Sunday, 27 April 2014

Stephen's Story

I came across this this week and wondered how many of you had also seen it? This boy is amazing, truly inspirational and his story is well worth reading. 

He's a 19 year old lad who was diagnosed with bowel cancer at 15, and it has since become terminal. He has raised over £2.6 million for the Teenage Cancer trust through his Just Giving page (apparently, this has broken all previous records) and he writes a daily blog on how he is doing. He is probably the most positive and well-balanced person I have ever come across. Having lost my own father to cancer when I was 24 and he 54, I have seen first hand the devastation this cruel disease wrecks on families, and this young boy just astonishes me. His situation and his attitude to it and the way he handles it are a lesson to us all. I would gently suggest, if you're feeling a bit down, then read his story- it will put everything in perspective and make you appreciate fully the life you have got and the opportunities we all have to make our lives as worthwhile as they can be.

Last Sunday he became very poorly very quickly and, following a collapsed lung with secondary tumours taking over, he wrote what he thought would be his last post. Only it wasn't. I've just caught up with his latest blog entry today on Facebook and his story over the last few days is really quite astonishing. The doctors believe he has actually coughed up one of the tumours, and as a result his breathing is better and he is able to breath again without oxygen. So many people are wishing him well and sending him love and good thoughts, he has become a focal point for a world's will to beat cancer.

Here's the link:


Saturday, 26 April 2014

Bee Rescue Number 3 (pics and vid), But What Species Is S(he)?

J takes her driving test next week, so to get in some extra practice she drove M, L and I over to the leisure centre this morning where there is ample opportunity to practice reversing and parallel parking among other things. While she was doing this, I happened to notice a small bee lying Very Still on the tarmac. He (She?- are there any boys out at this time of the year?) looked dead, and as he/she was lying in a place where cars would certainly run him/ her over, I scooped him/her up. Upon which, he/she was revealed to be still alive, but very sleepy.
Sufficient parking practice having by that time been had (and everyone still speaking to one another and no parked cars crashed into or scratched) I got back in.
'What's that you've found?' M asked.
 'A bee,' I replied.
'Ah,' said M in a resigned sort of voice, 'I rather thought it might be.'

And so J drove us all home with a sleepy bee on my lap who could, it occurred to me after we'd set off, have woken up at any moment and started buzzing round the car. This realisation gave rise to a small flair of panic when I considered what would happen if the small flying person decided to buzz round J as she was driving.... I'm not sure I would manage not to crash under those circumstances, never mind an inexperienced teenager. And what on earth would we have said to the insurance company? 'I was bringing home a tired bee in order to resuscitate it with some Waitrose honey'? You can just imagine the reaction.

Fortunately, small flying person was extremely knackered and didn't even attempt lift off, just lay there on the tissue looking rather pathetic. I was pretty certain it wasn't a honey bee, but had small panic number two when I thought: what if it's part of a nest and I've taken it miles away? Then I decided that was still better than leaving it to die.

Anyway, I think but I'm not certain, that it's a type of Mining Bee (Andrena flavipes), in which case it is a solitary bee who will probably do better here because we're out in the sticks and have lots of flowers and we like insects mining in our lawn (well, I do).

I am not remotely a bee expert though, so if anyone knows different please do tell me. The bee has remarkable front feet (I want to call them paws). I've never seen anything like it before and can't find anything similar in my books. Any thoughts?

Here are some pics, and after them a short video I shot of him/ her feeding on the honey. The amazing front feet are in pics 5, 6 and 7.

 And here's the video....

There was a Happy Ending to this tale- the little bee recovered after feeding for quite a long time, buzzed his/ her wings and took off, flying with no problems at all. Phew!

Have a great weekend all,

CT :-)

Friday, 25 April 2014

Introducing: The May Bug Gallery, And Some Beautiful Moths

The Moth Box was out last night. It seemed like a good night - mild etc, but we woke to rain this morning and I feared no-one would be about.

I was wrong. There were 53 mothy people in the box, with a total of 16 new species. This brings my haul for the year so far to nearly 300 moths and 40 new species, some of whom are also new for the garden (meaning I've never seen them before).

Last night's batch held some Old Familiars from last year as well as the newcomers. It was a Joy to see them again and made me think of summer coming, especially as several escaped when I brought the box in and took up residence on the walls and windows in the breakfast room, reminding me forcibly of Moth Days during the height of summer last year when the whole room would be taken over by hundreds of night-time people fast asleep on every available surface. I warned L when he came home from school that the moths were all out- he walked in and waved to them all :-)
Brimstone (not seen since the late summer)

Chocolate Tip in normal pose (last seen last winter)

Grumpy choc tip whizzing his wings pre-take off

Choc Tip Front View

Early Tooth-Striped

Early Thorn (new for year)

Early Thorn

Frosted Green (new for the year and the garden- Very Exciting)

Grey Pine Carpet (new for the year)

Knot Grass (new for the year) 

Pebble Hook-Tip (new for the year)

Pebble Hook-tip on the window

Hurrah! The White Ermines are back!

White Ermine, one of my favourite moths (new for the year)
Small Phoenix (new for the year)

Lesser Swallow Prominent (new for the year)

v-pug (new for the year)

As well as all the super moths, there were six Large Beetles in the box and one on the table outside. I couldn't fathom what they were to start with, only really having seen (and heard) them flying at night before, when they are often so clumsy they fly into you. They are May Bugs of course (or cockchafers). May Bug numbers took a terrible plunge in the mid 20th century thanks to pesticides, but since tougher controls on the use of these horrid things were put in place their numbers are now recovering- they had become locally extinct in some areas :-(

Poppy obviously hadn't heard about the need to Look After May Bugs, because she grabbed the first one I put out in the flowers and ran off with him. Fearing the worst, I ran after her and managed to grab her. She dropped the bug, who just got up and started walking up her nose. They have sticky feet, and she didn't enjoy the experience very much. This served her right for snatching it in the first place. Anyway, May Bug none the worse for wear and Poppy hopefully has learnt not to pick them up (although I doubt it).

I think they are FAB, and had to take lots of pictures because they are So Adorable up close in the daylight. I absolutely love their little feathery antennae (see fourth pic down). The last pic is technically a bit furry, but how could anyone resist that little face and those dear little feathers?...... 

Introducing The May Bug Gallery:

 Have a great weekend all,

CT :-)

Thursday, 24 April 2014

What Do You Think Of My New TV Boyfriend? He Is Compensation For Our Extremely Naughty Dog...

Me again!

The Old Man's out tonight on a copywriter's course (yawn) and I've had a Trying Sort Of A Day, so I'm sitting here drinking the BIGGEST glass of chilled chardonnay you've ever seen and eating my way through a packet of chocolate eclairs. I think I may possibly have eaten too many because now I feel slightly sick :-(

Anyway,  onwards.

We have exams looming and I am beginning my revision. Its actually only one exam, but we all agree its going to be a bas****d, due to the sheer quantity and depth of the information we're supposed to learn. I don't mind revision IF there is a chance I will remember it, but sadly I have Fading Brain Cells, being a mother in her forties who juggles three children, two dogs, a cat, a husband, a job and a degree, and also thanks to the Brain Lesions I'm fairly sure I've picked up from one too many paralytic migraines. All that Takes Its Toll on a girl and so to work round it I am having to make sure I get the revision in early.

As a result of this I have been called 'stressed' by the same person twice in twenty-four hours, and frankly that has got on my nerves. I am not a stressy sort of person: I have my life well in balance thank you. I know where peace is to be found, and conversely agitation, and so I avoid agitation and go for peace. I couldn't do my job (healing) if I was someone who suffered from stress because Quite Frankly the absolute last thing a healer should ever do is pass on to her patient Bad Energy. If you are trying to help others feel better, you really do need to do it from a starting point of wellness yourself. I have tried doing healing when unwell before and it simply doesn't work. So: I am essentially a happy bee who sees the positive in most things, and to be labelled so casually as 'stressed' by someone who barely knows me really pissed me off, to the point I could feel myself becoming annoyed :-(

I dispelled the irritation by taking the dogs (who have been cooped up today) out for a walk. I left the camera at home and Very Quickly regretted it. Linnets, a Black Cap, loads of Carder Bees, a Rabbit, a Ruby Tiger Moth in Broad Daylight flashing his red knickers at me AND some Interesting Wild Flowers and I only had the iphone which is OK but nowhere near as good as my lumix...

Who lives in a hole like this...? Mouse? Bee? Vole?

The Best I Could Do- Ruby Tiger with bright red pants (hidden). He was Quite Grumpy, definitely DID NOT want to be picked up, and flew off in a huff. Bit Early for round here.

Thrush's snail-bashing stone

I came home and heard a Chiffchaff chiff-chiff-chaffing in a tree by the lake, so I grabbed the proper camera and got this...What d'you think? Not bad?

Pops had rolled in a particularly gross wet FP while we were out so she had an impromptu cold shower and shampoo in the garden. It is a mark of how often we do this now that she just sat down and waited until it was over before she went off to torment Ted with her wet head.

I left them outside so she could dry off without shaking all over the walls and carpets. In hindsight this was Very Unfair On Teddy, who really should have been indoors with me as he'd done nothing wrong. When I looked for them out the kitchen window half an hour later this is what I saw....

Oh dear.

That's one unhappy westie. You can tell from the expression, as well as from the In-The-Greenhouse position. The down-turned mouth is also a bit of a give away.

Ted only ever takes refuge in the greenhouse when Things Are Really Bad. They have definitely been bad this week. So far, Miss Pops has:

1) Learnt how to jump on the kitchen table when no-one is looking and remain there Quite Happily and Cheerfully, as long as you're on the other side of the window waving your fist at her furiously

2) Stolen Jemima Puddleduck from one of the beds upstairs and left her chewed and soggy in the sitting room

3) Dug out my tissue from under the cushion on the sofa and shredded it

4) Done a poo on the hall floor

5) Jumped on the sofa

6) Scattered my revision notes on the floor THREE TIMES

7) Undone and mixed up all the laces on M's running shoes

8) Left a wet sports sock wedged inside my running shoes

9) Raided upstairs and stolen an easter egg

10) Eaten a cleo poo and then licked M's face

11) Jumped on the coffee table, stolen one of L's biscuits and rushed off into the garden with it and eaten it before anyone could work out what she'd got in her mouth

12) Run off with a chocolate bar still in its wrapper

13) Chased a Bee round the garden

14) Growled and barked at Cleo, who was then too frightened to go outside to the loo and so did a wee by the washing machine, which M thought was water and spread all over the floor so it stank to high heaven the next day which necessitated the entire floor being washed

15) Barked again at Cleo who then did a poo in my washing basket

16) Woken me up EVERY NIGHT this week at 3am barking furiously at invisible rabbits

17) Cleaned Ted's teeth for him with her tongue Very Thoroughly several times a day regardless of whether he actually wanted his teeth cleaned or not

18) Totally ignored Ted's furious and increasingly despairing growls that he didn't actually want a Jack-Russell type tooth-brush

19) Licked M's legs when he came back from running and was all sweaty (yuk) despite being asked not to

and finally, 20) rolled in hideous wet fox poo with all that that entails

I am in despair.

I think this may be revenge for the fact that L tied a bell to her collar that was on his Lindt Easter Bunny and now she tinkles wherever she goes :-)

To help me get over this I decided I needed some Healthy Escapism and so I have found myself a New TV Boyfriend (both Cillian Murphy and Damien Lewis having buggered off elsewhere for the time being). His name is Richard Rankin and he is currently to be seen on the Beeb's excellent WWI Sunday Night Drama Crimson Fields, where he plays an incredibly grumpy but all-things-considered-undeniably-sexy doctor. I am a bit In Love (despite the fact that he is a whole TEN YEARS younger than me. When did that happen? It wasn't all that long ago that people who were ten years younger than me were still in primary school. It shouldn't be allowed: it's just rude).

Anyway, seen as we have such a Good Tradition on this blog of you all assessing my candidates for TVBF, here is a pic for you to decide whether or not he is worthy of the title. Please bear in mind that as soon as Peaky Blinder's is back on he will have stiff competition from a certain Mr Murphy. I figure it's only fair to give him his share of the limelight now. Please also bear in mind that M's blasted weather girl (still dressed like she's off for carefree cocktails as soon as she's delivered the weather report) has been on every bloomin night this week and that clearly Isn't Fair At All. Mr Rankin would give me some ammunition of my own to fire back with....(actually, that was Rather Good, seeing as he's in a War Drama....).

Wishing you all a peaceful (stress-free) evening, 

CT :-)

Captain Thomas Gillan

Wednesday, 23 April 2014

A Visit To Lymington-Keyhaven Nature Reserve And Fifty Thousand Page Views Beckon......

Today we had a College Day Out to Lymington and Keyhaven Nature Reserve, an area covering some 500 acres and including nationally important mudflats and salt marshes. As usually happens on a College Day out, we got alternately frozen and rained on, but it was still Good Fun. And as well as being Good Fun, I came back with pictures of several New Birds and extended my plant ID skills as well (largely thanks to Mat, Dave and Des). This is a different bit of the salt marsh to the section I've shown you in the past, so bear with me.

We started off with a talk from the reserve manager where we learnt that Lymington was built on salt (not literally of course, because that would be foolish and unsustainable and besides, in heavy rain the houses would all melt, although I suppose you'd never have a problem with ice on driveways again.....). It was built on the proceeds of a Vast Salt Industry. Copious quantities of sea salt were produced in the marshes every year and the money was used to build big smart houses, until rock salt was discovered and the whole industry stopped.

I do like a Spot Of Nice Architecture, but given the choice I'd rather be photographing Wild Things, and one of the benefits of doing this with a group of people who are also interested in them is that you don't get teased for taking pictures of, say, pieces of grass, generally tutted at or harried to Hurry Up, as I often do at the weekends.

Herewith then, the results of Todays Camera Offerings.....

Artificial Lagoon, created forty years ago to provide a Brackish Environment for Brackish Creatures. Also has Terns trying to nest on it, when the foxes allow.....

Black-Tailed Godwits, listed as a Vulnerable Species. Why has this sentence turned green?

More Black Tailed Godwits and a Shell Duck Sitting Down for Good Measure

A group of Cold And Wind-Blown Ecology Students.. Leaning Into The Wind is their normal stance.

More Created Lagoons
An Oystercatcher Striding Forth...
Another One, striding forth the other way...
 A Meander through the Mudflats
More mudflats looking out to the Isle of Wight
A Skylark- apols for poor pic quality, but it was some distance away, and how often do you get to see them on the ground anyway?

I think the next four shots may be Small Eggar Caterpillars found among the Hawthorn, which is their food plant. Small Eggars are a type of moth, and if these are their pillars we saw lots of them. I didn't appreciate the significance until I came home and id'd them (Caroline (RR) or Martin, if you think I'm wrong please shout). They are a nationally scarce species that were once widespread and now they only breed in selective areas. Their decline has been put down to hedge removal. I'm not a hundred percent on this one because I can't find a reference to them at Keyhaven anywhere, so I will try and find out and confirm later. 

UPDATE- Thanks once more to Dave, who has confirmed that these pillars are in fact Brown-tail moths, who are pure white and fluffy when adults and have (no surprises here) a brown tail :-)

Moving on, I spied these chaps who turned out to be Juvenile Redshanks (thanks to Dave for the id).

Bit Gorgeous.....

Spotted Redshank catching lunch
After that the birds just got better and better.... I got a shot of this male Linnet (thanks Mat for the id- it does help to have friends who know what they are talking about....)


Also this Meadow Pipit (never seen on of those before either). Thanks to Des for the id on that one....

Meadow Pipit
I also saw a Lesser White-Throat. Again thanks to Dave and Mat for the id on that one (worked out by the call- how impressive is that? It puts me to shame). No piccy sadly as he flew off too fast. 

There were several Small Moth Folk fluttering about. One obliged by landing and remaining still long enough for me to get this shot. Using my excellent Small Moth Bible as given to me by Clever Husband for Crimble, I reckon it is either a) Incurvaria pectinea or b) Incurvaria masculella. My money is on masculella, simply because of the yellowish head.... If any of you moth experts out there know different feel free to shout. LOVE the antennae.

I'm in need for an id for this please, if anyone knows? I'm pretty sure it was on an Oak...

UPDATE: thanks once more to Dave- these are oak apple galls made by a very small wasp called Biorhiza pallida

There were lots of galls....

Oak Gall pretending to be a potato
The marina looked Rather Lovely....

And the apple blossom along the path was glorious....

Not to mention all the other flowers and seed heads which were also Worthy Of Documenting....

Horsetail or Equisetum,called a 'living fossil' because it is the only living genus of its entire class still remaining

Purple-Ramping Fumitory (it was decided, after much protracted discussion, scratching of heads, staring at the ground and thumbing through various id books while studying leaf and flower size, shape and texture...)


All in all a Great Day Out and one in which I learnt many things, not least of which was NEVER EVER get in the back of a minibus again if Stuart is driving..... Roll on Miss Marple, eh Des?

I'll finish by saying that the blog is teetering on the brink of getting its 50,000th page view, which seems like a Good Time to say a BIG THANK YOU to all of you for reading/ commenting on it over the past year or so. Bless you all :-)

I'll leave you with my Two Intrepid Explorer Friends working out exactly what kind of Sow Thistle this is.....


Have a Great Night All,

CT x