Thursday, February 23, 2017

Spring is coming!

Looking up Annandale, a patch of blue sky allows the sun through!

The gorse beginning to flower.

The moles have been busy!

The snowdrops have been great this year, but are already beginning to go over.

These have tucked themselves in under a wall.

Yellow crocus at Skip.

The first daffodil to flower at Skip! Spring is definitely on the way.

My white Pulmonaria always flowers early.

It was a surprise to see this one little flower on a Lithodora in a container.

And I expect I'll be seeing a lot more lambs over the next few weeks.

Pix © Skip Cottage

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Guppies and gonopodia

On Friday I found myself driving along Paisley Road, near Ibrox. In the early 1960s (!), this little shop played a big part in my growing up. I must have been thirteen years old when my parents allowed me to have a small tropical aquarium. That prompted regular visits to M&R (Dog Fish) where a very patient Mr Mellor taught me the basics of keeping a small community tank.

Bert Mellor, whose family had fled Germany in WW2, had established the shop in 1958. I just loved going there. In the basement of the shop were a variety of tanks, and I spent a lot of time just looking at what was on offer, and of course spending my pocket money. At home I farmed white worms in trays kept in the coal bunker (not allowed in the house) and when my red platys had fry, I grew microworms in jam jars with a layer of porridge in the bottoms.

Of course, as a thirteen year old, I was fascinated by the sexual activities of the livebearers, especially my guppies. And I learned, amongst other things, that a gonopodium is a modified anal fin!

It was a responsibility of course. Regular maintenance had to be done. I remember very clearly heading off to the cinema one Saturday afternoon (I even remember the film - North West Frontier, with Kenneth More) and returning home to discover that, having switched off the power supply when I was cleaning the tank, I had forgotten to turn the heating back on. I was lucky, everything survived, but only just. A lesson that a teenager never forgot.

I would have liked to have had a larger tank, and that urge was satisfied when, in my last years at senior school, I was a member of the aquarium society!

In my adult life, I returned to fish-keeping at various times. I had a tank when living at Meikle Burntshields. And for most of my years in Thailand I had a huge tank - no heating costs, and most freshwater tropicals were inexpensive. I've looked today to see if I have kept photos of either of these tanks, with no success. Unlike my gardens, which I did photograph regularly, I seem never to have taken any photos of my aquaria.

Which takes me to yesterday. I was pleased to discover that M&R is still in business. It was like falling back in time!

The shop is now owned by Jim Wilson, who I remember well as the young man who helped out in the shop when I was a regular customer in the late 1980s and early 1990s. What was lovely was that he remembered me too, and it was great to catch up.

Jim's son Jamie is also an enthusiast! And well done to Jim in keeping going his independent small business. Continued success to you!

Photographing fish is not easy, but I just had to try to capture these amazing guppies.

Would I keep fish again? If I won the lottery perhaps, but probably not at this stage of my life. But there is nothing like a wee swim in nostalgia!

Pics © Skip Cottage

Friday, February 10, 2017

Signs of spring

As February 2017 marches on, I'm hoping I don't have many more mornings like this to wake up to!

It is encouraging to see the snowdrops appear, no matter how cold it is.

The occasional day has been quite spectacular. Here - as most followers of the blog will know - is my favourite tree on the back road near Saughtrees!

The bird feeders are busy, whatever the weather. A challenge is always to get a picture of my great spotted woodpeckers. That's the male on the peanut feeder.

If I have a favourite it is the blue tit. Lots of them frequent Skip, and nest in the garden.

This great tit is trying to tell me something! I've got some unusual visitors.

A group of long-tailed tits made a visit one day, attacted only to the suet balls.

I've not noticed long-tailed tits in the garden before, although they are apparently not uncommon hereabouts. Smashing little birds! I hope they will now be regular visitors to add to my own 'Birdwatch' list of Skip visitors at various times of the year: blue tit, great tit, coal tit, robin, chaffinch, wren, sparrow, brambling, dunnock, backbird, nuthatch, greenfinch, goldfinch, great spotted woodpecker, siskin, crow, rook, sparrowhawk, pidgeon, and even the occasional pheasant!
Pix © Skip Cottage