven around or just beyond the fence put in by the landowner.

This year was different. The one in the path has disappeared; the other seven were again flowering (as above), but a load of bushes have been planted staight through where they were in order to form a future hedge. But further along, on the fence of the next field, I found two more.

BUT last week I found only one. All those others that had flowered had disappeared. I had checked my location carefully, as I had recorded their location by landmarks – well, fenceposts.

I had kept quiet about this while the plants were thriving, but it seems that they have been removed – before the seeds could have ripened.

Because of an expected rainstorm – which came rather later than predicted – I didn’t visit the site this week.

There are plenty of other orchids in the area in the past few years – Common Spotted Orchid, Dactylorhiza fuchsii and Pyrimidal Orchid, Anacamptis pyramidalis, again they appeared to disappear for so many years after those visits 40-odd years ago, but there were hundreds if not thousands of these at this site.

I do remember another site, where we were taken by my father, where a crowd of people were watching a farmer plough up a meadow full of orchids, but I have no idea where that was, it is just a memory of sitting in a field surrounded by orchids while the tractor got closer.

However, I do wonder if these flowers (and the cowslips that are present again) are not botanical analogues to the Red Kites that circle around above – recent re-introductions from populations from other countries.

The BBC Radio 4 programme The Museum of Curiousity was on again this evening, hosted by John Lloyd, the “Professor of Ignorance at the University of Buckingham“. A real [private] University, not sure if he really holds the post [well, obviously not in one sense, but this is the fifth series, one would have thought if the Uni of Buckingham – not to be confused with Bucks New Uni, whose real (that is, accurate) name of ‘University of High Wycombe’ was rejected by the Privy Council, those snobbish drunks (I would have used another, more derogatory, term but dictionaries disagree to the precise definition, some pushing it over the limit of acceptable these days)] would have objected by now if they didn’t like it. So why did a drunken orgy at the Privy council allow a name so close to that of an existing University, within the same county (look at the name of the county, guys…)

You see why my editors sometimes are found sobbing, heads in their hands, after the penultimate sentence above would have crossed their view. It works. Just. If you think carefully. Note the nested brackets. And yes, my work emails sometimes have two or maybe in one case three brackets in a row to close all the nestings.

Anyway, there are three panelists who are guest donator, who ‘donate’ an item to the museum, and explain why. This evening’s edition included a bubble and ancient writing. There was a moment of interaction between the two proposers here (both are serious academics – about the earliest reference to bubbles in said writing), where the “curator” (the resident comedian) suggested how he hated the way the programme was “dumbing down”. (Obviously it wasn’t) They say next week one of the panelists is Buzz Aldrin – the second man on the Moon.

But a side comment caught my attention, not that I did not believe it, but that it appeared to be perfectly possible. That in the history of photography, more photos have been taken in the last year than in the rest of the history of photography combined.

And what are all these photos of? A large percentage will be of drunk young people at parties of one sort or another. Another percentage will be taken by people like me, now able to photograph at zero cost what used to be expensive, so do so – be it cars, records for work, or whatever. Anther large percentage will be “porn”, either professional or amateur, as can be seen all over the internet these days (I’ve no need to include such a photo of that here).

Oh well, I’m so off topic, I may as well go on about this programme. Clive James donated the North American Aviation’s “Mustang”, built at the behest of the British during World War II, but only came into its own when fitted with the Packard built licensed Rolls Royce Merlin Engine. James argued the Mustang was a war-winner, as it could fly from Britain to Berlin and back, and when Göring saw it in the skies above, he knew the war was over. I’d argue the Merlin engine, that powering the Hurricane, Spitfire, Lancaster bomber [*] and Mustang was the real war winner. That episode of the programme was more remarkable because the researchers made a mistake, and got all the details of a different North American aircraft; but James (off the cuff) had all those details to hand as well, and went on, at length, about that aircraft. It was a bravura performance, one I managed to record.

* Note added later. How could I forget the de Havilland Mosquito, the wooden bomber that could out-fly the fighters, that of Göring’s famous complaint, built in parts in my home town, whose test-pilot was born not 2 miles from where I write this now, and powered by two Merlin engines. As a kid I was once shown a tip of a propeller blade, by some old man, forget why, but he said it was for a Spitfire. I reckon it was really a Mosquito propellor tip, the Spitfire being mentioned as I’d probably heard of it at my then age. But they were making the parts for Mosquitos. The vast majority of Mosquitos had parts from my home town.

Modern technology failing

February 5, 2012

I know I’m not a regular blogger, but was hampered by one of the two events of the week that has caused me a lot of trouble. My computer kept crashing.

This is my ‘new’ computer, which has been in use for less than a year, although I have had it for somewhat longer. This was because due to the computer’s own firmware, I was unable to install linux on it for some time (until a later version of linux had code to overcome the issue).

The ‘new’ computer had started to crash with frequency but irregularity, for no obvious reason, other than possibly the use of a lot of memory at that moment. But nothing obvious I could use as a clue.

The result of this – the forth commissioning of the ‘old’ computer. The first recommissioning (the second commissioning) was done to this, already old and second-hand computer in 2002, when it became the ‘remote’ company computer at parents house when I was looking after my late Father while my Mother was in hospital. My Father had early-stage Alzheimer’s at the time, which is why someone had to be with him all the time, and it fell to me as the unmarried child.

The next commissioning was when the main SCSI computer’s main hard disk died, in about 2008. By that time, SCSI technology and been and gone, so there was nothing available to replace the dud disk, so the by this time already aged computer had another commissioning. It was supposely retired for the third time in March last year.

But it’s been brought back into service due to the failure of the ‘new’ computer (also referred to as the atomic doorstop, which is effectively what it has been for much of its life), and while no data has been lost, the age of this venerable computer means that installing all the relivent back-ups has taken a lot of time (and is still continuing – not ‘on-going’).

The next thing to go was my ‘new’ mobile phone – 15 months old. It has a touch screen, which I found useful for one purpose only – the qwerty keyboard it could produce for writing text messages. Without the working touch-screen, as I found out, the only thing that one could do with the phone was receive a call – and not even pick up voicemail.

So, can you guess, I recommissioned my ‘old’ – previous – mobile phone. This one had died once, prompting the emergency purchase of the ‘new’ one, but with a subsequent firmware upgrade via the internet, it sprang back into life, and was kept mainly as a camera, as its camera had flash. I have discovered that flash is rather a rarity on mobile phones, yet the things I want the camera on the phone for all so often require flash.

I even have an older mobile phone than that – the one I refer to must be at least ten years old now, which I keep in the car. Its great virtue is that it can be operated from standard ‘AA’ batteries, so I keep those in the car as
well. It’s just a pain that a brilliant (in more than on sense of the word) LED torch, that is worn on the forehead, and has already been used for one car repair in the dark – what a godsend it proved – uses ‘AAA’ batteries!

I’ve tagged this entry with ‘dumbing-down’ really on the basis of things not being made now as good as they used to be. This, more generally, has been a major bug-bear of late, but will be the topic of another entry – as will the consequences of this year’s snowbound South of England, which will also be tagged similarly!

The news of the Eastman Kodak ‘filing for bankrupcy’ to use the American phrase, is being played out as the death of film photography – at least for the everyday user. I’ve not put a link in here on that at present, as most of them listed on Google seem ephemeral. It is certain that most people now have digital cameras. Even I haven’t taken a film photo for at least three years, and I’ve taken far more photos since I had a camera in a mobile phone than I did before. (Sadly, that camera seems to be beginning to fail).

Before all of this, I had decided to digitise my entire photo collection. I purchased a device that takes the negatives, converts them and stores the image on a memory stick with 9MB resolution – the highest I could find (as of the time of writing). I grabbed a set of old negatives, which were of the London North Eastern Railway (LNER) engine Mallard when it ran through my home town in the mid 1980s. Of course I have family ties with the LNER, so it was a special occasion for me. It stopped at the station, I had obtained a platform ticket (remember those?), and took some photos.

Anyway, I lined up the first strip of negatives, pushed it into this image device and had a shock. The small screen showed a familiar shot – that of the plate on the side of the engine about it’s record breaking run, as shown here:

However, in viewfinder, something I’d never seen on the print; reflected in the engine’s paintwork was the face of my late father. I’m unable at present to enhance the picture sufficiently, the best I can on this computer is the following image, which at least looks like a head and open-necked shirt.

Of course, looking back at the first image shown here, there is a shadow that, knowing what I know now, I recognise, but until that moment, I had not a clue. Believe me, in the viewfinder, the reflected image is unambiguous!

So far as I know, the boiler certificate for Mallard has expired, and she currently resides in the National Railway museum at York as a static exhibit. For those who want to see the detail, I’ve separated out that plate:

This engine, with an official speed measuring truck in tow, managed to reach 126mph for just long enough to count as the world record holder. A record that still stands to this day.

This is item one of this topic. One should not be surprised that I take some time to compose some blog entries, for they require a fair bit of research, for all their lack of references. One of the entries that I will make on this topic is already in a fair state of preparation, but I have to scan in images, work on them (sic) to highlight the issues I want to discuss. Another topic will be the lifetime of digital imagery, as opposed to those of negatives.