'I'm always looking for the Hows and the Whys and the Whats,' said Muskrat, 'That is why I speak as I do. You've heard of Muskrat's Much-in-Little, of course?'
'No,' said the child. 'What is it?'
- The Mouse and his Child. Russell Hoban.

Go here to find out more.

Wednesday, 19 November 2014

Chimps and Bees

It wasn't all that long ago that Jane Goodall discovered that chimps use tools, thereby ruining what had until then seemed a lovely definition of the uniqueness of Homo sapiens.
So then someone suggested we were unique in the animal kingdom because we could use signs to communicate, and what's more, could  communicate abstract ideas.
But Karl Von Frisch shot both down at one fell swoop, by proving that bees communicate abstract ideas (direction of nearby food source taking into account the change of sun direction during the intervening minutes) using sign (the 'waggle' dance).

Yay bees!  You rule!
The cooler thing is that so far, only chimps have come near bees for these amazing abilities.

And us of course.

There is however one thing bees can't do that we can.  Lie.

Sketching honey bees (Apis melifera) for my upcoming exhibition
"Our Bees" with Yaniv Janson.

Friday, 7 November 2014


There She is.  Opening the Flanders Memorial Garden.  And, out of interest, that's my distant cousin in the black coat.  I bask in the reflected glory shine on his helmet.

Thursday, 6 November 2014

Urban Moon Rise

Just a pretty picture for you tonight…
It's a full moon I think, or close to it.

Wednesday, 5 November 2014

New Zealand has a New Bee

For my upcoming show, I've been spending a lot of time in two places - in the garden photographing bees (spring!) and at my desk, painting … yes, bees.

Today I was exceedingly puzzled.
There are honey bees on the lemon flowers and the gone-to-flower chinese cabbage.
There are honey bees and bumblebees on the crabapple flowers.
And there are bumblebees on the foxgloves and the lavender.

But there are two very odd bees on the purple toadflax.
They hovered, instead of flying in that swinging, focused way that honey bees and bumbles do.  They were visiting flowers, but also sat in the sun on leaves, which only sick honey bees do.
And they also made a different noise.
They looked like wasps in patterning, but just like a bee in shape and fuzziness.  Unlike honey bees they had lots of cream fur on their legs.

I looked 'em up.  They are the wool carder bee, Anthidium manicatum.  A newish species to invade New Zealand.  They collect fluff off plants like lamb's ear and use it to make a nest to lay and egg or two in.  Aparently some people in North America grow plants in order to encourage them, much as we grow swan plant for Monarch butterflies.
Should we be concerned about them in New Zealand?  I'm not sure.  They are solitary, but in other countries where they are found, the males are very aggressive and will patrol bushes where the females are foraging, and chase off other bees. Jo-Anne Soper is studying their spread here. She seems to think they may be a threat to our solitary native bees, which have actually been thriving well up until now, as they like to make their burrows in open clay, like the sides of roads and farm tracks. They seem to co-exist well with honey bees in Europe.

I am fascinated by the complexity of interactions between environments and species on this Earth.  Tip it one way, even extremely slightly, and the whole boat sometimes rocks.  Or, sometimes, doesn't.

Friday, 24 October 2014

Tant de Forêts Trailer.

A nice wee trailer. Looking forward to the film. It reminds me a little of the lovely art work of Charlie Harper.

Tant de For\'eats - trailer from Burcu & Geoffrey on Vimeo.

Thursday, 23 October 2014

Waterfall by Chris McKay

This morning I just had to share this stunning photograph from New Zealand photographer Chris McKay.

He writes:

Alexander Falls is a waterfall on Madeley Creek, a tributary of Callaghan Creek in the Callaghan Valley area of the Sea to Sky Country of southwestern British Columbia, Canada. The falls are located just below a bridge on the access road to Callaghan Lake Provincial Park, at the head of the valley, which lies to the west of the resort town of Whistler.

The falls consist of three drops that total up to 141 feet (43 m) in total. The falls are about 40 feet (12 m) wide.

Canon 5DIII | EF24-70mm f/2.8L USM II | 50mm | f/5.6 | 8 sec | ISO 50 | Lee Big Stopper | -1/3 EV

Feel free to share but no other use without prior written consent.

©Chris McKay Photography 2014