Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Open wide

[house martins nesting in the eaves of my sister's house]

So far we have only had one response to the caption 'competition.' Thank you, Lynn.
Of course, it may be that we only have one reader!
Or maybe the rest of you are waiting to see what the prize might be?
C'mon... let's have some suggestions as to what, if anything, is in the mind of our photogenic sheep!
Or if that doesn't appeal... what about a caption for today's photograph?
You'll have to look carefully but there are three House Martins in the picture. What might each of them be saying? What does the picture make you think of?
Answers, please... but not on a postcard- a comment will do.
The competition is wide open.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Very Random Thoughts

No doubt, if I take the trouble to write anything at all for this blog, I ought to be reflecting on major issues of the day, such as the controversial release of al Megrahi, and the difficult (if not at times impossible) tension between compassion (mercy) and justice. However, I will leave such matters to those more qualified and better informed than I.
In passing, though, I would simply observe that as a general rule most of us prefer mercy for ourselves when we mess up but justice for those who do us wrong. All the same (for what it is worth) I reckon the release of al Megrahi, and the manner and timing of it, was probably a mistake.

But...to return to the far more mundane matters that usually fill this space I ask you to take a closer look at the subject of the portrait above. [click on the picture to see it full size]
The photograph was taken at the Black Isle Show a couple of weeks ago.
There were some pretty impressive animals on show, Clydesdale Horses and the like. But this particular sheep caught my eye (almost literally.) Most of the other sheep, of all breeds, were either shy or contemptuously indifferent to the camera lens but this particular one was virtually posing. I don't know what you think of sheep as a rule but what do you imagine this sheep was thinking about the photographer?
Let's have a caption competition for a little 'thought bubble' we can add to this picture. Send me your suggestions.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Oh for the wings (iii)

To complete the trio it's back to the natural world and back down in scale with the blue here reserved for the damselfly itself.
I originally tried to post the three photographs together but for some reason that I don't have time to explore something happened which meant that you could not click the photographs to see them in their full size.

I don't like some of the changes that seem to have been introduced to Blogger and the way it works (or more often doesn't.)
For one thing I no longer seem to be able to access some of the blogs I used to visit from time to time. It is also difficult to post using Firefox. [Anyone know why?]

However, there is one blog that I can still visit entitled "Cause I believe in you" and on it I came across this wonderful quote:

""To devote yourself to the creation and enjoyment of beauty can be a serious business - not always necessarily a means of escaping reality, but sometimes a means of holding on to the real when everything else is flaking away into . . . rhetoric and plot" ~~ Elizabeth Gilbert

It gives me all the justification I need to continue taking photographs when I can and posting them here. Apparently in doing so I am not escaping reality but actually holding on to what is real.
That is good to know.

Oh for the wings (ii)

With a not-quite-so-blue sky for background this very colourful kite was also being flown from Dunstable Downs.

Oh for the wings...

On the subject of flying things, here's a man-made flying machine soaring silently over the Dunstable Downs. [Incidentally, does anyone know why it is that in England hills that are clearly 'up' are nevertheless called 'downs'? Just wondering.]

Autumn in the air?

Apparently the 'experts' are telling us now that Autumn has come early this year - just as Spring did. For most of us in Scotland the biggest problem is that there doesn't seem to have been very much summer in between!
The photograph above was actually taken on 22nd July in the south of England and already it looks pretty autumnal to me, although, to be honest I have no idea when maple leaves normally begin to change colour.
I know there is a big difference between climate change and changeable weather but it does look as if some of the predictions are coming true (although not the one from the BBC weather folk who told us we would be having a 'barbecue summer' this year!) As I look out of the window this morning to see heavy rain falling and the trees being buffeted by strong winds it almost looks like January!
I received an email the other day from a friend in South Korea and he tells me that they have "been suffering the wettest summer ever."
Ah well... to cheer us up (and especially for one of my regular readers, Emma Louise) here's another photograph of that cheeky young robin, its youthful feathers decidely ruffled but its alert stare suggesting nothing but confidence.
Today- whatever winds may ruffle your feathers or buffet you about -may you look out on the world with hope and confidence.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

The birds of the air

[young robin photographed near Ardross, in Easter Ross, Scotland]*

Of course, it is not just butterflies and moths that fly.
I've always been fascinated by birds. In fact, I once was a member of the RSPB.
I let my membership lapse but, in any case, in more recent years (since we got our cat, Tess) I felt it was a little bit hypocritical to claim that I was helping to protect birds.
Like me, Tess liked to capture birds- unlike me she didn't use a camera, she used her claws!
While still quite a young kitten she managed to catch and kill a wood pigeon which was almost the same size as her. (Maybe I should never have shown her that film about lions in Africa?)
Anyway, she has settled down a bit now and, thankfully, got a bit lazier and slower. No more unwanted gifts left for us on the doorstep.
When I was visiting my sister in North-East Scotland a couple of weeks ago I managed to take a series of photographs of this young robin in her garden. Like most robins he/she (I can't tell you which it is from these photos) was pretty bold and it came up quite close, enabling me to capture some fairly clear images.
Butterflies are hard to photograph in flight - probably impossible without specialist equipment - but some birds have a more leisurely style of flying, including the red kite. This bird was almost extinct in the UK until fairly recently but a successful re-introduction programme has meant that there are several places in the country where you have a very good chance of spotting these unmistakable, majestic birds of prey.
While taking a very leisurely, and very indirect route from Buckinghamshire to Bristol, we came across a group of at least ten red kites, together with about half a dozen buzzards. It was quite a spectacular sight.

[red kite photographed near Didcot, Oxfordshire, England]*

*Remember to click on the photographs to see them full size.

Red Cannibal

[Cinnabar Moth - photographed near Buckland, Buckinghamshire]

This is not a butterfly but a moth. For those who may be interested it is in fact a Cinnabar Moth (Tyria jacobaeae) so called because of its bright cinnabar-red wings. Apparently the bright red colour is meant to deter predators and, in any case, they are allegedly very unpalatable. I wouldn't know: I've never tried to eat one.
It doesn't seem to stop them devouring each other, though, at least while they are in the larvae stage.
Strange world we live in!

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Painted Lady

Well, here she is - the Painted Lady! (At least I hope my butterfly identification is correct. No doubt someone will put me right if I am mistaken.) Apparently 2009 is the "best painted lady year we have had in the UK."
If you listen to the news clip above you'll realise it is not all good news as far as butterflies are concerned.
What I find so fascinating about butterflies is the incredible intricate beauty all wrapped up in such a fragile frame - a reminder that all of life on this planet really is pretty precarious. The brief lives of butterflies remind me also to 'seize the moment' - make the most of what is given to us. The faded and battered beauty of the Red Admiral below (photographed this time in Scotland) says it even more powerfully.


Give me sunshine

I was driving back from Manchester on Friday afternoon, having helped one of my daughters to move house from Manchester to York. The weather in England was fine, dry and sunny. However, when I arrived at the Scottish border at Gretna, it was as if someone had drawn a line along the border and said "OK, let's put all the rain on that side!" It was like driving into a monsoon.
Having just seen this morning's weather forecast, it looks like something similar is about to happen today - England dry, Scotland wet. Hmmm... :-(
Having said that, during our holiday in England, it seems to have been the other way round.
Maybe it's personal?
Anyway, on the days when the sun was shining I was delighted to see and photograph an amazing number of butterflies, including this lovely peacock. [remember to click on the photo to see it full size]
But the most prolific butterfly this summer, at least in Buckinghamshire, seems to have been the 'Painted Lady.' They were everywhere, and in great numbers.
I am trying to upload a picture of one to add to this post but for some reason it is not working. I will add one to a later post.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

R & R

I have to confess that blogging has not been a very important priority for me of late. I have been much more preoccupied with the business of moving house (temporarily,) going on holiday, helping my daughter and her husband get ready to move their house and visiting friends and family.
There was the added problem of having no internet connection for about four weeks. [Does anyone know why it takes so long to move a broadband connection from one house to another one less than two miles away?]
However, in my travels around England and Scotland over the last couple of weeks I have had the opportunity to get the camera out and start taking a few 'snaps' again- "a few"being just over 1200 in fact!!
So now there is no excuse. I have lots of pictures to reflect on.
But where do I start?
As you can see, I have started with a with a photograph taken in my sister-in-law's garden; a simple empty white chair and a 'heart' bathed in gentle sunlight.
It's a picture which to me says "space" and "rest."
More than anything else it is what I needed and thankfully found.
Isn't that what holidays are for?