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Sunday, August 30, 2009

Portsmouth Wedding

On 28 August I attended the wedding in Portsmouth of my elder son Alun to his financée Trudy, with their son Jimmy in attendance. Here are some moments I captured.

"Wedding? What wedding?"

Guests start to arrive - younger son Carwyn with wife Kathryn and daughter Heledd
(not to mention the harp)

The groom attends the arrival of the bride

Jimmy witnesses the taking of the vows...

...and signing of the register...

...while Carwyn plays the harp.

"You realise this is the point of no return... are we sure we want to do this?"

"Best Man" Billybob gives moral support whilst Alun shows Trudy where to sign... he's not going to let her get away...

"How am I supposed to sign with a moulted swan's feather?"

All the kids. Jimmy is the only boy among six.

Girlie gossip in the reception, Stef and Trudy discuss their latest knitting patterns...

...and the joys of motherhood

Jimmy seems preoccupied with the trimmings...

...whilst Kathryn watches over...

...Heledd tucking into her "Eton Mess" (a concoction of raspberry, cream and meringue)

The final ritual, Alun and Trudy cut the wedding cake

Thursday, August 20, 2009

The Tree Sparrow Recovery Project

Tree Sparrows Passer montanus are found throughout Europe and Asia and differ from the more familiar House Sparrows by having a chocolate brown cap and a conspicuous black cheek spot.

I photographed this Tree Sparrow in the Seewinkel National Park in Burgenland

Tree Sparrows declined in the U.K. by a staggering 95% between 1970 and 1998 and are now "red-listed" as a species of high conservation concern. Accordingly, the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) is cooperating closely with other professional and voluntary organisations and the farming community in order to promote practices that will encourage the recovery of this species.

Among the most important are modifications to agricultural practices (for example, the retention of stubbles through winter rather than ploughing in) and the provision of suitable nesting places. Fortunately Tree Sparrow readily take to nest boxes, and there have been considerable success stories in areas where nest boxes have been provided.

Part of this project involves RSPB Project Officer Catriona Glendinning (in collaboration with Cumbria Wildlife Trust, the Tree Sparrow Recovery Project and the Cumbria Waste Management Environmental Trust) who visited my research site at Roudsea Woods and Mosses National Nature Reserve to install a batch of nest boxes of suitable dimensions favoured by Tree Sparrows.

Catriona arrives at Roudsea Woods and Mosses NNR with her
van loaded with nest boxes for Tree Sparrows

Having established a suitable location to place the nest boxes,
Catriona quickly gets to work nailing them up.

Unlike many territorial species (e.g. the tit family) that are attracted to nest boxes, Tree Sparrows are colonial and so nest boxes are set up in clusters.

Now, it is a waiting game. I shall be responsible for monitoring the boxes over the coming years. The earliest possible occupation could be the spring of 2010 and we shall be waiting eagerly to discover if nestlings like the Tree Sparrows in the picture below are reared in the boxes.
A brood you young Tree Sparrows in a next box.
Please click on the picture for image source.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

My new kitchen

As my kitchen was starting to fall to pieces, I recently departed for my holiday leaving instructions with my tame builder to rip it all out and put in a new one. He began burbling nonsense about "units" and "tiles" and "cooker" and "taps" to which my reply was "Mate, I'm paying you to make those decisions for me".

Leaving him with with the keys to Maalie Court, I hinted that I would be very pleased if it was finished when I got home.

Maalie Court's new kitchen. I am extremely pleased with it, it is un-fussy, functional and has more work surface and storage space than I had before. I am especially pleased with the eye-level grill facility on the cooker (can't be seen in this picture, the cooker is lower right in the corner).
Click on the picture to get an indication of the state of my old kitchen

Even before I had cleaned and put away all the kitchen crockery and utensils that I had left lying around the house, I could not resist the temptation to bake a couple of wholemeal organic loaves of bread.

Then I roasted a chicken, basted with chicken juice, butter and paprika suspension.
NOW you can see the eye-level grill.
I wonder how long those tiles will remain unstained from bolognese sauce.

I needed to see if my griddle worked properly, so I made a batch of Welsh cakes

Afternoon tea, anyone?

Recipe for Welsh Cakes
8 ounces self-raising flour
4 ounces margarine or butter
3 ounces of sugar
2 ounces of currants
1 egg
2-3 tablespoons of milk

Rub margarine into the flour until it looks like crumbs. Add the sugar and currants and mix. Then add the egg and milk until it makes a smooth dough but not too sticky. Roll out the dough to about 2cm thickness. Cut into circles of about 5cm and place on a hot greased griddle until brown on both sides. Sprinkle with icing sugar for decoration.

x x x x x x x

The only disadvantage with my new kitchen that I have so far discovered is the tiled floor. Before, it was carpeted, so if I dropped an egg or spilled some milk, the carpet soaked it up nicely. Now I have to wipe it all up as otherwise I would be slip-sliding and skidding around all over the kitchen.

Thursday, August 06, 2009

Dawn over Burgenland

The sun lifts itself above the distant horizon somewhere over Slovakia, heralding another hot August day, ripening the already swollen grapes on the Burgenland vines

A Swallow takes an early morning flight to catch insects for a
hungry brood hidden away in some barn

Time to move on... a juvenile Black Tern continues its Autumn migration...

...followed closely by a Whiskered Tern negotiating clouds of insects that
respond to the rising temperatures after dawn.

A Red-backed Shrike has its beady eye on some
unfortunate beetle that moves through the grass...

...whilst a White Stork lifts off with a crop full of frogs to feed a pair of
hungry storklets on a roof top in nearby Illmitz

Pictures taken in the Seewinkel National Park around Illmitz, Burgenland

Sky Watch Friday

Maalie selects images from his albums of travel pictures for Skywatch

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