Tuesday, September 29, 2009


I am trying a new meme this week hosted by Linda at 2nd Cup of Coffee. A simple concept, twelve random questions each week, answer as best you can. I don't know where she comes up with the ideas for her questions but they are pretty good so here goes.

1. Tell me the absolute best way to watch a movie.

At home, snuggled up on the sofa with my Hubby and a box of decadent dark chocolates :)

2. Do you ever think about your own funeral? If so, do you have specific ideas about how you would like it to be?
Yes. I would like it to be in a breathtakingly beautiful corner of the world called Baca Baca Lagoon in the Eastern Province of Zambia and I would want it to be a celebration of life, family and friends with lots of good food and wine.

3. Are you more of a giver or a taker?
Ouch! Tough one for an only child - I feel that the world is full of takers so I do try and make a conscious effort to be a giver. I suppose you would have to ask those around me if I succeed. One proviso though - I will try to give but I won't be taken for granted.

4. Vacations: planned activities and schedules, or play it by ear?
Play it by ear definitely. Work is planned and scheduled so that is the last thing I want on vacation.

5. What is one often overlooked item in your home that needs to be cleaned regularly?
Our stove! My husband loves to cook and he is very good at it but when he is done the stove looks pretty tough. Did I mention that I hate cleaning the stove :)

6. Name a cause that means a lot to you.
I don't really have a specific cause that I am passionate about but I do care about most conservation and restoration projects that go on around the world. As a species we are so destructive to everything around us I think we definitely need to work hard to redress the balance.

7. Do you eat a regular old peanut butter jelly sandwich, or do you customize it? And by the way, jelly or no jelly?
Uggg! As a Brit I just don't get the PBJ even the idea revolts me! Not going to happen!

8. If we were having a conversation in person, how would I know if you were nervous?
I would either be chewing the inside of my cheek or my fingers! Guess I must find myself pretty tasty!

9. Do you have an elaborate bedtime routine, or just the basics of toothbrushing and jammies?
No routine, just a delighted headlong dive under the duvet. Bedtime is one of my favorite times of the day.

10. Have you ever regretted something you wrote on your blog?
Not yet but hey there is a first time for everything.

11. Has anyone ever told you that you look like a famous person or celebrity? Did you agree?
Nope! I think they must have broken the mold after they made me :)

12. If you were going to dedicate a song to a loved one or friend, what would the song be and to whom would it be dedicated?
I Try by Macy Gray, for my husband. It was the first song I ever sent to him and it still brings tears to my eyes.


I blinked and it has been three weeks since I last posted anything! How did that happen? I had a wonderful week away in San Diego but as for the other two weeks, I am really not sure where they went. I know work has been fairly crazy but then, when isn't it? So I honestly don't have an excuse for the long break, I guess life just got in the way, as it does!
My break in San Diego was blissful, my husband was attending a conference so I had the lovely, long, sunny days to myself. I was horribly lazy and spent my time strolling along the seafront and enjoying the seafaring atmosphere.

Our hotel was right on the seafront so even lounging in our room or lying by the pool I could watch the shipping traffic. San Diego is one of my favorite cities. The fact that it is always sunny and warm does help but also it is a refreshing combination of traditional structures, ultra modern buildings

and a bustling sea port.

There is also a huge military presence

Most of the hardware is kept well away from public access but some decommissioned vessels are open to the public.

The vast majority of vessels are current and active, and every day there is some training going on somewhere. The Navy SEALs were practicing retrieving people from the sea one day when I was watching, the helicopter flew down so close to the water that it almost disappeared into the spray it created.

One of the most spectacular civilian craft was the massive Americas Cup trimaran. It was in port for the entire time we were there and it really is a remarkable vessel. It is hard to convey the size of it with a picture

But maybe this shot of one of the crew working up in the rigging will make it clearer. Check out the size of the mast!

And what of the 'natural' world? Well what was in evidence had a common theme - fish eaters! No surprise there then! Sea lions spent their days along a similar line to me, the vast majority of it spent lounging on the seafront, with an occasional foray out for food. At least I didn't have to catch my own!

The best dressed fisherman was definitely this dapper Snowy Egret. It doesn't matter how many times I see this species, I can't get enough of those outrageous yellow feet!

I had plenty of chance to get my fill of this guy as he was totally focused on his fishing.

It was definitely one of those vacations that I didn't want to end.

All I have to do now is get back into the groove of posting regularly!

Photo Credits - CJT & DominickV

Thursday, September 10, 2009


For this weeks skywatch I spotted soft swirling clouds that looked as if they had been applied to the sky with a paint brush.

And sitting in amongst them is the softest half moon, just barely visible.

Until I zoom in a little more............

For beautiful skies from all around the globe, check out Skywatch Friday.

Photo Credits - CJT

Thursday, September 3, 2009


To some they are the stuff of nightmares as they leave their sub-terranian homes and climb silently up tree trunks. Then the skin down their back splits open

and out climbs something not so silent - the cicada!

Much is made of the invasions that take place every seventeen years from the periodical cicadas but the regular appearance of the dog-day cicada, so named because they appear in the dog days of summer goes almost unnoticed until they strike up their strident courtship tune.

Although they are referred to as annual cicadas, most of them have a life cycle that ranges from two to five years, depending on the species. The vast majority of which is spent underground living amongst the roots of the tree on which the female first laid her eggs.

When the final instar of the nymph stage emerges from the ground and molts into the adult form this creature only has another five or six weeks to live. Maybe that explains the volume and urgency of the call!

The cicada has numerous perils to avoid, not least of which is the fearsome Cicada Killer

These wasps have synchronized their life cycle to coincide with the dog-day cicadas. A couple of weeks after the cicada start to emerge, adult cicada killer wasps also emerge from underground. They dig burrows in soft, well drained soil and then go out in search of their prey. When they find a cicada they sting it to paralyze it and then carry it back to the burrow (this gives you some idea of the size of these wasps.) The female lays an egg on the hapless cicada, then puts it into the underground chamber and seals it up. Thus providing her off spring with a ready food source.

Even the macro world can be a savage, scary place! Check out the minutia at Macro Monday, hosted by Ed.

Photo Credits - CJT


One morning last week I woke up to this dramatic sky over the lake.

Not exactly a shiny summer morning but quite dramatic for a skywatch posting.

To see the sky from every corner of the globe, check out Skywatch Friday.

Photo Credits - CJT


Yesterday we headed out to Markham Prairie to the south of Chicago to check it out for a potential butterfly restoration site.

Vincent, our Director of Arthropod Conservation, and his team have been working really hard all summer raising literally thousands of imperilled butterflies for release onto suitable habitats in an attempt to restore populations to appropriate sites.

When they do releases they take between one and two hundred butterflies to an area that has the required host plants to feed future caterpillars and also good nectar sources to sustain future generations of butterflies.

The butterflies we want to restore to this site are Silver-bordered Fritillaries Boloria selene So named because they have little silver coloured spots on the underside of the hindwing.

Markham Prairie is an ideal spot for them. It is one of the very few remnants of original prairie remaining in Illinois and it has a massive variety of native prairie plant species including members of the violet family which is the host plant for the Silver-bordered Fritillary.

One of the rarest plants in this area is the Ear-leaved False Foxglove Tomanthera auriculata. We had missed them flowering so they were very innocuous. But it was good to see such a rare plant thriving.

There were also a healthy array of invertebrates

And even an occasional vertebrate too

The area covers about one hundred and fourty acres

We were all very happy to think that future generations of this charming little butterfly is going to be given the opportunity to repopulate this wonderful natural area.

Oh and I almost forgot to mention, we actually managed to have a day out in the field without any rain - for the first time this year!!

Photo Credits - CJT