Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Red Hot Lily

Scorchio! Even the weather forecasters on the BBC have started using that word jokingly now. It comes from a British comedy show in the 1990s where the weather girl pointed at a map with lots of suns, and she always said it would be “scorchio”, as in very very hot.

We have had two extremely hot days here in Germany now. Today when I got in the car in the afternoon, the car told me it was 40 degrees outside! After a few minutes of driving it had dropped to only 36 degrees.

So our trooper of a flower, the lonely lily in the pot, decided to open up today. It has almost become an annual event for me to take some pictures of it to document the solemn occasion. This year it seems to be much redder, not so orangy. It picked the hottest day of the year so far to show its wonderfully red petals. I think you can detect the colour of the early morning sunshine in the shot below.

Luckily the forecast for tomorrow is for more normal temperatures, that is, after the release of all the pent-up energy in the clouds. There will be thunder and lightning accompanied by rain.

Red Hot Lily

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Famous Colours

Have you ever been expecting a child? Did you not all of a sudden then see many more prams and buggies than you previously had done? Have you ever met a long-lost friend, only to start running into this friend over and over, as if by magic? It seems there is some sort of awareness or recognition phenomenon, something that happens in our brain, triggered by a single event or situation.

I had a similar awareness situation this morning, in the bathroom. On some towel racks were two items, not towels but some tops or T-shirts. I wondered why I was staring at them, why I could not take my eyes off them. It was not because they were in the slightly odd place, but there was something about them that I could not figure out straight away.

Then I realised it was because of the colour combination. See for yourself.

Wimbledon Colours

I am not a particular tennis fan, so I would not normally think twice about these two items side by side on a rack. But of course, it is Wimbledon now, and you see these two colours all the time on the telly. They are world-famous.

Sadly Robin Söderling went out yesterday to an 18-year-old aussie, because he was not well, so I suppose I have to switch my allegiance to Andy Murray. One pines for the days of Björn Borg, five consecutive Wimbledon championships. Beat that!

Monday, June 20, 2011

Adorable Or What?


AA Pic of the Week 125 w


This beautiful juvenile great spotted woodpecker was just sitting there tucked into the foliage waiting for the parent to provide some food. It is leaning in sync with the leaves on both sides as if it was part of the vegetation, had it not been for the strong colours.

Juvenile Great Spotted Woodpecker (low res png) ab

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Beautiful Blue Eyes

Just a quick post about something that happened this afternoon.

I heard a terrible commotion from the dense hedge at the bottom of the garden. Birds were shrieking in the nearby trees, and there seemed to be some movement in the hedge. First I thought there was some sort of fight taking place, but when I went down to investigate I found this young jackdaw on a weak and wobbly branch. It did not fly off, just moved further away from me. I did a quick tour of the web and found out about this bird. I believe it had just left the nest (in one of the tall trees above) and more or less fallen down into the hedge. Since it was not quite ready to fly just yet, it had to stay there while the parents were calling from all around. And they are loud!

The younger they are, the bluer the eyes. Are they not beautiful?

Jackdaw fledgling - png ab

Monday, June 13, 2011

What Is It Like To Be a Bird?

As you could see in a previous post, a male adult was slaving away trying to keep up with the offspring’s food demands. The day after I saw a female Great Spotted Woodpecker doing the same with her young one. It was a different individual, because the red patch on the head did not look the same.

Female Great Spotted Woodpecker feeding juvenile (low res png) 2

But this mother had also had enough of it, or rather, thought it appropriate to encourage the youngster to start finding its own food. She bullied it off the branch they both were sitting on, trying to chase it away, so it ended up hanging upside down by its sharp talons for a long while, not knowing what to do.

Bullied juvenile (low res png)

This is often how you can tell the youngest ones apart from the adults, this “lost” behaviour. They can be spotted sitting still for long periods of time, looking bewildered, trying to take it all in. They seem to be thinking hard about what to do next. I can fly, so I must be a bird, but what am I supposed to do all day? I can eat, drink and fly, but then what?

They can look totally lost, but also fluffy and dead cute! Like these young ones, a blue tit and a willow warbler.

Juvenile Blue Tit (low res png) Juvenile Willow Warbler (low res png)

Friday, June 10, 2011

How Many Times Removed?

Not long ago I had an email from a stranger. No, not the usual spam, but an email with serious and personal content. He claimed to be my relative, but I had no idea of his existence.

When I had read the whole message I concluded that he was indeed right. We were related.

It turned out that this man was researching his ancestry, digging into data archives. I have my family tree on a website called Geni, where you easily can build your family tree and get a good overview, so it took me only minutes to confirm this man’s claim.

He comes from the same part of Sweden as I do, and just like me he had moved abroad, so he was researching mostly on the internet. Long gone are the days when you needed to find old dusty documents in parish archives and physically hold them in your hands. Nowadays your computer mouse is your best friend.

Not only was this distant relative of mine doing research, he was also writing a book about some aspects of his findings. He does his work like a proper genealogist, and the reason he had contacted me was to possibly get some input, data and perhaps even photographs. As it happened, I did have on my PC some photos of interest, including a wedding photograph from 1878.

So, what about how we are related? First of all you could say that all humans are related, going all the way back to our earliest ancestors in Africa, or to Adam and Eve, if you believe in that sort of thing. But that would be to stretch the concept somewhat. We had to go back only seven (7) generations to find where our family trees interconnected, 309 years ago! A man who was born in 1702 was our joint ancestor, my great great great great great grandfather.

So, what does that make him, my newly-found relative? Not my cousin exactly, and how many times removed? My mind boggles!


Thursday, June 09, 2011

Male Woodpecker Feeding Hungry Youngster

Since we got back from holiday I have seen many birds feeding their young. The parent normally comes to my feeding station and then flies off with its beak full of food to the impatient young bird, sometimes a very short distance away.

I have seen the usual great tits and blue tits caring for their offspring, but also nuthatches and even tree creepers, who normally prefer to stay down the bottom of the garden. But the best spectacle on offer are the woodpeckers.

You are often alerted to what is going on by the calling of the hungry youngster. Its helpless and clumsy behaviour reveals its youth. It is very common that the young bird is as big or bigger than the parent, but the colours on the woodpecker’s head gives it away. The adult male has got a red patch at the back of the head and a juvenile at the front or all over the head. The female’s head is all black. The adult in the sequence below was working his little cotton socks off to satisfy the culinary needs of his offspring. Recognise yourself anybody?

(Photos taken through a bedroom window with a heavy 300 mm handheld lens!)

Male woodpecker feeding young 01 film png   Here comes daddy with some yummy food!

Male woodpecker feeding young 02 film png   I am hungry!

Male woodpecker feeding young 03 film png   Left side or right side?

Male woodpecker feeding young 04 film png   OK, this side. Here you are.

Male woodpecker feeding young 05 film png   Here is one for mummy.

Male woodpecker feeding young 06 film png   And here is one for granny.

Male woodpecker feeding young 07 film png   Another one for uncle Albert.

Male woodpecker feeding young 08 film png   This is the last bite for now.

Male woodpecker feeding young 09 film png   Great, daddy is off for more! I am starving!

Monday, June 06, 2011

Not Only Garden Work …

As always this time of year, the garden in France has grown like mad; grass knee-high, weeds everywhere and hedges bulging out of control. So last week was spent having a go at all the green stuff with hedge trimmer, grass strimmer and bare hands. The weather was wonderful; it only started raining as we left yesterday morning. I won’t bore you with pictures of garden tools and machinery, or even worse, sweaty gardeners, but I leave you with a picture more representative of what we indulged in after heavy duty garden work. Aaaah!

Bubbly cherries (lowres png)