Tag Archives: skill

A Very Crazy Spring – Winter Returns with a Vengeance

Only last week the weather was improving so much, and the spring flowers all blooming so brilliantly, that it seemed spring was truly here and here to stay. I even saw my first hoverfly, which was, unusually for our spring, a Drone Fly (Eristalis species):

But this week everything went crazy, with the arrival of the so-called “Beast from the East”, a fierce cold weather system bringing snow and freezing temperatures to all of Europe from Siberia. Just as I was winding down using the bird-feeders in my garden they suddenly became vitally important to birds in the cold weather, and were also getting the attention of many rodents, including one particularly handsome and determined Wood Mouse (Apodemus sylvaticus).  Here it is climbing out of the leaf litter next to the tree holding the feeders, just at sunset:

One night I even managed to get a video of the mouse climbing on a peanut-feeder, a tiny creature with huge eyes and ears, and a long tail:

However, there were also some less welcome visitors, such as two young Brown Rats (Rattus norvegicus), which were not quite so cute, and a lot bigger than the mouse, but equally interesting in their cheekiness:

   The cold weather inspired some incredible behaviour in some of the wildlife. Probably the most amazing thing I have seen in some years was a flock of desperate crows, Rooks (Corvus frugilegus) to be exact, who were managing to take food off the carefully-designed “crow proof” small bird feeders. One of them was even hovering like a hummingbird! Watch and be amazed:

The bad weather doesn’t end there though – tonight a huge rain storm from the Bay of Biscay, Storm Emma, collides with the Beast from the East and we have a Red Weather Warning, the highest level, only used once before and, ironically, only a few months ago when Hurricane Ophelia made for the island of Ireland. This time, it’s for snow drifts. Hopefully the wildlife will not suffer too much.

Christmas Gift Ideas: No.1

During the Great Northern Winter, when the nights are extremely long and tedious it is very, very easy for people to become couch-potatoes, particularly teenagers. But it can also be a time to encourage couch-potatoes to go outside more often when as days start to get longer after Christmas.

It’s not just good enough to point out that there is an outside world to venture into, you need something inspiring, and here are two gifts that go together perfectly:

"Always prepared for adventure"

Along with Sherlock Holmes and Indiana Jones, MacGyver has become a symbol of a type of person, usually someone who is ingenious and a lateral thinker (someone who thinks ‘outside the box’). There are seven seasons of MacGyver available on DVD, but the one you will want to gift to someone (unless they already have it) is the First Season, comprising 22 globetrotting adventures features heists, rescues, near-misses and amazing stunts. Amazingly, this TV series has barely aged whatsoever, looking shiny and new, and you would almost believe it was filmed recently, but set in the mid-1980s. The heroics take place in all sorts of situations and habitats, and in all cases MacGyver uses his ingenuity and knowledge of science and engineering to produce incredible effects, and, amazingly all are said to genuinely possible, although not all the steps involved in the more dangerous creations are revealed, for obvious reasons. High ideals and adventure from a man carrying only, at most, a Swiss Army Knife and things he finds along the way, depending on the situation.

So that takes care of the inspiration: now for the practical outdoor bit, which requires a small multiplex knife/multi-tool. Swiss Army Knives are perfect pocket knives, being big enough without being too big, and legal to carry in most countries where they are extremely popular with scouts, hikers and backpackers. The model pictured is the Victorinox Timekeeper. The model mostly used by MacGyver is the Victorinox Tinker (not to be confused with the Deluxe Tinker), although the almost identical Spartan model was used in many episodes, the difference being only that the Tinker has a Phillips head screwdriver where the Spartan has a corkscrew. The Tinker retails at about €15 which is roughly £12 sterling or $17, although it’s hard to tell exactly with the current fluctuation in global currencies. There are many less expensive Swiss Army-like penknives. Just remember that the more functions one of these knives has, the thicker it is and the harder to hold comfortably. Naturalists will probably find the Farmer model, made by Victorinox, the most useful of all.

This double gift should suit boys and men aged 12 to 50 (although I suspect a lot of women would like these too: just not quite so much), and will probably be all the more popular given that a blockbuster MacGyver movie is already in the early stages of production.