Wednesday, May 4, 2016

feeding baby

The peregrine falcons have once again nested at the Sheraton Hotel in downtown Hamilton. This year there are four eggs! This little one hatched on April 28th; still waiting for the other three siblings.
Unfortunately for us, Lily has for the second year, chosen the wrong end of the ledge to set up her nest. The other side would give the camera a perfect view of the eggs and hatchings.
And, unfortunately for Lily, there was snow in early April, but she  endured and stoically keep her eggs warm.

There have been peregrines nesting on the 18th floor of the hotel since 1994 and I became addicted to the falcon cam around 1999. Finally, with more flexible time on my hands, I thought I'd volunteer for FalconWatch where groups of people keep watch over the fledgling chicks to keep track of their movements and feedings, and most importantly are on hand in case something goes wrong and a chick needs help. They are navigating a busy downtown core of a large city after all.
I thought a two hour shift once a week or so. After the first outing, I was hooked and ended up going several times a week and was almost sad when it ended once the chicks were flying and feeding well on their own.
I was rather grateful that last year there were only two chicks to keep track of. 
But with the possibility of four... well, I'll keep you informed!
linking with Our World Tuesday

Sunday, April 24, 2016


When thinking of invertebrates, my mind comes up with nasty things like beetles or spiders, or pretty things like butterflies. But, coral is also an invertebrate. It is not a plant, as many might assume. They are related to jellyfish and sea anemones. I did not know that.
I found this sheet in a $1 box, so was surprised when I found out later that it was only issued in 2015. The denomination is the Eastern Caribbean dollar 
(currency for Antigua & Barbuda and also Dominica, St Vincent & The Grenadines, St Kitts & Nevis, St Lucia, Grenada, Anguilla & Montserrat). 
At the moment 1 XCD = 0.46 CAD or 0.37 USD, 0.25 GBP, and 0.32 EUR
Coral reefs account for less than 1% of the planet's marine ecosystem while supporting nearly 25% of ocean life. A coral group is a colony of many thousands of nearly identical polyps and each polyp is a sac-like animal that is only a few centimetres long. They form when these polyps attach themselves to a rock or the sea floor. They then divide into thousands of clones. Each polyp excretes a calcium carbonate at their base which forms an exoskeleton where they attach themselves to each other and over several generations they form a larger skeleton or colony. Over hundreds and thousands of years, these colonies will join together to form a reef. Some reefs are known to be 50 millions years old.  The polyps themselves are translucent and they get these brilliant hues from the algae they host. They are carnivores and feed on zooplankton and small fish.

for more spineless creatures, check out Sunday Stamps

Monday, April 18, 2016


I have seen several of these postcards from Belarus and have even been lucky enough to receive some. But, really I had no idea what this gnome like creature was all about. Was he part of some Russian fairy tale? And why is he only in Belarus and not Russia? The variety of cards didn't seem to suggest a story line, but he does appear in many settings. Maybe he is part of the Belarus tourist industry that has taken off on a life of its own?

Finally, I realize that this creature is known as Damavik.

and this particular Damavik is the creation of a Postcrossing postcard site that specializes in Belarus artists for their cards. if you look up the website (Vanilla Tree Vale) you can find out more about him.
He is a Belarusian folklore character, similar to the Russian Domovoi, (and other Polish, Ukrainian and Lithuanian versions) a house spirit, or elf. Traditionally, it is said that these elves inhabit every house and they help with the chores if treated well by the family.

This Damavik lives in a cozy country home and eats traditional Belarusian foods – his favourites are mushroom soup and potato pancakes.

 And by being a mascot of this postcard company, he sort of reminds me of the Travelocity gnome  as he travels around the countryside and visits such places as the Mir Castle (below) a birch forest (top) and collects mushrooms (second from top)

Sunday, April 17, 2016

mammals of the sea

This is a particularly fine souvenir sheet designed by Keith Martin is from 2000 and shows off a Blue Whale in the centre which is so big he takes up more space than four stamps allow! The other three stamps each have a fragment of the blue which helps to show the relative size of each of these mammals of the sea. On the bottom left is a Narwhal with its unicorn looking tusk who lives up in the Arctic. The top right has a Beluga with its permanent smile that lives in shallower waters like the mouth of the St Lawrence River. And, over on the top left, is the Bowhead which lives in the Arctic and sub-Arctic. The Blue lives in the Gulf of St Lawrence and also off the coasts of Nova Scotia and British Columbia.
The Narwhal and Beluga are both 'toothed whales' and as such will hunt and chase their food – fish, crab, squid – and when they catch something with their teeth, swallow it whole. The Blue and Bowhead, on the other hand, are known as 'baleen whales' for their keratin baleen plates that act like a comb to strain their food. While being some of the largest animals on earth, they end up eating some of the smallest creatures – plankton, krill, small schooling fish – sometimes by just swimming around with their mouths open. 

Here is another blue whale stamp – one that I don't have, but I just had to show it. As befits the largest animal, the stamp is both the largest in size and denomination of any Canadian stamp. It measures 128 mm x 49 mm (or, for those of us who still have little idea what a mm looks like, 5" x 2.9") and was designed by illustrator Suzanne Duranceau. Only 1,500,000 of them were printed, whereas 8,000,000 of the other whales were set loose on the public.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

weather wonders

I rather like the French name for this series of stamps – meteorlogical phenomena, though I guess we all 'wonder' at the weather. Is there a country that doesn't think they talk more about the weather than anyone else? These stamps were issued to coincide with the anniversary of 175 years of the first weather observatory.

This beautiful set came out in June 2015. It was designed by Kostas Tsetsekas and feature the works of five different photographers from across the country.
The lightning was captured in Manitoba by David Reede; the double rainbow was found in Quebec by Mike Grandmaison; the rare sundog, created by ice crystals in the sky was seen in Nunavut by Frank Reardon (that's the Arctic city of Iqaluit shown); in Alberta, Daryl Benson found some hoar frost; and finally, at the Cape Spear Lighthouse in Newfoundland, Geoff Whiteway was up early enough to see this morning fog.

see more weather phenomena - or just interesting skies - at Sunday Stamps

Sunday, April 3, 2016

old man of the mountain

If you haven't already seen the Old Man of the Mountain on a the cliffs of Cannon Mountain in the White Mountains of New Hampshire, then you are too late.

For, in 2003 he lost his face.
(as a troubling aside, I could have sworn this collapse happened maybe 3-4 years ago. but no amount of googling changed the fact that it was almost exactly 16 years ago - on May 3, 2003.)

His profile was first recorded in 1805 by a team of surveyors who were working in the Franconia Notch, though it is supposed that it was formed about 2,000 to 10,000 years ago after the last glacial period.
The formation was a series of red granite ledges carved by glaciers that when viewed from a specific spot had a distinct image of a stern old man with an easterly gaze. One ledge formed the chin, another his upper lip and a third his nose, with two further layers forming his forehead. When viewed from other locations in Franconia Notch, the same ledges had a rough and ragged look, but nothing that would make you think of 'the profile'. Throughout the 1900's efforts were made to keep the Old Man intact and in 1958 it underwent major repair work for improved weatherproofing. After the collapse, the cables, spikes and epoxy cement used in the repairs and attempts to keep erosion at bay were visible like a skeleton. None of the fallen rock was distinguishable from the other boulders where it fell.

Now, if you go, there is a Profile Plaza with a memorial (all paid for by private donations). There are seven profilers - described as being like upside down hockey sticks with bumpy bits - that when lined up with the cliff will give you an outline of the face as it would have been on the remaining mountain. Not quite the same, but many felt something had to be done for this state icon, to remember what once was. 
This 3¢ stamp from 1955 commemorates the 150th anniversary of the Old Man's discovery. For some unknown reason it uses the rarer plural term 'mountains'.  125,944,400 were printed.

see more mountainous images on Sunday Stamps II

here are pictures of the hockey stick profilers
courtesy of NH gov't and tripadvisor

Sunday, March 13, 2016

healthy service

Health Guards the Nation.  This 1958 stamp was the first one designed with a living model

A Tradition of Service
more nurses 
this Australian stamp shows Florence Nightingale (1820-1910) in the background behind a contemporary nurse of 1955.

And The System of Medicine
a doctor
William Osler (1849-1919)

considered one of the finest diagnosticians of his day, he created the first residency program for specialty training of physicians, and he was the first to bring medical students out of the lecture hall for bedside clinical training.

for more health services, check out Sunday Stamps

Sunday, March 6, 2016

four women

Germany has issued a series of definitive stamps for "Women in Germany" for an astonishing 17 years. The first stamp (with Clara Schumann) was issued in November 1986 and 38 women later the series ended with political activist Marie Juchaz, in January 2003. In 2005, the current flower series of definitives was started. If you are so inclined you can read about each of the women featured on the stamps here, though there are no pictures of the stamps.

The series began with West Germany, continued through the unification and eventually through the currency change from marks to euros. The stamps were designed by Gerd and Oliver Aretz, and each shows a sketched portrait of a woman famous in Germany.  Since not all of the women were actually born in Germany, the title of the series is Women in Germany.
These four women were amongst about two dozen stamps generously sent by a German postcrosser.
Two are from the Federal Republic of Germany and show the value in pfennig; 
two are from the unified Germany, with one showing the value in pfennig and euros and the other only in euros.

starting top right and moving clockwise,
the Clara Schumann (13 September 1819 - 20 May 1896) stamp (value 80 pf) was issued on November 13, 1986. She was a pianist and composer, although for many years she was not widely recognized for her compositions. Trained by her father to play by ear and to memorize, Clara was one of the first to perform publicly by memory. Her personal life was marred by tragedy - her husband, the composer Robert Schumann, and four of her eight children died before her (Robert and one of their sons died by suicide in an insane asylum) and she was left to help raise several of her grandchildren. She continued to give performances until 1891 and was deaf by the time she died of a stroke at age 76.

the Hildegard Knef (29 December 1925 - 1 February 2002) stamp (value 0,55 €) was issued December 27, 2002. She was an actor (stage and screen), singer, and writer (songs, as well as books and magazine articles). Among her more than 50 films was one called The Sinner (released in 1950) in which she had a brief nude scene that caused a scandal at the time and would later derail her Hollywood career. By the 1960's she had moved on to singing and had 23 records, writing several of her own songs. She was well-known for her "dusty voice" which was probably due to her long smoking habit. She died of a lung infection and suffered from emphysema.

the Therese Giehse (6 March 1898 - 3 March 1975) stamp (value 100 pf) was issued on November 10, 1988. She was an actress on stage, screen and in political cabaret. Being Jewish and left wing, she left Germany for exile in 1933 and would later marry the homosexual writer John Hampson in order to obtain a British passport. She was also good friends with German writers Thomas Mann and Bertold Brecht

the K├Ąte Strobel (23 July 1907 - 26 March 1996) stamp (value 110 pf / 0,56 €) was issued on 22 November 2000. She was a government minister with the Socialist Democratic Party from 1949 until her retirement in 1972. She was the leader of the Department of Health and promoted sex education which was at the time considered taboo.

read about more women honoured on stamps by visiting See it on a Postcard

Sunday, February 28, 2016

mysterious goat

In 1996, there was a series of zodiac stamps issued in Poland
 by artist Maciej Jedrysik. 
You can see more of his work at his website here. When I first came across this stamp, I had no idea what it was about. I still don't.  Googling koziorozec told me that it was Polish for 'capricorn'. In Poland, they use their own language for the signs of the zodiac, whereas in English we use the Latin names.
The stamp image still made no sense. You can barely see the horns of the goat peeking behind the piece of paper. What does a man sitting at a desk holding up a sheet of paper with eye holes have to do with goats or Capricorns?
It seems I am not alone in being confused. 
There are quite a few threads on several forums asking for clarification about this stamp, with no luck. Some of the others in the series, while still playful, are more recognizable as you can see in this set (courtesy of Erik Berndt flickr).  Aquarius, for instance is called 'waterman' (Wodnik) in Polish, and therefore shows a plumber. Aries (Baran) is using a 'battering ram'. Virgo (Panna) shows a maiden - but what is with the gears?
I'm sure many Poles found this series amusing, but for the rest of us it seems to be just confounding.

for more odd stamps, check out Sunday Stamps II

Sunday, February 14, 2016


This year's version of the Year of the Monkey stamps were designed by Albert Ng and Linna Xu. The domestic stamp 'depicts a golden figure that is vibrant and alive against a rich red background that provides a stark and striking contrast, while the international-rate stamp features a stylized Monkey King mask with red and gold accents'. 
The stamps were inspired by the legend of the Monkey King, also known as Sun Wukong, one of the main characters in the classic Chinese novel Journey to the West. The story tells of how the monkey king accompanied the monk Xuanzang on a journey to India to retrieve sacred Buddhist texts known as sutras.
For some reason there was a long delay with getting these stamps into the post offices, but finally, they are available. I think they look better when you see the actual stamps, but this design is not a favourite. It does, however, feature the colour red.
for more stamps on a theme of redness, head over to Sunday Stamps II