Tomorrow I’m going to Spain for three weeks. I expect I’ll get to an internet café and blog something sooner or later, but I don’t know when that’s likely to be. I’m planning to keep napowrimoing, and I’ll post them when I get the chance.

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#3 – Cloisonné Flycatcher

I think there’s a good poem somewhere in the idea of a field-guide. This is not that poem; I would need to spend some more time working out what overall effect to go for. But that’s napowrimo for you; can’t afford to think things through.

Cloisonné Flycatcher Muscicapa umbraticola

L11-27cm Nests in dense clumps of burdock or chervil, under the eaves of hospices, or in the crevices of drystone walls of slate or limestone. A scarce autumnal visitor to Northern Europe; in Britain confined to Renfrewshire and the Welsh Marches. Sometimes seen on migration hunting for spiders along canal towpaths.

Identification Smallish flycatcher with upright stance and fretful manner. ♂ made unmistakable by tarblack head, lilac throat and poppyred primaries fringed with gold. The ♀, a muted greyish-brown, is sometimes mistaken for Concrete Starling, Dingy Swift or Broad-beaked Warbler, but distinguishable by ticcing head motion and skulking habit.

Voice Generally quiet. Alarm call a rasping frep-frep. Song, delivered from a thorn or chimney-top, a slow, tuneless ‘clü-clü.. cli ti titi-tu’ (‘Baker, Baker, tell me where I am’).


From the IHT, via Londonist:

School officials in a Florida county said they were concerned about terrorism when they decided to keep a high school band from marching in a London parade, and now British officials are telling travelers that Fort Myers is no safe haven, either.
Local officials fear that the dispute could cost Lee County, where Fort Myers is situated, millions in lost tourism dollars.
The Fort Myers High School band was invited to march in London’s 2007 New Year’s Day parade, but district administrators rejected the trip, citing the threat of terrorism in Europe.
“Perhaps the superintendent is being overly cautious in this regard,” said Florida’s governor, Jeb Bush.
Parade officials in London planned to issue a statement to the media warning British travelers about Fort Myers’s crime and homicide rates, Lee County’s record number of traffic deaths in 2005 and the danger of “catastrophic hurricanes.”

After 200 million years of abstinence…

An interesting story about darwinulids. As far as anyone could tell, darwinulids (a type of crustacean) had been reproducing exclusively asexually for 200,000,000 years, but now a researcher has found 3 male specimens, which implies that at least one darwinulid species has sex.

Sex is a bit mysterious in evolutionary terms because it’s so much more efficient to reproduce asexually. Quite apart from the time-consuming business of finding a mate, sexual reproduction needs twice as many adults to produce the same number of offspring, and when you do breed, only half your own genes end up in the child anyway. That’s a huge reproductive disadvantage; yet pretty much all animals have sex. So it must offer some kind of dramatic short-term advantage to compensate for that reduced breeding rate. Even animals like aphids, which mainly breed asexually (aphids are born pregnant!) occasionally produce a few males and breed sexually as well.

The most popular theory is apparently that it helps fight disease and parasites – read The Red Queen by Matt Ridley for the details – but certainly its omnipresence implies that sex serves some kind of vital role. Which makes it hard to explain the few groups of animals that seem to have been merrily getting along without for tens of millions of years. If it is confirmed that darwinulids have been secretly shagging away somewhere all along, it removes an anomaly. That still leaves the marvellously named bdelloid rotifers, who have apparently been holding out for 40,000,000 years.

Mask of the Week

I just realised I forgot to do a mask on Saturday. I’ve now done over six month’s worth and I’m about to go away for a few weeks, so it may be a convenient time to drw a line under the feature. I’ll see how I feel when I get back. In the meantime, this is the 3M™ High Fluid Resistant Surgical Mask:

“These surgical masks meet ASTM highest level of fluid resistance (160 mm Hg), to help reduce exposure of the wearer to blood and body fluids, large particle droplets and aerosolized fluids.”

#2 – Epigram

Not in good poetry-writing form today, so this will have to do:


Footballers are messengers of death;
a few short years from clear-eyed youth
to stiff and out of breath.