Monday, 28 May 2012

To the Daisy

I love this daisy meadow and they always reminded me of daisy chains from the stories I read when I was younger. William Wordsworth wrote in 1820 in his poem “To the daisy”Warwick University D3100  18-05-2012 12-46-58

In youth from rock to rock I went,
From hill to hill in discontent
Of pleasure high and turbulent,
Most pleased when most uneasy;
But now my own delights I make, -
My thirst at every rill can slake,
And gladly Nature's love partake
Of Thee, sweet Daisy!

There were hundreds of these idyllic meadows scattered all over the campus grounds. Nobody bothered to stop and notice these very pretty, tiny flowers  like coloured jewels among the grass, They bob their heads in the breeze and adding a splash of colour to a bleak ground. How could anyone missed them is a mystery and worse still, trampling on them!!!Warwick University D3100  18-05-2012 12-46-25

It was wonderful to be able to share what I’d learnt from the Library of Congress H classification webinar with my colleagues. We spent nearly 2 hours trying to absorb and make sense of the schedule. It was very challenging and a great diversion to what we have been used to. This ensured a very lively participation and heated discussions among ourselves which was fantastic. I was so pleased that we are very passionate about our professions. Well-done and thanks a million guys for making it a success. A bunch of French lavender from my garden are for all of you.

Coventry D7000 M F  22-05-2012 10-21-51

After the very hard work, I met HR for lunch at the Fusion Bar. We’d a nice surprise because there was a promotional offer of 2 meals plus a drink for only £10. So we joined the very long queue and trying to make up our mind on what to eat. I’d my favourite vegetarian udon while HI tucked into burgers and chips. We then joined AC who was already there. It was lovely enjoying our meals while exchanging news and laughter. It was wonderful just to chill out for a while,

This week, I took the bus to work because Babe was having one of his bad days.  If it was a lovely day, AM and I would stop at the Westwood Campus and walked in through the Science Park. It would take us about 20 minutes to reach the office. We try to find ways to exercise especially when our jobs involved sitting on our a---s for  8 hours. On this particular day, it started raining as we were walking and the faster we walked, the heavier it fell. It was hilarious and thankfully we didn’t arrived at work looking like a drowned cat.

On Saturday, after returning and borrowing more books from the public library, I joined a dozen volunteers to paint the Riley Square. Bell Green is one of the most deprived area in Coventry and I will always support anyone who tries to better their community. A pity I don’t have my camera with me.

The world need dreamers and the world need doers. But above all, the world need dreamers who do.

~Sarah Ban Breatnach~

Then Babe and I went into the city centre. Babe wanted to check out the jewellers for a watch and moi wanted to take some photographs for the Coventry calendar competition. Unfortunately, we didn’t get either. Babe didn’t see any that he liked and it was such a dull day for photographs. I bought 2 Coventry tea-towels for the 2 Ann’s in Finland and the US as a thank you gift. We also checked out the market but it was just too crowded for us. We listened to a choir, singing their hearts out, near Sainsbury and then headed home.

After doing the dinner and made a batch of Apple Struedel Muffins, I watched the finals of the UEFA cup and what a match it was. Well-done to Chelsea FC's. The victory against FC Bayern M√ľnchen made them the first London club to win the Union of European Football Associations (UEFA) Champions League title in its 107-year history in dramatic fashion on Bayern's home turf. And what a nail-biting ending.

Sunday was spent at our usual playground. The Red Crested Pochard was still in residence outside the Baldwin Hide. From East Marsh, we spotted a very sleepy Barnacle Goose on the main island. 3 very adorable Lapwing chicks were feeding on the mudbanks just below the hide. The parents will fly in and check on them from time-to-time. 2 Oyster Catcher chicks and their parents were feeding on the Teal banks and a Muntjac buck made a brief appearance.

Brandon Marsh D300s X2  22-05-2012 14-09-28 Oyster Catcher with a chick

From the main island, we spotted a Dunlin, Little Ringed plover and a Wood Sandpiper. Unfortunately, they were feeding quite a distance away. But it was still lovely to see them especially the Wood Sandpiper. RSPB had given them an amber status, as there were only 4-8 nesting birds in Britain. A cuckoo and a Cetti Warbler was heard but not seen, as usual.

Brandon Marsh D300s X2  20-05-2012 15-25-040Well-camouflaged Lapwing chicks 

I was soo jealous when I came across this beautiful floral display of clematis and wisteria, adorning the pathway of the Social Studies building. They were among my favourite flowers and I have visions of them draping our casa. I have planted 2 clematis and they will take at least a year before they established themselves and started flowering. I  am still hunting for a clematis shrub. 

Warwick University D3100  18-05-2012 12-30-23

Bright and glorious is that revelation,
Written all over this great world of ours;
Making evident our own creation,
In these stars of earth, these golden flowers.

~ Flowers by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow~

Stop the Subsidy for Buzzard Nest Destruction.

Dear Mr Benyon,

We are writing to you to reconsider the decision to fund the experimental nest destruction and "re-homing" of buzzards.

The buzzard is an indigenous and protected bird of prey. We are lost for words that this was DEFRA's idea beggars belief . It is outrageous that a native bird should be persecuted legally in favour of an introduced species. The number of live pheasants taken by buzzards must be minute compared to the number killed on the roads by traffic.

An independent study carried out by ADAS (an independent consultant), commissioned by the British Association for Shooting and Conservation, found that on average, 1-2% of pheasant poults released were taken by birds of prey. Allow me to re-iterate: an average of 1-2% by all birds of prey. It found 45% of poults released were shot, with the remainder dying as a result of other factors, such as road collision and disease, or surviving to join the feral population. The study therefore concluded that losses to birds of prey were negligible compared to other much greater causes of loss. It found the financial cost of "average" bird of prey predation to a shoot releasing 1,000 poults per year, would be just £30.

This DEFRA subsidy and the actions it is condoning are unjustifiable. Non-destructive research is the answer, although the insignificance of the problem surely requires no financial support in any event.

Please reconsider: save £375,000 of taxpayers' money and the unnecessary destruction of the buzzards' nests.

Kevin and Seri

Sunday, 20 May 2012

Take the Weather With You

After what seemed like weeks of rain, the weekend was gloriously sunny and warm. Was summer finally here? Or was there a hiccup somewhere? I am not that bothered. I’ll enjoy whatever the weather. As the song goes

Everywhere you go, always take the weather with you
Everywhere you go, always take the weather
Everywhere you go, always take the weather with you
Everywhere you go, always take the weather
The weather with you

~Crowded House~

Brandon Marsh D300s X2  09-05-2012 13-43-01 Coot in the rain

I was on leave on Friday because Babe had an appointment with the ENT Dept, Walsgrave Hospital at 9.30 am. We didn’t want to arrive too early because of the parking charges or too late and had to go round and round to find a parking space. We arrived about 10 minutes early and found a space quite close to the entrance. Then we’d to walk past the area which was known as the “cattle pen” to the department. After registering, we waited for nearly 30 minutes before Babe’s name was called. Then we’d to wait for another 20 minutes in the clinic. I bought a book with me to kill time.

It costs us £2.80 for 2 hours parking. When we left, we drove past long queues outside the entrance barrier, waiting (im)patiently to enter. I’m glad Babe’s appointment was in the morning.  It was also a relief that there was nothing sinister lurking that we felt a little celebration was in order. After a simple lunch and coffee, we took advantage of the lovely weather and went to our favourite playground to celebrate, as we normally do :-). Actually, we wanted to find the family of Great Crested Grebes with chicks. Babe got this gorgeous photo earlier in the week and I wanted to see them. All together now…Aah…Brandon Marsh D300s X2  09-05-2012 13-19-055 We checked out high and low around Baldwin Hide but they were nowhere to be seen. I hoped they were ok and just chilling out in one of the many channels or under the dense undergrowth. We noticed that the water had risen very high and the island in the middle of the lake had been flooded. This had caused most of the nests being destroyed. On the floating pontoons where the Terns used to nest, we saw Black headed gulls and Oystercatcher sitting on eggs much to the chagrin of the Terns. I’m sure they’ll sort themselves out.Brandon Marsh D50  11-05-2012 13-34-22 Then we gingerly plodded along the very muddy path towards East Marsh Hide. The reed-beds were alive with a cacophony of twittering. We saw plenty of warblers flitting in and out. It was a delight to see this very handsome Whitethroat defending its territory with his jerky display flight and urgent chatter. I held my breathe when he came so close to the hide,

“And after April, when May follows

And the whitethroat builds, and all the swallow…”

~Robert Browning ‘Home Thoughts from Abroad’~  

Brandon Marsh D300s X14  11-05-2012 13-48-40

Then a quick stop at Carlton Hide. The Moorhen’s nest was destroyed and the rising water was inching towards the Canada Goose’s nest on the island. A male pheasant was strutting his stuff besides the hide. We were also entertained by this Mistle Thrush, who was busy scratching the soil for grubs. We wanted to check out the Screen but the path had flooded and it was too muddy to wade through. We left as the weather was began to turn.Brandon Marsh D300s X14  11-05-2012 15-01-37 We woke up to a very bright, sunny Saturday. It was a shame to waste it. Days like this were very rare and we were going to make full use of it. What better way then a drive to Nelson’s country, to see if anything had turned up at Cley Marsh Nature Reserve. As usual, I always have my camera ready for anything. We drove through fields of rapeseed, laden with its brilliant yellow flowers and sickly, sweet smell. I spotted a Red Kite near Peterborough and missed the chance to take a photograph of the Cathedral, again. We only came across one bad driver :-)Roadtrip Cley Marshes D3100  12-05-2012 11-22-19 As usual the roads were very, very fiddly. We kept on saying that there must be a better route in. This time the GPS bypassed the famous Cley landmark and plonked us straight to the visitor centre. After using the facilities and paying the admission fee, we treaded on the boardwalks and made our way through the reed-beds towards the Avocet Hide. We could hear the ‘pinging’ call of the Bearded Tits but they were nowhere to be seen. The reeds were just too thick.Cley Marshes D50  12-05-2012 13-09-32 Swallows and swifts were were flying above us, enjoying the warmth and chasing after hundreds of insects. From time to time, flocks of birds flew in and disappearing into the scrape pools, hidden from view by the thick reeds. A Reed bunting and a Sedge Warbler were competing against each other. But I think the cheerful chattering song of the warbler won hands down.Cley Marshes D300s X14  12-05-2012 13-06-054 From the Avocet Hide, we saw the elegant Avocets with its striking black and white feathers and long upturned beaks. It was soothing to watch their beaks sweeping sideways, catching invertebrates, through their slightly opened beaks. I think we were early because they were still sitting on eggs.Cley Marshes D300s X14  12-05-2012 13-52-020Then we checked out the Dawke’s Hide, overlooking Simmond’s Scrape. I was hoping to see a Spoonbill but it failed to appear. Plenty of Shelducks about, full of testosterones, chasing each other and everyone else away.

Cley Marshes D300s X14  12-05-2012 13-43-58 A pair of Marsh Harriers came into view, flying low over the reeds, gliding gracefully. When they got closer to the nesting sites, the Avocets were furiously chasing them away.Cley Marshes D300s X14  12-05-2012 13-47-038 From the Teal pool, we didn’t see any teal. at all. Nearby, a Lapwing was quite agitated. It flew up, circling into the air, whistling ‘pee-wit, pee-wit’ over the hide, before landing back into the scrubland. Then from under the bushes, a pair of very scrawny, cuddly chicks appeared and started pecking for food with the parents hovering nearby. Cley Marshes D300s X14  12-05-2012 13-23-22 When we were in the hide, we could hear the Cetti Warbler warbling nearby. I went out and started stalking it. I spotted it several times but it was so difficult to photograph this little b----r. All I could hear was the explosive, loud  and abrupt call erupting from the dense undergrowth. After about 30 minutes, I gave up and as we walked back, I could hear his warbling echoing, laughing at me,,I bet.

We drove along the Beach Road towards The Eye, an island in the Marsh. . We’d our lunch while watching the North Sea waves rolling and pounding onto the beaches. There was a lot of fishermen, waiting patiently, for something to bite. I wanted to have a dip but the waves were quite high and the winds quite strong. Not a good idea, me thinks.Cley Marshes D300s X14  12-05-2012 15-57-51

There was a little hut by the beach where visitors can have a rest. And on the roof was a pair of Swallows, taking a breather, watching us watching them. We inched closer and closer that we could see their chestnut-red throat and forehead, dark chest-band and pinkish belly clearly. It was wonderful to be able to hear their very pleasant twittering and warblings.Cley Marshes D300s X14  12-05-2012 15-44-042

While Babe waited in the car, I checked out the nearby North Scrape. Avocets were sitting on eggs, Oyster-Catchers making sweet music, a Skylark was soaring into the air, a Wheatear bobbing among the scrubs, a pair of Gadwall was waddling in the pool and a Golden Plover in its lovely breeding plum

‘A Golden Plover’s golden music calls

Across the moor. A heady fragrance spills

From fresh opened peat, then silence falls.’

~R. S. Morrison, ‘World of Birds’~

Cley Marshes D300s X14  12-05-2012 16-20-052

A twitcher said that there was a Garganey on the scrape. I couldn’t see  it and when I told Babe, he went over to check it out. He couldn’t see it either but he spotted a Hare skipping across the field. How lucky was that? Cley Marshes D300s X14  12-05-2012 16-26-26

Before we left, we drove past the most recognised landmark of Cley, the 18th. century Windmill. We stopped at a lay-by and took photographs of this lovely structure, Now a guesthouse and B&B, it commanded breathtaking views over the salt marshes and the sea, while nestling comfortably by the old quay, alongside the flint-walled cottages of the village. I better start saving because I would love to spend a night here. We said au revoir to Cley and made the long drive home.Cley Marshes D2h  12-05-2012 15-12-02Sunday morning was spent pottering in the garden. I weeded the top raised beds that I’d planted with asparagus, peas, kale and chives. Sweet corn, which were now growing in the greenhouse, will be transplanted here once the frost is over. In the bottom beds, I’ve planted broccoli, sowed spinach and radishes. I’ve got leeks and pak-choi waiting to be transplanted in here too. I’ve got 4 pots of Moreno peppers, 2 pots of tomatoes, peas and cucumbers are growing in planters, salads in 2 troughs and 2 pots of courgettes. In the meantime, 4 plugs of artichokes are still waiting to be transplanted. I’ve just recently sowed dwarf French beans and rocket. It is going to be a very busy and hopefully, a bountiful summer.Coventry D3100  06-05-2012 09-38-08Sunday evening was spent at our favourite playground, again. We wanted to see if the Barn Owl will be around. A pit stop at Baldwin Hide still failed to see if the Great Crested Grebe family will make an appearance. From East Marsh Hide, the Whitethroat was still guarding his territory. A Cetti Warbler was calling from the dense undergrowth. It was also a delight to see the pair of Red Crested Pochard still in residence.Brandon Marsh D300s X14  13-05-2012 18-14-041Then we made our way to Carlton Hide which was eerily empty and quiet. We decided to go to the Screen and thankfully, the path had dried up. A group of fellow photographers were already there staking their positions. Greenman and Fat Jasper showed us where the Hobby was sleeping, well-camouflaged among the branches. They were very kind to pull some pieces of wood that I could stand on. Gracias. I was too short to see over the reed walls.Brandon Marsh D300s X14  13-05-2012 18-31-45The Barn Owl was seen quartering the field behind us for a split second and then disappeared behind the trees. We chatted for a while and the weather began to turn colder, windier and darker. One by one, they left and we were on our own. We heard the Cuckoo calls getting closer and closer. We were so busy trying to locate him that we missed the Hobby waking up and flying after the Cuckoo!!! Oh no… Thankfully, he didn’t catch it. Phew… We left soon after that.

It was Mothers’ Day in Malaysia earlier this week. When I called my parents, I took the opportunity to wish my Emak “Selamat Hari Ibu”*.Thank you for everything and I love you loads and lots.

Who fed me from her gentle breast,
And hush'd me in her arms to rest,
And on my cheek sweet kisses prest?
                           My Mother.

When sleep forsook my open eye,
Who was it sung sweet hushaby,
And rock'd me that I should not cry?
                           My Mother.

~Ann Taylor (1782-1866)~

Coventry D3100  16-05-2012 06-53-35 Flowering Cytisus

This week, I attended a meditation session during my lunch break. It was run by the Warwick Meditation and Yoga Society. I had always wanted to attend these classes but they were always run during office hours or too late after office hours. I was very pleased that they decided to run short sessions during lunch hour and it was taking place in the Humanities Building which was just next door to the library. It was a very relaxing and refreshing exercise which I thoroughly enjoyed.   

What sunshine is to flowers, smiles are to humanity. These are but trifles, to be sure; but, scattered along life’s pathway, the good they do is inconceivable.

~Joseph Addison~


*Happy Mother’s Day in Malay

Sunday, 13 May 2012

Love on the Rocks

On Saturday, we finally made the long-awaited trip to Bempton Cliffs. It was that time of year for the sea birds spectacular when they come ashore to breed. We’d been planning this trip since the beginning of April but was unable to make it due to the unreliable weather and Babe’s continuing ill-health. We checked the weather first and plenty of sunshine was promised in the afternoon. But it was the winds that we were worried about. 20kph winds from the North Sea on a 120m cliff sounds a bit scary but we were up for it.Bempton Cliffs D2h  05-05-2012 14-44-03 As usual, I always have my camera on my lap, trying to take a photographic view of the trip. And it came very handy when this van driver suddenly appeared from nowhere and overtook us by less than a metre. Bl—dy h—l. You should hear the colourful words coming from Babe. I don’t blame him when some prat was trying to kill us. When the idiot spotted the camera fitted in the windscreen, he immediately switched to the fast lane and sped off. We were so tempted to call the police. So to whoever you are, we have your number.Roadtrip Bemptoin Cliffs D3100  05-05-2012 09-19-45

Along the way, the weather still couldn’t make up its mind. As we drove through the different counties, it turned cloudy, showery, windy and sunny. We passed through rural countryside filled with fields of blooming rapeseed. Great swathes and sheets of gold as far as the eye can see. You can’t help feeling uplifted to the brilliant colour although the sickly perfume can be a bit overpowering. Sorry to those suffering from pollen allergies.Roadtrip Bemptoin Cliffs D3100  05-05-2012 09-04-44 After 3 plus hours, we arrived at our destination. We thought the car park was full because a lot of cars were parked along the road. We continued driving and found out that there were plenty of spaces. I guess they don’t want to pay the £5 fee. A bit sad I think since the reserve was run by volunteers and as a charity. As usual, we always take time to observe the antics of the Tree Sparrows on top of the visitor centre. I love this shot taken by Babe. A male spotted a feather floating chased it deftly, and with immense aerial skill, caught it in mid-air and returning to his nest. His mate will be grateful. Bempton Cliffs D300s X14  05-05-2012 12-16-055 As soon as we walked along the path towards the cliff, we were assaulted by the cacophony of sounds and smells of the natives. It was amazing. It was as if you’re in a  huge rock amphitheatre, with hundreds of birds above, below and right in front of you. As usual, we took the route to the right first. At the New Roll-up viewpoints, we’d a very good close-up of the Gannets. Check those buttery-yellow head and beak with the beady blue eyes, all beautifully kohled  in black.  Bempton Cliffs D300s X14  05-05-2012 13-31-23 I think we were a bit early for the breeding season because we didn’t see that many Gannets nesting on the rock arch at Staple Newk. It was lovely to watch the constant interaction they had with each other.We did see a few mating displays such as mutual bill-touching, fencing and sky-pointing.Bempton Cliffs D7000  05-05-2012 13-20-054

I am watching the white gannets blaze down into the water

With the power of blunt spears and a stunning accuracy

Even though the sea is riled and boiling and grey with fog

~Mary Oliver, 1935-Bempton Cliffs D300s X14  05-05-2012 13-03-022

After about 2 hours in the freezing cold winds and trying to stay upright, we made our way back to the warmth of the car for lunch. While enjoying our sandwiches and hot coffee, we were entertained by a flock of Jackdaws. They kept inching closer and closer to the car, eyeing us as we’d our lunch. As usual, I just had to share my lunch with them. What a sucker!!!Bempton Cliffs D7000  05-05-2012 14-09-24

There is a bird who, by his coat

And by the hoarseness of his not

Might be supposed a crow,

A great frequenter of the church,

Where, Bishop like, he finds a perch

And dormitory too

~William Couper ‘The Jackdaw’~

Then back to the chalk cliffs. The sun came out but still quite windy. We could hear the Kittiwake calling their names out loud, dominating the vicinity. They were nesting on the precarious cliff faces, occupying every ledge. Babe managed to get this gorgeous photograph of them mid-call where you can see the beautiful orange-red colour.inside of their mouths. Check out the wings that looked like they had been dipped in ink.Bempton Cliffs D300s X14  05-05-2012 13-45-18

The snowy Kittiwakes overhead,

With beautiful beaks of gold,

And wings of delicate grey outspread,

Float, listening while they scold

~Mary Oliver, 1935-~

Bempton Cliffs D300s X14  05-05-2012 14-49-029

At the Grandstand, we managed to catch a glimpse of a very beautiful powder blue egg of a Guillemot. We felt so blessed to have seen this. The egg had evolved to be pointed, so that it will roll in a circle from the point, but not off the cliff edge.This chocolate brown bird, with a white tummy and a sharp dagger like beak was sitting upright penguin-style with its whitish ‘spectacle’ around the eye.Bempton Cliffs D300s X14  05-05-2012 14-47-39

I’m a Guillemot

I do my speccy reccy from my rocky window sill a lot

I am a Guillemot

Am I not?

~Tim Dee~

Bempton Cliffs D300s X14  05-05-2012 15-00-15

Nearby, were the Razorbills lining like milk bottles along impossible ledges. They looked very similar to the Guillemots, except for that they are darker with their shorter necks. They had a vertical white line on their razor-like bills and eyes looking almost like a comedy thief’s mask. Bempton Cliffs D50  05-05-2012 14-45-28

The Razorbill auks and the silly-looking puffins all stand
with their backs to the mainland
in solemn, uneven lines along the cliff's brown grass-frayed edge

(Elizabeth Bishop, 1911-1979)

Bempton Cliffs D2h  05-05-2012 15-02-021

Then the piece de resistance, the adorable Puffins. We have been to Bempton Cliffs for the past 3 years and only had seen them flying past. But today, we seemed to bump into them at every turn. An unmistakable bird with its black back and white underparts, and distinctive black head with large pale cheeks and a tall, flattened, brightly-coloured bill. Its comical appearance was heightened by its red and black eye-markings and bright orange legs. No wonder they were playfully known as 'clowns of the sea' and 'sea parrots'.Bempton Cliffs D300s X14  05-05-2012 14-53-02

Every Puffin we see tonight is a miracle

~Stephen Kress~

The star of the day was when one of the Puffin decided that he wanted to check out the photographers at the top of the cliff face.  He expertly used the high wind speed to rotate his way upwards, looking at us quizzically. We were nearly eyeball to eyeball. He was so adorable and I felt very privileged to have seen this amazing behaviour. It made my day.Bempton Cliffs D2h  05-05-2012 14-57-031

Oh, there was once a puffin

Just the shape of a muffin

And he lived on an island

in the bright blue sea!

He ate little fishes

That were most delicious

And he had them for supper

And he had them for tea.

~Florence Page Jaques,~

After all the excitements, it was time to say our goodbyes to one of our favourite playground. On the way back to the visitor centre, a pair of birds were defending their territory. We think it was either a Skylark or Meadow pipit. They were hovering but we couldn’t hear any virtuoso performance. Perhaps too busy checking out the opponent.Bempton Cliffs D2h  05-05-2012 15-16-039 We ended the lovely day by checking out the feeding station. There was a party going on.  Apart from the main feeder, bird-feeders were hanging on every tree and they were all occupied by a variety of birds. We saw Tree sparrows, Bullfinches, Chaffinches, Goldfinches, Robins, Greenfinches, Collared Doves, Wood pigeons, Dunnocks, Linnets, Yellowhammers and ,oh hello, a Brambling. This was our first sighting of a Brambling. Bempton Cliffs D300s X14  05-05-2012 15-26-20On the way home, we drove through intermitten cloudbursts. We arrived home in one piece, very exhausted but contented. Babe was too tired to upload more than 1k photographs that we’d taken. After a light dinner, we went straight to bed dreaming of being surrounded by thousands of wheeling birds.     

Wednesday, 9 May 2012

Blessings at Beltane

May 1 was also known as May Day, Labour Day and Beltane Day. Beltane was the last of the three spring fertility festivals. It was the time when the door to summer opened, the sun was finally released from the bondage of winter and able to rule over summer and life once again. As summer began, the weather became warmer, and the beauty of vibrant new life welcomed us to the merry month of May, the month of sensuality and sexuality. Fingers and toes double-crossed, with more clear, blue skies and sunny sunshine than what we’d recently.

Sweet May hath come to love us,

Flowers, trees, their blossoms don;

And through the blue heavens above us,

The very clouds move on

~Heinrich Heine~

There were a few celebrations as representative of fertility to celebrate Beltane. April showers had given way to rich and fertile earth, a good time to celebrate the fertility of the planting season. I have been digging the back garden the past month, breaking up the soil and adding home-made composts to make 2 raised vegetable beds. I have vegetable plugs and seedlings waiting for the perfect day to be planted.

The earth is cool and dark, and far below, new life begins.

May the soil be blessed with fertility and abundance,

with rains of life-giving water,

with the heat of the sun,

with the energy of the raw earth.

May the soil be blessed

as the womb of the earth becomes full and fruitful

to bring forth the garden new

Welcoming birds to the garden was also one of Beltane rituals. We’d always encouraged and welcomed these beauties into ours. We’d installed a feeding station with several different kinds of hanging feeders to accommodate the different kinds of birds, put up a bird box on the old tree at the end of the garden and a bird bath. It was a joy to see them coming and it kept us entertained watching their antics. It helped us improved our photographic skills and most importantly, kept Babe occupied when he has one of his ‘better’ days. This Greenfinch was one of our most recent visitor to the garden. Isn’t he gorgeous?    Coventry D300s X14  04-05-2012 12-58-22At work, I was interrupted 3 times when I was listening to the ALTS webinar “Using the Library of Congress H classification”. The hour long tutorial was very challenging and very informative.  Using the external tables was easily understood but the internal ones made me sit up and took notice. Now, I finally understood how the Library of Congress build up the classification numbers. Just how far we were going to follow will be the biggest challenge. I rather we follow up to a certain step and stop rather than pick and choose at random. I guess I just have to wait and see. I will be co-coordinating the same tutorial for my colleagues in a fortnight’s time. It would be interesting to see their take on this. It will definitely blow their brains away, especially when they were so used to the very simplistic in-house Warwick Schedules.

I also managed to see the bluebells in Tocil Wood. I met Liz by the lakes and we decided to check them out. From a distance, we could see the lovely hues of blue emanating from the woods. The sun filtering through the thick canopy of leaves made the walk magical as the dappled light bounced off the flowers. No wonder bluebell woods were associated with fairy folklore and wonderment as the slight perfume from the vibrant blue-purple flowers whirling around us. Warwick University D3100  02-05-2012 12-24-58

Gerard Manley Hopkins (1844 –1889) one of the romantic poets, wrote these lines of his poem "May Magnificat"

And azuring-over greybell makes
Wood banks and brakes wash wet like lakes

Warwick University D3100  02-05-2012 12-25-43

On a miserable wet Thursday, the polling stations opened around the country for the city council elections. For Coventry, in addition to the elected mayor referendum, we’d to elect a candidate in each of the City Council’s 18 wards. Labour gained eight more seats to give it an overwhelming majority on a night which left a culled Tory group the only remaining opposition at the Council House. Voters, moi included, then sent a resounding ‘NO’ to Downing Street to having an elected mayor. I don’t want one person with absolute power since elected mayor systems take power away from elected councillors who would have needed a huge two-thirds vote to block a mayor’s policies.

Then another lunch-time drive to Kings Hill Nursery again. This time RC tagged along. She bought a whole basket filled to the brim with all sorts of vegetable plugs. And she planned to come again on the weekend with her hubby. CC was on a spree. Her car boot was filled with vegetable plugs and pots of flower. Moi bought a tray of kale, a pot of cucumber and Gardener Delight’s tomatoes. The gardener had to hunt high and low for a pot of Hellebores which I saw last week. They’d moved the plant into the shaded greenhouse. I wanted this particular plant because it has light purplish flowers. I have one with yellowish-cream flowers in our garden. 

On Saturday, we finally made the long-awaited trip to Bempton Cliffs to check-out the seabird colony.. We’d been planning this trip since the beginning of April but was unable to make it due to the unreliable weather and Babe’s continuing ill-health. The weather had been kind and we’d a fabulous day. Not surprising we took thousands of photographs. I think this trip deserved its own entry.

After the long day and drive, we went to Draycote Water for a slow walk to stretch our legs. Not a good start when my pound coin got stuck in the parking meter. Thankfully, the warden was around and told us that we can park for free and even reimbursed us back. Gracias. We then ambled slowly towards the Farborough Spit. We noticed that the water in the reservoir had risen substantially. Surely a good sign.

As we walked along the wall, we saw a lot of caterpillars sunning themselves. A very vulnerable position we think as they were easy pickings for the birds. But the ladybirds were very ingenious. They huddled in the wall crevices, safe from predators and the harsh elements. We didn’t see any waders as the waters had risen over the mudbanks. But a few Pied wagtails kept us occupied. Draycote Water D300s X2  06-05-2012 12-47-00 It was a lovely Sunday with alternating sunshine and clouds. Bird songs enveloped us but they were well-hidden in the hedges.. Swifts and swallows filled up the skies with their twittering, hunting for insects. Lots of midgets forced us to keep moving. But we’d to stop when we spotted Wheatears bobbing on the rocks. It was lovely to see them again. By this time we’d to turn back. We were already exhausted and made our way home.  Draycote Water D300s X2  06-05-2012 12-07-22We woke up to a very wet Bank holiday Monday. It rained and rained and rained. The previous days had taken a toll on Babe and he was in bed with a hot water bottle strapped to his head. Moi? I’d plenty of chores to keep me occupied. I vacuumed the casa and did the ironing. RC had given me Herman the 5th and I baked another German Friendship cake. A pile of books in the basket were waiting to be read. 

In between showers, I managed to mow the front garden with a hand-mower. I replanted 2 Marguerite Daisy shrubs into the ground right in front of the porch. I am hoping to get another tray to plant in the back garden. They will look amazing in the summer. Tiny shoots from the perennials were slowly peeping through the soil. Astibles, Hostas, Lily-of-the-Valley, Lupins, Arum Lily and Ferns had finally woken up. Lilac and French Lavender were starting to flower. Slowly but steadily, the plants were taking turns to bloom. Every corner I turn, there was either a shoot unfurling or a bud forming.

I’ve noticed something about gardening. You set out to do one thing and pretty soon, you’re doing something else, which leads to some other thing, and so on. By the end of the day, you look at the shovel stuck in the half dug rose bed and wonder what on earth you’ve been doing.

~Ann Raver~