Random Ramblings

Random Ramblings: Personal observations on a wide variety of subjects. Photographs of creatures and things that are taken on seeing the unusual as well as everyday things.

Harvest festival

As the starlings seem quite taken with our hard fruits this year we made the decision to begin gathering in the harvest early. Over the weekend we started by collecting all of the Bramley apples on the lower branches - aided with a fishing net! This is not the sort of net that you see deep sea fishermen using when it extends wide and vast - ours is more humble. Our little fishing net is just a bit larger than those that young children paddle up and down streams and brooks with hoping to catch sticklebacks and minnows. Our net was a special purchase (a just in case necessity) required to scoop out any fish that appears to be unwell to allow treatment before gently lowering them back into their shoal in the pond.

This wonderful, simple piece of equipment allows us to tickle the large apples and gently rock them forwards and backwards and eventually catch them so that they do not fall to the ground and bruise. It is a long job - and entailed separating the apples that had been attacked by the birds and insects and sometimes both, from those that hopefully can be placed in newspaper and stored for a while.

We started placing the undamaged apples onto a table - allowing the breeze to blow around them. After a short while - the cat leisurely strolled over to see what we were doing and took up a guard position immediately below the table. In the days that have followed she has spent much of her time either underneath the table or lying alongside the apples as we have slowly picked the crop. We have only the upper boughs remaining now. Why do all of the larger apples seem to be growing on the boughs out of reach?

The birds

As a child I would look up into the evening sky and see flocks of starlings swirling, swooping and dancing in intricate patterns. The starlings would fly in their hundreds and the patterns they made were perfect formations. The spectacle was breathtaking and would last for quite a while as dusk drew forever nearer. Suddenly, without warning all at the same time as if they had been summoned, they would swoop down and all go to roost.

In recent years the quantities of starlings has diminished. So much so that it has become a rare sight in my area to see more than a couple of birds at a time.

Yesterday, there was a loud commotion in the garden. Birds were calling and squawking. I went outside to see what all the fuss was about ... there were starlings perched on the roof tops, on aerials, clothes lines, fences, trees ... everywhere. It reminded me of Alfred Hitchcock's 'The Birds' film. They were making so much noise it was deafening ... then I realised what they were doing they were swooping down on the fruit trees. Their pointed beaks, chiselling out chunks of Bramley apples. The noise got louder and louder and the apple trees were being pulled and pulled. Suddenly, every single starling took off ... and within a few seconds none were visible ... and just for a moment everywhere went deathly quiet.

On investigation some of the apples had huge holes gouged out of their flesh. Thankfully they did leave some untouched for us!

Black baby

The British Black Fox is extremely rare. So rare that there is probably no one currently alive that has seen one up until now. This is a very young fox, a baby that has been sighted in a cemetery on the outskirts of Chorley in Lancashire. There are many superstitions surrounding the British black fox ... it is supposed to bring about extreme bad luck, disaster and doom to all who see it. This one still remains a mystery ... it most probably has siblings but as yet no one knows whether either of its parents or brothers and sisters are black or whether it is the only black fox in Britain.

This is only a picture but ... for those who are superstitious take a shiny coin and toss it into the air - say the word brush as it lands! It is alledged that this will change any bad luck into good fortune - so it may be worth doing anyway, we are all in need of good fortune from time-to-time.

* a brush is the name of a foxes tail - could it be that the superstition is a tale also?

Personal note: I think that this little fox is extremely beautiful ... I only hope that it remains safe and is not killed off by its only living foe, namely man.

Mystery moment

There are many people who enjoy seeing birds in their gardens and so they purchase wild bird seed/food to encourage as many varieties as possible. It's a wonderful feeling when a bird has been enticed into your garden especially if you have never seen a particular variety feeding there before. So, I like a good many others place handfuls of mysterious seed concoctions and wait ...

Birds are not usually tidy eaters - they are continually looking to make sure that they are safe and not in any danger. This leads to a fair bit of mess as seeds continually fly in all directions landing in the borders, on the lawn and between paved areas. Which leads me to my current mystery ... some of the seeds from the last batch of bird food landed between the slabs and began to grow very rapidly. I didn't recognise the leaves and thought I'd leave a few of the plants to grow to find out what this mystery plant, whose seeds were apparently in the bird food, was. It has now come into flower ... but I still do not recognise it. Does anyone else have any idea what it could be?

Should we be feeding our wild birds on mystery plants? Could this be one of the reasons why some of the smaller birds are now in decline?
A very kind blogger from the Philippines has provided me with the answer to the name of this flower which she believes is called 'Cosmos.' There are several variations to the Cosmos flower and confusingly the leaves also vary. Although, thanks to Purpled Sky I have now been able to name this lovely flower that came free in the bird seed.

Bright misquote

A long, long, long time ago - I once read Shakespeare's 'The Merchant of Venice." I remember being shocked at discovering that a well used quote was obviously misquoted by everyone and still is.

When describing the sun shining on water or snow we used the term glisten or glistens. When describing a diamond sparkling in a bright light or a gold nugget or piece of metal shining in the earth we use the word glitter or glitters. People often say "All that glitters is not gold!"

The actual word is glisters and the saying is from 'The Merchant of Venice" ...

"All that glisters is not gold;
Often have you heard that told;
Many a man his life hath sold
But my outside to behold:
Gilded tombs do worms infold.
Had you been as wise as bold,
Young in limbs, in judgment old,
Your answer had not been inscroll'd:
Fare you well; your suit is cold.

Catch a rabbit

I grew up in the country and country people would often ask young children the following question "How do you catch a rabbit?" Many thought deeply about it and would wrinkle up their foreheads and screw up their noses. Some would answer with elaborate answers whilst others would say simply "I don't know." The air would bristle with anticipation as the child hung onto the adults expression waiting with exasperation to find out how. "Well," the child would ask "how do you catch a rabbit?"

"Sprinkle salt on their tail." Would be the reply ... the child would then suffer more exasperation and say "But, how do you get close enough to sprinkle salt on their tail?"

"Ah, now then - that's a secret." Would slowly and softly come as the reply.

This tale came to mind when it was announced that criminals who eat high quantities of salt or processed food leave behind clear fingerprints and are more easily caught.

*Sprinkle salt to catch a rabbit ... sprinkle salt to catch a thief!

My Spore progress

Meet my Spore creation ... I started off as a small sort of blob and found it fun trying to avoid being eaten for dinner by one of the larger creatures in the sea pool. You can see my progress below ... and the top picture is my first land based animal. I had to choose a planet - this was easy as you can't see what's on the planet until you have survived and thrived in the sea and made it to the land ... Oh what a land I have chosen - everyone else's seemed to look similar to Earth but mine ... well let us just say it's not!
Meet Dragwyk
Dragwyk as a baby ...
p.s. ... I nearly forgot - if ever you play the game and get to the Space stage then why not visit my planet ... it's called 'Dragwys' ... but if you do, watch out as I'm not sure what stage I'll be at when you get there!

Humble harvest

Last year we purchased a few soft fruit trees to place against a rather barren fence. If we had had a reasonably warm Summer then we may well have picked a punnet or two of the first full year's estimated produce. 'Best laid plans and all that' the weather took a turn for the worse and was not what my baby trees yearned for. On top of this was the utter shortage of flying insects during the blossom season and so all in all, I count myself fortunate in picking anything at all.

Behold ... my one Victoria plum which I cut in half and shared with my husband - it may have only been one but it was the sweetest, succulent, juicy plum that I have ever eaten. Then, on one bough of my beautiful Damson tree was the final sum total of the plums of 2008! I shared these also and ate them raw, to my surprise they were very tasty and not as raspingly tart as I had expected them to be.

At one time Damsons used to be plentiful in the shops and were widely boiled up and served with sweet custard. Sadly, since the turn of the Century (I never thought that I would use that expression - turn of the Century) they have diminished from the stores and we now have the choice of collecting wild ones or planting our own trees. This is a sad state of affairs for people who enjoy making damson wine - rich, red and strong and for those who like to make damson jam or compote.


Someone in my family was playing the game 'Spore' and it looked so different from some of the other games I've seen so ... I sat down and I created the following creature .......... meet 'Dragwyn' he's my own creation and I haven't made up my mind whether to make him a carnivore, herbivore or omnivore.
The purpose of the game is to begin life as a one cell creature - try to eat either greenery or other little creatures to develop into a multi-celled animal that can eventually leave the sea and climb up onto dry land. All this without being eaten yourself ... I gather that there are four stages to the game and at some point when you have passed the tribal stage and on to civilization your main aim is to unify the planet. Once the planet is at peace you can then go into space and go to other worlds!
I cannot use my creature as I have yet to begin the game as a one celled animal ... but as I have saved 'Dragwyn' he is now busy roaming the Internet in other peoples games. If he comes into your game, please let me know and let me know if he is a gentle giant or a monster!!!!
Has anyone else got this game and if so, how are you fairing?

Goose or Gander

The river banks of Stratford-upon-Avon have Geese as well as the Mute Swans that waddle up and down on the grassy banks. They are all quite tame and walk up to passers by making a soft honking sound hoping for a scrap of food or two.

While I watched them I was reminded of when I was a child - people would keep geese and they would make very good 'guard dogs' especially if there was a large gaggle of them housing a handsome gander. When a stranger is around geese make noises so loud it would alert the deafest of inhabitants .... they certainly know how to see off strangers!

These geese also reminded me of an old nursery rhyme that I used to recite as a child ...

Goosey Goosey Gander where shall I wander?

Upstairs, downstairs in my lady's chamber.

There I met an old man who wouldn't say his prayers -

So I took him by the left leg and threw him down the stairs.

I always felt sorry for the old man being thrown down the stairs!

This is a very old rhyme which many believe was composed in the 1500's and is alledged to refer to the differences between the Catholics and the Protestants. Many houses it is said had small rooms to hide Catholic priests in as in those days they 'wouldn't' say prayers in English but prayed only in Latin. This was against the laws of the land and so people who sympathised with their cause hid them in small rooms in their houses.

Crunch, crunch caterpillar lunch

September is not being kind to insects and the caterpillars are struggling. On Wednesday, three of them were grazing on a makeshift dinner of cabbage leaves and by Thursday only two remained. Today that dwindled down to one. I am unsure whether these last few have managed to form into chrysalis or whether they have just perished. I have seen, in previous years caterpillars that have failed to go into their next life cycle phase and instead head towards walls and just climb as high as they could then hang there until the cold finally takes them. The other day I found one of the caterpillars creeping at a slow and steady pace across the pathway and heading towards the house - I picked it up and placed it back with its two remaining siblings as I was hoping that it would climb one of the plants and begin its spinning process to make a cocoon. I will search tomorrow to see if I can find evidence of one or more pupae ... I hope that at least one made it to the next phase of life.
Large Cabbage White caterpillars
The weather today has been extremely wet. The next county of Warwickshire had 15 cms of rain in three hours at some point this afternoon and Worcestershire wasn't far behind. Never has the back garden lawn been so sodden at this time of year - it is fast approaching a bog!

Magestic mutes

Stratford-upon-Avon has beautiful Mute Swans that glide along the River Avon and walk upon the grass that lies either side of the river. The Mute does not have the mournful death song that has been written into many legends about this bird. Although mostly silent they do hiss and blow sound from their noses a kind of short snort when they are angry. Occasionally you may hear one give a out a weak note. It is alleged that it was Richard the Lionheart who originally introduced them onto English soil from Cyprus when he ventured back after fighting in the Crusades ... but this is most likely a myth as it is believed that they were breeding in the wild long before this time. Mute Swans were privately owned and they were sadly branded or their skin was cut at the top near to their bills or beaks ... it is said that at the time of Elizabeth I there may have been up to nine hundred different marks on Mute Swans to confirm who owned them. The Mute Swan is a protected bird ... the female is called the pen and the male the cob - the young are known as cygnets
Picture of a Mute Swan taken near to the River Avon This particular swan was so tame ... I think she would have followed me home if I had lived nearby. She walked right up to my legs then looked up as if to say "well aren't you going to give me something to eat?"

Crackin' Chrome

I couldn't resist ... I have downloaded Google's Chrome and now have it riding alongside Firefox3 and Internet Explorer. Yes I now have all three browsers. So far, I have found Chrome to be slightly more quicker than the other two browsers. I like the idea of it having tabs along the top of the screen and the red warning when you happen to traverse on to a rogue site ... with a red box warning you that to open this particular website could damage your computer ... yes, it seems quick to alert you.

Will I keep all three? Well at the moment I'm not sure ... at the moment I think it's crackin' (as they say when something is very good).


We are all addicts of one kind or another, addicted to something. Whether it is to *sugar and spice and all things nice or to specific sports, television programmes, computers, alcohol, gambling, etc ....... or ........ shopping, we all have a weak spot including me.

Whenever I go on holiday or may be a trip for a few hours to a place that I either haven't been to before or one that I don't go to very often ... I like to find a 'memento' to remind me of it. It may be an item I purchase or one that I simply find such as an unusual stone or shell, a plant or picture. Once I have it I feel an inner contentment that is indescribable, an enjoyment, a fulfilment, an inner peace and a wonderful pleasure - - - that is my addiction.

Over the years I have acquired all kinds of mementos including an unusual stone with blood red particles (from the beach), yellow poppies (originally the seed heads growing near the roadside from Scotland), a stained glass mirror (another seaside memento) ... the list goes on. My latest find was a beaded magnetic bracelet that cost the princely sum of 99 pence from a little shop in the Costswolds!!!

*It is said that sugar is one of the most addictive things on the planet. Once a mother has introduced her child to sugar there is a lifelong addiction or desire for sweet things. Sugar besides being sweet is dangerous - few people realise that the body can do little else than make it into fat ... the kind of fat that stays like an unwelcome friend attached for life!


The following pictures, taken at the butterfly farm, were added to this post on Thursday 11th September.
Mexican Fire Legged Spider (Tarantula)
(recently discovered)


Butterfly groups

Pupae hatching box

I suppose, on reflection I am a very lucky person. I live in Worcestershire which is full of beautiful views and items of interest and the counties that surround me also are wonderful places to travel through with all kinds of special places that sometimes, I think, I take for granted. Last Monday, we decided to take a trip into Warwickshire and in to Stratford-upon-Avon.

Instead of going to the usual places that visitors frequent we chose instead to go to the Butterfly Farm (http://www.butterflyfarm.co.uk). There are all kinds of butterfly farms throughout Britain but the one in Stratford has some unusual features. There are well established plants with exotic flowers, a large indoor pond that is the home of the largest Koi Carp I have ever seen. There is running water everywhere, indoor waterfalls ... large spiders, scorpions, locusts, grasshoppers ... lizards, snakes, tropical fish ... each are housed in separate compartments that link to the main tropical building that houses the large, magnificent, colourful butterflies.

Saturday scramble

I have had a very busy week and now find myself with so many posts lined up I am still deciding which one I should complete first.

Whilst I am sorting out pictures and so forth, I would like to introduce you to a very interesting blog. This blog is the first blog that I exchanged links with and I have been in touch with its author ever since. Recently, Kikey has had a very interesting holiday and she managed to do regular posts of the places and people she saw on her very energetic trip. For those of you who would like to see some of the magical sights that she captured on film ... why not take a look: Kikey :)

Follow me!

Thanks to Debbie *take a look at her blog below* I have been introduced to Bloggers wonderful new gadget ... (if you are on Blogger then why not add this to your blog?). This new gadget allows other bloggers to follow you and you to follow other bloggers ...

You simply go into 'customise' and simply click to add - what could be simpler ... I will now be looking at other blogs to see who has added it and who I can follow with ease. I will now be able to read posts the moment they are published!