Category Archives: wildlife

The Irish Experience: Cork and Blarney

Well I guess Ireland lived up to expectations in that it was largely wet. And green.

We visited three towns whilst we were there: Cork; Limerick; and Dublin. Each town being very different in its culture and thus experience.

We actually stayed just outside Cork in a country hotel  set in a golf course with weddings every day – it was certainly wedding season! This meant that we had to drive to get to our experiences which included a wonderful wild-life park: Fota Wildlife Park. http://www.fotawildlife.ie/.  As you can see from the webpage they were great fun to visit. We saw herds of giraffes, flamingos, orang utans, tigers and other large beasties. and generally had great fun.

There was even a wallaby mum who brought her baby onto the general path and just lay there and sun-bathed.20150814_121632-1-1 20150814_120951 20150814_120958 P1030982 P1030949 P1030950

One of the more interesting areas was their newly laid out seal enclosure, where you could go downstairs to an area which was at water level to see the seals and penguins. it looked very weird from the path of course as they appeared to be in the water…

This wildlife park is only about rare and endangered species and breeding. Some animals have become incredibly rare in the wild due to habitat loss and poaching etc.

We also went to Limerick whilst in Ireland as well as Blarney and Dublin.

Blarney Castle is great. They have made a wonderful garden and generally a good experience for all the family especially those people who knit! Now why would that be you wonder?

And to explain you would need to see what the knitters have done – a group of ladies have wrapped the tree trunks in fancy knitted cosies, some embroidered, some crocheted and others just multi-coloured.

And then the kicker – they went into the garden and adorned an arbour with pom poms!

Apart from the pom poms the garden is really nice with a wetland area and other good features including a witch’s cavern and children’s activities and nice planting.

There is even a poison garden which sends you aware paranoid about what you are growing!

And no, none of us kissed the Blarney Stone!

 

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Music and Ants: Weird connection?

I just love going to the proms every year as it introduce me to new musicians, composers and music, especially as the Proms organisers ensure that a: they commission pieces from young and upcoming composers and b: there are always UK   and often World premieres of music.

So here is one that we went to recently where every piece but one was a premiere either UK or World.

  1. Pierre Boulez arranged by Johannes Schollhörn: Notations 2, 11, and 10.
  2. Johannes Schollhörn : La Treizième
  3. Shiori Usui: Ophiocordyceps unilateralis s.l.
  4. camponotus leonardi
  5. spores
  6. pathology
  7. the grip
  8. hyphae
  9. Betsy Jolas: Wanderleid
  10. Joanna Lee: Hammer of Solitude
  11. the hammer alone in the house
  12. a presentiment
  13. a suicide
  14. Pierre Boulez: Dérive 2

Ok you say but just what on earth do all those titles mean and where do the Ants come in?

Well Ophiocordyceps unilateralis is also known as the Zombie Fungus! It affects ants of the Campotini tribe which includes the carpenter ants – apparently there are around 48 ant tribes – who knew this other than biologists I wonder? Anyway, this Zombie fungus is to be found in ants in tropical forests. The fungus spores infect an ant which leaves its nest and fellow ants and makes it way to the forest floor where it attaches itself to the underside of a convenient leaf. It remains on this leaf until it dies. It stops foraging etc.  It takes between 4 and 10 days for this to happen and during this time fruiting bodies for the fungus grow from the ant’s head (yuk)

see photo by “Ophiocordyceps unilateralis” by David P. Hughes, Maj-Britt Pontoppidan –   800px-Ophiocordyceps_unilateralis(http://www.plosone.org/article/showImageLarge.action?uri=info:doi/10.1371/journal.pone.0004835.g001. Licensed under CC BY 2.5 via Wikimedia Commons – https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Ophiocordyceps_unilateralis.png#/media/File:Ophiocordyceps_unilateralis.png)

which obviously opens and then release the spores to infect the next ant. So the music sequence from Shiori Usui reflects this happening. Hyphae is the phase of the fungal growth from the head and thus release and finally death of the ant.

The other interesting piece in parts of course is the Hammer of Solitude. This was written to reflect a poem by Rory Mullarkey. Rory Mullarkey is also a playwright (http://www.bloomsbury.com/author/rory-mullarkey) and has won several prizes for his plays and is still  very young only having graduated from Cambridge in 2009.

Quick bios on the young composers:

Shiori Usui: http://britishmusiccollection.org.uk/composer/shiori-usui/ http://shioriusui.com/

Moved to England at age 17 and has been composing here since. Her English stills needs some clarity… Works in ‘sound’ and ‘noise’ improvisation.

 

Joanna Lee: http://www.joannalee.co.uk/

Currently just completed a PhD in composition at Birmingham Conservatoire,

 

 

Hawks kill – does the sky?

A Killing Sky by Andy Strada

A Netgalley review

This is no.6 in the PI series about Frank Pavlicek and his sidekick Toronto.

I found that there were lots of different elements in this story with lots of clues but also lots of hidden motives that you don’t discover until some way into the book/story. I did really enjoy the story and the style of the writing and shall read more. I give it 4 stars.

As it happens the author -Strada – is a falconer and so he makes his detective Pavlicek one too. The detective’s hawk is called Armistead and is a red-tailed hawk. Not a familiar type of hawk to us British so I needed to look it up. Note the pun on the title here with hawks flying down to kill from the sky…

It seems that as is common with hawks, the female is the larger bird and that it mates with a tiercel – which means 1/3 in old French as the male is 1/3 of the size of the female.

In the book several types of hawks or birds of prey are mentioned and here is a short list – I hope I haven’t missed any: Info and photos mainly from http://www.britishfalconersclub.co.uk/

Red tailed hawk: The Red-tailed Hawk (Buteo jamaicensis) is a bird of prey, one of three species colloquially known in the United States as the “chickenhawk, It is one of the largest members of the genus Buteo in North America, typically weighing from 690 to 1600 grams (1.5 to 3.5 pounds) and measuring 45–65 cm (18 to 26 in) in length, with a wingspan from 110 to 145 cm (43 to 57 in). The Red-tailed Hawk displays sexual dimorphism in size, with females averaging about 25% heavier than males.red-tailed-hawk

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Goshawk: The Northern Goshawk (pronounced /ˈɡɒs.hɔːk/, from Old English gōsheafoc, “goose-hawk”), Accipiter gentilis, is a medium-large bird of prey in the family Accipitridae. The Goshawk has long been the favourite hunting bird here in the UK. The Goshawks from southern and central Europe tend to be smaller in size and flying weight than birds from areas like Finland and Russia.goshawk

 

 

 

 

 

Peregrine: Peregrine Falcon (Falco peregrinus), also known as the Peregrine, and historically as the “Duck Hawk” in North America, is a cosmopolitan bird of prey in the family Falconidae. It is a large, crow-sized falcon, with a blue-gray back, barred white underparts, and a black head and “moustache”. It can reach speeds over 320 km/h (200 mph) in a stoop, making it one of the fastest creatures on the planet. As is common with bird-eating raptors, the female is much bigger than the male.peregrine

 

 

 

Gyrfalcon: The Gyrfalcon (pronounced /ˈdʒɜrfɔːlkən/ or /ˈdʒɜrfælkən/; also spelled gerfalcon) Falco rusticolus is the largest of the falcon species. gyr

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Eagle: eagle

 

American eagles of course are wonderful large birds. I have been lucky enough to see them myself in Florida when I went to the space shuttle area and they were perching on almost every post..

 

Sharp-skinned hawk: sharp skin

sharp-shinned_hawk

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Woodland Accipiters: Within the Accipitridae family, the Eurasian sparrowhawk is a member of the large genus Accipiter, which consists of small to medium-sized woodland hawks. Most of the Old World members of the genus are called sparrowhawks or goshawks. sparrowhawk

 

 

 

 

Sparrowhawks will kill small birds as well as pigeons etc and often live in urban areas as do peregrines now. We have had a sparrowhawk nesting for many years two roads across from me, and my university was one of the first places in London that peregrines were spotted nesting on a window ledge on a tower block.

Now there was also mention of Saratoga water which also intrigued me. but in fact it turned out to be just a brand of spring water…

The age of the writing / writer was unfortunately shown when there mention of technology after all floppy disks have never been compatible with cell phones and certainly not a pocket sized cell phone. Maybe he was referring to stick drives? Or the very small types of hard drive storage that can be hidden in key fobs and so on. No computer – except those in museums still have floppy drives! And also file deletion is never really complete as our computer hackers/experts in retrieval will tell you. This is why so many firms who delete incriminating emails find themselves in court when those files are actually retrieved.

In youth we learn, in age we understand  Marie von Ebner-Eschenbach was an Austrian who has many famous quotes.

Nationality: Austrian
Type: Novelist
Born: September 13, 1830
Died: March 12, 1916