Glossy Ibis in the Fens

Regular readers will know I’ve mentioned the Glossy Ibises that have seemingly taken up residence on our patch during the last year or more. There were three on the flooded farmland adjacent to Earith roundabout for a long time last winter. These are African/Mediterranean birds that seem to be spreading their wings more and more (see also Great White Egret, Little Egret, Cattle Egret). The Glossies we’re seeing here may well be hopping across from a breeding colony in Southern Spain, while the GWEs may be feeding on red crayfish in the lakes of northern France and then hopping across The Channel.

Anyway, there are now seven Glossies feeding and preening at RSPB Berry Fen just up the road from Earith. Happily, they were “showing well” from the footpaths in the sunshine today. I did a bit of photographic enhancement of this shot to show how the natural colours might show given even brighter African sunlight.

North Norfolk New Year

rs Sciencebase and myself often run away to the north Norfolk coast, originally it was just the quickest route to the beach for us, but then we started looking out for aves and this part of the country is so rich in birdlife you can’t help but visit again and again. On our short trip to Morston Quay between Xmas and New Year, we “ticked” more than 60 bird species, not counting the dozen or so extras on Blakeney Duck Pond. Here are a few scenic shots and some of the birds.

Morston Quay
On the way to Blakeney
Morston Quay
Morston Quay at dawn
Morston Quay
Morston Quay
Morston Quay at dusk
Morston Quay
Male Pintail, Blakeney Duck Pond
Female Goldeneye, Blakeney Duck Pond
Barnacle Goose, Blakeney Duck Pond
Cormorants, Blakeney
Male Goldeneye, Blakeney Duck Pond
One of 100 or so Curlew we saw, this one in Blakeney
Male Goldeneye, Blakeney Duck Pond
Grey Seal, Wells-next-the-Sea
70+ Snow Buntings, Holkham Gap (not all of them pictured!)
One of four Shore Larks at Holkham Gap, first time we’ve seen this species
1000s of Pink-footed Geese over Morston Quay (not all of them pictured!)

1. Bar-tailed Godwit
2. Barn Owl
3. Black-headed Gull
4. Black-tailed Godwit
5. Blackbird
6. Black Brant Goose
7. Blue Tit
8. Brent Goose
9. Buzzard
10. Canada Goose
11. Cetti’s Warbler (call)
12. Collared Dove
13. Common Gull
14. Coot
15. Cormorant
16. Curlew
17. Dunlin
18. Dunnock
19. Goldcrest (call)
20. Great Black-backed Gull
21. Great Tit
22. Greylag Goose
23. Herring Gull
24. House Sparrow
25. Jackdaw
26. Kestrel
27. Knot
28. Lapwing
29. Linnet
30. Little Egret
31. Little Grebe
32. Long-tailed Tit
33. Magpie
34. Mallard
35. Marsh Harrier
36. Meadow Pipit
37. Mute Swan
38. Oystercatcher
39. Pheasant
40. Pied Wagtail
41. Pink-footed Goose
42. Red Kite
43. Red-throated Diver
44. Redshank
45. Reed Bunting (call)
46. Robin
47. Sanderling
48. Shelduck
49. Shorelark
50. Shoveler
51. Skylark
52. Snow Bunting
53. Sparrowhawk
54. Starling
55. Teal
56. Tufted Duck
57. Water Pipit
58. Whooper Swan
59. Wigeon
60. Wood Pigeon
61. Wren

Artificial Art – Portraiture

Continuing with some more Wombo creations today, I selected a few friends and twitter contacts and used elements of their bio and usernames to create a portrait or pertinent pseudopainting for them

Classic FM’s Tim Lihoreau
雷竞技官网 ian and (ex)minister Clive-upon-Sea
Andrea T from C5 The Band
Keith “SteelFolk” Walker
Jenny “LabLit” Rohn
Cartoonist Martin Shovel
Asher Wolf
Ernesto Priego
Dog lover and Times columnist David Aaronovitch
Subatomic Karthi
Rob Finch
Journalist and Martian author Nicholas Booth
Jane Sutton of the RAE

Now taking requests on Twitter…first one Wombat for @HomoCarnula

For Michele who tweeted “Nooooooo” to the wombat
For computational chemist and baseball fan Joaquin Barroso

Artificial art with Wombo

The trendy AI app – Wombo – which seems to be going viral takes your words, lets you choose an art style and then generates a dream-like image from the combination. You may have seen the Rush-inpsired art I had it create in a previous post, but here are a few more created with eclectic word choices and picking from the various styles – Mystical, Dark Fantasy, Psychic, Steampunk, Synthwave etc

Tidal Life
The Cybermaid’s Tale
Doctor Who cocktails – Daleks on the Beach
Terraforming Mars for Xmas
Dancing with Darth
Not 50 Shades of Grey
The Immigrant Song

No dreaming spires
Disney doesn’t do science

Sheeran exhaustion
For Alan Hull
More 雷竞技官网 Tim
Anything but a self-portrait
Big in Japan

AI redesigns Rush the band

You can’t have missed the latest AI app – Wombo. It has various incarnations, one of which Wombo Dream (for Android and iOS) lets you type in a few words, choose a style (Mystical, Dark Fantasy, Psychic, Steampunk, Synthwave etc) and create a fantastical landscape or scene. It’s quite bizarre to watch it drawing together an algorithmic “artwork” from whatever scraps of graphical information are contained within the AI.

I tried a few odd, dream-like phrases, some rude words, and my own name to get a feel for what it could do, and then I thought I’d see what it would make of references to the Canadian rock band, Rush.

Rush on Ice
Rush on Ice
2112 – A year on
Taking a slow boat to the East
Closer to the Heart of Cygnus
Grace under Pressure
Seven seas of High
…thought I would be singing, but I’m tired, out of breath
On the wing
Analog kid grows up to be a digital man
High school halls and shopping malls
Winding up the steampunks

It’s not all Greek to me

UPDATE: By the way, it’s pronounced “Oh-me-cron” with the emphasis on the “Oh”, it’s not Ommy-Cron or any other variant on that theme. And, this isn’t just me making some random pronouncement, that’s how it was taught throughout science, classicists might beg to differ with their “oh-My-cron”, but that’s the Ancient Greek way, not the scientific way. More to the point, Oxford’s Professor Aris Katzourakis, an expert in SARS-CoV-2 and a Greek speaker, by virtue of his Greek parents had this to say in the Telegraph recently: “English speakers should aim for oh-me-cron, with the emphasis on the o.”

By now, we’ve all heard the phrase “variant of concern” referring to a new form of the coronavirus that causes COVID-19. Technically, these variants have mutations that alter how well the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) virus infects our cells. If the new form of the virus is of concern it is usually because the mutations in the spike protein on the surface of the virus are likely to make it more infectious, faster spreading and/or to worse symptoms or lead to more deaths.

The national and international health organisations assess new variants of which there are known to be hundreds of thousands, if not millions, on the basis of whether they show increased transmissibility, increased morbidity, increased mortality, increased risk of “long COVID”, ability to evade detection by diagnostic tests, decreased susceptibility to antiviral drugs, decreased susceptibility to neutralizing antibodies, ability to cause reinfections, ability to infect people who have been vaccinated, increased risk of multisystem inflammatory syndrome and long-haul COVID, increased impact on particular demographic or clinical groups.

The new variants were initially referred to by the name of the place where they were first identified, although each was given a technical name too to represent their genetic lineage. However, those scientific names, for example, B.1.1.529, are not particularly media friendly nor memorable to non-experts. As such, in May 2021, the World Health Organisation decided that variants of concern would be given a shorthand name using a letter of the Greek alphabet.

Readers will by now be fairly familiar with the first few letters of the Greek alphabet, if they weren’t already as we have already seen the following variants of concern, which used the first four letters of the Greek alphabet:

Alpha – B.1.1.7 (first identified in the UK)
Beta – B.1.351 (South Africa)
Gamma – P.1 (Brazil)
Delta – B.1.617.2 (India)

The current variant of concern that is spreading around the world is Omicron – B.1.1.529 (first identified by scientists in South African).

I’ve been asked several times by people who have some familiarity with the Greek alphabet as to why the WHO made a leap from Delta to Omicron. Well, there wasn’t a “leap” as such, there were variants that were labelled with some of the intermediate letters that didn’t turn out to be as problematic as anticipated and were not highlighted in the mainstream media. So, we did have the following variants: Epsilon (lineages B.1.429, B.1.427, CAL.20C), Zeta (P.2), Eta (B.1.525), Theta (P.3), Iota, (B.1.526), Kappa (B.1.617.1). Lambda (C.37), and Mu (B.1.621)

Nu and Xi have been skipped deliberately, the former because English speakers may pronounce it like the word “new” (it’s actually pronounced “nih” or “nee” and Xi because it resembles a common surname).

The next variant would likely be Pi, although that is a rather familiar symbol to many people and so they may well skip that one too. The last letter of the Greek alphabet is Omega (“big O” compare that to Omicron “little o”.

But, let us hope that we stifle this virus long before we run out of Greek letters…

File:Greek alphabet (Jason Davey).png

Panto time again? Oh, yes it is!

We had to skip our annual panto in 2020, but this year we’re bigger, bolder, and brassier than ever with Treasure Island! Oh yes we are! Here are a few of my snaps (in no particular order) from the orchestra pit where I’m playing guitar, as usual. Find out more about Cottenham Theatre Workshop.

Pit band (photo by Darren White)
Pit Band (L-R) – Dave, Rob, Barbara, Adam, Christian (not pictured understudy drummer John and clarinet understudy Tanara
Gary Unwin-Riches is Long John Silver
Gary Unwin-Riches is Long John Silver
Liz Mayne as Jim Hawkins
Liz Mayne as Jim Hawkins
Chrissie Kelby is Jenny Trelawney
Chrissie Kelby is Jenny Trelawney
Matt Unwin as Mrs Hawkins
Matt Unwin as Mrs Hawkins
Amy Unwin as Mrs Henderson
Amy Unwin as Mrs Henderson

Mark Nolan as Bloodboiler
Mark Nolan as Bloodboiler

Tricia Bradley as Mrs Battersby (left) and Helen McCallum as WI member
Tricia Bradley as Mrs Battersby (left) and Helen McCallum as WI member
Liz Mayne as Jim Hawkins
Liz Mayne as Jim Hawkins
Duncan McCallum as Goth
Duncan McCallum as Goth

John Unwin as Squire Trelawney (left)
John Unwin as Squire Trelawney (left)
Tricia Bradley is Mrs Battersby
Tricia Bradley is Mrs Battersby

Paul Mapp is Little Ron (left)
Paul Mapp is Little Ron (left)
Mary Garside is Polly the Parrot
Mary Garside is Polly the Parrot

Mark Nolan is Billy Bones
Mark Nolan is Billy Bones
Natalia Thorn Coe is Seadog Sam (left) and Nikki Kerss is Seaweed Willy
Natalia Thorn Coe is Seadog Sam (left) and Nikki Kerss is Seaweed Willy

Nathalie Morgan is Georgette Souflet
Nathalie Morgan is Georgette Souflet

Rachel Shore as Mrs Parker (right)
Rachel Shore as Mrs Parker (right)

Ben Shimmens is Gizzard Slitter (4th from left)
Ben Shimmens is Gizzard Slitter (4th from left)
Choreography by Megan Swann (right)
Choreography by Megan Swann (right)
Helen McCallum as Benjamina Gunn
Helen McCallum as Benjamina Gunn
Silver's other bird
Silver’s other bird

Aunty Babs our amazing musical director
Aunty Babs our amazing musical director
Where would the world be without spotted dick?
Where would the world be without spotted dick?

Sunny Suffolk – Lackford Lakes

Paid just our second visit of the year to Lackford Lakes Nature Reserve in the hope of seeing the Siskins that had been reported there this week. We stopped off at the ringing hut where two of the Suffolk Wildlife Trust team had netted various birds (Treecreeper, Blue, Great and Marsh Tits, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Robin, and others) and were carefully recording the recatches and ringing any new catches for their conservation efforts.

So, what did we see on the day? 46 species not in order of sighting but loosely grouped:

  1. Siskin
  2. Goldfinch
  3. Redpoll
  4. Great Tit
  5. Blue Tit
  6. Long-tailed Tit
  7. Coal Tit
  8. Marsh Tit
  9. Dunnock
  10. Chaffinch
  11. Robin
  12. Nuthatch
  13. Wren
  14. Treecreeper
  15. Blackbird
  16. Song Thrush
  17. Starling
  18. Lapwing
  19. Green Woodpecker
  20. Sparrowhawk
  21. Common Buzzard
  22. Kestrel
  23. Cormorant
  24. Goldeneye
  25. Mallard
  26. Tufted Duck
  27. Gadwall
  28. Wigeon
  29. Pochard
  30. Shelduck
  31. Shoveller
  32. Little Grebe
  33. Moorhen
  34. Coot
  35. Greylag Goose
  36. Canada Goose
  37. Egyptian Goose
  38. Grey Heron
  39. Black-headed Gull
  40. Lesser Black-backed Gull
  41. Great Black-backed Gull
  42. Jay
  43. Rook
  44. Jackdaw
  45. Wood Pigeon
  46. Collared Dove
Treecreeper being ringed
Treecreeper being ringed
Blue Tit
Blue Tit
Marsh Tit
Marsh Tit
Male Siskin (left) and what looks like two Redpolls)
Male Siskin (left) and what looks like two Redpolls). There were a couple of dozen Siskins around.