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Saturday, 30 January 2016

Big Garden Birdwatch this weekend

It's hoped more than half a million people will take part in the world's largest wildlife survey this weekend. The Big Garden Birdwatch encourages people across the UK to count the birds and other animals in their gardens over a one-hour period, providing a vital snapshot of the state of the nation's wildlife. The survey began 38 years ago - the brainchild of Peter Holden, the former national organiser of what was then the RSPB's Young Ornithologists Club. Last year just over 8.5 million birds were reported.  The house sparrow was the most-spotted, followed by the starling, blackbird, blue tit, wood pigeon, chaffinch, robin, great tit, goldfinch and collared dove. This cheeky robin (above) was one of two that followed me around the garden last February, eager for any insects that might be unearthed as I cleared up the leaves.
More details at

Friday, 15 January 2016

Canary Wharf's Winter Lights

Multi-coloured butterflies flit across the grass at Canary Wharf - one of a series of 18 art installations that are bringing a glow to winter evenings in east London. On the Wings of Freedom is the work of Aether and Hemera who say the butterflies are symbols of change, creativity and joy. Viewers can interact with them by using mobile phones to change the lighting effects.
Nearby is The Pool, by Jen Lewin Studio. These giant rings are touch-sensitive, and turn the area into a huge playground where patterns of swirling and fading colours are created by shifting your weight or moving from one to another.
Also great fun is Aura (2014) by Philips Lighting Design, which reacts with sound and light to a hand placed in front of a globe.
Westferry Gardens is dominated by an 18ft high alien by Amanda Parer, inspired by the science- fiction film Fantastic Planet. Although it's tethered to the ground, gusts of wind make it move up and down in a very lifelike way.
In the Jubilee Park there's a moving reminder of the plight of the many Syrian refugees fleeing from conflict: My light is your light, by Alaa Minawi. It's described as a tribute to all refugees who yearn for their stories to be heard.
The Winter Lights Festival is free and runs until Jan 22, 2016. The installations are best seen between 4 and 9pm. There's a brochure with locations and descriptions at