Laugh, Kookaburra

Keeping up with the blog has failed completely miserably.  I think, now, that I’ll still write the rest of the Canada blog posts, but I’m going to do them in between other things.  Today I want to share some photos with you, that I’m very pleased with.

My cousin runs a business with birds of prey, keeping owls, raptors and even a kookaburra for the purpose of education.  She visits schools, events, runs children’s parties and, along with a local photographer, runs photography days.  I was lucky enough to attend one of these days a couple of weeks ago and can’t believe the difference it made having someone standing by me, teaching me how to set up my camera and set up the shot.

First came Edna, the blue winged kookaburra.

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Photographer Tim Doggett had brought a reflection pool, so we stuck Edna on a log and let her pose.  Kookaburras are a type of kingfisher, so she was quite happy sitting by the water.

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Edna loved to pose for the camera!  The title of this blog is a bit misleading, blue winged kookaburras don’t laugh in the way laughing kookaburras do.  Edna, however, loves to chatter away to you.

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Despite not being the quickest flier, a combination of her relatively small size and clumsy nature meant getting a good photograph of this bird in flight really was challenging.

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Kookaburras are native to Northern Australia, living in open woodland and Melaleuca swamps where they eat fish, frogs and small mammals.

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And, like most birds of prey, when she was full she just wanted to sit.

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Next up we brought out Sparrow the Ashy Faced Owl.  Whilst they look a bit like a grubby barn owl, these owls come from the Caribbean, hence Sparrow being named after Captain Jack!

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Their dusty colour hides them well in the dry shrubland they live in.

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Like all owls, they have poor eyesight of close objects, and use the fine feathers on their face to identify where their food is.

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And finally, Igor the Kestrel.  Named after Igor Sikorsky, credited as the inventor of the modern helicopter, because one thing kestrels are known for is their ability to hover!

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He enjoyed stretching his wings in the sunshine and I think the patterns on the underside are just beautiful! I particularly like the heart shapes on the feathers.

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A much faster, lighter bird than the others, and much more of a hunter.  Native to Europe and Asia, you’ve probably seen one hovering over verges looking for unfortunately placed mice!

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Igor is only a young bird, but isn’t he gorgeous?

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Of course there were many, many more photos but there are only so many hours in the day! I’m hoping next time to be able to photograph some more of the birds, particularly the natives as I love the idea that I might see them in the wild.

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For more information on the birds and photography days, please visit http://www.thefeatheryfolk.co.uk/

All pictures taken using Nikon D3200

 

The Bow Valley Parkway

After a couple of nights in Calgary to get over the jetlag, we hired a car and headed west towards the Rocky Mountains.  The view once we left Calgary was spectacular – Calgary faded away behind us, but in front the mountains rose out of the prairies, cloud bubbling over them like rapids over rocks.

Once we got into the Rockies we took a slight diversion off Highway 1 – the TransCanada Highway – onto Highway 1A, also known as the Bow Valley Parkway.  The Bow Valley Parkway runs from just after Banff, alongside the Trans Canada as far as Lake Louise, taking a more scenic route with a higher chance of seeing wildlife than on the main highway.  There are also several places to stop along the route.

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A wildlife bridge on Highway 1

The first place we stopped at was Johnston Canyon.  There is a resort with cabins at the bottom of the canyon, and a restaurant, as well as a car park for visitors who are hiking the canyon.  The car park was full and so we did what many, many other people were doing and parked alongside the highway, and then walked back to the entrance.

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In Johnston Canyon

Johnston Canyon was formed by Johnston Creek, and within the canyon are lower and upper falls, with the upper falls being 1.7 miles away, and taking about 45 minutes to walk to.  From there you can continue almost 1.9 miles (3km) to the Inkpots – seven coldwater springs which rise beside a meadow.  We didn’t make it this far as we wanted to stop at other places on the way so we only went as far as the Upper Falls, however having seen a picture of the Inkpots when I got back to England I wish we had carried on!

The walk through the canyon is an easy one, along wide paths and metal catwalks.  There were a lot of people when we visited – it’s certainly a popular spot so aim for low season or either ends of the day.

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A catwalk in Johnston Canyon

In terms of wildlife, the most exciting thing we saw was a Golden-mantled Ground Squirrel, although there were signs warning of wolves in the area which had become bold around humans and were stealing from picnics!

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A Golden-mantled Ground Squirrel

We ate at the restaurant at the bottom of the canyon before we left, which was very pleasant and surprisingly quiet given the popularity of the trail.  It was perhaps slightly expensive, but that was to be expected given its location and the lack of other eateries in the area.

Carrying on up the Bow Valley Parkway we stopped at Emerald Lake in the Yoho National Park.  When we arrived the weather had deteriorated somewhat and we looked around and took some photos in the mizzley rain.  We decided to hire a canoe anyway, and luckily the rain stopped and we even had a bit of sunshine!  We paddled to the other end of the lake, where it was very peaceful with a shallow creek running across a beach into the lake.

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Emerald Lake – the sky was a little murky but it was beautiful nonetheless! 

We left Highway 1A at Castle Junction and continued on the main Highway 1 to Canyon Hot Springs where we swam in the hot springs and stayed in a cabin overnight.  From there we went to Sicamous where we hired a houseboat and spent four days on the Shuswap Lake, which I will write about in my next blog.

Highway 1A was beautiful, but naturally much slower than the main highway.  To drive on Highway 1A, or to stop anywhere in the National Parks, you need to buy a parks pass from Parks Canada.  There is a kiosk for these at the entrance to Banff NP, or they are sold in lots of places within the parks.  At the entrance to the Bow Valley Parkway, Parks Canada were stopping every car to check for a pass.

The Land of Mountains and Lakes

As England awoke on 1 July, we boarded a plane destined for Calgary to begin two amazing weeks of adventures in Alberta and British Columbia. I flew out with my boyfriend (Stephen), parents and sister (Holly), and our first stop was to visit my aunt, uncle and two cousins who live in Calgary.

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We spent a couple of days in Calgary before all heading west, with a stop-over en-route, to Sicamous where we picked up a houseboat and spent four days relaxing on Shuswap Lake.  From there, Stephen and I split off from the rest of the group to explore the Rockies.  Our accommodation ranged from camping to hotels, and we even spent a night in a wilderness hostel which was a fantastic experience.

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The trip took us white water rafting on the Kicking Horse River, walking on the Athabasca Glacier, canoeing on Emerald Lake, Western riding around Lake Louise and swinging from the trees at SkyTrek near Revelstoke, before finally returning to Calgary for the Calgary Stampede, a night of two-stepping and line dancing in Ranchman’s and learning Canada’s history at Heritage Park.

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We saw some amazing wildlife – a black bear hanging out along the Icefields Parkway, bald eagles at Shuswap lake and tens of the most adorable squirrels that love to pose for the camera.

Of course, this is far too much for one blog.  Over the next few weeks I’m going to be writing blogs about some of the best bits of the trip, and of course I took hundreds of photographs of this beautiful country and what it has to offer. So stay tuned and hit the ‘follow’ button to find out more about what we’ve been up to!

 

Tilley

The day after we got back from our holiday, a great deal of excitement came racing into our lives.

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Everyone, meet Tilley.

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She is a 12 week old English Springer Spaniel who will first and foremost be our family pet.  When she’s older, she will be taken beating on a local syndicate shoot.

She’s certainly got spirit.

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She likes to grab hold of life, and then take it for a run around the garden.  The same applies to sticks, stones and slippers.

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At the moment,  life is about play.  Playing with toys, playing with people, and playing with the cats…  Sometimes we train her, or she eats or sleeps.   But mostly every day is one big game to learn from.

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At the beginning of May we unfortunately lost our previous Springer, Bramble.  He died too young, very suddenly, and it was a massive shock to all of us.  I miss him dearly.

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This little lady certainly has big boots to fill, but I’m certain she’ll try her absolute hardest, and have a great time doing so.  If she’s even half as amazing as Bramble was, then she’ll be great.

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Heifers

I’ve been spending many, many hours sitting inside at the weekends, looking at the sunshine and fields full of tractors and cows, revising agricultural rent reviews and other such matters.  But there comes a time when my brain can only take so much of compulsory purchase compensation, and then the inevitable happens.

Camera Cows

As quick as a flash I’m downstairs, boots laced and camera in hand.  The cattle have become my photography subjects.

It goes something like this.  The cattle are relaxing, chilling out in the field.  Some are lying down, others are eating.  They know where they are and they’re happy and comfortable.  So I walk into the field.

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One by one they look up.  ‘Who is this person in our field? She’s not the one who feeds us…’

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I crouch down.  These are young, maiden heifers and I’m 5ft10.  Cattle look strange when you take photos from above! This confuses them even more.  There’s a public footpath so walkers passing through are not uncommon, but someone stopped, crouching in the field? That’s unusual.  And so more begin to appear.

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And eventually I end up quite surrounded by these lovely girls.  They stand around and look at me, sniff me, snort at me. But, because I’m still crouching down they don’t come very close.  Still unusual.

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I stand up to leave and immediately they march forwards. ‘Oh!’ they say. ‘You’re just a person, really!  Well why didn’t you say?!’

And with that they’re all over me.  Licking, rubbing, scratching.  I back away slowly so as not to get chased, and leave them to it, to find their cousins, the beef cattle, for some more entertainment.

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A trip to the beach

The weather, having been rainy and windy for so long, finally broke.  And so we went to the beach.

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If there are two places I’m drawn to, it’s hills and beaches.  Today was no different and so we set off to Hoylake.  It’s not a beach I’ve visited before, but it is vast.

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Of course you can’t go for a walk on the beach without taking a dog, right?  Fudge had never been to a beach before and really didn’t know what to make of it.

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Lots of jumping around in excitement.

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Lots of wimpering and clingyness – the big wimp!  Maybe she’s agoraphobic?!

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Fudge had also never played fetch before! She looked at us like complete idiots to start with, but once she got the idea she thought this was the best game ever invented!

The sand buggies were out and it looked like they were having an absolute ball.  This is definitely something I want to have a go at at some point!

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The recent storms don’t seem to have been kind to the life at the bottom – the beach was scattered with star fish that must have been washed up from the depths of the sea.

DSC_0087DSC_0089 ‘Look! Are those penguins over there?!’ Ironically, you an find this ship wreck by walking out in a straight line from the life boat station.

We had a really fantastic afternoon, and had the beach pretty much to ourselves.  Who said beaches are just for the summer?

The Beauty of Home

It’s reading week, so I’ve come home for a few days.  I spend an awful lot of time in Shropshire and Cheshire, but I can’t come home to Oxfordshire without photographing its beauty.

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The wind is back but the rain has held off for about a week now, and we even got a day of brilliant sunshine.

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We took advantage of the weather and walked to Segsbury Fort on the Ridgeway National Trail.

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I think you’ll agree that the views were amazing, and Oxfordshire is truly beautiful.

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