Thursday, 31 January 2013

January Cards

January has been so busy! I hope February is going to be a bit quieter. I know the first weekend is busy, but I am telling C that the second weekend is down time, our first weekend this year with nothing scheduled so farr, and it had better stay like that.
I haven't even done my monthly quota of Christmas cards, just two. I'm sneaking one of them in here because I loved how it turned out.

I think we have a definite pair of robins now - I sometimes seem them arrive together on the patio when they hear me open the back door. And now the mornings are a little bit brighter, if it's not a dull overcast day so that it's still dark when I leave, I see them arriving for their breakfast when I go out to shut the back gate.
But Mr. Robin is still no knight in shining armour, the female can open her beak as much as she likes, but he's still not in courtship mode. I hope she's chosen the right mate!!

Sorry for the videos not working last time - I don't know if the default setting got changed somehow...

Thursday, 24 January 2013

Cold Snap

Life feels a little bit like those Whack-a-Mole games just now - I get one thing on my list accomplished and two more spring up to take its place!
We've had some bitterly cold weather this week. On Monday there was a little snow - I loved the look of it on the bell tower of St. James' church - it reminded me a little of the pyramids outside the Louvre.

A cold-weather visitor was the male blackcap! Not great photos - the back window needs cleaning badly, but one of C's bikes is parked in front of it. We've seen a female in the garden before more than once - her cap is brown, and I was amazed to see how black the male really is.

Funny story - one of the days I was putting food out, all three robins were there. The boldest one, who I think of as dominant male (and who is now flying to the back door when he hears me) came zipping out to get some worms. The female opened her beak hoping to be fed - we've seen this courtship behaviour before. But Mr Robin's thoughts were not of love, they were of feeding himself in the cold weather so he just flew back to his perch ignoring her totally. A black mark against him as a potential father, I am sure!!

The second video is a very short snippet of the dominant male singing. I have one of the lesser male which shows the bird so much better, but no song. You can't win all the time!!

Thursday, 17 January 2013

At last!

I've been having ongoing problems with the internet connection on my computer for quite some time now. There's a problem with the wired LAN connection, and since it's quite a new motherboard I'm a bit annoyed about that. But it works perfectly on wireless, so for the last couple of months I've disabled the LAN network, to free me of all the irritiating messages about being disconnected, being reconnected, being disconnected and so on. But last week my wireless adapter died.
So on Tuesday, since it was a bright and sunny day (even if there was still ice on the paths at midday) I walked over to buy a new adapter. On the way out the door I remembered that although I had made sure to tuck my camera into my bag, the memory card was still upstairs.
I'm glad I remembered! I'd just crossed the railway line and the canal, and in a garden in the first row of houses, I spotted two waxings. I couldn't get very good photos, so you can't really see the colourful parts. But those crests are so distinctive! I was surprised at how small they were - not much bigger than chaffinches. I think I was expecting something more like a starling size.

We also have one little bluetit, and a little wagtail stomping along. I saw him after an abortive visit to Woodies to get bird seed. They don't seem to have a good range at all since they took over; if it's so poor in winter that I can't even get sunflower seeds, I think I'm going to have to look into something else.

On a postivie note, spiking my apples into the ground with two skewers in an X seemed to have foiled the squirrel, and the blackbirds are happy again.

Saturday, 12 January 2013

Recipe Time

Tonight I had what I suppose in modern parlance could be called a "labelling malfunction". What Paul Levy calls UFOs - unidentified frozen objects.
Over Christmas I had needed some duck breasts, and they were so hard to come by that I bought a whole duck and jointed it, freezing the carcass and the legs separately. Since it's now marmalade orange season, we were going to have Duck à l'orange tonight.
It turned out to be chicken à l'orange. With the freezer being exceptionally full over Christmas, the labelled duck legs were in the bottom drawer which normally doesn't have any meat in it, and when I found un-labelled chicken portions in the meat drawer, that was what got defrosted.
In any case, the Feathered Rice that I had thought would be very nice with the duck was equally nice with the chicken - and as I  made the full quantity I took a quick picture of the half that's now safely tucked away in the fridge for next week. Hence the rather dirty looking dish - sorry!!
This recipe is from Ronald Johnson's An American Table - I know I've shared recipes from it before. He describes it as earthy and nutty.  Nutty is about right to me - the aroma is almost like a puffed-rice cereal, only without all the added sugary sweetness.

Feathered Rice:
1 cup (8 fluid oz) rice
1 tsp salt
2 1/2 cups (1 imperial pint) boiling water.
Heat the oven to 400F, 200 C and toast the rice grains on a baking tray till lightly browned - about ten minutes. Stir occasionally.
Reduce heat to 350F, 170C. Transfer the rice into an ovenproof dish with a close-fitting lid. Stir in the salt and boiling water. Cover tightly, and cook for about 40 minutes, till dry and fluffy.
He says you can stir in a little butter at the end if you wish, but neither he nor I think it's necessary.

I know I haven't posted many cards recently - I don't think I even did a December pick, and it's really too late now for any Christmassy ones. But in view of the bitter cold here the last few days, this is still seasonal. I love using alcohol inks to make a plaid background à la Tim Holtz.

Today has not been a masterpiece by any stretch of the imagination - the duck being chicken was only the last in a litany of things which went wrong today. But there's always tomorrow...

Thursday, 10 January 2013


When I left the house this morning it looked set to be a beautiful day - not as cold as yesterday, but a clear sky and some amazing dark mackerel clouds. After I got on the bus, those clouds developed a beautiful red underbelly, which I enjoyed all the way in to town. There was still gorgeous light in town, and with a high tide and the Liffey very still and calm, there were some lovely reflections...

And about an hour later it started raining, and of course my umbrella was at home. I wasn't even coming straight home after work, I was meeting someone from FreeCycle to lend them a book - so when I did get home I was cold and wet. That red sky was a "shepherd's warning" today.

Saturday, 5 January 2013

Stop, thief!

I've been putting out half apples skewered into the ground for the blackbirds - in particular we have a couple of hen blackbirds who have been really enjoying them.
But sometimes I would find no remnants at all, instead of finding the empty skins, which I put in the compost.
Now we know why!!
The little rascal - we saw him pull it off the skewer and scramble up the wall with it. Now I've tried using two skewers at an angle so he can't just whip the apple off - he'll have to pull the skewers out of the ground.

Coming back for seconds, looking as innocent as I don't know what!

And all because somebody thought a few grey squirrels would make a lovely, interesting wedding gift a hundred years ago


Friday, 4 January 2013

Back to work...

...back to reality.
C was back in work on Wednesday, so by the time my turn came round on Thursday it was not so much of a shock to the system. While Thursday was very mild, it was also very dull and grey so it was hard to tell if it was a heron or just rubbish under the bridge in town. Rubbish, in the end - not that it mattered as it was way too dark to try to take any photos.
Today was still unseasonably mild despite the clear skies that made it a lovely springlike day and a much brighter morning. I even saw some buds and catkins out on the way home - I'll be heading out with a macro lens tomorrow, weather permitting.
When I was walking to the bus in the morning I wasn't sure what sort of day it would be - it was one of those days when you feel there's a lid of cloud, with just a little clear sky on the horizon. No time for a proper photo, because my point-and-shoot seems to struggle with these, and this first photo is the only one that I got that accurately reflects the morning sky; the bus came early and I had to run for it.By the time I got into town, there was much less cloud and some beautiful morning light.

It was still looking like a glorious spring day when I left work, but by the time I got home it was grey and cloudy again, so I'm not sure if the beautiful weather was very localised, or very temporary.

Wednesday, 2 January 2013

A Robin New Year...

Not just one or even two but three robins today, co-existing moderately peacefully. I think it's probably one female and two males. In any case, plenty of singing going on!! All but the first photo are uncropped - he (?) was quite happy perched on the wall with me only a couple of feet away. A narrower aperture would have been a better choice but it was such a grey day that I had it open almost as far as it would go.

We also had a brief visit from what I am assuming is  probably a leucistic pigeon; I've certainly never seen one like this before in the garden. It came in along with two regular wood pigeons.