Acorn woodpeckers defend their larder

Reader Michael sent this National Geographic video about acorn woodpeckers (Melanerpes formicivorus) and a larder tree near the Grand Canyon. As I suspected, they drill each hole to fit a specific acorn (how else could the food remain securely wedged?), but then how do they drill a hole for a specific acorn without having it in their mouth? This is a mystery that, I hope, readers will solve.

At any rate, you can see they cooperatively guard the food supply (are the birds related?), and you can see them driving off a marauding squirrel.

Hawaii Day 1: Sea turtles, cats, and noms

I have arrived, and yesterday spent my first full day on Oahu. It was a good day, too, greeting my favorite cat, seeing green sea turtles haul themselves out of the surf to bask in the sand on the island’s North Shore, and having a great Hawaiian plate lunch. Here’s the drill.

I was greeted by my favorite cat, Pi, a rescue gray Persian who’s been shaved down because of the heat:

He looks a bit like Grumpy Cat, or rather, the oatmeal flack Wilford Brimley, but Pi is a real sweetheart. I love him to bits.

Wilford Brimley:

After breakfast (a rare bagel and lox for me), we headed for Laniākea Beach, famous as a spot on Hawaii’s North Shore where Hawaiian green sea turtles haul themselves out of the surf to bask on the beach. We were lucky enough to see two of them engage in this endearing activity.

Here’s the location of the trip, but instead of taking the “middle road” to the north, we drove east to the road along the island’s east (windward) coast and then around to Laniakea:

The shore road is gorgeous, and, in the morning, is not too crowded with tourists. Along the way is the famous island called Mokolii, but better known as “Chinaman’s Hat” (don’t judge me; I didn’t name it that):

The beach was already crowded when we arrived by 10:30, but we found a parking spot, got our snorkel gear (I did a wee bit of snorkeling, though the fish were sparse), and headed to the beach. Here it is, and a lovely beach it is, too:

When we saw these signs we knew we were on the right track:

The Hawaiian green sea turtle is just a local population of the endangered green sea turtle (Chelonia mydas), which lives and feeds (on algae, seaweed and jellyfish) in Hawaii, but breed, I was told, in some “sub-aleutian islands” about 500 miles to the north. They attain reproductive maturity at about 25 years old, and can live up to 100 years.

During the breeding period, they lay several clutches of about 100 eggs each. Given this, and that they can reproduce about every other year for at least 25 years, and add to that the fact that, in a stable population, each female will leave only two reproductive adults, you can see that the mortality rate is high: well over 99%.

The turtle watchers (volunteers who keep people away from the beached and swimming turtles, and kudos to them), told us that they tend to come ashore at about noon. We laid out our towels and waited. Turtles hadn’t shown up for the past few days, but we lucked out.

Sure enough, about noon a juvenile turtle (they told us it was probably a female, 10-15 years old) hauled itself slowly and painfully out of the water and onto the beach. A sequence:

Can you spot the turtle off the beach?

Here it is!

Using its flippers (what Steve Gould would call an exapatation), it hauled itself slowly and painfully onto the beach, stopping above the wave level:

They have such beautiful eyes, which gave rise to the name of this one (see below):

Researchers recognize the turtles by the pattern of scales around their eyes, which is unique, though some turtles have been microchipped to study their migration. The Turtle Guardians have signs for some of the most frequently-visiting animals, and so this one was Maka Nui:

Finally, it rests, closes its eyes, and soaks up the sun:

Here are three videos of the hauling-out:

Of course the tourists and beachgoers gather round, but are kept away from the turtle by an orange rope with a radius of about ten feet, adhering to regulations:

As we left, another juvenile female came ashore:

Snorkeling, sunning, and photographing turtles makes you hungry, and fortunately we were in one of the best Hawaiian plate-lunch places on Oahu, the Waihole Poi Factory, which makes its own fresh poi. Here’s the place, which, as you can see, is unprepossessing. But what treats come from within!

Lunch: kalua pig (the Hawaiian version of barbecue), laulau with chicken wrapped in taro leaves, fresh poi, lomi-lomi salmon (lower right: raw salmon mixed with tomato and onions, and a white hunk of haupia (coconut gelatin).

If you’re on the east side of the island, don’t miss the Waihole Poi Factory!

Self aggrandizing photos: me snorkeling at the top (middle bottom), and photographing the turtle (photos by Nilou):


Wednesday: Duck report

This will count as “Readers’ wildlife photos” today. Yesterday I had communications from two of our duck farmers, including Anna, both of whom sent photos and gave an optimistic report: all eighteen ducklings, large and small, are thriving. Here’s a report from the non-Anna duck farmer

More tributes to Grania

Atheist Ireland (AI) posted a lovely tribute to Grania on its site yesterday. It was written by its President, Michael Nugent—who knew Grania well—and tells about her activities for AI (she was one of its founders as well as its first secretary), her penchant for gaming, and other things I did not put in my memoriam yesterday.

The tribute was reprinted on Michael’s webpage, too, and you can see either or both versions by clicking on the screenshots below.

From AI:

And on Michael’s site:

As I had hoped, the many comments on my post about Grania’s death—there are now 319, a very large number—acquainted her sisters, with whom she hadn’t spoken in several years—with the many people who considered Grania a friend, as well as with some facts about her life and work. Her sister Gisela posted this as a publicly-viewable announcement on Facebook.

Finally, Richard Dawkins tweeted the sad news:

Tuesday: Hili dialogue

It’s a sad Tuesday now that Grania’s gone, but I know she’d want me to soldier on. And so I will, but in her honor today (and perhaps in the future) I’ll use the bullet-point format for events, births, and deaths that she used. (The points are taken directly from Wikipedia.) Normally I would prepare these posts the night before and, now being five time zones ahead of Chicago, ask Grania to insert the Hili dialogue—which Malgorzata sends me during her morning in Poland—for posting at 6:30 a.m. Chicago time. That will no longer happen—another sign of Grania’s departure, and of her importance to this site.

It’s Tuesday, June 18, 2019, and International Picnic Day. In Britain, it’s Waterloo Day, celebrating the British victory over Napoleon in 1815.

Today’s animated Google Doodle (below) click on screenshot) celebrates FALAFEL, which I love. But it’s very unusual for a Doodle to celebrate a foodstuff—and for no apparent reason. As C|Net reports:

This isn’t the first time Google has put food in the Doodle spotlight. In 2017, Google cooked up a slideshow to honor the rice noodle, and last year, Google celebrated the Fourth of July with an interactive map highlighting food from across the country.

Chickpea-based falafel, which can be prepared in many ways, is high in protein, complex carbohydrates and fiber, making it popular among vegetarians and vegans looking for an alternative to meat-based foods. Chickpeas are also low in fat and contain no cholesterol.

You can also make them as big as you like. In 2012, 10 chefs in Amman, Jordan, worked to create largest falafel ball ever — a 164-pound mammoth.

The very cute Doodle:

And now on to Grania’s format for events on June 18. Note the event in 1858, which precipitated the publication of On the Origin of Species. 

  • 1178 – Five Canterbury monks see what is possibly the Giordano Bruno crater being formed. It is believed that the current oscillations of the Moon’s distance from the Earth (on the order of meters) are a result of this collision.
  • 1812 – The United States declaration of war upon the United Kingdom is signed by President James Madison.
  • 1858 – Charles Darwin receives a paper from Alfred Russel Wallace that includes nearly identical conclusions about evolution as Darwin’s own, prompting Darwin to publish his theory.
  • 1873 – Susan B. Anthony is fined $100 for attempting to vote in the 1872 presidential election.
  • 1940 – The “Finest Hour” speech is delivered by Winston Churchill.
  • 1983 – Space Shuttle program: STS-7, Astronaut Sally Ride becomes the first American woman in space.

A note: Here’s the famous bit of Churchill’s famous speech (the entire 30-minute speech is here). What a writer and rhetorician he was!


Those born on this day include:

  • 1886 – George Mallory, English lieutenant and mountaineer (d. 1924)
  • 1913 – Robert Mondavi, American winemaker and philanthropist (d. 2008)
  • 1942 – Roger Ebert, American journalist, critic, and screenwriter (d. 2013)
  • 1942 – Paul McCartney, English singer-songwriter and guitarist
  • 1948 – Sherry Turkle, American academic, psychologist, and sociologist
  • 1952 – Isabella Rossellini, Italian actress, director, producer, and screenwriter
  • 1962 – Lisa Randall, American physicist and academic

Those who expired on June 18 include:

  • 1902 – Samuel Butler, English novelist, satirist, and critic (b. 1835)
  • 1936 – Maxim Gorky, Russian novelist, short story writer, and playwright (b. 1868)
  • 1959 – Ethel Barrymore, American actress (b. 1879)
  • 1982 – John Cheever, American novelist and short story writer (b. 1912)
  • 1989 – I. F. Stone, American journalist and author (b. 1907)

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili, who knows her scripture, quoted Matthew 6:26:

Hili: The birds of the air: they do not sow or reap but they are delicious.
A: Luckily, they can fly.
Hili: And that’s a problem.
In Polish:
Hili: Ptaki niebieskie nie sieją nie orzą, ale smakują wybornie.
Ja: Na szczęście potrafią fruwać.
Hili: I to jest pewien problem.

And all of today’s tweets came from Grania: these are from the last batch she sent me, and I’ll put up the final six tomorrow. I won’t comment on them.

One comment: I saw two Hawaiin green turtles haul themselves out of the water yesterday to bask on the beach on Oahu’s North shore. I’ll post about that later. Here’s a rare leucistic one.


Grania died

This is very hard to write, and is written through tears. Grania Spingies, a very good friend—though I never met her in person—and someone who, as you probably know, did an enormous amount for this website, passed away yesterday in Cork, Ireland. She was only 49, and would have turned 50 on the 23rd of June.

She leaves behind a mother and two sisters, Gisela and Gunda. Grania’s father was murdered by a burglar in South Africa 18 months ago. Her mother is bedridden and doesn’t recognize anyone, so perhaps it’s a mercy that she doesn’t know her daughter died.

Those who follow this site will know Grania’s involvement with it: she was always there to cover for me when I was on trips, to advise me when I had a website issue or wanted to know if I should write about this or that, and to discuss ideas for posts with me (she gave me plenty of them). She also wrote many of her own posts over the years, keeping us up to date on issues like abortion in Ireland and blasphemy laws.

But more than that: we Skyped nearly every day and exchanged a gazillion emails. She had a pretty solitary existence in Cork, but I made sure we kept in touch. She was a great pleasure to talk to— always rational and sensible, but with a fantastic dry wit. As I said, I never met her, though we were in constant touch for at least eight years. She often spoke of wanting to visit America, and I tempted her with all the great food she could try here that wasn’t available in Ireland, like good Southern barbecue.

On Wednesday she became ill with what seemed to be a stomach ailment. Over the next few days it didn’t go away, and I suggested that she see a doctor. She didn’t like doctors, and simply bought pain medication at the pharmacy. Her illness persisted, and by Friday I began harassing her heavily to get medical attention. On Saturday she still wasn’t better, and I made her promise to go to the doctor—an emergency clinic in Cork—by Sunday at the latest.

Here was our last email exchange from yesterday:

On Sun 16 Jun 2019, 12:32 Jerry Coyne wrote:

Are you going to the doctor today AS YOU PROMISED????

Her response:

Yes. Im on my way.

That was her last email; she never made it to the doctor. According to one of her friends, “As far as we can tell, she collapsed just outside the doctor’s office some time on Sunday and had no pulse. They did CPR and rushed her by ambulance to the hospital.” They will do an autopsy to see what killed her.

It’s 5 a.m. in Hawaii, and my brain isn’t clear enough to write more, but let me post some pictures of Grania sent to me by Gisela.

Grania was born and raised in South Africa. She went to the University of Cape Town and then spent several years teaching small children in a remote area of KwaZulu. About twenty years ago, she decided to leave South Africa and take a job with Schlumberger in Ireland, where she did financial accounting. She was a feminist, a secularist, an atheist, and formerly an active member of Atheist Ireland. She loved animals, and often spoke of her cats Trinket and Pippen and her beloved dog Frodo.

A photo of her in Africa:

Grania just before she moved to Ireland in 1999.

As an atheist, Grainia would simply laugh if she heard me say, “Rest in peace, dear friend”. So all I’ll say is that she brought a lot of light into my life, and into this site—often in ways you don’t know about. I will miss her terribly, as will her family and friends, and my heart goes out to those who were privileged to know her.

This is the way I’ll remember her: with that slight smile I’d see on Skype when she pondered the craziness of the world.

Monday: Hili dialogue

It’s Monday, June 17, 2019; and as you begin the work week reading this, I’ll be luxuriating in Hawaii for some well-deserved R&R. It’s National Apple Strudel Day, but if you eat that stuff you’re engaging in cultural appropriation. It’s also World Day to Combat Desertification and Drought. Do your bit.

On this day in 1579, Sir Francis Drake claimed California, which he named “Nova Albion” for England. On June 17, 1631, Mumtaz Mahal, the wife of Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan, died in childbirth. The emperor spent the next 17 years building her tomb, which is this:

Only a few hours from Delhi, the Taj is a must see; it is one of the three sights, along with Mount Everest and Machu Picchu, that was on my bucket list as a youth. I’ve been lucky enough to see all three, and although the Taj can be crowded and touristy, it is well worth the trip. I was once fortunate enough to see it at night during a full moon, and it was otherwordly, assuming a bluish pearly cast and appearing to float above its base.

On June 18, 1673, the French explorers Jacques Marquette and Louis Jolliet reached the Mississippi River in Wisconsin, eventually traveling south to its junction with the Arkansas river, becoming the first Europeans to chart part of the Mississippi’s course.

A lot happened on this day in history. On June 17 in 1885, the Statue of Liberty, made in France, arrived in New York Harbor in 350 pieces. Remember that it was a gift from the French people, and the Americans crowdfunded its assembly in the U.S. Here is a foot upon arrival:

On this day in 1901, the College Board introduced its first standardized test, later to become the rapidly-disappearing SAT. In 1939, the last public guillotining in France took place, with a convicted German murderer, Eugen Weidmann, beheaded in Versailles.

On June 17, 1944, Iceland became a republic, declaring its independence from Denmark. 19 years later, in the case of Abington School District v. Schempp,  the Supreme Court ruled 8-1 against recitations of the Bible and the Lord’s Prayer in public schools. The vote would certainly not be that extreme today.  In 1967, China announced its first successful test of a thermonuclear weapon.

On this day in 1972, five operatives, directed from the White House, were arrested for trying to burgle the offices of the Democratic National Committee in the Watergate office complex. What a time that was! It eventually led to Nixon’s downfall and his resignation from the Presidency on August 9, 1974.

On June 17, 1991, the South African Parliament repealed the “Population Registration Act,” which had required all South Africans to be racially classified at birth. Three years later, after the famous low-speed highway chase, O. J. Simpson was arrested for the murder of his ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman. He was, of course, acquitted, but I think that was a miscarriage of justice.

Notables born on this day include Igor Stravinsky (1882), M. C. Escher (1888), Martin Bormann (1900),  François Jacob (1920, Nobel Laureate), Newt Gingrich and Barry Manilow (both 1943), and Jello Biafra (1958).

Here is “Black and White Cat Tessellation” by Escher:

Notables who expired on June 17 were few, and include Kate Smith (1986), Cyd Charisse (2008), and Rodney King (2012).

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili and Andrzej talk about books:

Hili: It’s best to look for tranquility among old books.
A: I know, I often escape to them as well.
In Polish:
Hili: Najlepiej szukać spokoju wśród starych książek.
Ja: Wiem, też często do nich uciekam.

A tweet from reader Barry. D*g saves cat from plastic bag while another cat looks on helplessly. Canids do have their uses!

A tweet from Heather Hastie, who notes, “We used to have a couple of kittens that both loved curling up in the lid of the Trivial Pursuit (board game) box. The more dominant of the two (Annie) would come along and lick and otherwise annoy the other one (April) if April was the one who got the box first. It looks like these two have a similar issue.”

Two tweets from Nilou in honor of Father’s Day. First: what a cruel thing to do to a dad on Father’s Day!

We all know of Wisdom, the Laysan albatross on Midway who is about 68: the oldest confirmed wild bird (and oldest banded bird) in the world. She had another chick last November, making 37 (they have one chick at a time), and has flown more than three million miles. But who remembers Wisdom’s mates? Here’s the latest one, Akeakamai, honored on Father’s Day, and sharing parental duties.

Here’s Akeakamai with the pair’s latest chick:

And here’s that latest chick getting banded.

Tweets from Matthew. Here’s some biology that will make you the hit of any cocktail party:

I don’t think that my ducklings can jump this high:

I’m sure at least one reader will know what this chemical reaction is (I don’t):

Tweets from Grania. For you cat-loving gamers (Grania fits both slots), here’s a new cat-themed game:

I guess racing backwards is faster:



Bad idea of the year: Constitutional amendment to prohibit flag burning

According to his website, two days ago U.S. Senator Steve Danes of Montana (a Republican, of course) introduced not a law, but a proposal for a Constitutional amendment to allow congress to prohibit the burning of the U.S. Flag. It was co-sponsored by U.S. Senators John Cornyn (R-TX), Johnny Isakson (R-GA), Mike Crapo (R-ID), Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Dean Heller (R-NV), Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and Orrin Hatch (R-UT).  Not a Democrat in the lot, and that’s no surprise.

Here’s the text of the amendment (full pdf here):

Wikipedia recounts the failed history of legislation to prohibit the burning of flags, beginning in 1968 when, as I remember well, protestors against the Vietnam War engaged in frequent flag-burnings. Then Congress passed a “flag protection act,” as did 48 of the 50 states, but the federal law was overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court. It was a narrow vote—5-4—by a liberal court, but was decided on First Amendment grounds, with flag-burning construed as protected speech. As Wikipedia notes:

The decisions were controversial and have prompted Congress to consider the only remaining legal avenue to enact flag protection statutes—a constitutional amendment. Each Congress since the Johnson decision has considered creating a flag desecration amendment. From 1995 to 2005, beginning with the 104th Congress, the proposed amendment was approved biennially by the two-thirds majority necessary in the U.S. House of Representatives, but it consistently failed to achieve the same constitutionally-required super-majority vote in the U.S. Senate. During some sessions, the proposed amendment did not even come to a vote in the Senate before the expiration of the Congress’ term. The last time it was considered, in the 109th Congress, the Amendment failed by one vote in the Senate. Some Senate Republican aides indicated that almost a dozen of the Republican senators who voted for the amendment were privately opposed to it, and they believed that these senators would have voted to defeat the amendment if required

Now, of course, we have a much more conservative Supreme Court, but before the Court could even take up this case, a flag-burning Constitutional Amendment would have to become law, which means that beyond a 2/3 affirmative vote in both houses of Congress, it would then have to be ratified by 3/4 of the states.

That would take time, and it’s pretty clear that this amendment is just virtue-signaling (Wikipedia says that in the 2005-2007 Congress, “almost a dozen of the Republican senators who voted for the amendment were privately opposed to it”). It’s also clear that this really is a form of political expression and, so long as nobody gets burned or no other property is damaged, it’s the kind of speech that the First Amendment is designed to protect. Let us hope that this one, like all the others, will fail.

: Reader Scott sent this quote from the late, great Molly Ivins:


A Christian pleads for a replacement for “purity culture” in the pages of the New York Times

A friend sent me the link to an article in today’s New York Times on Christian sex, with the note:

“You might want to check out this piece — again, in the NYT. I believe the writer has legitimate grounds for writing the piece, but why does it appear in the NYT? How many Evangelical readers of the NYT are there?  Could you imagine the NYT running this 15 years ago?  I cannot.  I’m puzzled.”

After reading it, I was puzzled too. It’s the kind of personal dilemma that fills the pages of HuffPost but has nothing to say to the wider culture—at least as far as I can see. And it’s part of the NYT’s drive to HuffPost-up its pages with personal stories that are just beefing and say nothing to the general reader.

Click on the screenshot to read the piece.

Ms. Beaty was once an advocate of Christian “purity culture”, full of pledges to remain virgins until marriage, purity rings, father-daughter balls, and the like. Studies show that these pledges and the like don’t work, and they didn’t work for Beaty.

But, like religionists who have given up their faith but still need a substitute for church, Beaty needs a substitute for religious guidance about sex:

It held out the promise that if I remained pure, then God would reward good behavior with a husband — surely before I turned 30 so that we could have lots of children.

Somehow God and I got our wires crossed, because the husband hasn’t arrived. Twenty years later, I no longer subscribe to purity culture, largely because it never had anything to say to Christians past the age of 23. Yet lately, I also find myself mourning the loss of the coherent sexual ethic that purity culture tried to offer. Is consent culture the best that we have in its place?

What, exactly, is “consent culture”? Is it a culture in which sexual activity between two consenting adults, who somehow are able to express that consent, is okay? If that’s what she means, then what is wrong with that?

To Beaty, it’s insufficient because “consent culture” has taken the sacredness out of sex:

 For amid the horrible teachings about women’s bodies and God’s anger over an exposed bra strap, the proponents of purity — or the best of them at least — were trying to offer us the gift of sex within marriage. As Christianity teaches that marriage is not simply a legal bind but a spiritual covenant, so married sex is a bodily expression that two people will be for each other, through all seasons.

As I continue to date with hopes of meeting a partner, I yearn for guidance on how to integrate faith and sexuality in ways that honor more than my own desires in a given moment.

Beaty, in other words, wants somebody to tell her that sex is more than just animal coupling, someone to tell her how spiritual it is. And that someone is not Darwin!:

All creation, including human bodies, by grace reveals deeper spiritual truth. In other words, matter matters. So when a person engages another person sexually, Christians would say, it’s not “just” bodies enacting natural evolutionary urges but also an encounter with another soul. To reassert this truth feels embarrassingly retrograde and precious by today’s standards. But even the nonreligious attest that in sex, something “more” is happening, however shrouded that more might be.

But sex is both the fulfillment of biological urges deeply imbued in our minds and bodies by evolution (after all, if there is a “purpose” to evolution, it’s the passing on of genes), and also a form of mental synching that contributes to a pair bond. Humans, after all, have to take care of their kids for a long time, and in general two partners are needed for the best results. Ergo, when you have sex—our ancient evolutionary sign of child production, a mental bond will start to form.

That is one evolutionary explanation for love, and that is the “more” that Beaty is seeking. Call it love, or call it “spirituality”, but whatever it is, sex is usually accompanied by deeper emotional ties. That is enough explanation for me.

But it’s still not enough for Beaty, because—and this is why the article doesn’t belong in the New York Times—she needs to know what Jesus wants!:

To be sure, consent is a nonnegotiable baseline, one that Christian communities overlook. (I never once heard about consent in youth group.) But two people can consent to something that’s nonetheless damaging or selfish. Consent crucially protects against sexual assault and other forms of coercion. But it doesn’t necessarily protect against people using one another in quieter ways. I long for more robust categories of right and wrong besides consent — a baseline, but only that — and more than a general reminder not to be a jerk. I can get that from Dan Savage, but I also want to know what Jesus thinks.

. . .While I hate the effects that purity culture had on young women like me, I still find the traditional Christian vision for married sex radical, daunting and extremely compelling — and one I still want to uphold, even if I fumble along the way.

Indeed, relationships can be rocky, and sex doesn’t assure you a perfect partner. Nobody, including Beaty, can get a guarantee that a sexual relationship won’t turn bad. But really, “I also want to know what Jesus thinks”? Oy gewalt!

Well, Ms. Beaty, why are you importuning the readers of the New York Times—who are largely nonbelievers and, at any rate, are unable to answer her plea—to tell her what kind of sex comports with Jesus’s views and Christianity? Ask some damn preachers!  And if she asks a thousand non-evangelical Christian preachers, she’ll get a thousand different answers.

But better that than foist her woes upon the readers of what purports to be the nation’s best newspaper. This kind of “HuffPost Her Stories” lamenting doesn’t belong in such a paper, especially because there’s no answer to Beaty’s dilemma.

Manager’s wildlife photos—ducks!

Because I’m in transit, today’s wildlife photos will be of Anas platyrhynchos, otherwise known as the mallard. In particular, we’ll see the mallards of Botany Pond—the most famous mallards in Illinois.

Here is Anna with her eight babies, all thriving and hanging around a mud puddle. They splashed around in it and even drank the water. Ecch!

I guess, like all youngsters, they like mud.

After a feed and a muddy bath, they headed to the clean water of Botany Pond:

Here’s a video of them mucking about:

Katie’s brood is huge, and simply cannot get enough food. I regularly run out but know they can also forage on their own. Anna (the human) calls them “the angry teenagers” because they get pissed off when we run out of duck chow:

The Good Mother Katie: two formal portraits.

What a lovely speculum I have!

This is the unnamed new interloper hen with a very dark bill. I haven’t seen her for two days and hope to Ceiling Cat that she’s not sitting on eggs nearby!

You can see how ravenous Katie’s teenagers are. Here they’ve finished their duck chow and are dabbling about on the muddy bank, looking for more noms. Aren’t they huge?

And we mustn’t forget the turtles, who come out in force when it’s sunny.

This big red-eared slider draped himself across the duck ramp for maximum exposure: