Wednesday, 29 June 2011

Except on Wednesdays when I get rudely awakened by the burglars

Things are a bit of a blur this morning, famille L has not had much sleep. At 3:50am we were woken by an immense clattering. Assuming foxes, who become ever bolder, I turned over. Fortunately Mrs L jumped out of bed in time to see two men running down the street with a ladder.

Gah! Chateau L had been violated. I charged downstairs, vaulted the Crocodiles, and commando-rolled into the front room. The bear-trap was still set. The crossbow in the kitchen was similarly undisturbed; it appeared the Keep was intact. Phew. Out in the garden, the moth trap was still glowing away, several Toads and a [rabid] Fox cub in attendance. So far so good, no moths stolen. Cautiously checking the front of the house I could see no damage, but the ladder could only mean one thing - our outer defences had been breached, the moat, er I mean gate, scaled. I peered down the side passage - a blank space where Mrs L's bike had until recently been stared back.

This is no mean feat, as our gate is about ten feet high, and Mrs L's bike is a behemoth. It weighs at least two tonnes, there can be no more unwieldy piece of metal on the planet. Somehow it had been heaved over the gate, waking us up in the process. But we had not seen the bike disappearing down the street, which probably meant more than two burglars. In the face of these odds, I decided against heading out to hunt them down, and instead Mrs L called the Police. Being British, I then had a cup of tea.

I am paranoid at the best of times, so to actually be burgled is really annoying. But at least they didn't get into the house. Lucky for them, as if they had managed to negotiate all the traps and Crocodiles and make it upstairs, the sight of me on a hot summer night would have finished them off. Actually it's more likely any intruder would get stuck in Mount Garment and suffocate, his corpse going undetected for several weeks. No doubt it was a bunch of kids chancing their arm, but in this heat I have been leaving vents and windows open, and not pulling that little chain thingy across the front door. I need to raise my game. And buy some Lions.

Amazingly, about an hour later the Police turned up with Mrs L's bike. This was about the least likely outcome I had expected, but top marks, I am happy to be paying my taxes. Oh, wait. Anyway, we had both thought that it was gone for good, and would by now have been in a shipping container in Felixstowe on the way to the Middle East. Or at the bottom of the river Roding. So to have it returned, albeit amazingly beaten-about in the short time it had been missing, is remarkable. The patrol car had been a couple of miles away at Gant's Hill when the call came through, and as they were driving up to our road they spotted six men with a bike in that little cut-through - remember, the one I got mugged in and lost my bins - clearly a place of some iniquity. Six men and a bike at 4am is a little unusual, so they put two and two together and came up with four, stopped the car, and jumped out. The men dropped the bike and scarpered into Bush Wood where they split up. The officers gave chase, but there was little they could do, and the dog team that turned up a while later could find no trace. But we got the bike back, and I would hope that there are currently six pairs of brown pants being washed in Forest Gate or wherever the scumbags came from. I wonder if there is a burglary term for "dip"?

Six guys though, a bit scary. If six men decided to break into your house in the middle of the night, there is not a lot you are going to be able to do about it. Can you imagine? I wouldn't have needed to feed the Crocodiles for weeks!

Guard Toad protecting Moth Trap from Mosquitos.

Saturday, 25 June 2011

Dead Birders Society

People are upset. They are up in arms. Teeth are being gnashed, and there is public outcry. The reason? Lee Evans, founding member of the UK400 Club, and President of the British Birding Association, has published his latest life rankings for every top twitcher in the country. And for the first time in a long time, he has placed it where everyone can see it. Like I said, outcry!

Lee Evans has the power to polarise that you would scarcely believe possible, which is strange given what a calm and rational lot twitchers are. A lot of top twitchers are all signed up to the UK400 club, largely because the taxonomy used means that they can have a higher number on the list. For instance as well as House Sparrow and Tree Sparrow, they also get Maisonette Sparrow, Bedsit Sparrow, and One-bedroom Studio Flat Sparrow. They like Lee Evans, and tell him what they have seen. They probably also tell him what other people have seen.

Conversely, a lot of other top twitchers hate Lee Evans. They would rather eat their own testicles before they told him what they have seen, and the fact that their names also appear on this list is a source of great friction. Believe me when I say it is of absolutely critical importance that there be an accurate ranking system for twitchers in this country. Oh yes. So those that don't tell Lee what they have seen, Lee instead estimates what they have seen. This is the chief source of the friction. Some may say they object to other people keeping tabs on them, but really it's because the number that Lee has against their name is smaller than the number they have against their name. Deep down, they always knew they were on the list. But now they can actually see the list, and can thus be publicly offended and upset. The school playground springs to mind.

Battle lines are entrenched, this is a matter of the highest importance. Legal action is threatened - yes, over the fact that there is a list with your name on it and a number next to it - this could only ever happen in birding. Whole websites are devoted to vitriol (who would have thought it?), and yet these are the same people who will next week be climbing the same ladder to see the same bird over the same wall.

For the minute a gross rarity breaks, all of these people at the top of this list, be they friend or foe, drop whatever it is they are doing, pull sickies and so on, and drive hell-for-leather to wherever the poor lost avian waif is. During the journey, they are hoping for only two things. Firstly, that the bird is still there and that they will see it. And secondly that all the others at the top of the list are busy and will not see it. Fat chance. Very occasionally, a member of the top twitchers will be abroad, miss an extreme rarity, and thus slip a precious place down the rankings. So most top twitchers don't ever go holiday, instead they sit at home holding their pagers. But for those that take the risk, and get caught short, they will have a gap on their list where the others have a little tick, and this will annoy them for the rest of their lives, and possibly longer.

And this is where Lee's list becomes interesting, for it also includes dead people. Yup, living twitchers are able to gain rankings places against dead twitchers. Hardly fair, is it? Dead twitchers are listed in italics, and in green. And they don't just die like normal people, no, twitchers 'unfortunately' die. I concede that in some cases that could be true, but it seems an odd way to phrase it. Oh what bad luck, you appear to have died. See? 

Anyway, phraseology aside, with very few exceptions, the reason that people are at the very top of the twitchers list is because they have been twitching for a very long time. Which means they are getting on a bit, or to put it another way, they are (very unfortunately) closer to the end of their lives than the beginning of their lives. One presumes therefore that over time, the list will get greener and greener, rather ironically because the price of fuel is becoming a significant barrier to entry to becoming a top twitcher and getting closer to the top of the list. I'm not an overly morbid person, and I would not wish for any person, not even a top twitcher, to shuffle off this mortal coil early, but I must confess to being rather fascinated by the inevitable future greenification of this list. At what point will it start becoming uncomfortable to publish? When five of the top ten are green? Seven? All of them bar one?! All I am asking is has this been properly thought through, as if you ask me, it's a problem just waiting to happen.

PS I'm not on the list. In any colour.

Friday, 24 June 2011

Time for a Change?

My life is currently a heady mixture of bug photography and domestic servitude. It was a surprise then to get a text containing Wanstead bird news whilst lounging around in bed drinking tea this morning. The exciting and unexpected missive was that a Common Tern was possibly heading my way. I managed to drag myself out of bed and peer out the window, but it was all still a bit blurry. I am of the age now where perfect vision does not simultaeneously occur with the opening of one's eyes, and by the time I could actually see straight the Tern was probably fishing in Walthamstow. I got back into bed and finished drinking tea.

Muffin meanwhile was busy doing the moth trap. A short while later he scampered upstairs with an Isle of Wight Wave. Probably extinct said Waring and Townsend, but this fact didn't bother him - it was one. My brain was not sufficiently engaged to argue with him, except to say that we weren't on the Isle of Wight, but by the time breakfast came around it was a Dwarf Cream Wave instead so all you moth-ers can rest easy.

The school run complete, and various more disgusting elements of the kitchen cleaned, I was free to start bug-hunting again. Flash on, and away I went. Sadly it was hard work to even find a bug in the neatly trimmed garden of Chateau L. A few flies, a spider (probably the catchily-named Tibellus oblongus), and a ladybird were all I could come up with. The spider had an egg-sack though, which was pretty cool. Or it could have been dinner, not sure.

All these bugs have made me decide that I'm going to go out birding again soon. I've been pretty slack of late, and most of all, I think I'm missing it. Wader season is about to start, and there seem to be Crossbills whizzing around all over the place. A few early starts could see me cash in. Or see nothing.

And finally, it would be amiss of me not to say a big thank you to my 100 Acolytes. The momentous three-figure day was yesterday, approximately two and a half years after kicking off. That I still have anything to say is remarkable. Even more remarkable is why any of you return here day after day, but it is extremely gratifying. So please don't leave, it would be very sad, not to say somewhat humiliating, especially after writing this. To show you how much I love you, here is a photo of a fly.

What, you would have preferred a Ladybird? Oh go on then. I am feeling indulgent.

Thursday, 23 June 2011

The Rise of the Insect Paparazzi

The insect-life of Wanstead is being terrorised. Hordes of photographers (well, me) wait for them outside flowers. They chase them from leaf to leaf, sticking lenses in their faces. Flashes are fired at close range. No insect is safe, it could all come to blows. I would expect to win though, as insects are really small and I'm gigantic.

The reason for this campaign of insect attrition? Well June, obviously, but also the purchase of a new Macro lens a couple of weeks ago, and a determination to bloody well learn how to use a flash. I've been photographing things for about 14 years now. During that time I have owned precisely two flashes, and not known how to use either of them. In need of a challenge, this week I decided I would sort that out. And sod me if it isn't really really difficult. You might think that you stick the flash on top of the camera and fire away, job done. You would be wrong; from my studies this afternoon, it appears that nothing could be further from the truth, and that Canon's flash system, whilst no doubt ingenious in its own way, is a pig to get to grips with.

Practice practice practice, it's just like birding. You can't learn it by reading books or articles, though these are no doubt helpful. You have to get out there and use it, hence the terror. What I will say is this - it has the power to totally transform macro photography. I now understand, or at least am beginning to understand, why some of the ludicrously good macro stuff on the web is as good as it is. I will not bore you with techy details. They are boring, and, well, techy, no getting away from it. And anyway, it is voyage of discovery that I think all budding photographers should take on their own, the better to really learn it. I may crack later and put my thoughts down, but for now what I will say is this though - Get a flash (and USE IT, unlike me) and you will not look back. I can't wait until tomorrow when I can get out there again and start papping. Oh, and buy rechargable batteries.

To a greater or lesser extent, I used flash for all four of the following photos. All were handheld, and of the four subjects, the only one I can name with confidence is the snail (third down). God knows what the final one is, but I think it is part Goldfish. About 3.5mm long, so perhaps a baby Goldfish?

Tuesday, 21 June 2011

Dealing with Fame

Today was my big day. The day I broke into television. I’m not counting the dead birds on Wanstead Flats, that was hardly the grand entrance I wanted. No, today is where it is all going to start. I don’t yet know what it is going to be called, but I believe the working title is Wansteadbirderwatch.

I arrived at the London Wetland Centre and was met at the entrance by no less than Sir Peter Scott. Carrying on past the statue, I ended up in a room at the top of the visitor centre where Simon King was waiting for me. He was of course absolutely thrilled to meet me, though true professional that he is, he managed to mostly conceal his utter delight and acted perfectly normally. Like it was something he did everyday. As if! I did my bit of course, putting him at ease by pretending to be totally amazed at meeting him, a bit of fawning and so on. I think it worked! Eventually they managed to drag him away from me, and so I was able to get on with my program-making. Honestly, the people I have to deal with…

Arriving on the set of Wansteadbirderwatch, the cameraman and sound guy were both ready and waiting. Unfortunately Air Traffic Control had been unable to agree to my request that all Heathrow-bound planes divert to Gatwick for the day, so the filming was interrupted about every forty-five seconds by the roar of jet engines. This is why my thirty second segment took fifty-five takes, rather than any other reason such as gross incompetence. Just wait until I get hold of Willie Walsh. Throw in every school child in west London and a few aimless plastic duck-strokers, and it took forever and we were unable to move onto the main segment of me expounding my thoughts on twitching and dog-ownership levels in the southeast. Nevermind, I’m sure that will be the next part to get made just as soon as I have a chance to get back there.

I ambled back to the visitor centre in the company of Sula, a local birder and blog acolyte, where it was no surprise that Simon was hanging around waiting for me. I put him out of his misery and sat down opposite him at a table, and proceeded to have a good old chat about many things. Mainly about travel and Shetland, which he wanted to know all about as I think he is planning a trip there soon. Hopefully I was able to pass on a few tips.

And that was it, I bade my farewells and headed back to my limo. It’s a long red one, I don’t believe in black. Although I had told my driver what time I was finishing, he must have misheard, because he was between twelve and fifteen minutes late.

I’m back home now, and I have to say that cooking dinner and dealing with squabbling children is a bit of a come-down after my day of televisual feast-making. Soon though I expect that to be a thing of the past, and my personal assistant(s) can fetch the children and bring them to the trailer if I’m on set....

PS Anyone who takes this post the slightest bit seriously needs to get out more. Out against a wall to be precise, where they should arrange for someone to then shoot them.

Monday, 20 June 2011

Macro Fun

You know it's summer when the macro lens comes out and stays on. Mine has been on my camera for about a month now, and barely comes off. There are just too many things to point it out at this time of year. It is completely different to bird photography, and requires a whole new set of skills and understanding - skills I don't yet have, but I'm working on it. You might think it would be easier, but I'm not so sure. Who cares though, as it is a whole lot of fun with infinite possibilities.

I was wondering about doing a series of articles/posts about the merits of various lenses and photography techniques, as I do at least know a little these days, but felt it might end up a little turgid, and not really suit the style of this blog. Then I got to thinking that this blog doesn't have any style, or at least not one that I can easily describe, so maybe I'll just do what I normally do and babble. You can get your photography tips from far better places than this.

So, today, when I had finished some domestic chores that have already been undone by my children, I headed out onto Wanstead Flats. I took a birding lens, but had no expectation of using it, and that indeed proved to be the case. The macro lens on the other hand was used the entire time. I actually have two, a 180mm, and a 100mm, and on this trip it was the 100mm that came out, mainly as it has an image stabiliser that alleviates at least some mucking about with a tripod. For serious macro photography, a tripod is essential, but it removes a lot of the enjoyment from just walking around with your camera and pointing it at random stuff. You can be a lot more mobile and flexible without one, and that is my preferred style.

There was heaps, I almost didn't know where to point the camera. Everywhere I walked I kicked up grasshoppers of varying sizes. Multitudes of grass moths flitted about, and bees were everywhere. Butterflies were thin on the ground, but I found a few Small Skippers and a Meadow Brown, all of which flew away. A long way away. Far more cooperative was a Five-spot Burnet, a day-flying moth, resting on some bramble. And very useful for getting this blog back on topic.

The real interest was in the plants though. I have no idea what this one is, the flower is long gone, but it was probably some kind of Dandelion. A massive one though, as the seed-head is about four inches across, and extremely intricate. Probably full of fractals or something, or that Fibonacci sequence. Not that I understand either of those things of course, but they sound good. Anyway, assuming they're still there, I'm going to go back tomorrow and give them really good go.

Sunday, 19 June 2011

Heronfest 2011

A four-Heron day, inexplicably missing Little Egret, which you would expect nine times out of ten. No matter though, the targets were well and truly bagged. I am finding it difficult to not classify today as out-and-out twitching, but I decided to accept a lift to Dungeness from Bradders so I suppose it was always on the cards.

Top of the list was a Squacco Heron that has been around Hooker's Pit for a few days now. I've seen precisely one of these in the UK before, just the other side of the Thames at Crossness. It seems like years ago now, but it was one of the first birds I ever twitched. I had no idea about the pain and anguish back then, and recall being surprised at seeing haggard sweatball of a man rushing up to the viewing area, wild-eyed, asking (shouting, if I'm honest) if it was still showing. Oh the age of innocence. It was still showing, and I watched this crazy fool of a man visibly relax as he almost literally drank it in. I pitied him. And am now belittling him.

Hey ho. We pitched up and saw the Heron immediately, which was nice. A short scope-swivel away and a summer plumaged Great White Egret was standing around doing not a lot. The primary interest was the Squacco though, and after a short while it took off and turned into a Barn Owl, which was rather clever of it. After catching a few voles it settled back into the reeds and started being a Heron again.

News then started filtering through of a Night Heron within the LNHS area, Stocker's Lake in Herts to be precise. It was the work of moments to abandon a windswept and somewhat sodden Dungeness for the comfort of Bradders' Subaru and scoot back to London for some filthy tickage. The Heron showed extremely well if distantly, and largely sat in a tree and preened. The last one I saw just slept, so this was a step in the right direction. A fine way to finish an afternoon's birding you might think, but the best was yet to come. In our mad rush to twitch the Heron we had inadventantly parked next to a pub with a beer garden. Only noticing this on the way back to the car, it was too much to resist, and a swift pint of Wells Bombardier was duly despatched whilst a Red Kite glided overhead.

Friday, 17 June 2011

Moving on up

Whilst it would have been difficult to beat the Small Elephant Hawkmoth, the reality of steady rain and cold, windy nights has meant that the comedown has been quicker than expected. Last night, a solitary Heart and Dart and a bunch of soggy egg-boxes were all we could manage. As I type, it is still raining, so unless you are very unlucky, tomorrow's post will not be about moths.

So what's the news? From Wanstead, well, nothing really. I am sad to have to report that the second pair of Great Crested Grebes have also failed. Hero to zero. As far as I can remember, this is the first year that Great Crested Grebes have attempted nesting. We had high hopes, especially for the particularly enthusiatic first pair, and then couldn't believe our luck when a second pair constructed a nest on the same pond. To have both fail within a week of each other is rather gutting. Still, it will allow Mrs Grebe to get on with what she enjoys most.

On the other hand, and on a different pond, last year's solitary male Reed Warbler this year attracted a mate, and baby Reed Warblers are the happy result. When I arrived here, a mere glimpse of a Reed Warbler was an event that only took place in my dreams, so to have successful breeding is a massive result.

I have to more 'results' to share with you, ones I am quite excited about. The first is that I am finally getting paid to wander about and watch birds. I suppose I knew that there was always a possibility, but to have it actually happen is rather amazing, not least to me. It's only a small bit of survey work, but to get paid real money for knowing what Wrens and Blackbirds sound like is extremely gratifying, even if it does mean getting up at 3am. Now if only somebody would pay me for going round Wanstead at first light in June....

The second 'result' is even more unbelievable than the first. Somehow, as a result of this very blog and my column in Birdwatch Magazine, I have been invited to the Wetland Centre to make some kind of film with Simon King and a few other people. I really have very little idea of what it entails, other than that it's about birding, but I am not fussy. I think I would like to be Simon King. In fact I think many people would. And whilst I don't go to the birdfair at Rutland every year with the specific aim of stalking him like some people do, to get to meet him will be a real privilege. A certain Norfolk-based blogess would be well jealous I suspect. He's a proper wildlife guy, the whole shebang. Great on camera, but also great behind a camera - he has all bases covered. Should I offer to carry all his camera gear for him wherever he goes, or would that be too fawning? What do you reckon? I'm just kidding of course, I have the school run to do, but it will make for an interesting day, that's for sure. Who knew that writing a bit of nonsense in weboland could open such doors?

Which reminds me, and I may have forgotten to mention it last year, but I met Bill Oddie. No, really. And the head of the RSPB. These are now the circles I mix in, ahem. Yup, me, Bill and Mike, we're running the show. Well maybe not Bill, but definitely me and Mike. Or maybe that's just Mike, and not me at all, in any way, shape, or form. Anyway, it doesn't matter. What matters is that I've got Lee Evans' phone number, and he's got mine. Oh, wait....

Wednesday, 15 June 2011

Muffin hits the Jackpot!

Apologies in advance, for this post is unashamedly about moths. Or rather, one particular Moth. As usual the actinic trap was set up in the garden, but the weather didn't look or feel particularly mothy. What the hell, you never know. A reasoned approach.

I've been delegating the trap-emptying of late to Muffin. He enjoys this very much, and usually by the time I stumble downstairs, he is ready with a small box of pots with moths in, many of them already identified. A normal morning conversation with Muffin could easily go something like this:

Me: Anything in the trap?
Muffin: Nah, not much. A couple of Dark Arches, a Heart and Dart, a Scalloped Oak and some kind of Tortrix.

Start them young eh? The other advantage is of course that I can laze around in bed whilst the hard work is done by someone else. And this is what I was doing this morning when I was awakened by high-pitched screams of "Daddy!" from the garden. Really quite loud screams, loud enough to also wake up Pie, which takes some doing. My befuddled brain considered two possibilities; That he had been stung by something vicious that had got into the trap, or that there was a good 'un in there. Thankfully it was the latter, and he had hit the Jackpot!

I made it down the stairs just as he came steaming in from the garden shouting "Small Elephant Hawkmoth!!!!!" at the top of his voice. He hadn't even looked at the book, but I didn't doubt him for a second, and as, shaking, he proudly handed me the potted prize, I knew he would remember this for a long time. The moth is a thing of beauty, and a first for the garden, in fact a first for the whole family, anywhere. It immediately usurps Scarce Silver Lines as the best ever garden moth, and may even be twitched by various members of the East London Moth-lovers Organisation (ELMO) tonight. I was very careful photographing it lest it do a runner. Utterly superb.

Tuesday, 14 June 2011

Gah! Birds in Wanstead!

There are actually some birds here. Nothing pulse-quickening, but to be enjoyed nonetheless. The highlight has been a Lesser Whitethroat singing in almost exactly the same place that a Common Whitethroat was singing a few weeks ago - you know, the one that could be heard from my front drive and therefore scraped onto the garden list? I hurried home, continuing to hear the strident "de-de-de-de-de-de-de" at the end of the song until about half way down the road. Whether the bird stopped singing or whether the sound simply faded away I cannot say, but it was a big disappointment. I had a listen this morning, but I didn't get up early enough and there was too much traffic. Very sad.

So, some bird news at last. And there's more! Another Red Kite flew over the Flats at the weekend. I got a call from Gary who lives south of me somewhere, to say he had just seen one going over the Flats vaguely towards my house. I rushed out but could not connect with it, I am guessing it passed north and east of me. So close, and yet so far. Still, Red Kite is already, and will be forever on the garden list, so no great drama, but I think I am right in saying that it is the fifth Red Kite sighting from the patch this year, which is remarkable really.

The Mute Swans have cygnets which are rapidly growing. If you want to see them still in their uber-cute phase, now is the time. In only a short while they will be gawky adolescents totally ill-at-ease with their size. If you can't make it, here they are. Altogther now...."awwwwww".

Not much else to report really, I am very much looking forward to the next part of the kids' play, and to the weekend. Yet again I have a poorly child at home, what I have done to deserve the almost constant illnesses is a mystery. I did manage to nip out for an hour yesterday, in between getting a puncture sorted out on the car - my run of luck with tyres continues to astound. I saw almost no birds, and a single butterfly, which I think is a Small Skipper, but I am happy to be corrected. The key ID feature is apparently that the undersides of the antennae are orange, whereas they are black in Essex Skipper. Obviously.

Monday, 13 June 2011

The One Dancing Princess

Ideally this post would be about a Roller I've just seen, but the timings just didn't work out. There'll be another, and right now my twitching urges are at a low ebb. In fact I am at a low ebb, but that's one for another time. However I am very pleased to bring you a production by the local dance company, performed only this afternoon in our middle room.

The company have apparently been working quite hard at this, the first in a series of works, to be performed one-a-night all week. There has been hushed practicing, and back-stage (or the hall) has been a hive of activity. After a couple of false starts, including the leading lady forgetting her name three seconds after being reminded of it, they were ready, and this is the stunning result. The children have inherited my dancing genes it appears, they are very lucky. I am not sure of the exact story, no doubt more will be revealed tomorrow. Listen carefully for the outpouring of sympathy from the director (who also plays Taylor, the hunter) very near the end of the production. I have no idea who was in the audience.....

It's only a couple of minutes long, I encourage you to watch until the very end. Or if you're busy, just skip to the final fifteen seconds.

Saturday, 11 June 2011

So good they named it again

You thought I was done didn't you? No, no, no, plenty more where they came from. Bird blog? Who said that? I do sometimes feel a tad guilty that increasingly many posts have absolutely nothing to do with birds. Wanstead Birder - kind of gives the impression that birds might be involved. So, if you feel cheated, especially by the Speedo modelling, I can only apologise and say that July is just around the corner. Come on though, who genuinely thought that by scrolling down that they would actually get some "banana hammock" action? (many thanks to regular reader Laurel for introducing me to this quite fantastic expression). All I can say is that the chances of me posing in Speedos but without the Jeans were always very close to nil. That was a one-off, dedicated to the people of France and their utterly ridiculous and spurious rules. And boy do the French love their rules. I've lived in France in the past, and the mere act of trying to live, trying to have a telephone and electricity for example, are enough to drive you mad. It is the most beaurocratic place I have ever been, and it's all Napoleon's fault. Still. Before I get too carried away, and remembering that there is always the possibility that I may have some lovely French readers, let us skip gaily across the Atlantic and get NY over and done with.

New York is a quite wonderful place if you can cope with the excess consumerism and monumetal amount of waste that only a very few people generate. Excuse me if I just go off on one again. My family of five generates one 30L bin's worth of rubbish per week, if that, and one to two boxes of recycling (lately growing due to my increasing wine addiction). That's the same amount of waste generated by the average New Yorker's lunch. It is enough to make you sick quite how much is thrown away. The City is not dirty, far from it, but the level of consumption is simply unbelievable. Everything comes in a bag, bottle or can. You buy food, it comes wrapped in yards of paper and will have a styrofoam tray, accompanied with an armful of napkins. They could build the Brooklyn Bridge every day out of used coffee cups. It doesn't help of course that the portions are gigantic, something I definitely didn't take advantage of.....

Friday, 10 June 2011

So good they named it twice

Well, you've been able to look at me in Speedos for a few days now (the stats show many repeat visitors, ahem), so I reckon it's high time we moved on to something completely different. It being June, there is not much bird-related, although largely this is due to me not going birding. Who knows what could be out there, flocks of Black Skimmers on Heronry, roving parties of Bee-eaters around Alexandra Lake, or even a White-throated Robin near the Bowling Green on Aldersbrook Road. That last possibility is just plain silly of course, and would never happen, but June does have the odd knack of throwing up a biggie. Indoors however, on what must be my eightieth load of washing since returning from France, I wouldn't know. Holidays are all very well, but you spend a week preparing for them, you know finding stuff, packing it, sourcing Crocodiles, that kind of thing, and then when you get back it's at least another week of unpacking, finding homes for things, washing, more washing......
Oh, and to hammer yet another nail in my non-birding coffin, earlier in the week Muffin had a tummy upset involving stuff coming out of both ends. Lovely. This generated another few loads of washing, but hey, and whilst he has now recovered, this morning Pudding threw up on the school run. She is now wrapped up in towels in the front room in what is becoming a well-practised routine. The washing machine door is open, the powder is in, the dial is set to 'K'. I'm ready!
So, as I sat down and wondered what to replace the Speedos with, I thought that either I could write about washing and being sick, or bung a few photos on from New York last month. I concluded that nobody wanted to hear about vomit and diarrhoea, and that the Big Apple would be a better bet.