Tuesday, 30 December 2008

Sutton Sun Set

Is it just me or is everything apocalyptic at the moment.

Monday, 29 December 2008

Kew Gardens

Always a chance, even on a family day out, to sneak in a bit of bird photography.

Dylan and Eypthian Geese (above)
Ring-necked Parakeets (below)

Tuesday, 23 December 2008

End of the Cycle- Through the Mill and then onwards

Well, hopefully everyone agrees now that we are all buggered. The economy is slipping into the unknown. With any luck, the credit crunch represents a macro adjustment- a correction that swerves close to the brink- drops a load of chaff off the edge and then swings back on track. By the end of all this, Britain may well be fused closer to Europe (Euros and all) and Europe will be part of a 'new world government'- in other words we will all be forced, kicking and screaming to 'unite'. The only way out of a world crisis is world co-operation and the only way to get rid of all this debt is to centralise it globally and then write it off.

Once this kind of apparatus for global co-ordination is in place then it will be easier to regulate the economic, social and environmental condition with global policies. This is really the only way to prevent slash and burn as it makes a regulated level playing field across the globe . This is the only way to produce a more constructive mass mind set- an extension of teeth gritting tolerance and 'co-operation'. Hopefully we are approaching the turning point. For environmentalists and sustainable future thinkers this could well be a time of great opportunity to make some bloody real money (and world peace and all that). Right that is all said and predicted. It is going to be a right old mess. Now time to get on with the job ahead.

Sunday, 21 December 2008

Francesca Drinkald- Sprinkals

My neice wanted to be famous so we made this video and song for the two people that view this blog.

Sprinkals, written, recorded and performed by Francesca Drinkald.

Do you want some salt on your popcorn or sugar, do you want some sugar. Do you want some candy on your milkshake or do you want hundreds and thousands on your toast. Sprinkals everywhere I go, filling up my eyes, sometimes I think I'm gonna choke, sprinkals everywhere I go, even on my toast, even on my toast (x4) Woo.

Saturday, 20 December 2008

Natural History Museum- Wildlife Photographer of the Year and the Darwin Exhibition

Spent the day at the Natural History Museum. http://www.nhm.ac.uk/

An excellent time to go- the Wildlife Photographer of the Year is on at the same time as an exhibition of Charles Darwin.

The Darwin Exhibition is amazing. To see the original note books and the scientific instruments that he actually used in the process of arriving at the theory of evolution is literally awesome. A great insight into the man behind the idea. When trying to make a life choice of scientific discovery over settling down with a wife and kids he drew up a list of pros and cons. One of the cons of a wife and kids was that it was 'a terrible waste of time'. I think that qualifies me into the ranks of a man after Darwins own heart.

Steve Winter- Remote control shot that took 10 months to get using a Canon 400D- the very camera I have but cant get it to take shots like this for some reason.

Monday, 15 December 2008

Conservation work day

Little Oak joined forces with the Beddington Farm Bird Group and we carried out some conservation work on the lake.

A good day. Strimming, trimming and boating.

Wednesday, 10 December 2008

Unsustainable migrations

Thought I would get a couple of shots of this daily evening migration of 20,000 or so gulls over my neighbourhood. Might be worth something one day- when all the landfill sites have been closed.

Saturday, 6 December 2008

More real birding stuff here:

Xmas in Hackbridge

I agreed to do a bit of photography for the local church Xmas fair. Santa was a bit of a rogue, grabbing the mums and shattering kids dreams with his beard falling off. It was more fun than I thought it was going to be.

Friday, 5 December 2008

Long-eared Owls

We are very lucky (as are the developers) to have four Long-eared Owls roosting on my local patch. There are also two Barn Owls around which is good becuase we lost these species due to development and now they have returned. More here:

No pain-no gain

There is no shortage of will to destroy the human and natural environment but there does appear to be a shortage of unified will to protect it. I wonder if the biggest threat to the environment is not human greed but human apathy.

3 million unemployed by Christmas, 16% fall in house prices in 12 months, state of emergency interest rates, projected government borrowing of £118 billion next year, 45,000 already re-possessed and this is just the beginning.

A fundamental shift in perspective towards a more sustainable environmental future can only occur after the adverse effects of unsustainable philosophy are felt by the majority of individuals within a society.

The worse this economic crisis gets- the more chance there is for alternative and minority thinkers to gain ground.

Tuesday, 2 December 2008

Larus landfillus

Here is a rear view of the terrifying and enigmatic 'Landfill Gull'.

Wednesday, 26 November 2008

Wintering male Siberian Blue Robin by John Gale.


These buttressed roots are incredible.

Monday, 24 November 2008

Tough times

"Nature has placed mankind under the governance of two sovereign masters- pain and pleasure. It is for them alone to point out what we ought to do...." (Jeremy Bentham).

Perhaps we can infer from that..... no pain, no change. Problem with that is.... no brain, no pain. It is going to have to get really bad before some people feel it:-).

Getting more debt to solve the problem of debt- mmmmm

Darling announces today that he is going to borrow £118 billion (instead of the projected £38 billion) to keep Britain Ltd. from collapsing next year. Indeed it is quite possible that somebody can borrow money to get themselves through a bad time. However it is also possible for someone to dig themselves deeper and deeper and deeper into a dark hole. Of course, I do not possess a crystal ball so I obviously don't know for certain which scenario we are in- however both these options are possible. In such a dangerous situation it is only sensible and rational to expect the worse case scenario, prepare for it while maintaining hope for the best.

Saturday, 22 November 2008

"The roots of social order are in our heads, where we possess the instinctive capacities for creating not a perfectly harmonious and virtuous society, but a better one than we have at present.......Pre-eminently this means the encouragement of exchange between equals. Just as trade between countries is the best recipe for friendship between them, so exchange between enfranchised and empowered individuals is the best recipe for co-operation. We must encourage social and material exchange between equals for that is the raw material of trust, and trust the foundation of virtue". (Matt Ridley, The Origins of Virtue).

And the reason for the current economic collapse.......... lack of trust.

Thursday, 20 November 2008

Bring it on

I do love a bit of drama in natural history. Dawkins is hard to beat with material like this:

"We have the power to defy the selfish genes of our birth and, if necessary, the selfish memes of our indoctrination. We can even discuss ways of deliberately cultivating and nurturing pure, disinterested altruism- something that has no place in nature, something that has never existed before in the whole of the history of the world. We are built as gene machines and cultured as meme machines, but we have the power to turn against our creators. We, alone on earth, can rebel against the tyranny of the selfish replicators" (The Selfish Gene).

Wednesday, 19 November 2008

November colour

Here is a bit of colour. Some photos I have taken which were sitting in my computer.

Bird Art

I lifted these images from http://www.birdingart.com/

Some of my favourite artists:

Top to bottom:
Marsh Warbler (Szabolcs Kokay)
Pallid Harrier (Richard Johnson)
Red Kite (Richard Allen)
Kittiwake (Chris Lodge)
Blue Tit (Adrian Smart)

I don't know what the law is in displaying these images on here- anyone know?

Social evolution

The tragic subject matter of baby killing is top of the news agenda at the moment. One baby every week in the UK is killed due to neglect or cruelty. So basically that means there are a lot of babies being abused which are not killed- fates worse than death.

From the point of view of someone fascinated in natural systems, like myself, this is a both a disturbing and interesting phenomenon. 'Domestic' Abuse is common in the rest of the natural world. When resources are in short supply- either the siblings or the parents will sometimes pick on, torture and sometimes kill the weakest specimen. When resources are plentiful and the parents can cope with the demands comfortably- this behaviour is less common.

In my opinion, this and all 'social problems' are a product of the environment which the animals find themselves within. When humans, like all animals are deprived of necessary nourishment- respect, love, care, status, value, food, territory, sense of fairness (whatever that means) etc. they start showing behaviour which is sometimes referred to as 'behaving like animals or monsters'.

In the words of one of Darwin's greatest apostles..... "As an academic scientist I am a passionate Darwinian, believing that natural selection is, if not the only driving force in evolution, certainly the only known force capable of producing the illusion of purpose which so strikes all those who contemplate nature. But at the same time as I support Darwinism as a scientist, I am a passionate anti-Darwinian when it comes to politics and how we should conduct our human affairs" (Professor Richard Dawkins in A Devil's Chaplain 10-11)

Monday, 17 November 2008

Birding and the Recession

Hooray- it is official. We are now in a recession. Anyone who has been sympathetic enough to follow this blog will remember that I have been predicting this since May 2007 when I sold my house and moved into a recession bunker- which is where I am now. A lucky guess perhaps but now for the next prediction- how severe and how long. My prediction is........ really bad and bloody long.

So what does this recession mean for birds and birding. Well for starters with unemployment at 1.8 million and set to rise fast- that is more man hours in the field. So therefore we should see some more finds.

I was over Beddington last week on Wednesday- I am now down to a self imposed 4 day week and joined in the 'credit crunch watch' with four others present. Hopefully we should see some more faces over there soon as economic conditions deteriorate.

On the negative side we should see corporations, saving money by trying to cut corners with environmental obligations- so keep an eye on your local patches which are industrial by-products- like Beddington for instance. Also health and safety- maybe a little bit of trimming, so beware of those dumper trucks- the quality of the employee may have been compromised for price. I think I will wash my hi-visibility vest.

More seriously with holiday budgets being cut- it could be much needed revenue being deprived to eco-tourism projects, so therefore best to prioritise the birding holiday over the family holiday. I think solo birding trips are a moral obligation- the wife and kids will understand.

Sunday, 16 November 2008

Ship Assistance and other human/ natural system considerations

Found this nice little flickr site about birds on a geophysicists boat out in the Gulf of Mexico. http://www.flickr.com/photos/mikeegee/sets/72157594545876853/

I presume ship assistance is a fundamental aspect of transatlantic vagrancy. The Yellow-billed Cuckoo (above) which I photographed on Corvo in 2007 showed some dark smudging down its breast. I noticed this sort of staining on one or two other cuckoos on the island in the past. I presume this is some kind of deck wash residue or grease from ships and off shore installations.

Some birders are uncomfortable with the idea of ship assistance but for me it is just another aspect of human activity that affects planetary systems. In this case offshore shipping traffic and installations appear to be regularly utilised by migrant birds. Presumably this factor must have some effect on the ecology of these birds. I suppose it is no different to birds using farmland to feed on or nesting in roofs of houses.

I like the idea that humans are part of nature and I think that not realising that can have significant costs. By saying one thing is natural and one thing is un-natural is a philosophical mistake. The consequences of that mistake is that planners and visionaries consider systems which are missing fundamental parts. The result is a devoid, uninspiring and bleak human environment. In my opinion anything that humans do, can be performed in a way which is complimentary to the natural world. We can build roads with nice verges and planted carriageways, we can farm in a way that generates beautiful countryside teeming with wildlife, we can build houses with stunning gardens with all sorts of garden wildlife, we can build business parks full of trees, shrubs, ponds and feeding areas for birds, Even industrial estates can be planned better and I have spent a lot of time looking at sewage farms, outfalls, settling lagoons, rubbish dumps etc which are all significant areas for birds and wildlife so know very well their importance in natural systems.

In short what I am saying is that this technocrat/environmentalist divide is an imagined divide generated by a philosophical flaw. Eco-warriors do not need to be at war with developers- the two groups should be sitting round the same table planning the human environment. They need to share a few values- no good being polarised. For me anyway, the problem is not development but the nature of that development. Better to go with something and make the most of it rather than fight the inevitable.

Friday, 14 November 2008

collective stupidity

My latest rant will be on...... democracy again. I do like blogging-the voices of the voiceless. Got to get it out somehow- what better place to vent than into the great expanse of cyber-space. All those little opinions and ideas all buzzing aimlessly around in server machines and wires. All that collective wisdom (and stupidity), all dressed up but nowhere to go.

I read somewhere recently that if it was left to the British public to decide how to spend public funds, they would blow it all on a mile high golden statue of the Princess of Wales. Well that could be true but I suspect that it would be pretty difficult to make a worse job of things than some political parties manage.

Well it will be interesting to see what Obama gets up to next. This change he is talking about- what is he talking about? Like a fellow blogger from the United States of America itself commented just the other day-'can Obama overcome the corruptive nature of power'. Well, it is indeed power that corrupts so the best way to stop corruption is to prevent any one person from having too much power and to distribute it more evenly across a wider population. It is easy peasy. All he has to do is the equivalent of a Turkey walking itself to the Christmas dinner table. After all that is what all good messianics do.

Wednesday, 12 November 2008

Grainy photos

I think I really do need to work on my rarity photos. I was trying to select some of my best bird photos from Corvo (my personal Isle of Grain) and this is all I could come up with. White-rumped Sand at the top, one of the Yellowthroats and the Yellow-bellied Sapsucker at the bottom.
Vincent has some cracking photos which I hope to lift once they have been published.

The Birds


Monday, 3 November 2008

Modern Art

Photo: Lifted from Marcus Coates website http://www.humannature.org.uk/artists/marcus-coates/

For some reason I spent the weekend contemplating modern art. I found myself in the Photographers Gallery and the Tate Modern and also had an Internet conversation with an American abstract artist.

Like a lot of people I am torn about modern art. I am very interested in alternative perceptions and fascinated by diversity. However I am also suspicious of some modern artists intentions. All too easily the modern artist can use profoundity and obscurity to mask a vacuum. However my inability to connect with an artist can be a reflection of my own lack of imagination.

This battle, I suppose is fundamental to abstract art. I think, like the society it reflects, modern art is all about confusion, suspicion, abandonment of excellence, a redefinition, irreverence, degeneration, surrender, well meaning, directionlessness, fun, light heartedness, comedy and paradox. One of my favourite artists is Marcus Coates. (http://uk.youtube.com/watch?v=AJfLd2w4Wbw). He is a naturalist and an artist and for me he reflects this absurdity and mockery well.

For me, Modern Art is a test on my perception. Is the artist trying to communicate something which has depth and meaning. Do I need to squint to see it. Should I make the effort to understand. Should I be ashamed that I doubt the intention. However, is my intelligence under attack- is the artist faking abstraction to mask an emptiness. Has the artist, brown nosed himself/herself into an elite group of self-confirming vacuuists and then by manipulation are trying to impose a delusion of value by creating self doubt in me. Am I being conned.

For me, this is the great test of modern art. Some abstract art reflects a great depth of understanding and meaning. Some reflects a persons ability to be able to manipulate ignorance. What is the intention of the artist.

Like many things it appears there is as spectrum of destructive and constructive intentions. Some artists are intent on sharing and giving positive affirmation to others. Some artists are trying to up-hold self delusion by passing that delusion onto others.

It works the other way to. The observer of art- is a rejection of abstraction a well-founded interpretation of questionable intent. Or is the rejection a blindness and an inability to listen to a genuine well intended voice.


Monday, 27 October 2008

Sunday, 26 October 2008

Saturday, 25 October 2008

Wednesday, 22 October 2008