Saturday, 31 January 2009

The Life of Birds

Life Of Birds

Life Of Birds

This 10-episode series by David Attenborough is spellbinding. Find out all about birds' evolution from winged dinosaurs; flight; the many uses and adaptations of feathers; the huge diversity of appearance, anatomy and behavior in the bird world.

And needless to say it's crammed with amazing footage (you haven't lived until you've seen the sea-eagles duelling in mid-air, or the black heron wrapping its wings around its head so it can see better, or the crested grebes doing their walk-on-water courtship dance).

One of my favourite examples of bird ingenuity was the New Caledonian crow, which shapes a broken-off twig to fish for grubs inside tree-bark. The grubs can't do much to defend themselves except bite, and the crow uses this behavior to its advantage: the crow pokes the grub with the twig until it bites the twig, then the crow withdraws the twig with the grub still attached, and eats it.

Another amazing behavior is that of Japanese crows which drop very hard nuts on the road so that they are crushed by passing traffic, and they retrieve the crushed nuts by waiting to cross the road with pedestrians.

There's so much more amazing stuff, some of which is described on the Life of Birds website.

It has this on the making of the programme:

""The Life of Birds" took three years to make at a cost of $15 million. Sir David Attenborough travelled 256,000 miles during filming - 10 times round the Earth. The production employed 48 cameramen and camerawomen, many of them battle-hardened veterans of overseas wildlife filming, working in 42 countries on five continents. They used up 200 miles of film on 300 bird subjects. "

You can read the whole article here.

And you can buy the entire Life of Birds series on DVD at Fishpond, here.

And today the BBC has some amazing footage of a flock of 20,000 starlings formation-flying in Gloucestershire. This has to be seen to be believed, go take a look!

Friday, 30 January 2009

Warning: unwrapped vegetables

OK, it's over-the-top, it's goofy, but I love it!

All my life I've been vegetarian, and people have seen that as stupid, crazy, objectionable, provoking, laughable, pitiable, a nuisance...the only people who've found it in the least bit sexy were other vegetarians.

Sky voyage

In this picture, part of Graham Bennett's sculpture Reasons for Voyaging sets off into the altocumulous undulatus (clouds). Outside the Christchurch City Art Gallery.

Image copyright 2009 Grace Dalley, all rights reserved.

Thursday, 29 January 2009

Glass Invitational NZ at Canterbury Museum

Gallia Amsel: West Coast Surf 17 (2008), cast glass, sandblasted, acid etched & polished

The annual Glass Invitational NZ runs until February 8th at the Robert McDougall Gallery in the Botanic Gardens, and if you haven't seen it yet, you should get down there. It's a small but diverse show.

Particularly interesting to me were:

Elizabeth Thomson's Another Green World series of wall pieces, where spiny microbial forms emerge from depressions in a gently-moulded green landscape, which resembles 1950s upholstery.

Stephen Bradbourne's White linear bottles and White linear frond form, which are stunningly displayed in a black room by themselves, on a black pedestal with lights illuminating the white forms from below, so they glow. The glowing gourd-like bottle forms seemed full of life.

Elizabeth McClure's Domestic Science series, of scientific glassware decorated with floral and leafy patterns. The decoration is in some cases sandblasted onto the surface of the beakers and jars, and in some cases applied, creating the appearance of burnout velvet. The overall effect is subtly disquieting, a disconcerting mix of the clinical with the domestic.

Jim Dennison and Leanne Williams' Sophora Chandeliers, where cast kowhai blooms are suspended from glass brackets. I don't know if downlighting for these pieces was not available in this gallery, but they were displayed each with a glaring bulb in the centre, which destroyed the subtle play of light within the pieces that you can see on the website.

You can see all the pieces in the show illustrated here. But go and see it if you can, you get a lot more from walking around the artworks than you do from just looking at photos of them.

Please wait while your sky is cleaned

OK, so it was actually a chance grouping of cirrocumulus (the puffy clouds) with cirrostratus (the streaks), but pretty cool, don't you think?

Images copyright 2009 Grace Dalley, all rights reserved.

Saturday, 24 January 2009

New Zealand landscapes: Northland to Antarctica

There have been a lot of books published about the New Zealand landscape, but none are like this one! Grant Sheehan has assembled a stunning collection of fresh images and new angles on areas he obviously knows intimately. Sheehan's landscapes are not the sort you find on postcards; instead, he picks out rich colours and textures: lichen on a fence, crops in a field, layers in rock, reflections in water, clouds soaring in the sky. He captures the atmosphere of a place more than recording its landmarks.

Grant Sheehan's images are perfectly complemented by a CD of son Rhian Sheehan's ambient music, included with the book. Rhian Sheehan's spacious soundscapes recall Brian Eno in his
Music for Airports period: they're lush but subtle, and they fit the New Zealand landscape so well.

You can order the book from the publisher, Phantom House, here.
I hope the book is a wild success for the Sheehans -- it deserves to be.

You can find out more on Rhian Sheehan's music
here, and you can listen on his MySpace page.
And here's a video to be going on with:

Lenticular clouds

Summertime in Canterbury is a great time for lenticular clouds - those lens-shaped clouds that form downwind of a mountain range because of air turbulence. Lenticular clouds are beautiful and strange. I'd love to take as good a picture of them as this one by Wairarapa photographer Chris Picking!

Images copyright Grace Dalley, all rights reserved.