Swallows & Swimming pools

When our swimming pool is not being used by humans it serves as a perfect bar for the local swallows (jaskółki) whose superb flight skills, and I guess eyesight as well, allow them to run the length of the pool and just take the slightest sip of water before pulling back up into the sky. Sunbathing with a scene from The Dam Busters (1955) as entertainment.

Surprisingly, I managed to capture the moment on the iPhone a number of times but as the birds were side on they were hard to see. I did however get the one below where the bird was kindly banking away and so easier to identify – left hand side above the flippers.

  

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Tree fluff is upon us!

It’s that time again, when the Poplar trees shed their fluff all over Strangely Park. They have been threatening for a while now but today it is coming down in bucket loads and the cats are having all kinds of fun trying to catch it. Almost as much fun as catching wasps. By the way, are cats immune to wasp stings I wonder, because they don’t seem to be going “ouch!” very often.

I notice that when I commented about the tree fluff last time, back in 2009, it was May 10th and in 2010 it arrived on May 8th, both more or less a couple of weeks later than this year which I expect can be explained by the mild winter.

If you want to know more, there were a lot of very educated comments in response to the 2009 post that are still relevant today, obviously.

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Tree growth

I was looking at the trees outside the office earlier and there is a very noticeable difference in their timing of foliation. As far as I can tell they are all the same species and as you can see they are all located in the same place, same soil, same light and I guess pretty much the same age.

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Closer inspection suggests each one started at slightly different times, or have grown leaves at very different rates. Most advanced, as you look at the photo above, is front left, then back left, then back right then front right.

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I’ve tried Googling for an answer but nearly all the hits concentrate on trees losing their leaves, or changing colours, rather than growing them.

My #1 theory is that they all talk to each other and have developed a survival strategy. They stagger their leafiness just in case the weather takes a turn for the worse. So, if the first one goes and then there’s a cold snap only one tree will be affected and the others can hold off. If there’s no cold snap another tree can go and so on. It’s all controlled by the Emilii Plater tree fairy, Leafabella.

Without any more scientific explanation we have to conclude that trees are are all individuals and that generalising about trees is as inaccurate as it is about cats or Ukrainians.

Talking to the cats

CATS: waa, waaa, waaa, waaa, waaaaaaa!

ME: I’m sure someone fed you hours ago before I got home you bastards!

CATS: Who us? I think you must have mistaken us for some other cats. Nobody fed us, honest they didn’t….pleeeease feed us.

ME: You ever heard the tale of Peter and the Wolf…err, or is it the boy who cried wolf? Anyway, you’re always giving me the hard luck story and big sad eyes but when I check you’ve always been fed. I’m not falling for it anymore so bugger off.

video of cats trying to get my attention – running under my legs trying to trip me up, jumping on everything, trying to destroy everything, standing by their bowls looking like they are close to death

ME: I swear if you guys could pick up a shovel you’d be smacking me on the head with it.

CATS: Felix! Felix! Felix!

ME: Look, I checked, cats have a kind of normal brain and a memory of 16 hours so that would easily cover the last time you were fed. I never had this shit from my dogs with their measly 5 minute memory span!

CATS: How dare you mention dogs! How very dare you!

TOM: Do I, or do I not play fetch with the empty Mars bar wrappers? So don’t give me all this dog crap.

CATS: Waa, waaa, waaaa, waaaaa!

ME: Did anyone feed the cats?

FAMILY: Not yet.

RIP Nelson

Sad to report that our cat, Nelson, passed away sometime this afternoon at the young age of 4 years and 5 days.

What happened exactly is a mystery. This morning he was fine and through the day nothing seemed untoward. No strange behavior or funny noises. I was home most of the day as I’m sick and whilst I wasn’t paying attention to his every move, or lack of moves, I did get suspicious when I brought Zosia home from school about 15:30. He had been sleeping in the same spot for a long time and I even quipped to Zosia that “I think Nelson must be dead, he’s been sleeping for so long.”. Zosia, as usual, went over to say hello to him and then said “He is!”. Followed by a certain amount of hysteria, obviously.

He was laying in a very peaceful and relaxed way, exactly as if he was asleep except he really was dead, and quite stiff. Apparently rigor mortis comes on quite early in cats (1-4 hours) so we can only assume he passed away in his sleep, of perhaps a heart attack, sometime in the early afternoon.

He did have an unusual thing with his eyes sometimes where they would be darting quickly from side to side. The vet noticed it on a visit some time ago and seemed concerned but aside from the eye movement there were no other symptoms to indicate any problem. He was very active, could see extremely well and was in every respect a healthy cat. With the benefit of sad hindsight it might be there was an underlying neurological problem there but we’re all just speculating. The main thing is that his death appears to have been quick and as peaceful as death can be, which will be nice to remember.

He was a really great cat, a big strong handsome boy who enjoyed our company and was extremely well behaved both with us and while we were away. He always had a lot to say for himself and we had developed a way of talking by mimicking his “wa wa” noises that he actually seemed to understand. He will be greatly missed by us all but especially by Marta who was his biggest fan.

I took him to the vet who will dispose of him properly. She also could see no obvious reasons why he died.

We now search for Polish cat number five to follow in the footsteps of Kacper, Tygrys, Winston and Nelson. Although pedigree cats tend to die younger than mixed breed, it seems we don’t have much luck with cats and if I were a kitten and saw us coming I’d run a mile!

Bye Nelson, sleep well.

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Back to nature

Wilderness

Although we have moved from the most isolated part of the estate to the centre and moved from ground to first floor we have not lost our connection with nature. Our new apartment backs directly onto Młociny park so from the study, Zosia’s bedroom, kitchen and terrace we have views into the park. We have not been here long and so far we have spotted deer, a wild boar and this morning a buzzard noshing on its latest catch.

The buzzard was last spotted in September 2008 but I think its grown since then. It was a nice surprise to see it this morning when opening Zosia’s blinds. Hard to miss anything so much bigger than all the other birds. They have an average lifespan of 8 years but can live for more than 20 so there is every possibility this is the same bird, or the partner of the bird we spotted in 2008.

On the basis that the wildlife here has no need to be moving to new homes, the wild boar might also be an old acquaintance, last met in May 2010 when we took a late night walk to check whether we were closer to being flooded and bumped into a big fat boar on the way!

Hard to identify the deer, there are quite a few of them in the park.

I’ll keep my eyes peeled and hopefully get some snaps to share later.

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