Bramble flower

Brambles are ubiquitous in Cheshire at this time of year, with those spiky stems riotously spreading forth from every wild patch and hedgerow. When I first saw these attractive hedgerow flowers out in the countryside I thought they might be some sort of wild rose, but no, they are simply quite large bramble flowers. And the spikes are vicious.

bramble flower

Must remember to pass that way again in a couple of months time to pick the blackberries!

Southern screamer

The southern screamer is a large South American wetland bird. What is it doing in the UK? This pair are at the Wildlife and Wetland Trust’s Martin Mere centre, now reopened for a limited number of visitors. The centre contains specimen birds from all over the world, as well as providing the space for thousands of local and migrating birds.

We were lucky to find the birds in photo-posing mode, rather than screaming at all and sundry.

Unlike geese and ducks this bill is not designed to filter water; they mostly feed on vegetation. These birds are thought to be the ‘missing link’ between wildfowl and game birds.Read More »

Black Swan

Black swan theory is a metaphor that describes an event that comes as a surprise and has a major effect, based on the observed historical fact in Europe that black swans did not exist.

I guess we could call covid-19 a black swan event, although it was actually predicted that such an event would happen at some time, which was always ‘in the future’, until it wasn’t. Of course, globalised trade made this black swan event a worldwide phenomenon pretty rapidly.

Globalisation also means we can now see black swans in Europe without travelling to Australia. This one was at WWT Martin Mere, caught in the act of biting off chunks of reed.

Women leaders and coronavirus: look beyond stereotypes to find the secret of their success

This thoughtful post on women leaders and the coronavirus highlights the political systems in New Zealand, Taiwan and Germany that make it difficult for macho populists to gain control, and provide the space for empathic ‘feminine’ leaders, who have clearly made a better job of handling the coronavirus.
Then look at the macho leaders: Trump, Johnson, Putin, Bolsonaro, and what ‘success’ they have achieved…. The stats give the answer.

Bruce Nixon

I am hosting this important article written by Kate Maclean,Professor of International Development, Northumbria University, Newcastle and published by The Conversation

Jacinda Ardern of New Zealand, Tsai Ing-Wen of Taiwan and Angela Merkel of Germany have all been singled out for the way they have handled the coronavirus pandemic. They’ve been praised for demonstrating care, empathy and a collaborative approach. These skills – stereotypically described as “feminine” – have enabled them to listen to scientific expertise, work with local authorities and communicate effectively with the public. It has made them come across as transparent and accountable at a time of mass confusion.

In stark contrast, male leaders in some of the worst performing countries – the UK, the US and Brazil – have adopted a leadership style of belligerent rhetoric. They’ve taken guidance from entourages of confidantes, often instead of experts. Their inconsistent, unclear communications have been compared to

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Crosby murmuration

Just off Crosby beach there comes by a huge flying creature, dwarfing those giant windmills out at sea – a murmuration of starlings, flying as one living being.

murmuration windmills

Each individual bird must be ‘in the flow’, in the moment. The result is awe-inspiring.

The ship channel

Crosby beach is a popular place to view the ships coming into Liverpool down the deep water channel in the Mersey estuary. The windmills provide an ideal backdrop, as the Antony Gormley statues look out.

crosby ship windmills

A good place to rest awhile.

crosby viewers

And as the sun goes down you can watch the ships queuing to come down the deep water channel into Liverpool.

crosby evening ship queue

Another favourite place

Antony Gormley’s installation ‘Another Place’ on Crosby Beach, Merseyside, continues to be a favourite place to visit. Identical statues of Gormley himself are placed across the beach and into the sea.

Some of the statues have become very weather worn; others are in relatively good condition – and they’re quite an attraction for visiting dogs.

Always, the statues look out to sea – the perennial search for what lies beyond…

Featured image shows the view from the beach
towards Birkenhead on the other side of the River Mersey.

Presence

Another great poem by Steve Taylor in his newsletter, deserves sharing:

Your Being Belongs to the Present

Your ego-mind belongs to the past.
Like a museum, everything in it comes from the past –
beliefs that were handed down from your parents
ideas you absorbed from your culture
thought patterns that formed when you were young
old traces of trauma that still cause you pain
and random memories that keep replaying.

And your thoughts keep dragging you back to the past
like old friends who are jealous of your new life
and keep making you revisit
the haunts you’ve left behind
and the habits you’ve long outgrown.

But your being belongs to the present.
It has never known anything but the present.
It only knows the past and future as ideas
that pass through its nowness, like clouds through the sky.

So untangle yourself from thoughts and concepts.
Give your full attention to your experience
until the structures of your mind grow soft
and you feel the calm wholeness of being
seeping through your inner space
and bringing you back to presence.

Slip outside your ego-mind
and leave the past behind.
Then your life will be an adventure –
an exhilarating voyage of discovery
through the endless spacious freshness of presence.

Marsh Hoverfly

A gang of these came around our pond for a few minutes, buzzed around furiously and noisily, occasionally briefly settling on water lily leaves. Then they disappeared. Nothing like the usual hoverflies that hang around flowers for ages.

marsh hoverfly

This beauty is a marsh hoverfly. Magnificent body markings and lace wings! Judging by the Wikepedia entry this appears to be a female.Read More »

Our Story

We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time

TS Eliot, Little Gidding

In the beginning, after the big bang and the formation of the earth and living beings, human beings emerged embedded in the dream of nature. There was no differentiation.

Gradually there emerged language and groupings of people.

There were some societies where the connection with nature remained strong, where language worked in consort with the one, where men and women each brought their own strengths to that cooperation with others and with the one. They developed wonderful creativity in their cave paintings, and a wonderful science that enabled them to comprehend and relate to the cosmos through great stone constructions. They told stories that passed through the generations, passing on archetypal knowledge, lessons of experience to each new generation.

With the coming of written language, some feared that the knowledge of connection would be lost. They wrote it down, hidden away for when ignorant barbarians came, which surely they did.Read More »

The Dangerous Gnat

We used to call them gnats in Lincoln. The Spanish call them mosquitoes (diminutive for mosca – fly). It was many years before I realised these are the same thing, basically, although there are different sorts.

For us they were just pesky nuisances, but this is mankind’s ‘deadliest predator’. How come? The answer: malaria. In 2018 there were 228,000,000 new cases and 400,000 died, but few in the ‘developed world’.

For millennia people got the ague, got sick and many died. It even decided major events, such as Hannibal’s failed assault on Rome, the limits of Alexander the Great’s conquering. It was thought to be bad air that caused it (mal-aria).

Eventually mankind found the cure – draining swamps and quinine, a refined variant of which, hydroxychloroquine, has been in the news recently. Of course, a lot of the world can’t afford these solutions.

This reminded me of a trip we took a few years ago to the unspoilt Aransas National Wildlife Refuge on the Texas coast. We stopped outside the gate of the reserve to take a quick entry photo, and by the time we got back in the car I had a number of mosquito bites on my arm. Of course, the whole of this eastern part of Texas was one big swamp before white men arrived. What a lot of mosquitoes! And what a heroic effort to carve the city of Houston out of such terrain. No wonder they use a lot of pesticide.

To know history and its causes is to understand today!

Thanks to an excellent review by Steven Shapin in the recent London Review of Books, on the book The Mosquito; A Human History of our Deadliest Predator by Timothy Winegard. Sounds like a great book!

No it’s not my arm. Featured image of Tasmanian mosquito by JJ Harrison via Wikimedia Commons

Alien gorse

There was plenty of yellow common gorse on display at Anderton Country Park recently, but I was puzzled by this rather pretty red-flecked plant – a single specimen. A web search suggests it could be gorse bitter pea, an Australian flowering plant, quite out of place in the English countryside – but very pretty nevertheless. This is in a recently regenerated part of the woodland; maybe someone, or some animal/bird, put it there?

red gorse

Garden flowers

So many flowers appearing in the garden. Here’s a selection.

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One of the joys of spending a lot of time at home is to see them as they develop, day by day.

Featured image is a large-flowered clematis.

Cucumber Spider

I noticed this tiny, colourful spider, around 5 millimeters long, highlighted by the afternoon sun on our bird feeder. It stayed long enough for me to rush indoors, grab the camera and fire a couple of shots.

cucumber spider

I think it’s a cucumber spider, araniella cucurbitina. Anyone know better?

The colours are actually for camouflage, so this was not the right place to be!

Time for change, but will we?

When I was growing up in Lincoln in the 1950s, most people cycled, walked or caught the bus to work, few had cars. Cycling was safe. There was no air pollution, once the old coal-powered gasworks closed.

Even ten years later, when I visited Lincoln in the 1960s, the main route into town was beginning to be clogged with cars. Another decade and cycling was becoming a thing of the past. It was becoming dangerous, particularly as lorries got bigger and bigger.

Of course this pattern recurred in towns and cities all over the UK, and air pollution became endemic, particularly when there was the ill-advised shift to diesel fuels. The car was king and all bowed before it. Air became polluted and there was a surge in cases of asthma. Strangely, government did little about it, although some cities did a fair amount, within their allowed powers.

Then came covid-19 and lockdown. Suddenly air was clean, roads were quiet, it was safe to cycle. People were exhorted to cycle or walk and avoid cars and public transport. It was like the 1950s again.

Of course the natural reaction of government is to try to re-establish the status quo ante, because that was when the economy ‘worked’. But it didn’t – see inequality, polluted air, climate breakdown and covid.

So we really do need to take stock and set course for a more sensible world that is based on real needs of people and nature, not just on ‘the economy.’ All the ideas are there – green new deals, basic income, move to renewable energy, sovereign money,…

We just need to get on with it. But will we?

Photo of Lincoln High Street near St Peter’s from Francis Frith website – go visit.

 

What on earth…?

Yesterday morning a patch of spider web appeared on a box plant. Then I suddenly noticed these tiny creatures wriggling about in the web. What on earth could they be? Some new infestation?

baby garden spiders

A web search showed that it has given rise to all sorts of alarmist headlines in the popular press, but is actually quite mundane and harmless. They are new baby garden spiders. Apparently, if disturbed they all jump out on extended pieces of web, later returning back into a clump. I was a bit sorry I hadn’t tried that.

baby garden spiders 2

I was a bit disappointed that I couldn’t get them in sharp focus, whether by telephoto or macro zoom on my camera or my phone. But I guess it’s not that surprising, they are tiny, the box leaves are only ½-1cm across. You have to live with the equipment you have.

A few hours later, both spider babies and web had disappeared. No doubt they’re now invisibly creeping all around the neighbourhood, and getting bigger…

Allium coming out

Spring. What a great time to be spending a lot of time at home, when we are lucky enough to have a garden. The daily progression of some of the plants is quite remarkable. Here, individual allium flowers are just starting to come out, 6 petals and 6 stamens each; there was just a single one a couple of days ago. Just look how many individual flowers there are, burgeoning out. Soon it will be a huge ball of flower.

allium coming out