Tag Archives: Magpies

A Better Sort of Day

It was a better day today.

The tree is topped, the pigeons are inspecting the result, and the neighbour across the road has said she is already missing the view. She liked it as it was. This proves you can’t please all the people all the time.

The tree fellers have done a good, tidy job, despite there being just the two of them. (If you pretend to say “tree fellers” with an Irish accent the last line will make more sense. That same accent also explains why Leicester Tigers’ Billy Twelvetrees was known as Thirty Six.)

To make things even better, they worked quickly and charged less, so it was an economical sort of day.

Work went well, starting with me getting there early and taking loads of photos for the presentation. It’s only five or six days away, depending if you count Monday as one of the days.

That click you may have heard then is the sound of tension moving up another notch…

After work I had to go shopping. I lost the stylus that goes with Julia’s tablet, and she can’t use it by using a finger tip like I do. Did I mention I lost the stylus? She did. About a dozen times a night for the last two nights. It was getting to the point where I either had to go shopping (which I don’t like) or commit murder. I’m pretty sure they don’t allow WordPress in prison so I decided to go shopping.

The first shop stocks them, but had sold out. The second didn’t stock them. The third only had one left. At this point the full horror of coronavirus struck home – when China sneezes the whole world of cheap consumer goods catches a cold. (If it develops into a pandemic, with people falling dead in the street, this will probably seems like an unfortunate turn of phrase, but at the moment it seems apposite).

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Magpie, shortly after being bested by a Gull

In the car park of the first one I saw two Magpies engaging in a tug of war with a packet of crisps, and reached for my camera. By the time I had switched it on a Black-headed Gull had swooped and taken the bag. The Magpies are looking shiny, and the Gulls are developing their (chocolate brown) heads. Spring cannot be far away, despite the plunging temperatures.

I have found out why hand gel and soap is in short supply – local school head teachers have, it seems, being laying in massive stores of it. Because nothing averts a pandemic like panic buying and hand gel.

 

First Signs of Spring

I will take the day in order.

I didn’t feel good when I woke so I went back to sleep. I felt worse when I woke because I had slept through the second alarm and was running late.

Breakfast was two well soaked shredded wheat and a piece of cold toast with marmalade, washed down with cold tea. I’m lucky like that, I can enjoy my food hot or cold and have never understood why people wince when I drink tea or coffee that has been standing for hours. It tastes much the same to me.

At the other end of the spectrum I am able to finish scalding hot drinks quicker than most people, even though I’m told it increases my risk of oesophageal cancer. (That is the first time I’ve ever used that word in either written or spoken form).

Emerging into the day I first noted the amount of noise being made by the birds, then noticed that the sky was a lovely blue colour. Spring is starting to show. The bird noise wasn’t song, it was the sound of Magpies playing on the rooftops and Great Tits calling from gardens. Neither one could be accused of being melodious.

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I made it to work with 15 minutes to spare – I’m old-fashioned an consider this a minimum as it takes me 15 minutes to turn things on and compose myself. Younger and more modern people seem to think it’s OK to turn up dead on time and carry on from there, before starting work ten minutes late.

We weren’t busy online, with just four parcels to send, but we had phone calls and customers and the day passed easily, though I did start to flag in mid-afternoon as a desire for a warm bed stole over me. I’m not sure whether I’m coming down with something or have weakened myself by going on a diet. I remarked to my sister by text, that I had expected my new vegetarian regime to make me feel better. She said she’s been vegetarian for over 40 years and hasn’t noticed any great feeling of well-being. Now she tells me…

Finally I came home, put the fire on and started to feel better, read my blood test results and, eventually, drifted off to sleep for half an hour. Julia, fresh from swimming, came and woke me, shoving a vegetable stir-fry into my hands before making pancakes. I think she’s been reading cookery books again.

The results were good. I have a target of 2.5 and hit 2.4 so I have another twelve weeks before the next test.

I’m planning on an early night and sleeping until I wake up rather than setting an alarm. We have no plans for tomorrow apart from dropping stuff of at charity shops and clothes banks, so I’m taking a relaxed attitude.

The presentation is falling into place and at this rate it should be finished with hours to spare. Considering I’ve had eight months to do it, this is either commendable precision or world-class procrastination.

 

 

A Dozen Parcels, an Auction and a Hectic Day (and a Very Bad Magpie)

I was late getting to work this morning because I had a busy start – taking Julia to breakfast, helping her buy cement, fighting my way through several sets of road works and, finally, dropping her off at the garden.

That left me with twenty minutes to get to work, which was only just enough. Technically,I wasn’t late, as I was still there a few minutes before I was due to start. In practice, it felt late as I like to get settled and have an unhurried start to the day.

There were two big sales on at Spinks in London this morning and the boss was bidding on line. (I won’t add a link to Spinks as I’m currently arguing with them – I bought two lots off them a months ago – they lost one lot and the other was nothing like the description. They are not, currently, my favourite auctioneer.)

The problem was that my computer, though old and clunky, is probably the best in the shop, and is the only one with sound.

That meant I started late, answered some stupid questions from customers, and then had to swap computers when the auction started. It’s surprising how much a strange workstation slows you down.

I don’t mind questions when they have a point, but some are just a waste of time and energy.

Eventually the auction finished. It seems to have been quite successful, though everything seemed a little more expensive than he would have liked.

I had a similar experience when I looked in on an auction in the afternoon. I’d decided to save my money by not bidding, but two the three lots I would have bid on went for more than I wanted to pay so I’d have left empty-handed anyway. I’ve spent enough recently so it’s good to save.

Fortunately we managed to make a few sales in the shop too – it’s nice to get a bit back after all the buying we’ve been doing.

Julia rang me in the afternoon. She’d been working in the garden when she noticed some commotion by the polytunnel. There are two nestboxes with Great Tit families in them and the one by the polytunnel was under attack from a magpie, which had its head stuck in the hole.

Great Tit at Wilford

Great Tit at Wilford

She chased it away and we’re hoping it won’t be back.

I know it’s nature, but there are plenty of other things to eat.

 

 

Raindrops on Red Plants…

My Cooking from A to Zzzz project came off the rails tonight. I set the chicken casserole going and stuck a gammon joint in to cook. I didn’t fall asleep tonight but I did immerse myself in writing and forgot about things.

The chicken was OK and I thought the gammon needed a bit more time. The “bit” was slightly wooly as I’d forgotten what time I put it in. As you have probably guessed, I forgot about it until Julia sniffed the air and said: “Is the cooker still on?”

“Ooops!” I said. Or something approximately similar.

There is good news and bad news.

The plastic-wrapped Danish gammons you buy cheaply from supermarkets don’t spoil if you cook them for an hour and a half longer than you should do.

That is the good news.

If you are fussy about what you eat this is also bad news as no quality meat would put up with that sort of treatment.

This morning, little realising what was in store for me, I treated Julia to breakfast at Harvester.

Yesterday I emptied a tin money box yesterday in my search for old-style £1 coins. They are going out of circulation in a few weeks and I would like to get them used before then. After cutting off the bottom with a can opener I was surprised to find only two £1 coins. Fortunately there were fifty £2 coins.  It’s a reminder of better days, when I used to be able to save £2 coins and not notice the difference.

It seemed only fair to treat Julia with my newly-discovered wealth, and after a leisurely late breakfast we had no need of lunch, so it turned out to be quite economical. Iturned down the offer of hash browns as I’m cutting down on carbs so they offered me chips instead. I turned them down too. I’d never thought I’d refuse chips…

I took pictures of some interesting red plants in the pub garden (tentatively identified as Heavenly Bamboo – Nandina domestica ‘Blush Pink’ after looking on the Thompson and Morgan website) and then snapped a picture of a Magpie when we got home. There were a couple of them playing the street like kids.

 

 

After breakfast and before overcooking the gammon we photographed the grey pub. Mentioning this allows me to set it in the timeline and link to it in a cynical attempt to generate more traffic.

It could have gone better…

We went down to the Mencap garden tonight to drop off a donation of plants from one of the neighbours. We have Japanese anemone, Michaelmas daisies, buddleia and raspberries. I’ve also donated my tea plants as they can make a better job of looking after them than I will.

The Magpies were waiting.

There were two on the roof of the shed, two perching on the fence and two standing on top of a lamp post. One was perching in a tree and one was pottering around in the grass. He’s the one that we think acts like a stroppy teenager. We assume it’s a “he” because girls don’t act like stroppy teenagers. If Magpies wore baseball caps his would be on backwards.

We’ve never seen eight at one time at the gardens before.

The first part of the afternoon was less interesting.

It involved eating soup (which went well) but then deteriorated as I took two bags of books to the charity shop. It started to rain as I parked the car. I grabbed a lightweight rain jacket from the back seat and managed to empty one of the bags of books onto the floor.

As slapstick goes it was a polished and faultless move.

After parting with the books, which still hurts as I talk about it, I decided to use the available light to photograph some bits and pieces. (I find the light in the car better than the interior of the house at this time of year). I hadn’t locked the door of the battery compartment last time I opened it.

They fell out.

I put them back.

And at that point I realised I hadn’t put the card in.

I was so wet I steamed up the inside of the car. This took a while to clear and gave me time to brood on the unfairness of life.

Then I went home, where Julia told me she had a job for me. That brings us back to the top of the page…

Our Magpies

As I mentioned in the previous post we they have a family of Magpies in the Mencap garden.

During the summer one of the first jobs of the day was often to chase them out of the large polytunnel that the group uses as a workshop. There was nothing we could see that would have been attractive to them, and they don’t seem to nee the shelter or they would still be there.

It’s a mystery, as are the claw marks in the polythene covers. Some of the group are pointing accusing fingers at the Magpies. The scratches are fairly low down, which makes the Magpies unlikely culprits. Anyway, why break in when they know how to use the doors (which are still being left open at the moment).

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Ready for mischief

Other fingers are pointing at the badgers.

The main problem with this is that nobody has seen any badgers. It’s also unlikely they could get past the fence. Their normal method of attack is to charge things until they give way. I’ve seen them smash through fence panels on TV, and I’ve seen the results of them charging into chicken wire on a free range poultry farm.

They have one thought in their head and, as far I know, no feeling in their noses. After one attempt they leave a conical bulge. I imagine that it is the shape of a badger’s face. A couple more tries and they burst through. Unlikely as it seems, this is true and I have seen it. Unfortunately it was in the days before digital cameras.

The farmer who had sited his wire across a badger path without realising it soon got tired of mending it and inserted a door, which he opened every night and closed again every morning. The badgers were happy, the farmer had no mending to do and the chickens were free to range.

All of this suggests that if it was badgers, there wouldn’t be claw marks, just badger-sized holes.

So, not Magpies and not badgers. The mystery deepens.

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Sentry duty

Meanwhile, back at the Magpies, they were round again this morning, parading around, setting look-outs in treetops and looking for mischief. Unlike earlier in the year, when they stripped two cherry trees, there’s not much for them to do at the moment.

 

 

Bad News for Bee-eaters

I checked up on the Bee-eaters a couple of days ago. According to the website the watchers noticed a change in behaviour a couple of weeks ago, with adults no longer taking food into the nests. A couple of days later they gathered together and flew off, never to return.

It’s a shame, both for the birds and for the volunteers who put so much work in.

Who knows what might happen – at one time Magpies and  Buzzards were unknown around in the eastern counties and Red Kites were virtually extinct in the UK. Now they are all common, or commonish, sights around the area. yet be able to tell my grand-children about how they are lucky to have Bee-eaters and Hoopoes in the garden.

Then again, if the sea levels do rise as predicted, it might be exotic ducks we are watching.

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Bee-eaters at East Leake

 

Working in the garden

Julia needed a willing workhorse this morning. When she couldn’t find one she had to do with a mithering fatman.

The task was sawing pallets up to make garden benches. Julia has a video on how to make a bench from a single pallet. Unfortunately our pallets aren’t the same size as the ones in the video (8 slats instead of 9) so there’s an element of mix and match involved.

There are some excellent benches on show, but we’re aiming for functionality rather than upholstery.

I will take some photographs when we get one together. With no electricity and a blunt hand saw, this might take some time. The fact I’m not allowed to be an official volunteer isn’t actually helping either. It also doesn’t help when you have to evict a family of magpies before starting. We aren’t sure why they like it in the polytunnel but the first job of the day is always to chase four protesting magpies out. Over the years we had a few birds in the polytunnels on the farm, but never anything like this.

Fruit and flowers were looking good, and the rain stopped for a while.

 

Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear…

There are some days when a single “Oh dear” just won’t do.

I won’t burden you with a list of minor annoyances, but I do want to share one.

On leaving the house this lunchtime to search for Waxwings I saw a big flock of Magpies gathering in the trees at the end of the street. There were around 25 in the treetops and another 15 or so swooped in as we watched, making a total of 40, which is the most Magpies I’ve ever seen at one time. I had my camera with me, so managed to get a few shots.

You won’t be able to see proof of this because the SD card from my camera has selected this moment to start playing up.

I’ve been meaning to back it up for a while.

I suspect that the good intentions that pave the road to Hell often start with “I’ve been meaning to…”

There were no Waxwings, just to add insult to injury, though there were around 20 Redwings and 30 Feral Pigeons.

Those pictures are refusing to cooperate too.

Actually, I’ve just managed to download the contents of the corrupted drive and download the shots. They aren’t that good, but it’s nice to have a few photos for the post.

It’s also been a valuable lesson.