Sunday, 26 August 2012

Catching up with Summer

"Ah, summer, what power you have to make us suffer and like it."
~Russel Baker~

The temperature in the car soared to a sweltering 31C when we arrived at Slimbridge WWT. It was the hottest weekend of the year, so far. Everyone was out and about topping up their tans and taking advantage of the lovely day. We came here to check out the Long-billed Dowitcher, a native of North America which had been sighted in the South Lake. We don’t go chasing any bird sightings around the country but as members of WWT and as it was just down the road, it was a good excuse to be out and about. And we weren’t alone. It was also the school holidays and parents were taking the opportunity to take their children out for a bit of fresh air.  Slimbridge WWT D7000  18-08-2012 13-38-47

"That beautiful season the Summer!
Filled was the air with a dreamy and magical light;
and the landscape
Lay as if new created in all the freshness of childhood."
~Henry Wadsworth Longfellow~

As usual we walked along the boardwalk keeping an eye on what was about. House martins were still flying in and out of the mud-nests under the roof of the visitor centre. Young tree sparrows were chirping away, calling their parents for food. Further down, Nenes with their doe-like expressions were vowing the crowds and relieving them of their seeds.Slimbridge WWT D50  18-08-2012 14-00-03

We made a pit stop at Wader Shore to see our favourite birds. The Black Winged Stilts were having a siesta and we crept in quietly so we don’t disturb them. They just looked at us and went to sleep again. The elegant black and white Avocets with their long upturned bills and bluish legs were half-asleep. From time to time, their melodious calls could be heard. The Redshank was as wary as usual, flying from one end to another with its noisy calls, trying to alert the other birds of any danger.Slimbridge WWT D7000  18-08-2012 14-25-46Then we made our way to the South Lake trying to avoid the Nenes who were running towards us for food. We made our way to the right side of the hide where a crowd were poised with their binoculars, scopes and cameras pointing to something in the distance. We found a seat and joined the party. Unfortunately the Long-billed Dowitcher was nowhere to be seen or according to one of the twitchers, it had gone on to the other side of the island. Typical… But it wasn’t a loss to us because there were plenty of other things to look at. We’d never seen so many Godwits feeding in one place.Slimbridge WWT D50  18-08-2012 14-03-50A pit stop at the otters was a must. Again we missed their feeding time, but they were out and about earning their living, entertaining the besotted crowd. We stood at our favourite sport where we were able to get a very good view. They were swimming from one end of the pool to another with their easy, fluid movements. From time to time, they hopped onto the rocks and started scrambling along the bushes.  Slimbridge WWT D300s X14  18-08-2012 14-52-007We’d to cut short the trip because the heat was getting to us. Since the Caribbean Flamingos enclosure was near the exit, we just had to check them out. They were out and about showing off their beautiful colours. But what interest me most were the different stages of the chicks. They were huddled together under the shade. I guess since they were still featherless the heat, too. was getting to themSlimbridge WWT D300s X14  18-08-2012 15-22-04On Sunday, we headed up north to pay a visit to the merry men in tights. It was the 28th Robin Hood Festival at Sherwood Forest, Nottingham. The event which began on Monday, gave the visitors the chance to sample the intrigue and excitement of medieval life in the heart of the forest and celebrate the life and times of the Nottinghamshire legendary outlaw. Once part of a royal hunting forest, Sherwood Forest National Nature Reserve was 450 acres and incorporated ancient areas of native woodland where slender birch trees grow alongside more than one thousand veteran oaks, most of which were over 500 years old. The largest and most famous of these was the Major Oak which was linked throughout the world to Robin Hood. I couldn’t wait to see this world-famous tree.Sherwood Forest NNR D7000  19-08-2012 11-51-03

Sherwood in the twilight, is Robin Hood awake?
Grey and ghostly shadows are gliding through the brake,
Shadows of the dappled deer, dreaming of the morn,
Dreaming of a shadowy man that winds a shadowy horn.

~Alfred Noyes, A Song for Sherwood~

The festival  featured jousting, archery, falconry displays, musicians and entertainers, craft stalls and activities and were showcased in 3 sections. Armed with a flyer, we carefully planned where we wanted to go and see. First was a walk towards the visitor centre where we came across this pair of performers who obliged us with a pose. Performers, musicians and entertainers roamed around the forest keeping the visitors entertained.Sherwood Forest NNR D7000  19-08-2012 11-48-34

At the entrance of the visitor centre, we stopped to listen to another pair of entertainer. It was a challenge to take photographs because it was so crowded. The place was buzzing. Everywhere we looked there was something going on. From afar we saw the final part of the fire-eating performance from What a Palaver!. We took shade under a tree beside a group of Morris dancers. Woo-hoo, I’m not moving. In front of us was a pair of jesters winding up the crowd. They were hilarious.Sherwood Forest NNR D7000  19-08-2012 12-10-013

While waiting for the next performance, we spent the time people watching. It was lovely to see a lot of the visitors dressing up in medieval costumes. There were a few dressed as Robin Hood, Little John, Maid Marion, Will Scarlett and Friar Tuck as well as the Sherriff’s men in tights. I told Babe that next year, I’m going to dress up. It should be fun. Then it was the Kesteven Morris dancers turn to vow the crowd. They were brilliant.Sherwood Forest NNR D7000  19-08-2012 12-16-017

We checked out the Robin Hood experience exhibition that charted the story behind the legend. It was very hot in the halls and the long queues made it unbearable to linger for too long. Luckily, it was a short exhibition and we were out in the open. In the sunshine, we came across children in medieval makeovers running around  with bows and arrows. There must be an archery session somewhere.Sherwood Forest NNR D7000  19-08-2012 12-18-054

We followed the crowd through the forest towards the Major Oak grounds. It was much cooler in the shade and there were a few stalls scattered along the way. Unfortunately, we didn’t have time to linger. As soon as we arrived at the grounds, my eyes was drawn to this huge tree. It was the Major Oak. There was a fence around it to prevent visitors' feet from compressing the ground over the tree's roots. This should help ensure the tree stays healthy for many, many more years to come. Sherwood Forest NNR D3100  19-08-2012 12-47-25

The Major Oak was a Quercus Robur, the English or pendunculate oak. This forest veteran was thought to be around 800 years old. It weighed an estimated 23 tonnes with a trunk circumference of 10m and branches that spread to over 28m. I guess that was why slender steel poles were needed to prop the sprawling limbs of this giant. In a 2002 survey, it was voted “Britain’s favourite tree”.  According to local lore, its hollow trunk was used as a hideout by Robin Hood’s merry men, though if Robin was – as legend suggests – active in the 12th or 13th century, this tree could only have been a sapling then. It must have been another, much older oak that hid the outlaws. Sherwood Forest NNR D7000  19-08-2012 12-46-21

There were plenty of activities going on here but we wanted to see the main highlight of the day. We continued to our final destination which was the jousting arena. A large crowd was already there taking the best seats in the house. We went straight to the Ye Olde Redtail Falconry tent  where different birds of prey were on display. The area was fenced in to prevent visitors from getting too close and spook the birds. It was lovely to see a kestrel, Eagle owl, falcon, buzzard, hawks and vulture this close although I would have preferred to see them flying free in the wild.   Sherwood Forest NNR D3100  19-08-2012 13-05-18

The spectators were allowed to be in the jousting arena when the falconry demonstration was on but they’d to sit down. This was because these birds of prey tend to swoop down very low and might injure them or sometimes it might make the birds too nervous to perform. It was lovely, though, to see young kids volunteering to handle the birds. It was wonderful to see and admire the speed, grace, power and beauty of these magnificent birds. Sherwood Forest NNR D300s X  19-08-2012 13-56-59

Then it was time for the main event, the jousting tournament between Robin Hood's outlaws and the Sheriff of Nottingham's men. A procession lead by drummers and musicians entered the arena. The Sheriff of Nottingham's men strutted in snarling at the audience which resulted in being booed and jeered by the crowd. On the opposite end, Robin Hood’s gorgeous outlaws received a thunderous applause. It was going to be a battle with a daring display of superb horsemanship and armed combat.Sherwood Forest NNR D300s X  19-08-2012 13-17-46

Unfortunately by this time, the crowd from behind started pushing to get a closer look. Those in front were supposed to be sitting down but due to the pushing they’d to stand up which resulted in blocking everything. And we were stuck in the middle. We  were quite frustrated that we decided to call it a day. We planned to leave early anyway because we didn’t want to get stuck in traffic. Thousands of car trying to leave at the same time through the tiny village of Edwinstowe would be a nightmare. We’d a lovely day and we will definitely come again next year. Sherwood Forest NNR D300s X  19-08-2012 14-09-57

This week I had volunteered for 2 pre-sessional induction tours. I opted for the subject floor tours where the students were divided to according their courses. It was easier this way so that we could take them to the floors where they can find the books which were relevant to them. As usual, a demonstration of the mobile shelving unit was always a hit. Then I brought them down to the first floor and handed the group to another colleague. I had always enjoyed these tours and loved the enthusiasm shown by the newcomers. 

AM and I went to Walsgrave Hospital after office hours to visit a former colleague who had a hip-replacement surgery. Babe gave us a lift there and we took the bus home. We took flowers, a card and a basket of fruits  for JHE from all of us at work. We went straight to the 5th floor and entered countless doors before we found her. We were pleased that the surgery went smoothly and she was recuperating well. Imagine that she only had the operation in less than 48 hours and she was already walking, albeit on crutches. That was amazing. We listened to her chatterings before we made our way home. Get well soon, JHE.

Muslims around the world celebrated one special night during Ramadan known as Laylatul Qadr or the Night of Power when the Koran was revealed. It was a celebration to commemorate the arrival of the final guidance for all Muslims. Just as the arrival of a child was celebrated, on its birth and then every year, as a bringer of joy and fulfilment for the family, Laylatul Qadr was celebrated as a bringer of light and guidance for mankind.

On Sunday was World Humanitarian Day. It was a time to recognize those who face danger and adversity in order to help others. The day was designated by the General Assembly to coincide with the anniversary of the 2003 bombing of the United Nations headquarters in Baghdad, Iraq, which killed 22 UN staff. 

Earlier this week, RSC had some very good news to tell us. I’d already guessed it. Congratulations

A baby is something you carry inside you for nine months,

in your arms for three years and in your heart till the day you die.

~Mary Mason~

It was also CEK’s XX birthday. Happy birthday and we hoped you’d a lovely day. She celebrated the day by taking part in the Tywyn Race the Train 10km race!!! What a celebration.

And in the garden, the sweet corn had produced some cobs. It was supposed to be a tall plant but mine was a bit stunted. It still had some catching up to do. Blame it on the temperamental summer. I couldn’t wait to harvest them. Hmm…grilled sweet corn sounds yummy.

Coventry D3100  15-08-2012 07-15-30

August creates as she slumbers, replete and satisfied.
-  Joseph Wood Krutch~

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