They’ve hatched! It all happened yesterday morning. Hubby turned the TV on at about eight o’clock and when Mum left the nest for a minute there was one baby, tiny, pink, skinny, beak wide open. We watched in wonder on and off for the rest of the day as more and more hatchings happened. The mother-bird ate the shells after each birth.
Here’s a little sequence as Mum helps baby out:
Dad immediately started arriving with food at regular intervals – a bit like the pizza delivery guy, only he was bringing caterpillars. Every time he arrived he’d call and Mum would get off the nest to take the food from his beak. At the same moment all the baby birds would ‘boing‘ to attention, as if their necks were on springs, beaks wide and waving around like a little group of flowers in the wind. Mum was careful to give everyone a beak full, at which point they all flopped down again. It surprised me how the feeding regime started almost immediately after birth. Not all of the eggs have hatched. We watched baby number seven arrive just after midnight last night, but there are still two to go.
I made a short video yesterday, it’s not fantastic quality, but it’s rather sweet. It shows Dad arriving and sharing food, Mum feeding the kids, and then doing her amazing wiggle as she settles back on the nest.
It is a most wonderful thing seeing how this wonderful little pair of birds work together. Nature is so perfect and so simple. I often think that us humans think we’re so much smarter than birds and animals, but maybe it’s the other way round. We can learn so much from them.
Smile though your heart is aching
Smile even though it's breaking
When there are clouds in the sky, you'll get by
If you smile through your fear and sorrow
Smile and maybe tomorrow
You'll see the sun come shining through for you
Light up your face with gladness
Hide every trace of sadness
Although a tear may be ever so near…
Is anyone else getting spam emails from some poxy company called MyPC Backup? I’m getting really sick to death of them. They put a link on the bottom of their emails saying I should click on it to unsubscribe! Why would you need to unsubscribe if you never subscribed in the first place?! Methinks I’m not daft enough to click it. They do get 10 out of 10 for persistence – emails nearly every day. Oh, and they appear to think my name is ‘George’. That really helps!
It’s hard to say why I allow this sort of thing to wind me up. I think it’s because they are just another bunch of money-grabbing ******** and I hate the underhanded way they try to catch people out. Whether their company is authentic or not is irrelevant, they still have no right to send spam emails with such annoying frequency to all and sundry. Of course if they are authentic then they shoot themselves in the foot straight away by using spam tactics. Who would touch them.
Of course I’ve googled the company and found out that they probably are authentic – and obviously desperate for business. One thing I do know is that if I needed a service of their sort they would be the very last on my list.
Rant over! I feel better now!
It would be intriguing to know how many people hit on this post due to the title content, but although the story is about a couple of birds they happen to be the feathered variety. Sorry to disappoint some viewers!
What recently happened, much to our delight was that a pair of great tits decided to nest in our nest box with the camera in it. We have three nest boxes up and the little devils have studiously avoided the box with the camera for two years. This winter a bird used it for roosting purposes so we became hopeful. Until the other day the camera in the nest box was hooked up to a gadget with a very small screen in hubby’s office, and it was hard to see much on it, but it did look as though something – maybe moss – had been brought into the box. For better viewing my hubby decided to hook the camera up to the TV. When the picture appeared there on the screen was Mrs Great Tit tucked tight into her nest. I can hardly believe how two grown adults could get so excited about one small bird! Much speculation ensued about whether or not she had eggs already and if so how many. We didn’t have to wait too long, she nipped out for a break and we were left with the wonderful sight of nine eggs.
It’s now three or four days on and there are still nine. Because we have no idea when number nine egg was laid we have no idea how long she’s been sitting. Great tits lay between nine and thirteen eggs and when all are laid the female incubates them. This takes twelve to fourteen days. And so we wait expectantly, three or four times a day nipping in to check ‘The Bird Channel’.
I’m sure there will be many garden bird enthusiasts who have had cameras in boxes for years and this will be nothing new to them, but we have been so tickled by it I just had to share the experience. My husband keeps saying we’re going to be grandparents! Nine grand-chicks! Brilliant!
The photograph of the eggs isn’t very good as expected since it’s a picture of the TV. Also the camera in the box is possibly slightly out of focus, possibly because it was set up to focus on the bottom of the box, but the level of the nest is now higher. We’ll check and adjust it after nesting season. Until then we wait and watch!
I’m fascinated by fossils. We live in an area that oozes with the history of pre-historic man, cave paintings of mammoths and other such treasures, but I find fossils much more interesting. It maybe because I love nature and fossils are usually sea creatures from a million years or so ago. The land around our house is heaving with them, and I can’t go for a walk without half an eye on the ground.
A few days ago on a trail up through the woods I spotted a shape. It always seems to be shapes that attract. This one was round. I dug it out and held in my hand a perfect sphere with a small nodule. It was particularly heavy and quite fascinating.
My hubby and I pondered over it and he wondered if it was a musket ball. Half a mile from us is an old forge, one of only two in France that produced musket balls and cannon balls during the Napoleonic times. In the end I measured it and weighed it (one inch across and 38 grams) and put a photo up on the fossil forum. Lots of help and explanations were forthcoming as to what it probably is, and I was told it’s most probably something called an ironstone concretion and not a fossil. It was then fascinating to read up on how these concretions were formed – but far too long to relate here. There are certain spherical concretions called thunder eggs. What a brilliant name! Whether it actually is one or not I can’t be sure, but that’s what I’m calling it. My Thunder Egg! I’m quite sure it has magical powers and is stored with some sort of long-forgotten knowledge from a hundred million years ago when it was formed. If you put it to your ear and close your eyes you can hear water boiling and crashing on rock, earth-shattering explosions as volcanoes spew forth molten lava, and the wail of the winds of change … honest you can!
Just a short post to thank all who read my recent post Maintenance Zero (now removed), and maybe clicked the YouTube link to the slide-show. For anyone who didn’t read the post it was concerning the unpaved road to our house which over the years has deteriorated more and more. This past winter, due to seemingly endless rain, there was a long stretch which had turned into a sea of mud interspersed by some enormous pot-holes. It was becoming positively scary trying to navigate this stretch on motorcycles which have been confined to the garage for months.
A number of requests by more than one road-user have been made to the Plazac mairie who’s responsibility it is to repair the road. Nothing was being done and so, after years of frustration, hubby and I made a video and a slide-show of the offending section of road and posted them on YouTube. We sent the links to the mairie.
A few days later the mayor himself paid us a visit. He agreed that the road was unacceptable, but currently he didn’t have a lot of money for repairs. We said we understood this, but if he would supply the materials we would do the work. He was most agreeable. The next day after five trips with our trailer we had made a good initial repair. Shoulders and back are aching a bit but it was worth it, plus it’s now safe to get the bikes out! Result!
Note action photography by hubby – stones in mid-air!
I awake with a start and freeze under the duvet, stare wide-eyed into the darkness, my heart hammering in my chest. My bed just moved. It was exactly the same sensation that you get when a dog or cat, or something heavier jumps off the bed and it springs back to normal. I don’t have a cat, or a dog, or anything heavier that lives with me.
I lie absolutely still and hold my breath. Is whatever it was still in the room? My mind does circuits faster than a formula-one driver.
‘You imagined it!’
‘You must have done!’
‘I did not!’
‘What on earth could it be?’
Pictures of a hideous wolf-like creature fills my mind. Sometimes an overly active imagination is just not an asset.
‘It must be a burglar!’
‘Why would a burglar get on the bed and then jump off again?’
‘He didn’t fancy you after all?’
I don’t know how long I lie barely breathing, listening for the minutest sound, duvet pulled over my head. I can’t stay like this all night, sweating and terrified. Whatever it was I have to face it. I have to put the bedside light on. That means sticking my arm out into the dark and fumbling for the switch. What if it grabs my wrist! My heart bashes itself wildly against my ribs.
‘You’ve got to do it!’
‘For heaven’s sake do it!‘
Breath held I summon all my courage and shoot my arm out, connect with the base of the lamp and flail madly for the switch. Got it! Heavenly light! I force myself to squint over the scrunched duvet, petrified of what might be staring back. Nothing! No axe-man grinning knowingly at me from the doorway. No hairy drooling beast. Relief floods through me. So what jumped off my bed?
I have to search the house. If I don’t I can’t possibly put the light off and go back to sleep. Under the bed I feel around and pull out my equalizer – the biggest screwdriver in the world. Useful at both ends, one for stabbing, one for bashing, it’s hidden away for exactly this type of situation. I quietly pull on jeans and trainers, then I methodically check every room and every cupboard upstairs. Nothing. At the top of the stairs I gird my loins and then I sing noisily all the way down. This will warn him I’m coming and give him time to escape, and I won’t have to do my best impression of Vlad the Impaler.
I flick lights on as I go. Loo – clear! Utility room – clear! Kitchen – clear! Lounge – clear! A clean sweep. And not a window pane broken or a door forced. Nobody’s here and nobody has broken in. So what in the hell jumped off my bed? A worse thought slips into my mind. What if it was a ghost? Some lost soul risen from the peat bog (I live in the fens), or some ancient jilted fen man trapped between two worlds, still seeking vengeance on his bronze-age lover! No way could I live with that! Not some sporty spirit using my bed as a nightly springboard. I’d have to move. I made a large mug of tea and stuffed two sugars in it, then I sat at the kitchen table and tried to calm down.
Bleary eyed I trudge in to work. Sleep was hopeless after I returned to bed. I’d kept waiting for the bed to go boing again. I sip my first coffee and stare vacantly at my computer screen.
My friend Julie comes over, ‘Did you feel the earthquake last night?’ she asks excitedly.
‘The earthquake! There was a small earthquake somewhere up north and it shook houses as far down as Peterborough!’
‘Are you serious?’
‘Yes, it was on the news this morning.’
A look of relief and then a silly grin has spread slowly across my face.
‘What?’ says Julie.
‘It means I don’t have to move house,’ I said, ‘I don’t have a ghost!’
The above is a true story. Earthquakes are exceedingly rare in England. This one really did happen in September 2000.
Mid-January is that time of year; the time when the Seville oranges appear in the supermarket. Here in France they’re know as oranges amères (bitter oranges). A few weeks ago I suddenly spotted them and thought marmalade! My Mum always made her own and I decided to give it a try. My ancient Mrs Beeton’s cookbook had a variety of recipes but I liked the sound of this one. And the result was absolutely deeelicious!
Mrs Beeton’s Dark Course-Cut Marmalade
Yield: 10 lbs
2 lbs Seville Oranges (about 5 oranges)
7 pints Water
6 lbs Sugar (I used ordinary Granulated)
1 TBSP Black Treacle
Wash the fruit, cut in half, and squeeze the juice. Scoop out the pith and the pips in the skins of the oranges and tie it up in a muslin bag (this will produce pectin). Slice the skins into medium thick shreds. Put the juice, muslin bag, sliced peel and water into a large preserving pan and simmer until the peel is tender and the liquid is reduced by at least a third (approximately 1 ½ to 2 hours). Remove the muslin bag after squeezing the juice out gently (I found it easier to put the bag in a bowl and squash it with the back of a wooden spoon, then put the pectin juice back into the pan). Remove pan from the heat and add the sugar and the treacle. Return to a low heat and stir till the sugar is completely dissolved. Then boil rapidly for 15 minutes and test for setting point. If setting point is not reached then boil 10 minutes more and check again. Repeat the process until setting point is reached.
Setting point note:
Before the boiling stage put two saucers in the freezer to use for testing. When ready to test spoon a little marmalade onto a cold saucer and allow it to cool. If the setting point has been reached the surface will set and will wrinkle when pushed with the finger.
Make some wholegrain toast, smother it with crunchy peanut-butter and spoon some marmalade on top! Yum!
Squeezing the juice