Cranes at Welney Wetland Centre

Today, we took our second trip of the year to WWT Welney. I checked what was “showing” before we set off. Common, or Eurasian, cranes (Grus grus) apparently, more than thirty of them. We saw a few a long way off from the main hide on arrival and then a couple of small flocks in flight later in the day from different vantage points on site.

Of the other birds sighted by others today, we saw: Goldfinch, Linnet, Meadow Pipit, Pied Wagtail, Tree Ssparrow, Marsh Harrier, Kestrel Greenshank, Black-tailed Godwit, Lapwing, Chiffchaff, Tufted Duck,  Pochard, Wigeon, Teal, Mallard, Greylag Goose, Canada Goose, Cormorant Grey Heron, and possibly Curlew Sandpiper (but it may well have been merely a Dunlin, in fact, it almost certainly was).

Long-tailed tit

In English we know Aegithalos caudatus as the long-tailed tit. It’s a tit-type passerine bird with a long tail. So much, so obvious. In Germany it’s Die Schwanzmeise, which literally translates as the “tail chick”…which perhaps hints at why Americans call tits chickadees and indeed in French, the long-tailed tit is known as la mésange à longue queue, the long tail chickadee.

However,  A caudatus is not a member of the Poecile genus like the Carolina chickadee, Black-capped chickadee, Mountain chickadee, etc. In North America many of the tit-like birds are chickadees, but they do have some of the same Poecile species as we have in the UK: Marsh tit and Willow tit, for instance. Wikipedia suggests that the term chickadee derives from the call made by the birds “chick-a-dee-dee-dee”. But that sounds like a reverse engineered explanation to me, better ask Mr Fields.

Bush tits, babblers and long-tailed tits…

Wedding anniversary celebrations island hopping along the Dalmation Coast of Croatia

Mr and Mrs Sciencebase have been celebrating their wedding anniversary in Croatia, hence the recent radio silence, we were also laid low on our return by an incubating aviation-acquired viral infection. Anyway, a quick snap of one of the beautiful cities we visited along Croatia’s Dalmatian coast, Pucišca on the island of Brac with its locally excavated limestone buildings and many “snowy” (as well as the more familiar Croatian terracotta) rooves.

Early morning, I hopped off our little, 16-berth boat to get some golden hour shots of the town (day before it had poured with rain), and almost didn’t make it back aboard, despite the captain assuring me I had “ten minutes, no worries”, I’d been gone perhaps three when I saw them starting to raise the gangplank, as it were.

Anyway, I got back on and was reunited with my bride and our many new friends and island hoppers aboard from Australia, Canada, New Zealand, Scotland, UK, and USA on our journey from Dubrovnik to Korcula, to the aforementioned Pucišca, Omiš, Bol (on the other side of Brac), Hvar, Mljet (with its national park) and back to Dubrovnik.

The public gallery of my photos is on Flickr, but you might also like to friend or follow me on Facebook for updates if you’re interested in Croatia, Dalmatia, Dubrovnik (and its Game of Thrones connection) and more…

Reviewing a BenQ “eye-care” monitor

It is quite timely that monitor manufacturer BenQ has just sent me their latest bit of kit to review. It is a 27-inch (68 cm) “eye-care” monitor. The device boasts that it addresses many of the problems facing home workers such as long periods of use, bright rooms, non-ideal environment and placement of monitors in home offices and so can help reduce the risk of eye strain, dry eyes, headaches, poor posture and neck and shoulder pain, and other problems some computer users face when using inappropriately sited monitors. There is mention of problems specifically associated with blue light from screens and monitors.

Having almost settled in with new digressive reading glasses – head-up focus at PC distance, eyes down focus for paperwork on the desk or phone, I was intrigued to see how it would feel to use such a monitor. On a point of order, I used to get awful headaches in my first publishing job working with paper manuscripts and proofs and accessing a mainframe computer via a VT100 terminal (one of those awful green light things). This was 1989, long before the web and although we had email and a database nothing was graphical in that office. Anyway, no headaches and no residual eyestrain almost thirty years later. So I’d no real need for a monitor that would reduce eyestrain but nevertheless willing to give it a go…

From the information, the monitor has “Brightness Intelligence”, detecting ambient light levels and colour “temperature” of surroundings and adjusting its output accordingly. It has different levels of blue output, specifically too, for different working conditions. I assume these can be overridden when one wants to calibrate for true colour work – photos, graphics, video editing, for instance.

The monitor is also flicker free (although I don’t think I’ve ever noticed flickering on any monitor I’ve used over that last three decades even with that old VT100 terminal). Maybe I am not consciously sensitive to that kind of flickering, although overhead mercury tube fluorescent lights do sometimes make me nauseous. My contact at the company suggested revealing flicker on my old monitor and the review monitor using a smartphone video capture. But, I am not entirely sure what that would prove other than the inadequacies of smartphones and frame refresh rate. If you don’t perceive/see an issue, then it’s not really an issue in this case.

An extra feature that I have not seen in any other monitor is smart focusing whereby the Window being used at any given time is highlighted more than other windows. How this works when one is working with side-by-side documents remains to be seen. Although the choice to focus on a given window is made by the user at any given time. However, my contact at BenQ tells me this is a function aimed at those watching video in a given window.

The eye-care monitor also has a High Dynamic Range (HDR) which means detail in the blacks and the highlights is more akin to how we perceive the world around us rather than the compressed world of photos and images, where very dark greys become smeary black and off-white highlights are simply blown out, as photographers would say. There is a greater colour palate than might ordinarily be found in a TV screen. That makes the computer monitor more suitable for high-resolution video rendering, and for 4K HDR gaming consoles than a lesser TV. Technically, the monitor boasts three times the contrast than normal panels, 33% greater brightness, and up to 93% DCI-p3 colour coverage. It can be setup for improved “eye-care” and for those who need high-quality video, graphics, photo editing and processing.

I am not entirely sure why the panel has a standard that makes the top lean forward further than the bottom of the screen, but more to the point there is no universal fixing bracket so I cannot install it on my adjustable cantilever desk arm and set it at the perfect height and angle for my posture and the way I work.

However, for me personally, there is a more problematic issue with such a large screen regardless of the quality or eye-care features. My new spectacles. They are digressive, which means when viewing something about 60 cm away straight on the view is nice and sharp but a movement of the eye left or right up or down as one might do frequently with a 68 cm monitor means that there is some distortion across my field of vision because the lenses are designed to focus closer towards the lower edge and indeed upper and lateral edges. Someone with 20:20 vision, or presumably conventional reading lenses, would not suffer this effect, but I am not sure I can work with the need to move my head so much to maintain focus, when I am used to a much narrower computer monitor, albeit with the same resolution. Of course, BenQ makes monitors from 21.5 to 32 inches in this range, so maybe there is a model that would suit my new specs.

The monitor is specifically a BenQ EW277HDR, which seems to be billed as a “video enjoyment” monitor elsewhere in the monitor market rather than focusing on the eye-care aspects.