Wednesday, 25 November 2009

Friday, 20 November 2009

Weekly email improvements

We've been working hard on improving your weekly newsletter experience. Some of you will already have noted some changes. So what's it all about?

We've changed the email address we send the weekly news from to donotreply@birdguides.com. So if you haven't seen your weekly news this week - I suggest you go and look in your spam folder. Adding donotreply@birdguides.com to your address book should keep us permanently in your "good books". The reason for changing is to try and discourage people from replying to an unmonitored email address.

1000 lucky people received our first attempt at an html newsletter this week. It's a bit of a departure from our old text-only version. Hopefully it's easier to navigate, and a bit more interesting on the eye. Of course - if you're not fond of the new version, there's an option to remain with the old plain text version. You can fiddle with your setting here.

We hope you enjoy the changes. We're keen to have your feedback - so do let us know your thoughts.

Sunday, 15 November 2009

Fungus Foray at Tower Hamlets

I'm not very good at East London - Tower Hamlets is practically Belgium for us West London softies. But that said I wandered over to Mile End on the tube to join in a seasonable Fungus Foray courtesy of the good people of London Natural History Society and the Friends of Tower Hamlets Cemetery. The weather was mild and sunny after yesterday's gales and driving rain, so it was good to soak up some much needed November sunshine.

Tower Hamlets cemetery is one of the "Magnificent Seven", and is a wonderful nature reserve. No people have been planted there for years. The stones are all higgledy piggledy and skew-whiff, covered in rambling ivy and green algae. There's rotten wood everywhere - so it's the perfect place for a spot of mushrooming.
The foray was ably led by Keir Mottram, and he was quite brilliant. Our little gaggle of almost thirty people explored the nooks and crannies between the graves trying to out-do each other for edibility, toxicity, size and lurid colours. A common mushroom (and happily edible) was the Shaggy Parasol as modelled below:

These are Stump Puffballs, and are no longer edible in this state (but they are when still young and white).

And my favourite tale from this afternoon. This is Glistening Inkcap - named after the powder that is present on its cap when very young. If you hold them up to the light they shine prettily, and someone has charmingly dubbed it the Twinkling Inkling.

Friday, 6 November 2009

Vismigging at Tower 42

I'm still slightly wobbly. This morning saw me out of my front door at 0450 (eek), in Notting Hill for 0505 (picking up David Lindo), outside Paddington Green police station (picking up Des McKenzie - he wasn't in the cells honest) at 0515, and at Tower 42 for 0545. Wow.

We met with Mark Pearson (notable east London birder) and two burly chaps (see below) who would be ensuring we didn't come to any harm, and started to make our way up, and up, and up. Two separate lift rides saw us reach level 42 smartish - but then came "the push". We slogged up a couple of flights of stairs, squeezed our way past boilers and aircon infrastructure, wended up a teeny spiral staircase, climbed two functional ladders, and finally emerged in an exhausted heap onto the surprisingly small roof of London's second tallest building.


We stood around spellbound in the dark for a couple of minutes. Twinkling lights as far as the eye could see, interspersed with legendary views, instantly recognisable and suddenly carpeted like a living map before us. The Eye, Tower Bridge, St. Paul's, Monument, the Gherkin, the Thames, HMS Belfast, Tate Modern all obvious landmarks in the vista.

It soon became clear that filming was going to prove a challenge. The tops of buildings need to serve certain functions. There were enormous fans, boiler outlets, satellite dishes, lightning conductors, a weather station, big lights for air-traffic, vents and poles and bits of sticky-up metal that seemed designed to trip up unwary tripod-wielders. The fans made lots of noise and emitted clouds of steam which (although providing some welcome warmth), was fogging the camera.

Anyway - enough of my moaning. You'll see the results in one of our forthcoming Lindo at Large films. Suffice to say that the promised squadrons of Wood Pigeons did not appear. I leave you with some bad iPhone pictures of the shenanigans.