Bruce Springsteen came to town this week. Signs about delays and congestions were dotted around the main routes into the Ricoh Arena. At first, I thought of taking the afternoon off. I remembered about 7 years ago when we first moved to Coventry and Bon Jovi came to town. It took us 2.5 hours to reach our casa when normally it was only 30 minutes. Never again. Now, everytime there was a concert at the Ricoh, I’ll either take the afternoon off or leave early. But this time, I left at the usual time and headed to the opposite direction, to our favourite playground for a late evening stroll.
But first, I spent the afternoon working and listening to the Boss on You Tube while watching the students dolled up in their finest glad rags walking past my window. I’m brilliant at multi-tasking :-). It was raining and they were shivering while waiting for their coach to take them to their summer ball in Birmingham to dance the night away. I checked out what they were wearing and frankly, I wasn’t impressed. There was no va-va-voom. They were in their early twenties and should dressed to kill but …They should have seen the school leavers prom. Some of the clothes were really over the top but still jaw-dropping.
I made coffee at work while Babe brought some munchies and a cold drink for our rendezvous. There were still a few cars in car-park. The natives were having a final sing-song and dance before they settled for the night. Dozens of Greylags were cruising in the Goose Pool, biding time before flying off to roost elsewhere. At Baldwin Hide, the Oyster-catchers had moved back to the main island. Earlier during the week, Babe had photographed only 2 chicks and they looked like a mini version of their parents. I could see them on the island but it was a bit far for a good photograph. I do hope they make it to adulthood.
It was raining as we walked to East Marsh Hide. We’d our coffee to warm our cockles, ate chocolate bars and enjoyed fresh strawberries. Yum…yum. A Redshank was busy feeding on the mudbanks. We spotted a Sedge Warbler and Whitethroat dancing in and out of the reed-beds still hunting for food. We could hear the young chicks chirping noisily, begging for food. We saw not once but twice, a flash of blue making a quick flypast in front of the hide. It was lovely to see the Kingfisher again.
In between showers, we dashed to Carlton Hide. We were hoping to see the otters but not tonight. A Hobby flew onto the dead tree and went to sleep!!! Sedge warblers were busy hunting for food among the reeds. A Goldfinch entertained us with his melodious evening songs. 2 families of Canada Geese popped out of the reed-beds with their fluffy young goslings and swam past us. They were finding a safe place to roost for the night. We saw at least a dozen fish, Tench perhaps, spawning furiously. It was amazing to see them trying to outdo each other.
We left at about 9.30 pm and arrived at the casa at 10 pm. The party was still going strong at the Ricoh and I bet the hordes were treated to a consummate display of glorious songs and adrenalin-pumping showmanship. We could hear the roar of appreciation from the crowd. I switched on the local radio station and Dancing in the Dark was on. Co-incidence or what?? I bopped while warming the ostrich burgers that I bought at the market day in the University. SLA and I checked them out during our lunch break and I bought the ostrich burgers and freshly-picked strawberries. Not many stalls were set up and there were too many burger stalls. My verdict on the burgers? Both of us weren’t keen on the taste. Would I buy the kangaroo burgers? I don’t think so. I don’t really fancy eating Skippy :-).
My week started with uploading the e-books into the library system, making sure they met my very high standards and then linking them to the appropriate publisher’s website. I was into my 10th record when I noticed a few discrepancies. Something was not right. There seemed to be 2 different links to the same bibliographic record. I made an enquiry and found that the library had purchased a new platform called EBL Patron Acquisition without warning me first. Typical … The person, moi, whose job was to make these books available on the catalogue was the last to know. After a few tinkerings here and there, I was finally able to proceed. It had been a looong day.
Thankfully, I was able to de-stress by really bashing the rounders bat. Hit Squad had another match and we were playing against Stuck at First Base. What a fancy name. We’d another new team member and he played well to earn a place in a team. So well, that he used his tummy to stop a ball. Ouch … It was a lovely evening for a game of rounders but we lost again, ????. The opposite team had an advantage against us. One of their members played for the England team. But we learnt a lot from watching her play. And we need more practise on our throw and catch.
I only knew about the Protect the Public University (PPU) protest when I read about it on the BBC website. A room of the Senate House building had been occupied by a group students to protest against the “privatisation and marketisation “ of higher education. It had been going on since last Friday and it was kept very hush-hush. They’d outlined 8 “objectives” including that the VC gave up his £42K pay rise and used it to fund a bursary for local students. The authorities were hoping to contain the protest but it was simply impossible in a savvy social media world and soon the major newspapers picked the news. I kept up to date with the news ping-ponging from the protest group and the university authorities. At first, it was treated as a splash in the pan but as more and more major newspapers highlighted the protest, it became a bit nasty. The last straw was when the PG Hub which was attached to Senate House was closed, depriving students from using the facilities.
The protest continued on during the Undergraduate Open Days. The University opened its doors to more than 8k people on Friday and Saturday. As cross-campus events, the Open days involved all academic and service departments showcasing their work at pre-booked events with many facilities available for drop-in sessions during these days. The University buzzed with prospective students and families as they checked out what the university had to offer.
At the Piazza, the Big Screen had been installed onto the side of the Rootes Building. A wide and varied stream of content for the campus community and visitors were shown as well as entertainment by the Brass band. Outside the Arts Centre, the Warwick Glee group were wooing the passerby’s with their impressive Accapela songs. And opposite them, was the tent city. The PPU group had set up camp to highlight their causes with teach-ins and rallies. They also handed out information to parents and prospective students and explained the objectives of their protest. I wasn’t pleased with the presence of burly security guards patrolling the grounds. It was another way of intimidating anyone who got close to the group.
It was also the Summer solstice, a signal to celebrate summer. It marked the longest day of the year. Then early dawns. Long days. Late sunsets. Short nights. The sun at its height each day, as it crossed the sky. This year’s solstice stood out because it was followed shortly by the largest “supermoon” of the year. In the early hours of Sunday, June 23rd, the moon officially reached its full phase and was closest to Earth all year. And guess what, I missed it. I kicked myself !!!
As the wheel turned, here’s a Wiccan blessing for this midsummer day
As the sun spirals its longest dance,
As nature shows bounty and fertility
Let all the things live with loving intent
And to fulfil their truest destiny
To celebrate the new season, we went for our 2nd. trip to bird city at Bempton Cliffs. Although morning showers were forecasted with heavier afternoon downpours and a band of Atlantic rain hitting in the evening, we were hoping to arrive in time for the “occasional” brighter spells. It was 16C in the car when we left Coventry and drove through dry, sunny spells with a few scattered showers. Looked promising when we drove through countryside that had turned to gold with fields of rapeseed especially against a backdrop of clear blue skies.
After 3 hours, we finally arrived at one of our favourite playgrounds. And as usual we weren’t alone. The car-park was nearly full and we’d to park in a puddle at first. We’d just missed a thunderstorm by the looked of it. After freshening up and using the facilities, Babe spotted an empty space very close to the visitor centre and quickly moved the car. We met 2 BMNR regulars who’d been here earlier and was soaked. We’d a little natter and KOB told me where the Puffins were. Woop…woop. I couldn’t wait but of course, we’d to photograph these curious Tree sparrows who were checking us out from the roof top.
The air was still full of song as we walked down towards Bartlett Nab. As we got closer to the cliffs, a cacophony of noise greeted us along with the overpowering aroma from thousands of fish-eating birds guano. Gannets were still criss-crossing the sky, either two-ing and fro-ing from hunting missions at sea or gathering grasses for nest-buildings. After a slow start, the breeding season was finally in full swing. Most species were at least two or three weeks late breeding.
We’d to braved very strong winds as we walked towards Jubilee Corner and it was worth every penny. I’d to squeeze myself onto the platform as some of the visitors were reluctant to budge. And I know why? It was Puffins paradise. Once you know where to look, these Common Puffins were appearing from every rock crevices that was not occupied. My oh my …I’d a permanent smile on my face and rattled hundreds of photographs. It was amazing to watch them interact with each other as one flies in another flies out.
“Every puffin we see tonight is a miracle”
Unlike other sites that nest in burrows, these Atlantic Puffins (Fratercula arctica) nest in rock crevices,. For this reason, it was relatively difficult to get a close view of them. The curious appearance of these adorable birds, with its brightly coloured bill during the breeding season and its striking piebald plumage, had given rise to nicknames such as '"clown of the ocean" and "sea rooster". Together with their comical, waddling walk, it was very difficult not to feel cheered by the sight of puffins. It was the only puffin species found in the Atlantic Ocean.
There Once Was a Puffin
Oh, there once was 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~
Apart from the Puffins, we scanned the towering white chalk cliffs to see if any extra-ordinary activities were taking place. True gulls of the open sea, Kittiwakes were cutting through the sea breeze with their shrill ‘kitti-waaark kitti-waaark’ calls. They were still sitting on nests. They seemed to be having a particularly late breeding year, and had only recently begun to lay eggs. We wondered whether the clutch sizes might be smaller than average this year as they limit the effort they put into breeding.
We also spotted a pair of Gannets courting. It was an amazing ritual to watch as they raised their beaks upwards and their bodies forming a perfect point. This was known as ‘sky pointing’. After this introduction, they delicately preened each other, affectionate bonding with displays of bill-fencing and, wallah, started mating. After they’d calmed down, a set of neighbours began to argue. Jealous, I bet. And what an argument. They locked bills, wings flapping, trying to twist and topple their opponents. Thankfully, the spat was short-lived.
As we made our way back, we spotted another pair of Puffin chilling on a ledge, surrounded by nesting Kittiwakes and ranks of Guillemots. While photographing the pair, Babe spotted that the Guillemot was shielding a very fluffy chick. The chick was squashed between the cliff face and its parents on a very precipitous cliffs. What a risky start to life. This chick looked like it was ready to leave the nest. They jumped into the sea only half-grown and once landed, find their male parent and swim together for a month before the chick goes its own way.
We also noticed that there were no Razorbills nesting. Have they already hatched? Although we noticed a few flocks bobbing up and down in the sea below us. We were also pleased to see a pair of Fulmar nesting. Looking like gulls, they’d grey wings with pale patches in the primaries. The whiteness of their bodies and relative thickness of their head gave them the nickname of “flying milk bottles”. I wished another bird would get closer so that I could see them defending the nest. They launched an evil-smelling stream of stomach oils from their throats when attacked. To photograph this would be amazing but not today.
The Grandstand was packed. I don’t blame them. Bempton Cliffs was a dream destination for bird watchers and especially photographers as it provided endless opportunities to capture the constant action on and around the cliffs. From here, we could see stunning views of towering white chalk cliffs that vistas right down the coastline with dramatic waves crashing against the bottom of the cliffs. Together with the amazing sight of thousands of birds flying everywhere against the backdrop of precipitous cliffs and the open North Sea. From here, you can see Flamborough Head to the south-east and Scarborough Bay to the north.
We headed back to the car for lunch and spotted these Tree Sparrows having a bath in one of the puddles. We ate our sandwiches, washed down with lovely hot coffee while watching these adorable birds having a splash.
“In simple suit of russet brown
I thus am daily dressed,
While other birds on me look down;
Yet I’ve a peaceful breast.
No envy for the loud and gay
Shall e’er my bosom harrow;
More lowly, I’m more blest than they,
A fearless, trustful sparrow!’
~Hannah Flagg Gould~
Then we continued our adventure. At the New Roll-up, the heavens opened. We were well-prepared and stood close to each other to shield from the rain and strong winds. Thankfully, it was only a cloud burst and the sun came out again. Here was Gannet territory and hundreds were gliding and soaring. Some flew so close to where we were standing that we were literally eye-ball to eyeball and felt the rush of wind as their six-foot wide spread of the wingspan fluttered past us. What a gorgeous pale apricot colour head with blue eyes thickly ringed in black like a burlesque dancer.
“Thou art clothed on with plumes, as with leaves,
Frond-like, and lighter than air;
Thy pinions are arrows in sheaves.
That carry thee none knoweth where
~Edith Matilda Thomas (1854-1925) ‘The Life of a Bird’~
As we got closer to Staple Newk view point, the incessant sound of the ‘cackling ‘ call of the Gannets greeted us. We peered down onto the arch and saw nests decorated with fishing nets were everywhere. Sitting in them were Gannets, just a pecking distance apart from each other. We slowly scanned the birds and finally we spotted a fluffy chick sitting beside its parent. We were hoping to see more but it wasn’t to be. Still pleased to see one.
“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 gray with fog
And the fish are nowhere to be seen”
~Mary Oliver (1935- )~
Then it was time to head home. Dark clouds were dancing towards the mainland and we don’t want to get caught in the Atlantic rain that was predicted to hit the area. We still had a long drive home. It had been a long day for us and a lovely end to the week.
"Spring being a tough act to follow,
God created June."
- Al Bernstein ~