Friday, 31 January 2014

Rain has not Stopped Play

After it seemed like decades of rain, you might think could there possibly be any rain left in the sky above the UK? No, neither could I but down it poured. It poured and it poured and it poured and then it poured some more. Oh, when was it going to stop. There was no immediate end in sight.  The rain still fell, the high winds still blew, storms still lashed the coasts and there was no let up yet to this wild spell of weather we’re having.  So much of the country was flooded and water logged. Fields transformed into lakes, roads and rails impassable and lives wrecked.  This winter, the weather had been mild because the winds came from the West. The air came from the Atlantic and it warmed up as it blew across. It was the same westerly winds that made it stormy and wet. I’m practically living in my quilted waterproof coat and high boots. It was the fashion du jour.

Apart from the rain, road-works were popping everywhere. Whose bright idea to do them at the same time? Long queues greeted us at every turn and it was made worse when the winter graduation ceremony was on simultaneously. Last year, snow greeted the graduates and this year it was the rain. What ever the weather, life goes on. And despite the grey weather and persistent rain, the monthly market was still on. FG and I checked the stalls, when there was a gap in the clouds. Long queues were snaking everywhere that it was difficult to know where it started or ended. I managed to get a masala lode, an Indian street market food, said to be from Malaysia. Honestly, I’d never had it before while I was in Malaysia. It was a wrap filled with potato curry. It was very spicy, filling and delicious. What you need on a very cold, wet day. Music and Culture

Then it was Burns Night. I was invited to a poetry reading session at the PG Hub but couldn’t make it. But I hoped the session went well and everybody had a wonderful time. I planned for a Burn’s Supper of haggis, tatties and neeps but Babe wasn’t too keen and so we’d the usual steak and chips. We don’t drink but we still toast a wee dram to celebrate Scotland’s greatest poet.

“Our sulky, sullen dame

Gathering her brows like gathering storm,

Nursing her wrath to keep it warm”

~Robert Burns~

I’d to call in sick on Wednesday as I was up all night with food poisoning. I was running to the bathroom because of vomiting, diarrhoea and tummy upset. Thankfully Babe didn’t catch it because he’d a meat paste sandwich while I’d a fish finger butty. No more fish fingers for me. We put the rest of the frozen fingers in the garden for the foxes to enjoy. I spent the day, wrapped up warm, on the sofa with plenty of water and a hot water bottle trying to catch up sleep.

It was One World Week again. For a week, the campus was buzzing with a series of debates and discussions, parades and performances, with a host of sporting tournaments, events, cultural exhibitions and workshops. In its 19th year, it was a student run non-profit initiative which aimed to stimulate personal development, inspiring views based on acceptance and appreciation of global cultures, and encouraging awareness of and positive action on issues which affected our world. I browsed the market days which was characterised by the various regions along the silk road journeying from the East to West. It was a nice surprise when a group of students from the Malaysian Students Association came on stage and performed the dikir barat. It was such a rousing performance that everyone dropped whatever they were doing and watched. Well done.Music and Culture

This week my colleagues and I attended the final Library Competency Framework training. Competencies were the skills, knowledge and behaviours that led to successful performance. In simpler terms, it meant a required behaviour within a job role. It will be used for recruitment, performance management and development discussions and decisions about progression. It was very theoretical and full of jargons. We all used competencies on a day-to-day basis in our roles, often without thinking about it. Therefore, it was good practice to reflect on the skills, behaviours and knowledge required to do our roles and how well we were applying these. I couldn’t wait to apply these ideas for my Annual Review.. It would be very challenging indeed.

We also had our first departmental meeting for the year and it was a very long one. EK briefed us on what was happening in the EMT meetings such as the financial update which looked good for this financial year and about the Project Management Framework for the Library. He touched upon the re-labelling project and that the Collection Management team were going to start on floor 2 materials. The Web-Cat Development Group will be looking at where the Library were going with the Discovery platform. And the best part was that the team will be involved in a special collections project  for the Warwick 50th anniversary in 2015. I couldn’t wait to start.

Then a quick dash in the pouring rain for a peek at the Chinese New Year celebrations at the PG Hub again. It was the Year of the Horse and the Hub was buzzing with people horsing around. There was a session on calligraphy, paper folding and making dumplings. I enjoyed a few treats like lucky coins, cookies and love letters. There were fortune cookies and we’d fun reading our fortune. What a wonderful end to the week for the students to learn about Chinese culture and enjoy the hospitality.  Warwick University Ipad mini  31-01-2014 13-58-44

This important Chinese festival was also known as the Spring festival. It marked the start of new life and the season of ploughing and sowing. The festival was traditionally linked to honouring the household, heavenly gods and ancestors. There was a popular Chinese proverb that shed much light on how to live a fulfilling and happy life.Warwick University Ipad mini  31-01-2014 09-21-43

If you want happiness for an hour, take a nap.

If you want happiness for a day, go fishing,

If you want happiness for a month, get married,

If you want happiness for a year, inherit a fortune,

If you want happiness for a lifetime, help someone else.

I took part in the RSPB Birdwatch which was the largest garden wildlife survey in the world when people spent an hour counting birds in their garden and submitting the results. We’ve a feeder in the garden which was actually several feeders that Babe had attached to tree branches. There were 2 suet baskets which held a block of homemade suet cakes, a nut feeder which was filled with nuts, a feeder tube which was filled with niger seeds, 2 long feeders were filled with suet balls sans green plastic wrappings, a squirrel-proof feeder filled with mixed seeds and 2 trays filled with mixed seeds and mealworms. A green plastic ball feeder was  filled with seed balls and they were hung in the hedges. Apples were stuck onto the railings and some thrown onto the grounds.Shots from Home

The trays were replenished daily while the rest was as when needed. A bird bath was nearby and they were cleaned weekly. Our feathered friends were treated well and we were always rewarded for our generosity. The feeder was always a hive of activites as the birds flit back and forth between it and the hedges that ran the length of the garden on 2 sides. They cheered our hearts to the very core.This was what I spotted during the hour : robins, blackbirds, house sparrows, great and blue tits, dunnocks, starlings, wood pigeons, and collared doves. All common birds but still a joy to us.Shots from Home

I was soo looking forward for another Wassailing event at our favourite playground. But the weather turned into a herculean breath of a gale, accompanied by drenching heavy rain. We waited until it turned into a few spits and spots of rain. And by the time we arrived, the event was over. According to the receptionist, the brightly coloured Morris dancers managed to perform for a very short time before the heavens opened. Wassail is from the Anglo-Saxon wes hal, meaning good health, and the idea was for it to cast aside the winter to make way for spring.Brandon Marsh - Winter scenes

Although a bit gutted that I missed the performance, we continued our adventure. The paths towards the main hide was flooded again. We hand-fed the robins but not for long because they were being territorial and started chasing each other away. All you could hear were the sharp ‘tick’ and high-pitched ‘tsee’ calls, warning off the opponents. But we still left a few mealworms in strategic places so that they could feed in peace.Brandon Marsh - Winter scenes

Since the main path was flooded, we decided to check out Steely Hide. The path was soo muddy as our boots squelched in the sodden ground that we’d to walk very close to the hedges and I’m glad that I did. A high-pitched ‘sree-sree-sree-sree’ cries caught my attention. As I peered closely into the very thorny hedges, a very bright yellow colour flashed and flitted about.  I rattled a few shots and I found out that it was a pair of Goldcrests. I think, the male was courting because it was displaying his crown to its best effect to the female.Brandon Marsh - Winter scenes

We continued our walk but were distracted again by the harsh screeching calls of Jays. We stood still as the calls came closer and it landed onto the forest floor and started feeding. What a handsome bird with its colourful plumage, body buff with a black moustache. The Jay was the most arboreal of the crow family and the most retiring in its native habitat. When he spotted us, he flew up the tree to play-hide-and-seek with us but another Jay spotted him and joined the game. It was lovely to see 2 Jays at once. We decided to head home when the heavens opened.Brandon Marsh - Winter scenes

Another trip to Draycote Waters was inevitable. Lately, it had been our 2nd most favourite hunting ground. It was freezing, very windy interspersed with sunshine and showers. It was a challenge trying to stand upright. And as usual the Pied wagtails led us to a merry dance around the rocks, dipping and wagging vigorously. They were quick and alert in their movements, running this way and that as they hunt, stopping every so often to peer, with their head tilted, as if thinking of something.Draycote Waters - Winter light

Little trotty wagtail, he went in the rain,

And tittering, tottering sideways he near got straight again

He stopped to get a worm, and look’d up to catch a fly

And then he flew away ere his feathers they were dry.

~John Clare~

Draycote Waters - Winter light

We were again distracted by the honkings of the Great Crested Grebes. At this time of the year, their delightful courtship displays should be in full swing. Once persecuted by Victorian ladies, when the soft white breast plumage had became fashionable in the trimmings of clothes and hats. We watched a pair practising their mating rituals. I was willing them to do the whole courtship actions. But so far, they were swimming towards one another, necks outstretched and shaking their heads gently. I guess, they weren’t quite fully committed yet…Draycote Waters - Winter light


in the winter waters,

a diving grebe


Draycote Waters - Winter light

We waited for the familiar cries of the Meadow pipits but they were no where to be seen or heard. We noticed that the grass had been mowed and there was no place for the insects to hide. No insects meant no food for the pipits. As we continued walking, scanning the waters below. There were hundreds of Golden Eyes bobbing up and down the waters. And among them was the drake Smew. Whoop… whoop finally we met. Smallest of the sawbill ducks, this handsome chap was truly impressive, with dazzling white plumage, black lines on body, black eye patch and back. He really stood out among the black Tufted ducks and dark Golden eyes. He seemed to epitomise winter, white ice cut with black cracks. Draycote Waters - Winter light

We made ourselves comfortable at the hide and waited for the albino squirrel to turn up. While waiting, we warmed our cockles with a cheese and onion pasty, crisps and washed down with hot coffee. Coots were bobbing up and down in large groups while Moor hens were being quite territorial, chasing each other away. A flock of Teals flew in with their melodious ‘krick’ calls trailing behind them. From here, we noticed the very high waves  and breakers rippling on the lake. This was nothing compared to those affected in the Somerset Levels and the coasts. My thoughts and prayers were with them.Draycote Waters - Winter light

After about an hour, the albino failed to turn up. I don;t blame him. Who wants to be out in this atrocious weather!!! Then Babe noticed, a Little Egret flying in and landed on the nearby inlet. A pity it was hidden from the hide. I decided to check it out. As I walked along the route, I came across a boardwalk which I’d totally forgotten. A flock of Redwings flew in and were busy feeding on the berries. I was enveloped by the liquid cries of the high-pitched ‘srit’ calls of the Tree-creepers. Unfortunately, it was too dark to photograph under the thick undergrowth. I was soo distracted that I’d forgotten about the Egret and flushed it out. :-(Draycote Waters - Winter light

We left as the winds were getting stronger. The Pied wagtails too were heading home, flying towards the visitor centre. Hundreds of gulls were flying in to roost. They were flying very low skimming over the lake. As I was photographing them, the Great Northern Diver popped up. He appeared like some black rock, the snaky line of the back, neck and head, and the mighty wedge of a beak, immobile among the thrashing waves. We followed him as he dived and popped up ahead of us until it was too dark to see him.Draycote Waters - Winter light

Although the weather was still atrocious with more on the way, we try to make the most of the bright and dry interludes in between. Rain had never stopped us from enjoying the outdoors. As we walked to the car, the sun was sinking low in the horizon, the dark clouds were gathering again and we felt more rain on the breeze. It was time to go home to the warmth and safety of our casa. Please stay safe.Draycote Waters - Winter light

After clouds, the sunshine,

After the winter, the spring

After the shower, the rainbow…

For life’s a changeable thing.

~Helen Steiner Rice~

Sunday, 19 January 2014

The Rain it Raineth Everyday

O child, do not go out!
The road to the market is desolate, the lane to the river is
slippery. The wind is roaring and struggling among the bamboo
branches like a wild beast tangled in a net

~The Rainy Day by Rabindranath Tagore~

 HIllers Farm - Dark and dismal day

The whole country was under red flood alert warnings as the Atlantic storms named by the US media as Hercules, brought more rain which continued to plague the south while tidal surges battered the coast. More rain fell on already-saturated grounds, putting added pressure on swollen rivers with coastal areas battling high tides and strong winds.  High winds left a quarter million homes without power. Then the soggy country was plunged into a big freeze as the ongoing rain was joined by sub-zero temperatures. Many areas faced disruption from road closures and cancelled or delayed train services as people returned to work after the holidays.

Thankfully the Midlands weren’t so badly affected apart from pockets of flood and road-works springing everywhere. It was also time to get back to normality. My colleagues and I welcomed our new manager into the department. It was also not a good start from him too, as 3 of my colleagues weren’t present due to illness and personal circumstances. We didn’t see a lot of him anyway because he had to attend induction programmes, meetings and getting a feel of the place. We kept the office running as usual. I was finding it a bit of a struggle to get back into a work routine after nearly 3 weeks away from the desk. Mostly due to the early start, waiting for the bus in the dark and the lack of siestas.  Shots from HomeBut I still managed to start with a bang. I’d a lunch date with HI at Bar Fusion. We have been planning this for ages and just couldn’t get our diaries synchronised. So before our new diaries filled up, we pen in the first date of our working week. We’d to dodge the freezing rain to reach our destination and it was buzzing. The place was full of students lounging about and we found out that they were waiting to enter the examination hall. Well those days were over for both of us coming back from the long festive holidays straight into exams. I ordered my usual soba vegetarian noodle soup which was a blessing on such a cold day. We’d a wonderful time catching up, keeping each other updated to what we’d been up to.

Then I took part in 2 days of Cataloguing as a public service webinar organised by the ALCTS. There was overwhelming support for considering technical services as a public service, and that cataloguing was a basic and essential service. To me, cataloguers were the backbone of discoverability. Without us, items in any form, wouldn’t be discoverable by the users. We provided the data to ready the content for the next technological advancement. If the data wasn’t there in the first place, it can’t be reused. Developing and maintaining accurate access points or authority control was critical to provide effective service discoverability and accessibility. It was 2 days well spent.

The Library Working Group for International Students had its first meeting of the year. The members were quite excited to establish a new collaboration with the Post Graduate Hub as part of their ‘Every student is an international student’ concept. This year The Hub was organising monthly cultural activities to provide both international and home students opportunities to explore different cultures. This was a great opportunity for them to get involved in the university community, sharing information and learning more about other cultures and make the most of their time as a postgraduate students at the university. Our presence there was to support the activities and mingle with the students.

I took the bus to town and found out that the fare had gone up again by 10p to £1.90. Using public transport was getting very expensive nowadays. I was in town because I wanted to check out the Coventry Morris Men Sword tour of the city centre. The bus was late and I was quite worried that I’m going to miss their performances. By the time I arrived at Broadgate, they‘d just started the first performance. I managed to get a front seat and watched them performed a variety of sword dances from North Yorkshire, the Shetlands as well as dances from Herefordshire, Worcestershire and Shropshire.Coventry City Centre

The appreciative crowd too were entertained by a solo clog dancer from Miss Nancy’s Sylvester’s Academy of Clog Dancing who happened to me PLW, my colleague’s wife. We’d a hug and a chat before she strutted her stuff. Clog dancing or clogging as it was better known was a folk dance in which a dancer’s clog were used against the floor in order to produce a percussive rhythm. This unique dance tradition originated in the industrial towns of north west England in the early 19th century. The dances were performed to original tunes played on melodeon, accordion, recorder and drum.Coventry City Centre

The final performance was from the Earlsdon-based Border Morris side Elephant up a pole. They danced in rag tailcoats and was a style of Morris dancing from the Welsh Marches. It was originally a winter tradition, danced by men who were unemployed due to the seasonal lack of work. They danced in disguise to beg for beer money and wore a disguise so no-one would recognise them but it was for charity nowadays.     Coventry City Centre

Those happy Morris dancers make for a happy sight
They wear bright scarlet ribbons and their shirts and trousers white,
They clash their sticks whilst dancing and you hear the timbers ring
Though 'twould seem that Morris dancing is not a female thing.
I've never seen a female Morris dancer I stand corrected if I'm wrong

Coventry City Centre
It has it's roots in England and to England it belong
And I hope that Morris dancing will not go the way of rhyme
That in a changing world it won't lose out to time.

Coventry City Centre 
They brought their culture with them from England far away
A culture perhaps fading like many of the old cultures are today
With the old dances of Europe I see a link somewhere
And sad to hear that Morris dancers are now becoming rare.

~Francis Duggan~

Coventry City Centre

Then a trip to our favourite playground. There must be something going on because it was quite busy. We noticed that a lot of work had been done around the visitor centre. Thank you to the volunteers on improving the sensory garden, building hedgehog homes and boxes and clearing the ‘mouse maze’. Along the path, we were harassed by the usual culprits. I had to laugh when one refused to fly but kept on looking at the tub. Babe gave up and brought the tub to the cheeky bird and then only it started pecking on the dried worms. It was hilarious.Brandon Marsh - Winter scenes

It was an annual event for us feeding these adorable bright orange-red breast birds. In winter, these resident birds were joined by immigrants from the continent, mostly from Scandinavia. You have to be very patient and still to encourage them to feed from your hands. Often, it was a quick flypast with a quick snatch and grab before skulking in the undergrowth to enjoy the meal. I’d the opportunity to have a few landed on my palm and started feeding. To have these dainty creatures in your hand was quite magical and I felt truly blessed.Brandon Marsh - Winter Scenes

“Oh, so light a foot, can ne’er wear out the everlasting flint.”


We walked through the very muddy paths. The flood water must have been very high and strong because most of the reed-beds were flattened and covered with mud. The pair of Golden Eyes were still out and about. The main island had practically disappeared with the natives looking like they were standing in water. We checked the East Marsh Hide and spotted a flock of Wigeons dabbling in close-knit groups at the water edge, whistling contentedly. Brandon Marsh - Winter scenes

Paddle little ducks,
Paddle, paddle all day;
Paddle little ducks,
Paddle, paddle away.

Brandon Marsh - Winter scenes

Then we made our way to Carlton Hide to wait for the show to begin. Within minutes, elongated streams of starlings or moots were flying in. They braided together and the shape swelled and shortened, bulging at the edges. Soon any notion of individual birds grouped together was lost. We were watching one being that stretched and flexed and turned in three like an animated computer design. It continued for about half an hour, before the heavy black cloud eased towards the ground and slowly rained down onto the reed beds to roost for the night. Brandon Marsh - Winter scenes

We were grateful to Andy and Kay for taking us to check out a secluded hide in the Warwickshire countryside. The weather couldn’t make up its mind. We were driving through sunny spells and scattered showers and thankfully the thick blanket of fog that had descended overnight had lifted. Along the roads, we spotted little pockets of flood. So much rain had fallen, drains were blocked, grounds saturated and rivers swollen. Brandon Marsh - Winter scenes

“Rain and wind, and wind and rain,

Will the Summer come again,

Rain on houses, on the street,

Wetting all the people’s feet,

Though they run with might and main,

Rain and wind, and wind and rain.

~Katherine Mansfield~

After about 45 minutes, we arrived at our destination, Hillers in Alcester. It was an award winning farm shop with a cafe, garden centre, gift shop and even a miniature railway. We checked those later. We were here for the secluded hide which was situated at the far end of the garden centre. We were glad that we were the only ones there. In front of us was a clearing with vegetables and bread spread out. These were leftovers from the shop. There were also feeders situated at strategic places. We’d never seen so many Great Spotted Woodpeckers in one place. HIllers Farm - Dark and dismal day

“Zeus won’t in a hurry restore to the woodpecker tapping the oak. In times prehistoric ‘tis easily proved, by evidence weighty and ample.

That birds and not Gods were the rulers of men

And the lords of the world.”

~Aristophanes ‘The Birds’~

HIllers Farm - Dark and dismal day

We enjoyed watching the squirrels trying their best to monopolise the peanuts. A few were on the ground feeding on the stale croissants. We find it hilarious that they preferred the croissants more than the bagels and the baps. A Nuthatch came into view and started taking a peanut and flying off somewhere. With its powerful bill, short tail, long claws and sturdy legs , it was well adapted for climbing up and down the tree trunks. And unlike the woodpeckers and tree-creepers, they descended the tree trunks headfirst. HIllers Farm - Dark and dismal day

Among the Great and Blue Tits, flying in and out of the bird-feeder, was this adorable Coal Tit. Check out the distinctive grey back, black cap and a white patch at the back of its neck. We saw him taking the food and storing them elsewhere to be eaten later. When food was plentiful, they hoard it so that they have food when times were hard. Unfortunately, its memory wasn’t great and you might find seeds sprouting at some very unusual places.   HIllers Farm - Dark and dismal day

Below all these commotion, we spotted a wren minding its own business. Creeping mouse-like close to the ground with its tiny size and cocked tail, it was hunting among the dense cover. The colour made it one of ‘the little brown jobs’ but it has a unique folklore. It had been seen as bad to harm a wren. It was the Druidic bird of augury, and in Cornwall they say ‘hunt a robin or a wren, never prosper man or boy.’ HIllers Farm - Dark and dismal day

Christmas was over but it was still lovely to see a flock of grey partridges gliding into view. We were very lucky to have seen this flock because although once very common and widespread, it had undergone a serious decline due to intensive agricultural practices and was now on the Red List species. They were quite dumpy with rusty-brown stripes on the flank. They were strictly a ground bird  and was unlikely to be found up a pear trees. A flock of partridges was called a covey. HIllers Farm - Dark and dismal day 

On the First day of Christmas my true love sent to me a Partridge in a Pear Tree♪

~The 12 days of Xmas~

The hide began to fill up and as usual, when it gets noisier, the natives suddenly disappeared apart from the squirrels. Kay went off to the cafe while we kept on waiting for the piece de resistance, the muntjac. And we didn’t have to wait long when a juvenile turned up. He was so close that we could see its tusks. I fell in love with this handsome fellow with its seductive doe eyes and Bambi looks. It was hard to believe that this Asian barking deer was named as Britain’s most dangerous and destructive deer.HIllers Farm - Dark and dismal day

After about 2 hours, it was time to leave this magical place. It was also freezing in the hide. As we walked out, a flock of tree sparrows and Goldfinches were flying around the garden. There were lots of arches with bare branches twinning around them. I think this garden would look amazing in summer and spring when everything was green and flowering. I looked at the rose bushes and among them were David Austin and other old-fashioned roses. I might get a cutting if they were on sale. I also had a wonderful surprise when I spotted my first snowdrop.

HIllers Farm - Dark and dismal dayWe went into the gift-shop and I came out with a fridge magnet to add to my collection. Then we checked out the farm shop. A pot of purple-flowering Hellebores caught my attention but it was just too expensive. The shop had plenty of seasonal items with a good section of locally grown vegetables. We purchased cavolo nero and a coffee walnut cake.  From the cheese counter, I tasted  the Warwickshire truckle, Shropshire blue and Black bombe. There was a meat section which carried the Ragley Estate Meats, from the animals that were reared on the adjoining Ragley estate. It was raining when we left the farm shop. Gracias Andy and Kay. HIllers Farm - Dark and dismal day

This week was Prophet Muhammad’s birthday, commemorated by Muslims during the month of Rabi’al-awwal, the third month of the Islamic calendar. Called Maulud Nabi, it was marked by religious lectures and readings of the Quran. The Prophet was born in the year 570 in the Gregorian calendar and died in 632 after uniting Arabia into a single Muslim unity. As Muslims all over the world celebrate this auspicious birthday, I pray that peace was showered upon him and upon all of us too. Amin.

Sunday, 5 January 2014

Ring out the old, Ring in the new

Ring out the old, ring in the new

Ring, happy bells, across the snow;

The year is going, let him go

Ring out the false, ring in the true.

~Alfred, Lord Tennyson~

We started the new year with a succession of Atlantic storms blasting the UK with torrential downpours. These heavy rain had been racing down the water courses and had then been pushed back up the rivers with spring tides and high winds, leading to inevitable flooding problems. The news from the coast were so sad. Massive tidal surges and 10 metres waves battered the south and west coastlines. Huge sections were washed away as huge waves pounded the ancient coastline and some changing the face of the coast forever. We were shocked to see the devastation in Aberystwyth and most of the playgrounds that we’d been regular visitors. Our thoughts and prayers were for those affected. We would definitely checked these places as soon as it was safe to do so. Shots from Home

Between the torrential rain and strong winds, we’d a few lovely, sunny days. In fact, there hadn’t been many days where it hadn’t rain. It doesn’t make any difference to us though. Rain or shine, we were out there, health permitting. It became a little tradition of ours to get a breath of fresh air with just Mother Nature for company. We checked out Bradgate Park to see what the natives were up to. We weren’t alone because hundreds of people turned up that the main car-park was full. We drove over to the 3rd car-park and found a space at Cropston. We joined the hordes of walkers, buggies and doggies. The children were still out and about trying out their Xmas toys. Good to see that they were not bored yet.  Bradgate Park Winter Scenes

We walked to the visitor centre where a herd of fallow deer where enjoying the sunshine in the field. We made our way, very slowly towards the hill side where a herd of Red Deer were grazing among the bracken covered slopes. We rattled off hundreds of photographs before a dog came bounding in and started chasing the deer. We heard the owner calling the dog but it was too late. The herd thundered downhill and got separated. I was furious but it wasn’t the dog’s fault. There were plenty of signs that dogs should be on leads. If the warden saw this, the dog would be liable to be shot.Bradgate Park Winter Scenes 

“A wounded deer leaps the highest”

~Emily Dickinson~Bradgate Park Winter Scenes

A group of children got very close to the agitated deer. The deer appeared harmless  but they were separated from the main herd and if they felt cornered and threatened, they will fight for the space to flee. Oh dear, where were the parents? They were around, laughing and taking photographs of their children’s antics. We couldn’t bear to watch and decided to go home. A pair of Pied wagtails distracted us. They landed in front of us and was dashing across the verges, on the hunt for insects. Sprightly and skittish, they were constantly in motion, from its jerky walk to its constantly wagging tail. Bradgate Park Winter Scenes

Then another trip to Draycote Water again. The light was poor but it was still a great feeling to be out and about in the fresh air. Overhead, the rapid twitters of the Pied wagtails echoed  and in a descending glide landed on the rocks. They led us to a merry dance on the rocks. On the grassy slopes, half a dozen Meadow pipits were busy feeding. Although often described as the classic ‘little brown job’, we were always on the look-out for them. I loved their distinctive aerial display songs with their ‘sweet-sweet-sweet’ notes strung together delivered as they parachuted to the ground. They seemed not to mind our presence as long as we stood still which was quite difficult in an open environment with other people about.Draycote Waters - Winter light

Little Grebes were swimming buoyantly with feathers fluffed up, giving them a plump appearance. A loud honking call broke the silence, and a Great Crested Grebe came gliding past. They were in their winter colours, very pale without their ornamental plumes. We stood on the bank, listening  to a repertoire of guttural clucks and growls. I think it was searching for its mate. I couldn’t wait for spring when they would display an amazing courtship dance. Draycote Waters - late visit

We arrived at the hide and waited for our favourite albino squirrel. We brought raisins and bananas as treats and scattered them down the feeder. We couldn’t go to the feeder so threw them from the open window. Unfortunately, the mallards and Canada Geese  spotted the banquet and scoffed everything. Never mind. We scanned the lakes and spotted the drake Smew fast asleep at the far end but still too far away to be photographed. A Long tailed duck was reported to be around but we didn’t see it. And then the piece de resistance came bounding in and was up the feeder in a flash. Draycote Waters - Winter light

All you could hear were our cameras rattling away. While Babe continued on photographing, I was busy videoing it.  

I'm a fur, fur, furry, squirrel,
With a bush, bush, bushy tail,
And I scamper here and there,
Scamper everywhere,
Searching for some NUTS!

Draycote Waters - Winter light
I've got nuts on my nose, nuts on my toes,
Nuts on my head, nuts in my bed,
Nuts in my paws, nuts in my jaws,
Pop, crack!
Yum, yum!

Jackie Silberg

Draycote Waters - Winter light

After taking our fill of this adorable creature, it was time to head home. As soon as we opened the door of the hide, we were nearly run over by an extended family party of Long-tailed tits. They were communicating with excited calls as they flew  from one branch to another. They were so close that apart from the masses of tails, we could see the rosy pink tinge to their shoulders, flanks and belly. What a lovely end to the day.Draycote Waters - Winter light

Look at the bird
With beak for a mouth.
When it gets cold,
The bird will fly south.
When it gets warm,
The bird will return.
Let's watch how the birds live,
And see what we learn.


Draycote Waters - Winter light

Off course, we could not start the new year without a trip to our favourite playground. The path, although very muddy and slippery was passable. Our first stop was Baldwin Hide where a pair of Golden Eye kept us entertained. A dumpy, diving duck, the male was black and white with a greenish black head and an un-missable white patch in front of the piercing yellow eyes. The mottled grey female was smaller with a chocolate brown head. They were always surrounded by the gulls, because when they dived for food they stir up the sands and brought up bits up to the surface. And the gulls were just plucking these from the water surface.  Clever huh :-0


Brandon Marsh - Winter Scenes

Brandon Marsh - Winter scenes  [female]

We then headed straight towards Carlton Hide to get the best seat in the house. I must remember to bring a walking stick next time because the path was atrocious. The gulls left quite early for their roosting destination at Draycote Waters. And then the starling moots appeared and more started joining in and as they got larger, they flew towards the back of the hide. We waited patiently and then they returned with another synchronised aerial display. We have seen these murmuration hundreds of time and were never bored by this spectacular scene. It was more so when their iridescent plumage where illuminated by the evening sun when they turned.   Brandon Marsh - Winter scenes

We fly around the sky.
Flying very high and flying very low.
Then in a big circle--round we go.
Finally we soar home and go to sleep.
We close our eyes without a peep.


Brandon Marsh - Winter scenes

I loved to start the new year with something shiny and new. Like a kid starting school. Babe said that I’m the oldest  teenager he’d ever seen :-). So off we went to the city-centre which we hadn’t been for ages. It was buzzing because parents too were busy getting stuff for their kids. As usual, we parked at our favourite spot, above the Grade II market. We walked towards the Lower Precinct and were greeted by some very impressive Christmas decoration displays. A pity that they’d to be taken down soon.Coventry City Centre

We checked out a bag shop and I came out with a bright, colourful rucksack covered with owls!!! What a way to start the new year. Then we walked through one of the many passage ways while lamenting at the many empty shops. We walked straight into one of the entrances of the indoor market, which was the first indoor, circular market in Europe. I was pleased that English Heritage had listed the building much to the dismay of the City Council development bosses who wanted to demolish it. This modernist covered market had provided a life-line for the people of Coventry after the bombing of the city in 1940. We only managed to browse only a tenth of the 170 stalls that were selling all kinds of everything. I purchased a red felt hat and 2 pairs of long socks.

At home, it was the 12th night clear-up. Twelfth Night was when all Christmas decorations should be removed so as not to bring bad luck upon the home. If decorations were not removed, they should stay up all year which at first I thought wasn’t so bad. But looking around our casa, I think a clear, fresh start to the new year was necessary. It was thought that leaving the decorations up would cause a disaster. People believed that tree-spirits lived in the greenery (holy, ivy etc) they decorated their houses with. The greenery was brought into the house to provide a safe haven for them during the harsh winter days. Once this period was over it was necessary to return the greenery outside to release the tree-spirits into the countryside again. Failure to do meant that vegetation would not be able to start growing again (spring would not return), leading to an agricultural disaster. The tree-spirits then would cause mischief in the house until they were released. Shots from Home

And despite these decorations were now being made of modern materials and the tree-spirits were long forgotten, the superstition still lived on.

"The evening of the fifth of January, preceding Twelfth Day, the eve of the Epiphany, formerly the last day of the Christmas festivities and observed as a time of merrymaking".
~Oxford English Dictionary~

It had not been the cheeriest start to 2014. With lashings of rain and winds bringing down the fence, wrecking the shed and the house smelling of damp laundry, I ushered in the new year in all of its tempestuous glory. If it began like this, it could only get better, right? My batteries had been recharged and I’ll faced whatever crosses my path head-on. Shots from Home