Category Archives: Wildlife

Sha Raku En

The garden of loveliness that is the Japanese Garden at Cowden was our destination on Sunday.  The sun shone for the last day of the 2018 season, and there was still a fair bit of autumn colour.

Last flowers
Stone garden
Stone temple
Acer reflected
Zig zag oath
Van Gogh seed pods
Lake bridge

Weekendings

A busy and fruitful weekend: Saturday lunch in Cafe Portrait, where we narrowly missed Ali and Les.  Then we strolled along the main streets before heading up to the museum on Chambers Street to view Tim Peake’s landing craft.   Hied off to our café du jour, the Angus Fling, where Paul was able to stave off his hunger with a venison burger, whilst I had a more sedate,  and rather good, scone.  Tripped back down the road to Coda Music, where there was a new CD being launched, by Aidan O’Rourke, of LAU fame.  We enjoyed a short concert, with James Robertson reading his stories and  Kit Downes on the harmonium, plus Aidan on fiddle.  They were all kind enough to sign my CD.

Sunday began with a swim, and a serendipitous trip to Loch Ore meadows, where the cafe was open ridiculously early for a marathon bicycle race. allowing us to sneak a cup of tea and a scrambled egg roll.  A walk round the loch itself was followed by a sail on two fun boats.  “Fun” was maybe not quite the order of the day since there was no wind to propel these sail boats, but we had a good time and the staff at the park could not have been kinder, or more helpful.

We had to wear wetsuits.  No pictures exist of either of us in that garb.  Nor will they.

Tim Peake: Soyuz
Paul with Soyuz
Swans on Loch Ore
Calm
Last of the bluebells
Heron at Loch Ore
Pinkfoot Geese at Loch Ore

Shakin’ a tail feather

Here’s a smart fellow we met in Drummond Castle gardens last weekend.  Interestingly enough, there are no peacock poems in my lovely  book The Poetry of Birds whilst the phoenix, a bird which doesn’t even technically exist, gets five.  You will recall that the divine colours of its plumage are actually illusory, yes, just like the kingfisher, it relies heavily on the phenomenon of iridescence and its success therein determines its chances of getting lucky with the peahens.

Peacock

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So yes, optical interference Bragg reflections based on regular, periodic nanostructures of the barbules (fiber-like components) of the feathers produce the peacock’s colours. Slight changes to the spacing of these barbules result in different colours. *  More equally fascinating detail on their mate selection strategy may be found on Wiki.   It’s not just about strolling around and being stunning, you know.

eyespots

 

 

 

 

 

 

*from Wiki

Quackers

As our island nation emerges from a long long winter, we have begun our programme of jaunts short and long.  I have very quickly run into the issue of not being able to keep up with the updates, so this post will have to cover at least three such peregrinations.

First to Kenmore with the Folk Club.  The journey up was made in weather most foul.  The A9 runs alongside some vast swathes of Perthshire farmland, and I don’t think I will forget seeing so many  lambs huddled behind sodden hay bales, trying to find shelter from the incessant rain.  What a welcome to the world.  48 hours later, we were taking some glorious shots along Loch Tay, although the Ben was still caked in snow.  We had a merry time with chums, a rare old daunder round Aberfeldy and a climb up to see the Falls of Acharn.

Loch Tay, Kenmore

 

 

 

 

 

 

The next weekend saw us off to York, to meet Team Discovery, on the (near enough) 10th anniversary of our inaugural AGM.  We were too busy chatting and laughing to remember the group photo, suffice today the girls won the quiz.  The journeys there and back were smooth, plus the majority of the taxi drivers we encountered were pleasant and helpful.

I ticked a box at the National Railway Museum, which is free to visit, btw,  what an utter bargain.  When I was little, steam trains were still on the go and the ones that captured my imagination were the Bittern and the Mallard.  I think it was the streamlined design and punky funnels which caught my childish eye, the bird names would have nothing to do with it, oh no.  Mallard was awol from the museum last time we went, in 2010, but this time she was centre stage, and even had a café named after her.

Mallard

 

 

 

 

 

 

I did manage to take a picture with only two humans in it, which was not easy.  All I know about rains is from the standpoint (touchy subject) of a commuter and occasional steam groupie, but if I could meet Sir Nigel Gresley*I would shake him by the hand.  The trains he designed looked stunning and outperformed most others.  Interestingly, his home had a moat in which he bred ducks.

Record

 

 

 

 

 

 

Once I was forcibly extracted from the sheds, we wandered round the town, which was extremely busy with hen parties and football fans.  Every pub had at least two bouncers, mid afternoon.  It’s not like that in Dunfermline.  Passing by York Minster we noticed that the restoration of some stonework was laid out for all to see, and by poking the camera lens  through the wire fence I managed to capture this fine fellow. I found this link which could well show the stonemasons involved.

Minster lion

 

 

 

 

 

 

I have many more photos of trains, if you wish to see these please do call round.

We also travelled to Berwick.  However, despite Paul’s best efforts the PC will not view the SD card from the camera, so I have to wait for him to upload them to the shared drive and them drag them in from the network.  Looking at you, Panasonic, and your WiFi link that scrambled my files.  Lastly, a street with identity issues.

Sign

*From  Wikipedia *A statue of Gresley was unveiled at King’s Cross station in London on 5 April 2016, the 75th anniversary of his death.[6] Sculptor Hazel Reeves originally included a duck alongside Gresley in reference to his hobby of breeding water fowl and his bird-themed locomotive names such as Mallard, but this was removed from the final design when two of Gresley’s grandsons complained it was “demeaning”.[7]

 

Hazel Reeves also researched, designed and sculpted the Cracker Packers  statue in Carlisle, as I discovered this morning.

Prey to distraction

We took the car to Dunkeld to check out the charger there and what do you know,  Loch of the Lowes is just round the corner.  LJ is back, and the viewing room was hoachin’.   Stopped off at Tiso’s Perth, and then toured Dunkeld’s shops.  Fortunately most of them were shut, but it doesn’t bode well for Paul’s wallet when we go back later in the year….

Greater Spotted Woodpecker
Yellowhammer (taken by Paul)
Female Pheasant and male Mallard
Female Osprey LJ
Red
Male Mallard head plumage

Treemendous

Townhill Loch today.  Some bizarre stuff going down, which we assuaged with a nice cup of tea and biscuit.

Mute swan feeding
Sparkly loch
Half moon
Strawberry tree
Apple tree
Pear Tree
Cygnet and Mallard

 

 

 

Argentum vacation

As is my wont, I looked up silver on Wikipedia and within three clicks happened upon the delightful phrase “metals of antiquity“, which I think quite aptly describes a milestone wedding anniversary.  The poking about further elicited the notion that metals are malleable, fusible and ductile; going over those terms in detail, l was struck by the last – within the metallurgy concept it means able to be pulled into a wire but it also comes from the Latin ducere, meaning to lead.  Dad often told us that the word education meant to lead out.  Now that’s off my chest, we may proceed.

Wanders north took us to Invergarry, Ratagan, Glenelg, Plockton, Portree, Broadford, the Trotternish peninsula, Ardtornish, Glenfinnan, Lochaline and Tobermory.  We had one boat trip (Sula Mhor, Plockton) and five ferry rides.  Planned but eventually off the travel menu were journeys to St Kilda and Loch Coruisk.   This was not unexpected and only serves as a reason to return.  The weather was in general, bad, occasionally awful and sometimes gorgeous.  The wildlife kept itself hidden, as did the stars, although we did see a juvenile golden eagle from the living room window of our cottage on Skye. We saw changes, having not been to these parts from some five years, maybe more, but we also heard voices from long ago and in every way had a most enjoyable time.  I have waaay too many photos to choose from so, as ever, an eclectic selection below.  Bear in mind that in order to take the shot of the train we had to share a wee hump of a hill with 300 others –  all shouting about a boy wizard going to school ….

Red sandstone by Loch Duich
Glenelg
Glenelg broch
Glenelg broch
Ferry at Kylerhea narrows
Loch Duich from Ratagan hostel
Salty Sam with Ratagan Bear
Eilean Donan castle
Eilean Donan castle
Beautiful Plockton in the rain
Wet birds (Phalacrocorax aristotelis)
Salty on the Sula Mhor
Old Man of Storr
View from Achacroik
Garden of Castle Cottage, Ardtornish
Glenfinnan and Loch Shiel
Jacobite train crossing Glenfinnan viaduct
Ardtornish Castle, Kinlochaline
Tobermory

 

Summer-y

Oh good grief, I was sure I had posted at least once  in June, outwith Dad’s birthday, but I see the last one was May 28th.   Poor old BTW always suffers the most appalling neglect in the summer, it’s shocking behaviour and someone somewhere needs a strongly worded email.   In our defence I see that June encompassed the following activities: West Fife show with Rieko, Royal Highland Show, finding a spot to take pictures of HMS Queen Elizabeth*, at least three peregrinations** around Vane Farm, a trip to Beadnell with Team Discovery, three visits to the wonderful new museum and galleries in Dunfermline, and some catch ups with old chums, all the while working on new songs for the band and oh then there’s the day jobs.  Photos below include the two statues resident in the gardens of (deep breath) Dunfermline Carnegie Library and Galleries, they are of Tam O’Shanter and Souter Johnnie.  And yes, we already know of interactions with traffic cones.   The picture of the heron was an attempt to capture the beautiful yellow and blue flowers in the wetland meadow, mayhap they would show up better after some gentle photo massage.

We had a brilliant 9th anniversary visit to Beadnell – the girls won the quiz!! – and were the skies ever so big as viewed from Alnwick beach?  Our 10th is obviously going to be a no holds barred, take no prisoners 72 hours of complete anarchic mayhem, I’m sure that’s what Roger said.

Some happy news of family and friends of which more anon, but huge and hearty congratulations to Emily Sanderson and Christopher White, who graduated from St. Andrew’s and  Edinburgh Universities respectively.

Lastly, and most importantly, Paul’s astronomy club was written up in the Courier, with no mistakes or factual inaccuracies and some ace pictures.  The photos were taken in March of this year.

Researching the subject of neglect, I found this rather lovely poem, and what do you know, it comes down to birds in the end after all.

Neglect

 

Is the scent of apple boughs smoking

in the woodstove what I will remember

of the Red Delicious I brought down, ashamed

 

that I could not convince its limbs to render fruit?

Too much neglect will do that, skew the sap’s

passage, blacken leaves, dry the bark and heart.

 

I should have lopped the dead limbs early

and watched each branch with a goshawk’s eye,

patching with medicinal pitch, offering water,

 

compost and mulch, but I was too enchanted

by pear saplings, flowers and the pasture,

too callow to believe that death’s inevitable

 

for any living being unloved, untended.

What remains is this armload of applewood

now feeding the stove’s smolder. Splendor

 

ripens a final time in the firebox, a scarlet

harvest headed, by dawn, to embers.

Two decades of shade and blossoms – tarts

 

and cider, bees dazzled by the pollen,

spare elegance in ice – but what goes is gone.

Smoke is all, through this lesson in winter

 

regret, I’ve been given to remember.

Smoke, and Red Delicious apples redder

than a passing cardinal’s crest or cinders.

 

—R. T. Smith

Years ago I read or heard on the radio a spooky story about burning an apple tree, anyone recall that?

 

Team Discovery at Beadnell Towers
Bowbridge Alpacas at West Fife Show, Kelty
Heavy horses, West Fife show
Dunfermline Museum
Dunfermline Museum gardens
Cook family with Paul, Gillman hide, RSPB Loch Leven
Swallow, Vane Farm courtyard
HMS QE, from Limekilns harbour
Spooky wifey, Beadnell
Grey heron from Gillman hide
Lapwing

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

*a frankly massive aircraft carrier built in Rosyth.

** peregrination from the Latin peregrinus, meaning foreign, and also obviously that’s the root of the peregrine falcon, “young birds being captured in flight rather than taken from the nest”.   Eh, thanks Chambers Concise Dictionary, is that one of those hidden jokes you lexicographers put into your oeuvres?   Because if it is, I don’t get it.

Isle of May

On Sunday, after long and careful planning, we met Diana, Caroline and Nigel for a return trip to the Isle of May.  Last time we took Caroline & Nigel’s daughters and it was a rough old ride there and back; the girls had envisioned a genteel turn in an enclosed cruiser and were slightly traumatised by the full on drenching, nowhere to hide experience of the RiB.   Caroline nobly took the alternate option of sailing on the Princess, with the remit of being at the head of the queue for teas and coffees when we disembarked.

It was like gliding on the way out.  I kept shouting to Nigel “This time last year we were crying,” but the return journey reminded us of the thalassic power beneath; we Christened it the Cellardyke Exfoliation Experience and I was encrusted with salt by the time we made landfall.

Happily the queue for the chipper was not too long and Diana had also prepared some salads and pudding.  The isle itself was packed with birds, and if the pictures are similar to last year’s, then that’s a bonus.  Count included guillemot, razorbill, shag, cormorant, eider duck, arctic tern, puffin, pied wagtail, kittiwake, greater and lesser black backed gull, black headed gull, herring gull, oyster catcher and bunnies.  The Arctic terns had not laid many eggs yet, so were not aggressive, indeed they were very shy and I only saw one.

LBB Gull. Cormorants and Shag
Cliffs with razorbills and guillemots
Thrift on the roof
Eider duck nesting
Rusting iron
Window
Eider duck with ducklings
Eider drake
Puffins with Eider ducks
Walk to the lighthouse