Friday, 16 March 2012

A lot of hot air!

I have just finished reading Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell. Another extraordinary book from an extraordinary writer. It is the title that has been reverberating in my mind: Cloud Atlas.

When you think about it, there can be no such thing. Clouds are so ephemeral, changing every second: forming, dividing, coalescing, dispersing, dissolving. These will o’ the wisps could never be captured in an atlas. Or could they?

Clouds have been, and remain, one of my passions. The result is that I have taken a fair few photographs of clouds over the years. Would such a collection be worthy of the being called a Cloud Atlas?

Properly to appreciate clouds you need two things: huge skies and lots of weather. Here, in the south western peninsula, we have both.

It seems to me that you are extremely unlikely to be able to appreciate the clouds above you if you live in a city. Obviously city dwellers can tell the difference between a sunny day and one where the sky is overcast or the sun is dodging behind clouds which are passing overhead but can they revel in the ever changing skyscape above them when their views must be limited by the buildings that surround them? I can’t answer that question as I have never lived in such an environment (well, only as a student to be more accurate and, then as now, students have things other than clouds on their minds). If you do, I would welcome your comment.

We get lots of weather here: by that I mean that it changes all the time and, regardless of the weather forecasts that have become far more accurate during my lifetime, these changes are very hard to predict. There are many parts of the world where the weather is a constant. The amount of media attention to weather forecasting is a good indicator. Here, in the United Kingdom, we are obsessed with forecasting and that says it all.

As I write, the sky is overcast. This, as far as Marcia and I are concerned, is the worst possible weather. Dull, depressing and boring. This is because we are sitting in an area of high pressure which is pretty unusual. Often high pressure brings clear blue skies but not at this time of the year when is seems to sit on the cloud and hold it in place.

It won’t be for long. Soon the depressions lining up in the Atlantic will move in and we shall see wind, rain and, of course, clouds.

Did you know that there is a Cloud Appreciation Society? They have over forty thousand members and a web site which, if you like clouds, you should look at it: click here. I am not a member as I see no need to belong to a society in order to appreciate one of nature’s great gifts.


Two matters to report this week.

As the tadpoles hatch they are moved from the ‛hatchery’ to the ‛nursery’. After two or three days of no more eggs hatching out, I assume that what remains is sterile. It is, however, jammed full of protein which should not be wasted so, albeit with some reluctance, the hatchery is emptied into the top pond. If any of the eggs are viable and hatch out, the tadpole is in its natural environment which is fine: if not it they (together with the jelly that surrounds them) will become food for some of the many carnivorous creatures that inhabit the pond. How many young tadpoles do we have in the nursery now? I really have no idea and they are far too small to be counted. Probably about the same as last year but we shall know when they get bigger.

A week or so old and they are still breathing through gills on either side of their bodies – one of the pair is visible on the right of the tadpole. If you look carefully, you can see the first signs of eyes appearing.

The second event was the result of pure luck. At this young age, tadpoles live on the algae that is found on the water plants. This year the plants from the bigger bottom pond seem to be carrying more algae than those from top pond so I hooked out some to add to the nursery. To my delight, I found it had strands of toad spawn wrapped around it. This has gone into a mini-hatchery and I hope to be able to help the toad population which is not thriving as it should.