Thursday, 28 March 2013

Ode to Spring

We started the week with Cake Day. It was for Red Nose Day, a fundraising event organised by Comic Relief. Check out these amazing cakes, all baked by the very talented chefs and bakers from the Library. We organised it a few days late so that the staff could spent their weekend trying out new recipes. My colleagues and I kept on going to the staff-room and coming out with a piece of yummy goodness. The things we do for charity huh :-). We raised £200. Woop…woop.  In this time of austerity, a record £75 million was raised. Now in its 25th year, Red Nose Day was the home of amazing events, epic fundraising, funny sketches and touching stories.Shots from Warwick University

This week Data Services were very busy running overview sessions for the library staff to introduce them to the changes in the catalogue record. Record Description and Access (RDA) will be fully implemented in April and we wanted them to be aware of the changes especially for staff working in a customer-facing role. We ran 2 sessions and was pleased that it was fully-booked. It was well-received and we were able to answer all the queries that was forwarded to us. It was still very new to us too and we were still learning.

World Sparrow Day on 20th March was everyone’s chance to rise to the challenge of saving them. Known colloquially as the Cockney sparrow, the house sparrow was once the UK most common bird, but it had seen a dramatic drop in numbers with more than two thirds of the species vanishing. This annual observance reminded us of the impact our changing world has on even the most common species as well as how much we miss the birds we take for granted when they are gone. Have you ever really stopped and really watched a group of House Sparrows?Coventry D7000 X14  09-03-2013 15-10-005

We’d a family sharing our garden.  The last time I counted there were 7 of this adorable little brown, grey and black birds. The silence of the early mornings  were broken  by their chirpings, peepings and twitterings as the hedges bristles with the fluttering of tiny wings. Now and then, a head popped out as if to check what the weather was going to be.

I once had a sparrow alight upon my shoulder for a moment, while I was hoeing in a village garden, and I felt that I was more distinguished by that circumstance that I should have been any epaulet I could have sworn.

~Henry David Thoreau~

I signed up for a three-part Introduction to Digital Preservation: Managing Content Over Time series of webinars. It was free and organised by the Library of Michigan. Unfortunately, due to the time differences, I wasn’t able to attend the live presentations and only sat through the archived recordings. Digital Preservation is the buzz word at the moment . It was understood as a series of managed activities to ensure continued access to digital materials for as long as necessary, involving the planning, resource allocation, and application of preservation methods and technologies to ensure that digital information of continuing value remained accessible and usable. The main aim was the accurate rendering of authenticated content over time. At the moment, the term had been talked about a lot but no one seemed to know what it meant. I knew about this webinar from a tweet and decided to check it out and do it on my own time. I’m still reading through the piles of paperwork. Why oh why did I torture myself??? I must be mad :-).  

The library system went AWOL on one of the days. Someone must have pulled a plug because it only involved my office and the Acquisition team. The best thing was that the engineer will only be in his office at 9.30am !!! I took the opportunity to spring clean my working space. My poor table was groaning with piles of books at various stages of processing, some with queries from colleagues and subject librarians. Chaotic to others but it was organised chaos. After clearing the bits of papers, I joined the others with the Easter decorations. Yellow, fluffy chicks were popping everywhere and I meant everywhere. The system was up as soon as we finished with the decorations. Perfect timing.

A lot of people took water for granted. We turned our taps and hey presto, we get water for drinking, washing, cleaning and watering our gardens. We moaned furiously at hosepipe bans, pipe bursts, flooding and inadequate drainage. These were issues that require attention due to poor infrastructure but we still have clean water flowing from a pipe.  It was very hard to imagine that some parts of the world still do not have access to water. We can put men on the moon but we can not even provide this basic need. Access to safe clean water transforms people’s live. So on World Water Day, I hoped and prayed that it would increase people’s awareness and helped solved the water crisis. Please sign this pledge.

CC and I decided to blow the freezing cobwebs with a trip to the Noodle Bar. CC had been there earlier and said that the food had gone downhill and wanted me to check it out as I always ordered the same thing. As if I needed my arms twisted. We went there after office and was surprised to see the restaurant wasn’t full. Not a good sign but perhaps, the students had gone home for the Easter break. I ordered my usual fried udon with seafood special and Chinese vegetables all washed down with cups of Chinese cha. It tasted ok to me.

We didn’t linger after the meal because we wanted to check out a Pecha Kucha event. Pecha Kucha 20x20 was a presentation methodology in which 20 slides were shown for 20 seconds each (six minutes and 40 seconds in total). The images advanced automatically and you talk along to the images. It drew its name from the Japanese term for the sound of "chit chat. It was a format that makes presentations concise, and keeps things moving at a rapid pace. Initially, the presenters were design professionals showing their creative work, but recently, topics were about travels, jobs, research projects, student projects, hobbies, collections, or other interests.

We attended the 12th session and it was a themed night on 10 things they would do to make Coventry a better place. CC drove to the venue at Taylor John's House which was sited in the old coal vaults in the Canal Basin. It was a beautiful place with narrow-boats mooring for the night. We went in and paid £5.50 each at the door. Clutching a drink each, we made our way into the dark, cold room. Around 50 people were lingering about. It started quite late. Only 5 presentations and we thoroughly enjoyed the first three. We left during the intervals because both of us were very tired. It had been a long day for us. We might check the event again, depending on the topic.  Many thanks to the organisers and speakers for a really excellent evening and a great atmosphere.

Although it was still flipping gold, I made my way to the reed-beds to see if there was any activity going on. I was kicking myself when I saw frog-spawn at the bottom of the lake. I’d missed the mating sessions again. I’d not been out and about for few days because of the bitter chill and there was none then. I guess they managed to find a window of opportunity during the rare hours when there were a few bright, genial days that were like a fore-taste of summer. I just hoped they survived this cold weather. Shots from Warwick University

We ended the week with a trip to our favourite playground. One of Babe’s Flickr friends mentioned that hundreds of Redwings and Fieldfares were seen feeding on the fields. But first, we made a pit stop at a field to check out these adorable guys. I guess a lot of people had stopped here because they came running and waited longingly to be fed. Unfortunately, we came empty-handed. We were given the evil eye before they turned and trotted off. Sorry guys. Brandon Lane  - Warwickshire - Snow

We parked the car in the frozen car-park. A cacophony of Redwings and Fieldfares were passing overhead and flying around the reserve. We walked straight to Baldwin Hide and spotted the pair of Great Crested Grebes straight away. Check out their striking head and neck feathers that formed a ruff in the breeding season. The male was underwater for quite a while and came out with this huge fish. My oh my…it was incredible to see the way he swallowed the fish. Brandon Marsh - Light snow

“Upon this promise did he raise his chin

Like a dive-dapper, peering through a wave

Who being looked on, ducks as quick in”

~Shakespeare, ‘Venus and Adonis’~

We didn’t stay long because the flaps was like a wind tunnel with the bitterly cold easterlies sweeping in. We followed a flock of Fieldfares and Redwings through the mouse maze. Apart from berries, they were also ground feeders and were busy pulling out the worms. The Redwings were much more visible with their whitish stripe over eye, red brown flanks  and streaked breast. In flight, we spotted the red-brown under wing coverts. It was lovely to see them before they fly back to Northern Europe.  Brandon Marsh - Light snow

March was definitely going out like a Lion. Bitter, cold winds cut through me like a knife. What happened to Spring? It was officially springtime but I’m not sure that Mother Nature realised this. Spring had been hovering in the wings for weeks, with tantalising snippets of bright sunshine, cherry blossoms and catkins on trees and primroses and crocus peeping on the ground. The red-breasted Robins were singing their hearts out high in the trees and frogspawns hidden among the reed-beds. Yet, we continued shivering in the bitter cold, as winter hadn’t yet relinquished her crown.  What a very looog, loong winter this had been and there seemed to be no let up.  But, I’m adamant to let the howling, Siberian winds, non-stop snow showers and sleet dampened my enthusiasm because I know Spring might just be around the next blizzard. Finger and toes double-crossed.Brandon Marsh - Light snow

It snowed today
Like yesterday
And once more
Snow tomorrow
A harsh winter
That's what they say
Colder than it's ever been
Snow like we've never seen
Spring... it will be late
But I will wait, for like fate
Spring always follows
Spring always comes
Spring has never failed me

Sonya Florentino , “Ode to Spring”

Sunday, 17 March 2013

Another Year Older

God gave us the gift of life;

It is up to us to give ourselves the gift of living well

~Voltaire~Shots from Warwick University

I was off on Friday cos I’m adding another year to my age. I never take birthdays for granted and I intend to celebrate them in style. Babe showered me with a card, knitted toys, a pot of blazing Bromeliad, a very sexy lingerie set from M&S (ooh-la-la) and a rain-cheque dinner at a restaurant of my choice. Thanks darling. Mwah. I’d a few outings planned but the weather wasn’t on my side.Shots from Warwick University

More cold, wintry weather with snow, hail and frost was on the card as unseasonable cold snap continued on.  Britain faced another week of Siberian weather. Earlier during the week, blizzard conditions were reported on the M40 with numerous rush-hour accidents. Strong winds added to drivers’ problems and traffic gridlocks hit parts of Coventry and Warwickshire. We continued to shiver in the bitter cold, as winter hadn’t relinquished its control. But hey, nothing’s going to dampen my day!!!

We wrapped up warm like the Michelin man and headed for Bradgate Park in the pouring rain. Since it was a working day, the main car-park was virtually empty. It was very strange to be walking in the park when it was always buzzing during the weekends. I guess the cold and the wet was also the main factor. I was excited to see drifts of snowdrops at the entrance. We didn’t walk along River Lin because it was water-logged. We kept on walking and walking and walking in the rain. Where had the natives gone???Bradgate Park - Persistent rain

We were at the rocky outcrops when we spotted a herd of Fallow deer feeding on the fields. As we crept closer, we spotted a pair of Red Deer watching us, well-camouflaged among the bracken. We quickly changed our direction and walked towards a tree enclosure, just in case they decided to check us out. Just look at those antlers. After rattling hundreds of shots, we left them in peace. We looked around to find the herd that we spotted earlier were sheltering from the rain under a huge oak tree. I guess they don’t like getting wet.Bradgate Park - Persistent rain

We decided to head back to the car when we saw a thick band of rainclouds heading slowly towards us.  The cries of the Green Woodpecker were echoing around us and we tried to track them down. But we changed our minds when we spotted a herd of Red Deer walking down-hill. We crept closer and had a wonderful time observing their behaviour. A few were grazing, a few were practicing clashing their antlers and then one suddenly stood on his hind legs and started feeding on the leaves. It was hilarious to see such a huge beast trying to balance on 2 feet. The tender leaves were worth it.Bradgate Park - Persistent rain

We continued walking and tried to find the wood-pecker again. Babe spotted it on a tree before it flew off with its cries trailing behind him. We spotted a flock of birds feeding on the alder trees and saw Siskins, Goldfinches and Tits among them. As we were trying to get some photographs, this cute Tree-creeper flew in and started scrambling up the tree. All you could hear were our cameras rattling away. The rain began to fall accompanied by howling wind. It was time to leave.Bradgate Park - Persistent rain

Saturday was a bit calmer. The sun was doing her best to take the chill of the air but the wind was thumbing his nose at her. That didn’t stop us checking out a new playground. We were off to the Tropical Birdland Centre in Desford about 40 minutes from our casa. It was very cloudy on the drive up and we spotted a Buzzard on the ground, feeding on the worms at the roundabout for Hinckley. That made the journey a bit more bearable. When we arrived at the centre, all we could hear were the loud sqwakings. And it got better as we walked in when the first thing we saw was a colourful free flying Macaw.Tropical Birdland - variable light

Even before we paid our £6.50  each entrance fee, we were greeted by this pair of Snowy Owl. All I could think was Harry Potter and I bet thousands of children (and adults) were on the same wavelength. Unfortunately, they were in cages and we also spotted a few dead baby chicks lying on the floor. A bit gruesome but that were their food-source. After paying the fee, we also bought a very expensive bag of peanuts. We must remember the next visit, we will bring our own peanuts. And then the adventure began.Tropical Birdland - variable light

It was very surreal to be in the middle of the UK in the freezing weather and be surrounded by colourful tropical birds. Some were in cages and some were free flying all over the place, harassing the visitors for food. According to the keepers, 80% of the birds were pet parrots where the owners were not able to look after them and some were even problematic parrots (?). But at least they found a proper home. And a few were very polite too. Like saying hello when you get close to the cage. Aah… you just have to give them a peanut or two.Tropical Birdland - variable light

We saw this pair of Kookabura in a huge cage looking very majestic. Unfortunately they don’t eat nuts. There were coloured coded buttons at the cage which informed visitors what the birds eat. I couldn’t help singing to these gorgeous birds this nursery rhyme. I wonder whether they had heard it before.Tropical Birdland - variable light

Kookaburra sits in the old gum tree
Merry, merry king of the bush is he
Laugh, Kookaburra! Laugh, Kookaburra!
What a life you lead

Kookaburra sits in the old gum tree
Merry, merry, merry little bird is he
Sing, Kookaburra! Sing, Kookabura!
Sing your song for me

We walked past the the Chick room where we able to view through large windows the hatching and hand rearing rooms. There were a few empty incubators in the room. Depending on the seasons, you can watch chicks hatching from the egg, then hand fed and nurtured until weaning. Unfortunately, it was still winter.Tropical Birdland - variable light

Babe was walking quite close to this cage when suddenly one by one started flying and begging to be fed. It was hilarious. You were literally playing catching-up trying to feed them through the cages. I think they were African grey parrots. Their sociability and intelligence made them excellent pets.Tropical Birdland - variable light

There was also a walk-in aviary where you can get very close and personal with some really beautiful birds which unfortunately some which we can’t identify. The usual colourful Mandarin ducks and Red-breasted geese were waddling about in the pond. Gorgeous, tiny macaws were flying from one end of the cage to another. An unidentified Plover was checking us out while we were busy photographing this very handsome Lady Amherst Pheasant. Not too many were around these days as they tend to hybridise with Golden Pheasants.   Tropical Birdland - variable light

From here we walked towards the emu enclosure where this curious pair kept on poking their heads towards us. A native to Australia, these soft-feathered, brown flightless birds were huge with eyes protected by nictitating membranes. They were inquisitive animals, and were known to approach humans if they see movement of a limb or a piece of clothing. And we nearly jumped when they emitted an echoing thumping sound by manipulating an inflatable neck sac. Tropical Birdland - variable light

At the end of the park was a 6 acre woodland where you can go for nature walks. It would be a lovely walk through the woods because I could see drifts of snowdrops and wild garlic. Robins, chaffinches, Blue and Great Tits were also having a free run in the park. We didn’t check the woodlands because we wanted to see the rest of the birds. We might wander off when we come again. The bird-park was also provided a breeding programme for endangered species. We were very fortunate to see these rare Kia from New Zealand.Tropical Birdland - variable light

At the end of the park and the piece de resistance, was the compound or ‘play area’ where you can play with the birds. An adorable white parrot, named Stanley, came gambolling towards me. I gave him a peanut when he put his beak around my finger and wouldn’t let go. Err…ouch. Babe gently prised him off me. When we asked the keeper what was going on. She told us that he loved to be swung by his beak and he thought that I knew that he wanted to play.Tropical Birdland - variable light

I started feeding this gorgeous parrot when he started climbing all over me. And then he started grooming me. It was incredible to trust them. While I was busy playing with this cutie, I wasn’t aware of what was happening above my head. Thank goodness, I’m wearing a hat. I wouldn’t mind these smaller birds but not the bigger ones.Tropical Birdland - variable light

I’d a good laugh when Stanley started climbing up Babe’s walking stick and then climbing up to him. He wasn’t begging for food. He just wanted to play and said hello. It was so adorable. They really melt our hearts.Tropical Birdland - variable light

The huge Macaws freaked me out a bit. They were a noisy bunch. Check out those beaks, talons and eyes. They looked intimidating especially when you see them opening a walnut as easily as we would a bottle of water. Quite menacing but utterly gentle when taking treats. I have my gloves on when I’m feeding them. Still a bit wary of them.Tropical Birdland - variable light

Opening in 1984, there were 250 birds comprising of over 50 different species living in Tropical Birdland. These birds  make wonderful pets but they require a special commitment by their owners to provide frequent one-on-one interaction and supervised time out of their cages. They must be kept entertained and busy with people and toys or they may become stressed and develop self-destructive behaviours. From what I saw, they really enjoyed to be fussed over. We will definitely come again.Tropical Birdland - variable light

On Sunday, we checked out the Edible Garden Show at the Stoneleigh as I’d won a pair of tickets to the event. Rain, hail, snow and frost accompanied us through the Warwickshire countryside. The atrocious weather failed to dampen the visitors as we joined the thousands all huddled in the two indoor exhibition halls. It was packed with visitors and 170 exhibitors showcasing innovative equipments and produce all linked to the “Good Life” theme. The first thing we did was followed our noses and checked out the eating area which was so crowded that we gave it a miss. I was really keen on tasting the ice cream made from water buffalo milk.Edible Show - Stoneleigh Park

Then we wandered around the small-holders’ marquee. A huge enclosure with different breed of pigs greeted us. Among them was a sow and her very chill-out piglets. Junior members of the British Pig Association took part in Pig Olympics, a popular live event at the livestock demonstration ring. This adorable Kune pig was squealing with delight towards me after he’d completed his event. I guess he knew we were Muslims and wouldn’t have him for our dinner :-).Edible Show - Stoneleigh Park

There was an enclosure of 10 very cute kid goats included a set of quads that were recently born. I’m gutted that we missed their bottle feeding sessions. That should have been hilarious and fun. I enjoyed getting close and personal to these handsome guys. He was very friendly and enjoyed having his ear rubbed.Edible Show - Stoneleigh Park

We also got the chance to meet the various breeds of poultry on display. It proved very popular because it was standing room only when the premier backyard poultry vet, Victoria Roberts, gave tips on care and handling to those who were interested in furthering their knowledge of keeping poultry. Visitors could also purchase the chicks, feed and housing materials if they want a slice of the “Good Life”.Edible Show - Stoneleigh Park

Finally we wandered around the huge exhibition halls. A few caught my attention like the lady selling grow your-own-snails kit for eating and for snail racing and a young guy with miniature chickens as pets. I was also interested in the raised beds. There were also lots of freebies. I was given a huge tray of rockets and a mini bottle of Encover laundry detergent. We couldn’t get close to the Cookery Theatre or the Potting Shed because they were so packed. There were plenty of stalls bursting with innovative products. I’m glad we were here because next year the show will be putting down new roots at London’s Alexandra Palace.   Edible Show - Stoneleigh Park

Sunday was St. Patrick’s Day. A pity that the Irish appeared to have forgotten how to play rugby as they got stuffed by the Italians.  Italy defeated Ireland 22-15 on Saturday to record their first win over the Irish in the Six Nations championship on the final day of the 2013 tournament. Since everyone's a little bit Irish on St Patrick's Day, and Babe’s half-Irish, I tried a few Irish recipes. Sans the Guinness, we’d potato cakes with Irish stew and instead of Irish apple tart, a slice of pineapple upside down cake for dinner and a toast to all things green. Unfortunately, it was still snowing buckets.

For each petal on the shamrock.
This brings a wish your way
Good health, good luck, and happiness
For today and every day.

I’d a wonderful weekend celebrating another year older. Thank you darling for sharing it with me and making it come true. And to top off the week was when I saw our 30th visitor to the garden, a Gold-crest. Woop…woop. Isn’t that incredible and I’m truly blessed.Shots from our Home and Garden

The more you praise and celebrate your life, the more there is in life to celebrate.”

~Oprah Winfrey~

Shots from our Home and Garden

Sunday, 10 March 2013

March Winds Doth Blow

Springtime is the land awakening … March winds are it’s morning yawn…

~Lew Grizzard~

March was a month of celebrations. St. David’s Day fell on the first day of the month. It was the day to celebrate Wales and all things Welsh. I wore my daffodil pin with pride and sent e-mails to my friends in Wales in WELSH !!! What I can remember that is :-0. It was the custom to wear either a leek or a daffodil which were Wales national emblems and for young girls to wear the national costumes. As for wearing leeks, I just found out that it was to celebrate winning a battle against the Saxons.

Brandon Marsh D7000 X14  10-03-2013 13-54-029According to legends, St. David ordered his soldiers to identify themselves by wearing leeks on their helmets in an ancient battle against the Saxons that took place in a leek field. In Henry V, Shakespeare referred to wearing one as an "ancient tradition", and in the same play Henry tells Fluellen he was wearing a leek, "for I am Welsh, you know, good countryman". We’d cawl cennin for dinner which was just delicious.  This simply meant leek soup or broth in Welsh with loads of leeks and off course with a piece of sweet Welsh lamb.

It was election time at the university. Posters were tied, stapled, taped and flapping everywhere. What a mess. Just look at the bridge across library road. Even bed-sheets were used.  The candidates were seeking students' votes to decide who'll be running Warwick SU during the 2013-14 academic year. The Students' Union Officers do make a significant impact on the student experience. The more students voted, the stronger the Students' Union's voice will be in representing students. Warwick University D3100  27-02-2013 13-16-12

I was on my usual lunch break walk by the lake when I was assaulted by a series of high-pitch tseee calls that ended in a flourish. It was one of the rare day when the sun was out but it was quite dark under the trees. I stood still, looked up and saw something darting in and out of the tree. It was so tiny, like a wren but behaving like a tree creeper, dancing up and down the tree. sometimes hanging upside down. I managed to get a few shots and this was the best I managed.Warwick University D3100  05-03-2013 13-45-48

I showed it to Babe and after downloading the photographs, he identified it as a Gold-crest from its bright yellow crown. Woop..woop…my first sighting in the university grounds. Babe took this lovely photograph when he was in Brandon Marsh. 

Brandon Marsh D800 DX X14  17-01-2013 14-44-039

When my hand closed upon thee, worn and spent
With idly dashing on the window-pane,
Or clinging to the cornice -- I, that meant
At once to free thee, could not but detain;
I dropt my pen, I left th' unfinished lay,
To give thee back to freedom; but I took --
Oh, charm of sweet occasion! -- one brief look
At thy bright eyes and innocent dismay;
My lesson learnt -- thy beauty got by heart:
And if, at times, my sonnet-muse would rest
Short of her topmost skill, her little best,
The memory of thy delicate gold crest
Shall plead for one last touch, -- the crown of Art.

~Charles Tennyson Turner ~

On World Book Day, my book-club discussed and dissected Swimming Home by Deborah Levy, which was shortlisted for the 2012 Man Booker Prize. The short novel was about the experiences of poet Joe Jacobs (Polish emigre Josef Nowogrodzki), when his family vacation in the south of France  was interrupted by a fanatic reader, Kitty Finch. His wife Isabel was a foreign correspondent who “recorded and witnessed catastrophes to try and make people remember” while Joe “tried to make himself forget”. She and Joe were troubled in their marriage and Kitty was “a window waiting to be climbed through” for both of them.

Swimming Home was Kitty’s poem and she wanted Joe to read it. She had come off Seroxat which Joe had received for his own depression. 14 year old Nina, Joe’s and Isabel’s daughter, was the only one who dared to address Kitty’s mental problems. Towards the end, it looked as if she was poised to kill herself. But it turned out to be Joe. Kitty’s mental issue were just a reflection of its more deep-founded depression. What a twist. I really enjoyed reading the book. Profound and thrilling, Swimming Home revealed how the most devastating secrets were the ones we kept from ourselves.

When I close a book

I open life

I hear

faltering cries

among harbours

~Pablo Nerudo, Ode to the Book~     

Due to time constraints, I wasn’t able to attend any of the activities and programmes for International Women’s Day. What I hoped and prayed was for women to be treated equally. Various events had shown beyond doubt that there were gender inequality issues the world over that desperately need to be dealt with. Most recently, the Pussy Riot’s various trials and tribulations in Russia, the brutal gang rape of a 23 year-old medical student on a bus in New Delhi, or the spectacular polemic launched by Australian Prime Minister, Julian Gillard, against Tony Abbott MP for apparent sexism. It was clear that gender discrimination issues were pervasive in even the Western society.

 The story of women's struggle for equality belongs to no single feminist nor to any one organization but to the collective efforts of all who care about human rights"

~Gloria Steinem~

Mother’s Day came early and fell on the second Sunday in March. It was confusing for me because in Malaysia it was the second Sunday in May. I always bought 2 cards. One was for my mother-in-law and the other for my mother. Trying to get a Mother’s Day card here in the UK in May was virtually impossible. Hugs and kisses to both mothers, and a very Happy Mother’s Day to all mothers who were celebrating. I hoped it was the best one ever.

After calling my parents, we wrapped up warm and headed for our favourite playground. We were thrilled to see this Kestrel welcoming us as we drove into the car-park. Babe managed to park safely and rattled off a few shots. Then we trudged along the muddy path. We checked out all the hides and it was virtually empty except for a few hardy Gulls, Shovelers, Cormorants and Lapwings. Where had the natives gone??? It was also pointless for us to stay with the wind and rain hammering through the flaps.Brandon Marsh D800 X4 DX  01-03-2013 14-26-28

We turned back and walked to Wright Hide because one of the twitchers had told us that he’d spotted the Green Wing teal there. It was also snowing slightly and the wind was so strong that the snow was coming down horizontally. We couldn’t wait to get into the hide. We opened the flap very slowly and there it was, our elusive teal. It was quite hard to spot because it always had its head down, dabbling in the mud. Babe also spotted a Yellow-legged Gull and 3 Common Snipes flew in later. We’d to leave ASAP because it was freezing.

Brandon Marsh D7000 X14  10-03-2013 15-31-51 (Green wing teal is on the right)

On Sunday, we made another trip to Slimbridge WWT keeping our finger-crossed that the weather will hold-on. As usual, more road-works on the M6 but we still arrived in one piece and on time. We were surprised to see the car-park quite full because it was freezing and drifts of snow were scattered here and there. Flocks of Redpolls and Goldfinches greeted us at the car-park but this handsome Song Thrush caught my attention.Slimbridge WWT D50  03-03-2013 12-06-26

There must be an exhibition going on because the downstairs foyer was buzzing. We quickly made our way out and walked straight to Zeiss Hide because the Bittern had been very obliging the past few days. We saw a notice that the adorable Nenes weren’t out and about because most of them were nesting. Woo… couldn’t wait to see the fluffy chicks again. Outside Zeiss Hide, we saw large drifts of snowdrops and the heavenly smell of wild garlic. What a potent combination. Jackdaws were making a racket on the tree-tops. We made ourselves comfortable and waited and waited and waited. It seemed we’d missed the Bittern by an hour. Sheesh…Slimbridge WWT D300s X14  03-03-2013 12-34-48

A pair of Oystercatchers flew in and started feeding on the fields below us. A Peregrine scattered the birds on the river-banks and a Sparrowhawk did a flypast in front of the hide. The pool was filled with Teals and Wigeons. A Water rail darting in and out of the reed-bed kept the birdwatchers and photographers occupied. But we were more entertained by this cute wren who came out to see what the fuss was all about.Slimbridge WWT D300s X14  03-03-2013 12-51-29

We couldn’t wait for the Bittern because we wanted to check the other hides before the weather turned for the worse. We walked past ponds full of Smews, Eiders, Golden-eyes, Pochards, Tufted Ducks, Shelducks and Goosanders. Most of them were  displaying to each other. They will be mating soon. More fluffy chicks to come. When we came to the Caribbean Flamingos enclosure, they were empty. That was strange. As we crossed the bridge towards the hides, we noticed a group of people lingering about. I asked what were they looking at and was told a water rat!!! Huh… I managed to spot it and Babe said that it was a water vole. Our first sighting in Slimbridge.Slimbridge WWT D50  03-03-2013 14-31-13

We checked out the empty Martin Smith Hide overlooking the Tack piece. Hundreds of Pintails, Shelducks, Teals, whistling Wigeons, dabbling Galdwall and Bewick’s Swans were chilling out. Frisky and territorial Moorhens and Coots were chasing each other in the lakes.  According to the information board, all the 270 Bewick’s Swans were still in the reserve. They will be flying off to their Siberian breeding grounds soon. Have a safe journey and see you in a couple of months.Slimbridge WWT D300s X14  03-03-2013 14-33-060

I think the hides were empty because most of the action will be at Holden Tower which we were going to give it a miss. As we continued walking, we were serenaded by lovely bird songs. The birds were tweeting a little louder as the day got a little brighter. We proceeded to the newly-built nameless Hide. Oh my gosh…there was a party going on. I was grinning from ear-to ear. A female Reed Bunting was sitting on the wooden post oblivious to the chaos. Numerous feeders were hanging all over the place. Chaffinches, Goldfinches, Long-tail tits, Robins, Great Tits, Blue Tits and Dunnocks were taking turns to feed. In fact they were squabbling. And I just love this adorable Long-tail tit.

Slimbridge WWT D300s X14  03-03-2013 14-55-44

But our highlight was when this normally elusive and secretive Water rail came out and started feeding in the open. Check out the long red bill, impressively barred flanks and coupled with an actively jerking tail. It was comical when suddenly it flutterrd off into the undergrowth with its trailing legs. The lateral compression allowed them to stalk through the reed-beds. The hide began to fill up suddenly.Slimbridge WWT D300s X14  03-03-2013 14-48-035 We left and walked back to the car for something to warm our cockles. We’d sandwiches and washed down with hot coffee from the thermos. Aaah…bliss. After recharging our batteries, we went back again. This time we headed to the South Hide where Lapwings, Greylags and Oystercatchers were in attendance. The Godwits have gone, most probably feeding by the estuary. We made a pit stop at Wader Shore before deciding to head home. As we walked out, this lovebirds caught our attention.  Slimbridge WWT D50  03-03-2013 14-16-37 March flew in with promises to blow away the winter cobwebs.

“The March wind roars

Like a lion in the sky,

And makes us shiver

as he passes by.

When the winds are soft

And the days are warm and clear,

Just like a gentle lamb,

Then spring is here”.


But I think we need to wait a little bit longer. Whatever the weather, I want to wish the 2 most important women in my life, my Emak and sister, a very Happy Birthday. May Allah bless our family always.

Brandon Marsh D3100  02-03-2013 14-24-39