Monday 23 November 2009

Birds of a feather will gather together

Life has been busy here for the last few days for a number of reasons. As you know Jon and I have been visiting Marjorie and Noela, and will continue to do so on a daily basis. Work is also well in progress on the next edition of Animals & Men. Interspersed with all this there has been the usual shopping, washing up, washing, cooking etc., (not necessarily in that order).

In the past, I have - from time to time - helped Jon out with the production of the aforementioned journal by typing while he dictates his articles, but from now on it seems that I am going to be a bit more involved on a different level. It has oft been suggested that the way to a man's heart is through his stomach. It seems that my excellent piece of culinary ingenuity in taking that fried breakfast into the office the other day must have done some softening rather than hardening of the arteries after all. I now have my own column in which I am going to attempt to present a roundup of some of the more rare visitors to the UK - of the bird variety that is. It has been christened 'Watcher of the Skies' (those of you who know the songs of Genesis (with Peter Garbriel) will ‘get’ the connection) and I must admit that I have been surprised as to quite how many rare 'feathered friends' arrive here, whether on purpose because they wish to visit this green and pleasant land, or just because their onboard sat nav malfunctioned.

No doubt there will be a few jokes of the ‘twitching’ variety, but I do already have a green anorak and even some binoculars (well, somewhere anyway). So there.

PS: With regard to Jon’s little jape on his blog about his visit to the diabetic nurse. We all know the real reason for his closing comment. He just wants one of those old-fashioned bath chairs so he can sit sporting his suitably stiffened white silk scarf, his flying goggles and hat whilst being pushed around the village by someone.

Or , perhaps even a snazzy sedan chair for those more auspicious occasions, sporting the CFZ logo on the gilded doors of course.

The only question is, who has he lined up for this important work? I do have an idea .... and, no, it will certainly not be me before you suggest such a thing (considering I am 3 years older than he is, and my poor body would not cope).

Saturday 21 November 2009

Cruelty beyond belief

This is appalling, disgusting, abhorrent and any other word you can think of to describe something as grotesque as this.

According to a news item on Ananova, a clip has been posted on You Tube of a part-fried fish being eaten alive in a restaurant. The poor creature is seen to be breathing and wriggling on a plate – this Chinese so-called delicacy involves the body of the carp being cooked while its head is wrapped in a wet cloth to keep it breathing. Then they cover it in sauce and serve it on a plate.

I have not watched the video, and will not watch it, but apparently diners can be heard laughing and joking as they prod the still moving fish, before picking it apart with their chopsticks

The animal rights group, PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) has called the video disgusting and a spokesman said: “Every decent person should be shocked when anyone mocks or abuses a helpless dying animal."

The article carried on:

Stephen Fry recently singled out the Chinese culture as being the biggest threat to some endangered species.

"It is not very pleasant for us to single out a culture, but, if you care about lions and tigers and whales and sharks, it is the Far East and the way they eat, or the way they attempt to cure themselves, that seems to be the biggest threat," he said.

A spokesman at the Chinese embassy responded: "I don't think it is fair to accuse other cultures of having certain negative habits and traditions.

"We have our traditions, as the Spanish have bullfighting, and you, until recently, had foxhunting. We did not criticise you or the Spanish for this. Tiger bones for traditional medicine are now banned, to the suffering of the Chinese industry."

I am lost for words.

Spots before your eyes

There is a cute scene in 101 Dalmatians when all the pups are sitting around the TV and one (Rolly I believe) turns round to Perdita and says 'I'm hungry, mother. I could eat a whole elephant'.

Not so cute, however, was the story recently of an 8-year-old Dalmatian called Barney. If you remember that the average weight for one of these dogs is around 55lb (3st 13lbs) it will shock you to learn that poor Barney was morbidly obese, weighing in at a massive 11st !

When inspectors from the RSCPA raided his owner's home back in June they found Barney's spots had swollen into great blotches and could barely move with so much flab. He had been overfed on a diet of chocolate and crisps and moving left him out of breath almost straight away. As for running or jumping in the air - an impossibility.

His owner has been banned for keeping dogs for ten years and was ordered to complete 200 hours of unpaid work after admitting cruetly, and Barney is now sporting a new slimline figure of around 4st, thanks to regular exercise and a healthy new diet.

The PDSA, earlier this year, claimed that 35 per cent of dogs in Britain were overweight which increases the risk of arthritis, diabetes and an early death.

Sorry Biggles, in answer to Jon's question today as to whether I could cook you a fried breakfast too....the answer has to be a resounding no! (It would have been anyway)

Photo credit: RSPCA, Daily Mail

Saturday 14 November 2009

Picture loss

It seems that some pictures on my blogs have disappeared - I am not sure what has happened to them but I am hoping that it will be sorted out sooner rather than later.

Until then I shall carrying on posting pictures as and when necessary in the hope that they stay in place. This all did start on Friday 13th of course, but I must add that the weekly forecast I referred to earlier this week as a stinker, did not actually indicate this kind of problem!

Baby white rhino

Last month on my blog I introduced you to little Zamba the white rhino born at Colchester Zoo and this entry is to say congratulations to Busch Gardens in Tampa Bay, Florida who, on Wednesday 11th November, welcomed the birth of this sweet little female white rhino. Her mother, Mlaleni, and father, Tambo, have already reared three other calves at the zoo over the years (Malaika, 2004; Dakari, 2006; Crash, 2008).

Sometimes known as the square-lipped rhinoceros, white rhinoceros is taken from the Afrikaans work describing its mouth “weit” meaning “wide”. Early English settlers in South Africa misinterpreted the “weit” for “white”. The animal’s upper lip lacks the prehensile “hook” of some of the other rhino species. It is one of the largest species of land mammal after the elephant, and this new youngster tipped the scales at an estimated 100lbs and may reach around 6,000lbs in adult life.

Busch Gardens debuted as a bird gardens in 1959, but is now Tampa Bay’s top tourist destination, combining – as they write on their website – “a world-class zoo with more than 2,500 exotic and endangered animals and more record-breaking roller coaster rides than any destination in Florida.” It participates in the American Zoological and Aquarium Association (ASA) Species Survival Plan (SSP) to ensure genetic diversification among threatened and endangered animals in zoological facilities. Busch Gardens now has a total of 9 white and 3 black rhinos.

This new calf’s father, Tambo, mother Mlelani and another female were airlifted from Kruger National park in South Africa in 2001 via the efforts of the Rhino Foundation (IRF) which is a non profit organisation dedicated to the protection of rhinos. There are, according to the IRF, just over 14,530 white rhinos remaining in the wild and fewer than 10 live in zoological facilities across North America.

Whilst briefly looking into the species I came across an article from the Daily Telegraph dated July this year that stated: “Hundreds of white rhino from one of the world's most famous game reserves are to be herded up and sold, many of them to private hunters”

Up to 350 of the rare animals will be sold this year alone from the Kruger National Park under fundraising plans drawn up by the South African government.

Steve Smit, spokesman for Animal Rights Africa, said: "The idea of herding up animals from a major wildlife reserve and selling them to private institutions is outrageous.

"We have a duty to protect these rare animals, but the South African government is more interested in making money than conservation.

"Many of these animals will end up being bought by hunters who will simply shoot them. How does that fit with any sensible ecological planning?

"This plan totally undermines any attempts to protect wildlife and leaves the Kruger National Park looking like little more than a private game breeder."

South African National Parks bosses admitted last week they had earmarked up to 350 rhino be sold from Kruger this year to raise money for other projects.”

Is there not something fundamentally wrong here?

Photo credits: Matt Marriott / Busch Gardens Tampa Bay

Wednesday 11 November 2009

Let's go to the hop

It was funny the first time, and slightly amusing on the second occasion, but by the end of this afternoon it had become a rather stale joke.

I decided that it was time to bring my printer down from its ‘office’ upstairs in the bedroom, and connect it up at my makeshift desk in the dining room. This exercise would, I thought:

a) stop me having to visit the ever-increasing arctic winter conditions upstairs unless it’s bedtime or I need a natural break.
b) save my having to email myself documents, then rush upstairs and turn on my rather slow desktop, and then wait for it to rouse itself just to print something.

Plus, it is a bit sad emailing yourself anyway.

So down it came, and everything was hunky-dory. That is until I used it for the first time. I am not quite sure what Biggles thinks the printer is exactly, but by his frenzied bunny hopping I assume that either he thinks of it as some kind of toy or perhaps that it is some kind of alien entity come to invade his territory. However, as I had to print out around two dozen letters this afternoon - the bunny hopping accompanying each and every one becoming more tiresome with each effort - I am now wondering whether it was such a good idea to bring the printer downstairs. Perhaps a double layer of thermals, woolly hat and mittens would be the best option after all.

Even Spider (aka `Orange Cat`) seemed slightly interested towards the end of the print run, energetically lifting one paw in some kind of support for the daft dog before wandering off in the opposite direction, obviously realising the whole episode was rather boring and that it insulted his superior intelligence after all.

It brings a slightly new meaning to the phrase 'never work with animals or children'.

Tuesday 10 November 2009

Painting a picture of happiness in a time of sadness

Pittsburgh Zoo recently gained nine new additions when Vega, their 10-year-old female painted hunting dog (also known as the African wild dog), gave birth to a litter of pups. Unfortunately, Vega died a few days later, leaving her young in great jeopardy. It was discovered that Vega had died of a ruptured uterus, an unborn pup possibly contributing towards the fatal condition. The zoo had to decide whether to try and hand-raise the pups or contact local animal shelters to find a female dog that had recently given birth and was nursing her own pups.

A perfect candidate was found at the Western Pennsylvania Humane Society – a mixed-breed named “Honey” had delivered her own six pups several weeks earlier and staff had just started weaning her pups so she was still able to nurse.

Happily, the pups and Honey took to each other almost immediately and the six males and three females are doing well.

Painted hunting dogs are endangered, with only 3,000 to 6,000 remaining in the wild, although there was once around as many as 500,000 individuals. The mortality rate for painted hunting dog pups is 50 percent, even with a healthy mother, and Pittsburgh Zoo is part of a conservation effort to protect them. Almost unheard of among social mammals, the painted hunting dog's social structure is a submission-based hierarchy, meaning whoever begs the most gets the most food instead of whomever is most aggressive.

A salty dog?

How many of you out there read your horoscopes I wonder, and if so, do you read them whilst taking a proverbial pinch of sodium chloride? On Sunday, I happened to see mine for the week ahead and I can tell you that it was a stinker. To note that the tarot reading on the same page gave the same prediction, although put in an entirely different way, made my senses bristle with foreboding I have to admit. I do have to add here that I tend to read these things sometimes, but usually with a firm grip on a salt cellar let alone a two-fingered pinch of the stuff. However, when you see something like that written it still upsets your equilibrium. The ‘what-if’ syndrome kicks in.

Nevertheless, by Saturday night the predicted week will be done and dusted and I dare say that nothing untoward will have occurred. Hmmm, but the 13th does fall on a Friday this month.

Enough of what I tend to think of as superstitious twaddle, well most of the time that is. It is just a matter now of trying to stop my feminine intuition howling like a she-wolf to a full moon!

However, via the clever and extremely contrived connection between Canis lupus and Canis lupus familiaris, here is something that I am not really sure whether to believe or not. The following article comes from Ananova:

A Polish man claims his pet dog revived him after he suffered a heart attack.

Stricken Piotr Wagner, 50, collapsed with agonising chest pains as he watched telly at the family home in Kazimierza Biskupiego.

But as Pearl - a two-year-old Jack Russell cross - turned a heart shaped patch on her flanks towards her master, he told doctors he felt the pain melt away.

A grateful Mr Wagner said: "I want everyone to know about my big-hearted dog."

Doctors say they are baffled by the apparent cure.

"He certainly had a heart attack but it seems to have suddenly stopped and he is now healthy and back to normal," said one.”

Saturday 7 November 2009

Joni is 66 today

Happy Birthday Joni Mitchell

This more recent version presented so differently, and still one of the most beautiful songs ever written:

Friday 6 November 2009

Treehogs – a new British species?

I am one of those people who do not very often remember their dreams, but occasionally I can wake up to the real world and say to myself,“thank goodness that was just a dream” or ask myself, “what on earth was that all about?” There are times when I can awake with feelings of anger, dread or sadness about whatever transpired whilst in the arms of Morpheus, but this morning I opened my eyes and looked out of the window at the tree directly in front of it and instantly recalled that I had done exactly the same thing in the wee small hours.

However, during my sleep the tree I was looking at was skeletal, having lost the last of the glorious golden autumnal leaves that still hang on in real-time. The branches were outlined against a grey sky and there were a few black birds sitting on the higher branches. Nothing odd in that, but the other creatures dotted about the branches were a peculiar sight to say the least. A family of hedgehogs was clinging to the branches – there appeared to be a mother (or what I perceived to be a mother) and four babies. The image, as far as I can recall, only lasted for a fleeting few seconds, but there they sat as bold as brass. They did not seem particularly phased by their lofty situation either.

I know hedgehogs can climb, but surely not up a tree?

Is there anyone out there who is able to interpret the meaning of this dream?

I suppose I could hedge my bets and claim I had seen an out-of-place animal, but I dont think I should go down that road - could be a prickly subject.

Wednesday 4 November 2009

Singin' the blues

Thank you Professor Forgas of the University of New South Wales:

“If you're feeling like a sourpuss today, it may not be a reason to frown.

For, according to research, being grumpy makes us better at decision-making and less gullible.

In contrast, those annoying happy types who tell us to cheer up tend to make more mistakes because they'll believe anything they're told.

The revelations come from a psychology expert who has been studying the effects of positive and negative emotions.

Professor Joseph Forgas found those in a bad mood provide more accurate eyewitness accounts of events than those in a good mood.

A series of experiments also backed up his findings that the grumpier we are, the more likely we are to get problems sorted out and make less errors.

'Whereas positive mood seems to promote creativity, flexibility, co-operation and reliance on mental shortcuts, negative moods trigger more attentive, careful thinking, paying greater attention to the external world,' Professor Forgas writes in this month's Australian Science Journal.

A sad person can cope with more demanding situations than a happy one because of the way the brain 'promotes information processing strategies', he says.

His experiments included asking people to judge the truth of urban myths after putting them into good or bad moods through watching films.

The sad group were less likely to believe the stories.

Professor Forgas, of the University of New South Wales, also found negativity promoted better communication.“

Does this imply, at last, that my once often-used teenage nicknames of ‘grunt-buttock’ or ‘grumpy bum’ hold no shame anymore? Can I now officially wear my grumpiness with pride? It has taken half a century, but it was well worth the wait. Therefore, Corinna’s weekdays shall now officially be known as:

Miserable Monday, Touchy Tuesday, Woebegone Wednesday, Testy Thursday, Forlorn Friday, Snappy Saturday and Sad Sunday

Tuesday 3 November 2009

See you later alligator

It is one of those requests that makes many parents let out a sigh of resigned despair. “Hey mum, it is show and tell next week. What can I take to school with me?”

Apparently, this posed no such despondent response from a wildlife officer in Florida recently when he decided that a recently caught alligator would be top of the exhibits at his daughter’s school. He took along the captured creature, with its mouth taped shut as an obviously safe precaution.

All went well, and the alligator was a hit. I am sure his daughter was suitably chuffed and proud of her dad.

However, unfortunately his efforts left him with a slight amount of egg on his face when the alligator made a dash for it as it was being loaded back on to the truck. Alligators are pretty good jumpers and, although perhaps not matched with Lynford Christie in the sprinting stakes, can give a pretty good spurt of speed when they need to. Clearly, escape was top on the wish list for this particular captive and off it sped, tape still in situ, down to a local pond. It has since evaded recapture.

As long as it does not lose the tape it will be easily recognisable they say. However, surely this also means that the poor creature will not be able to eat anything?

Let us hope they can catch it in time and release it in a more civilised manner.

Sunday 1 November 2009

Itsy bitsy spider

It seems that every home/garden in the UK has around 30 resident spiders, making a total of more than 750 million of the dear little things in the country.

According to the first public survey recorded by hundreds of members of the public, the most common species seems to be the garden cross spider and in Nottingham 150 of these were recorded in one garden alone, whereas, in Norfolk, one house seemed to be the home of 43 common house spiders.

A new world record may also have been set in Lancashire by a spider’s web measuring 15ft across – now that is a formidable piece of weaving.

It is, of course, at this time of year that we become more aware of spiders – large house spiders are just starting the dating game. However, female garden cross spiders - being perhaps a little more promiscuous - are already getting fat with eggs.

The spare bathroom in the CFZ house certainly seems to have a thriving arachnid population – it is not used much as a bathroom these days due to it having been turned into a makeshift ‘rodent’ room a couple of years back. Since then it does not get the same attention from a duster as the other rooms in the house and seems to have become a kind of spider commune in its own right. Each resident seems to be in competition with its neighbours as to which can produce the biggest web and catch the most delicate of meals. Luckily, no-one here has a phobia about such things.

According to Sarah Henshall of Buglife: “Spiders are amazing animals that live fascinating and useful lives”. Hmm try telling that to my youngest daughter who has a distinct and very loud phobia of such creatures.