Monday, April 10, 2006

Flowers, dust, and birds

Today as I was cycling to meet a friend I took some pictures of cherry blossoms in the little parks I passed. Unfortunately the sky was not blue today. It was not blue yesterday either. It was a mucky yellow. It is the famous yellow dust, blowing in from China, and has been awful the last couple of days. Even buildings quite near our house looked hazy. It made me feel as though I needed to clean my contact lenses.

I thought this was just desert dust, but I found an editorial in The Korea Times that says that this dust has been found to contain dioxin and heavy metals. Perhaps we should all be wearing masks. Yesterday it was so bad you could taste it.

Anyway, this meant that taking pictures of gorgeous cherry blossoms against a clear blue sky was out of the question. There is no clear blue sky. There is a revolting haze. However, I noticed that cherry blossoms have a charming way of growing, sometimes, directly out of the tree trunk, so I took photos of that, instead.

As I was cycling along I saw something else rather amazing that I was unable to photograph. I actually had the camera hanging around my neck at the time, but it happened too quickly, and besides, I was too busy gaping. It was a crow, flying across the road to land on someone's roof. It was a flat roof, and I couldn't see what it did when it got there. But what made me gape was that the crow had a wire coat hanger dangling from its beak. It looked really odd. When it landed on the roof I couldn't see it anymore, but I heard it drop the coat hanger, then clatter around a bit adjusting the position of the hanger, and then it appeared on the edge of the roof looking purposeful and flew off again, presumably to look for another coat hanger.

Crows use coat hangers to make nests. I can't imagine they are very comfortable nests, but apparently crows do not agree with me. Here is a picture of a coat hanger nest, from the Japan Times. (The accompanying story requires registration (free), but you can see the picture without registering. I suggest using Bugmenot if you don't want to register but do want to read the story.)

Coat-hanger-carrying crows can't be that unusual a sight, but I had never seen one before. I wish I'd been quicker with the camera.

I did, later, get a picture of a sparrow which appeared to be eating cherry blossoms. I don't suppose it really was eating cherry blossoms, but it was very enthusiastic about whatever it had found.

The other pictures I took today were of the erica tree/bush (I thought it was a bush, but it seems to be growing into a tree, oops) in our garden. I used the macro lens for this photo, and it looks unfamiliar so close up.

Tomorrow I meet another bunch of new students. This is at the place I cycle to, and the forecast is for rain. I hope they don't mind a slightly soggy teacher.

Time for bed!


Anonymous said...

In this part of North Carolina, our skies have been yellow for the last week also--for completely different reasons. This area is filled with long-leaf pine trees and for a week or so every spring, they drop their pollen and the yellow covers everything until a couple of rains clear it away.

Good luck with your new semester!

kenju said...

We have the same pollen, and it will get worse before it gets better. Thankfully, it doesn't have dioxin!

That nest is horrifying! I can't imagine how uncomfortable it would be.

Anonymous said...

The coat-hanger nest seems to be a phenomenon if not unique to Japan, certainly more prolific there. Crows are very bright birds and the likelihood is that it is learnt behaviour among the species (which according to Wikipedia appear to be a Jungle Crow).

PS - Where can I get a MAN STUPIDITY t-shirt? It would help me out on numerous occasions.

Anonymous said...

I live in The Far North where, lo and behold, there are no crows, only ravens. Quote poetic, and now I am going to investigate whether ravens make coat hanger nests (though in The Far North they wouldn't need to, now would they). Ah, well, salute the adaptability of crows.

Anonymous said...

Hey anaglyph, let's get badaunt to start a side business selling Man Stupidity shirts---enough for badaunt to retire on, non?

Anonymous said...

I'm searching the Internets to find out what an Erica tree is.

Osiris's coffin, oddly enough got swallowed up by one.

And Jesus may have given the name "Lazarus" as a reference to Osiris, who also rose from the dead.

So as you can see it is important to find out what an Erica tree is. ;-)