Sunday, May 27, 2007

Monarchs and Viceroys

This is a Monarch butterfly, and they are regular in the backyard at the moment. Quite spectacular. You would think there'd be no problem in identifying such a distinctive insect, but you would be wrong, because there is another species, the Viceroy, which mimics the Monarch. Apparently - and I have no personal experience of this - the Monarch doesn't taste nice, so the Viceroy figures it will be left alone by birds that have had a bad mouthful of Monarch.
And here is the Viceroy:

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Mrs Trellis supports Total Abstinence

Dear President Putin, she writes, I find it odd that you should be hanging upside-down bottles in your backyard. Is it to symbolise your disapproval of the amount of bootleg vodka your compatriots put away of an evening? If so, you have my full support, even if you are an ex-Bullshievist and by all accounts a nasty piece of work when your dander is up. No offence.

Alcohol has been the ruin of many a good person, as witness this Scrote creature, who is clearly drunk when she writes her pieces, otherwise they would make sense. I am sure it would do her good if you were to hang HER upside down next to your empty vodka bottles, making sure she was in modest garb of course.

As to intoxicides, the late Mr Trellis was a confirmed Rechabite, thank goodness, and never allowed the demon drink to pass his lips, except for a large medicinal brandy when his tummy was out of sorts, which it was most evenings.

If you and Mrs P are ever in North Wales, please call by and I will try to make you feel at home with a soup of boiled cabbage, kulaks and rolled oats, although if you don't mind, I won't eat it myself, my constitution being very delicate following my recent abominable operation.

Yours respectably
Blodwen Trellis, Mrs, Widow, Retired

Friday, May 25, 2007

Backyard Birds Rule!

That on the left is a hummingbird feeder. You fill the bottle part with a 1:4 mix of water and ordinary white sugar, and, in theory, the birds feed from the red tray below which has four or so access holes. Because ants are a problem, you need to add the upper gizmo, which is filled with water (ants won't cross water).
And this morning, a female Anna's Hummingbird was feeding at the feeder! The exclamation mark is necessary because at this time of year, there is an abundance of natural nectar: the jacarandas and bottle-brush trees are in full bloom, along with many other flowering plants I can't put a name to.
I have also put up a feeder containing sunflower hearts, but am not optimistic I will get much more than alien House Sparrows.
I am now working on a diy fruit feeder in the hope of attracting the orioles (Bullock's and Hooded, you will recall) into the garden. Watch this space.
New bird for the garden list yesterday: Warbling Vireo, characterised by being featureless except for a faint supercilium. I guess it warbles good, though.

Trellis on age

Once again, we are grateful to Mrs Trellis for her insights.
Dear Hillary Clitton
, she writes, I had no idea you were so old. You only look about 65, although I guess that could be the lighting. Anyway, I want you to know that I admire you very much the way you stood by your husband despite that hussy Lewinski trying to bite the buttons off his trousers. That took real courage, I mean, you standing by your hubby, not her trying to bite his buttons off.
And now, as I understand it, you hope to be the next President of the United States. Well, all I can say is, it doesn't seem much of a job to me, what with having to fight Arabs all over the place and arguing with people about money all the time. I think you would be much better off going into a nice ladylike profession like maybe becoming a Agony Aunt. After all, when it comes to button-munching and stuff, nobody's had more experience than you.
Yours sympathically
Blodwen Trellis, Mrs, Widow, Retired

How old??

The local foodstore, Gala, about four blocks from here, is staffed by Mexicans. This evening, the girl at the checkout asked me "How many years you have?" I told her seventy. Then she said "Every time I look at you, I think my grandfather." Pause, then: "He is old like you." Pause, then: "But you look..." followed by a gesture suggesting she thought me to be in pretty good shape. I was so grateful for this.
My grandson Harry regularly pulls my ears and tells me the lobes are SOOOOO big, and then pulls at my throat and tells me my skin is SOOOOOO loose.
What the Mexican checkout girl and my grandson don't realise is that I am still 21 underneath. Mind you, my knees don't agree: pass the glucosamine gel, somebody.
PS Do remember, fans, that my birthday is coming up shortly on June 5. Whatever you send, I want you to know it's not the thought, it's the present that counts. :-)

Thursday, May 24, 2007

The Trellis Putsch

Dear Readers, I don't wish to appear unkind, but I do think that the originator of this blog, Mrs Scrote, whoever she may be, has "lost the pot" as you might say, all this nonsense about birds and all, when the world is crying out for guidance on serious issues like Gordon Brown and crossstitch and the best dressing to put on a plum omelette.
So, equally without appearing to be pushy, I have decided to take it upon myself to appropriate this blog and give you all the benefit, humbly speaking, of my vast experience of such issues as the above.
So, to business. I, well, I have no opinion about G Brown, except to say that he should get his chin fixed.
I have tried crossstitch, but have lost my enthusiasm for samplers as they all seem to be about cathedrals, and me, being a Methodist (Old Wesleyan) am not in sympathy with all that idletolatory, not even the Verging Mary, despite her being a single-parent and a feminist and all.

So, if you will allow, I will confine myself for the moment to matters culinary. Having become a vegetarian (not a vegan, mind you: I couldn't do without my bedtime snack of cheese-flavoured potato crisps), I cannot tell you much about how to cook meat, except that it is important to remove it from the animal before you cook it.

What I can tell you is that one of the glories of being of Welsh extraction is that you will never want for leeks. I do mine in a fashion which I believe in posh French restaurants they call Greeks au Latin.

Thank you for reading my little effort. If any of you out there are widows retired like me, perhaps we can exchange notes sometime. I have found some very nice ways of passing winter evenings without the benefit of a husband, much as I miss the late Mr Trellis. But he never was much for the hot-water-bottle side of marriage, if you know what I mean.

Convergent Evolution

The Audubon lecture last Saturday included a lot about convergent evolution, whereby unrelated families develop in similar ways in different biogeographical regions. A good example are the Old World Oriolidae and the New World Icteridae. Species within these families have occupied similar eco-niches and have converged remarkably: similar gaudy plumage, hammock nests, distinctive oriole-like calls, even diets are similar.
I am not clever enough to say any more about convergent evolution, but I can describe some striking similarities of birds which may not even be related at the level of Orders.
An example: the local flycatcher, the Black Phoebe, in the garden waits and watches and pounces, just like our European Robin. A party of Bushtits flit one after the other through the shrubs, just like a party of Long-tailed Tits. The Icterid Brewer's Blackbirds in noisy flocks bustling busily wherever there is a food supply: they could be Starlings (the first time I saw them, I thought they were a local species of starling).
But there are, of course, local species which have no direct counterpart in the Old World. One of my favourites is the Northern Mockingbird (see picture). Plain grey it is true, but when it flies it flashes huge patches of white in its wings. Its name, though, tells you most about it: it is a a restless chatterer with a song that seems to be a medley of everything it has ever heard. It's only a matter of time before our local Mockingbird starts twittering like our Budgerigar.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Mrs T praises Bechuanaland, sort of

Dear Seretse Khama, she writes, I and the late Mr Trellis followed your career with great interest, mainly because we had a nephew who worked for a while in what was then Bechuanaland, and who sent us postcards of the Kalahari every month. All that sand and thorn trees. It looks a very boring place, begging your pardon.
He told us what a fine ruler you were, etc, and how you didn't believe in aparthideness, whatever that was.
Thank you for telling us about Mrs Ramotswe, and please tell her that if she is ever in North Wales, she is welcome in my house for a cup of tea and a slice of bara brith any time. Is she black, by the way? Not that it matters, you understand, but I have to prepare the neighbours, they never having seen anything foreign, except for the occasional English person, who, as you know, you can't trust, even if they are white.
Yours respectively
Blodwen Trellis, Mrs, Widow, Retired.

Western Tanager

Look at this beauty, a Western Tanager that flashed across my line of vision while I was sitting in the backyard a couple of days ago.
He and Mrs Tanager seem to be nesting in a bushy kind of shrub across the road from us.
When I first saw that flash of golden yellow and black, I thought, well, you know what I thought. It's hard to shake off the Golden Oriole, dammit, even when you are 7000 miles away from it. I occasionally think of the manuscript that is now sitting on the Poyser editor's desk, but so far the fan remains unsullied.
Apart from Tanagers, my life is enhanced by the children's 20-year-old Brazilian nanny, who has a sunny disposition and an even sunnier smile. Beats snap, crackle and pop first thing in the morning.

Four reasons to be happy

Right, sit up straight. I am going to give you four reasons to be happy.
A man called Alexander McCall Smith has written a series of books about the No 1 Ladies' Detective Agency. It is set in Botswana, and the proprietor, Mma Precious Ramotswe, is someone you need to allow into your life. Get reading. It will cleanse your soul and improve your karma. It is the best stuff I have read in years.
The South Park Bar and Grill is only a few blocks from here, and they have live music Thursday-Sunday. Tonight, the owner, John Kopecky, played jazz guitar divinely, everything from Carlos A. Jobim to Johann S. Bach. with diversions via F. Chopin, S.Wonder and C. Porter. Get over there, chew on a steak and enjoy the music. How did I manage to neglect jazz for all this time. Shame on me!
A Black Phoebe visits the backyard regularly. It is a flycatcher and is the equivalent of the British robin in its familiarity. There are many flycatchers here, including the Tyrannus Kingbirds and the impossible-to-separate Empidonax, so it is a great relief to have an easy -peasy Phoebe about the place. See the pic.
You want a FOURTH reason to be happy? Aren't three enough? OK, excellent wine here costs the equivalent of two pounds a bottle. Can't be bad.

Tomorrow I am going with my lovely friend V to a banquet, the annual wingding of the local chapter of the Audubon Society. Just think: nobody will ask me about Swifts, Barn Owls or Orioles. But, I will tell them anyway: me and my light don't do bushels.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Mrs Trellis feeds the birds

Dear Terry Wogan, she writes, I had no idea you were interested in birds, you being so busy with the Eurovision Soup Contest and all. I too love our little feathered friends and I do my best to attract them into my garden, mostly because I know how much the cat loves to have birds around. You might be able to help me with a little problem, though. I recently became a committed vegetarian, and it pains me to see Blackbirds pulling huge worms out of the lawn and thrusting them down the throats of their innocent babies. It is no example to set to children, is it?
Do you know of a suitable vegetarian substitute that I could put out for them? I have tried macaroni, but the birds ignore it unless I pour a bolognese sauce over it, which really defeats the object. And the clever little devils know when I use TSP instead of mincemeat.
Mr Trellis, my late husband, had a proverb which you might like to work into one of your TV shows during the boring bits: "It's the early worm that gets eaten first." No need to acknowledge the source, as Mr Trellis, being dead, is in no position to object.
Yours etc
Blodwen Trellis, Mrs, Widow, Retired

Monday, May 14, 2007


Another stunning sight in the backyard here in San Diego is the constant to-ing and fro-ing of the resident hummingbird, Anna's Hummingbird. It seems we have a pair thinking about nesting in the bougainvillea - and who can blame them?
As soon as I can get to the Birdwatcher's Shop in Julian, which I will do next week, I will set up a couple of hummingbird feeders. Who knows, we might attract the other two summer regulars, Costa's and Black-chinned?
For other species, I would need to make a trip to SE Arizona, where a family called Patton have set up a mega feeding station for hummers. It is where every birder goes to get their annual ticks - a bit like visiting Lakenheath to tick off your annual Golden Oriole or Weeting Heath for Stone Curlew. But, you know me, I usually wait for the birds to visit me. Lazy, or what?!

Friday, May 11, 2007

Another day, another dendroica

This little beauty, Townsend's Warbler, put in an appearance this morning in the Black Acacia. It's spring migration time, and most of these warblers will have moved through by the end of the month. This coming Sunday, I am going on a proper birding outing to a place called Rose Canyon, but in the meantime, I shall sit in the backyard staring into the foliage and hoping for something new.

Wilson's Warbler

North America has a slather of warblers (genus Dendroica) that are basically bright canary yellow. They are about the size of our Willow Warblers, and behave in a similar way, that is, they are leaf gleaners. My favourite (favorite?) is Wilson's Warbler, mostly because I love its yarmulka, that kipa-like black cap that is so reminiscent of the skullcap worn by Jews and the Pope, who is kind of Jewish by descent.
It's a smashing little bird, as restless as a Goldcrest as it flits through the foliage of the Black Acacia in search of insects. There are other dendroicas up there too, mostly the sensibly-named Yellow Warbler, but after a while, I stop trying to identify them all. I just take another sip of the grapejuice and thank God for the great job he did when he decided to sprinkle the planet with birds.

Mrs T wonders about reindeers

Dear Richard Branson, she writes, I loved your piece about reindeer, one of my favourite animals, specially at Christmas. The thrill of their hooves pattering on the roof, etc, a symbol of childlike innocence - but you know all about that, being a virgin yourself. I was a little mystified, though, to be honest, about the reference to rowlocks. Aren't they something on boats? I hesitate to cross swords with a man who has airplanes, trains and hot-air balloons galore at his disposal, but I think you should check about reindeer having rowlocks, roasted or otherwise. It's a bit like describing tees as something to rest your balls on when you drive...
Yours, etc, Blodwen Trellis, Widow retired.

Capricious chicken

If America is a melting pot, California is a meltdown pot, at least judging by my experience this evening. I went to a local pizza house that has a restaurant in back. The owners are Iraqi Chaldean Christians, the food is approximately Italian, the waitress who served me was Bolivian. There was a huge TV screen at the far end of the room playing what I took to be American basketball (enormous black men with small heads, is that a requirement?). And the live music was, wait for it: Irish folk - a scratchy violin played by a scratchy lady, accompanied by a guitarist who looked as if he wished he was back in Connemara.I had Pollo Capriccioso, which turned out to be bits of tasty chicken capriciously hiding under a mountain of spaghetti.
That's how it is with your true Chaldean.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Santa Ana

I am in the middle of a Santa Ana, and trying to understand how it works. When I was in Switzerland, I experienced the equivalent, the Voehn, and didn't really understand that either. In Libya, I nearly melted under their equivalent, the Gibeli, which just means the south wind.
Wind come from south, desert area, which mean plenty hot wind melt white man brain etc. It - wind not brain - climb over mountain range, increase pressure - or something like that.
By the time the wind reaches you on the other side of the mountain, it is hot enough to roast the rowlocks off a reindeer.Under the Voehn, people get ratty, suicidal, the number of road accidents increases.
Here, under the Californian Santa Ana, I am taking no chances: I am spending my time in the back garden in the shade of a Black Acacia, working my way through the products of the Napa Valley vineyards. When it comes to meteorological phenomena, I am real cool.