Posts Tagged ‘seagulls’

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

Winter cycling and broccoli and Stilton soup

March 5, 2016

It occurred to me the other day that I had not mentioned cycling for quite a while on this blog. In the winter, while the mileage goes down, the regular bike rides on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday still take place. Winter cycling is obviously very similar to summer cycling insofar as I go on similar routes, but there are differences. The first difference is in clothing. In the summer, I put on my cycling top, shorts and shoes and off I go. In the winter, I have 3 thicker, but breathable tops and my winter jacket. I also have a skullcap to protect my ears and a snood for my neck. This means that it takes me longer just to get going. It also means that you have extra weight on the bike AND because it’s so cold, you use up much more energy, so you need to extend more effort to go the same distance as in the summer. My pals and I also go on our mountain bikes more in the winter and it’s very enjoyable, as you get off the road and face the challenges of rocky tracks, mud and ice at times. One of our routes when there’s an east wind is out past the Whitesands beach and on to Barns Ness Lighthouse.(good photos). On our last ride there, the track next to the beach was flooded, so we cycled along the beach itself. It’s OK on hard sand but you have to get off now and then when you hit soft sand or slippery rocks.

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Whitesands Beach near Dunbar

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Barns Ness Lighthouse

On Saturday, I went through part of the Dunglass Estate and on towards the village of Oldhamstocks. This is a good cycling route for mountain bikes (good photos). At one point, I was at the top of a hill, going along tractor tracks in a grassy field and I approached a flock of sheep about 50 yards from me. They stared intently, then one or two stirred and as I got nearer, as one they ran about 20 yards down the hill, turned and stared at me again. What came to my mind was the sheep in Far from the Madding Crowd, Thomas Hardy’s wonderful novel and also a well known film from the 1960s (video trailer) and more recently. Did my sheep wonder why Gabriel Oak from the novel was on a bike? It was a beautiful morning, with the  sun coming through the clouds and in the next field below, a tractor was ploughing, followed by a flock of feasting seagulls. This reminds me that I must buy a video camera for my bike – I’ve been meaning to do this for years.

To misquote an old adage, of the making of soup there is no end. I thought I’d try something different this week and it was the leftover broccoli in the fridge that reminded me that I’d never made broccoli and Stilton soup, something I’ve enjoyed in restaurants over the years. So, on to a well-known search engine and after a browse of different recipes, I settled on the BBC Good Food recipe as it had a variety of ingredients and was healthier than others e.g. the ones suggesting double cream. It’s easy to make. I sweated a finely chopped large onion, a celery stick and a medium sized leek and added a teaspoonful dried mixed herbs, then added a chopped (and soaked) large potato. I stirred this around for a minute and then added 2 heads of roughly chopped broccoli. I added a litre of stock – ham stock cubes for me but you choose your stock – and let it simmer for about 25 minutes, until the potato was soft. I then mashed it down with my potato masher and used my hand held blender to make it smooth. The recipe suggests 140g of Stilton cheese but when I measured this out, it was too much cheese. I added 85g of the cheese and this turned out to be to our satisfaction as the cheese does not over power the broccoli flavour. We had the soup today with a lovely loaf from Bostock Bakery in North Berwick.

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Bostock Bakery loaf

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Broccoli and Stilton soup with fresh bread

While the soup looks (and was) very tasty, any good chef would have told me to properly clean the plate before serving.

 

A Word a Week Photo Challenge: Figure

February 7, 2014

This week’s challenge is open to interpretation – figure as in statue? figure as in work this out? figure as in what’s the story behind this? I’ve chosen photos with a story behind them – just figure out your own story. For more excellent examples, see Sue’s website.

Release story at Pomingalarna Reserve, Wagga Wagga

Release story at Pomingalarna Reserve, Wagga Wagga

The blacksmith's story - Rutherglen, Victoria

The blacksmith’s story – Rutherglen, Victoria

 

The Commonwealth Games gold medal triathlete's story (Brad Khalefeldt)

The Commonwealth Games gold medal triathlete’s story (Melbourne: Brad Khalefeldt)

 

The kookaburras' story

The kookaburras’ story

 

The fishermen's ( and seagulls') story - Dunbar harbour

The fishermen’s ( and seagulls’) story – Dunbar harbour

 

The dining table's story - Orkney

The dining table’s story – Orkney

 

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

 

 

Winter storm, Belhaven Bridge and sawmill

December 16, 2013

Last week, we had a winter storm which brought very strong winds down from the Arctic and this was accompanied by a big tidal surge. With 4 hours to go to high tide, the water was lapping the short promenade which we see from our back garden. Fortunately, there’s a wall, the road to the gold course, and a steep slope up to our house. As the waves piled in one after another, with the incoming waves being rugby tackled by the outgoing waves, there were great crashes and water leapt high in the air. When the incoming waves broke the tackles, they slammed into the promenade wall and di mighty Fosbury Flops 30 feet in the air. Photos 1 and 2 show the waves in action. A high tide is always a boon for local seagulls and they gathered in large groups, feeding frantically as the tide came in and, when a big wave approached, they wheeled as one into the air and glided in the wind – they looked to be enjoying the feast – see Photo 3.

We were driving west out of town and stopped at Belhaven beach (scroll down to walk) to see the high tide and it was well beyond its normal stopping point. I was also interested to see the Bridge to Nowhere as Belhaven bridge is known when the tide is in and the bottom steps of the bridge are covered. When we got there, it appeared at first glance as if the bridge had gone somewhere! The tide was so high and the pulsating water was so vigorous that the bridge had almost disappeared – see Photos 4. At low tide, the bridge looks like a normal bridge over a fairly shallow estuary and at sunset, it can be quite beautiful – see Photo 5. So, an exciting day for anyone who loves seeing the great power of the sea and the waves’ acrobatics.

A visit to Tyninghame Sawmill this week as I’m putting up shelves in the garage. One aspect of the sawmill that I like is the smell of the wood when it has been cut on one of the sawmill’s large electric saws. There is wood in a variety of states at the sawmill – logs, planks, batons, stakes and fence posts. I took my camera and shot dead tree trunks next to live ones (Photo 6) and a stack of wood showing a wide variety of patterns and colours in the wood (Photo 7).

Crashing waves in Dunbar

Crashing waves in Dunbar

Crashing waves in Dunbar

Crashing waves in Dunbar

Seagull feeding frenzy

Seagull feeding frenzy

Belhaven Bridge almost submerged

Belhaven Bridge almost submerged

Belhaven Bridge at sunset

Belhaven Bridge at sunset

Dead trees and live trees

Dead trees and live trees

Wood patterns and colours

Wood patterns and colours

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Word a Week challenge: Track

December 12, 2013

Here is my pick from my collection. For many more, see Sue’s website.

Snowy tractor track

Snowy tractor track

Tracks on farm road

Tracks on farm road

Seagull tracks in the snow at Dunbar Harbour

Seagull tracks in the snow at Dunbar Harbour

Running track on North Berwick Law and tractor tracks in the fields

Running track on North Berwick Law and tractor tracks in the fields

Hard running track in the heat of Wagga Wagga

Hard running track in the heat of Wagga Wagga

Walking track at Mount Maunganui, with liner departing

Walking track at Mount Maunganui, with liner departing

 

 

 

 

A Word a Week Photo Challenge: High

December 1, 2013

Here are my pick for this week’s challenge – see more on Sue’s website.

Cakes for high tea at the Burj Al Arab, Dubai

Cakes for high tea at the Burj Al Arab, Dubai

Looking down to North Berwick and Bass Rock

Looking down to North Berwick and Bass Rock

Seagull frenzy at high tide in Dunbar

Seagull frenzy at high tide in Dunbar

 

View of Dubai from 125th floor of the Burj Khalifa

View of Dubai from 125th floor of the Burj Khalifa

Looking down on guillemot colonies at St Abbs Head

Looking down on guillemot colonies at St Abbs Head

Ceiling of Pisa Cathedral

Ceiling of Pisa Cathedral