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  • There are occasions (not many) when I don't need my large Tamrac Expedition camera bag, so when Yvonne showed my the new Wandrd PRVKE backpack I was intrigued. When Yvonne invited me to try the 31 Litre version I was happy to oblige. The version I tried included the Camera Cube, Accessory Straps and the Waist Strap. Wandrd also do a smaller 21 Litre backpack. The bag is well made from Waterproof Tarpaulin and Ballistic Nylon, with weather resistant zips to the various pockets and compartments. There are two main compartments to the bag. The lower compartment takes the Camera Cube, the upper compartment can be used for a jumper, waterproof, lunch and other items you may need. It will take a 100-400mm lens if wanted. It also expandable so can carry quite a lot of peripheral equipment or a fleece. The Camera Cube has Velcro fitted divided that can be arranged in a variety of configurations to hold a camera with a lens attached and extra lens. I fitted my Canon 5D IV with the 17-40mm f/4 attached; Canon 100mm f/2.8 and Sigma 50mm f/2.8, extension tubes, filter pouch and a Canon 480 Speedlite, although it was a tight fit. To allow the camera cube to zip closed, it was necessary to remove the battery pack from the base of the camera. The lower compartment has a side access panel to make it easy to get at your camera and lens. The flap for this has a compartment in which you can keep spare batteries and SD / CF Cards. The bag is packed with lot's of little features - A side pocket can be used for either a drink, or small tripod. Several lugs on the bag take the accessory straps which can be fixed to carry, say, a tripod or small seat (such as a Walk-stool). A smaller side pocket on the opposite side has a small clip, so presents an ideal place for your keys - how much time do you spend after a day out fumbling in your rucksack for the car and house keys? No need for that with the Wandrd. Undo the zip at the base of the Wandrd and inside you'll find a pull-out rain cover to go over the bag. On the rear panel of the Wandrd there is "secret" packet for valuables, as whilst the bag is on your back no-one an get at it. A great place for your passport and wallet, or even a mobile phone. There is room for a small laptop and / or a tablet in the main front flap. I felt it was a bit to small for my 15.5inch laptop, but it will also hold a field guide or a note book. The shoulder straps are expandable and a chest strap comes as standard, with a detachable waist strap also included. The bag was comfortable on the back when loaded and carried for a couple of hours and is suitable to use as carry on luggage for flights (although you may be over the weight limit!). Whilst I was very impressed with this bag, it is probably not for me. I prefer to keep the battery pack on my camera (I find it balances better) and couldn't get everything in the camera cube that I would normally take with me, for example it was difficult to fit the Ring Flash in the cube for macro-photography. For anyone who wants a day-pack for landscape photography, or to use as a flight bag with a reduced camera gear then this bag ticks lots of boxes, with plenty of room for extras such as waterproofs and fleece, lunch box and drink. To find out more about the new Wandrd range, stocked at Focalpoint, check out the videos on their blog . Better still call in at FocalPoint and see for yourself.
  • The Well-read Naturalist The Natural History Book Review Closest to Home March 2, 2019 By Johannes E. Riutta One of the most persistent challenges I’ve faced as a naturalist is in how to pursue my field interests while also fulfilling all my responsibilities as a husband, father, and most recently care-giving child to an elderly, dementia-afflicted parent. Then, of course, to all these as also daily added the constant and seemingly ever-increasing demands of the job I hold that helps make it possible for my family to survive. I rarely have much – if indeed any – time to get out into the field just for my own purposes. And even when I do find a hole in time through which I can crawl and steal a few hours away, the entire time I’m gone, I’m plagued with guilt that I should be giving that time back to my family, from whom I am already stealing other hours in order to tend to my job or care for my mother. Needless to say, it gets me down. It also makes me feel very lonely and isolated. After all, Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram are chock-a-block with uncountable nature enthusiasts living, as they say, “their best lives.” Don’t they have families to care for; job responsibilities demanding their attention? I often find myself asking “Why am I the only one to be so overwhelmed by the demands of life; why can’t I even enjoy the time when I can finally go afield, even if only for a short while? ” Then I read Caroline Greville’s Badger Clan; My Badgers and Other Family, from which I most thankfully learned very clearly that I’m not alone. Taking the form of a memoir, or perhaps more appropriately a portrait, of her life as a lover of the natural world, wife, devoted mother of four children, writing instructor at two different institutions, and manager of a small domestic menagerie of a chickens, ducks, guinea pigs, and a dog, Dr. Greville (to give her the respect due her in honor of her completion of the doctorate of which this book was a prominent part), recounts in her exquisitely familiar prose that being an avid nature lover is not incompatible with all the rest of life – indeed, it can, and in her own life is, the thing that makes it possible for “all the rest” to be kept in balance. “Sometimes it feels like life is going wrong in every corner, as if you’ve had an unlucky throw of the dice and everything’s cascading down on your head. I do have a natural pessimism about me that probably isn’t helpful, always expecting the worst at every turn. […] I need to get over that everything-must-be-perfect-before-life-can-be-enjoyed thing, and learn to be happy in the muddle and confusion, trusting that all things work together for good – eventually.” What makes such trust possible? For Dr. Greville, Badgers. Living in a small village in Kent, the Greville family resides, so the author discovers, in close proximity to quite a number of Badgers. For the benefit of my North American readers, this species of badger, Meles meles, is quite different than Taxidea taxus, the smaller and much less approachable species which inhabits the western portions of Canada, the United States, and much of Mexico. Far from the figures of ill-temper and aggressiveness that their North American distant cousins have come to be characterized as, the larger British Badgers are highly charismatic, heart-breakingly charming, and very much beloved by a substantial portion of the British populace – except of course those unfortunately as well as inappropriately convinced that they are the vectors for bovine tuberculosis. As she engagingly recounts in Badger Clan, Dr. Greville becomes a volunteer with the East Kent Badger Group, a local outreach and rescue organization dedicated to helping the local humans and Badgers better co-exist with one another. Though the group, she – along with her family – come to learn about the lives of the local Badgers; where they live, what they eat, how they interact, and what threats they face. They go on Badger walks, finding the burrows of their Badger neighbors and learning – often by trial and error – how best to observe them; not in furtherance of any scientific study but merely for the sheer joy of being able to witness their lives. They’re called out upon Badger missions by the group to rescue injured Badgers, or to help calm the nerves of villagers who find signs of one digging in locations where it is not convenient, or simply upsetting, to the property owner for them to be doing so. Slowly, gently, and with the enthusiasm for an activity that can only come from a sheer enjoyment of doing it, the entire Greville family come to know their local Badgers in a way few of us can say we know the wild creatures alongside whom we ourselves may live. But why? After all, as Dr. Greville recounts, sometimes lovingly, sometimes in great frustration, occasionally in moments of heart-rending sorrow, the lives of she and her family, as well as the challenges presented by her own and her husband’s jobs, are constantly in motion, pulling different members in different directions, presenting at times moments of profound joy and celebration, and at others seemingly insurmountable barriers. Why add one more time-demanding activity to all this? Scholars have written shelves of books explaining at great length the biological, psychological, and half dozen other “-ical”reasons why we modern humans are often drawn to nature; however I will put Caroline Greville’s beautifully down-to-earth explanation beside any of them for it’s breath-taking simplicity and accuracy, “Now that life is so comfortable, we feel we have lost something, though we’re not sure what. We sense we’re less in touch with ourselves than our ancestors ever were, and seek an encounter with nature, the wilder the better, to plug the deficit of experience.” What Dr. Greville and her family discover, primarily right in their own back garden and rarely farther away than just outside their village, is that through simple curiosity about, devotion to, and love for the wild creatures around whom they live – not only the Badgers but the foxes, birds, mice and others with whom their home and its environs are shared – they themselves are made more whole, are bought closer to one another, are spiritually strengthened, and as we, her readers, finally come to learn at the conclusion of the book (which I will not spoil for you), discover they are stronger and more resilient than anyone should ever need to be. I don’t simply recommend Caroline Greville’s Badger Clan to you, I most enthusiastically urge you to read it. While I read dozens of books each year, from many of which I can say that I come away with new knowledge about or better understanding of a subject, an interest in something of which was previously unknown to me, or a kindled enthusiasm to learn more about a topic of which I was already aware, I cannot recall recently – if indeed ever – having closed the back cover of a book and thinking that as the result of reading it I had learned something so vitally important about myself and the manner in which I need to live my own life. I can only hope that if you read it as well, that you may discover something as deeply personal in its pages as I did – and unless I miss my guess, I strongly suspect that you will. Title: Badger Clan; My Badgers and Other Family Author: Caroline Greville Publisher: Caroline Greville Format: Paperback Pages; 382 pp. ISBN-10: 1794294120 ISBN-13: 9781527237995 Published: January 2019 In accordance with Federal Trade Commission 16 CFR Part 255, it is disclosed that the copy of the book read in order to produce this review was provided gratis to the reviewer by the publisher. http://www.wellreadnaturalist.com/2019/03/closest-to-home/ Johannes E. Riutta Founder and publisher of The Well-read Naturalist. → Johannes E. Riutta
  • FeldyFare Bird Food Products When I called into Focalpoint recently I was intrigued by their new bird food products by Feldy especially the Golden Food Balls, they looked so much more appetising than my usual budget store bargain bucket fat balls so I decided to give them a try along with some mixed seed and sunflower hearts. I liked the look of them so time to see if my birds agreed with my first impressions. I decided as a test to mix some of the Golden Food Balls with my usual fat balls and straight away noticed the difference in consistency, rather than the usual grey solid bland look of my normal brand the Feldy balls were packed with seed and looked much more enticing to my eye. Once I filled my feeder with the mix of old and new I left it to the birds to decide, almost immediately I noticed the Blue Tits went straight to the new Feldy Food Balls and totally ignored my usual brand they seemed to be able to access the goodness from the ball much more easily from the Feldy balls and required much less effort to do so, in contrast my old brand always seemed to take a lot of effort to break into with very little reward besides fat, and the birds never seemed to spend much time feeding at the old ones. The other thing I noticed quite quickly was that our House Sparrows spent time feeding on the new food balls where as they hardly ever fed at the old fat balls. A few days later it was noticeable how much the new Feldy Food Balls had been eaten whereas my usual brand remained untouched, so I think my birds have certainly shown a preference. The Mixed Seed and Sunflower Hearts I also came home with seemed to be another great success, we are a small urban garden in a built up area on a new estate and with very few surrounding gardens with feeders, our bird flocks have taken a while to establish but we now have a regular flock of 20-25 House Sparrows, several Blue Tits and a few Goldfinch and they all seemed to enjoy the Sunflower Hearts and Mixed Seed so much so that after only one day I had to re-fill a couple of the feeders which is much quicker than I normally re-fill. The quality of the Mixed Seed and Sunflower Hearts was very good, it looked very clean, plenty of variety and with much less husk and chaff than I usually get with my usual budget mixed seed brand. So thanks to Focalpoint and Feldy Bird Foods my birds are now happy and well-nourished and we can spend more time watching our birds at the feeders. images Taken with Opticron MM4 60 Telescope @opticron Birdfood to your door is available via the Focalpoint App
 

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