blog.frederique.harmsze.nl my world of work and user experiences

June 30, 2019

Hovering along the cliff top – Sea birds taking advantage of the wind

Filed under: Adoption,Nature,Non-work — Tags: , , — frederique @ 22:22

I can watch them for hours, the seabirds going about their business at their nesting sites. Though most of them are awkward on land and clumsy at landing, some are acrobats in the air and expert divers in the sea. It is great to see how they take advantage of the local features that nature offers them.

I have just been on holiday in Orkney, an archipelago in the north of Scotland. Not many people live there, but of hundreds of thousands of sea birds do. They nest on the cliffs, on the beaches and in the grassland on the coast. Orkney has some great habitats for them.

The cliff ledges are particularly attractive to some species. The guillemots lay their eggs directly on the rocky ledge and right next to their neighbours, so you see rows and rows of guillemot backs. The gannets nest on the same ledges, but they build a real nest first, making sure that they are not so close that they can peck each other while sitting on the nest. Puffins prefer old rabbit holes and crevasses near the cliff tops. Fulmars find nooks and crannies.

Guillemots standing on the ledges, interspersed with nesting gannets.

Guillemots standing on the ledges, interspersed with nesting gannets.

Usually, they seem busy foraging and yelling at trespassers – usually other birds. But the ground nesters, like the artic terns, also warned us not to get too close.

At Noup Head on the island of Westray, the wind was blowing hard. The intensity and direction must have been heavily influenced by the shape of the cliffs below our feet, because for us landlubbers at the cliff top it was quite unpredictable where the wind would be fiercest. But the sea birds seemed to love it. And they knew exactly how to take advantage of it.

Many were hovering along the cliff top, just hanging there and watching the scenery, as we were watching them. They did not look elegant, with their tails sticking up and their legs dangling. But apparently, that is the best way to hover in one place, because we saw many birds of different species do it.

Usually the gannets would glide by gracefully. On the cliff top at Noup Head, you can look them in the eye. This way, they go somewhere without hurrying.

Adult gannet gliding

Adult gannet gliding past at Noup Head, Westray

But they also hover on the spot, without going anywhere. At first, we only saw juvenile gannets doing it: immature gannets that still have a lot of black feathers on their wings and that need to grow up before they get the proper white & black wing tips look. Like a flight school? But then we noticed that in some popular spots, adults were hovering the same way.

Immature gannet hovering, sacrificing style for a nice steady hover.

Immature gannet hovering, sacrificing style for a nice steady hover.

Both adult and juvenile gannets hang out at this promontory.

Both adult and juvenile gannets hang out at this promontory.

And it’s not just the gannets. These razorbills hover as well. When they fly, razorbills tend to flap their wings like crazy – as do all auks. They seemed to enjoy this steady hover without moving their wings.

Razorbills hovering off Noup Head.

Razorbills hovering off Noup Head.

Hovering razorbill

Razorbill

We haven’t seen the puffins do a full blown hover, but the wind did enable them to stay in the air without flapping their wings frantically. And their landings seemed to be more controlled too.

Puffins were flying and landing relatively safely at Noup Head

Puffins were flying and landing relatively safely at Noup Head

The artic terns on the Holm of Papay on the other hand, had only low cliffs and a relatively even grassland to work with when they were flying around. So they had to do the work of flapping their wings. Not that it bothered them. They were very agile, fluttering about in all directions, using their wings and magnificent tail.

Arctic tern on the Holm of Papay.

Arctic tern on the Holm of Papay.

Yes, I have been watching the birds for hours during my holidays. In my everyday life, I am indoors, in an office, organizing Office 365 into a habitat suitable for my clients’ employees, and helping these people get comfortable in that habitat. So it was great to see the Orcadian users get the most out of their habitat. And I enjoyed getting some fresh air and sunshine for myself too 🙂

December 31, 2018

Best wishes for 2019

Filed under: Non-work — frederique @ 19:11

I wish you all the best for 2019. I am not just talking about SharePoint, obviously, but the new year as a whole.

Kerst2018-GlowEN

June 28, 2018

Rock shelters: use what is available and go from there

Filed under: Nature,Non-work — Tags: , — frederique @ 15:27

The Dordogne in France has been a choice place to live for 400.000 years: people lived here already in prehistoric times as well as in the middle ages. And modern people still live there today. This is the place to be, because of the shape of the cliffs: there are many rock shelters. Many people over the ages have used these rock shelters as a place to live, adding to it in different ways.

Rock shelters

The limestone rocks in the valley of the Vallée de la Vézère have been shaped by the river, but also by ‘gélifraction’: repeated freezing and thawing of water seeped into the rock has crushed the softer layers. The result is like a long, shallow cave with a smooth floor, a ceiling and a back wall. A practical place to live.

Prehistoric times

We casually talk about ‘cave men’, but our ancestors in paleolithic times did not actually live in caves. They used caves, like Lascaux, as sanctuaries maybe, for paintings and engravings. But the people who adorned the Lascaux caves, lived in a rock shelter nearby. Such a rock shelter does not protect your entirely from the weather, but at least you have daylight, fresh air and floor space, which can be difficult in a cave.

Paleolitic men did not alter the shape of the mountain to create shelter. They took the rock as it was, though they may have added screening made from perishable materials like wood and animal skins.

The original Abri de Cro-Magnon: the place that gave the Cro-Magnon man his name, when the first remains of his kind were discovered 150 years ago: the earliest human that was anatomically modern. With a reconstruction of what might have been a tent-like additional protection.

The original Abri de Cro-Magnon: the place that gave the Cro-Magnon man his name, when the first remains of his kind were discovered 150 years ago: the earliest human that was anatomically modern. With a reconstruction of what might have been a tent-like additional protection.

Middle ages

Many of the rock shelters were used again and again by different people, in different times. All of them found it useful.

For example, the Abri de la Madeleine has been used since paleolitic times (it gave its name to the period called Magdalenian, about 17.000 -12.000 years ago). But people kept living here. In medieval times, they built a village and a castle in a higher layer. The advantage of the location is that is not only already supplies a smooth floor, a wall and a ceiling, but also that it is perched halfway a rock face and easy to defend – an important point in those quarrelsome times.

In these times, they did not take the rock as it was, but they modified it: they dug deeper niches, and they built additional walls.

Medieval troglodyte house in La Madeleine

In the medieval part of the Abri of La Madeleine, they dug bedsteads and added walls to close the space and to provide an oven for example.

Example of how the wooden beams were fitted into the rock face. You see these holes everywhere, here at La Madeleine the have reconstructed to wood to show how it works.

Example of how the wooden beams were fitted into the rock face. You see these holes everywhere, here at La Madeleine the have reconstructed to wood to show how it works.

Now

Nowadays, people still use the shelter provided by such abris. Why build an entire house, when you can use the existing rock shelter and only add a few walls and a partial roof? And why put up a roof to protect your car from the sun and the rain, when you can park it right under the abri?

This house built under the Abri Pataud is now the museum for this Abri.

This house built under the Abri Pataud is now the museum for this Abri.

The museum guard parks his car in the Abri, nice and sheltered.

The museum guard parks his car in the Abri, nice and sheltered.

This rings a bell…

Ok, this was on holiday and I was too busy sightseeing and enjoying myself to think about it. But now that I am back, this reminds me of the way we use Office 365 and SharePoint Online: we take the basics, which in our case are provided by Microsoft instead of Mother Nature. And we use them as a starting point. Sometimes this gives us enough shelter or functionality to get by. And sometimes we add to it, to make it more comfortable, secure or user-friendly.

December 31, 2016

Happy new year

Filed under: Non-work — frederique @ 15:56

I wish you all the best for 2017, a dynamic new year. Take a running jump and launch yourself into the new year, into new opportunities and new challenges.

All the best for 2017

 

December 31, 2015

Happy 2016

Filed under: Non-work — frederique @ 12:17

I wish you all the best for 2016, both in your work and in your private life. So I am not just wishing you joy with Office 2016 and SharePoint 2016. I mean the real life year 2016 as well.

Happy new year

Giant Dandelions, made of almost 9.000 recycled water bottles (Olivia d’Aboville, at Glow 2015, Eindhoven)

Talking about SharePoint 2016, it seems like the most interesting aspect of that new version of SharePoint is that it exists at all, on-premises. I am a business consultant and I focus on the features and value added for the end-users. And SharePoint 2016 was promoted as “the first product in history without new features for the user”… Nevertheless, the new SharePoint does help the users in an invisible way: it is more robust and closer to the version of SharePoint in Office 365. This makes the IT side easier, so that the IT guys have more time to concentrate on delivering business value, like hybrid search in SharePoint Online + On-Prem. We’ll have interesting work to do in 2016!

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