Sunday, February 24, 2008

Be quick or be dead

Hola, my hard rocking amigos. I was wandering round the countryside in Granada for reasons you don't even want to begin to understand. Spain rocks! I had a migas baby. I learnt that metal-studded leather jeans not only look fantastic, but they breathe well in Mediterranean environments, AND are fully compatible with airport security systems. I did a pretty good impression of Borat in New York. I came back with about 2 Gb of music that is bloody brilliant. Everyone was crazy, in a good way. I learnt some very specialist Spanish vocabulary, including the many levels of 'me cago en...' curses. I saw some birds!

The flight down was superb, with clear views down the west coast and on to France, though it got cloudy over Spain. It was like a birding tour of some of my greatest triumphs - went over the Isle of Man and saw the Calf of Man, then to the North Wales Coasts with a clear view down the Menai Straits, Puffin Island, Red Wharf Bay, going over the Great Orme, and my dad's house, then cut over the
Llŷn peninsula (seeing Bardsey, Ynys Enlli, at the tip), all the way down the coast (to Barmouth, and over Ynys Hir RSPB), with views of Dinas Head and Strumble head, Skomer, Swansea (ugh!), over Lundy (looking good, Lundy - actually scene of two of my greatest disasters, Ancient Murrelet x 2), hit the north Devon coast with a magnificent view all the way to Lands End and all the reservoirs reflecting orange in the sunset (speak to me Stithians!), over Brittany and... yes! Ouessant in the distance - a tick! Top hole!

Around Granada, I saw a lot of this:
Birds of poplar plantations outside Granada: a lot of European Serins - their songs were too fast and varied for Remembird to cope with. Chaffinches, European Robins, Great Tits and Winter Wrens - I took a lot of sonograms - with Grey Wagtails in the irrigation channels, and White Wagtails. A few Great Spotted Woodpeckers. Spotless Starlings and Black Redstarts around the farm buildings. One (yes one) Hoopoe. A few Common Chiffchaffs, wintering or maybe migrants, singing, including one that gave a note (captured on Remembird) that I've never seen before, this after the Ibe Chiffy paper has gone to bed, the puta. I saw a pair of Azure-winged Magpies. Black-billed Magpies v common. Common Chiffies were common enough around Granada too, and Blackcaps commonly singing in the parks too, among the House Sparrows and Spotless Starlings. A flock of Redwings in the treetops around the Alhambra Palace was weird but apparently normal. Which brings me to the Alhambra.

The Charles V Palace - symbol of Christian power and more importantly, home to a flock of 200+ Eurasian Crag Martins that roosted on the little dado ledges inside the colonnade-thingies.

Charles V Palace... here be big fire-breathing Crag Martins with nasty sharp vampire teeth.

The Alambra, from Granada

Granada, from the Alhambra

You don't buy that in B&Q

Arty bit

Main gate. Impressive.

Rather alarmed to notice I came home to a pile of bird work, so made a start on that today. Got the shakes from sudden pork and coffee withdrawal. Must go get my hit. Back in a mo. We all love Granada!

Sunday, February 10, 2008

this blog is ours

Martin is working at his computer again. Nicole Kidman and the two annoying kids from 'The Others' are bugging him at the desk. They had originally been contracted to ghostwrite a blog entry on Thursday night, but Martin cancelled everything after the disaster with Captain Cutler. So in revenge they are running round him, throwing his papers in the air and shouting things like 'We're not dead!' and 'This blog is ours'. Martin heeds them not... he presses 'Send' and with a sigh, collapses forward onto the keyboard. He had FINISHED the Iberian Chiffchaff paper, and 14 hours before the deadline too, a record. When he wakes up he will celebrate with a family-feast bag of assorted Indian curries from ASDA (feeds six), a cup of tea and whatever cheap wine he can find lying around the house. Obviously he'll have to find it before Diane does.

Birding did happen this morning, though it might as well not have. Lovely day too - calm, mild, bright, Song Thrush singing and all that crap, except Newtonhill was stinking with the recently spread poisonous core of Mount Doom over the fields. Really felt like I was going to bump into a Black Redstart, though of course I didn't. Peregrine Falcons, a pair again, were active, and I tried to use RememBird to capture their calls but they were just a little too distant to be any good.

15 Common Eiders on the water included 7 males, all of which had largely yellow bills (mental note on subject of 'borealis' to NES Bird Report). 13 Ruddy Turnstones on the rocks. Looking out to sea, not much except more of the same, and about 25 Black-headed Gulls feeding on the water. I was joined by two gentlemen from the Sea Angling Club - I knew that cos they had their logo'd anoraks on. The first rule of Sea Angling Club... we don't talk about Sea Angling Club. I'd seen some Harbour Porpoises, and 5 Common Scoters flew north. etc.

Having just finished my Ibe Chiffy paper, where else to go but Iberia. 16th -23rd I'll be away, at the University of Granada (nice!). I tried to convince Diane it was a work trip, but spoiled the effect by being in Boots at the time buying suncream.

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Tae a moose

Ah, when I was a young man, free single and even geekier than I am now, I was at liberty to explore any road to enjoyment I felt like, whenever I felt like it. With the passing of time... responsibilities, marriage and children have cut off my avenues of pleasure one by one. In fact the only thing left for me to derive fun from is to watch things rot in my compost heap. Which is what I was doing this morning. Taking out another bucket of fresh fruit and veg that the kiddies discarded in their rush to devour the turkey twizzlers and potato waffles residing underneath, I noted with satisfaction the collapsing pumpkin from last Hallowe'en, and stuck a hoe through its soggy-looking head, to watch the juices and goo oozing therefrom. Then I really got into it and started turning the compost with gay abandon, til I noticed a wee (well, big) Wood Mouse Apodemus sylvaticus, scurrying away in fear. It ran out through a hole in the bottom of the composter, and stood by the fence looking at me. Lizzie came round the corner to see why I was taking too long, and not getting her Ribena, so Lizzie and the mouse looked at each other for a bit too. At school, she's been meant to be learning that Burns poem about chasing mice across the fields with a machete (or something... I myself have never got past the word 'breastie' without my mind wandering). Anyway, as Lizzie mentioned, it was just like that... wee sleekit cowering timorous beastie... etc.... you might be about to die of starvation, but consider yourself lucky that whatever Burns was worried about doesn't bother you. MMMmmmmm breasties.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Ghostwritten 2

The scene.... Martin is sat at a 1920s art-nouveau Bakelite dining table, on a floor of bottle-green glass in a room decorated with moleskin wall hangings. He smokes a pink cigarette and drinks from a pint glass of something that looks not entirely unlike cheap red wine. He is working on his Iberian Chiffy paper, when suddenly he notices a trail of glowing footprints leading up the beach from the sea. ' Zoinks!', he says, and runs into the arms of Scooby Doo, as the seaweed-covered ghost of Captain Cutler appears at the window and demands to write the next blog entry. And here it is...

[S-c G CC] Whoaaaaaahhhhhh!!!! Ooooooooooohhhhhhhhh!!!!!!! Moaaaaaaaaannnnnnnn!!!!!!! Eurrrrrrgggggghhhhhhh!!!! Ooooooooooaaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhh!!!!! RRRRRrrrrrrrrrrooooooaaaaarrrr

[Cut!] Martin realises that his experiment with ghostwriting has been a terrible mistake. He formulates a plan with the help of Velma, his 'special teenage friend', to turn on a hose attached to a bottle with a bar of soap, making the
seaweed-covered ghost of Captain Cutler slip and fall into his net and capture him by hoisting the net high. But when he turns on the hose, it spirals out of control landing Scooby in a boat. He runs into the dock, capturing the ghost in the process. They take off the mask and recognize the ghost as the real Captain Cutler... without the beard.

[S-c G CC] And I'd have gotten away with it too, if it wasn't for you meddling kids.

Monday, February 04, 2008

Ghostwritten 1

Written today by the talcum-covered pseudo-ghost of Squidward Tentacles:

[t-c p-g ST] Oh for goodness sake you boneheads, I've got a confession to make (Takes bath towel off head)

You're bald?

[t-c p-g ST] No, I'm not bald, I'M ALIVE!! Now get rid of that tombstone and tell all your friends to go home. DO IT!!! Go home!!!!

... look, Martin is trying to remember how many Goldcrests he saw this year... what a bonehead... he he he. Let's listen in...

[Martin][ sat in dusty armchair, talking to himself and dribbling by the light of a single gas lamp and a fluorescent fish]... and then there was one in the gorse bushes on 20th April, and one in the dead willow, but that might have been the same one, I'll call it possibly two, and then next day there was one in the willow again, probably the same, or different, and then that one sang, so I'll put that as 'possibly breeding'.

[t-c p-g ST] heh heh. What a numbskull

[Martin] ...and then on 22nd April... there was that one in flight over St Ternan's Road, possibly the same one as by the side of the A90 and... so bored.... can't... stay.... awake... zzzzzzz.....


[Martin] .... errrr.... whassat. Argh!!!! It's the seaweed-covered ghost of Captain Cutler from Scooby Doo! What have I been smoking. Oh yeh, pot!

[t-c p-g ST] Man, this is too stupid for me. I'm outa here. (Exit)

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Welcome to Newtonhill, the European Village of Wind, 2008

Actually I don't mind admitting that this past few weeks, what with my problems with deadlines and work and such, that the ol' blog has become a bit tired and samey. So I've sold my soul to the Devil (well, remortgaged it, to be accurate) and have arranged a couple of ghostwriters to take over during the week. And get this, they're REAL GHOSTS. Watch this space, you'll have to put up with me until they arrive from.... the Other Side...

Very icy cold yesterday, and I watched the Common Blackbirds and Starlings eating pears and fizzy cola bottles in the back garden. Today it has all defrosted remarkably, but still very windy - so i went for a quick blow (careful!) round the patch, and up onto Cran Hill, just in case Newtonhill itself wasn't windy enough. There was a constant trickle of Eurasian Skylarks flying over, which is always a sign that things are on the cold-weather move. Also a Goldcrest calling from the gorse bushes next to the inflated Elsick Burn.

There were 2 Common Buzzards hanging in the breeze over Cran Hill, and they were joined by 2 Peregrine Falcons. One of the Peregrines started to buzz one of the err... Buzzards - a couple of close fly-pasts, causing th eBuzzard to sort of stop and raise a foot in half-hearted self defence. no contact was made, but the Buzzard undertook a tactical retreat back to its side of the railway line. Heard the Peregrine calling triumphantly.

7 Rock Pipits in the stubble field up from the White Houses were a very poor shadow of the flocks of 50+ I was getting a couple of years ago. Personally I blame global warming. The sea was high, man, and pounding the beach, such that only 1 Ruddy Turnstone was braving it. When I surfed over the slurry of dog crap that is the path to the bench at the cliff tops, things didn't get much more exciting, or indeed any more exciting. Out at seaaaaaa..... a few Northern Fulmars being blown about - I looked for blue ones without success - and a couple of Great Black-backed Gulls looking for a bite. I wandered off round Crna Hill, where a Kestrel had joined the merry raptor throng hovering in the updraught from the cliffs, and there was a small flock of 7 Yellowhammers feeding in the cowsh*te around the farm.

That's all... I have to get back to my 2007 records. Every year I get to the stage where I'm so bored I can't stay awake, and resolve not to leave it to the end of the year next year, but I always do, this year included. So... I'm so bored... can't...stay... awake....zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz..... [BANG!] errr.... whassat??? Argh!!!!!! It's the talc-covered pseudo-ghost of Squidward Tentacles!!! What have I been drinking?