Monday, 31 August 2009

Shearwater Spectacle on YouTube

The shearwater picture on The New Dharma Bums is impressive enough but the YouTube video, although indistinct, gives a better impression of the sheer (deliberate pun!) numbers out in, presumably, Monterey Bay. Also presumably, they are sooty shearwaters. I occasionally saw this kind of carpet of birds when I lived in California but never over such a large area.

Sunday, 30 August 2009

Making a Website with ASP.NET and HTML

Microsoft provides Visual Web Developer Express as a free download to design websites built on their .NET technology. .NET is nothing more than a common set of functions for interacting with a user and ASP.NET implements it for the Web via Microsoft’s Active Server Pages (ASP). These create the HTML from which a browser, like Internet Explorer, builds a Web page.

OK, that's the jargon. The bottom line is: you can cut all that crap and just use Visual Web Developer (VWD) as an HTML editor. It does some of the tedious typing for you by filling in text it knows you'll need and even makes it XHTML-compliant. And if you want to try any of the fancy stuff in .NET, like master pages and reusable code, it’s there for you.

I've already hinted at using this to design a website and the resulting mish-mash appears at my birding/writing/programming pages. Yes, it looks like I’m not going down the Drupal route: I’m the sort of control freak that likes to programme as close to bare metal (or silicon) as possible.

And really, VWD is simple, for simple pages. It’s only when you start pushing the technology that the learning curve becomes as vertical as the brick wall against which you feel you're banging your head. You have to try the whistles and bells one at a time.

Most frustrating recently has been CSS (Cascading Style Sheets). This is supposed to be the XHTML way to go: it separates style from content, presentation from the actual words. However, something as simple as centring images seems to require such an inversion of the thought processes that Einstein would struggle with it. This is not VWD’s fault: it merely conforms to the coming standards.

It did have one big roadblock when testing the website locally, which might drive the less tenacious away. So, here it is, cleared: Internet Explorer cannot display the webpage.

PS. I would never advocate not using the <p> element to mark up an HTML paragraph. After all, a paragraph is a paragraph, right? But look in your newspaper. Is there a space between paragraphs? Check the latest, or any, Harry Potter. Spaces there? The Bible? Goddammit, even an HTML reference book? Spaces between paragraphs? No.

Then along comes HTML itself. “I know: let's stick a space in between paragraphs.” Fucking brilliant, mate. So, here's a nasty, but CSS-compliant, way to remove the space and indent the way it used to be:
p {text-indent:1.2em; margin-top:-1em;}
p.scene {text-indent:0em; margin-top:0em;}

Now just add class=”scene” to the first paragraph of each piece. Scrivens!

Saturday, 29 August 2009

Nanotechnology: Don’t Worry, Be Nosy

Cornelia Dean in the New York Times asks her readers if they worry about nanotechnology. She needn't worry: people worry, full stop. It's a neat way of invalidating. It totally sets up the framework in which any future discussion will take place. That framework is one of fear. Wouldn't an unprejudiced enquiry be more productive?

I say this not necessarily as a supporter of nanotech but as one who has used it in a thread running through my science fiction novel. It’s interesting, goddammit, not another scare story. But that's precisely why I make it scary in the book. Scary sells.

Friday, 28 August 2009

Grey Phalarope, Witcombe, Gloucestershire

Red Phalarope

This year I’m doing well on phalaropes: red-necked added to my British bird list two months ago; and only my sixth sighting anywhere of grey today. What better compensation for dipping on the wryneck that's been showing at the reservoir the last couple of days? At first, distant, the phalarope flew after five minutes – right to our edge of the water – for binoculars-filling views. They're not shy.

It was moulting into winter plumage and impossible to sex. The female of the phalaropus genus, like the dotterel, is the colourful one and does all the courting. Oh, to be a phalarope. Hang on, though. The bloke gets left on the tundra with the kids while her-outdoors buggers off back to the African oceans. This wader, along with the red-necked, is also unique in spending its non-breeding life at sea. So, today’s bird was probably female.

In summer plumage the gal’s body and neck are red, as are the male’s but more blotchily so. In fact, they're called red phalaropes in the USA, where they're also considered the rarest of the genus. Rarest because America has a third phalarope, Wilson’s. It’s a landlubber but “she” still wears the trousers.

Thursday, 27 August 2009

Black Terns, Upton Warren

Upton Warren

An influx of these through the Midlands in the bad weather yesterday left three over the Moors Pool this morning. Without expecting them, they're easy to overlook initially. The adults have largely moulted into winter garb, which along with the juveniles’ plumage, renders them white below and only somewhat greyer above than common terns.

Their behaviour gives them away. Their constant, bouncy flight brackets swift plunges to the water’s surface to pick off insects. Closer inspection, even just through binoculars, reveals the darker shade, a hint of collar and, on the youngsters, a definite leading dark band to the wings. For contrast a common tern did join them later and was clearly bigger and sturdier too.

Despite missing the late spring’s black terns in breeding plumage, it was good to add these to the year list and moreover to my score from September last year, which now stands at 645. I used that date as the start point for my round-the-world twelve-month list but may push it back to October because I’m off to Malta in a couple of weeks. More of that later, I’m sure.

I spent an hour in the lapwing (east) hide, absorbing these birds plus a very obliging common sandpiper and male kingfisher. I know this now because it wasn't wearing “lippy”, as someone put it (the female has a red base to its bill).

Wednesday, 26 August 2009

Frankenstein: Cause for Complaints


49p got me a copy of Mary Shelley’s classic and, to some folk, the first science fiction novel. I could have bought David Copperfield for the same price but felt that Frankenstein would be less challenging for a post-holiday read.

How wrong can you be? I can cope with the wordiness and convoluted sentences of that era, so I didn't struggle too much at first. But Victor Frankenstein, he goes on and on about how miserable he is and what tedious company he must be for his friends and family; and when he's done going on about that, he goes on about it some more. Well, yeah, you're tedious to the reader too, buddy. Just get over yourself.

Pages and pages of it. One long, persistent complaint. Don't we all know people like that? And don't we all wish we could make our excuses and leave at the earliest opportunity? "Me, me, me, me, me." They dominate the conversation; they dominate your life. Jesus, I don't want to read about it as well.

And then that gives them another complaint: you don't care about me. Oh, my God. The fact is: they're gonna complain about something.

I've dropped the book at the point where he’s about to create Mrs Monster. I’m sure that’ll turn out badly too.

Movie Birds – Charlie’s Angels

Pygmy Nuthatch

Movies that get their ornithology wrong appeal to the trainspotter in me. From nearly ten years ago, the bloomer in Charlie’s Angels still tickles. I'd only recently moved to California but even so knew that when Natalie (Cameron Diaz) exclaimed that a pygmy nuthatch only lived in one place, Carmel, I was definitely in Hollywoodland. Moreover, she had identified the bird from its song over a telephone connection.

For starters, few species in the world are restricted to an area as small as one town. Then, California really only has one endemic bird – the yellow-billed magpie, which is widespread throughout the Central Valley. To give the film’s researchers credit, pygmy nuthatch does actually occur in the state, but also in Oregon, Washington and as far east as Colorado.

What made the mistake more egregious was a previous shot of some very, very red bird supposedly representing the nuthatch; and as for the song... No, no, no, no, no. Although going to an earlier version of the screenplay on Daily Script suggests the source of this error and just how little the original authors knew about birds. In this, a good couple of pages before Natalie’s detective work, they introduce a bright red songbird, which she later, by sound, has to identify as...

A blue spotted egret?!?

Yeah, that needs a whole paragraph to itself. Then Alex (Lucy Liu) pins it down to Florida. If nothing else, this demonstrates the huge gap that can grow between script and final cut. Speaking as a wannabe film-writer, I say, “Don't shoot the author!”

Monday, 24 August 2009


Magpies and Cat

Here's how much the local magpies care about the local cats. And vice versa. Apologies for the crappy shot but I didn't want to open any windows or doors for fear of disturbing the tableau.

Sunday, 23 August 2009

Greenshank and Birdfair, Rutland Water


The greenshank belongs to the same tringa genus as wood sandpiper but is much larger and much more common. In fact some even nest in Scotland while the rest breed in boggy pine forests of northern Europe. This is terrain favoured by the woodie, for whom it is described as taiga, so I guess the greenshank likes taiga too. "The wonderful thing about taiga is that taiga is..." Sorry, couldn't resist. As befits waders, both species need their trees punctuated by water.

At Rutland’s lagoons today one bird was on its way back to Africa or may have been near the end of its travels. A few hardy individuals do spend the winter in our more sheltered western estuaries. The lagoons also held several ruff, a wader that is pretty much in a class of its own. The male’s extravagant breeding plumage, especially the neck feathers, named the species from the item of clothing that ruff more readily brings to mind.

Now, why was I at Rutland? Er... Oh, yes! The British Birdwatching Fair, whose theme the last three years has been critically endangered birds, like Balearic shearwater. 2009’s focus is on birds that have been lost and may yet be found. Now, isn't that an awesome thought? For all our take-over of the planet it’s still possible that species not seen for decades may yet be around. The Cebu flowerpecker is a case in point, presumed extinct early last century but rediscovered in 1992. BirdLife has identified 47 other birds for which we should not yet give up hope.

I met Erik Hirschfeld, who operates just the other side of the knife-edge. He edits the Rare Birds Yearbook, which summarises the state of play for the 190 critically endangered species. I bid for this in the Birdfair’s auction but was seriously beaten out of contention. Good on whoever ended up with it!

Other encounters were Dean Eades and the good folk at BirdLife Malta, about whom I hope to be posting much, much more.

PS. While writing this, I glanced out of the window to see a hobby hawking insects – yet another first for Redditch.

Saturday, 22 August 2009

Sabine’s Gull, Upton Warren

Sabine’s Gull

My good friend, Midlands Birder, was at the twitch for tonight’s flight in of this handsome arctic breeder. It must be a little way off its course from Greenland or Canada to Africa: some birds skim our western shores but rarely reach as far inland as Worcestershire. I was lucky enough to pick it out as it flew and so got the full benefit of its striking black, white and grey wing pattern.

It’s a beautiful thing. And British bird number 277 for me.

In US Alone, 30 Birds Killed every Second in Window Collisions

Sorry to bang on about this again but this statistic is truly alarming. What's the figure in the UK? I don't know. How about a conservative guess of more than one per second? Even so it's way too many and far outstrips the damage done by cats, hunters, cars, wind turbines, yes, and even magpies/sparrowhawks/other bogie birds. The full article is at 10,000 Birds.

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Friday, 21 August 2009

2008: Whither from Perth?

The last Saturday of November and the sun was blazing. I had a car and Western Australia was at my feet. There was to be no pelagic but my Bransbury suggested other bird-rich sites near Perth – Rottnest Island and Yanchep National Park among them but both in the wrong direction for Stirling Ranges, which was a recommendation I had to see. Unhappily, he listed nothing on the way, a distance of about two hundred miles south-east. I seemed to be in for some solid driving.

First, though, I required better accommodation than the backpackers for my return and last couple of nights in town before flying to Adelaide. To this end I ventured out to Guildford in the eastern suburbs. I don't know: I must have thought it would be quieter and have cheaper hotels. It was also on a railway line for easy access to downtown and close to the airport for an early morning departure.

I was wrong about the hotels. What few Guildford had were way expensive. Instead I settled for a full Australian breakfast, rather similar to the sort I could have eaten in Surrey, while Frank Sinatra crooned over the café’s music system. Winter heat, brekky, ole blue eyes: life doesn't get much better.

The route south took me round the airport, so I scouted the neighbourhood for lodgings and found the old reliable standby of Formule 1. That would do; I'd book it when I had Web access. For the time the Tonkin Highway was removing me from metropolitan Perth and into paperbark groves. I wasn't sorry to leave: the city hadn’t lived up to glowing reports and assurances that, “I'd love it.” It had been pretty ordinary.

Wilder, more untamed regions beckoned. I got a much faster taste of how wild and untamed barely ten miles from the city centre.

Thursday, 20 August 2009

Solving Bird Collisions

Fascinating stuff from The Cornell Blog of Ornithology last week reporting on an American Ornithologists' Union meeting.

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Tuesday, 18 August 2009

Holdem Poker Strategy: Protecting Top Pair

When playing poker, top pair on the flop is not enough to win the hand. For a start you must bet to protect it. At this stage in no-limit hold ’em it’s the accepted philosophy to bet around the size of the pot. This offers any opponent odds of 2-1. If he is drawing to a flush, he has a worse than 4-1 chance of hitting it on the turn. This is a good deal for you, ignoring the added complexities of later rounds of betting and cards. The bet also prices out opponents who are drawing to a flush with an overcard, when they have a 3-1 chance of making the flush or a pair better than yours.

If the flop has cards of three different suits, no flush is yet possible. Now an open-ended straight is the only danger and you don't need to commit so many chips. A bet of half the pot offers an opponent 3-1 against his slightly better than 5-1 chance of completing the straight. Again, it also prices out a hand drawing with an overcard.

Why would you want to bet less? Well, every bet is risky. You may be facing a hand with two pair or a set, both very hard to see but your opponent will probably raise you. Now you have to judge how full of shit he is. Does he really have the goods? Remember: you only have top pair, a hand unlikely to improve, and the default course must be to let it and your chips go. So, it’s as well to be efficient with bet sizing. Over the course of time it all adds up.

Note that a flop with two suited cards matching one of the suits in your hand reduces the chance of an opponent completing a possible flush. In fact it too becomes a slightly better than 5-1 chance and you can bet half the pot. The great thing here is that you know it and your opponent doesn’t! Now your efficient bet sizing can suck him in to a gamble that is not profitable for him and this translates into profits for you.

Incidentally, betting more than the pot becomes a game of diminishing returns. You can never put enough money in to offer evens and betting twice the pot only offers 3-2. If an opponent has a hand strong enough to call 2-1, 3-2 isn't going to make a huge difference, especially when the implied odds of future betting rounds swamp this small margin.

Monday, 17 August 2009

Cormorant, Redditch


Not exactly a headline grabbing species but in more than ten years association with the place, including living in it for several months and twenty-four visits to Arrow Valley Park, I have never seen a cormorant here. The Park it was that held one today and therein may be a clue: it is a fishing park. The angling community’s main take on cormorants is to kill them. Google “cormorant angling” and check out what comes back to get a flavour. Even the BBC calls the birds “greedy and vicious”, exclusively human traits, I would have said.

I don't take that crap about minorities giving the majority a bad name on board either. Fishing to eat I can understand. Fishing to haul some hapless creature out of its natural environment and asphyxiate, I don't get. Even catch and release hardly seems a pleasant way to behave towards a creature. Imagine if birdwatching were like that!

The idea of at the very least hurting something must surely be ingrained in the psyche of hunters. Not much chance they'll think outside that particular box for any obstacle to their gratification, like a cormorant. Really, their parents should have drummed the spoilt two-year-old out of their systems.

Seabird-Watching Binoculars and Telescopes

Julie on the Telescope

One other observer was an integral part of the team for the five days I spent on Gwennap Head. Julie Hitchins, coincidentally also down from Redditch, was tallying cetaceans, sharks and seals. The project’s remit covered much more than Balearic shearwaters.

Together, we counted nothing the first hour as we struggled to construct a shelter from a couple of umbrellas and a few tent ropes. We’d both seen the finished result the day before but had failed to register the exact configuration.

We did finally settle down to surveying but didn't fare much better until John arrived. There's a technique to this lark. I've already touched on having the right equipment but using it correctly is just as important. For a start it helps to know the general route that the target birds will take.

In our case we knew that the Balearics would more or less accompany Manx shearwaters, which we were also counting. They were flying on an east-to-west line about a kilometre out. In theory, scanning this route in the opposite direction should have caught most of the birds. In practice, the sea was pretty same-y and offered little guidance to keeping a telescope on this line.

The answer was not to scan at all but to park the scope on a hotspot. Conveniently, the Runnelstone buoy sat about a mile offshore. Keeping this in the top of the view kept the line of flight in the bottom. Not quite as interesting or active as continually scanning, but more reliable. The best seawatching spots in the country have these offshore markers. They also serve to guide other observers on to a sighting and to find what someone else is excitedly shouting about, provided you leave your scope parked even when not attending to it.

After a while you can determine some structure to the local patch of sea, thanks to prevailing winds and underlying topography, like reefs. Then you can scan out a bit but it’s no good randomly swinging a telescope round the entire ocean right from the start.
Kowa Telescope

In the course of this experimentation I also discovered a feature, unsuspected for six years of telescope ownership. I had always had great trouble looking through other people’s; the image seemed to waver and sometimes disappear completely. I chose my Kowa because it did less of this but it still wasn't perfect. It has a rubber rim that surrounds the eye end of the eyepiece. I must have absently rolled it back.

Blimey! Suddenly the image was solid and with a much greater field of view. The rubber was only the thickness of a pound coin but it had been sufficient to push my eye too far away. I do have very deep set eyes. Think Tom Cruise but without the rest of the looks (or the money. Or Nicole Kidman. Oh no, neither has he now!)

Anyway opticals designed for the normal face don't cut it for mine. Inspired by this discovery, I tried looking through my binoculars without my glasses on. Same result. Instant increase in steadiness and clarity. Now if I could just train my eyes not to need spectacles...

Sunday, 16 August 2009

Little Egret, Upton Warren

Little Egret

Spotted crake was top of the menu, but was off, for this morning’s visit to Upton. A couple of reports late yesterday had driven the early birders in at half-past-five but the crake hadn’t shown by the time I arrived at ten. (I've done my crack-of-dawn starts for a while.) Nor did it oblige later.

A little egret, however, did show to become my 119th species at the site, the only wonder being that I have missed it all this time. Upton has hosted the odd individual recently but the egret doesn't seem to have taken to the place despite becoming increasingly common in Worcestershire.

Little egrets officially became British breeders in the mid-90s on Brownsea Island and, since then, have established themselves widely. Even now their generally accepted UK headquarters is the Island but it seems that not all is well there. As far back as 2005, ravens predated all the nests and it’s hard to find any more recent information. I only went digging because a bloke in the hide today (yeah, the same one as down the pub) asserted that the egrets had failed for the same reason this year. Is it so?

As I was about to call it a morning a splendid kingfisher whirred up to perch for a minute in front of the hide. According to my Collins Bird Guide, it’s possible to separate the sexes when breeding by the colour of the lower bill – pale red for female; black for male. I didn't note that detail on this bird but wonder if it holds outside the breeding season.

So many questions!

Saturday, 15 August 2009

The Australian Nature Reserve: Whingeing Pom #2

If my previous whinge was about one particular backpackers, this rant does include a more general anti-Australian sentiment. However, it is anti-anywhere outside Britain because we’re such the world leader that the rest of the planet looks totally shite. Heavens! What could it possibly be? You’ve read the title, so you know already. It was never going to be our ethnic cuisine or weather or drinking habits, was it?
Two Peoples

Yup, nature reserves, or more specifically facilities for watching wildlife. Australia is blessed with a great many conservation parks and so on, and probably beats us in terms of percentage of land set aside for nature. This sounds good for the birdies and critters, but is it? If the public can't engage with all this space, won't they eventually resent accommodating it? Won’t it suffer abuse, being out of sight, out of mind?

The Herdsman Lake Visitor Centre was the last useful, enclosed birding facility I would find until Atherton, by which point I'd driven ten thousand kilometres. This journey did throw up the odd shelter and a couple of hides that looked over dried-up lakes, but that was it. The antipodean birding Mecca of O’Reilly’s in Queensland had no more than a café balcony from which to view. Even low-cost basics like information boards were missing and as for more substantial infrastructure like car parking, visitor centres, cafes, shops, accommodation... patchy in the extreme.

Imagine travelling six thousand miles in Britain or about seven times between John O’Groats and Land’s End. You could use that distance to zigzag liberally down the country through major centres like RSPB Forsinard, Loch Garten, Strathbeg, Montrose, Vane Farm, Lochwinnoch, WWT Caerlaverock, Saltholme, Leighton Moss, Martin Mere, Welney, Titchwell, Cley, Minsmere, Barnes, Dungeness, Pulborough, Arundel, Radipole, Slimbridge, Sedgemoor, but strangely not into Devon and Cornwall. This is only a selection and then there are countless smaller reserves, Wildlife Trust sites, even individual, unaffiliated hides. I know we're a compact little island but you don't have to travel far to watch birds in comfort.

The only upside to the paucity in Australia was that I felt like quite the pioneer, a frontiersman, opening up new territories, boldly going where no birder had been before. It was more of an adventure. And I bloody well earned the birds I did see.

Not so much a whinge then, as a hymn of praise to Britain. We're crap at just about everything else but we do birding good. Maybe we don't take so much care of the actual birds themselves but that’s a whole other rant.

Friday, 14 August 2009

Conservation Volunteering with SeaWatch SW

West from Gwennap Head

Of the world’s 190 critically endangered birds Europe has only two, one of which is the Balearic shearwater – down to about 4000 individuals2000 breeding pairs and declining rapidly. In five days I had the privilege of logging 51 records of these Mediterranean birds dispersing past Gwennap Head, just south of Land's End; although I honestly identified only a dozen. At a distance, which is so frequently the case, they look similar to their cousin and abundant British species, the Manx shearwater.

It takes a trained eye to separate them and fortunately we had a couple in the head of John Swann, resident of Cornwall and veteran sea-watcher. He also had a telescope designed for the job with its wide-angle, 30x magnification eyepiece. My tiddly 25x zoom jobbie simply didn't trap enough light or give a decent field of view. I almost fared better with the trusty old 10x42 binoculars, so my first lesson covered getting the right equipment for the job.

It may have been as well that I didn't know this before starting: I felt challenged enough by the prospect of five days’ getting up pre-dawn to spend twelve hours on an exposed Cornish headland. If the summer had been anything but the monsoon we've been experiencing, I might have relished the idea. As it was, I nervously packed everything I owned that was waterproof and windproof.

Getting to Penzance the morning before my shift started, I made a preview visit to the site to meet Russell Wynn, the co-ordinator of the project. To get the Balearics, which tend to pass relatively close to shore, the team had set up camp somewhat lower than the well-known watch-point at Porthgwarra. This involved a scramble down the unforgiving Cornwall granite and particularly through a defile we got to know as The Crack of Doom. Fortunately an easier, but more roundabout, route also existed. I got into the habit of taking this.

Preliminaries and introductions over, I decamped to the B&B, which came as part of the deal, and then spent the rest of the day being a tourist: i.e. driving into and out of Land’s End without paying the four quid to stop there; and failing to find anywhere at all to park in St. Ives. Hey, it was August.

Wednesday, 12 August 2009

Wood Sandpiper, Upton Warren

Wood Sandpiper

What is it about this wader, apart from its scarcity relative to common and green sandpipers, of which several also pecked and probed at the Flashes this afternoon? The bird is certainly handsome with its clean supercilium, mottled upperparts and more slender build than the green, which is the only other medium-small tringa sandpiper regular in this country. Really it’s misleading to lump the common sandpiper in here, being on its own of the genus actitis in the Western Palaearctic. And it does look quite different.

The woodie today seemed to show brown in the mottling – hard to judge at the distance it was keeping – but a faint smudge of tawny beside the breast also suggested that it’s a juvenile. It has been mentioned on BirdForum as such.

The Collins Bird Guide notes that it will have been born on bogs and marshes in the taiga. Until I started to rewrite my SF novel, which posits that the Gulf Stream will cut out, I'd have been hard pushed to say what taiga was. Well, here's the lowdown: the sequence in the arctic runs, from coldest down, something like ice cap, tundra, taiga, boreal forest, steppe. Taiga does have trees but not so many as the forest and principally conifers. So, now you know how to make a wood sandpiper feel at home, or a taiga bean goose presumably, as opposed to a tundra bean goose.

But I digress. Whatever it is about tringa glareola (which seems to have no meaning other than pratincole), the bird is still drawing the crowds at Upton. Enough that the hide was full, although partially with tripods straddled across benches, a breach of etiquette, surely, also mentioned on the BirdForum thread.

I stopped at the Cuckoo Hide on the way out and got my reward in a snake swimming towards me. Lord knows what it was but it had an orange nape. That should nail it for someone out there.

Monday, 10 August 2009

Website Design

Before I launch into my seabird volunteer adventures, I have a postscript to the domain hosting saga.

I registered with GoDaddy, who give you all sorts of freebies for your £6.40 a year. For instance, I had found with that I could redirect it to this blog without having to host the domain elsewhere. (I also bought and redirected just to get round the non-availability of Again, I am the Pokerbird!)

In fact, GoDaddy offer free hosting and a slew of CMSs (Content Management Systems), which was perfect because I wanted to use Drupal. So, theandygibb got a Unix hosting account. Problem: all the nice add-on applications, which include the CMSs, are only free for a paid hosting plan. Well, three quid a month isn't going to break the bank but I still had one other avenue to explore.

When I got back from my world travels, I toyed with the idea of returning to computing and tinkered with Microsoft’s ASP.NET. I played enough to supplement my existing HTML and build a half-decent website reasonably quickly. I'd try that.

Hell’s teeth: I'd signed for a Unix account, to get the Drupal. I hadn’t got Windows, which runs .NET. (You see how this stuff can drive you round the bend?)

Nothing daunted, I set up for Windows and shan't bore you with the trials of using ASP and Visual Web Developer, except to assure you that they were manifold. You can see the result by following the link. Pretty kludgy, huh? And with a GoDaddy banner across the top. I should have known.

So it looks I’m having to pay to get Drupal on but I’ll let that idea marinate a while.

Sunday, 9 August 2009

The Cattle Egrets are Coming

They've bred somewhere in Somerset and this morning a juvenile graced Chew Valley Lake, so there's a high chance that it's one of the first British-born birds. We're getting all these southern species, which may be some symptom of global warming. This bird kept company with a half dozen little egrets, a Mediterranean species which was also rare fifteen years back. What will be our next new breeder?

Friday, 7 August 2009

Balearic Shearwaters

In five days Gwennap Head, just south of Land's End, has seen 51 of Europe's only critically endangered birds. Acting as a volunteer for Seawatch SW, I honestly only identified half a dozen of them and will relate the full story over the next few posts.

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