Saturday, 10 February 2018

Inland Oystercatchers

... are a sign of spring here. I'd thought I'd glimpsed a small flock fly as I took younger daughter to the school bus earlier in the week but had discounted them as uncertain. I'd stood outside in the dark, late evening, on a few occasions but failed to hear any.

But early afternoon today there were six amongst the Lapwing flock, and by the time I returned at fourish there were more than eighty.

 Time lapse from 4th February

The week has been different. Feeding and mucking out the ponies every morning and evening with younger daughter as Louise and elder were off, first to Edinburgh and then to Brighton for university interviews, a successful endeavour as it turned out (thankfully).It's not as easy to get to an interview from here, Brighton was a four day trip. Walking the dog near the pony stables twice every day,but it being mostly dark, not many birds. It's been cold. Our boiler fuel situation has been worrying, saved at the last by HIS who brought 26 tonnes of pellets up and replenished us with a few days in hand. We do have some alternatives but, leaving the boiler off during the mornings has demonstrated how cold it is without that general warmth that it brings through the house. The wind takes the heat out of the house.

I'll post rook stuff in the other blog. They've been hanging out and checking the rookery on the sunnier calmer days. A usual pattern. Some cavorting.

A very pale 2cy, one of three Glaucous at Palace this afternoon, there had been five and an Ice earlier.



Ermine stoat across the track this morn

Later (added) I watched Before Midnight, the Richard Linklater film and the third of a trilogy that has been ongoing for nearly 20 years, somehow (in my watching box set and not movie phase) I'd missed this. Like much of Linklater's work this is a verbose but uplifting film following the romance of youth, meeting again, and now, middle aged with responsibilities, phases of the couple's life. Yes it is middle class, but it explores themes of time, relationship, perseverance, creativity and just how it is to spend much of your life with someone. There is a lovely section of the film as the couple walk to the hotel, taken in one long shot. Ultimately (and despite the arguments) this is an uplifting and optimistic film and I look forward to a fourth episode in about another fifteen years time.

Sunday, 21 January 2018

Paterson (and cold)

Sometime ago I listened to a Radio 4 drama about William Carlos Williams called Paterson. William Carlos Williams was a family doctor and then a pediatrician who worked, eventually as head of pediatrics, in a hospital in New Jersey. The city of Paterson was, and perhaps still is, a troubled place, not too far from his family home. I seem to recall that Williams carried out charitable medical works there, I might be wrong about that. WCW was also a poet, and he wrote amongst other pieces, an epic poem called Paterson. The work was much criticised but gave birth, or was at least an inspiration, to the beat poets like Ginsberg.

Jim Jarmusch made a film a couple of years ago called Paterson. The film, which I discovered last week, and watched, is about a bus driver (played by Adam Driver) called Paterson who writes a bit of poetry and lives in Paterson. Paterson (the fictional poet and bus driver) is inspired by other writers but particularly (perhaps) by William Carlos Williams. In the film the poems are read in a flat, dead-pan style as they are being written (which significantly detracts from their brilliance I think). The poems are those of Ron Padgett, who was never as far as I know a bus driver, but was one of the beat poets, and his work is well worth investigating. In the film Paterson keeps bumping in to other poets and tragically (spoiler alert) (oh, perhaps I won't say...). Whilst Paterson is plain and ordinary, apart from being a brilliant poet, his lover is zany and eccentric. I so enjoy this sort of thing, it being circular and quiet, and wonderfully compelling. I will wait a while and watch it again.

Some years ago a friend of mine said he didn't watch film anymore because it was all too much, too much going on, too loud, just over-powering. At the time I didn't agree with him, but now I find so much of film and these box sets just far too much. Most of the time the plot is just stupid (actually I don't mind if it is meant to be out and out fantasy or science fiction) but this "realistic" fiction is just the worst - do these people think we are that stupid? Even the BBC stuff (actually especially the BBC stuff) is the worst. So Paterson is just up my street, quietly reeling you in to a real/fantasy, extra-ordinary, day-to-day life.

On another tack, and being a lover of the genre of the western since I was a child (and they were often all that was on the TV it seems in my memory) Jim Jarmusch made close to my favourite - Dead Man. 

Still barking on about poetry, I have been much enjoying Norman MacCaig's work of late. If you're a birder check out "Ringed Plover by a water's edge" - the sort of stuff I use in my work, but also hugely enjoy.

The garden is suddenly full of Goldfinches in this cold snap, seven; rarely have we had that many except as a family party, it might even be close to the record, I will have to check my stats. One is ringed, I will have to try and read it.

A highlight this week was to learn that the Ichneumonidae - wasps, parasitic ones - that I sent off to the expert at the Natural History Museum, having laboured at their ID and failed, have been identified. These were all of the nocturnal, testaceous ones that frequently turn up in my moth trap. They tend to parasitise moths. They are the devil to identify. I had laboured and surrendered. At least one of these, if not all three, are new to the county (I might have just got pipped at the post, but as I didn't ID them myself I'm not so bothered). Many thanks to GB for identifying them.

Ophion parvulus

Now for some wintry stuff photographed around here the last few days:

Saturday, 20 January 2018

Long time, no post

Busy time New Year, especially this time as it was someone's important birthday.

Skaill Beach

This was just down the beach.

In the next few days there were a few good birds including a Green-winged Teal and Iceland Gull.

Tame and smart Herring Gull at Stromness

I had a few visits to Stromness to try and see the Kingfisher there, unsuccessfully. Other bits and pieces but no Kingfisher. 

Buzzard P hanging around this month.

Dead Mute chick, cuse unknown

 The Shunan

 Loch of Harray, Howaback

Loch of Bosquoy

 Sleepy hound.

I cannot understand why someone would do this, sharpen the plough? Practice straight lines?

Winter Moth, first insect ID of the year.

Glaucous at the PDC - shopping expedition.

Friday, 29 December 2017

Merry Christmas

Christmas day, presents, a lovely walk at Yesnaby, cooking, eating, conking out.

Tropical jimjams contrasting with freezing Orkney, fortunately the conked out heating was fixed pronto a few days previously - thanks Davy.

 Harray kirk on the way to the ponies.

 I have swum / walked through that arch previously, I didn't fancy a go at it today...

Yesnaby as spectacular as ever.

No sign of the 350 Snow Bunts previously reported but an Iceland Gull was a seasonal gift.

Christmas pressies included a kick net and sorting tray, watch out aquatic beasties I'm going to be recording you too.

On Boxing Day we walked up to the trig on Birsay Moor. The hail let rip a few times and the path was tricky. The hound had a lovely time.

 Bog Asphodel stems

I don't think we saw a single bird.

Horsey duties at Howaback, a large flock of Linnets, 2-300 and some nice light.

 Buzzard P in the next door garden again.

Not the greatest photo of a Chaffinch but to illustrate a change perhaps caused by a different feeding strategy. The last few years we've had one female Chaffinch all winter, joined by a male in the spring, but then leaving. I've started putting food in under the trees and the Rosa and the pair of Chaffinch that have been here for a couple of weeks or so has quickly increased in number day by day until today we're at 7. Not a huge number but I think the first time except for the occasional autumn day when Chaffinch outnumber Greenfinch. Our Greenfinch numbers are still much reduced after what was likely a Trichomoniasis infection, causing quite a few to die. This resulted in no feeding for a while, but the numbers have not recovered, generally there are four or five, in the past there used to be thirty or more.

This morning there was a horse food emergency, somehow we'd pretty much run out of Easibeet. But a lovely calm, bright day and I was keen to volunteer, the ideal conditions for Surfie hunting. On the way in to Kirkwall I found the Velvet Scoter flock but they were distant and I couldn't find anything other than Velves. A quick count of the Great Northerns got to 25 or so but there were undoubtedly more. A smart 1cy Glaucous Gull was sat on the fish cages. There were quite a few Slav Grebes and the usual few hundred Long-tailed Ducks. Eider were in short supply close in but there were piles of things sitting on the water in the distant haze. Easibeet (and new wellies) purchased, a few late presents which we'd forgotten in the bag, and I tried the other viewpoint on the way home. Better angle, a bit closer to the birds and in amongst the Velves were two drake Surfies.

Great digiscoped photo.

I got home and all were heading or had already headed on to the moor. Finishing the sag aloo as a kind of brunch I headed for the hills.

A hen Merlin was having a ding-dong with a Hoodie and ended up over our garden and rattling through the trees. (A Merlin day is always a good day.)

The light was grand and I took a few pix as I followed up the Kame of Corrigall (well I didn't actually get that far, meeting younger daughter on the lower slopes in retreat and walking back down with her).

Home from the north.

These are the shapes in the snow and frost where the sheep were lying.

...and here are the sheep.

Snow over Hoy.

The sun came out for a last look on the day.

Redwing and there was a pair of Stonechat.

Clouds over Hoy as we came down the last fields.