Calvin

I'm a freelance writer living and working in West Cork, Ireland

Feb 222011
 

No really, it isn’t… although in all fairness you could be forgiven for thinking it was morphing into one of late. That’s just a reflection of me rekindling an interest that’s been there since I was a wee nipper.

Inevitably life gets busy, and things fall by the wayside, but they’re always there, to be picked up again when time allows. That’s what’s happening now.

I’m enjoying re-acquainting myself with the common and not so common birds around me, brushing up very rusty fieldcraft and ID skills and generally re-calibrating the bird-radar.

It’s also seems to be rekindling my enthusiasm for this blog, which is no bad thing.

Where am I finding the time for this real life stuff? To be honest I’m mostly slotting it in around all the other stuff. It’s amazing what you can do with a spare ten minutes here, quarter of an hour there.

So… I hope you’re enjoying the wildlife and birding related posts, and I will get back to writing about other things soon.

Feb 212011
 

Arse! Tufted duck taking a dive.Damn… don’t you just hate it when birds are too far away, and moving too quickly for a positive ID?

The rain finally stopped and the sun was out. While I was waiting for the kettle to boil I grabbed the bins for a quick scan from the front garden.

The usual suspects – mostly tits and finches — were going about their daily grind. A grey heron was making it’s leisurely way towards where Corran lake sits hidden in a dip about a mile from the house. Behind it, and gaining rapidly, were two ducks, going like the clappers.

If they were anything other than mallard, tufted duck or teal they’d be a new species for my loosely defined patch. But they were just that bit too far away to make out features for a positive ID with the bins… and were travelling too quickly to go get the scope.

I’m pretty sure they weren’t any of the three aforementioned duck species, and for some reason a little voice in the back of my head keeps whispering wigeon… but I guess we’ll never know.

Feb 212011
 

Marketing visionary Seth Godin talks about how marketing is evolving to be less about peddling a message to the masses, and more about harnessing and channelling the power of “Tribes” through effective leadership.

Got to love TED… especially the TED Mobile iPhone app – perhaps the ultimate antidote to TK Max!

Seth’s book “Tribes” is still sitting in my to-read list – must fast-track it to the top.

Feb 212011
 

… but hey, it’s a start!

Just spotted this on the Birdwatch Ireland Facebook page. It’s a post from the warden of the Cape Clear Bird Observatory, Steve Wing, confirming that they saw the first swallow of the summer pass by yesterday, 20 February.

image

Typing this with frozen fingers, looking out the office window at the lashing rain, it doesn’t feel much like summer, but with the frogs a spawning, swallows arriving and bumblebees on the wing (saw my first one on Saturday) nature is certainly hinting that the winter is well and truly on its way out.

So chin-up, and look on the bright side… we might not get much dry weather, but at lease we have warmer rain to look forward to!

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Feb 092011
 

Play the Swarovski Optik Birding Game and WinIf you are a birding enthusiast this new online birding game by Swarovski Optilk is great fun, and a useful way to keep those ID skills finely honed.

It’s been developed to help promote the brand new Swarovski EL50 Swarovision, the latest addition to the thoroughbred Swarovski Optik binocular range.

There are currently three habitats to choose from – Lake Neusiedl in Austria (Swarovski Optiks’ back yard), Extremadura in Spain (where they’re officially launching the new bins) and Corpus Christi in Texas, USA.

I’ve tried the Austria and Spain ones and they’re great fun. Haven’t had the temerity to attempt the American one yet… know far too little about US birds (and European ones come to that).

With my online marketing hat on, it’s good to see a traditional high-end manufacturer in a niche area like speciality optics getting adventurous with online marketing like this, and harnessing it in a way that will really engage with its niche market of birders.

Feb 082011
 

lesser redpoll and mealy redpoll in West CorkOnce upon a time, not very long ago, I used to be content with the notion that a redpoll was a redpoll was a redpoll. All that changed just over a month ago when a mealy redpoll (Carduelis flammea flammea) joined the gang of lesser redpolls (Carduelis flammea cabaret) visiting my garden bird feeders.

I get lesser redpolls in the garden every winter, and lovely little birds they are too. But back in early January I was casually watching a few of these charming little finches jostle for position on the feeder, when I noticed one bird in particular that looked very different. It was noticeably chunkier, and much paler in appearance – more of a frosty grey-brown than the usual warm brown and buff tones of the lessers.

I dived for the books… and opened up a real can of worms. Redpoll identification, it turns out, can be a real NIGHTMARE!

After a bit of reading, comparing and some more watching… followed by more reading and head-scratching, I was convinced that the paler bird was a mealy redpoll — the nominate sub-species of the common redpoll (Carduelis flammea flammea).

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Jan 192011
 
“A beginning is only the start of a journey to...

Image by katerha via Flickr

Right… time I started posting to this blog much more regularly and frequently again.

Over the last six months or so I’ve become pretty jaded with the whole online scene. The urge to share everything with the world through blogging and social media channels waned.

I’m not sure what it is really… I think I just reached saturation point, and needed to step back a bit. In the real world I’m a pretty private person, quite happy to spend long hours alone. I’ve always been that way.

I’m sociable, and enjoy spending time with friends, but I’m not good in crowds and tend to keep myself to myself. I’m just as happy on a remote headland somewhere, or in the middle of a forest, with only myself for company. I guess the whole “share-everything-with-everybody” culture of social media was always rubbing against the grain. It just took a while for me to realise it.

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Dec 202010
 

email-at1Email is still an incredibly effective communications medium for small businesses. It’s a crucial part of my own marketing mix for my online writing business, and for many of my small businesses clients. Email marketing still has massive potential to help you grow your business.

New communications channels like social media are phenomenal for building an online community around your brand, and for interacting in real time with the portion of your customers who choose to engage with businesses through Facebook, Twitter and other social media platforms. But how many of your customers really do that?

The answer is more every day, and I certainly wouldn’t discourage any business from looking at the benefits of engaging through social media. But think about this for a minute: out of all your customers and potential customers, how many do you think engage with brands on Facebook every day? Now compare that to the number of your customers who check email on a daily basis. Which number do you think is going to be the bigger of the two?

I don’t have figures handy, but intuition suggest that the number of customers checking their email is likely to be SIGNIFICANTLY HIGHER. If you’re looking for the lowest common denominator in Internet Marketing… a medium that will allow you to reach the broadest potential cross section of your target market… e-mail is your man.

Using Outlook for your e-mail marketing? STOP!

One of the biggest email marketing mistakes small businesses make is to try and manage their e mail campaigns using Microsoft Outlook’s “Group Mail” facility. This is fine for sending e-mails to groups of colleagues or friends… but it’s not such a great idea for managing your customer email lists. Here’s why:

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Dec 062010
 

My wife tells me I’m in danger of becoming binocular obsessed since getting my fantastic Swarovski SLC 10X42HD binoculars. I have to admit she may have a point, but I cant help posting this up here….

Over on their Facebook page Swarovski Optik is raffling three pairs of it’s outstanding binoculars among its fans when their page reaches 3,000 “likes”. At the moment they’re on 2049 and climbing.

The three models they’re raffling off are the fantastic EL 8×32, the EL 10×32 Traveler, and the Pocket 8×20.

Win Swarovski Binoculars on Facebook

Could one of these amazing binoculars be heading your way for Christmas?

For your chance to win, head on over to the Swarovski Optik Facebook Page, Like the page, and submit your details via the “Raffle” tab. It’s that simple.

Good luck!

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Nov 222010
 
Swarovski SLC 10x42 HD

The SLC 10x42 HD by Swarovski Optik -- optically superb, unbeatable build quality.

WOW!

That would have been the reaction when I first looked through my  new Swarovski SLC 10×42 HD binoculars. Except that I was unable to utter a word: I was rendered speechless by the experience.

These binoculars are quite simply sublime.

I’ve been wanting to upgrade to a really good pair of binoculars for… well, all my life really and have been comparing high end models from Leica, Zeiss, Swarovski and Nikon, on and off, for quite a while.

On my mental bins wish list I’d pretty much whittled it down to either Leica Ultravid 10×42 or Swarovski EL 10×42 Swarovision, and I was leaning towards the Leicas mainly because I’ve never really liked the Swarovski EL’s elongated twin-hinge form factor.

I was absolutely amazed when I woke up on the morning of my 40th birthday, just over a week ago, to a pair of Swarovski SLC 10×42 HD binoculars. Continue reading »