Thursday, 24 September 2009

Isaiah 34:14 – Wraiths. Newcastle. 22.IX.09

It is a belief very strongly and generally held that Montague Rhodes James, scholar and school master, wrote the finest ghost stories in the English language. This, of course, is wrong. Those who have read the works of Mr. James will assent that ghosts seldom, if ever, feature in his work and that their place is taken by an altogether different class of menace. Not for him the spectral figure draped in pale shrouds, clanking its chains with raised, beckoning hand. No, James’ stories are concerned with deamonic manifestations that spring toothsome and hairy from dark corners to harrow the peace of genteel domesticity, unnamed things that have lingered too long beneath the lich gate or those that dwell eternal and restless in dark woods and abandoned places. The mastery of James is to evoke the uncanny into settings of such commonplace mundanity that events which would otherwise be comic and banal become horrific and terrifying. That class of establishment known as the Rock Club is surely one of the most banal and commonplace available today. They attract a clientele of equal parts fresher rock-soc newbies and metal-nerd wannabe’s, gathering to smoke their fragile rollies in the windy doorways and knotting together in small groups around their discount lager and alcopops. In their mores and codes Rock Clubs are as stuffy and conservative as any Edwardian drawing room and thus, when the uncanny and horrific manifests out of the commonplace into screaming, threatening presence the effect is perfectly Jamesian in its impact. The first we hear of Wraiths is the beat of a drum and the ringing of a bell. Like flagellants atoning for the sins of an already dead world Gaendaal and Nakir shuffle into the room, cowled and hooded. Some of the audience, clutching their drinks and moving nervously from foot to foot, smirk to themselves and each other but there is nothing of mirth in the hideous wail that slithers round the room like a miasma from a mass grave. High and shrill as the call of the dead among dead places it comes again and again to summon darkness out of light, to wither hope and mock the vanity of life. If this is ambient music it is the ambience of the plague pit and the gallows pole. There is fear in the sound of Wraiths, in the chaotic and malevolent pitch black noise that evokes for us the glare of evil faces, the stony grin of inhuman malice and the shadowy forms that persue us out of the darkness of our own night. Truly the satyr shall cry to his fellow and those who still have business with the living will do well to pass quickly by the lich gate and avoid the ash tree that taps on the window at night.

Saturday, 5 September 2009

Hit The Shites: Vol I

I've been shlepping my camera to gigs for years, putting up with drunks spilling beer on it and worring in case some cunt robs it from the car etc etc etc but now and again I get lucky and take a picture I'm happy with. Here's some of the better ones - bonus points if you recognise yourself.
Witchcraft, Newcastle 2004
Warning, Bradford 2008
Unearthly Trance, Newcastle 2009

Hit The Shites: Vol II

Sunn O))) / Xasthur, Leeds 2006
The Gates Of Slumber, Leeds 2006
Sunn O))), Newcastle 2003
Sourvein, Newcastle 2003
Reverend Bizarre, Sheffield 2004

Hit The Shites: Vol III

Pagan Altar, Leeds 2007
Om, Gateshead 2007
Marzuraan, Newcastle 2007
Khanate, Nottingham 2004
High On Fire, Sunderland 2007

Hit The Shites: Vol IV

Grand Magus, Newcastle 2004
Forsaken, Bradford 2008
Earth, Leeds 2006
Church Of Misery, Gateshead 2009
Blood Island Raiders, Newcastle 2007

Monday, 31 August 2009

Burying The Summer

It has been several weeks since this Blog has been updated and for the two, possibly three, people who seem to read it I will give a quick account o how the past weeks have been spent, because it has not all been Pimms and cucumber sandwiches. I spent much of July wandering around Scargill and Barningham moors. In the far south of the county, overlooking the valley of the river Greta and with (on a clear day) fine views to the Stainmore pass and the Cleveland hills this is an area with some of the most significant and beautiful Bronze Age rock art in the north of England. I’m planning further trips in the autumn when the bracken has died back, both to look for more panels and to continue my walks up the banks of the Greta. A two week family holiday to Lanzarote was rewarded with several lengthy sightings of hoopoe and also the discovery of a large raptor pellet, which on closer investigation was found to contain a lot of rabbit hair. A likely identification seems to be either buzzard or booted eagle, although I guess we’ll never know… August saw me putting the final flourishes to the Hunts & Wars album, which has been a developing and evolving work in progress for several years. The completed version was dispatched to Cold Spring Records in the middle of the month and appears to have met with a thumbs up, a release is being planned as soon as possible with Kevin Yuen of slaving away in his garret on the art and design as I type. Also in August I completed a track titled Star Carr to be included on a double-CD project being put together by Hammer Smashed Jazz ( and conducted an interview with the Italian magazine Ritual, which I will post here in good time for the benefit of all us puny Anglophones. I also have been working on several long essays/articles which have demanded rewrites and edits, including an essay examining Robert E Howard’s tour de force Black Canaan and an essay on the Romano-Celtic river god Condatis – which was very timely seeing as the strong brown god was reawakened with dramatic results in July as the river Wear flooded and reshaped both natural and manmade landscapes. Both pieces will be published here and possibly elsewhere when they are finished. The dog days of August have been weary beneath heavy iron grey skies and in these last hours of summer I look forward to the changes to come. Cooler weather, frosts and mists, fiery colours and the signs of migrating birds crossing the skies above. As if to mark this end a spectacular sexton beetle, Nicophorus Investigator, resplendent in it’s black and orange livery, landed in the garden this afternoon just as the skies darkened to stormy purple and the strong warm wind, dancing ahead of the storm like a herald, began to shake the boughs of the trees. It had come to bury the summer and within minutes of its arrival day was turned to night and the raging rain drove us inside.

Friday, 10 July 2009

Only Death Is Real

Few bands mean as much to me as Celtic Frost. Their aesthetic as much as their music struck a deep chord from the very beginning - the atmosphere of barbaric splendour running through the lyrics, the riffs, the helmets and the eyeliner. To Mega Therion is in my view the closest metal ever got to realising the Wagnerian ideal of the Gesamptkunstwerk - a perfect synthesis of music, design and artistic vision. In this record is everything I want to achieve for my own music - breathtaking sweeps of epic immensity, searing golden highs and pitch-black frozen lows. When I am lost and mazed I can play this record and look out over empires and continents. Here is everything, all Innocence and Wrath.
Only Death Is Real: an illustrated history of Hellhammer and early Celtic Frost by Tom Gabriel Fischer with Martin Eric Ain will be published in November 2009 by Bazillion Points.

Saturday, 4 July 2009


I never read Terrorizer these days, except when I get a mention of course. Many thanks to Avi Pitchon for this review from #185, July 2009.
TENHORNEDBEAST "My Horns Are A Flame To Draw Down The Truth". Cold Spring
Less a straight forward remix of 2007's "The Sacred Truth", this "companion" is suspended between re-working and re-recording existing tracks, plus a re-visiting and elaboration on sounds recorded for "The Sacred Truth" but not used. "Fenris-Wolf" reworks 2007's "In The Teeth Of The Wolf". The droning gongs of opener "Ruins Son" are a motif derived from "Christus Nox" that closed "The Sacred Truth". Nevertheless, a novice to TenHornedBeast's work is welcome to delve into this epos of ritual dark ambient as a release in its own right. Its barren minimalism is misleading, as further listens unravel extra layers of ominous, paralysing, pulsating spectral sounds that can be likened to a pitch black, empty, uncharted, enormous cavern whispering the hollow, sinister echoes of long forgotten gatherings of an uncanny occult nature. The space seems uninhabited, yet an abstract presence gradually increases to finally manifest in a deathly, rhythmic, rumbling procession. [8.5]

Tuesday, 30 June 2009

Tracking the Cami de Cavalls: I – Sun, Sea, Sand and Birds

During August 2008 we spent 14 days at the 5-star all inclusive resort of Insotel at Punta Prima, on the very southern tip of the island of Menorca. The easternmost of the Balearics, Menorca has a very rich archeological record and was designated a Biosphere Reserve in 1993 by UNESCO in recognition of its unique and fragile natural habitats. The island is popular with birders who visit to see both the native and migratory species and just opening the doors to our apartment and looking out across the dunes to the sea was an ornithologists dream. In fact on the bus ride from the airport to the hotel I managed to see a large buzzard-like raptor circling low over the fields between Mao and St Luis – it may have been a Booted Eagle (Aquila pennata), but making a positive identification from a moving coach squinting into the evening sun would be asking too much. With its six swimming pools, and carefully cut lawns and gardens Insotel attracted local wildlife like a magnet. Birds fed on the insects that thrived in the grounds and if you sat still long enough one of the thousands of bright green Wall Lizards (Pondarcis lilfordi) that swarmed over the complex would run under your chair or eye-ball you from its lair. Species common to Britain such as the house sparrow, house martin, collared dove and blackbird rubbed shoulders with the not so common such as the Spotted Flycatcher and Stonechat. Indeed Spotted Flycatchers (Muscicapa striata) were more abundant than the house sparrows, the adults doing low-level aerobatics, hovering like mini kestrals over the watered lawns and returning with a bill full of insects to answer the shrill piping begging calls of fledglings hidden in olive trees and hotel hedges. Stonechat’s (Saxicola torquatus) were less common but seen often enough so that by the end of the holiday I no longer stopped and gawped open-mouthed at their gorgeous plumage of dark head, pink breast and distinctive white wing bars.

Tracking the Cami de Cavalls: II - Up Before The Birds

Lying awake one night having eaten and drank enough to sicken a pig I decided that an early morning walk was needed to freshen up a digestive system that was in danger of working by gravity alone. So at 6.15am I slipped out of the apartment and walked across the hissing lawns towards the large expanse of scrubland to the east of the hotel and the access road to the Cami de Cavalls, an ancient coastal bridal-path running around the entire island that was used by the British during the Napoleonic wars to look for French warships and pirates. The sun had not yet cleared the horizon and the sea and sky were a dull iron-grey in the pre-dawn light. Moving through the watered hotel grounds to the browner scrub beyond I startled several rabbits that were grazing on the lawns, their white tails bounding as they disappeared into the long grass. It was here that it became clear just how much of an oasis the hotel was and how much water it consumed on this arid island – the demarcation between verdant green lawn and brown dry scrub was sudden and clear. At first glance the substrate along the trail did not present a promising tracking medium. 24 hours earlier a very intense but short-lived electric storm had dramatically doused the southern end of the island with extremely heavy rain but with temperatures on cloudy days reaching 28C and on sunny days as much as 36C the stony ground was now baked hard again. The Cami de Cavalls itself consisted of exposed limestone pavement with gravel and sand between the bare rocks and varied in width from one to five meters. A low scrub of typical Mediterranean flora such as Thorny Broom (Calicotome infesta), Mediterranean Buckthorn (Rhamnus alaternus) and brambles grew along the edges of the path, with larger wind-sculptured Aleppo Pines (Pinus halepensis) and bushy wild olive trees (Olea europaea ) rising above at intervals. Weaving it’s way through the bushes and trees was Commom Smilax (Smilax aspera), a climbing plant with distinctive heart-shaped leaves and viscous, thorny prickles. No sooner had I taken to the trail then the light of my torch illuminated a large interesting scat some meters into the bush. It was obvious that the scat was old by its dessicated texture but even in the light of the torch I could see that it consisted of hard clay-like matter at one end and rougher grass and vegetable fibers at the other; the whole was bound together with hairs, both black and brown. The scat bagged I began to walk slowly along the path, shining my torch in front of me. At places along its length the Cami de Cavalls runs within a few meters of the sea and the booming of the waves against the cliffs and flat wave-cut platforms was constantly in my ears. Turning a bend on the trail I came upon a moth trap hung on a pine by the local authority. Large quantities of rabbit droppings had been deposited in middens between the raised rocky pavements and from a clearing along a stretch of cliff I watched the silhouette of a solitary goose flicker low over the waves as it flew northwards towards the headland at S’Algar.

Tracking the Cami de Cavalls: III - Like a wren with tourettes!

By now the sun was just beginning to breach the horizon of the wine dark sea and I made out a gnarled and twisted pine rising some distance up the trail. Thinking that this would be a good place to look for raptor pellets I made my way to it and slowly crouched down to scan the floor. As I was looking amongst the dry needles the stillness was suddenly shattered by the noisy and very strident calls of a bird in the bush to my right. It sounded like a wren with Tourettes Syndrome had just woken up with a hang-over. I sat as still as a statue while this tirade of avian abuse rose from the shrubbery so close that it sounded as if the bird was on my shoulder. Turning my head to peer into the bush I tried to pin-point the bird when suddenly it darted out, flew round the pine tree under which I was crouching and on to another bush 10 meters away. In the dawn light all I saw was a flash of wings but stalking slowly towards the bush in which it settled I made out a small passerine bird with a grey body and a black head ticking noisily from the top of the bush.
Conditioned as I am to British wildlife my first thought was “Ah, a Blackcap!” but on returning home and consulting the web it seems more probable that this noisy one-bird dawn chorus was not the work of the Blackcap (Sylvia atricapilla) but the Sardinian Warbler (Sylvia melanocephala), a common Mediterranean warbler that has been adopted as the logo of the Sociedad Ornothologica de Menorca. I watched the warbler for several minutes as it made a circuit of its territory, boasting and signaling loudly from bushes and rocks before I carried on up the trail.
By now the light had turned from cold grey to warm yellow and moving into a sheltered section of the path between enclosed scrub I found a small black pellet deposited singly on the sandy bank above the path. It was approximately 7.00am and the sun had not yet risen high enough to shine directly on the path. The pellet was still moist and glistened with a jet black colour. It was small, approximately 1cm long, and teardrop shape. I bagged it up and pocketed it for later inspection.
The Cami de Cavalls began to rise and in the distance I saw the Martello tower in the distance. A colony of rock doves roosting on the south facing sea cliffs lifted and flew inland and here and there the anvil stones of thrushes rose like graveystones amongst the pads of grey lichen that bubbled over the rocks. Not the springy stuff found in northern forests this lichen had grown tough, sharp and wiry and like the empty and broken snail shells it was bleached white in the strong southern sun
As I got to the massive tower at Moro d'Alcalfar overlooking the harbour at Cala d'Alcalfar a Blackbird was singing to the sun atop the cliffs and every Sardinian Warbler within a mile seemed to be awake and competing with it’s neighbour in a noisy display of clicks, ticks and tremolos. The thing about coastal paths is that unless one wants to undertake a lengthy detour inland you have to return by the same way you arrived so I turned and headed back along the trail to Punta Prima.
It was now 7.30am and the Cami de Cavalls was busier, the occasional jogger sweated over the hard ground and a fat middle aged local man walked in front of me holding a bottle of water. Anxious to have the place as much to myself as possible I stopped and watched the sea; already small pleasure boats were sailing out, the chug of their engines drifting up from the sea and over the cliff tops. I stood a while and watched the massive white cruise ships sailing far to the south of the island. With the path quieter I began again. The sun was rising steeply and it was now warm. The local rodent population seemed to be much more audible as well, walking back along the trail bushes to my left and right began to rustle with a distinctive scuttling sound that was markedly different to the softer slithering the lizards made. Stopping at a rustle that was closer than most I peered into the bush and saw a small golden coloured rodent, looking more like a school gerbil than anything else, and for a second we stared at each other - beady eyes shining and whiskers twitching before it was off in a rustle of leaves and undergrowth.
Picking my way off the path to take a photograph of the coastline I found a very interesting fresh scat on a small rock in the lea of a large bush. The scat was still moist and glossy black, a trail of dark liquid had dried on the rock showing where it had slid down and settled on the ground. This scat was too messy and sloppy to bag so I opted for a few quick photographs and a cursory inspection with a pointy stick. Breaking up it’s gooey body revealed it to be composed mainly of insect elytra and some small pieces of snail shell. Looking around the bush for tracks proved futile, whatever had left the dropping had left no tracks I could see in the hard gravelly substrate but on the other side of the bush a similar but smaller scat had been deposited, again on a rock. Too messy to collect I satisfied myself with a few photographs.

Tracking the Cami de Cavalls: IV The Thekla Lark

At 7.40am the sun was beginning to warm the ground and lines of black ants streamed out of their holes making foraging runs into the bush. In the middle of the path some 20 meters away I saw a lark running quickly between the lines of ants, snapping them up as it went. The lark seemed unconcerned about my presence, although the erectile crest on it’s head did perk up, so I slowly inched forward, hands behind my back and face averted trying to keep the bird in my peripheral vision without startling it by staring it out. I was able to take several pictures of the lark feeding on the ants before a red-faced jogger, kitted out in a full Brazil football strip, lumbered up the trail and scared it away. However I noticed that the lark didn’t fly far and when our jogging friend had moved on I began to slowly work my way towards the place where it had settled. Moving through the thick scrub I became acutely aware that my outfit of shorts and flip-flops was not intended to hack through undergrowth that seemed to be the biological model for razor wire but when I finally got the bird back in view I was rewarded with a lengthy display as it sat on a rock and groomed itself after a breakfast of ants. I crouched in the prickly scrub, watching as it preened first the left wing then the right before settling down to comb carefully through the breast feathers. I managed to take more photographs, although with my wife’s £49.99 digital camera at maximum zoom the pictures are unlikely to win any awards. Using the information included on the website of the Socidedad Ornothologica de Menorca and some detective work I have identified the bird as most probably a Thekla Lark (Galerida theklae), a bird slightly smaller than the Skylark that breeds in dry open country in Iberia and North Africa. It was certainly a very rewarding encounter with a bird seldom seen in Britain. It was now almost time to lay the towels out on the beds by the pool so I made my way back to hotel. The House Martins were skimming the lawns and the gardeners were clipping the honeysuckle as the first lizards of the day soaked up the heat. In a walk of less than two hours along a path used daily by dozens of people I had managed to spot birds I had never seen before and find animal sign that would need a lot of detective work to unravel. The substrate may have been dry, hard and an unrewarding medium for finding tracks but its light sandy colour made finding scat and sign much easier than the leaf covered woodland floors of Britain. In hindsight maybe a pair of binoculars and field guides to the birds, mammals and flora of southern Europe would have come in handy, and perhaps my better camera and a tape measure but you make do with what you have to hand and I had packed for a family holiday not a natural history tour of the Balearics. I’ll know better next year. With the rest of the family still sleeping I crept back into the apartment and stowed my scat behind the complimentary bath robes, to be examined later at my leisure.

Tracking the Cami de Cavalls: Scat # 1

Scat # 1 was found slightly off the main trail in a dry gravelly area beside a large thorny bush some 2.5 meters high. There appeared to be small rabbit-sized runs through the undergrowth leading away from the find site but no tracks were visible in the hard, dry substrate. The length of Scat # 1 is approximately 20cm. It is thicker at one end, tapering to a thin narrow point at the other. On examination the scat is made up of two distinct parts; a thicker segment consisting mainly of vegetable matter, including blades of grass and a piece of dried, hard wood approximately 1cm square whilst the thinner segment is greyer in colour and appears to consist of hardened clay-like material. The whole scat is slightly twisted and contains hairs along it’s full length, both black and tawny brown. The two distinct parts are joined by hairs into one single unit. Although desiccated and bleached in colour by long exposure to the sun the scat retained a musty odour that was more pronounced when broken up. Identifying the scat presented some problems, the most obvious being my very poor local knowledge. Prior to holidaying on the island I had no idea which mammals were present on Menorca, either endemic or introduced. With the help of field-guides and the online European Mammal Assessment resource this can be overcome and possible species either ruled in or out. That the scat contained both vegetable and animal remains would point to an omnivorous animal although it should be noted that animals primarily thought to be carnivores can consume plant material throughout the year and that the diet of a species and the subsequent morphology of scat can alter markedly depending on habitat and prey. With this in mind it is possible to begin to make educated deductions regarding the origin of Scat # 1. Scats joined together in “chains” linked together by hairs are characteristic of the Red Fox (Vulpes vulpes) however the European Mammal Assessment centre shows that the Red Fox is absent from Menorca. Badgers (Meles meles) have an omnivorous diet that could produce such a scat and being a mustelid may also produce scat of a similar shape and size to Scat # 1 however Badger are known to prefer to deposit waste in regular well-used latrine sites rather than singularly and as with the red fox the badger is not recorded on Menorca. I would also argue that we can also rule out that the scat was deposited by a domestic dog – unless Menorcan dogs are in the habit of eating wood and grass and producing scats that are unlike any seen in Britain. The twisted texture and narrowing, tapering shape of Scat # 1 point to a mustelid and Schreiber et al describe an interesting introduction of Genets and Pine Martens to the island of Menorca, (Weasels, Civets & Mongooses – an action plan for the conservation of Mustelids and Vivverids; A Schreiber, R Wirth, M Riffel & H Van Rompaey. IUCN/SSC Mustelid and Vivverid Specialist Group).
Ibiza and Menorca each have a distinctive population of the small-spotted genet (G. genetta). It is sometimes thought that the species’s occurrence there (as well as to the European mainland) is due to introduction by man. If so, these introductions have presumably originated from geographically separate populations and the genet has changed in morphological characteristics in its new European habitats. There is also an undescribed form of beech marten (Martes foina) on Ibiza and a subspecies of pine marten (Martes martes minoricensis) on Menorca, both of which are distinctive from mainland animals (Delibes in litt. 1987). The Menorca small-spotted genet is believed to be still common. However, the Menorca marten and the Ibiza small-spotted genet are classified as “Rare” by ICONA (1986). The Ibiza beech marten might have become extinct recently. Surveys are needed to assess the status of these animals and to draw up management recommendations.
Could Scat # 1 be from the introduced Menorca Pine Marten (Martes martes minoricensis)? Schrieber et al tell us that pine marten are “rare” on the island. The area in which the scat was recovered was on the edge of a large and protected area of scrubby coastal forest. Although in boreal and temperate environments pine marten are known to favour mature woodland with dense cover on Menorca they show no habitat preference (Clevenger, 1993 & 1994).
Eurasian pine martens are considered habitat specialists, associated primarily with mature stands of mesic mixed forest habitats, and avoid areas without overhead cover. The species is found throughout the temperate and boreal regions of the continent but on the Mediterranean island of Menorca, introduced pine martens thrive in a competitor and predator free environment. I test the prediction that because of evolved prey-capture and predator avoidance strategies Menorcan martens should select habitats most similar to temperate and northern parts of their range. Scat index routes were used to quantify pine marten habitat selection. Marten did not demonstrate any habitat type preferences although observed use of pine forests and coastal shrublands was slighly greater than expected. Marten were indifferent to overhead cover whereas mesic sites and areas of tall high shrub density were favored. Small mammal trap indices and preferred prey suggested that martens commonly used non-forested areas. My results demonstrated that on Menorca pine martens were habitat generalists. In the absence of predators open non-forested habitats were equally important to pine marten as were forested ones
Mostly active during the night and at dusk pine marten may have several nesting sites within the home range, using abandoned bird nests and rock crevices as hideaways. Home range size estimates vary widely between studies although it is clear that male ranges are larger than female ranges and that they overlap those of one or more females. Some sources give an average of 23 sq km for males and 6.5 sq km for females (Nowak 1999), others estimate only 2.2 sq km for males and 1.5 sq km for females (Zalewski et al 1995). On the island of Menorca ranges were measured as 0.5 sq km for females and 6.9 sq km for males (Clevenger 1993). Although the pine marten is an opportunistic omnivore it favors animal food, relying on small mammals for most of the year with the composition and proportion of foods often changing according to season and local conditions, such as when fruits and berries become abundant in autumn. Scottish and Menorcan martens may fill 30% of their diet with these vegetarian resources whilst in other regions, such as Poland, fruits may never be eaten (Zalewski et al 1995, Clevenger 1993, Gurnell et al 1994). Aside from the effects of seasonally available fruits and unpredictable rodent booms, diet is otherwise reasonably constant. Favored foods include small mammals such as voles and squirrels, birds, insects, carrion, frogs, reptiles and snails. Diets of pine martens that forage along a loch in Scotland have been recorded to include crabs, echinoderms, and barnacles (Gurnell et al 1994). The overwhelming information available on pine marten scat is from northern Europe and there is very little available in general literature regarding the composition or morphology in a Mediterranean, and specifically Menorcan, environment. A positive identification of Scat # 1 is impossible but in light of the evidence – the find site close to rabbit runs, the presence of mammal hairs – possibly rabbit - in the scat, the twisted and chain-like morphology of the scat I am inclined to the view that Scat # 1 is possibly that of the Martes martes minoricensis.

Tracking the Cami de Cavalls: Scat # 2

Scat # 2 was found in an elevated position on a dry sandy bank immediately beside the trail, in an area enclosed on both sides by dense scrub, the time was approximately 7.00am. When found the scat had been deposited singly and was still fresh, with a glistening wet sheen to it. It is approximately 1cm in length and has a solid teardrop shape, with one end wider and thicker and the other tapering and narrow. Scat # 2 is black in colour. No tracks could be found in the immediate area of deposition and there were no obvious runs through the undergrowth. No similar droppings were found in the immediate area. Scat # 2 was photographed approximately 36 hours after collection by which time it had dried considerably. When Scat # 2 was broken up it was found to consist of insect elytra and small fragments of snail shell, many of which still retained their original colour. There was no noticeable smell to Scat # 2 either it its fresh or desiccated state. The size and teardrop shape of Scat # 2 are characteristic of the Brown Rat (Rattus norvegicus). As an opportunistic and highly adaptable species that has made ready use of its association with humans the Brown Rat has now colonised all but the most isolated and inhospitable parts of the world, it’s presence on Menorca perhaps linked to the islands importance as a strategic navel base for the western Mediterranean. Those who are interested are referred to my article on the identification of a Brown Rat skull posted on this blog in February 2009.

Tracking the Cami de Cavalls: Scat # 3 & Scat # 4

Scat # 3 was found beside a small stone beneath a large bush at approximately 7.45am. It was relatively fresh and retained a gooey and viscous texture and a shiny black colour. Scat # 3 appears to have been deposited on top of the stone and although the smear-trail of faecal liquid showing where it had slid down the stone to the position it was found had evaporated it had left a dark stain on the stone which is clearly visible in the photograph. Scat # 3 was approximately cm wide and appears to have settled into an amorphous mass however the linear/tubular shape that the original scat had upon excretion can be seen in the photograph. It had a musty odour, although not as strong as in Scat # 1. When broken up Scat # 3 was found to contain insect elytra although proportionally less than Scat # 2, which contained a very high proportion of elytra. There were no tracks in the immediate area of the stone that could assist with species identification although several meters away beneath the same bush a similar, although smaller scat had been deposited, again on a rock. This is referred to as Scat # 4. A striking feature of Scats # 3 & 4 are the deposition sites atop stones and rocks. This, coupled with the viscous semi-liquid nature of the scat points to a bird, although which bird is quite another matter?