Sunday, 31 January 2016

Bird Day.


It only seems a year since the RSPB held their last Big Garden Birdwatch and it was. The RSPB held their annual Birdwatch this weekend. This was the fourth successive year that I have participated. Over one million people submitted their viewings. It was a very wet and cold day so I was not too surprised that I wasn't seeing as many birds as last year, nor indeed as many species. The results which I submitted were as follows. I have shown the numbers for last year in brackets by way of comparison. It would seem that the house sparrow and the long tailed tit have not had a good year.

House Sparrow 3 (13)

Blackbird. 2 (2)

Starling. 3 (0)

Blue tit 6. (3)

Chaffinch. 1. (3)

Robin. 2 (1)

Great Tit. 2 (2)

Coal Tit. 2. (1)

Long Tailed Tit 0. (7)

Wren. 0. (1)

I think that I will compile my own monthly or weekly results in future. It is interesting to note the changes in the bird populations. Perhaps also a trifle depressing.


















Winter Garden Views.

It has been a very mild winter to date albeit a very wet one. The garden birds have not had to devour the holly berries as yet. Food is plentiful. I don't mind the birds consuming the berries but their continued presence does rather add to the garden vista.

January provides us with the beginning of the snowdrop season. I cannot say that I am a galantophile but I do like the drifts of snowdrops in the garden. Not long now untill until the daffodils and tulips are in flower and warmer days are the norm.



Wednesday, 27 January 2016

Pig Music for Wodehouse

Usually I listen to Radio 4 when I am in the horseless carriage. For some reason or perhaps for no reason I tuned into radio three at lunchtime yesterday. A composer by the name of Simon Willis was talking about a piece of music which he had composed for the 2013 opening night of Germany's NDR symphony orchestra. This orchestra grew out of an ad hoc orchestra established by the British forces in the years immediately following the Second World War.

After having toyed with and discarded the notion of a Dickensian inspired composition Willis determined upon a Pelham Grenville Wodehouse based overture. He describes Wodehouse's novels as, "comedies of errors set in a sunlit tranquil England of the 1920's .... a land populated by choleric dukes, terrifying aunts, baffled village policemen, rugby-playing clergymen and most important of all the archetypal English upperclass twit with his willingness to help, his sense of fair play, kindness and complete absence of intellectual ability or common sense."

The name given to Willis's, "Charleston for Orchestra," is as you will have guessed, "Empress of Blandings." Having listened to the composition I can report that it most definitely has porcine qualities. Clarence Threepwood, 9th Earl of Emsworth would I think be happy with this homage to his aristocratic pig.

Thursday, 21 January 2016

Winter Sunshine Run

It may be mid winter but occasionally, just occasionally the fourth season of the year provides a bright and dry day even if the temperature is tending towards negative territory. Yesterday was one of those rare pet days. Having crossed the international border to avail of the twenty pence per litre saving in the price of diesel I decided to continue my journey into the South in a northerly direction towards Moville. It calls itself a town but in terms of population it is really a village. I prefer villages to towns. Cities are even further down my like list.

I parked at Montgomery Terrace overlooking Lough Foyle. When he was a young man my grandfather spent the summer months in Moville travelling to his work in Londonderry every morning by streamboat and taking the same route back in the early evening. It is strange to think that that was some one hundred and fifteen years ago. I suspect that it was the S S Seamore that he travelled on. It was one of the tenders that met the American liners just off Moville.

I have walked a portion of the shore walk from Moville to Greencastle on several occasions but never the full distance. It isn't that far perhaps two and a half miles. I decided to run along the path as part of my training run. It takes one past several Victorian villas. Up until seven or eight years ago the owners of the largest of these shoreside residences had a small herd of deer in their fields. I was able to make good time over the first half of the route but thereafter I had to cross various small beaches and traverse rather rocky portions. Rather than retrace my steps I ran through Greencastle up onto the top road and from thence back to Moville completing my 10k at the harbour. A strange sculpture has been erected at the end of the pier. I'm not sure what it is meant to represent but it looks a bit like a fishing float. I have probably misinterpreted the symbolism!



Monday, 18 January 2016

Chicken Duvet Day

The temperatures have been dropping over the past few weeks. Chickens are surprisingly resilient to sub zero temperatures. Resilient certainly but they still prefer positive temperatures as do I. About a month ago I decided to purchase a duvet for the coop. It wasn't called a duvet but heyho that's what it is really. The residents of the coop seemed to be very pleased with the insulation layer which I have provided them with with. It is made specifically for the coop and fits well. A total of sixteen bungee hooks attach the cover to the coop. There is a zip enabling one to get at the litter trays but unfortunately there isn't the same facility to access the nesting box. That said it isn't too onerous to undo the necessary three or four bungee hooks. Another capital cost to cover!



Sunday, 10 January 2016

Sunday Morning on the Road

Not for me a lazy Sunday morning under the duvet no matter how attractive that might have seemed when the alarm went off at 6.50am. This was not to be a day of rest but rather a race day. Thankfully I had cadged a lift from a team mate who lives about fifteen miles distant so I didn't have to drive the whole way to the race venue.

I should probably have allowed myself another ten or so minutes but 6.50am seemed to be very early. The hens certainly thought it early. They weren't exactly champing at the beak to toddle down the ladder from their coop when I opened the door to the great outside for them. By the time I had filled their drinker and consumed two of their eggs for my breakfast I was running a few minutes late. Still I got to the pick up point more or less on time.

The locus for the race was in Co Donegal. The distance five kilometres. Three hundred and five individuals traipsed around the course. A bit early in the day for a fast run and the near freezing temperatures didn't help. I can't say that I had a great race but I didn't make an idiot of myself so a sort of result. Two hundred and seventy eight individuals finished behind me. The age category results haven't been published as yet but I would be reasonably confident that I have managed to hold off my contemporaries. Here's hoping!



Monday, 4 January 2016

A meeting of school friends.

This morning saw me seated in a GP's surgery waiting for the aged pater familias to escape the clutches of his doctor. In the row of seats in front of me and slightly to my right a father and son sat down. I didn't pay them any great attention although the elder gentleman looked vaguely familiar. I caught the son glancing over in my direction a couple of times but thought nothing of it. He then rose to his feet and came round to me and named me. He had clearly recognised me and seemed to know me. Thankfully he introduced himself before I had to admit that he had me at a disadvantage.

It transpired that he and I had been at school together between the ages of eleven and eighteen. We took the same subjects at O-level and at A-level we shared the same classes in three of our four subjects. If truth be known I suppose we were in competition with each other for the top place in our year. The last time we had seen one another was in June 1976, - almost forty years ago. Since he graduated from Cantabrigia he has pursued a career in teaching mostly in the Middle East including Syria. He has certainly clocked up a lot of air miles. His travels have provided him with the background for three books. One deals with the schism in Sudan, another with the Yemini island of Scotora and the third with the Turkish Baths of Damascus and Aleppo.

Sunday, 3 January 2016

Eggs per Day

Until a week ago my eight strong flock of chickens was providing a regular seven eggs per day. I am fairly certain that one of the birds was not laying despite being some thirty weeks old. The probable guilty party was the smallest of the chickens. Her comb was very underdeveloped in comparison to her coop mates.

Over the last week three mornings have seen me collecting eight eggs including a distinctly smaller specimen. It would seem that the runt of the coop has managed to develop the knack of egg laying, - at last! There has been a definite growth spurt of her comb. I expect she will always be the smallest of the chickens but at least there is now some return on her feed bill.

As well as these eight egg days there have been two days when the number of eggs per chicken has exceeded one. In one instance I collected nine eggs and on the other eleven. I didn't think that this was physically possible but apparently it can happen. If it does occur then it is common for the shell of the second egg to be very thin. I haven't noticed any difference in shell thickness. This is apparently suggestive of a high protein diet. Apart from their standard layers pellets I am not feeding them anything save for a few cabbage leaves. That said they are grubbing around the orchard most days so they must be finding a plentiful supply of slugs, snails, worms and beetles.