scribbles tagged ‘wildlife’

Swarming midges: SILVER downside

Thursday, August 9th, 2012 | tags: , , , , , , , ,  |

Welcome to the 2nd in a mini series of  mountainous, yet not Olympian, awards for our teams’ Snowdonia hiking experiences. In the tradition of reverse-order announcements we’re first going through the downsides, then we’ll celebrate the upsides.  2nd place for the downsides goes to…

a break in the bogSilver winner: swarming midges

Single handedly I saved the lives of about 100 midges by providing essential blood supplies from my face, neck and ears. More generous hikers got their arms, cleavages and backsides out for the banquet.

These midges curtailed all of our rest breaks.  Our lunch stop lasted less than 10 minutes.  It takes about 10 minutes for a few stray midges to gather a swarm and target us.  While we kept moving we just walked into stray midges,  lone biters. So generally we just kept moving and I was left popping peanuts to make up my lunch.

How do such large swarms of midges survive on the top of this mountain? Midge food in the form of other hikers and the sheep were both few and far between – so what do they eat when mammals aren’t about?  Are they canabalistic?

We saw quite a few happy bog frogs.  Frogs eat insects. Midges are insects. Those frogs really do need to up their gameplan, be much more active….


 This experience achieved ‘2 Frowns’   🙁  🙁  on the Wendy House rating scale –  Ratings explained

Swarming midges: SILVER downside
2 votes rating 1.5

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nocturnal visitors

Wednesday, June 22nd, 2011 | tags: , ,  |

Mystery poopMost mornings I walk through my garden at 7am. There are fresh droppings on the pathway.

Not the ‘splat’ of squishy birdpoop dropped from above. Too large for mouse droppings.  Not the firmer logs of rat or hedgehog poop. A pub discussion concluded that my garden has been invaded by an escaped tortoise. Hmmmm….

I wonder who and what my visitor is?

nocturnal visitors
2 votes rating 4

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whats on TV?

Sunday, June 12th, 2011 | tags: , ,  |

what's on TV today?A loud-mouthed moorhen*  Coot was on TV in the River Kennet today. The bird had a lot to say.

TV is a good medium for riding your message to the masses.  This TV has a chameleon nature, colours matching the bird and the river.

I suspect the moorhen Coot was announcing that this TV has beeen adopted as high-quality nesting material.

* Correction suggested by AFH in the comments

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Tuesday, October 19th, 2010 | tags: , , , ,  |

Recently, at an undisclosed Sheepwash location there was an unconventional gathering of undisturbed people, and me.

silent thunderbirds, light of footSheepwash is a strange and quiet village. There are 3 roads, ways to approach Sheepwash. No approaches wider than one car. All of them guarded by cunningly placed, seemingly innocent, wildlife. On my last visit three potentially blind sheep raised the alarm to notify the Sheepwash inhabitants they should hide their ancient secrets from an approaching stranger. This time a herd of flight-recalcitrant pheasants, or silent thunderbirds, ran along the road ahead of Thomas until they finally, reluctantly, decided to fly.

When we arrived Thomas parked in the pub car park and I mentioned that I had never been into the local pub ‘the half moon’. Happy frog and I was clearly suprised by this revelation and asked why.  It’s suspiciously cosey in the retreat, once you’ve gone in through that door, its very, very difficult to get out again until you have to leave. Happy frog and I wisely suggested that we try going into the pub BEFORE going into the retreat, to sidestep the known problem. Clever. I like the company of solution oriented people.

Unfortunately we couldn’t work out the entry code that was displayed in the guise of an ‘opening times’ sign. We gave up and were drawn inexorably into the retreat, not to emerge again until it was time to leave Sheepwash.

sparklers!Once inside the retreat Happy Frog and I supplied the fox stories and some large outdoor sparkers together with a huge open firepalce provided the fire. Fire and fox. Now the cupboard is featuring firefox, the browser. Scarlet dropped in to check that everything that needed to be in hand was indeed being handled. When the smoke cleared it left behind the ashes of conversations about motorbikes, trees, CEOs, PMTs and other significant three letter acronyms.

Top hole

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Friday, July 16th, 2010 | tags: , , , ,  |

Paul Bendell, MBPR,  from Berkshire pest control took one look at the nest and in classic call-out service person style he shook his head slowly, sucked air through his teeth and said

tut tut
wood wasps
they’re aggressive
He removed the bird-feeder from the plant, gave me 2 leaflets of safety instructions for myself and the kitties. Then insectacide blasted the nest. Dead wasps sit like statues on the outside. You can see them if you squint at this picture or look at the full-size version on flickr.
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Africa, through the door

Tuesday, September 22nd, 2009 | tags: , ,  |

Africa, through the door, second star to the right….  

The swallows in St Nectan’s church were flying from window to stained-glass medieval-window.   Chirruping.    Sounding distressed, desperate, like people making 999 (US = 911) phone calls.  Plenty of painted stars on the church ceiling but no phone service to answer the calls…  

It’s autumn equinox, getting noticably cold.   It’s a long flight south,  I hope they find the door before winter sets in.  Painted stars can be fatally distracting from the things that really make life…

My drab, starless,  self  felt helpless in the  hermitted church.

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glis glis invasion

Friday, September 4th, 2009 | tags: , , ,  |

When the wind blows the slates on the Wendy House roof rattle,   or could it be something else?

On a hot day the Wendy House roof timbers creak, or could it be something else?

Picture of a Glis Glis hosted on the Daily Mail website

Picture of a Glis Glis hosted on the Daily Mail website

According to an article in the Mail,   edible doormice are invading the home counties,   first introduced to Tring by the 2nd Baron Rothschild.

Luckily the Wendy House is out of the current glis glis play grounds and if they do come here I wont be spending a fortune on pest control services to remove them,   I’ll just put the fluff balls in the attic for a wee bit of fun every now and then.

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birdsong addicts

Friday, June 26th, 2009 | tags: , ,  |

why I love England #11:   birdsong

Sound engineers play birdsong on a dis-used radio channel.   The channel became very popular.    People were OUTRAGED when the birdsong  channel was closed down.   I am SO lucky because I can just open a window or door and hear the little blighters bickering away.     Jolly good show

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get orf moi land

Sunday, June 14th, 2009 | tags: , , , , , ,  |

get orf moi land,

or  in regionally more accurate terms    ‘OI!   git orrrf my lahnd with the optional extra ‘OAR isle shoooooot yew” is often creatively  used by Bristolians to deal with all sorts of naughty intrusiveness.

Twigletssomeone hogging the twiglets?     ‘OI! git orrrf my lahnd…’

Seattle symphony stealing your artwork? ‘OI git orrrf my lahnd OAR else….

Seattle symphony orchestra is (allegedly) stamping on your emotions:   ‘OI git orrrf my lahnd OAR isle shoooooot yew

A birdy around the Wendy House garden has a reasonable variation on this call,   here she goes,   sat in the neighbours Rowan tree:

(18 seconds of chirpy   & wobbly camerawork warning)

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wild wendy home life

Wednesday, May 13th, 2009 | tags: , , , , ,  |

An action packed weekend in the Wendy House garden:

  • a fuzzy-buzzy bee feeds on a rotund allium
  • a Peacock butterfly feeds on another allium
  • the garden robin feeds on insects attracted by my recent digging
  • a harlequin spectabilis ladybird takes a break from aphid eating on one of the acers  
  • Matrix snoozes under another acer
  • A large hornet (2 inches) found its way into my bedroom.   I didn’t know it was a hornet.   They look scarey.     I panicked, squeaked, opened the bedroom windows,   wrapped myself in a curtain and wafted the corner of the curtain at the hornet until it  took the hint and  left via the window.  

Real bee feeds on Allium Peacock butterfly feeds on Allium The local Robin harlequin spectabilis ladybird on Acer cat under katsura acer

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remember, remember, …the bees

Wednesday, November 5th, 2008 | tags: , , , ,  |

Tea rose and beeAs part of my birthday treat,   I purchased the 45th copy of AFH’s poetry book ‘Of birds and bees’.   The book is  beautifully illustrated by Jo Thomas.   The first line I read was Jo’s introduction to  the Bee  illustrations:

In spring 2007 walking,  a bee fell, in front of me, on the pavement, dead. I picked it up and drew it. Since then I have continued to collect and draw found and gifted dead bees.”

I’ve not yet seen a dead bee.   This summer some beautiful large fluffy bees tended the tea roses at the Wendy house.   This may become a treasure of the past as I learn to collect dead bees as memories.   At 1pm today the British Bee Keepers Association (BBKA) is coordinating a  demonstration In London,   Whitehall outside Westminster palace  and delivering a petition to Downing street (Prime Minister’s residence).    Guidance provided by the BBKA  to potential demonstrators includes:

You need to look your best as you may well be on TV! An umbrella probably makes sense too.

They are demonstrating to raise awareness of the impact of the the lack of government funding provided to avert an impending ecological disaster that has clear financial, agricultural implications.   According to the Guardian:

Beekeepers have warned that most of the country’s honey bees could be wiped out by disease in 10 years unless an urgent research programme is launched to find new treatments and drugs…    

 ….the Department for Farming, Environment and Rural Affairs revealed that bees contribute £165m a year to the economy through their pollination of fruit trees, field beans and other crops. In addition, the 5,000 tonnes of British honey sold in UK stores generates a further £12m

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the trap man

Thursday, June 12th, 2008 | tags: , , ,  |

Thimbleby and Shoreland, founded in 1901, maintain an auction house on the impressively named Great Knollys Street in downtown Reading.   Thimbleby and Shoreland  declare themselves:

the leading international specialist in the sale and valuation of horse-drawn carriages and related items, hosting the world famous Reading Carriage Sales

Recently they auctioned ‘THE DAVE SCARROTT COLLECTION OF TRAPS, LURES and SCARERS’    As you’ve wisely deduced,   I couldn’t resist taking a peak at such a curious collection.   The Auction brochure reports:


A motor mechanic by profession, Dave Scarrott started this unique collection quite by chance some twenty years ago when he was offered a couple of traps by a friend. From those small beginnings his passion grew to the extent of the present collection with interesting and rare traps and other artefacts having been sourced from all over the world.

The family have lived in the South Oxfordshire area from time immemorial and Dave will be the first to admit that his unusual hobby ‘is in the blood’ and he makes no secret of the fact that his great uncle, Jack Scarrott, was a notorious local poacher. It was a way of life in those early days with a large family to support and no social security! So notorious was he that the Kirtlington Estate saw fit to appoint him as their head game keeper and use his skills to their advantage, thereby killing two birds with one stone!

Dave and his collection have been a familiar sight at most local shows and it is undoubtedly one of the finest single collections in the country. The decision to sell has not been an easy one but has been forced on him due to illness. Unfortunately therefore, his days of travelling around the local shows are over, but rather than just ‘shut up shop’ Dave has reluctantly decided it is time to call it a day and move on


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unanticipated industries: Taxidermy

Thursday, September 7th, 2006 | tags: ,  |

During our drive across North America we passed many buildings and,  frankly, shacks advertising Taxidermy services.   Many more buildings were decorated with stuffed animals.   A quick internet search throws up multiple US websites offering Taxidermy training or lists of Taxidermy businesses,   for example this list for Michigan.

This photograph shows a stuffed  Otter hanging in the window of a bar in Idaho:

 1313 bar in Wallace

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of mice and maturing

Sunday, April 30th, 2006 | tags: , , , , , ,  |

1985 (Assume poetic licence  with the precision of dates and details.   The story has  changed with  fermentation in memory.   The gist of the story is consistent with the orginal experience.)

I   rented a room near ‘The Mermaid’ in a small  Sparkhill red-brick terraced house shared with four girls.   Bambi rented a room  in a Handsworth  red brick terraced house  shared with four boys.   Two bus rides, an hour, apart.   Neither house had a telephone.   We were poor.   We were young.

Bambi’s house smelt of rotting mice.   It was infested.  The neighbours houses were infested.   The whole area was infested.   Everyone lived with the mice.  Mice would dash for cover when you entered a room, switched on a light, moved suddenly.   The boys would play at trying to jump on, squash,  mice before they reached cover.   Several  squashed mice decorated the floor in the front room.   The floor was also decorated with chair-side piles of empty beer cans and chris-crossed with glittering slug trails.    A milk bottle containing a dead mouse sat on the fireplace mantle; gently warmed by the gas fire on colder days.   The mouse had climbed in voluntarily when the bottle lay on the floor then, unable to climb out,  starved to death.   The boys treated  the bottled mouse  as a trophy.   Some mice died more peacefully of old age under the floor boards.   Then rotted.   I’ll never forget the overwhelming stench of rotting mouse.   It’s integrally bound with first love.  It filled your lungs and scented your sweat during the deep breaths of love making.   It seems appropriate that I read Ian McEwan’s “First Love, Last Rites” in this house.  

Early on a brightly lit  summer evening I turned-up to meet  Bambi.   He wasn’t in.  In other homes I would make myself at home with a cup of Tea.   Not here. Concerns about household hygiene.   The mice-droppings on the kitchen work surfaces and stench were an effective deterrent to eating or drinking.   I picked a book from Bambi’s collection and  opened a window in a futile attempt to release the seemingly endless odour.   With my head by the open window I  started to read ‘the catcher in the rye.    My first American novel.   The sun gradually set.   Sodium pink, then yellow, street lights lit the pages.    The mice scuttled over the silence.   Lost in the story I forgot about the planned evening with Bambi.    Despite knowing  very little about the places,  symbols,  or lifestyle outlined in the book it felt powerfully relevant to  the loneliness of that night, madness of  youth,  and pains of new found adulthood.  

I finished the novel as Bambi arrived.

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otter bubble trails

Monday, March 13th, 2006 | tags: ,  |

rising after an otter has passedAfter 9 attempts to photograph a pair of delightfully playful otters at Woodland Park Zoo I realised it was impossible, because

  • my finger is slug-slow compared to  an otter
  • otter direction is twisty-unpredictable
  • my 4yr old camera shutter speed is ‘leisurely’

Some of the unintended compositions have unique charms:

I turned-off my camera flash when photographing animals at the Zoo.   Many people didn’t.   There were no signs suggesting camera flashes should be turned off  for the comfort of the animals.

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Birds immitate mobile phone ring-tones

Sunday, May 1st, 2005 | tags: , , ,  |

Today is International Dawn Chorus Day.

The Gaurdian newspaper reported that songbirds imitate mobile phone ring-tone back in 2003. Excerpt:

Starlings have begun to imitate the ring tones of mobile phones. Researchers at the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB), and in Denmark, had noticed over the past year that the birds are adapting their mating calls.

Starlings, well known as mimics, are members of the same family as the mynah bird. But until now they have limited their mimicry to that of other bird songs or, in some cases, shepherds whistling at sheep dogs. “The birds incorporate the sounds because it is believed that the richer the sound, the variety of tones it has, makes the male more attractive to the female,” says a spokesperson for the RSPB.

The phenomena was reported in Australia in 2001: Wierd news

Nature imitates technology, technology then imitates nature. As ringtone providers include Birdsongs in their repetoire.

Wendy loves-a-story-that-spirals

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