Tuesday, 9 October 2012

Especially When The October Wind

“There is no season when such pleasant and sunny spots may be lighted on, and produce so pleasant an effect on the feelings, as now in October”
~Nathaniel Hawthorne~
October arrived, ushered by blustery winds. Subtle tinges of colour in the leaves were beginning to show. It was crisper, almost fresher outside. The scent of the garden was different too. Damp, earthy, musky. The grass was always wet in the early mornings, either from rain or from dew. The air was chill on my face, and thoughts turn to W----r ;-0.
Warwick University S40  03-10-2012 13-43-20
Indoors, my colleagues and I had been busy with more RDA tutorials. We planned to be well-informed and well-instructed with the new standards when it will be unveiled on March 31st 2013. Each of us produced a record filled with as much RDA attributes as we could fit in and explained why we were using it. I did an official publication record and it didn’t look that spectacular. I must try and find a better record next time. We’d the toolkit on-line and we tried to see the difference using the 2 different standards. It was very interesting and we planned to have a monthly tutorial meet-up to keep abreast with all these changes.
We also had our skills tested this week when we were informed that the subject librarians requested that all the books on the Reading Lists should be treated as “urgents”. In this case, it should be ready when the new term start. The major hiccup was that term starts on the coming Monday and we got the news on a Friday!!! I was furious. Everyone and the cat knew when term starts!!! Why wasn’t this planned???  Even if we cleared all these books, about 4 bays of them, they still wouldn’t be out on the shelf because the Processing team finished work by lunch time. Guess, that wasn’t our problem.

My colleagues and I stopped whatever we were doing, rolled up our sleeves and went straight to tackle the mess. Everytime, we completed half a trolley, I called the Processing Team down to collect the books so that they could process them ASAP. I even worked through my lunch hour trying to do as much as possible. By 4.30pm, we only had about 2 trolleys left and that should be completed by Monday. I was really proud of my team. What a magnificent bunch.
I think I deserved a treat after that hard work. So on Michaelmas Day, we made another trip to Slimbridge WWT. It was a lovely drive on a lovely day. But it didn’t last long because we came across major road-works along the M6. It really slowed us down and the worst thing was that there were still bad drivers about, driving like lunatics overtaking from the fast lane to go on to the slip road. Grrr…

Roadtrip Slimbridge WWT D50  29-09-2012 11-41-41
Eat a goose on Michaelmas Day
Want not for money all the year
Slimbridge WWT D50  29-09-2012 13-36-54
had never eaten a goose before and I don’t think I’ll ever eat one. Especially not when I’m photographing the many adorable geese found at Slimbridge. As usual, the car-park was full that we’d to park at the soggy overflow car-park. We chose a different route this time and checked out the hides first. To get to the first hide, we had to walk past the Caribbean flamingo enclosure. The chicks had grown up into gangly teenagers.

Slimbridge WWT D50  29-09-2012 13-27-03
There wasn’t much activity going on at Rushy Hide. Mallards, Teals, Terns, Lapwings were chilling out under the warm autumn sunshine. But then Babe spotted this adorable Little Grebe fishing very close to the hide. What a beauty.
Slimbridge WWT D7000 X14  29-09-2012 12-57-037
We walked on a makeshift walkway over a very muddy path towards the  Martin Smith Hide and Robbie Garnett Hide. Both hides were empty of both people and birds. On the tack, a herd of cattle were feeding on the field. They might have scared off the birds and waders.

Slimbridge WWT D7000 X14  29-09-2012 13-10-13
We continued to the Holden Towers, The first floor was empty but the top floor was packed. There wasn’t a single space. What was going on? We waited for a while and managed to squeeze in between the twitchers. All of them were looking intently through their binoculars and spotting scopes at something in the Severn Estuary. Honestly, I couldn’t identify anything. I did ask someone but he didn’t bother answering me. What a t—t. Later, I found out that they were on a look-out for a  Red-necked Phalarope on the Dumblers floods.

Slimbridge WWT D7000 X14  29-09-2012 13-17-042
We walked back to the visitor centre and headed to the Zeiss Hide. Again, the first floor was empty and a packed top floor. We managed to find a space and checked out what was going on the mudbanks which was bustling with activities.. We saw hundreds of Widgeons, Mallards, Lapwings, Shovelers, Black-tailed Godwits and someone counted 1932 (!!) Teals feeding on the mudbanks. I waited for the 3.15 pm high tide to see if there were any spectacular displays on show. The time came and went and there was nothing. What a let down.

Slimbridge WWT D7000 X14  29-09-2012 14-08-58
By this time, we were both hungry and thirsty. We decided to head back to the car, have our lunch and then check out the rest of the area. After a quick lunch of cheese and onion pasty and washed down with strong, sweet coffee from the thermos, we headed back into the wetland centre. At the bridge, we spotted a pair of Bewick swans having a good wash. Hopefully. more will come during the winter months.

Slimbridge WWT D7000 X14  29-09-2012 13-31-060
Then another a pit-stop at Wader pool. As usual, the Black-winged Stilts, Redshanks and Avocets were having a siesta. The elegant black and white Avocets with its long, upturned bill and bluish legs woke up and started flying. The liquid melodious call woke up the rest of the sleepyheads. Then it started feeding sweeping the splendid bill sideways. They have long pink legs, a long thin black bill and are blackish above and white below, with a white head and neck with a varying amount of black. Slimbridge WWT D300s  29-09-2012 15-21-038

We checked out the South Hide to see if we can get a glimpse of the wintering Long-billed Dowitcher. The conservation team had trimmed the bushes on the island but I still can’t spot him among the 270 Black-tailed Godwits. And I wasn’t alone. There were a lot people there all trying their best to seek this elusive wader. On the lake, there were also Redshanks, Teals, Shovelers, Greylags and Cormorants.

Slimbridge WWT D50  29-09-2012 15-33-14
I don’t know how we missed the turning for the Otter pool. Nevertheless,  we were tickled pink when we arrived at the Flamingo lagoon. As usual the 250 leggy Greater Flamingos were squabbling among themselves. We took the opportunity to check out this spectacular habitat with its sunken observatory where we could see a very unique view through the legs of these mersmerising birds.  This habitat was typical of an African wetland which was perfect for them to roost and nest and I couldn’t wait to see them again when they started breeding.
Slimbridge WWT D300s  29-09-2012 15-56-08
At the Otter pool, we missed their feeding time, again. But we stayed on and watched the playful family earning their keep, entertaining the crowd and swimming from one end of the pool to the other. We spotted one scrounging among the bushes and came out dragging a huge salmon’s head. I think their keeper must have hidden the food in the bushes to encourage the otters to hunt for their food as they do in the wild.

Slimbridge WWT D50  29-09-2012 16-10-001
Sunday was spent chilling in. The trip to Slimbridge had taken its toll for both of us. After a very nice long lie-in, we did our weekly shopping at Asda and bought a huge bag of peanuts and bird-seeds for our feathered friends from The Range. So far only the House sparrows, Robins, Wood pigeons, Starlings, Collared Doves, Blackbirds, Dunnocks, Blue and Great Tits have been coming regularly. Not forgetting the squirrels. It was also lovely to see the Starlings making regularly use of the bird-bath.

Coventry D300s X14  02-10-2012 13-41-013
I also tried a new recipe. I bought a packet of red bean paste from the Korean shop and made my first ever Steamed buns. I’m chuffed to bits that it tasted exactly like the shop-bought ones Woo-hoo. I need to learn to make the twist at the top of the bun a bit neater. Guess I need to make the buns again. I don’t mind because they were delicious. 
Coventry S40  30-09-2012 18-21-17
1 1/2 tsps active dry yeast
1/2 cup warm water
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 cup bao/ pao flour (you can substitute with all purpose flour but the buns will take on a yellowish tinge)
1/2 cup self-raising flour
3 tsps of melted butter (unsalted)
1/2 cup of red bean paste

1.  In a small bowl, mix the yeast with 2 tbsps warm water, 1 tsp sugar and 1 tsp of bao flour.  Mix well to get rid of the lumps, cover with a damp kitchen towel and set aside in a warm place until frothy, about 15 minutes.  Meanwhile, cut up 12 squares of baking paper (3 inches by 3 inches) for placing the buns on while steaming
2.  In a large bowl, sift the remaining all-purpose flour and self-raising flour.  Add in the rest of the sugar, the yeast mixture, the warm water and melted butter.  Use a wooden spoon to form a soft dough. 
3.  Prepare a floured working surface.  Turn out the soft dough and start kneading with your hands until smooth and elastic, this should take at least 10 minutes.  The dough should not be too sticky.  Dust with extra bao flour as needed. 4.  Prepare an oiled bowl and place the dough into it.  Cover with a damp kitchen towel and allow to proof for at least 1 hour or until doubled.  Note that it will take longer usually to proof in colder and drier climate. 5.  Punch down dough to remove the air.  Prepare a floured working surface.  Knead the dough briefly for 5 minutes.  Roll the dough into a log.  Meanwhile, prepare a wok for steaming, by the time you finish sealing the buns, the water should be boiling rapidly and you can immediately steam the buns.
6.  Divide the dough into 12 portions roughly.  Take one portion of dough, knead with your hands lightly and form into a ball.  Flatten the ball with your hands and press down with your thumb in a circular motion. 7.  Spoon about 1 1/2 tsps of red bean paste into the middle of the flattened dough.  Seal the dough by gathering the edges together and gently twist to seal.  Place the bun, seal-side down onto the prepared baking paper squares. Steam the buns over high heat (covered) for about 15 minutes. 

Especially when the October wind
With frosty fingers punishes my hair,
Caught by the crabbing sun I walk on fire
And cast a shadow crab upon the land,
By the sea's side, hearing the noise of birds,
Hearing the raven cough in winter sticks,
My busy heart who shudders as she talks
Sheds the syllabic blood and drains her words.
~Dylan Thomas~

Roadtrip Slimbridge WWT D50  29-09-2012 11-56-42

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