Friday, 15 November 2019

Don't have nightmares!

Well, one is never too old for new life experiences, I guess.

I went to bed last night, read for a while, then turned out the light to engage slumber mode. Then it happened, a thing that I had read about in books but never experienced. And, no, it wasn't that sort of book. Or that other one.

Infrequently, maybe a few times per year, just as I'm falling asleep, I have a 'tripping over the kerb' sensation, a leg shoots out to maintain my balance and I'm awake again. It wasn't that. But this morning I discovered that the kerb trip is known as a hypnogogic jerk. I've been called worse.

Nuh-uh, this was a whole other order of strange, but one from the same stable. I was suddenly aware that I couldn't move, not an arm or a leg, nothing. My vision felt as though I was looking through a large sheet of tiny bubble wrap, or a huge tv wall from a great distance. This gave way to some dancing motes of light, and when I realised that my eyes were closed, I opened them (so something could move), which made absolutely no difference to the view. I was wondering what the unseen presence to my left could be, as I could hear Our Lass breathing on my right, and just as I was thinking "Oo, I've read about this sort of thing!", I woke up.

So, sleep paralysis, wow!

Sadly, no succubus, but that was probably for the best, eh?

In less enlightened times (not that I'm suggesting that 'now' is particularly enlightened), there would have been all sorts of fantastical explanations for the experience. And plenty of weird reactions to it, some of which may have been more scary than the actual event. Somewhat prosaically, I suspect a rare mug of coffee, rather than possession, anything occult or plain old fruitloopery.

Saturday, 9 November 2019

Blue is the colour, rockfall is the game

There are several small piles of rubble dotted about the hard-standing of Tense Towers. They are a mixture of rocks and stones unearthed whilst digging and weeding or, more loudly and scarily, mowing the lawn. They are also a source of significant marital disharmony.

My official line is that they are a ready supply of building stone and infill to repair the dry stane dyke which borders one side of the garden. This reasoning is somewhat undermined by the lack of actual repair work that has been carried out in the past five years (just two small sections fettled), but, hey, I'm getting around to it. Our Lass remains serially unimpressed.

Today, however, I have discovered their true purpose, but I am rushing ahead with the tale, so let me just take you back to yesterday afternoon.

At a quarter to two, I was leaving the house to catch a bus to Stromness in West Mainland. I needed to collect my van from the garage which had been Waxoyling it. However, my phone pings with an alert of a rare bird, a Blue Rock Thrush, which has been seen in a nearby quarry. It is a calm, sunny day, perfect for a spot of bird watching, but I really do need to collect the van. Predictably, by the time I return home, the bird has reportedly disappeared and with clear skies overnight, it is presumed to be heading south. Reading online forums in the evening, it appears there is some dispute (it involves birders, of course there's some dispute) as to whether this is the first or second official record of the species for Orkney. Either way, I have never seen one, so it would've been a lifer for me.

An hour after sunrise this morning, keener folk than I were on site to check out if there was a possibility of the bird still being present. It was. Messages were texted. Within Tense Towers, a bowl of muesli was thrust aside and a dressing gown was discarded in favour of fleecy trousers and umpteen layers of coats. I should explain that the nearby quarry is a mile and half from home (though it is on a small island, so there's a stretch of water in the way), and the opportunity (again!) to record a new species for my life list, virtually on my doorstep, was not to be sniffed at.

By the time I arrived on site, the bird had disappeared once more, so I spent a freezing hour in the company of the original finder (Thank you, DS) and a few hardy souls in the hope of its return. We saw several Robins, a couple of Meadow Pipits, some Redshanks and many Starlings, but nothing particularly thrushy. Eventually, the brisk easterly breeze and occasional showers meant that folk began to lose hope and drift away, so I headed home to finish breakfast and thaw out.

Forty five minutes later, and there's another shout. At least this time I had the good fortune to be correctly dressed and properly awake. Bundling my gear back into the car, I high-tailed it around the coast road, over Churchill Barrier One, and across Lamb Holm to the quarry. About a dozen of the local Birderati were assembled by the cabins on the quarry floor. Telescopes, binoculars and camera lenses were all pointed to a spot on the western rock face where, helpfully, the Blue Rock Thrush was perched near a snow white feral pigeon, as I was kindly shown its location (Thank you, AL). I should point out that at this time of year, 'Blue' is a relative term, the bird's colour being more grey, resulting in excellent camouflage in a rocky terrain. The bird was busy feeding and spent the next half an hour or so moving around the quarry walls and scree slopes.

OK, this cannot be called a twitch!
Although the species is resident in southern Europe and east as far as Japan, it is a very uncommon visitor to northern and western Europe. It was most pleasing to watch this individual unconcernedly hunting for insects in an industrial site, undisturbed by excited birders. Everyone kept a respectful distance, which is my way of saying that my photos are poor, but I am looking forward to seeing the results from some of the big lenses which were present, which will hopefully emerge on social media later.

Oh, my rubble piles? Hey, as the Blue Rock Thrush flies, one and a half miles is nothing. I have created the perfect habitat.

Thursday, 31 October 2019

Purple patch

Photographically, Autumn is a bit tricky within the environs of Tense Towers. We're not over-endowed with trees, in fact we're pretty under-dowed with anything taller than our low dry stone wall. So not for us the majesty of a vista aglow with red, yellow, orange and russet.

But there are compensations. The recent few days have been sunny and, whisper it quietly, calm. Still cold, mind you, but very pleasant, nonetheless.

Yesterday did present some photo opportunities, too.

Early morning, and the clear air produced excellent visibility.

In the afternoon, half a dozen Redwings were pootling around the garden.

And a casual glance towards mainland Scotland seemed to show we'd inherited an extra lighthouse! Further investigation revealed the drilling platform Stena Don out in the Pentland Firth.

After sunset, a thin crescent moon (all of 63 hours young) emerged against the darkening sky.

And the south western view delivered some lovely hues.

Saturday, 26 October 2019

Almost on the right track

By rights, this should be a Stuff On My Phone post but, perhaps unforgivably, despite the musical thread, it is not.

I awoke to darkness and the sound of a howling gale. As I attempted to gather my thoughts, a keyboard riff played across my consciousness, and what passes for my brain at five in the morning was off on a wild goose chase. I don't know about you, dear reader, but these mental gymnastics in the wee small hours are often a fruitless and exhausting exercise in not being asleep. Gah.


I was in two minds which, although I do not have any truck with astrology, I am told is just typical of a Libra. On the plus side, it was only two minds, as any more and I'd maybe require counselling with something from the chemist.

But getting back to that 'So... '

A name began to emerge through the swirling veils of the past... something alliterative... Jimmy? Jimmy James? Could be?

Oh, hang on, no, here's a chorus... "Waiting for a train"... Hmmm, that sounds too 'pop' for the soulful intro I had in mind.

Ah, no, wait a minute, there are two intros with the same tune. Nice one, brain, no point in making this easy, eh? OK, let's just run through our options here...

Intro 1

Intro 2

Yup, they're not of the same vintage, are they? The first one I now recall from a mix tape which my brother made for me when I left home in 1980. That must be Mr Alliterative Name, but is it Jimmy James? The second one is definitely later, but for an answer, I will have to wait until morning and a more polite time to hit the internet.

[Later, after removing some madly-flapping silage wrap from the wire fence of the adjacent paddock, and watching a thrilling rugby semi-final] OK, pop pickers, the second song is by Australian band Flash And The Pan, and is, as several synapses had earlier figured out, "Waiting for a train" from 1983.

But the original riff I had remembered was "Why Can't We Live Together?" from 1972 by...

Timmy Thomas!

Alliteratively close, but no cigar.

Incidentally, the song writing duo behind Flash And The Pan, George Young and Harry Vanda, had been former members of The Easybeats in the 60s. They were the first rock and roll band from Australia to score an international pop hit, with "Friday On My Mind". If the words 'Young' and 'Australia' are sparking the neurons in your cerebral cortex, then yes, George is the brother of Angus and Malcolm Young of AC/DC. And George occasionally helped out his siblings in their band. But it'll be a few more hours yet before I will be Back in Black at 5am.

Thursday, 24 October 2019

Forget everything you thought you knew

The news that scientists in the United States have taught rats to drive tiny cars is quite astounding enough, but the finding that the driving helped lower the rats' stress levels is a whole other bucket of strange.

Nicked off the internet
No longer can we describe those speeding, convoluted, back street journeys to avoid rush hour traffic jams as 'rat runs'. Well, we could, but they would have to be carried out far below the mandatory speed limit, whilst listening to gentle birdsong and inhaling the sweet aroma of neat lavender oil.

And I guess that we'll all now be trying to join the 'rat race', just as soon as these endearingly-intelligent rodents have negotiated the rights to a global single-seater championship and secured a sponsorship deal with Kalms.

Inevitably, not all of us will be able to de-stress sufficiently to maintain our progress at a whisker under the legal limit, so it is likely that rat traps will be deployed to catch the perpetrators. These will take the form of large metal rats positioned by the kerb along roads. When triggered by a speedster, the metal rat shoots out from the roadside to connect firmly with the offender's vehicle. The design prototype is called Ro-dent-i-side.

It is rumoured that the next series of The Grand Tour will feature a self-important Capybara, a nervous hamster and a Coypu which hordes Lego.

Wednesday, 23 October 2019

Static bird, moving birder

On Monday morning, before I had left the office, I noticed that someone had reported a small flock of Waxwings in the village of Finstown, over in the West Mainland. The description of the location was 'across the road from the village shop'. Now, this statement made me chuckle because, when we lived south, a handy piece of urban fieldcraft to use in the finding of Waxwings was to visit a supermarket car park. The landscaping of such places always seems to use trees and shrubs which attract these colourful and dapper Winter visitors from Scandinavia. So, for Waxwings to appear next to Baikie's Stores sort of fits the modus operandi for the species!

Here's Google Streetview's view of the location from 2014.

When, later in the morning, I happened to be driving through Finstown, a glance to the right at the treetops brought the pleasant surprise of several Waxwings silhouetted against the sky.

And here's a post from a colleague who is on leave this week so had time to turn up with a camera on Monday. Well done, Alastair!

Tuesday, 15 October 2019


It's what they do.

A bit of footage shot whilst walking by the shore on Sunday.

Saturday, 12 October 2019

Blink and you miss it

Some recent photos of ephemeral moments...

Just after sunset on 4th October

A pair of Pied Wagtails bathing in a puddle

A Song Thrush on migration, 10th October

Just before sunset on 10th October

Monday, 7 October 2019

Blustery bluster

There's a south easterly gale howling outside. The view is slowly being obscured as salt encrusts the windows. But, for the moment, I can still see the vegetation in the garden, flinging itself around in some sort of toddler tantrum at the unfairness of an all-to-brief Summer and now... this!

Ferries are cancelled, access to causeways is under review, I shall not be putting out the recycling bins for collection but, from across the fields, Redwings, in ones and twos, are battling headlong into the gale, driven by the need to keep moving. Zugunruhe, it's called.

I am not going anywhere near a ladder today.

Sunday, 6 October 2019

Book review, 70 years late

Hmmm, that post title makes it look as though my To Do list is a tad lengthy, but please let me explain. Despite my curmudgeonly exterior and 'born old' ethos, I do try to keep on trend to some extent. In the dragonfly world, this sees a photo ID guide of local species loaded onto my Orkney dragonfly group in Facebook and the page also has a general gleaning of exciting Odonata news from home and abroad. I will admit that 'exciting' is defined as 'exciting to me'.

A new specialist second-hand bookshop opened up in Orkney recently, and what with the length of my To Do list, I've only just got around to visiting it. The property used to be the home of Fluke Jewellery, who we visited on our first ever holiday to Orkney back in 2006. Now the modernised and extended premises house shelf after shelf of carefully-labelled books, in a multitude of categories including science fiction, history, nature and many more.

I was not expecting to find anything which would give me a frisson of interest, but tucked away in the Nature section was a small volume entitled 'The Dragonflies of the British Isles' by Cynthia Longfield. It was a second edition from 1949 (the first edition was published in 1937), so my interest was a historical one, rather than for a current ID guide.

Cynthia Longfield was one of the outstanding dragonfly enthusiasts of the 20th Century. When the British Dragonfly Society was formed in 1983, Cynthia was elected as the first Honorary member. Sadly, she died in 1991 at the age of 94, several years before my own interest in dragonflies took to the wing.

Although Odonata have been around for more than 300 million years, and the seventy years since the publication of Cynthia Longfield's ID guide is less than the blink of an eye by comparison, there have been noticeable changes. Between 1949 and 2019, the number of species of dragonfly and damselfly in the British Isles has certainly fluctuated. In 1949, there were 44 species altogether, 27 dragons and 17 damsels. By 2019, there were 52 species altogether, 32 dragons and 21 damsels. But these changes are not as simple as may first appear.

Firstly, for dragonflies, we lost the Orange-spotted Emerald, which went extinct in the British Isles in the 1950s, most likely due to a pollution incident on the Moors River in Dorset. The Highland Darter has since been 'lumped' in with the Common Darter by taxonomists, so technically another species lost, but there have also been additions of Southern Migrant Hawker (1952), Vagrant Emperor (1970s), Green Darner (1998), Lesser Emperor (1996), Scarlet Darter (1995) and Large White-faced Darter (2012).

Then, for damselflies, we lost the Dainty Damselfly, which went extinct in the British Isles in 1953, when a storm surge on the east coast destroyed its breeding site in Essex. However, the species was rediscovered in 2010 in Kent. Another loss was the Norfolk Damselfly, not recorded since 1958, its disappearance again linked to habitat loss. New additions include Willow Emerald Damselfly (2007), Southern Emerald Damselfly (2002) and Small Red-eyed Damselfly (1999).

The overall trend, then, is upward, which looks like a biodiversity win on the face of it. But the extinctions have been due to loss of habitat and pollution, factors which still threaten much wildlife globally. The new species which have begun to colonise the British Isles, are taking advantage of climate change, as rising temperatures bring new opportunities for expansion. However, paradoxically, this factor also poses a threat to northerly-adapted species, as they will be forced further north, until they run out of British Isles.

In 1949, many of the British odonates did not yet have common names, with some of our most abundant species only being referred to by Genus with an English modifier e.g. Common Ischnura for Blue-tailed Damselfly, Ischnura elegans. Others have had their Genus changed e.g. Beautiful Demoiselle, Calopteryx virgo, was an Agrion virgo back in 1949.

One unfortunate inclusion in the book, which caught me by complete surprise, was in a useful table of the principal colours of the insects' bodies. Blues, greens, reds, purples, blacks and whites were all described with subtle descriptors for each change of hue. However, the browns included a shade which I will not reproduce here, but simply say that it was not subtle and I will acknowledge that it was written in a different time and place. As well-travelled and enlightened as she was, I guess that the author was using language which it was expected her readership would recognise. I would like to think that the world is above and beyond all that now, but sadly, we know this is still not the case.

More happily, the second edition did include 12 colour plates not in the first edition. These were illustrated by W. F. Evans and first published in 'British Libellulinae or Dragonflies' in 1845, over one hundred years beforehand. The artist's grandson gave permission for the plates to be used.

Friday, 4 October 2019

Small unexpected joys

Well, it's all a bit yin and yang, to be honest. Looking back at some phone and camera images taken during the past few weeks (an exercise in displacement activity as regards Botchit), I thought I saw a bit of a trend...

Some days we have a period of bright sunlight for an hour or so just after dawn, and if we're really lucky, another short solar blast at sunset. In between, it is a very mixed bag, with the results somewhat unbecoming of a G2V type yellow dwarf star. This image was taken through cloud at tea time, for safety reasons using LiveView rather than looking through the camera lens.

Of course, if we can't manage a fix on the Sun, there's always the Moon...

That early morning light, which I mentioned above, does often pick out random objects in the Orcadian landscape.

I repeated the shot about 11 hours later, from the exact spot by the front door but, unfortunately, handheld isn't great for such light levels.

Recently, I was working away from home, and began to experience the first sign of a migraine, which, for me, is a tingling or numbness of the extremities (fingertips and tip of my nose). With a day's work ahead of me and a ferry trip back to Orkney to contemplate, I wasn't in the greatest of humours. To be fair, I very rarely have full-on migraines these days (with added visual distortions and stomach-wrenching nausea), and even the '72 hours of eye ache' version is much less frequent. But these initial symptoms were worrying, especially in the circumstances. Seeking advice from a fellow sufferer, I was astounded to learn that she uses caffeine as part of her treatment, which is why, after a swift trip to a chemist and some pharmacist advice to take the medication with food, I was to be found in a tea room with a huge slice of cappuccino cake (the hot chocolate with soya milk was optional). Well, that's my excuse, anyway.

Sunday, 29 September 2019

The epitome of wildlife and cake

The past week has been quite busy on the environmental and wildlife front. Last Sunday, we helped out at an event for the Great British Beach Clean 2019, a Marine Conservation Society project. Then, on Tuesday evening, a Dutch researcher, Dr Jan A van Franeker,  kindly gave a talk for the Orkney Field Club about his work investigating the effects of plastic pollution on the Fulmar population of the North Sea.

On Friday, I carried out a monitoring survey at a local site, looking for evidence of the Orkney Vole to help determine the level of the population in the archipelago. That evening, Our Lass and I attended another talk, this one about the island of Papa Westray, given by the island ranger, Jonathan Ford.

Today we went along to a walk organised by the Field Club. This was part of the 'Through The Seasons' programme, which for 2019 is at Brodgar. We spent a couple of hours wandering the shores of Harray and Stenness Lochs, either side of the Ring of Brodgar. The highlight was an Otter foraging in Harray Loch, but we saw all sorts of other wildlife too.

Egg-shell slime mould

A Puffball species of fungus

One of several hairy caterpillars seen on the day, species unknown

The thin red line of a fungus created by two lichens battling over a territory

A Metellina species of spider

Another Metellina species of spider

Parrot Waxcap fungi
The bonus treat for the day was soup and sandwiches at the nearby Standing Stones Hotel. For a change, we had opted for a vegan lunch, which was an absolute taste sensation.

And there were cakes afterwards. What's not to like about that?!

Monday, 23 September 2019

Climate struck

I have to admit that I did not manage to attend any gathering for the Global Climate Strike on Friday 20th September 2019. Nearly, but not quite. I was working in Shetland that day, and didn't finish the task in time to hotfoot it back into Lerwick for the noon meeting at the Market Cross, attended by about 100 folk.

I did, however, find time later in the afternoon to visit the Why Waste shop to purchase some less environmentally-damaging cleaning products and cosmetics.

The previous evening, before heading out to catch the night boat to Shetland, I had managed to capture another ephemeral sky moment across Scapa Flow. Later, pondering how to caption the photo, the words 'there's a hole in the sky' came to mind, which I recalled were sung by Ronnie James Dio on Run with the wolf, from Rainbow's Rising album. However, I decided to research the phrase anyway, in case there was a more apt use of it in the musical canon.

Oh boy, was there ever!

Up until this point, I knew very little about the Grateful Dead, other than they were a band that began in the mid 60s. My lyric search turned up the line 'there's a hole in the sky where the light pours in' from a song called We can run from the 1989 Built to Last album. This seemed a neat fit for my image. Then, oh jeez, then, I read the remainder of the lyrics...

We don't own this place, though we act as if we did,
It's a loan from the children of our children's kids.
The actual owners haven't even been born yet.
But we never tend the garden and rarely we pay the rent,
Some of it is broken and the rest of it is bent
Put it all on plastic and I wonder where we'll be when the bills hit.
We can run,
But we can't hide from it.
Of all possible worlds,
We only got one:
We gotta ride on it.
Whatever we've done,
We'll never get far from what we leave behind,
Baby, we can run, run, run, but we can't hide.
Oh no, we can't hide.
I'm dumpin' my trash in your back yard
Makin' certain you don't notice really isn't so hard
You're so busy with your guns and all of your excuses to use them.
Well, it's oil for the rich and babies for the poor,
We got everyone believin' that more is more,
If a reckoning comes, maybe we will know what to do then.
All these complications seem to leave no choice,
I heard the tongues of billion speak with just one voice,
Saying, "just leave all the rest to me,
I need it worse than you, you see."
And then I heard,
The sound of one child crying.
Today I went walking in the amber wind,
There's a hole in the sky where the light pours in
I remembered the days when I wasn't afraid of the sunshine.
But now it beats down on the asphalt land
Like a hammering blow from god's left hand
What little still grows cringes in the shade like a bad vine.
Songwriters: Brent Richard Mydland / John Barlow
We Can Run lyrics © Universal Music Publishing Group, Kobalt Music Publishing Ltd.
The echoes of these words from 1989 are still as fresh and even more urgent, thirty years later. If you have not yet done so, can I please ask that you watch the short film Protect, Restore, Fundfeaturing Greta Thunberg and George Monbiot. Thank you.

Wednesday, 18 September 2019

Stuff On My Phone (27)

You know how it is, a gale rips through the county and the very next day you have to make a journey on a small plane to visit a small island.

We flew westwards from North Ronaldsay into a bracing westerly, headed for Papa Westray and its runway which is aligned pretty much north/south.

Sat in one of the back seats, I was able to film our approach and landing, although it looked and felt more like a sidling than a landing, as the pilot expertly angled the aircraft into the wind until the very last second.

You don't actually have to picture the scene, here's the video.

Friday, 13 September 2019

Towards the Knap of Trowieglen

Across the sheltered anchorage of Scapa Flow, the evening light delicately highlighted the contours of the island of Cava and, beyond it, the distant Hoy hills. The furthest horizon is the Knap of Trowieglen.

Apologies for my attempted arty selective crop of a larger image similar to this one.

I do love a retreating horizons picture.

Wednesday, 11 September 2019

Hunting for flying insects

Yesterday, I was working in South Ronaldsay, not far from some bog pools which hold several species of Odonata. As it was a sunny day with only a light breeze, I reckoned that it might be worth taking along camera and bins, just in case.

With the job done and it being lunchtime, I parked near the pools and wandered along the track which runs between them. There were loads of bumblebees buzzing about, several butterflies (a Painted Lady and a Red Admiral) and many, many crane flies, but no dragonflies (this is a Black Darter site) or damselflies (Blue-tailed or Emerald) to be seen.

Painstakingly, I scanned the waterside vegetation with my binoculars, willing an odonate shape to come into focus. I stared at the wider landscape hoping to catch the sparkle of light reflecting from a delicate wing. I searched in the lee of a small willow plantation, where the air was still and warm, and there were plenty of insects here, just not a dragon or a damsel.

Forlornly, I headed back towards the van, pondering whether this would be a year when I wouldn't be able to find Black Darters at these pools, when a distant movement caught my eye. Across an enclosure, sat on the wire of the far fence, was a bird. As the Autumn migration is now well underway, my initial thought was that, to the naked eye, it was quite large and pale for a warbler. Looking through my bins, I realised my error, as the bird was a flycatcher of some sort. Trying not to wonder what it had just eaten, I fumbled for my camera but, in that split second of inattention, the bird disappeared. Gah!

Flycatchers do not breed in Orkney, so this was a bird on passage from wherever it raised a family this Summer, en route to its wintering grounds in West Africa.

I went back to staring at the wider landscape again, in the hope of catching another glimpse. I was quite sure that it wasn't a Spotted Flycatcher, as there were white stripes on its wings, but my knowledge of flycatchers wasn't up to being any more positive than that. After spending some time ambling to and fro along the track, I caught a brief view of the bird behind some willows, as it took to the air to catch an insect, and then plunged back behind the bushes. This was why I had lost sight of it. The initial view had been across low vegetation, mainly heather, but the remainder of the fence line was masked by a stand of willow, and this was where the bird was hunting, making forays into the air for prey and returning to its hidden perch on the wire fence.

Continued staring brought the occasional flurry of wings (and presumably the certain death of a small invertebrate), but did little to help me identify the bird. Eventually, I decided enough was enough, and I opted to skirt around the southern flank of the enclosure by climbing over a gate and quietly creeping along the edge of the willows until I could see back up the western fence line.

There wasn't a bird there.

There were two. Yay!

Both were flycatchers and both were busy living up to their name, feeding hungrily on their journey south and not particularly bothered about my presence. Now I could see their wing markings properly, I was still no wiser as to the species, but I was able to take photos for use later.

Recourse to several ID guides brought me to the conclusion that these are female Pied Flycatchers. This pair instantly doubled the number of Pieds I have ever seen anywhere, and it will be well over ten years since my last sighting.

But... there's still that niggling doubt of just what they were eating before I spotted them. 

Sunday, 8 September 2019

Muesli with added moo

Regular readers may recall this post from 2015, where I explained about some bovine social dynamics which occasionally occur in the close vicinity of Tense Towers. Well, at the moment, there's another episode of Cowsualty on display, which is at its most noticeable in the early morning. There I was trying to have a peaceful bowl of muesli for breakfast whilst, outside, Tranquillity was packing her leather suitcase and Ubering a taxi to "anywhere quieter than this!"

Yup, the continued rivalry between an Aberdeen Angus and a Shorthorn bull doesn't lessen just because it's Sunday morning.

The black bull is in a paddock with a few cows and calves, the brown bull is in a larger field with a harem of 20 or so cows. Someone is not happy about this state of affairs.

I'm not sure I dare mention the fact that I've switched to oat milk 😲

Saturday, 7 September 2019

Doorstep bird watching

Recently, I have been fortunate to be in the right place at the right time on several occasions, sometimes without even having to leave the house. So here's a few of the birdy highlights from Tense Towers this week.

Swallows are still fledging, presumably from the farm buildings next door, and being fed by anxious parents. Time is running short for them to build up their fat reserves for the long trip south for the Winter.

The local Starling flock never miss a trick. What's this? A temptingly empty puddle? Not for long.

After our North Ron weekend, which was full of Wheatears, it was lovely to have good views of one at home.

And there are still Pied Wagtails about. This one briefly perched in exactly the same spot as the Wheatear!