Wednesday, 27 April 2011

Wild Easter Break

It had been a scorching bank holiday weekend and the hottest April for more than 60 years. I hoped everyone had a wonderful break, nicely tanned and fully recharged for the next 3 working days before another long royal wedding weekend. We didn’t planned our break but somehow we seemed to be going out checking the wildlife. So these was what we did.

On an exceptionally good Good Friday we drove down to our favourite haunt, Aberystwyth. We planned to check out the Red Kites at Bwlch Nant yr Arian centre and, perhaps, a boat trip to check out the seals and dolphins at New Quay. We left sunny Coventry at about 11am with the car roof down and bopping our heads to the Millennium CD. As usual, traffic was queuing at a very smoggy and hazy Wednesbury.  Then a pit stop at the very busy Telford services.

The air was thick with the sickly smell of the rapeseed fields as we drove through the Shropshire countryside. Miles and miles of yellow blooms dotted the countryside. The planting season had also begun as the smell of freshly turned earth and stinking fertilisers permeating in the breeze. Traffic began to build up as we drove through to about 10 roundabouts from Shrewsbury. And it got worse in Welshpool cos some one had a bright idea to make the main road into a one-way system that branches to…Tesco!!! We had to circle back and took a different route and the sun was belting down on us. We’d the roof down but it was still scorching under our caps.Roadtrip Aberystwyth D50  22-04-2011 10-56-27 Thankfully, these gorgeous views of the rugged, Welsh mountains kept us sane. The drive took us through one of the loveliest scenery in the countryside. But not for long. At Newtown, we were stuck for about 30 minutes to get through 2 sets of traffic lights and a roundabout. What was going on? Apart from that, we have cars driving at 40mph on a 60 road. It was so disheartening. Then the weather couldn’t make its mind. It was sunny, then cloudy, then rain, then foggy, then hot, then….Roadtrip Aberystwyth D50  22-04-2011 13-52-25 We were going to miss the kite feeding time which was at 3pm. From a distance, we could see them circling the reserve, soaring high into the sky, gathering into huge numbers.  The car-park was full but we still managed to squeeze in. Then we dash down towards the feeding area. We saw nearly 100 kites circling  above us and loads of food still on the floor. They haven’t been feeding yet. Were they waiting for us?Nant yr Arian D300s X14  22-04-2011 15-04-34 We sat there patiently and then the frenzied swooping and sweeping began. It was the most spectacular sight to see these magnificent birds of prey with breathtaking feats of aerial piracy, diving, plucking the meat of the floor  before rising suddenly with the meat clutched in its talons. They soared for the clear airspace where they ate their food mid-air. With its nearly 1.8 metre wings spread out for stability, the head bends down to meet its forward lifted talons to feed. They still had to keep an eye out for other marauding kites trying to snatch the food from them.Nant yr Arian D300s X14  22-04-2011 14-43-68  We saw them chasing each other with their shrieking cries echoing through the valleys. More birds joined in. We also observed that as soon as any crows started to grab the food from the floor, these birds go on the offensive and started diving in again. I guess they were trying to chase the crows away. We even saw one on the floor with its wings spread out as if covering their food. If the sight of more than 30 kites swooping and diving doesn’t excites you, than I guess nothing will :-).Nant yr Arian D300s X14  22-04-2011 15-03-42

Sometimes, they flew so close to where we were standing that I could see the glorious red plumage with white patches under the wings with glaring bright yellow eyes and talons. We would have spent longer here when we heard thunder sounding quite close. A thunderstorm was predicted in the late evening. We didn’t want to get caught in a downpour so we rushed back to the car. We had lunch while waiting for the weather to calm down. The Red Kites were seen circling above our heads and once in a while letting out their mewing cries. Nant yr Arian D300s X14  22-04-2011 15-06-46

We also checked out the bird-feeder outside the visitor centre. The usual culprits were there : Chaffinches, Tree sparrows, Siskins, Greenfinches, Robins, Blue and Great tits. The trees surrounding us were in full symphony. I could stay here for hours but we got another trip to go to.Nant yr Arian D50  22-04-2011 14-23-59

We drove straight to New Quay, a popular tourist destination on the Cardigan coasts. It was dotted with caravan parks and holiday homes. We drove through the tiny town perched on a cliff and drove out again as there was not a single parking space left. There were parking lots on the other side of the town but they were too far away from the sea and we don’t want to leave our equipment in the car. Furthermore, Babe don’t want to be in a boat when a thunderstorm was predicted. So we headed back to Aberystwyth.

By this time, my head was pounding. Babe took a few photographs of the harbour while I tried to soothe my headache. We left at about 7pm with me feeling a bit off. And boy was I off!!! Babe had to stop 3 times because I need to throw-up. It was horrible and the winding and bumpy roads didn’t help. At one of the garages, Babe got me a cold drink and paracetamol. After washing my face with the cold water and taking some tablets, I try to sleep. Once on the motorway, I will have a problem if I want to throw-up because you can’t simply stop. Thankfully, I managed to fall asleep and Babe woke me up as we were nearing our casa. Aberystwyth D50  22-04-2011 17-42-09

I’d slept for nearly 2 hours. Thanks Babe. We arrived home safely. I’d a quick shower and we ate leftovers before I zzzz again. Babe as usual was busy uploading, editing and posting about 1k photographs.

The next day, on  a very subdued St. George’s Day, we took  things very slowly. We went to The Range to get some plants for my hanging baskets. And we weren’t alone. Every one seemed to be planning the same thing. The shop assistants were very busy replenishing their stock. I bought a tray of Bidens, Gardenias and Lobelias plugs. They would look amazing in full bloom.

Then it was a trip to our favourite playground to see if the swallows were about. We spotted them whizzing through the nature reserve and from time to time having a breather on the wires. We crept towards them and stood silently giving them time to get used to our presence. This handsome chap was busy preening himself before he strike a pose. More swallows will be arriving soon and then it will be one big party.Brandon Marsh D300s X14  23-04-2011 14-59-66

When we entered the sensory garden, we startled this cute Pied wagtail who was having a bath in the pond. He quickly flew on the perch and started drying himself We just stood there quietly mesmerised by his routine. The natives were taking good care of themselves to be ready to attract their mates. It was the season to produce. I couldn’t wait for more fluffy chicks.Brandon Marsh D300s X14  23-04-2011 15-10-58

We didn’t venture into the reserve because I could feel another headache coming. We left before it got worse. I spent the rest of the evening when it was much cooler in the garden. I had to tie the rose bush to stop it from trying to crawl into my neighbour's garden. Everything seemed to be romping away and new leaves have unfurled from the branches. So far none of the plants were affected by the deep cold. Thank god. But, I’m still waiting to see if the Nerine Bowdenni survived. No new shoots had sprouted yet.

On Easter Sunday, I was back to my normal self and went for a brisk morning walk around the block. The 3 churches along the street were beautifully decorated to welcome the worshippers. I bought the Sunday papers and had my usual mushroom omelette while listening to Sunday love songs and watching my feathered friends enjoying their breakfast.

Today we decided to make a second visit to Whitacre Heath. We missed the entrance, again, and then had to hassle with the padlock. Babe held the gate for me while I drove in to park the car. This was the first time I drove the Citroen and I’m pleased that I’ve not forgotten how to drive. It was also a surprise to see that we were the only one there.

We walked straight to the feeding station. Lots of Forget-me-nots (Myosotis) lined the path making the walk very pleasant. The reserve was in full cacophony of bird-songs but we can’t see any because of the thick undergrowth and the trees now laden with leaves. We waited and waited for some action at the hide. Only a Dunnock, Robin and Blue tit came over to feed. A Wren was heard clucking nearby. Whitacre Heath D50  24-04-2011 13-40-32 Suddenly a brief appearance of a Tree-creeper made all the wait worthwhile. We watched silently this very cute bird creeping slowly onto the duckweed in the pond. We haven’t seen this behaviour before. Was it having a drink or was it going to have a bath? Isn’t she gorgeous? We only see them running up and down the tree trunks. We also checked the hide at the end of the reserve but no one was at home.Whitacre Heath D300s X14  24-04-2011 13-58-27

On a lovely sunny Bank holiday Monday which was also Anzac day, we drove to Coombe Abbey to enjoy the rest of the week. Again, half of Coventry was there. We even had to wait to get the last of the disabled parking bay. We walked towards the pond and saw this donkey rides doing a roaring business. They looked bored but quite inquisitive when we walked by.Coombe Abbey D2h  25-04-2011 10-50-55

At the pond, we spotted this Egyptian goose tucking into the bread thrown in by the visitors. Because they were quite rare, we think this must be the same one that was spotted in Brandon Marsh some time ago. We have seen them before but never this close. . Check out those dark eye-patches.Coombe Abbey D300s X2  25-04-2011 10-56-32

We changed our minds about going to the hides  because we could see throngs of people, with their dogs heading the same way. The birds will just stay away. So we checked out the beautifully crafted lawns and gardens of the Coombe Abbey Hotel. Lancelot 'Capability' Brown was employed to re-design the gardens in 1771, incorporating the Coombe Pool, a 1 km long lake.Coombe Abbey D2h  25-04-2011 11-08-37

Since it was such a lovely day, we drove to Brandon Marsh which was just 10 minutes away. On the way out, cars were queuing to get into the country park. We drove past cars queuing to get into Morisson and B&Q. Cars were parked along Brandon Road because there was a car-boot on the nearby field. I dreaded to think what was happening in Brandon Marsh.

Yes, the car-park was full but we managed to park on the disabled bay. The swallows were having a siesta and people were everywhere. Not a good sign. Since I wanted to checkout the Whitethroats which were spotted by the golf course, we walked straight there. Lots of birdsongs accompanied us and we followed this Small White. Another came and they were making sweet love right in front of us. How lucky was that :-)Brandon Marsh D50   25-04-2011 12-25-38 We also saw a Peacock butterfly flying past and a Buzzard riding the air-waves. It was getting warmer too. As we walked through the New Hare Covert, a field of stunning blue greeted us under the canopy of oak trees. The bluebells have bloomed and they were English bluebells. The few benches dotted around here were occupied with people admiring this wonderful, peaceful oasis.Brandon Marsh D50   25-04-2011 12-31-40 As we got closer to the golf course, the sound of reeling Grasshopper warblers greeted us. We couldn’t see these secretive birds but we knew they were so very close. Babe spotted Andy who was busy training his Canon onto something. We joined him and there it was, not the warbler but a very handsome Whitethroat (Sylvia communisBrandon Marsh D50   25-04-2011 12-34-17

“And after April when May follows

And the Whitethroat builds, and all the swallow…”

~Robert Browning, Home Thoughts From Abroad”Brandon Marsh D300s X2  25-04-2011 12-36-34

This handsome male with its very striking white bearded throat was pouring its heart out above the hedges. From time to time, he would do a jerky display flight and urgent chatter before skulking around low down in the brambles. Then he flew out again, perched in the open. I think we took hundreds of shots of him.

Brandon Marsh D300s X2  25-04-2011 13-11-57

Suddenly, this  more often heard than seen, small olive bird made an appearance above our heads. It was the elusive Grasshopper warbler (Locustella naevia). He came out to check us out and began in singing a high-pitched series of trilling notes. All you could hear was the whirring of the cameras accompanying the song. Absolutely amazing. It was worth standing in the scorching afternoon sun for him. It appeared this year was an unprecedented year for them and I felt so privileged to see them.Brandon Marsh D300s X2  25-04-2011 12-57-54  We met Kay along the path and had a little natter. After spending sometime in the sun, I needed to get under a shade ASAP. We walked towards the nearly full Wright hide and had a drink. An Oyster catcher was nesting on the Tern Island, Little Ringed Plovers were busy feeding on the mudbanks and a pair of Great Crested Grebes checking out their previous nesting site. I hoped they were not thinking of using it again. We also had our first sighting of the Terns.

We had an amazing Easter weekend and only shared one chocolate Easter egg between us. We have been good about that. I’ve been off work since Friday and we’d managed to cram a whole lot of things together. I couldn’t wait to see what we were going to do next week. Watch this space.

Knock, knock..
Who's there?
Lettuce who?
Lettuce hide some eggs.


Saturday, 23 April 2011

All I Need To Learn About Life, I Learned From The Easter Bunny

Coventry D50  20-04-2011 07-05-53

Don't put all your eggs in one basket.
Walk softly and carry a big carrot.
Everyone needs a friend who is all ears.
There's no such thing as too much candy.
All work and no play can make you a basket case.
A cute little tail attracts a lot of attention.
Everyone is entitled to a bad hare day.
Let happy thoughts multiply like rabbits.
Some body parts should be floppy.
Keep your paws off other people's jellybeans.
Good things come in small-sugarcoated packages.
The grass is greener in someone else's basket.
An Easter bonnet can tame even the wildest hare.
To show your true colors you have to come out of the shell.
The best things in life are still sweet and gooey.


I celebrated Easter earlier by taking part in an Easter egg and spoon race organised by my colleagues.  It was just an excuse to be out in the glorious sun and have some fun before the long break. I think about 25 of us participated and nearly all of the staff turned out to support. We made so much noise that staff from nearby offices came out  to see what was going on. I bet they were surprised to see librarians having soo much fun.Warwick University FZ28  21-04-2011 11-40-03

We all thought that it was going to be a walk in the park. Imagine to our great surprise when we checked out the site. It was an obstacle course!!! We had to run up and down a meandering slope, going under and jumping over barriers. Imagine doing that and holding a tiny wooden spoon with a plastic egg!!! It was hilarious but fun. I dropped my egg and when it fell and opened, a marble rolled out and disappeared. I had to stop to find it and a few colleagues helped but it was definitely lost.

Luckily, I was given a 2nd. chance. But I spent so much time laughing that I was among those who came last. Off course, there were a few cheaters but who cares, huh? Congratulations to WFP for being champion. He was soo steady and didn’t drop the egg even once. We also had a raffle and I won an Easter egg. Woo-hoo and it only cost me 40p. What a bargain. All these was done for charity and I think it was for the Tsunami victims. Well done to everyone who took part and those who came to support.

It was a 4-day working week and I just couldn’t wait for the weekend to start. I thought the arrival of new books had eased but I spoke too soon. They kept on coming and coming. Luckily, except for GLW who was holidaying in Kiwi-land, the department was a full house. Fingers-crossed, we won’t have any deliveries next week.

I also participated in the Cataloguing and Indexing Group forum on Resource, Discovery and Access. I attended the executive brief last week and this was a follow-up to that. Nearly 200 institutions were involved and it was a very lively discussion. It was an eye-opener to learn the many concerns and ideas from fellow librarians about this new standard. I learnt a lot from that forum.

Since I spent most of my working hours sitting, a walk during my lunch break is a must. I did checked out to see if the swans were nesting at their usual site. Nada, zilch, zero. The Estates had cleared so much of the reed beds that there was no place for the swans to build a nest. Was it done on purpose? I think they were trying to hinder the swans from nesting here. It was very sad if that was true. The nesting swans were always an attraction to everyone.

As I continued on, I spotted a nesting Canada Geese at the other end of the lake. I guess you can’t stop all birds from nesting where they want to.  Pied wagtails and swallows were whizzing all over the place. Herons were fishing at opposite ends of the lake. I was very surprised to see a pair of Coots busy feeding their 4 very demanding chicks. These very ugly but adorable babies were squeaking their heads off, crying to be fed. Warwick University D50  18-04-2011 12-44-23

A few bluebells flowering along the way reminded me to check the bluebells at Tocil wood. I walked there the next day and they were still contemplating :-). There was a carpet haze of blue under the canopy of ash, oak and ash trees. Some had bloomed but majority were waiting for the right time. I think it might take another few days. I couldn’t wait to come again to photograph these iconic sights of spring. Warwick University D50  19-04-2011 12-28-30

Tennyson speaks of bluebell juice being used to cure snake-bite. The romantic poets of the 19th century, such as Keats and Tennyson believed bluebells symbolised solitude and regret. To me they are a timeless example of the antiquity of our ancient woodlands. While waiting for the bluebells to bloom, I’ve got these wood anemones to content with. There were drifts of them doted all over the forest floor.Warwick University FZ28   15-04-2011 12-32-43We haven’t made any definite plans for the long Easter break. Everything depends on the weather and Babe’s health. I’m hoping for glorious sunshine during the day and showers to cool the night and also to give the garden a good soaking. I’ve got plenty of books to keep me occupied and a trip to the garden centre is a must. I need more composts and plants for my hanging baskets.

I wish everyone a wonderful Easter, stay easy on the chocolates and Easter eggs and please be safe on the road. 

Some Things That Easter Brings

Easter duck and Easter chick,
Easter eggs with chocolate thick,
Easter hats for one and all,
Easter bunny makes a call!
Happy Easter always brings
Such a lot of pleasant things!

~Elsie Parrish~

Coventry D50  20-04-2011 07-07-04

Tuesday, 19 April 2011

Easy Sunday

Sunday was abound with the sound and smell of summer. A land mower was busy working a few doors away and the smell of freshly cut grass intercept with the stinking smell of the burning bbq  from next door. I’d to close the windows and front door because the smell was that bad. What on earth was on the bbq and how on earth could someone eat that is beyond me. We planned to drag Mr. George Foreman out but changed our mind. We’d our steak grilled indoors, again. Promise to myself…I will have a bbq outdoor soon. :-)

We had a few plans for Sunday but first a quick dash to PC World superstore. We thought it opened at 10am but we were 10 minutes early before it opened its doors at 11am. There were already a queue waiting to dash in. First we checked out a few coffee machines on display cos ours gave up on Saturday. Nothing that caught our attention. We checked a few memory cards because the compact one wouldn’t work on Babe’s (semi)broken camera.

Then a pit stop at Brandon Marsh to see if the swallows had arrived. Yes, they were there and was very obliging to pose for us on the wires. Babe got this lovely shot of a swallow with a fly on its beak. Perfect timing. We also saw a few House martins whizzing about and heard the cry of a woodpecker echoing from deep in the woods.Brandon Marsh D2h  17-04-2011 10-34-41We didn’t stay long because we need to do a bit of shopping and then checkout Whitacre Heath. As we were getting into the car, I saw this Pied wagtail flying from one car to the other. What was going on??? Then I realised that he was fighting with his own reflection. It was quite amusing.Brandon Marsh D50  17-04-2011 10-42-24Back on the road, we noticed drivers behaving badly. They were speeding all over the place, overtaking cars driving like idiots in their toy tin cars. A bit of sun out and they drive like prats. Perhaps they think that they are Lewis Hamilton who had won the 2011 Chinese Grand Prix in Shanghai earlier. This very inconsiderate behaviour really wind us up that we decided to chill out at home. We just couldn’t stand a minute longer on the road.

I spent the day cleaning the tiny plastic greenhouse where I’ve got 3 troughs of salads, 8 pots of white beans seedlings and a pot of leek seedlings. I need to get the tub ready and purchase more composts to transplant these leeks. I’ve sowed pak choi, sweet peas and tomatoes.  Fingers-crossed with the warm weather, they should germinate quickly. I also need to nip to the garden centre for Lobelias, Bidens, Marigolds, Fuchsias and Geraniums to start on the hanging baskets. I couldn’t wait.Coventry FZ28  16-04-2011 09-05-51 It was the World Snooker Championship weekend. I was looking forward to my favourite player, the Machine from Down Under, defending his title. But it was not to be.  Judd Trump came to Sheffield with the wind in his sails and produced a dramatic 10-8 win over Neil Robertson, to secure his place in the last 16 of the world championship. I hoped my next favourite player, the Jester from Lester, Mark Selby, will do his best.

Saturday morning was spent out with the girls. It was RC’s belated birthday and we decided to celebrate it with a Thai meal because it was also the start of Thai’s new year or Songkran. I took the bus into town. As I got down the bus, I noticed these shining vintage cars on display outside the Coventry Transport Museum. I wanted to find out more but I got a date to keep.Coventry FZ28  16-04-2011 10-03-24

Behind Primark, a stage was erected and someone was playing easy listening music on the organ. There were a few police cars parked nearby, lots of policemen, community support officers and stewards about. Huh??? A group of gospel singers from Plymouth were going to perform. A steward gave me a brochure and they looked pretty amazing. I only managed to listen to one performance because I’ve got a date to keep. The police presence was to keep the peace cos there was another home game.Coventry FZ28  16-04-2011 10-29-49

I dashed towards The Herbert to meet CC and RC. We walked towards the London Road passing through several Coventry University buildings when I spotted this medieval structure. Another piece of the castle wall that surrounds the city, perhaps.Coventry FZ28  16-04-2011 10-41-47Then we passed through this building which was the Toy Museum. What a pity it was closed. I’ve heard of this Museum before but never knew where it was. I really loved walking under this ancient arch with its timber floors and stone pavement.Coventry FZ28  16-04-2011 10-50-39After walking under the ring-road, we reached our destination, Thai Dusit which meant Buddhist paradise. We were greeted with Sawadee before we chose our seating in the very tastefully furnished restaurant. After a long discussion over the menu, I chose the cleansing zingy tom yam (traditional Thai hot and sour clear soup flavoured with lemon grass, fresh chillies, lime leaves, galangal and mushroom) for starters. It was followed by Pad Gratiam Prik-Thai (stir fried prawns with garlic, ground pepper, leek, onion and peppers) with egg fried rice and finished with yummy coconut halves (half of coconut filled with coconut ice cream). All washed down with gallons of steaming jasmine tea. We’d fun diminishing the wonderful food and female bonding.Coventry FZ28  16-04-2011 11-05-24About 2 hours later, it was a very slow dawdled back into the city-centre. We passed through this red letter box that was built during the reign of Queen Victoria. I’m glad it was saved. From a distance, we could hear the gospel performers singing their hearts out. I didn’t have time to window shop for clothes or shoes but still managed to buy bits and bobs. Coventry FZ28  16-04-2011 13-29-25I bought Rainforest shampoo and hair-conditioner from Body Shop, at the market a pot of poppy, leek seedlings and rocket. At Poundland, I bought birdseeds, fluffy, yellow Easter chicks in tutus (???) and Chinese Lantern cuttings, a lovely azure blue scarf which I’m going to use as a table-cloth from one of the stalls in West Orchard, dried egg-free noodles and sweet rolls from the Chinese shop. We stopped to listened to these buskers belting out Neil Diamond’s. Along with a few bystanders we sang along, tapping our feet to Beautiful Noise,  Cracklin` Rosie, I Am... I Said, Song Sung Blue, Sweet Caroline etc. etc They were good.Coventry FZ28  16-04-2011 14-30-11Then it was time to go our separate ways. A few policemen ran past me.??? There was an incident just near the stage. 2 groups of drunken football fans were hurling abuses at each other. There were already a dozen policemen trying to keep them apart. Pockets of aggression erupting here and there. Not a good scene. I quickly got onto my bus and it drove away quickly. Phew!!! I don’t want to get caught in the middle. Sky Blues defeated Millwall 2:1. Coventry’s victory over their 10-man opponent had dented the London club's promotion hopes. Well done boys.

WFP returned to work after his paternity break. I wrote a brief piece to be included in the news bulletin and made the biggest hoo-haa in my career. Instead of putting HQ777.35 which was the LC classification number for twins, I had typed in HQ77 for transvestites. OOPs !!! RC spotted it and immediately I sent an addendum. Of course, everyone wanted to know why and it spread like wild fire. But at least I kept the Library buzzing with the intricacies of the Library of Congress Classification System :-).

I also attended an executive briefing on RDA or Resource Discovery and Access, a new set of standards in London. Since the launch of RDA in June 2010, libraries have been watching the news for information on the implementation. But still there was no confirmation. Still more talks, discussions and debates. The Library of Congress had been leading trials of RDA alongside current workflows for Anglo-American Cataloguing Rules (AACR2), and  a unique personal update was given by its Director for Acquisitions and Bibliographic Access.

A presentation from Talis, a library management system specialist, led to some serious things to consider. CTC from Cambridge University shared how they have been preparing their cataloguing teams for the new code, including the impact of the gradual creep of RDA records into downloads from consortia. The effect of RDA on record sharing practices was later discussed by OCLC's Director for WorldCat Quality Management.

The 2011 Briefings was the first event in the UK to update delegates on the latest news about the intensive test process, ahead of the final report from the Test Steering Committee which was due in the summer. Everyone wanted to know about training and costing but no one was able to provide answers until the Library of Congress confirmed its commitment. So another waiting game. I had a difficult time writing my report because I still don’t have the answers on how my department should proceed.

On Friday, my colleagues and I checked out the Customer Services teams’ display boards. This was produced during their “What do you Do” training session conducted in March. We were piled with coffee and biscuits as we browsed and commented on what was on display. That Department was huge and it had its fingers in every other departments too. It was good to know who was doing what and put the faces to the names. A very productive end to the week.

I later went out for my lunch-break to checkout these beautiful displays of pink cherry blossoms. The white ones have already withered to the ground and I just had to admire these before they too will be blown away by the wing. Utterly amazing.    Warwick University FZ28   11-04-2011 12-28-30

 "Are we to look at cherry blossoms only in full bloom, the moon only when it is cloudless?  To long for the moon while looking on the rain, to lower the blinds and be unaware of the passing of the spring - these are even more deeply moving.  Branches about to blossom or gardens strewn with flowers are worthier of our admiration."
~Yoshida Kenko~ 

Thursday, 14 April 2011

Slimbridge Wildfowl and Wetlands 3

At first, we planned to check-out the peregrines at Derby Cathedral. From the blog, we found out that 4 eggs had been laid. We changed our minds quickly when we found out that the Sky Blues were also travelling up there for a football match. We don’t want to get caught in traffic especially when we went round and round in circles on the ring-road when we were there before. We  decided to drive down the opposite direction, to the Slimbridge Wildfowl and Wetlands Centre. This was our third visit here.

It was a lovely drive down the M5. We’d the roof down and sang our hearts to the Millennium CD. When we arrived, we weren’t surprised to see the main car-park full and we’d to park at the overflow car-park. We’d lunch and a drink first before joining the crowd. As we walked up the gangway leading up to the main reception area, we spotted pigeons nesting along the edges of the building. I also purchased a bag of seeds because I wanted to entice some of the residents to get closer to me.

I wanted to visit the walk-away which led towards the River Severn. But, I was a month too early. It was still closed :-). Not a happy bunny at all. Thankfully, there were plenty of other things to keep me busy. We checked out the Caribbean Flamingos and they were rather grumpy today. We spotted a pair having a fight, honking noisily and entwining their necks against each other.

Slimbridge D300s X  09-04-2011 12-12-55 As we continued walking, we spotted a pair of Hooded Merganser. Check out the quiff. I wished I can have one just like that. Most of the residents here were all pairing up because it was the season to multiply. There was also a lot of fights as males compete for the attention of the females.Slimbridge D300s X  09-04-2011 12-27-55 We tried to get away from the main crowd as it was much quieter and the birds much calmer too. A pair of Smew came into view and I threw some seeds into the waters to woo them to swim closer. They were such a pretty pair.Slimbridge D50  09-04-2011 12-35-44

In another pond, a Golden Eye was engage in an elaborate display throwing his head back and splashing the water with his feet. A very spectacular piece of yoga just to get the female interested.Slimbridge D300s X  09-04-2011 12-37-4 We also heard some c----y conversations regarding the name of the birds. All the enclosures have the names listed on it together with their photographs. But it doesn’t mean that what you see were the birds listed because birds fly/migrate etc, etc. At first, they asked Babe what the birds were and of course we obliged. When we corrected their mistakes, they just don’t want to know. It was amazing how some people think… We made our minds not to be helpful and concentrate on these gorgeous creatures.Slimbridge D300s X  09-04-2011 12-52-48 If I have a pond, I want to have all these colourful ducks in this posting swimming in them. It would be simply amazing. Mother Nature must surely have a wicked sense of humour. This lovely pair of Wood Duck came over begging for food. Somehow they spotted my bag of seeds. Off course, I couldn’t say no. They know me so well. I just loved the distinctive multicoloured iridescent plumage and red eyes,with a distinctive white flare down the neck of the male.Slimbridge D300s X  09-04-2011 12-54-49 Then I heard the familiar but different whistling of “whee-hoo”. It was the Chiloe Widgeons with its stunning metallic green head. I wanted to walk on the stepping stones towards the Andean Flamingos but they were full of kids also trying to cross the stream. I wouldn’t want to be the only adult thereSlimbridge D300s X  09-04-2011 12-49-39 We spotted some very strange looking ducks that we’d never seen before. I kept on reading the boards to find out what they were and nearly gave up. As we walked towards the Greater Flamingos enclosure, I spotted them with the adults. They were White-faced Whistling-duck (Dendrocygna viduata) juveniles. They really looked odd. I loved it when they started  their very vocal, very high, reedy whistle, "tsree-tsree-tsreeo,".Slimbridge D50  09-04-2011 13-11-39 We were also looking forward to see these beauties, Mandarin Ducks. The males looked a bit tatty and exhausted. They must have been very, very busy with the females.Slimbridge D300s X  09-04-2011 13-27-50 As we continued on, we came across the piece de resistance, Nene goose (or Hawaiian Goose) with grown-up chicks. The very fluffy and grey chicks were all huddled together, with their parents on either side, hissing anything that came close. I managed to stop them hissing at me by throwing some seeds for them. I’m really glad I bought the seeds.Slimbridge D50  09-04-2011 13-24-47 As I was busy checking out the Canvasback, Barnacle geese, Red Breasted Geese, Black Australian swan, Cape Barren Goose, Black-Spur Winged Goose, etc etc, I nearly startled this Demoiselle Crane. This very petite and graceful beauty was checking me out and off course I took the opportunity to take her photograph.Slimbridge D300s X  09-04-2011 13-41-50 The otter was out and about taking advantage of the lovely afternoon. She was busy mooching about among the rocks and later another otter joined her. We just sat there watching them mucking around in the enclosure.

Slimbridge D300s X  09-04-2011 13-45-59 After about 3 hours, it was getting very warm and very crowded. At first we planned to get back to the car for a drink and a meal. Then we will come back again to check out the hides. We changed our minds as it was getting too warm and I was a bit tired. Furthermore, we still had a long drive home. So we decided to call it a day. We’d a lovely day out and it was time to go home.

Slimbridge D300s X  09-04-2011 13-36-26 We arrived home safely and had a very simple dinner. Babe as usual, uploaded, edited and posted the 1k photographs that we took. I spent the evening watering the plants and just chilling out. I heard on the radio that Sky Blues were 2:2 with Derby. The team were made to settle for a point after surrendering a two goal advantage in the space of five minutes at Pride Park. They still had a very loong way to go.

The next morning, I went for an easy walk around the block. It was still very quiet as most people were still in bed. I met the usual joggers, cyclists and fellow walkers with their dogs. My walk was accompanied with a symphony of bird songs. It was hard to believe that this was an urban area. The hedges were full of chirping tree and house sparrows, robins, dunnocks, Great and Blue tits. Blackbirds and starlings were also singing their hearts out from tree and roof tops. It was a wonderful start to the day.

I had my usual breakfast of cheesy mushroom omelette with toast, reading the Sunday papers and listening to Sunday love songs. I left the front door open so that I can observe my feathered friends having their breakfast too. The usual culprits took turns to feed and I was soo delighted to see this pretty Collared Dove back again. This was the first time I'd seen her after the long winter. I’m glad she remembered to pay us a visit.Coventry D50  09-04-2011 16-03-60 Then we went to our favourite playground to check what the natives have been up to. As usual, the parking lot was full. Not a good sign. We walked by the back road when we heard the first sound of spring, a cuckoo call echoing from the Newlands. Another favourite migrant was back. I’d been visiting this reserve for nearly 6 years now but had never seen it. Perhaps one day…

When I can hear the small woodpecker ring
Time on a tree for all the birds that sing;
And hear the pleasant cuckoo, loud and long --
The simple bird that thinks two notes a song."
~William Henry Davies, April's Charms~

As we walked towards the East Marsh Hide, I managed to get this lovely photograph of a pair of Orange Tip mating on the flowering plant. We noticed quite a few butterflies were about but they just don’t seemed to settle down. This was because not many plants were flowering yet.Brandon Marsh D50  10-04-2011 14-12-44As usual, the hide was packed with Spotted Crake chasers. By this time, I’d given up seeing this elusive bird especially as the reeds have grown profusely. From the hide we saw plenty of Canadian Geese, Greylags, Lapwings, Little ringed plovers, Common Snipe, Shovelers, Mallards, Teals, Tufted ducks, Moorhens, Coots, Mute swans, Grey heron, Cormorants and an Oyster catcher. A Cetti Warbler as usual winding us up with his call.

We met Kay on the way out as she was coming in to look for Andy. We’d a little natter on the path before going our separate ways. I then spotted this very cheeky Pied Wagtail who was playing hide-and-seek with me on the visitor centre’s roof. It kept on flying off and returning back again.Brandon Marsh D50  10-04-2011 15-29-24 I’d a wonderful weekend. My batteries were recharged and I’m looking forward for the working week to start. I hoped that everyone too had managed to recharge their batteries.