Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Happy Chocolate Easter

There are all sorts of museums all over the world, and in Cologne there is one for chocolate.


This time of year a big brother bunny, in what looks like golden foil, poses majestically above the entrance. Inside you find smaller, more common versions.

DSC_0075_20100328_9173  DSC_0072_20100328_9170

It is a chocolate heaven on earth for chocoholics. They even have a display of a chocolate waterfall behind bullet-proof glass(?), otherwise people might have been too tempted to sample it I guess.


We didn’t have time to go through the museum itself, but we were happy just to visit the shop and make some modest purchases. Is that cheating?

Happy Easter 2010

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Fairy Tale Goose

AA Pic of the Week 125 w

This week’s picture turned out to have something magical about it. Dusk was setting in and I also underexposed it somewhat. But the total effect was that parts of the bird were highlighted as was the water that its feet disturbed and set in motion.

One’s eyes are immediately drawn to the centre of the image, and with all the dark water and wall of trees in the background, I think it makes the scene look like a fairy tale illustration. Maybe I should write the book to go with it now?

Fairy Tale Goose 20x30 ab dm

BTW - Since I spend so much time and take such care to display some of my photos here, like this beautiful bird on the lake, I have started to embed info about copyright and ownership, and I also digitally mark the very best ones so they are traceable on the net. Would you like to use it as desktop background, please just ask me nicely in an email or comment and I might just send you a full-size copy.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Love Is But a Dream - Love Padlocks / Liebesschlösser Revisited

In October last year I wrote about the padlocks on the Hohenzollern bridge in Cologne, a post that has been found by quite a few searches from all over the world. I have been back, and now on the southern side where most of them are.

You see people, who walk across the bridge, stopping regularly to look at padlocks and read the inscriptions. And there are tens of thousands to look at, in particular on the southern side of the bridge.

DSC_0057_20100328_9155 ab

One couple, who secured their love padlock on New Year's Day this year, has already lost two of their four ladybirds for luck. Does that mean luck is running out already for Katharina and Bernhard? Who knows?

DSC_0058_20100328_9156 ab

Some cynic or sad loser who has not found love yet, has painted a message on the footpath in German:

DSC_0064_20100328_9162 ab

"Liebe ist nur ein Traum" - "Love Is But a Dream"

Others are displaying some strong feelings, including handcuffs. Or is that possibly a bit kinky?

DSC_0054_20100328_9152 ab

How about this one then? Did the maker of that padlock design it in complete innocence or was it meant to look slightly rude? Is that a sex god? Well, it is a love padlock after all, I suppose!

DSC_0063_20100328_9161 ab


Thursday, March 25, 2010

China - Dictatorship's Dubious Internet Activities

 DSC_0163_20100325_9098 crop ab dm

China, with 400 million internet users, has set up a new wall, The Great Firewall of China. The government is trying to oppress its citizens in new ways, but people still find ways around it with clever thinking and ingenuity. We have all heard and read about it, the whole Google-in-China saga.

I found this very interesting article in The Guardian (UK) today about Chinese censorship. It is well worth a read, and then you can thank your lucky star that you are not one of China's netizens, but can use the internet as you like.

Then I found another China-related article in the same online paper, this time about how Chinese hackers are hacking Gmail accounts. The article also tells you how you can check if your Gmail account has been hacked, if there has been unusual activity. It is somewhere down in the small print at the bottom of the page. Read about how to check and also set it to alert you if something suspicious has been detected.

Who is using your email account? Well, don't panic, but it is worth checking out. And it is always useful to learn something new, isn't it? Stay in control!

Sunday, March 21, 2010

This One Is Not about Birds - Promise!

But when you look at the picture you might be forgiven for thinking the opposite.

Out on a photo walk not long ago I spotted a few of these mysterious, wooden objects on tree trunks. A piece of cheese under a right-angle roof? A nesting box for some hitherto unknown extremely small bird? Has somebody just tried out a new drill and different-size drill bits and proudly put it up in the forest? Is it a practice-piece of wood for young woodpeckers? Is it a post box for holding military covert carrier pigeons' little scrolls? Nursery chambers for some insect?

Can somebody please help me? What on earth is this?


Friday, March 19, 2010

Nest Building - Hurry, hurry!

How many of you have been desperate to get the nursery ready in time? You know, decorate, buy a cot, get clothes and nappies in neat piles at an arm's length, make sure the blinds work ..., there's no end to it.

Well, this female blackbird is doing all that at the moment; perhaps not clothes and nappies, and the blinds, mm... that's the leaves on the shrub I suppose. And all this while the male blackbird is sitting on high branches at a comfortable distance, making sure she does it all.

This female blackbird worked really hard today, so hard that she had to break for some food and drink, and also have a cooling bath in a pot (I have put out recently for the birds). At regular intervals she came flying in very fast with her bill full of grass, by the sheaf-full. Then I could see the leaves and branches of the shrub move as she added the latest load to the nest. And then off again!

Since I had my camera mounted on a tripod to get the best possible pictures of her entering and leaving the nest, I never got a picture of her feeding on the ground or drinking out of and taking a splash-bath in this pot that used to hold an outdoor candle.

It was absolutely fascinating to observe her labouring, and the lazy husband supervising it all. But that's nature I suppose. (No human comparison intended!)

Spring is definitely on its way. We actually had 18 degrees C in the afternoon. Will it last I wonder?

Have a beautiful weekend!

DSC_0854_20100319_8767 crop  DSC_0872_20100319_8785 crop

 DSC_0858_20100319_8771 crop  DSC_0868_20100319_8781 crop

Monday, March 15, 2010


For the third time ever I saw a hawfinch this morning. This time I recognised it instantly, and I remembered the name in both English and Swedish (stenknäck), which was more of a surprise to me actually.

I consulted my European bird book and decided it was a male in spring/summer colours. When you look at the bill you can see it has a dark lead-grey colour, which they do not have in the winter. Last winter (08/09) I saw one in December, and the bill was different. So, it is officially spring!

In particular the Swedish name is very descriptive since it roughly translates as "stone cracker". It can crack open cherry stones among others. You would not go "Pretty Polly, who's a nice bird then?" and stick your finger too close.

You would in fact not get very close since they are very shy and very rarely visit gardens. So I was very pleased to see one again, and luckily I had the right lens in the camera. Have a look, isn't he pretty?

DSC_0753_20100315_8666 fxd crop cr DSC_0755_20100315_8668 fxd crop cr

DSC_0762_20100315_8675 fxd crop cr  DSC_0763_20100315_8676 fxd crop cr

Read more and listen here.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Song Thrushes

After not having seen almost any in six years, in recent days I have seen plenty. Where do all the song thrushes come from? Is it the prolonged freezing conditions that has driven them out into the open? Could it be that the lovely sunshine that we enjoyed for several days, has softened the ground and thereby made the earth worms more active?

That was a lot of questions, but the fact is that I have seen this very specific behaviour on display at the bottom of the garden where the lawn has not been overrun by moss.

When the song thrushes move around among the dead leaves of last year, they are very well camouflaged. Against the green grass, in particular if they are moving, they are much easier to spot.

At first I thought they all behaved like young birds, a little lost, not knowing what to do, but then I realised what they were up to.

After a few quick steps they stand still, then move quickly before another stop. It is a constant stop-start with mostly long moments of standing absolutely still.

When I enlarged some of the pictures that I took, I had proof of what was happening. They were feeding; listening for worms in the ground and then pulling out their wriggling reward.

DSC_0629_20100308_8542 crop DSC_0674_20100308_8587 fxd crop

Oh No I Hadn't, But I Have Now!

When I wrote my previous post I thought I had nearly finished updating the design of Pictura  Digitalis. Oh no I hadn't, but I have now!

I discovered new features and functionalities of my web design software, which I now have taken advantage of. Now I have really revamped the structure and navigation of the site. I hope it does not look too home-made. Any additions will be much more easily carried out. So I hope I have saved some future time by spending quite a few solid hours on it now.

But knowing me, I am sure I will find something else to investigate and fiddle with, improving and refining the site as such, and of course uploading more photographic efforts!

Here is an example...

DSC_0374 b-w cr

Friday, March 05, 2010

I Take Too Many Photographs

Or do I? I seem never to be able to catch up and put the best ones on my photo web site Pictura Digitalis. Not only are there many images, but I have also realised that I needed to re-design the navigation slightly to make it easier when numbers grow. I am in the process of doing that now.

Once I understood how to use the web-building software it did not seem to take a lot of time, but I think I now have found a way of making it easier for the future.

Creating new galleries is rather time-consuming though. That is why I have not had much time to blog, and even less time to read other blogs. But now I have almost caught up and the site is more or less up to date.

To make up for my absence I post some new images that also will be found on my photo website.

Please visit. I would love to hear what you think.

Sky 024  DSC_0555_20100303_8468 fxd cr 2

        DSC_0348 cr            DSC_0203 crop fxd cr

DSC_0065_20100128_7996 adv fxd cr  DSC_0629 cr

Monday, March 01, 2010

After The Storm

All of western Europe was battered by a storm in the last 24-36 hours. The French Atlantic coast was particularly badly effected with floods as well as falling trees. The storm continued in a north-easterly direction and came past us here in Germany as well. There was structural damage and sadly also deaths, mostly from falling trees.

At the back of our garden there is a copse of different kinds of trees, and most of them are quite tall and thin. When the storm was at its strongest yesterday the trees behind us behaved like wheat straws rather than wooden trunks. I heard today that there were gusts of up to 160 km/hour. I can believe that, because I have never seen the trees around us move like that.

The branch where I hang my bird feeders was being bashed against the shrub next to it at a 90 degree angle! It broke, and is now hanging at a very sad angle pointing at the ground. Our neighbour's trampoline was picked up, tossed over the fence and landed upside down in another neighbour's garden. On the other side of the copse a big tree is now resting on top of somebody's garden shed.

When I went for a short walk I discovered that the tree which I have written about before (with a mysterious bike wheel rim around the trunk), had now been brought down by the strong winds. It still had the rim around its lower part.

I am eternally grateful that the very big, rotten and unsafe tree, that stood outside our front door before, was taken down completely in December. That was the best Christmas present; I dare not think what our roof otherwise would have looked like now.

DSC_0494_20100301_8407  DSC_0479_20100301_8392

DSC_0489_20100301_8402  DSC_0498_20100301_8411

DSC_0496_20100301_8409  DSC_0500_20100301_8413