Household chores

My job as a waiter for the birds involves a lot of steps, and the tips are peanuts.

Feeding birds
Feeding birds

But it is not anywhere near as hard a job as taking out the compost, about 100m, when the snow is thigh-deep.

I know I have some snowshoes somewhere but haven’t seen them for a couple of years and this is the first time for a few years that we’ve had this much snow to get through.

Taking out the compost
Taking out the compost

Birds in flight

I decided to practice shooting birds in flight (camera, not gun).  Here are some of those practice shots.  We can see later if I learned anything other than “must be more patient”.  All these were shot at 1/1,000th of a second.

I am always fascinated by the degree of control by these birds.  Obviously there is a lot of independent control of parts of flight surfaces and landing gear in order to perform all these aerobatics.  It’s very far from just flapping up and down.

This blue jay is not being chased by robo-heron, just a trick of perspective.

Blue Jay
Blue Jay

The next two are the same chickadee, taken about 1/40th second apart, as it lands on the peanut feeder.

Chickadee 1
Chickadee 1
Chickadee 2
Chickadee 2

The lesson from those two, which are blurred from being magnified, is to be more patient.  Zoom in on a smaller spot and wait, rather than wider angle in the hopes of catching more in a shorter wait time.

Next are a pair of chickadees showing off their bush skills.  They don’t seem at all troubled at the challenge of zooming around in a dogwood bush in spite of the very limited clearance between branches.

Chickadees in dogwood
Chickadees in dogwood
Chickadees in dogwood 2
Chickadees in dogwood 2

Next are three shots of the same nuthatch, landing on a twig, from which the peanut feeder is suspended.

Nuthatch
Nuthatch
Nuthatch 2
Nuthatch 2
Nuthatch 3
Nuthatch 3

The birds don’t fight, but it is generally understood that when a bigger bird arrives, the smaller one leaves.

Nuthatch displaces chickadee
Nuthatch displaces chickadee
Woodpecker displaces nuthatch
Woodpecker displaces nuthatch

Finally, something I didn’t see startled a mixed flock of ground-feeding birds.  I’m not sure if the one junco that stayed put is going to win out by getting more food, or lose if the hawk catches it.

Juncos and sparrows
Juncos and sparrows

Which way is up? Bird feeding orientation

Here are some pictures of the birds that like suet and peanuts, mostly those that naturally make much of their living getting insects out of tree bark.

I’m not sure why, perhaps some people who know more about it can comment, but they differ in their preferred orientation while feeding.

The nuthatches prefer heads-down, at 180º from my preferred feeding orientation.

White-breasted Nuthatch
White-breasted Nuthatch

Chickadees seem more sensible to me.

Chickadee
Chickadee

The small woodpeckers are often the “right way” up, but as the level goes down, they switch to a horizontal orientation.

Downy Woodpecker
Downy Woodpecker

The rose-breasted nuthatches are also upside-down feeders but here are shots as they get ready for dinner; nuthatches at least land the right-way up, before turning over. On trees, they also run downwards after landing. Do they ever crash, beak-first, into upwardly mobile woodpeckers?

Rose-breasted Nuthatch landing
Rose-breasted Nuthatch landing
Rose-breasted Nuthatch
Rose-breasted Nuthatch

It was -27ºC when I got up this morning, but as it was a nice sunny day, the temperature soon soared to -12. So the birds’ feathers were well fluffed-up.

Weekend in Prague

Prague is a romantic city – I think it beats Paris, even. Still, I’m away on Valentine’s Day again so it’s not as romantic for me as it could be.

Still, Old Prague is so big. Many English cities have an ancient core, but Prague’s is enormous, partly because it was not bombed in the World War.

I have taken a hundred or so pictures, but you’ll get bored if I put them all up here, so here are a few and I’ll do more when I get home.

The picture below is my hotel room on the first floor. I stayed at the Hotel Century Old Prague since this time I’m on my own and unlike some of my business colleagues I prefer the old traditional hotels to the over-priced Americana of the Hilton.

Hotel Window
My hotel window (over the angels) in Prague

Yesterday, since I finally got daylight time since it is the weekend, I went for a long walk through Old Prague. It is huge. Unlike British cities, many of which have an old centre, like York, it isn’t confined to a small district but is enough for a couple of days of walking around, with lots of little alleys, cobbled streets and wider boulevards.

I put this on FaceBook/Twitter already but it seemed appropriate for Valentine’s Day. One of many thousands of statues in various nooks and crannies on buildings throughout Prague.

Man and Deer statue
Man and Deer statue

This time, I made my way over towards the Charles Bridge, a well-known landmark because it is the oldest bridge.

Charles Bridge Prague
Charles Bridge Prague

At the entrance to the bridge, on the left, is Charles.

King Charles at his bridge
King Charles at his bridge

If you face to the left, you can see across the River Vltava towards Prague Castle at the top of the hill. Apart from the ubiquitous pigeons, the birds are the only ones I have seen in Prague.
As you can see, the bridge is covered with statues, mostly to religious figures.

Charles Bridge and Prague Castle
Charles Bridge and Prague Castle

Such as this one

Statue on Charles Bridge
Statue on Charles Bridge

Just across the bridge, there is a church.  It’s no wonder St Nick can afford to pay those elves. His church is not short of gold. Every square centimetre is decorated inside.

St Nicholas
St Nicholas
Inside St Nicholas
Inside St Nicholas
Inside St Nicholas 2
Inside St Nicholas 2

Since it was Valentine’s Day, there was a parade coming down from the castle.  Here are a few shots from it.  I have video so you can hear the jazz band but it will have to wait until I get home to post it because I don’t know how to reduce the size from this machine.

Valentine Parade 1
Valentine Parade 1
Valentine Parade 2
Valentine Parade 2
Valentine Parade 3
Valentine Parade 3

There didn’t seem to be any set theme and the crowd just mingled with the parade.  Everyone (me included) was having a lot of fun to the music of a traditional jazz band.

Then, finally, the castle.  It is the official residence of the President of the Czech Republic and the government and embassies are mostly in included or adjacent buildings.

Gates to Prague Castle
Gates to Prague Castle

A closer view of the statues over the gates: just to show you that invaders or people without tickets will not be treated kindly.

Gates to Prague Castle 2
Gates to Prague Castle 2

Although the actual guards (at least in February) wear more clothing.

Guard at Prague Castle
Guard at Prague Castle

In case of siege, you can pray for help:

Castle Cathedral - St Vitus
Castle Cathedral – St Vitus

Those are magnificent flying buttresses.  And in case St. Vitus is not enough, there’s always St. George, across the plaza.  Each designed to put poor old St. Nicholas above in the shade.

Castle Church- St George
Castle Church- St George

Just in case you think Christian churches get all the glory in Prague, the synagogue’s are non-too-shabby:

Unfortunately, the street is very narrow (but notice the Star-of-David motif set in the sidewalk) so it’s hard to get a good picture – I took several so I hope when I get home I can do some Photoshop magic to stick together and fix perspective.

Synagogue in Prague - centre
Synagogue in Prague – centre
Synagogue in Prague - street
Synagogue in Prague – street

 

Well, that’s all I have time for now as I’m getting hungry.  I have a few more for when I get home, next weekend, but you should have a good sense by now that Prague is a good place to visit if you get the chance.