Finding work for idle hands: making, baking and more.

Big Garden Bird Watch 2011 January 30, 2011

Filed under: Nature and wildlife — lauravw @ 5:28 pm

It was the annual RSPB Big Garden Bird Watch this weekend, so on Saturday, as soon as I was up and dressed, I went out into the garden and topped up all the birdfeeders. I hung half a coconut from our apple tree, filled with food, and sprinkled suet pellets on the lawn – hoping all my extra efforts would mean more birds for the counting. We didn’t do too badly, but we have a theory that since we live in the sort of area where people take part in things like this, there’s a greater choice of food around for the birds on this particular weekend each year, and so as such the birds can be a bit choosy.

Here’s what we saw:

  • 3 blackbirds
  • 3 blue tits
  • 4 chaffinches
  • 2 dunnocks
  • 2 goldfinches
  • 1 magpie
  • 2 robins
  • 5 starlings
  • 2 woodpigeons
  • 1 redwing
  • 2 jackdaws.

I was really pleased a redwing made an appearance – we’ve had them in the garden a lot of late, and I would have been disappointed if one hadn’t visited during our hour of birdwatching. We also saw a cormorant flying overhead (not that we can record this one: they have to land in your garden to count).

There’s an article in The Guardian about the RSPB’s expectations for this year’s count: the harsh winter we’ve been experiencing in Europe means that birds from colder countries have been flying over here in search of food. Consequently this weekend’s birdwatchers should stand a better chance of spotting unusual visitors in their garden:

Experts said it was the best year for almost half a century to spot the exquisitely marked bohemian waxwing, slightly smaller than a starling, with a prominent reddish-brown crest, black eye mask and yellow-tipped tail. In normal years fewer than 100 visit these shores, mainly wintering on the east coast of northern England and Scotland. Occasionally larger flocks, or irruptions, are evident during “waxwing winters” when the population outgrows traditional breeding grounds.

I’ve not seen any, but I know they have been in our local area – there was one in a garden two houses down from us, and larger groups of them not too far away.

If you took part, I hope some nice birds turned up in your garden to be counted. Here are our results from previous years: 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010.


The Friday Tidy January 28, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — lauravw @ 5:49 pm

In my first proper job, I worked for one of those pesky dot-com businesses: publishing press releases on a website long before I had a computer or internet access of my own. One of my managers at the time liked to have a ‘Friday Tidy’ – a quick tidy up around the office last thing on a Friday. These days it’s a digital Friday Tidy that I need: all week long I read articles that capture my imagination, see photos of things that inspire me, and so on. I squirrel them away all over the place, and then weeks later you’ll hear me saying that I read about something or other on so-and-so’s website, and that I wish I could remember the details. So here goes: a virtual Friday Tidy. I’ll try to round up all those links each week and publish them here in case they appeal to you too.

Listen to the Go! Team’s new album before it goes on sale, on The Guardian website – this is an album I’m really looking forward to, and I’ve already pre-ordered a copy.

Nutella Day is imminent! And there are plenty of recipes for you to try. A couple of days a week I make myself porridge with a spoonful of Nutella stuck right in the middle of it.

This weekend is the RSPB’s Big Garden Birdwatch -we take part in this every year, and I look forward to it so much. I have plenty of extra bird food to put out, to see if I can tempt a few extra birds into our garden.

Make yourself a 3D paper owl – a free and very colourful printable template.

Mrs C’s copy of a 1930s handbook for housewives – I have a small collection of similar books, but hadn’t seen this one before.


“Then what are we fighting for?” January 17, 2011

Filed under: Books — lauravw @ 8:25 pm

Things have been getting rather ugly here in Austerity Britain, what with violence blighting some of the protests against government spending cuts. And that makes this story about library users in Buckinghamshire all the more endearing: their library is under threat of being closed to save money, and so to protest, they withdrew all of the books. Every last one of them.

“Every library user was urged to pick their full entitlement of 15 books, take them away and keep them for a week. The idea was to empty the shelves by closing time on Saturday: in fact with 24 hours to go, the last sad bundle of self-help and practical mechanics books was stamped out.” (The Guardian)

I am lucky enough to live near an excellent and very popular library – it’s not at risk of closure, but it has had its staff and book/CD budget drastically cut (luckily for them, my habit of returning books late means they get a steady trickle of cash from me in the way of overdue book fines). It makes me very sad – British public libraries are such special places. For much of my childhood, my mother worked in libraries, and I enjoyed visiting her at work and getting to potter around behind the scenes, withdrawing more books than I was technically allowed, and getting to pick from new books before they went on the shelves.

In thinking about libraries I am reminded of a quote I saw on Twitter the other day. I’ve not been able to find the source of where I read it, but some Googling has found the quote:

“During the Second World War, Winston Churchill’s finance minister said Britain should cut arts funding to support the war effort. Churchill’s response: “Then what are we fighting for?””