Sometimes we're looking the wrong way.
..and sometimes we forget that we've taken pictures. I took this shot a few days ago but remembered it only when I saw the Sasayama sky shot that Gavin had linked to over at Nivag Blog. So thanks to Gavin for linking and Ksuke for posting the shot in the first place.
Not in the garden.... but up the road at Eagle Pond. Something majestic about swans isn't there?
Lucky I did my dry run Birdwatch yesterday as time ran away with us today and there was not an hour free until it was nearly dark. So yesterday's results stand for this years effort. I'm not certain that no one bird was counted twice although the fact that the Greenfinches arrived en masse and that today I saw 12 Blue tits all at once suggests that there wasn't too much double counting. Also around today was the Sparrowhawk with, Zee thought, a Blue tit in its talons..... nice though it is to have such birds around I'd rather they didn't eat all of our smaller feathered visitors! Still, I suppose it's a testament to the success of our feeding programme that it's worth the hawk visiting grey old Leyton at all.
Nothing much to do this morning so decided to have a dress rehearsal for the Garden Birdwatch... kay and I will be doing the real thing tomorrow. It will be interesting to see how it compares from one day to the next.
Blue tits : 16
Great tits: 7
Blackbirds: 1 (a male)
Collared D'Oves: 1
So, increases in Blue tits and Greenfinches as expected from last year and a decline in Sparrow numbers as also sadly expected. The Sparrow numbers were nearly lower still as until the last five minutes I'd only seen one... four more flew in at the last moment. Mrs. Blackbird, another two Collared D'Oves and a Ms. Chaffinch arrived just after the hour was up.... maybe they'll managed to be on time tomorrow.
Yep, that's right.... it's another bird that we're probably not going to see in the Birdwatch at the weekend..... a Pukeko pictured behind the batch we spent Xmas downunder in.... they're about twice the size of a chicken.
This coming weekend sees the return of RSPB's Garden Birdwatch campaign in which we are encouraged to count the birds in our garden for a one hour period. Young Kay and I will once again be counting to see how the totals compare to last year's:
I expect us to be up on Blue tits but, like most of the country, down rather on Sparrows. The Sparrow decline remains a mystery although we did have our neighbourhood Sparrowhawk in the garden again last weekend... though his target was the Blue tits on this occasion.
What I do not expect to see is any Pied Stilts, as pictured above. This specimen was captured by the banks of Lake Tekapo although I wouldn't have seen her (or her chicks) had she not made such a racket of her alarm call as I was walking past a good 50 yards away..... I'm sure this wasn't the point of her alarm call! Upon reflection I may have walked down and looked anyway as I spied Pied Stilts here by Lake Tekapo six years ago as well.
This weeks installment of "Why veggies are healthier" looks at kidney cancer. For apparently the consumption of bananae, salad vegetables, white cabbage and root vegetables reduce the risk of Kidney Cancer according to a study on Scaniwegian women. Whether it's also good for men is not made clear....
Walking in from work this afternoon to find an old friend's voice on the radio was a pleasant surprise. Adding to the pleasure was the realisation that he was discussing one of my favourite books, "Christy Malry's Own Double Entry". As the radio conversation continued and Dave mentioned reading the book at sixteen I suddenly wondered if this was how I had been introduced to the book. I know I first read it soon after leaving Uni whilst my then girlfriend was studying for her accountancy exams (the antihero of the book works as an accounts clerk). I've always assumed that we obtained it due to the accountancy link.... but maybe old friend had presented it to us.
Anyway, an excellent book.... heartily recommended for everyone (even accountants!).
And you can listen to the radio programme in question here. (And the relevant bit starts at about 10mins 45seconds in).
So, the Lupins of a few days ago were leading to this wonderfully blue lake. Zee, Teen Dee and young-ish Kay are seen here approaching the "Church of The Good Shepherd" which sits a hundred yards or so from the icy cold water. For it is a lake of glacier melt water and even on the hottest summer day is teeth-achingly cold.
We're not big on churches in the Planarchy household but reckon this one of the nicest placed ones we've ever seen.
The plan was for the four of us to go out for a pizza and then on to see "Million Dollar Baby". But first young-ish Kay and then teen Dee found were invited to sleep overs (translates as "stay-up-all-night-and-be-grumpy-the-next-day-overs"). Zee and I didn't want to see the film that much anyway. The next choice was "Vera Drake" but Zee had already seen this in the week with mother and some friends.... so we ended up seeing the deeply offensive "Team America: World Police".
Heartily recommended, slightly more satirical than we've come to expect from the South Park creators but mainly just very, very funny in an extremely sick and juvenile way.....the girls would have loved it (even if the satire passed them by.... and not suitable viewing either... they'll be furious they missed it!).
..and we stay downunder for this week's Photo Friday (Crowded). The forest here just North of the Haast township on the West Coast of South Island NZ has always caught my imagination. A sort of wood-between-the-worlds type feel. I think I've captured what I want to here.
But I'm sure I'll have to go back and try again...
A rather grey day en Londres leads me back to my NZ photos.............these Lupins were just growing by the roadside along the highway up to Lake Tekapo, mile after mile.
The colours don't look natural in the photo to me but that is just how it was.... unbelievable.
No surprise there I'm sure. Though I think what this study suggests is that long term eating excessive amounts of red meat leads to higher rates of Colorectal cancer.
But lest we veggies become too smug with our lil ole selves, this one suggests that eating fruit and veg doesn't stop you getting breast cancer. Oh, well they don't do you any harm though, do they?
The Beeb tell us that next Monday is going to be a real bummer. Even worse than usual for a Monday ......and they know this from the following formula:
1/8W (D-d) 3/8xTQ MxNA.
d: Money due in January pay
T: Time since Christmas
Q: Time since failed quit attempt
M: General motivational levels
NA: The need to take action
Don't say you haven't been warned!
From the excitement of Whale-watching downunder to the slightly different joy of the first new buds of the pre-spring growing season. There's not much growing around here at the moment so it's a delight to see this, the first of the garlic that was planted just before we went on holiday showing itself up at the allotment. The onions are coming along nicely too.
I can almost taste them already!
This is the shot you want to capture on film or memory card when you go whale-watching. The flick of the whale's fluke as he dives back for down for squid. I showed you the helicopter version from 3 years ago a few weeks ago but this is my best effort of our four whale watching trips from the last 10 years. The mountains in the background are the seaward Kaikoura range, and very striking they look. They're often shrouded at least partially in cloud so we were particularly lucky to see them so clearly from our whale watching boat.
Although I say that it's this tail shot that everyone really wants actually the shot you really want is of a surfacing Sperm Whale with a giant squid in its mouth. Apparently there's a six figure sum waitn g for such a picture......
We saw three sperm whales on the trip this time, the other shot you need to get, I suppose, is the water spout as they clear out their blowhole. Also joining us to have their pictures taken was a Wandering Albatross (these are enormous!), some Pilot Whales (a large dolphin apparently) and a very playsome NZ Fur Seal which seemed to be particularly sad to see us go.
So, all in all (apart from the girls throwing up) an excellent whale watching trip once again. I would happily have stayed the whole three weeks in Kaikoura going on whale-watch trips every day.... I just find these creatures mesmerising so close up.
All whale watching thumbnails here.
I'm sure everyone has already seen the teaser-trailer to the forthcoming Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy fillum and I'm just behind due to my time downunder.
Good, though, isn't it?
I was going to show you some antipodean shags in a day or two anyway but now I'm able to kill (as it were) two birds with one stone. Or birds from the two hemispheres anyway.
So, hypothetically, supposing one was going to resign from one's day job. How do you, I mean, "one", go about it?
I had no real idea.
Well, I knew I had to put it in writing but what do you say?
Luckily the internet proved to be my savior once again. There are standard form letters for resignation..... I used one from here (but I'm sure others will do the job equally well!)
So that's it..... the end of an era. Sixteen and a half years in a job that I thought would last one.
What now? Any ideas?
We'll leave my career change aside for the moment and wind back to our holidays. After two days and one night we left Singapore behind and, after a brief 9 or 10 hours arrived in sunny New Zealandia.
Where it was raining.
However, the next morning was much brighter and we duly set off towards Kaikoura. Within an hour or so the jet lag demanded a coffee stop. This is one of the things I like about New Zealand. Aside from a plethora of decent coffee shops there are also regular picnic places alongside all the major routes. We pulled into a quiet siding, parked beneath a tree and sat by a little brook. A short wander along the bank brought me face to face with this White Faced Heron. Happily fishing just yards from State Highway 1 oblivious to both me and my camera. It doesn't happen by the M1 does it?
As I recall, my long term journey down the path of Microbiology started with an argument.
A friend and I were concerned (on evolutionary grounds) that our biology teacher was wrong when he claimed that bacterial flagella had the same 9:2 structure as those of Eukaryotic cells. Research was entered into. Teacher was, you'll not be surprised to learn, wrong.
Thus a passing interest in Microbiology had been fertilised. I'd already been quite into moulds (like every other 'orrible boy I deliberately cultivated mould species on old food in every nook and cranny of my bedroom) but now it became something I could do at college until the record deal came along (still waiting for that by the way). So before I know it I've done a degree in Microbiology. A further year of not getting a record deal suspiciously ended with a job at a large food manufacturer. As a microbiologist.
And when they made me redundant five years later I got a job for another food company as, a microbiologist. They kept giving me pay rises (but no record deal) and before I know it I've done sixteen years for employer number 2 (sixteen years!!! where did they go?).
Time I think, for microbiology and me to go our separate ways....
A little less exotic than the previous Singapore pictures maybe but imagine my surprise when I came across these in the hotel room. I was just about to sort through my selection of adaptors when I realised the plug sockets were strangely familiar. I don't think I've ever come across another country that uses the same electrical sockets as the UK.
Nice one Singapore!
I never did mange to get a decent shot of the exotic flutterbye that had been my prey in the flowerbeds of our Singaporean hotel... but this was my last consolation prize. I have no idea what species of caterpillar it is but beautiful nevertheless.
If I may step out of the Singaporean flowerbed for a single post, whilst remaining vaguely Eastern, I'll bring you news that curry may stop you getting Alzheimer's later on in life. That seems to be the message from this learned paper anyway. The in-vitro work on mice is backed up by data that suggests a much lower incidence of Alzheimer's in the Indian continent.
So now you know.
Still seeking the exotic Flutterbye in the flowerbeds of the hotel my attention was drawn by this much smaller species (not much bigger than my thumbnail). Some may not be surprised to learn that its upper wing surfaces were blue.
From the familiar to the alien..... whilst still trying to ambush the same exotic butterfly I came across this wonderful Sunbird (a male Olive Throated Sunbird I think) supping nectar (as his latin name, Nectarina, suggests his species should). I'm not sure who was most surprised, he obviously wasn't used to tourists hiding in the hotel flower beds! Enlarged version of bird only here.
Sometimes, when traveling it is just as nice to come across the familiar as the different. So it was with this dragonfly that I found whilst I hunted exotic butterflies by the pool in Singapore....... he could be the brother of ones I saw at home last summer......
Yes, there a whole heap of pictures to show you and I have no idea how to sort them all out!
So yes, we're home again. Cold isn't it?
Witchy scarily commented that we "must be home about now" just as we walked through the front door. I didn't check it at the time... the first task on return was to wade through the mountain of real world mail.... few Xmas cards I'm glad to say, a new 0% credit card for the Offset Mortgage game (application sent while away to get the timing just right), a payslip (hurrah) but sadly no redundancy notice from work (well, you can dream can't you?). Then a quick supper and I fell asleep in front of the TV with a bottle of Stella. But now I'm wide awake of course..... well, it's just gone five in the afternoon in EnZee and nearly lunchtime in Singapore.
The journey home was pretty uneventful I'm glad to say.... SIngapore Airlines really are my favourite. We did fly right over the Tsunami affected area and with the knowledge of events you can see there is now only evidence of human habitation along one side of many of the islands and archipelagos....
Otherwise the main drama was the already annoying woman sitting in front of us who shrieked of her peanut allergy just as the cabin staff just issuing our pre-lunch peanut snacks. They hurriedly confiscated the packs of peanuts from the rest of the plane to be on the safe side.... she claimed even air bourne contamination could kill her and sat for the next hour hyperventilating with a paper bag in one hand and her adrenaline EPI-pen in the other ready to stab at any moment.
I'd already eaten half of my nuts much to the cabin crew's concern.....
Anyway loads more to follow I'm sure. In the meantime Happy New Year to all (even those with a peanut allergy!).