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Monday, September 22, 2008

Skywatch Friday

Jackdaws flying to roost over the Brandenburg Gate
on a winter evening in Berlin

Sky Watch Friday
Click here for a complete list
of all the participants
of this week's Sky Watch!

Saturday, September 20, 2008


A Happy Festival of Mabon to you all!

Mabon is the Festival of the Autumn Equinox. It is also known as Harvest Home and celebrates the gathering in of the harvest. An equinox in astronomy is the time when the centre of the Sun can be observed to be directly above the equator. The date of the Autumn Equinox can be between September 21st and 23rd. This year it occurs at 15.40 GMT on 22nd, but celebrations traditionally commence on 21st.

I think of the Autumn Equinox as the "tipping point" of summer: after that, the nights are longer than the days (in the north). There may still be some lingering warm days, but winter is not far off.
Harvest (almost) home. The modern methods of harvesting are...

...not as pretty as the sheaves of corn depicted here by Van Gough. I recently had the pleasure of seeing the original of this painting in an exhibition.
Please click on the picture for credit to source

The cut hay lies in windrows to dry before...

...harvest is home

The trees are changing colour...

...and deciduous leaf fall is underway

Crab apples are in season...

...and Hawthorn bushes are laden with red berries

The heaths look tired and brown...

...but a late flowering bell-heather Erica tetralix give a pin-point of colour

'Tis the season to be pie-ful

Equinoctial sunset over my village (you can see my house if you know where to look)
The island in the distance behind which the sun is setting is the Isle of Man, home of Shrink-wrapped Scream*

My Mabon supper - fish'n'fowl: sea-bream and wild mallard duck, dressed with Maria's Cumbria apricot preserve, with a bottle of Blauer Zweigelt (2006) from Burgenland. Dish-set design is Alpine Char by Portmeirion Pottery

*Shrinky, you wouldn't like to send those Wood Nymphs over for my Mabon party, would you?

Red and Silver

The red jackets of the Ulverston Town Band blend with the flowers around the war memorial and give colour and harmony to a grey autumn Saturday in Cumbria

Perhaps someone could tell me what sort of flowers they are

Friday, September 19, 2008

Skywatch Friday

Cumulonimbus development over Germany

Sky Watch Friday
Click here for a complete list
of all the participants
of this week's Sky Watch!

Sunday, September 14, 2008


When I heard that my mate Simon in Australia was vising Paris on business, I had no hesitation in jumping on the overnight Eurolines coach from London to Paris in order to spend a day with him. I arrived in Paris at 6.00 am, just as the dawn was breaking.

The Eurolines coach waits to board the midnight ferry from Dover

Paris, deserted before dawn

The golden statues on the roof of the Opera house (Palais Garnier) catch the first rays of the rising sun

A reminder of my personal artistic icon, Serge Diaghilev...

...but this was the nearest I could get to pointe shoes on this visit

Sunrise over the Seine, the clock reflects the sunshins into the river

Les Pyramides near L'Ouvre art gallery

Yes, I think I have found the correct city...

Notre Dame

Simon arrives

A rêpe is called for (cream of chestnut with whipped cream), the "slimming" version!

A toast to absent friends

A flavour of the Côtes du Rhône...

And finally apples from Normandy condensed into a glass (or was it more?) of Calvados

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Ornithological idioms - Eating Crow

Following rave reviews of my note on Jynxed, by popular request I extend the series on ornithological idioms.

Eating Crow is an American version of the English idiom eating humble pie. It effectively means backing down, an indication of deference, submission or apology. The term presumably came from the fact that whilst the gentry indulged in eating game birds like pheasant, the more humble peasants resorted to eating crow.

But which species of crow is involved? Actually, in some circles, Rook Pie (a member of the crow family) is considered quite a delicacy and was popular in times of war and hardship (nowadays is is illegal to shoot rooks in Britain, so the pie has to be eaten under cover of darkness). In fact there are five species of "black" crows in Europe, so I had better review them.

This is the Hooded Crow Corvus cornix, found throughout northern and eastern Europe, often to be found scavenging in cities, like this one in Berlin.

This is not a crow but it proves I was in Berlin

The Carrion Crow Corvus corone is a close relative of the Hooded Crow but lacks the pale grey mantle and breast

The Rook Corvus frugilegus is about the same size as the Carrion Crow, has a whitish base to the bill, is more gregarious and is often found in flocks on farmland.

The Raven Corvus corax is the largest of the European black crows and lives in mountains

The Jackdaw Corvus monedula is the smallest of the European crows and is distinguished by its smaller size and pale grey nape and upper mantle. It lives around towns and nests in chimneys and holes in trees.

In addition to the "black" crows, there are other European members of the crow family, the best known being the Magpie. Others are the Jay (Europe), Siberian Jay (Lapland), Azure-winged Magpie (Spain), Chough and Alpine Chough.

Picture credits: The Carrion Crow in Berlin is mine; please click on the other pictures to locate the source.

Monday, September 01, 2008

Wet Sunday in the Lake District

It is now official: England has had its wettest summer on record. Not to be outdone by Lorenzo the Llama who reported a wet weekend in Cornwall, I am able to report that the Lake District in Cumbria welcomed Carwyn, Kathryn and Heledd in similar fashion. Nevertheless the Lake District can look austere and beautiful in the rain. And there is plenty to do.
The Old Man of Consiton projects through the lower levels of stratus

Riverside cottages in Grasmere village...

...but a café might provide a refuge

Kathryn, Carwyn and Heledd look happy in the rain

A boat trip on Conston Water is suggested

The steam gondola comes alongside

Full steam ahead, Cap'n!

Heledd watches the other boats...

Ready about! Lee ho!

You can always go 'below' out of the rain for a drink of milk!

For Heledd