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 In the year 2019

29 November 2019
Starling mumeration.

Have had a bit of a writers block with the website just lately but have decided to do this post in the hopes that the ones that I should have done earlier in the year may yet appear, albeit out of sequence.

This week. we took ourselves over to the
RSPB nature reserve at Otmore in the hopes of experiencing the starling mumeration. I say 'in the hopes' as back on 27 January we had invited Ant and Kate over especially for the experience and found that although we were all keen, the starlings had decided otherwise and there was not a one to be seen.

Links to previous mumerations are here: theBlog 2013 Mumuration ItheBlog 2013 Murmuration II,  theBlog 2017 Murmuration III and theBlog 2018 Murmuration IV.

  Back in January all wrapped up but with no starlings.

We were told that the mumerations in January this year had stopped suddenly just days before we had been there and I note that our latest successful visit was on 17 January 2017. So only ten days later in 2019 and we were too late. So we invited Ant and Kate over again and just hoped that we weren't too early as our previous earliest viewing had been on the 11 December.

I'm always a bit conflicted as to which camera to use for these events, I can see that for the first one I used the Olympus with its long focal length lens, I took it this time too but didn't use it. The small Canon worked well but I think my phone in letter box mode might have been even better. [Always supposing I could have changed it from 3:4 in the dark!] The display this time was much more spread out than on previous occasions and in truth I was more keen to experience it myself than gaze through the viewfinder.

  Masses of starlings but spread out over the whole sky.

  Their number increasing all the time

  Starting to wheel together.



  Sailing high above a raptor with eyes out for an evening snack.

  I couldn't see the raptor with the naked eye, it just became apparent when I processed the pics.


19 May 2019

Got the lathe going again at last today. Getting it going has been one of those long chain jobs whereby several other things have to happen before the main event can take place. One of those was the need to insulate the roof and sunny side of the workshop ... it turned out to be uninhabitable in winter because it was too cold and in summer because it was too hot. The insulation has helped a lot.

There has not been a great deal of pressure to get it up and running anyway as I haven't really had anything really pressing to do BUT the other day, the handle decomposed on my old shovel and when Rosemary said 'Well just buy a new one' I thought 'Well now is just the time to get the lathe running again'.

Of course this reminded me of the story about the Old Friends club where one of the members was about to celebrate his 90th birthday and was asked what he would like as a present to which he replied that what he would really like would be a new spade. Now this caused some consternation among the other members with one remarking acidly that 'you would have thought that at his age, a secondhand one would have done'

When I taught at physics and microelectronics Llandrillo College, one of my colleagues retired and as usual the collecting plate went round, and when all was gathered in, they asked him what was to be done with the proceeds, 'Hmmm, he said' I would like a pair of sash cramps', which is what he got! Though not without some disapprobation from some. It has always been a wonder to me as to why a new retiree would want a clock to count down the minutes before they die.

On a lighter note, I have to admit that I have never seen the 'fork handles' sketch, though I know about it as it has been described to me many times by those who have, including my father, who thought it was marvellous. I once asked Dutch friends how it was that they spoke such excellent and idiomatic english to which they replied that it was all due to four candles! Oh and By The Way this was a shovel and not a fork.

BTW I have never seen an episode of 'Game of Thrones' either which probably makes me a very desirable subject for any contemporary social researcher.

  Looks like a sound studio says Rosemary.



  Shovel handle.

  Even turned the fixing dowel.



1 April 2019

The first batch of frogspawn is starting to hatch, it was laid on the 14th March and it is now 1st April, 17 days later. Just a squiggly mass and none free swimming yet.

  Spawn on the 31 March, little commas in each egg cell.

  What a difference a day makes, most of the tadpoles out of their jelly globules which have all but disappeared.

24 March 2019
The People's Vote march.

Spent yesterday exercising my democratic right to protest against brexit and affirm confidence in and regard for the European Union.

Went down by train with members of the Banbury for Europe group, the coach being fully booked. Standing room only on the train and it was clear when we arrived that most people were also heading to the march. One who was certainly not going though was the permed and preemed woman who commented ‘charming’ as I passed and she saw my ‘Bollocks to Brexit’ sticker.

Joined up with members of the
Scientists for the EU group and gave out a few stickers and appropriated a sign.

It would be hard to describe our progress as a march, the crowds were so dense that at times we were reduced to a stop start shuffle, no way to estimate the number of people as everywhere one looked it was packed tight.

  Went down by train with members of the Banbury for Europe group.


  It was clear when we arrived that most people were also heading to the march..

  Marble Arch.

  Heard a person on their phone saying: 'Oh you will find me quite easily, I'm on Park Lane by a big tree'.


  ♉Scientists for EU

  ♉Scientists for EU


  This guy had come down from Glasgow this morning AND made his own Scientists for EU sign..


  This chap had come down from Banbury this morning AND had appropriated a ♉Scientists for EU official sign.




  Bollocks to Brexit.

  Part of the Scottish contingent.

  Hastings, European since 1066. [Some unfortunate logic here.]

  A Tory supporter, Boris look alike.

  My favourite sign, made from a real pizza box, 'E.U.'RE taking the PIZZA!'.

  Upped the contrast a bit to make it clearer.

  Bollocks to Brexit. But I thought they came in twos and not threes.

  We pass the Ritz.




  Trafalgar square, filled with people too.

  Tight squeeze down Whitehall.


  In Parliament square with ♉Scientists for EU sign.

  Marchers from Sussex.

  Started back up Whitehall and still folk were arriving, after 1800.



  Trafalgar Square.

  Mooched around here for a while, lots of marchers still passing through in both directions.


  Chatted with a group on the steps of St. Martin in the Fields church.

  They wanted a photocall with my ♉Scientists for EU sign.

  Then clogged it back to Marylebone Station, Oxford Street packed ... with shoppers!

  Back home and the campagne continues ... ♉Scientists for EU sign in the window.

Some links and thoughts.

Throughout the march people were reporting to each other on the progress of the petition to revoke article 50. A good article here on the Guardian about it where they say: 'As of 2.18pm on Sunday, 5,000,438 people had signed the petition, making it the most popular to have been submitted to the parliament website. The previous highest total of 4,150,260 was for a 2016 petition calling for a second referendum should the initial poll not provide a definitive enough result.'

As we neared Trafalgar Square we were able to see the live screens showing the stage in Parliament Square supplemented with pictures of 'movers and shakers'. A pic of Jeremy Corbyn was shown and immediately the crowd burst into cries of derision, followed by a chant of 'Where are you Jeremy', he was hiding in Morecombe BTW. I have been a great supporter of Jeremy in the past but this brought home to me how hopeless it is to carry on supporting him, like the Tories, he is not on my side.

The march also brought home to me how 'not fit for purpose' is our outmoted political system. When you see the circular, non-confrontational chambers of the European Union and the Scottish and Welsh assemblies you realise why ... confrontational politics determined by first-past-the-post is not in our best interests. If we want something 'traditional' why not try the round table of King Arthur instead?

First-past-the-post has ensured that NEVER in my lifetime [I'm 75] have I EVER been represented by ANYONE I have voted for.

Links for this post.

♉Scientists for EU Ok I know I have put this in quite a bit!
♉The Guardian
♉Revoke Article 50 and remain Sign the petition if its not too late. 5,216,403 signatures just before I posted this at: 2016 24 March 2019. [It's rising by about 600 per minute as I type]
♉PlacardsBetter pics than mine.
♉Peoples vote I marched against the Iraq war too ... for what that was worth. Though that is why Tony Blair's pic would have had much the same response as to that of Corbyn's.
♉People's vote People's vote and see my post about lobbying for it in ♉   Cambourne with Heidi Allen.   and about Heidi Allen
The people on the steps to All Saints said that they had been on the previous march as well and that that had been a bit like the queue at Waitrose. This one was slightly better in its demography but it was still predominately white, middle class and 'mature'. I have a horrible feeling that 'we' still don't get it.
Look at 1.00 and 1.56 in this clip for example: youtube a lot of old people not interested in making a noise, too civilised.

17 March 2019
Even more from the croakers.

Panic over!

Two new batches of frog spawn laid overnight and the original two discovered lurking in the murky depths of the pond and not eaten by passing cats as suspected yesterday.

Not very convincing pics below water using the pyrex oven dish but it looks like both batches of spawn are there and safe. No wonder the frogs were smiling.

  Two new batches of frog spawn laid overnight.


  Not very convincing pics below water but this is one of the two earlier batches.

15 March 2019
More from the croakers.

Next day, 16 March, the first blob of spawn had gone! No idea what took it overnight but no a sign of it anywhere. Have moved the second blob away from the bank but it has sunk. At least I think it is safe there though whether it will be warm enough or get enough oxygen I don't know. Still I think this gives it a higher chance of survival. Both frogs still around in the pond but the female is back to normal size.

The first batch of frog spawn appeared just eight days after my previous post and the next the day after that. It was a very different week though to the ones preceding my first sighting of the frogs as the unseasonably warm weather gave way to bitter cold, biting wind and even the odd snow flurry so they did well to hold off with the spawn.

  The first batch on 13 March.

  Something to smile about.



  New batch of spawn.

  The original batch.

6 March 2019

Last year on 30 March we discovered frog spawn in our derelict pond here at 'The Grove' and once all the tadpoles had gone, and what water there was had evaporated, we filled it in and inaugurated a new one a few metres away. We were concerned that this might not suit the frogs so I have been watching it very carefully for froggy activity. Soon after it was filled we were relieved to see that our resident frogs had discovered it and to-day I found a pair of them 'in flagrente' so to speak.

Bit concerned that this is 24 days earlier than last year as we could still have frost. The new pond is much smaller than the old one but it is deeper and more shaded so I don't think it is likely to be any warmer than the old one was nor do I know if the frogs are triggered to mate by the water temperature.

Just measured the water temperature, it was 8.7C. Spoke to Alex earlier in the week and she told me that she had been for a swim in the sea at Hastings which was 'not too bad', 8C according to World sea water temperatures. Just did a check on the sea temperature for Stoupa and it was 15C and what's more it told me that it would usually be 20C when Terry and I are usually there. This makes me such a wimp as I shiver every time we swim!!! No wonder I get sand kicked into my eyes on the beach by weedy beefcakes.

It's quite difficult to see into the pond because of the reflected light and photography is even more fraught. I know that reflected light is polarised so started to think of ways to eliminate the reflection by using a polarising filter made maybe by stretching some cling film or by finding some broken sun glasses when it occurred to me that all I really needed was a diving mask and what could be better than a pryrex oven dish?

  The pond.

  Floating oven dish.

  In flagrente delecto.

  How much bigger the female looks, distended with her eggs.

1 February 2019

Snowing today so writing a blog post and watching the big flakes fly by my window. The observant may have noticed that there is a new option on the website home page, I'm rather pleased with this and I've been trying to check it each time I look at the page.

What it does is serve up a random file from the webserver, I like it because I can check that things are working ok but I am also enjoying seeing posts long forgotten. The option selects files from the whole website, not just those linked through the right hand oldie column, so it often jumps into the middle of a thread and not at the start like the oldie column links.

I'm repeating the link here:

Random Link

This option generates a link to a random file on the web-server. Click on the link to run it.


14 January 2019
Dudley Canal.

Back in December 2013 tw and I did an xmas walk along the route of the derelict Dudley Canal also known as the Lapal canal from its junction with the Worcester and Birmingham Canal to where it disappears underground in a thicket of briars just beyond the ruins of Weoley Castle.
Back then the area around the Worcester and Birmingham Canal had just been cleared for development so we could have a good poke about. This Sunday we had a little light shopping to do so went to the brand new Sainsbury store and of course had to have a quick look at what had happened to the canal in the meantime.

  The road bridge tunnel to the park.

This is what it looked like in December 2013.



  Where the canal one day should join back up to the Worcester and Birmingham Canal

Links in this post:
♉Dudley No 2 Canal
♉Lapal canal
♉Reports Lots of progress reports on the restoration and other items of interest.
♉Worcester and Birmingham Canal
♉The development scheme
♉   Walk Dudley No2 canal Our walk in 2013.

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