Joni turned 4 years old a week or so ago, though it’s hard to believe it’s been that long since she joined our household! She still has the boundless energy and enthusiasm of a puppy, a characteristic of border collies. Born in the winter, she loves the cold and finds the snowy, blustery days invigorating, where we have to bundle ourselves up against the elements. Soon the snow will be deep on the ground covering the frozen treacherous icy ruts on the road and fields and the walking will be easier as we don our snowshoes (and Joni her boots) to head out across the landscape. The freedom of being able to go cross country on skis or snowshoes in the winter is hard to imagine if you haven’t tried it. The interesting thing is that once you are out in it, the cold doesn’t feel as bad. There’s a saying that it’s not that the weather is too cold, you’re just not wearing warm enough clothes!
Enjoy the winter, those of us who have it, Spring will come eventually and the cycle will begin anew.
And now back to England. This post is for the birds.
I have always associated England with birds as it was there that I first really started to learn about them. I have never been a bird watcher in the focused, knowledgeable and dedicated ‘twitcher’ sense. But I was very fortunate, when I was in my early 20’s, to take an adult education (evening) class given by the warden of Minsmere Bird Reserve in Suffolk, Jeremy Sorensen, who subsequently became a great friend. He loved birds and was a passionate advocate for conservation and protection of the habitat of the reserve. That love for birds that he had was instilled in all of us, to the point that it still forms an important part of each day wherever I live.
Whichever country I was in, I took special note of the sounds, sights and behaviour of the birds around me. I had already experienced the attacks and shrill cries of the protective arctic terns as they dive-bombed us in our little boat on the lake in Lapland, a few years before. (That story and podcast are here if you want to read about that wonderful night. http://elliekennard.ca/lemmings-midnight-sun/) Now I was even more aware and observed with an intense thrill my first ever osprey as I saw it dive into the Baltic sea off the coast of Finland and watched as it caught a fish and rose, flapping heavily, to take it to its nest where its young waited.
Those were the moments of drama and excitement. But life is mostly made up of the everyday, the ordinary, the mundane. And with birds, my memories of England are the fondest when I think of those that fit that description.
For me, on returning to England, I wanted to find and photograph a robin. The little bright, cheery fellow who is so belligerent and so cheeky will always represent that country to me. And I was not disappointed, as he appeared on this feeder you see above, decorated so nicely with the cobweb. But I hoped to see and hear more of my old friends, as many as I could in the time I was there. During my trip there were times when birds were the stars, and there were times when they were important components of the landscape, still a vital part of the visit. This post is dedicated to the stars. The next will be the incidentals.
The blue and the great
I also wanted to see a blue tit again. They are such pretty little things, too, I have many fond memories of them during my time in England.
This little one sat so nicely for me so bright and pretty on this stake and gave me just enough time to take one photo before he flew off in a hurry.
A close relative of this fellow is the great tit. This one sat only a few feet away, safe in a hedge, watching the feeder and making his mind up as to whether it would be a good time to make a dive for it. I was glad to get a photo of him in this environment, as hedges are also a great part of the English countryside, protecting and sheltering so much wildlife. There are not many left but small gardens such as this often have such a hedge, where you can usually find all kinds of creatures hiding.
The pigeon is an oft’ maligned bird that I love. It isn’t bright and flashy, but its gentle sound is so comforting to hear in the garden that I was glad to see this old favourite sitting on top of the same hedge, also eyeing the feeder.
On one very foggy morning in Lincolnshire I went for a walk along the river bank (which is behind the hedge you see above) and saw a lovely scene on the other side of the bank with a pond and reeds and ducks and fog. It was just gorgeous, with that soft mist and the ducks moving in and out of the reeds on the water. I knew I just had to get that photograph. I picked up my camera and focused… on nothing! The ducks had decided that I must be there to feed them. And so they had all left the water and gathered at my feet! I did get one or two photographs of them on the pond and in the reeds when they got bored and went back in, but this seemed to be the photo to share here, as they milled around me at the edge of the water.
I have already posted about my swan sighting, on here, but I should include that photo again, as it really was a star on my visit. I love the elegance of these beautiful, royal birds.
and now for a …..
Well I bet you weren’t expecting this last bird, were you? In a strange way, this, too, represents England. Bringing up a child in England usually involves visiting a farm park nearby and as we spent time with our grandchildren we did exactly that. And there was yet another bird, this beautiful Emu. So although an Emu is not your typical English garden mundane bird. He does have a place here, bringing back memories of all children’s farm visits over the years. I don’t think Joe or Elsie gave him a sideways glance as they ran off to play on the trampolines or climbing frames, but I lingered and caught his eye before I left him to his dinner.
Now you’ve seen the star birds that made my trip special as they brought back a memory of bird watching days in Suffolk. The incidental birds that are an important feature in some of the landscape photographs I took will be in another post.
I lived for 21 years in England in total and have been away from it except for short visits for almost 30. There are some scenes that are uniquely English memories for me (though they might well exist in other places) and I am hoping to find some of them on this trip and share them here. These are two special scenes to start off with.
As you gather from this post, we are back in England for a visit to family and friends. Today we went for a lovely walk along the bank of a river near where Steven’s parents live. There is something so very English about a river in the country, with the weird and wonderful boats moored along a rickety jetty and the ‘Walk here at your own risk’ sign posted there. The path was damp and muddy with blackberries still in the hedgerows which surprised me as ours have been over with long ago, as well as the bright red wild rosehips. The trees still have some leaves and, though they lack the brilliance of the autumn foliage we see, there is a rich depth to their colours of yellow and browns and to the greens and rough black earth of the ploughed fields. This is always intensified by the dampness in the air and on the ground. A lonely horse grazed quietly in a field, hardly bothering to lift his head to watch us go past.
The sun was setting behind the misty paler clouds that were gathering in the distance beneath the darker cloudbanks. It was by no means the most spectacular sunset, as my father-in-law assured me. In a way that made it more special for me, in the understated quiet ending of the day. So very British.
My landscape gallery is here: Landscape Gallery
I Wished For Swans
The river is just by an RAF station and suddenly there were jets screaming deafeningly overhead as they practised whatever manoeuvres they were performing. The sound of the engines ripped through the air and buried itself in my chest so that, with my fingers in my ears I instinctively pulled my elbows in to protect my heart. I can’t see how this noise is permitted in an area where people and wildlife can be so assaulted, but it is. (I felt so sorry for the poor horse grazing nearby who couldn’t put his hooves into his ears.)
And then, just as if they had read my mind and placed themselves where I couldn’t miss them, I saw two swans dabbling in the reeds of a pond on the other side of the river bank. I don’t believe I have seen a swan since I last lived in England. They are the quintessential royal bird, indeed they are the property of the Queen, no matter where they are found in the UK. They never turned their heads when the jets flew over. Their very presence and calm, elegant dignity turned that humble reedy pond at the edge of a muddy field into a place of silent, glowing, pristine beauty. It’s all part of my England.
My gallery of animal photography is here: Animals – they enrich our lives now and fill our futures with wonderful memories.
During our trip to Ontario last Spring we went on a couple of hikes through the trails around Georgian Bay. On this particular day we were heading to the cliffs of Lion’s Head, so we parked our car and had to make our way along a road to access the main trail. It was a lovely warm spring day for a hike and as Steve and I walked along together chatting, we saw in the distance a little orange cat heading down a driveway towards the road. He seemed to be coming with a purpose, as he turned at the end of the drive and headed in our direction.
He kept walking towards us as if intent on greeting us personally at the start of our trek. As he drew closer ….Keep on reading
This pair of insects appeared on the porch of a little house in the woods. While everyone was inside (it was a really really tiny cabin) I tried to get some photographs of them, to be able to identify them later on. The time was late afternoon and the trees were shading the area heavily, so the light was very low, making it more difficult, but I did get a couple of them. When I enlarged them I was able to see these amazing eyes and formation and markings of the bodies. They are so delicate looking with those long legs and fine wings.
If anyone knows what these might be, please let me know. They look like something from outer space!
One Monarch butterfly has been teasing us for a couple of weeks. On our usual walks, along the edge of the woods, this orange beauty would dance about just out of reach, flying high up into a tree as soon as we got near. One solitary insect might not seem much, but with no sightings in the past few years, that single bright fragile creature flitting among the bushes was enough to give us a thrill. And we wondered at times if it was the same one, or if there were, perhaps two or three, in different locations around the trail.
What was it that prompted me?
What was it that prompted me to go for a walk with my long lens on this particular day? I was just about to lend this particular lens to my friend who was considering buying a similar one, so she could see if it would give her the kind of range she wanted. First though, I thought I would go for a quick walk and take a few photos to show her what she might expect. Joni was (as always) my first model (turn the page or scroll down to keep reading…)
Joni is always my favourite model when it comes to trying out new photographic techniques. This time it was a new lens – in fact a new to me second hand, old fashioned lens. As I was working how to use it to best advantage, I said to Joni “Relax, just be yourself. Don’t pose.” This was the photo I got.
So then I said to her, “Don’t be so self-conscious, just try to act naturally.” She shifted position and this was Continue reading →
Border collies know how to hide themselves in short grass, waiting for the unsuspecting potential Frisbee thrower to pass by. They disguise themselves in dandelion heads and you can barely see them. Well, you can almost barely see them.
This is a common butterfly around here in the summer, but I was really pleased to get this photo of it as it rested on the path. The patterns on its wings are finely drawn and the tips of its antennae are tiny orange balls (hard to see in this photo, to be fair). Rupert (our Cornish Rex cat) tried to catch it and almost succeeded (which is what drew it to my attention) but I managed to save it and put it safely out of his reach (he is on a long leash) so it could get over the shock and fly away. Have a lovely week everyone, full of lovely butterflies!