Wednesday, 30 November 2011


In my week off work, I also spent a bit of time hiding in the local fields with a camera to see what came along. And what came along on a distinctly warm, un-Novemberish day (it felt more like spring!) was this Green Woodpecker (Picus viridis). As it hopped around, picking up ants, it seemed somehow 'sped up' and quite comical. Having filmed it, I rooted around in my archive of music I've recorded over years to find something that would work with it. Having tried numerous more pastoral and gentle options I found this distinctly angular piece which somehow seemed to fit the way that it moved:

I'm not sure that it's the 'right' music but it was an interesting exercise for me in seeing how a soundtrack imparts a mood to a natural phenomenon. I hope to explore this more over coming months.

Monday, 28 November 2011

Exploring Norfolk

Having had a week off work, we have had a chance to explore some of Norfolk's great wildlife sights. We launched our new canoe on the Yare on Monday, which was great fun. It gave us a tantalising glimpse of the fantastic wildlife one can see from river level - in about 20 minutes we saw a kingfisher, a marsh harrier, a great crested grebe, various incoming geese, kestrel and herons. It was a wrench to put it into winter store after a short trip, but when it comes out in spring, I'm sure we'll have some real adventures.

On Wednesday we went to the RSPB reserve at Titchwell Marsh. I may have been there as a child, but I had no recollection of its salt and freshwater marshes, beach and woodland which provide multiple habitats and therefore a great diversity of birds. At this time of year, there are masses of migrant geese, waders and duck coming in. Rob from the RSPB team took us round, pointing out more species than I would ever have recognised and we learnt and saw a lot in a couple of hours.  Here are some of the Teal (Anas crecca) that we saw. Highlights included seeing a reclusive Water Rail (Rallus aquaticus), a relatively rare Purple Sandpiper (Calidris maritima), and large flocks of Golden Plovers (Pluvialis apricaria) picked out in the autumnal dusk.

The highlight of the week for me, however, was Sunday's trip to the corvid roost at Buckenham Carr...but more of that another time...

Saturday, 19 November 2011

Black and white Burglar

I had a really nice evening a the gallery ( in Bath this evening talking to people looking around the Bath exhibitions as part of the Bath Galleries Group show. I had lots of interesting conversations which included the following story: A lovely couple who live by the river in Oxford, I think, returned home from a three week holiday to find that their house had been broken into. The door was open and the kitchen and bedrooms were trashed and there was food everywhere so they phoned the police. The police came and confirmed that it was a particularly ugly burglary with much damage to the property. The police investigation continued to turn up more strange details such as nuts piled up under the duvet, things in shoes and food from the bottom shelves of the fridge all chewed up and spread about. As the couple sat in the dining room they then overheard the policeman say into his radio that he didn't think this was a burglary, but that it was the act of wild animals. As this thought sunk in they all became aware of the huge number of small paw prints around the house, through the congealed bits of food and on the duvet etc It was a badger. After the house was tidied up, with all the damage being limited to the bottom three feet of each room, strange collections of beans and nuts etc were found organised into piles inside boots and in the bed. Unable to sleep in the bed, as it felt defiled, they went into the spare room to find that dried beans had also been piled under the duvet in that bed, as though placed there to be warmed up or perhaps hidden for later. The couple are sure, having found paw prints half way up the back door, that a badger pushed the door open by shaking it perhaps and that in it's wake other small animals, perhaps squirrels and mice, entered the house to share in the bounty. I was left with a palpable sense of the creatures reclaiming the property in the absence of people and enjoying the luxuries of a human home much like that lovely story of the homeless man that got locked into a London department store in the 70's over Christmas and enjoyed the beds, foods and soft furnishings.

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Honey Bee (you are my...)

I'm attending a talk this evening on the 'Secrets of bees and honey'. I'm sure it will be very interesting, but it occurred to me that one of the amazing things is how completely the honey bee has insinuated itself into our language, particularly the imagery of love used in poetry and popular song lyrics. I could immediately think of half a dozen examples from across genres, from the popular Victorian music hall number 'The Honeysuckle and the Bee' to Byrd's madrigal 'Sweet Honey-sucking Bees'. And this classic:

I suppose this is partly because of the intertwining of man and bee throughout history, but also because of their role in procreation of flowers, which in more prurient ages allowed for an overtly sexual metaphor to be deployed. The sweetness of honey also gives an added dimension to this, giving a rich lexicon of metaphor that has been in the arsenal of many a songwriter and poet. I've never used any bee-related imagery in my songwriting, but maybe after tonight I will be inspired!

Thursday, 10 November 2011

Hunting the Hunted - New Artwork & Crayfish

Great evening at the opening of the Hunting the Hunted show at the Bo-Lee gallery in Bath. Long conversation with Patrick, artist friend who makes sculptures with birds, about all-sorts of natural history shenanigans and my new box of crayfish 'Eclection #1'. He says that the steam, or river tributary, at the bottom of his garden is positively swarming with crayfish. Apparently if you put a bit of fruit sacking into the river with a piece of bacon tied to it you only have to wait for 30 seconds or so for streams of bubbles to rise from the surrounding mud, which apparently indicates crayfish leaving their lairs. Within about 3 or 4 minutes you can have as many as 8 in the net ! Patrick says he can sometimes hear squeals coming up from the stream, when they are in the house, as families get excited as crayfish are discovered and apparently they are quite feisty and likely to nip. Another couple from Oxford said that they catch so many in a small trap they have, that it's all they can do to eat them all. Adam and I must try harder next year, and to start with perhaps we should visit Patrick in Bath for a Saturday morning by his stream with a picnic.

Hunting the Hunted Exhibition - opened this Friday

Friday, 4 November 2011

Found Art?

Another local find was this grand bracket fungus. I am quite ignorant on fungus, but it has a wonderfully meaty quality. Oddly, it looked like Dunc had been treating this with his copper dusting process, as can be seen from the surrounding foliage. I'm not sure if this has occurred naturally, or whether this has actually been dusted as a disease treatment. Either way, it's yours for £500 (if I can remember where it was)!