Posts Tagged ‘Belhaven beach’

Falling Awake and birds at Belhaven Pond

March 3, 2017

The Poetry Book Society Choice for Autumn 2016 was Alice Oswald’s  new book – Falling Awake. This is an astonishing book of poems and has won some literary prizes. In the book, Oswald is not just close to nature, but inside it, and she demonstrates how elements of nature are interlinked, and how nature affects our lives , but also has a life of its own. The first poem A Short Story of Falling begins “It is the story of the falling rain/ to turn into a leaf and fall again/ it is the secret of a summer shower/ to steal the light and hide it in a flower”. These dramatic images – a shower stealing the light – continue in all the poems. In Fox, the narrator hears ” a cough” in her sleep and it is ” a fox in her fox-fur/ stepping across/ the grass in her black gloves/ [which] barked at my house”. In other poems, we hear of a badger “still with the simple heavy box of his body needing to be lifted” being “hard at work/ with the living shovel of himself”. In “A Rushed Account of the Dew”, there’s an amazing image of water on a plant, as the poet imagines the dew “descend/ out of the dawn’s mind”, and affix “a liquid cufflink” on to a leaf. In Shadow, the poet describes the shadow as having ” a flesh parachute of a human opening above it” – as you see, there’s a vivid imagination at work here. There are many more images of falling in the subsequent poems. I’m only half way through the book and will return to it in the blog. I agree with the Guardian reviewer that “I cannot think of any poet who is more watchful or with a greater sense of gravity”.

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“Falling Awake” by Alice Oswald

This week, we’ve had cold, but very bright days, especially in the morning. Having cycled past Seafield Pond (good photos) on Monday and seen a gathering of ducks on the grass verge, I ventured back there on foot on Tuesday – in the morning sunlight. The ducks were gone, but over the wall on Belhaven Beach, there was a scattering of seagulls, some oystercatchers and curlews, but also 2 little egrets (photos, video and bird call). As I got my camera ready, there was a sudden squawking, a brief flurry of wings by both birds, and one took off for the pond. I managed to get two photos of the constantly moving little egret. They are not the clearest of photos and maybe, I should have used a sports setting on my camera. However, they do show the elegance of this bird, with its long beak, tiny eye and large yellow feet, which help them to steady themselves on the slippery sand below the water.

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Little Egret on Belhaven Beach (Click to enlarge)

In second photo, I like the shimmering reflection of the bird’s body in the water, its shadow (with flesh parachute of a bird opening above it, as Oswald might have put it) and the corrugated sand.

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Little Egret and reflection on Belhaven Beach

While the egrets and oystercatchers are nervous birds and will fly off if you get anywhere near them, the swans on Seafield Pond simply float towards you. OK – they are looking for food, but I also think that swans are narcissistic birds. They glide toward you, inviting you to photograph their haughty serenity. They move slowly, like elegant models on a catwalk, then dip their heads in the water. The first photo shows 2 swans coming towards the bank, where I’m standing at the water’s edge. There are other birds, such as coots, but these have swum away in panic and have hidden behind the tall reeds (2nd photo). See the causal elegance here, with the swans more interested in their own reflections than the presence of a would-be photographer.

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Elegant swans at Seafield Pond

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Coots behind the reeds at Seafield Pond

The first swan pushed its head under water a few times and after several attempts, I managed to get a shot with water dripping from its beak. Look at the perfect outline of its body, the giraffe like neck and its body like a small iceberg. You can watch swans all day.

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Swan with dripping beak at SeafieldPond

Whitesands cross country and Belhaven Beach walk

January 28, 2015

Firstly, for those in Australia, I hope that your Australia Day went well and those of you in the Sydney area didn’t get too wet. On Sunday, my wife and I were out at The Whitesands helping with marshalling and timing of the Borders Cross Country event. There were  84 junior runners and 163 seniors taking part in separate races. The races started on Whitesands Beach and the juniors ran along the beach towards Dunbar Golf Course, back over the beach, up the hill and over to Barns Ness Lighthouse. The adults went past the lighthouse, on to a stretch of beach, on to a track near the Dry Burn (burn=stream and this one dries up in summer) and back on narrow tracks to the Whitesands. The photos below show the start of the junior and adult races and the adults returning across the sands.

Junior cross country race at Whitesands

Junior cross country race at Whitesands

Adult cross country race at Whitesands

Adult cross country race at Whitesands

Adult cross country race at Whitesands

Adult cross country race at Whitesands

To Belhaven Beach, on the other side of Dunbar from the Whitesands. I’ve featured Belhaven Beach on this blog before and will again. It is a wide sweep of beach and a glorious walk at all times of the year. This week, there was a cold SW wind blowing the sand across the beach, a stunning site but I failed to do it justice with my camera, so no desert type photos of rushes of sand over sand. The sand itself is very firm in some parts, very ridged in others and very soft near the sand dunes. This was a sparkling Scottish winter afternoon, with sun now higher in the sky and delineating the metal structure of  Belhaven Bridge on the beach – in the photos below. The tide was well out for our walk, but people can get stranded as the tide comes in fast and covers the bridge’s steps. You can see two contrasting views of Belhaven Bridge from a previous post. You can walk for about 5k along the beach and back, or you can walk around the John Muir Country Park. The sea was a postcard blue next to the beach, with some interesting driftwood and views out to the Bass Rock – see photos below.

Belhaven Bridge

Belhaven Bridge

Belhaven Bridge shadow

Belhaven Bridge shadow

Runners' tracks on Belhaven Beach

Runners’ tracks on Belhaven Beach

Driftwood on Belhaven Beach with Bass Rock in the distance

Driftwood on Belhaven Beach with Bass Rock in the distance

 

A Word a Week Photo Challenge: contrast

April 2, 2014

Here are my photos involving different types of contrast. Many more excellent specimens at Sue’s website.

Please note that I’m unable, at the moment, to make photos open in a new tab – looking for a solution.

Height of man and height of termite mound in Litchfield National Park,  NT, Australia

Height of man and height of termite mound in Litchfield National Park, NT, Australia

Bright sky and dark shore at Belhaven Beach, Dunbar

Bright sky and dark shore at Belhaven Beach, Dunbar

Silhouettes against sea and sky, Cathedral Cove, New Zealand

Silhouettes against sea and sky, Cathedral Cove, New Zealand

Burj Khalifa dwarfs 70 storey buildings in Dubai (Photo taken from car)

Burj Khalifa dwarfs 70 storey buildings in Dubai (Photo taken from car)

Contrasting colours in the summer sky above

Contrasting colours in the summer sky above the summer night sky in Dunbar

Upright donkey, leaning tower in Pisa

Upright donkey, leaning tower in Pisa

Belhaven pond, curlew and ducks and festive greetings

December 25, 2013

A walk down to Belhaven Pond last week, to see if I could get some decent bird photos, but there was a scarcity that day – a few mallards, some coots who scampered away on my approach into the middle of the pond. Tennyson’s poem The Brook begins with “I come from haunts of coot and tern”. The pond itself is extensive (see Photo 1, included from here, under the Attribution  Agreement) and is beautiful on a sunny day – on my visit, it was cloudy. I was lucky however, that a woman and her daughter were throwing bread into the water and immediately, out of nowhere it seemed, a group of greedy – and pretty aggressive – seagulls arrived. Photo 2 shows two of them about to grab some bread. The gulls soon got fed up, having eaten the big pieces of bread and 3 coots arrived to eat the scraps from the big birds’ table. I then walked back down what is known as the Dump Road, as there used to be a landfill site where the caravan site now is. About half way along, I looked over the wall and could see two curlews among a large gathering of what I think were teal. Photo 3 shows the curlew on its own, with its distinctive long beak. Curlews, which have the splendid Latin name Numenius arquata, suitably august for a large bird, have a very distinctive call. Photo 4 shows the curlew amongst the ducks.

As this is the 24th December, I send you all festive greetings, wherever you are and whether you are in midwinter as I am or in midsummer. So:  Glædelig Jul og Godt Nytår,  Prettige feestdagen, Bula Vinaka, Hyvää Joulua ja Onnellista Uutta Vuotta, Joyeuses fêtes, Frohe Feiertage and Felices fiestas. If your language is not here, English will have to do, I’m afraid.

belhaven pond

Belhaven pond

Seagulls at Belhaven Pond

Seagulls at Belhaven Pond

Curlew at Belhaven Beach

Curlew at Belhaven Beach

Curlew and ducks at Belhaven Beach

Curlew and ducks at Belhaven Beach

 

 

Icelandic sagas, new bike (maybe) and dramatic sky

May 20, 2013

While out cycling last week, I listened to an In Our Time podcast about Icelandic Sagas and it proved to be a very interesting and educational programme. The panel discussed the various types of sagas, including family sagas and adventure sagas. the sagas  cover events in Iceland in the 10th and 11th centuries and were written in the 13th and 14th centuries. It’s probable – but there’s no definitive proof, that the written sagas were based on stories handed down in the oral tradition. If you want to read some of the sagas, then the Icelandic Saga Database is an excellent source. An added interest for me is that my former colleague at Charles Sturt University John Kennedy is an expert on the sagas. His book on translating the sagas is recognised as an authoritative work.

My existing bike – a 10 year old Giant OCR and while it is still a comfortable ride, it needs a new back wheel at some point. As I was walking to Belhaven Bikes my local bikeshop in Dunbar to collect my bike after another repair, I started thinking “New wheel? Mmm – how about new bike?”. I now have some catalogues for new bikes and I am particularly interested in the Forme Longcliffe 1.0 which has been very well reviewed. Now, given that I am a pretty average cyclist, it probably doesn’t matter whether I choose this bike or a similar one, but I’ve been doing my homework online and the Forme is very well reviewed. One aspect of reading reviews of bikes is that the reviews can often get very technical and pass my understanding of bike technology but I can usually get enough pertinent information. Watch this space.

May has been mainly cold, windy and sunless in this part of the world so far, so it was encouraging to have one sunny day on Friday, when we took our son, daughter in law and two grandchildren, who are visiting from Dubai, to Belhaven beach. There followed a dramatic and colourful sky in the evening. So I went out to the back of the house and took the photos below. The tide was going out and the sky was reflected in the sea at some points. I particularly like the mix of blues, pinks and reds.

Evening sky looking towards Dunbar harbour

Evening sky looking towards Dunbar harbour

 

Evening sky looking towards Dunbar harbour

Evening sky looking towards Dunbar harbour

 

Evening sky looking towards Dunbar harbour

Evening sky looking towards Dunbar harbour