Another step closer to getting ATOL license

Had a meeting with the CAA yesterday to discuss my application for the small business ATOL travel license. Everything seems fine, in my opinion. Think what they want is really to make sure that I’m not going to trade more than I’m authorised to, without giving them notice or providing them extra bond guarantee. This is fine for me for the time being as I’m likely not going to be swamped with business initially 🙂 In fact this small business ATOL works out to be very favourable for new startups, as it allows them to compete with the big players on a more level playing field in the travel industry. And most of all the customers are protected in case the company disappears or goes busted. Finger crossed, I should be receiving an offer letter within the next week or so, telling me requirements I need to fulfill before they will grant me the license, e.g. the amount of bond I need to provide, information about methods of payment and so on.


These days Robin is not coming over for mealworms as frequently as before, when he has his children to feed. It’s likely that he’s not short of food now that it is summer (I think) with plenty of insects around.Talking about insects, we recently bought three berries plants, Holly, Raspberry and Blackcurrant, to help boost our garden as a “prime” destination for birds to come visit for food. In fact we have also put up an open fronted nestbox to tempt robins to come nest in our backyard. Anyway, holes are appearing on the leaves of the Blackcurrant tree. After some searching on the Internet I gather that it is aphid that is doing the damage. Remembering from watching Springwatch that ladybird can help control this pest, think I’m going to add a ladybird log tower to my backyard as well. It is indeed fascinating to know that I can grow my own ladybird. Or you can even buy adult ladybirds to put into the log tower! 25 for the price �20, anyone 🙂 And they are not guaranteed to live in the shelter you provide!

Bird watching around Thames Valley Park

It was a very fruitful day for us last Sunday. We managed to spot some new birds we have not seen before like Reed Bunting, Sedge Warbler and Wheater Trush. We also saw a large bird of prey in the air that we couldn’t identify, and heard a Cuckoo close to us in some shrubs. We couldn’t be asked to find the Cuckoo, although we have not seen one before, as we were too hungry and tired after more than two hours of walking under the afternoon sun. Obviously not a good idea to bird watch in the afternoon, but well we have all been cheated by the weather forecast before.

Reed Bunting
Reed Bunting happily singing under the heated sun.
Great Crested Grebe with summer plumage
Great Crested Grebe with a colourful summer plumage and two of his young.

Some water fowls at White Knights Lake

These are a few photos taken when I met up with Peter yesterday at White Knights Lake. I was intending to take photos of the various young chicks that were born there. But sadly many of them died. Particularly, according to Peter, the chicks of Mandarin, two broods of 15 and 3, all died as they were eaten by the Pike (fish). Surely something has to be done in this kind of artificial environment?!

Wood Duck
 10 Young Canada Geese
I also learnt from Peter that it is common for Canada Geese to give their young away to other Canada Geese. Hence there is this pair of Canada Geese that has 10 young with them. Interesting. And recently a Mute Swan killed an adult Canada Goose at White Knights Lake! Didn’t know that Mute Swans can be this aggressive, and that they don’t really like geese.

Bike thief

Someone tried to steal W’s bike while we were watching tele yesterday, at around 12 midnight! It was quite an unpleasant experience to be honest. I was first alerted by the knocking sound of the chain that is used to chain the bike around the metal rail. But I quickly dismissed it as I thought it was just strong wind that caused the long chain to swing, which happened quite often. However, the longer I heard the more it sounded like someone was pulling the chain. So I nervously opened the front window blinds to see what actually happened, almost certain that someone was outside. To my horror, he was still there, as he didn’t know we opened the blinds. After a quick second of hesitation, as I thought perhaps I should also call the police, I opened the door and shouted at him. Under this kind of circumstances, which I had no experience of, I wondered if I should chase out, as he very quickly sprinted away. I had a look around from the front door, but still not confident enough to walk out to check on the bike, as I feared that he might be still around. It was all very nervy. I ended up holding an umbrella, and was reassured that W would close the front door after I walked out, before I actually went out to examine the damage. I was surprised to see that the whole bike lock was gone. Think he might have successfully picked the lock, in this short period time. Incredible. I thought the lock I bought was quite a good one. Anyway both of us become very paranoid after this incident. We even thought someone might have entered our flat, as W found that our kitchen door was left opened. W even passed me a knife as she thought someone might be hiding behind the toilet door. That was scary moment, although I didn’t think that could be possible. Anyway I was relieved to see no one in the toilet. Damn, this is really no good to our nerves!

Birds along River Kennet II

Lucky that the mute swan family was back on the River Kennet when I was on my way home. The bread that I brought with me was of great help. Otherwise I doubt the swans would have let me snap away without scaring them off.

Now I’m satisfied 🙂 Happened at just about the right time. Half an hour later and the lightings would have been much poorer, due to the looming dark clouds and the eventual drizzle.

Birds along River Kennet I

After days of “planning”, I finally got down to bringing the chunky SLR camera with me today to take some photos of birds on my way to work. I very much regretted for not doing it yesterday, due to rain, as all five mute swan chicks were seen carried by one of their parents on the back. And a heron, commonly seen on the River Kennet, was just right next to them. It was a pity.This morning, I set off hoping to see the brood of mute swans again, my main target for the day, and the heron. Unexpectedly I also saw a pair of canada goose with their chick. I initially wanted to tempt the geese to come closer with some bread. But one of the parents started to sound some warning. I’m aware that it’s not a good idea to piss off the geese, so I stayed away, took some photos and then left.This time the swans and the heron were not seen where they used to be. It wasn’t that much of a surprise really, as this is part and parcel of wildlife watching. They have their own life to live and they please no one. Anyway I was lucky to at least have heron, which was later found 10-20 yards from where he used to be, and canada geese to limit my disappointment.

Canada Geese and Heron