Wednesday, 24 August 2011


We took a trip to Birr on Saturday. With C being with me I took very few photos compared to if I were on my own, but it was nice to have him with me for a change. He'd been promising me for a long time that he had to go on business and I'd get a trip in that way, but it hadn't happened yet this year. As there was a car he wanted to look at in the town, we combined the two on Saturday - along with another two cars on the way back - it was a long day!
The gardens were lovely, as always, but you could see that the hard winter had taken its toll. Compared to this time last year there wasn't nearly as much growth ( the border of agapanthus, where I got so many butterfly photos last year, was very sparse, and though the colchicum were out, they weren't in the same drifts that you could see from the far side of the river. There also seemed to be several trees down - I imagine more to do with the weight of snow than wind, as the fallen trunk C walked across looked quite sound, so he said.

I would have thought these were irises if I hadn't seen the odd flower heads!

Friday, 19 August 2011

River Birds

There seem to be a lot more gulls nowadays, and especially more black-headed ones - even though they're not so black-headed at this time of the year.

There's been an afternoon programme  on Radio 4 this week in the 15-minute slot at quarter to four which has been covering farmland birds. Today was a lot about sparrows (and I have a video of those, just got to upload it), but one this week covered black-headed gulls, and mentioned Kehar in Watership Down, and how that was the sound they made. It's true - I specially listened out this morning and heard it.

Wednesday morning, or was it Tuesday, was the first time I'd seen two cormorants together. Given that one is in the foreground and still looks smaller I wonder if it's a juvenile.

Tuesday, 16 August 2011

Park time

I had to go out shopping yesterday morning; the weather was a bit mixed but I stuck my camera(s) and some old bread in the car just in case, and it was well worth going for a quick walk in the park. It wasn't enough to wake me up sufficiently, apparently. I managed to delete, beyond retrieval, the photos on the Olympus, including some good tufted duck ones, and the female mandarin. Luckily I had used both cameras and still had a few photos left at the end...

Tufted Duck

A red-eared terrapin - presumably a released pet

I nearly missed noticing the terrapin, because it was unusual to have such a good view of the tufted duck staying still in one place, but I caught sight of it in the corner of the camera viewfinder. A moment later and it was gone.

My echinacea is long over, and I never got a photo of it. Mind you, it was nothing like as spectacular as this in Farmleigh!

Mrs Robin's plumage has grown back in - she now looks fresh and pretty, and is much less timid again also.

Sunday, 14 August 2011

Sunshine and showers

Today was a day of sunshine and some showers so heavy that it sounded like hail on the windows...


The rowan berries are magnificent this year

Hope this little dunnock was just cold and not sick

Saturday, 13 August 2011

Early in the Morning

It's become almost impossible to get leaf Earl Grey tea anywhere but in town.
And we were down to the last scrapings in the tea caddy - you'd think we were back in the old days when it was so valuable it was kept under lock and key. (On Radio 4 next week they're serialising Pepys' diaries, and one of the trails has him writing that he'd just had his first taste of a new drink called tea, but he couldn't see it becoming popular).
So on Thursday morning I got an early bus all the way into town. Thanks to the light traffic (holidays, no schools) it flew into town in no time, and as it had stopped raining by then I went in to Stephen's Green to fill in some time.
It's the first time I've ever seen a heron there. In the end I wished I had even more time, but I had to get to Bewleys to get my tea and then walk back across the city to work...

Monday, 8 August 2011

Speckled Egg and more

I haven't seen a speckled egg like this one in ever so long - I was about to crack it to make the batter for dinner, but then I thought I'd take a photo!

Mrs Robin's tail is growing in nicely. She's still moulting, though - as she was sitting on the wall early I could see a little breast feather blow off and drift away in the wind.

This bud is the yellow flower that looks a bit like a daisy. I still haven't looked through my flower books to try to identify it - it's got quite a fleshy stem. There's beautiful colour in the nigella seed-heads, too.

I can't think how long it is since I last baked this - ten years or more. I'd totally forgotten about it till I came across it again recently looking through the cookery book (Ronald Johnson's  The American Table). Last week I thought I'd asked the butcher for one piece of striploin that would do a stir-fry, but I discovered that he must have mis-heard: when I got home there was a large piece of sirloin, enough for the stir-fry and then a good bit left over. Just the right amount for this:

Colonial Beef Steak Pudding  (serves 4)

2 tblsp vegetable oil
1 lb boneless beef, cut into small bite-sized pieces
1 chopped onion
1 tblsp flour
1 cup beef stock,
2 tblsp tomato purée, 1 tsp Worcestershire Sauce
Salt and pepper - I add thyme

2/3 cup sliced mushroooms - we're not mushroom fans, I use carrots
2 tbslp oil or beef dripping
1 cup milk
1 cup flour
2 eggs

Heat 2 tbslp oil quite hot, and brown the steak in batches. Add the second batch back to the pan, add the onion and cook for a few minutes. Stir in the flour and cook for another few minutes. Add the stock, tomato purée and Worcestershire Sauce, carrots and seasoning to taste. Bring to the boil, reduce hit and simmer over a very low heat uncovered for about 1 1/2 hours, till the meat is tender. If it dries out too much add a little more water, but the aim is that at the end of the cooking time there should be very little liquid left.
Heat the oven to 450F, 230C, Gas Mark 8.
Heat the oil or dripping in a 1 1/2 quart casserole, with at least 2"  sides.
When the oil is really hot, pour in the batter and then drop spoonfuls of the steak mixture over the top. Bake for 15-20 minutes till the pudding is puffed and brown.
My recollection is that I used to do this in a soufflé type dish, so that's what I used tonight, but I think it would have been better in a wider, shallower dish. Certainly when we used to have toad--in-the-hole my mother used a roasting tin, partially cooking the sausages and then pouring the batter over. We used to have it with sugar - that seems strange to me know. But Yorkshire pudding is good to me almost any way it comes, and essentially that's what this is, except that I use milk and water mixed for Yorkshire puddings.

Friday, 5 August 2011

A Miscellany

Photos that didn't make it as the blog header this month!

My other favourite cards from July. Seems I made up for having felt in a creative slump all June to have ended up with several that were all favourites. Neither of these is my normal style at all.

Mrs Robin has been very elusive recently - even when she is around she's been much more timid than normal. I suppose it's because she feels vulnerable, but from my point of view it's as if she doesn't want her photo taken while she looks so shabby. She'll snatch a couple of worms and then retire behind the bin. I'm happy to say that after several days of not seeing her at all, today she flew straight down to the back step and stayed there to eat - with her new tail starting to show and looking all fresh. No camera handy, alas. These are from last weekend, the last time I'd seen her properly.

Thursday, 4 August 2011

Busy busy

Busy week - I'll change my blog header for tomorrow.
But just to go on with, on the way to work one day this week I spotted a cormorant flying down the river and then landing on a high wall for a grooming session. No free papers this week, so I wasn't planning to go as far as Heuston Station, but since that's where the cormorant was, I went the extra distance.

I said I had several favourite cards for July to share. Several of them appear to have already been tidied into the relevant folders, and with a sore swollen gland I want to get an early bed tonight.
But Woodstock is still flying around where I can easily find him!