Tuesday, July 15, 2008

A good moth night

Small Dotted Buff, Farcet Fen, 14 July 08
A new species for me and my square. Caught at light (160w MVB).

Lilac Beauty, male, Farcet Fen, 14 July 08
A new species for me and my square. Caught at light (160w MVB).

Early Thorn, Farcet Fen, 14 July 08
One of two caught.

The best night by far this year, with 37 macro species and year firsts of Fen Wainscot (one of my fave moths), Brimstone and Marbled Beauty.

Monday, July 14, 2008

The definitive guide to the Birds of Britain

Until this evening, I had rarely been on YouTube, just followed the odd link from other blogs etc, but searching for Mock the Week content took me to the dark side of the net. But . . . if I can find gems like this from immenstrides I'll be heading back! That even sounds like Mark Gatiss (he of League of Gentlemen fame) doing the narration. I could imagine him putting this together.

Mock the Week - contains swearing!

Liz and I are just a wee bit surprised when we mention our favourite comedians - Dara who? Russell Howard, who he? Frankie Boyle, uh? Well, they're all from one of our fave TV comedy shows, Mock the Week (new series just started on Beeb 2, Thursdays at 9), and for some classic check out these links -

Mock the Week \ some great lines from this great show - wait for the Hazel Blears/sporum gag. More here.

Dara O'Briain \ host of Mock the Week \ don't miss the line about the planner! "You don't even build the houses, you just say, 'Well, that'll fucking fall down" (from Live at the Theatre Royal 1/9). We saw him live a couple of years ago and he was a riot. His improv with the front row is superb! Be warned - don't sit in the front row of a Dara gig!

Russell Howard \ regular Mock the Week guest \ another great pussy gag in part I and the fox routine in part II is side splitting!

We saw him live in the spring - what a laugh!

Frankie Boyle \ regular Mock the Week guest \ some crackin', and some definately non-PC, snippets from Mock the Week! Wait for the haunted pussy gag! We're off to see him in October.

Solio - free recharging for my phone

When I got one of these the other day for my birthday, I thought I'd only use it on trips. Far from it! I charged it up the other day, sticking it on to on of the front window using the included suction cup, and have already charged my Blackberry. The Solia is back in the window recharging ready to charge the Blackberry up again. So, far from using it only on trips, I'm going to continue to charge by phone up for free using the sun.

Interesting, given that they market this as a go anywhere charger, it don't come with a wee case or cover to protect the exposed panel when folded up. Sure I can sort something out.

Leaf-cutter Bee

I found one of these bees yesterday working an old screw hole in the house wall. Then this lunchtime I noticed more activity than usual around the insect box. Closer inspection found at least leaf-cutter bees Megachile centuncularis. The book says that this species is a rose specialist, and sure enough, less than ten feet away I found these holes in a rose bush! I watched the larger of the two insects fly to another rose and suprisingly collected part of the pink petal rather than a leaf - clearly a designer leaf-cutter bee!

Garden moths

I've said before, one of the great things about moth trapping is not just the hoped-for migrants and wanderers, but catching those commoner species which are either simply stunning or that I don't trap too often.

Broad-bordered Yellow Underwing, Farcet Fen 13 July 08 One of my favourite species, and the first for 2008. Caught at light (22w actinic).

Elephant Hawkmoth, Farcet Fen, 12 July 08I never tire of catching elephants - big or small. I catch Elephant annually but have to date only caught a single Small Elephant. Caught at light (160 MVB).

Poplar Hawkmoth, Farcet Fen, 12 July 08 The commonest Hawkmoth here, but still stunning. Caught at light (160 MVB).

Brown-line Bright-eye, Farcet Fen, 13 July 08
I can catch upwards of 20 Bright-line Brown-eyes a night, but this is only my fourth Brown-line Bright-eye. Caught at light (22w actinic).

More Cambs moths on the Cambs Moth Gallery website.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Happy birthday to me!

First off. I'm in a feckin foul mood! Why? We'll, I had just spent 45 mins typing this post (well, not this one, but one just like it), adding links and pics etc only for the feckin laptop to decide it wanted to turn itself off without warning! Oh computers - we love 'em, but we don't half hate the bastards too!

Anyway, HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO ME etc, etc, etc.

Thems of you who know me well know I'm a big kid at heart. And I love birthdays! Liz loves birthdays too, so we do tend to spoil each other rotten. We take the day off. Maybe go out or laze around, enjoy some good food, etc. We just have a good day together without distractions. And today was no exception.

I've always had my birthday off (well, nearly always, but more of that a little later). Having a mid-summer birthday meant no schoolground birthday bumps, beats, etc. Come adulthood it also meant no work as I always took the day off and went dragonfly or butterfly hunting. I've had all bar one birthday off work. The exception was when I was leading a wildlife holiday on Shetland and Orkney. The day of 10 July was spent (with a bloody stinkin' cold) on the wonderful isle of Rousay, Orkney amidst the lands and shores of our Neolithic ancestors. Since technically I was also on holiday (from my day job) I didn't really count this as working. And, it was the day that I 'met' Liz. It was half-way through the holiday, but it was on this day both of us knew we had 'clicked'. So, work or no work, it turned out to be my best birthday ever!

But back to the present birthday and my prezzie haul, which was jolly good indeed! Mum-in-law, Elsie, surpassed herself (alright, Liz does Elsie's buying as, bless, at 89 Elsie don't get to the shops as much as she once did) with a book. Ah. Again, those of you who know me well will have just spotted something - me and books aren't a natural mix. And those of you who know me really well will know of the time I was heard to utter the line 'I dont read books' to which someone present retorted 'well what do you do with all yours then?'. Fair question! Well, what I meant at the time was that I wasnt one for novels, travelogues, autobogrphies or books where half-baked celebs tell us their opinions on everythings from footballers wives to clonic irrigation. No, thems the sort of books that aren't for me. This book however looks like it is. Pies and Prejudice, in search of the North by Stuart Maconie. So, what do I think is so special about this book? Well, just reading the cover whetted my appetite. I know you shouldn't pay too much heed to the cleverly edited quotes and crafted publisher's blurb on covers, but it does seem to bode well. Peter Kay (you know, the chubby northern comedian who shouts and sweats a lot and tells 'jokes' about real life stuff such as 'the big light' and like Maconie and me, he's a northern sort - actually you could probably throw a hankie over the area where Stu, Pete and me were raised - OK, a blanket) says, very simply, on the cover 'Bloody crackin'. Nice. The Sunday Times (ooh!) says 'an heir to Alan Bennett . . . stirring and rather wonderful'. Now this is a back-handed compliment from where I'm sat. At the literary level its pretty good being compared to Mr Bennett, but, on a northern level, in particularly at the Roses level, this is not something that I as a Lancastrian can agree with - being compared to a White Rose Yorkie! Nope, and forgive me for speaking on your behalf Stuart, if The Sunday Times reviewer doesn't get the north enough to know the difference between the red and the white side of the Pennines, then they aren't qualified to review a book about t'north. I said you had to be careful about the cover blumph didn't I! I expect Stu's book has at least a mention of the War of the Roses and how we keep up the pretence on the cricket field. I love the fact that my Nan is 'real Yorkshire' and three of her four grandchildren are Lancs! OK, rant over, and turning to the back cover, The Times starts to get carried away a little (at least no northern faux pars) - 'The new Bill Bryson [just an antipidean faux par - exusable]. If he keeps this up he'll be on the National Treasure list pretty soon'. I'm pretty sure they're not referring to the awful Nick Cage film either, so this sounds like reasonable praise too. Oh, but what of the publisher - what do they say? Well, thats the bit I really like (I think I'm meant too - it is after all called the 'sell'). It states -

A Northerner in exile [like me], Stuart Maconie goes on a journey in search of the North [I think this is figerative, as I think he knows where it is geographically], attempting to discover where the cliches end and the truth begins. He travels from Wigan Pier [know it well] to Blackpool Tower [ditto] and Newcastle's Bigg Market to the Lake District to find his own Northern Soul [neat reference], encountering along the way an exotic [!] cast of chippy [thats one word for 'em] Scousers [you don't actually have to travel to the north to encounter Scousers cos as everyone knows they get everywhere. In fact, I'm expectin to encounter at least one when I go to Spitsbergen later this month], pie-eating woollybacks [me again!], topless Geordies [see reference to Scousers], mad-for-it-Mancs [less travelled, stay at home types], Yorkshire nationalists [sedentary of course] and brothers in exile [more about the likes of me and he]. So, it sounds like I should at least enjoy reading about all the stereotypical images of my beloved homeland! And there's nowt like something northern to put back the northern in northern tosser [re. me again].

Amazingly this birthday included two books! Petrina and Jeremy (hi guys) from over in the Deutschland, sent me a fab book by Graham Swift, Waterland. I have read this book before (funnily enough that to owas a present, from my Uncle Paul when I moved in to my fenland gaff here), and re-reading the cover blurb I forgot how great this book is and it will be read again very soon (well, its in the queue after the pile of library books, Pies and Prejudice, etc). Thanks P&J for thinking of me.

Moving swiftly on to the electric bug zapper! Oh yes! Oh no! I can hear the lilly-livered fly-loving liberals among you reaching for the reply button! Just let me explain. We live in the fens. Fens = swamp. Swamp = swampy things. Swampy things = flies. Millions of the feckers! And its serious when you can't see out of a window cos its is quite literally covered in fruit flies. So our house is full of various anti-fly devices - sticky traps, those violet lamp zappers, an Alessi Dr Skud fly swatter (my personal favourite) and now, possibly soon-to-be-favourite, an approved electric racket-style swatter! Two AA batteries and hours of fun. Even better in the semi-dark (I know, fly-hinting purists among you know its not always the best light conditions to hunt flies) when on each fly contact with the electried racket head parks fly as fly fries! Top marks!

Another great device (you never knew I was a such gadget nurd did you) Liz got me was my own little solar charger for all things rechargable and portable - cameras, mobile phone (thats a handy for all my German friends), iPod, etc, etc - a Solio solar charger. Its currently stuck to the front window. Yes I know its dark, but by the end of tomorrow it will be fully charged and ready to go to top up any of my rechargable devices. It might not get bags of use here at home (cos we's got dat ting called lectricity) but when travelling abroad in the likes of up river Gambia and the genny dies, it will be a boon!

We'll I could bore you some more about all the other great prezzies I got (man-care products, CDs, DVDs, nice cardy, Ted Baker socks, etc, etc), but I wont. My Mum would just email me to tell me to 'stop showing off Stephen'. Like the time I first got a car with a remote control keyring thingy. When I first went to see her and we went to go out in the car, I zapped the car to unlock it and out trotted one of her favourite lines 'oh, stop showing off'. Its how you unlock the feckin car you stupid cow! Sorry. I should show more respect for my mother I know. I'll try. But I won't lose sleep over it - don't worry! Oh, I'd better thank her for the very nice wallet she got me (from Danish company Hansson) - thanks Mama (xxx).
Boy, I nearly forgot! Guess who's got tickets for Frankie Boyle at the Peterborough Broadway in October? Thank you very much!!

Lastly, working from home, alone, I don't get to enjoy the office thing of birthday cakes all round, so I decided to buy cakes for the builders instead! Results - five out of six builders like cake; five out of five builders (thats 100%) prefer choccy cake to lemon drizzle cake (which had three peices left over at the end of the day - descerning sorts these builder types!).

Thank you Liz for a great day!

Sunday, July 06, 2008

The most invasive ladybird on earth!

Harlequin Ladybird Harmonia axyridis larvea
Crowtree, Farcet Fen, 5 July 08

I've yet to see an adult Harlequin, but last weekend I found larvea at Haddenham, and this weeken I found this on our garden Birch tree. For more information, including reporting your sightings of larvea and adults, on 'the most invasive ladybird on earth' to quote the Harlequin Ladybird Survey, see here.

More building progress!

Like our new hole in our floor? Hear what the man from building control said here. !

Return of the Leicester Llama!

The Leicester Llamas are back! Well, one of them is anyway - so, its welcome back The Leicester Llama. This Llama didn't actually ever go anywhere. He's always been there just with the demise of the original Llamas line up, he hasn't been filling the net with their anarchic views of birding of late. Those who used to love creasing themselves at images such this (but make sure you check the Llamas history out for full mirthage) can laugh some more as mucker Andy Mackay (he of artist fame inc. our joint venture Watching British Dragonflies) has resurfaced as The Leicester Llama. Andy's lost none of his observational bent - just check out Britain's commonest bird and pager messages you rarely see. Classic Llama mirth! Nice t osee the llama using quality optics too!

Leicester Llama has asked me to point out that his site does contain a few swear words - you have been warned!

Saturday, July 05, 2008

There's nowt like a good Buff-tip

The weather hasn't really been producing great mothing nights, but last night was one of the better ones, delivering one of only several catches of over 100 individual moths of 28 species (the best species count of the year). It included some year firsts (Clay, Scalloped Oak), another Diamond-back Moth (fourth of the year for this migrant) and these two commoner species which are at least scarce out here on the fen.

Buff-tip, Farcet Fen, 4 July 08 Not suprisingly, for a relatively open arable fen, this is only the fifth record here, with all the others caught in June-July 06. Certainly one of my favourite species and highlights the joys of moth trapping when you open the lid and among all those regulars is something as stunning as this, albeit a relatively common species. Caught at light (160w MVB).

Green Pug, Farcet Fen, 4 July 08

Another scarcity for me, this is only my fourth record, all the others caught in June-July 05. I love the way some moths melt into backgrounds such as this. Caught at light (160w MVB).

Friday, July 04, 2008

Half Man Half Biscuit - a tribute

Remember 80s band Half Man Half Buscuit. Well, northern mucker Tim Melling did and pointed me in the direction of the lyrics for their For what is Chatteris. Its a top notch, hot potch of words which had me smiling (living only a few miles from Chatteris and knowing it and its folk). Nowhere esle will you find a song containing the words butchers, cake shop, chandlers and linnet!

It inspired me to pen this very brief For What is Chatteris 2008 tribute to HMHB.

The butchers and cake shop have now all closed
Fen subsidence has left pot holes in all the roads
For sale signs now outnumber the town's few trees
And nothing has sold cos of the credit squeeze
There’s no sign of a linnet, or even a bunting
Just fields of pheasants for the farmers' hunting
Chatteris is no longer looked at with fenland envy
For what is Chatteris if you’re not in it, its empty.