Corona

That used to be a fizzy orange drink I seem to remember in my youth. Anyway that’s slightly off topic. Does anyone remember the crisis before the Coronavirus. The environmental crisis maybe … well the Coronavirus appears to be the best thing that has happen for that little problem, at least for the moment. In one giant leap or at least in the space of a couple of months the environmental problems may well have been halved. Of course there will be a price to pay but then that was always going to be the case.

It is interesting that when problems are ignored or not taken seriously mother nature has a habit of taking over and putting the boot in. Just to remind us that we should not just be talking and taking note of what’s happening, but also acting. Like they say, actions speak louder than words … every cloud has a silver lining … a stitch in time saves nine … please feel free to add your own …

It may well be that the Coronavirus outbreak has such a devastating impact on the world’s economies that our lives will be changed forever and new ways of working, playing and meeting will need to be found. However personally I doubt that and I am more inclined to believe that by the end of the year it will just be another event in history like the Spanish flu, Bird flu, Sars, the financial crisis and mad cow disease.

There is also another ‘positive’ aspect to the Coronavirus that is rarely mentioned. Normally this time of year, certainly in Europe, influenza takes the lives of many, many people, in fact thousands more than the Coronavirus has up till now. However because everyone with the slightest cough or cold is self isolating the chances are that deaths from normal flu virus could be the lowest ever seen and adding the two together we may yet see the lowest figures ever for flu virus deaths in 2020.

I don’t wish to down play the danger of Coronavirus, just put a few things in perspective as the media loves disasters and it becomes a bit of a feeding frenzy. That isn’t to say that we should ignore the news but it would be nice at least to hear a few more balanced views, rather than the gloom and doom that is pumped out daily.

Everything happens for a reason …

Woodpecker

woodpecker

The sound of woodpeckers drilling on trees is a daily occurrence this time of the year. They are either drilling a hole for a nest or testing the tree for nesting suitability. Today however the sound was different, it sounded hollow and was much closer. I looked out my window and listened. A woodpecker was clearly not far away but scanning the nearest deciduous tree I could see nothing and the tree looked too young and green anyway for woodpecker nesting. The only other trees were fir and they were too far away for the sound. I was a little dumbfounded until my eye caught sight of a green woodpecker clinging to the side of the neighboring building. At first I thought it was just a coincidence and the sound was coming from elsewhere but then it resumed drilling into CONCRETE!

Not only that but this woodpecker remained in the same spot and drilled intermittently for at least an hour. I wondered why it was doing this and was rather concerned for its beak. I mean, I am pretty sure even with a hammer and screwdriver I would have been hard put to make more noise. Maybe it was to attract a mate, like a we might discover and play a new musical instrument to impress someone.

Anyone with any ideas?

Birdbox

birdbox

A great tit inspects the birdbox. This morning I watched as it warily entered the birdbox and stayed inside for a good 30 seconds. It looks promising as it inspected the roof several times from different angles and seems to be hanging around more. I am really surprised how quickly they assess a possible nesting site and will keep an eye open for any signs of nest building.

This ‘Birdbox’ post will remain where I put any new related photos and updates, so watch this space there is for sure more to come.

Crested tit

crestedtit

A crested tit pays a visit. Being less common than blue tits and great tits it adds a touch of class to the day. This one seemed about as interested in the birdbox as the nuthatches, so I don’t hold out much hope of any moving in at the moment.

crestedtit2

I really must work on my focusing. A slow shutter speed (1/60th) is probably to blame but the light was bad and flash did not seem to penetrate that far. I always shoot at ISO 200 but maybe I should up it to 400.

Nuthatch 10.03.2020

nuthatch

Update 18032020

bluetit

A blue tit inspects a husk left by a nuthatch.

Until today I have only noted four regular balcony visitors: Greats tits, Blue tits, Crested tits and Nuthatches, which often arrive in pairs.  However today a Black redstart did pay a brief visit but seemed uninterested in what was on the menu. I spotted a blue tit inspecting the birdbox and even venturing inside for a while but as yet there have been no signs of nest building.

goldfinches

Meanwhile below in the forest a charm of goldfinch land on a nearby tree with buds. Spring must be just around the corner, it was sunny and warm today allowing me to have two windows open all day.

coal tit

A coal tit on another nearby tree. What with the woodpecker hammering on the building next door again today, a buzzard’s intermittent cry, an owl hooting at night and the general twittering of bird song, it was an action packed day, probably brought about by the prolonged sunshine and the approach of Spring.

Update 24.03.2020 (Winter returns)

robin

A through the window photo of the robin on the balcony railings.

Battered by howling winds and temperatures below zero has led to me curtailing my balcony photography for the last few days. I was forced to seal up the windows and balcony door as the cold wind coming through the cracks meant that the central heating was unable to keep the flat warm. Sitting at my desk I can still watch the birds and recently a robin joined the party. The black redstart has also been a more frequent visitor.

The Great tits and Blue tits continue to inspect the birdbox and I noticed a Great tit removing pieces of bark that I had layed inside the box. Either it was unhappy with my arrangement or it was pinching the bark for its own nest somewhere else. We shall have to wait and see. The birds may well only be inspecting the inside for insects and other goodies they might find. Who knows, they often inspect the exterior much like a potential house buyer might, so I am still optimistic

Visitors so far:

Great tit, Blue tit, Crested tit, Nuthatch, Black redstart, Robin, Magpie

Update 27.03.2020 (new visitor)

A chaffinch joined the party today.

 

 

 

Sunday walk

forest

It may be premature but I feel that was the last gasp of winter. As the snow melts temperatures appear to be on the rise over the next weeks and that can only mean Spring is just around the corner.

Wandering along my usual route the birds are chattering away, I hear buzzards calling and woodpeckers intermittent drilling. No doubt searching trees suitable for nesting holes. I also hear a high pitched ‘yeah’ from some bird I often hear but have yet to see or identify. Not the blonde that keeps following me I might add.

Other than that it is relatively quiet and quite mild despite the feeble sunshine.

forest1

I pass the tree ‘bow’ and focus my camera on textures.

forest4

Small bracket fungi cling to a log lying on the ground.

forest3

This tree has seen better days. I am not sure what has caused this, maybe the beetle that has invaded many trees in the forest but it makes an interesting graphic.

I put up a home made bird box the other day and blue tits have already been inspecting it, poking their heads inside the hole to check it out. Maybe if they move in I will get a few interesting photos later. Nuthatches are also frequent visitors to my balcony.

(Update)

nest2

Here the first photos of blue/great tits inspecting the nest box I only put up a few days ago. Truly amazing how quickly they check things out. The photo is poor because I have yet to clean my windows and figure out a suitable way of photographing them. The blue tit also checked all edges of the roof thoroughly, presumably to make sure it was waterproof and OK to move in. The nuthatches took no interest, which is no surprise as it was designed for tits. There was also a newcomer this afternoon, a crested tit, which would be a welcomed neighbour.

Tomorrow I will clean the windows and see if I can improve on the photo quality.

Watch this space.

Wood work

Kramfors

Photo of my Grandfather’s house taken from the driveway of a similar house he built for his sisters.

This house was built by my Swedish grandfather, a master carpenter, at least so the story goes within our family and he also built a similar house across the road, which was just a gravel track back then, for his four sisters. My father grew up in this house in a small town not far from the coast in northeastern Sweden. In the cellar my grandfather had a carpentry workshop but my father was never allowed down into the cellar.

As such my father lacked confidence in making things and struggled even to put up a shelf, much to my mother’s endless dismay and despair. Nevertheless he had an interest in technical things and bought a Sinclair Spectrum computer when it arrived on the market in the 70s. He was still typing emails and using Facebook into his mid-nineties before passing away a few years ago.

I on the other-hand learned all my woodworking and metalworking skills at school in the UK, mostly before the age of 14 and I can still remember all those lessons vividly. I passed my woodwork O-level at another school, where strangely I cannot for the life of me ever remember doing woodwork there, but that’s by the way. While teaching at a university in Taiwan I drew on many of those early secondary school lessons while instructing students on their design models.

A kitchen I designed and am presently in the process of constructing got me back into woodworking and I was reminded just how enjoyable working in wood can be. Unfortunately being impatient and a bit of a bodger much of it has been a bit of a pig’s breakfast. Still, undeterred I am making progress and look forward to posting pictures of the kitchen once it is completed. After years of torturing myself I have come to accept my mistakes and to learn from them, a useful attitude for all perfectionists and even non perfectionists out there.

As a footnote: Both those houses mentioned were pulled down by the local council back in the 70s or 80s and new blocks of flats were built in their place. My remaining grandparents and great aunts were rehoused into new apartments, no doubt reluctantly as none of them survived much longer after that upheaval. The whole area was redeveloped making it impossible to recognize again and now it’s just another typical ‘modern’ characterless urbanization. Thankfully I can still remember how it once was and enjoy those memories. Even the distinctive smells of the wood, polish and something else that was unique to Sweden. No idea what that smell was but my memories of that old house were triggered on a visit to Kalmar some years ago, almost 1000 km away.

Bikes galore

bikesc

I was planning on a Sunday walk blog post today, which I have not done for a while but after a week of working my butt off I simply did not have the energy. So here instead an old photo from 2015 of bikes parked on Fuengirola bridge, Spain, during an annual biker meeting. Many of these bikes were Harleys but there were also a few custom bikes demonstrating the beauty of one off specials. Even if you have no interest in bikes it is still hard not to appreciate the artistic effort and detail that goes into many of these designs.

bikes2c

Carrots in a bucket

carrots1

My carrots are doing nicely along with some garlic and ginger. Amazing what you can learn on YouTube. Despite the recent snow storm and zero temperatures Spring is just around the corner and even tomorrow 12C and sun is forecast. Meanwhile as I write this an owl is hooting away and I recently heard the spine chilling scream of a fox. I think if I ever heard that while camping I would be out of there like greased lightening.

Digitised II

pf1bw

Another digitised photo from a colour slide and converted into B&W. This local scene in the Black Forest was photographed ca 1976 and still looks much the same today, at least I think it does. I will try and find and post an updated photo I took from the same position a few years ago to compare. The buildings had changed slightly as I remember but not much else.

Any WordPressers know what happened to the keyword input column normally found on the right of the screen. Mine disappeared a few days ago. Has it moved? Or been removed?

Update: The above question has since been resolved. Meanwhile I am still searching for that elusive photo taken a few years ago of the scene pictured above. Watch this space.

Hypnotised by Coldplay

Digitising

lacleman2

Lake Geneva ca 1992

This is a digitised photo from a colour reversal slide (Agfa color 200 ASA, probably) taken in the early 1990s. Digitising does not need to be expensive. The scanner used for this conversion cost just 30 euros from Lidl! I think this particular Agfa color film is no longer made, such is progress. Before the advent of the digital world it was my favourite colour film for many years used mainly in a Nikkormat Ftn. For black and white photos I tended to use Ilford FP4 or Kodak Tri-X 400 ASA on occasions. Although the image scan quality is probably not as good as you would get from a photo lab., I think it is pretty reasonable, especially for the price and a must have investment for anyone with boxes of slides stored in the attic going mouldy.

wheat

An English wheat field ca 1980

lacleman5

Statue of a sea nymph, Vevey, Switzerland ca 1992