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

 

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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?

A Weekend of Adventures

After four weeks back at uni, being bombarded with dissertations and assignments and information about applying for jobs and all sorts of other Very Important and Scary Things, we went for a weekend away.  And oh, was it needed.

I’d bought S a trip to ZipWorld Caverns for his birthday back in May, and we finally went last weekend.  There are no pictures to show, unfortunately, as you’d be foolish to take a camera or a phone down there as if you dropped it you would never see it again, so you’ll have to take my word that it was great.  After a small training session, the course consisted of 9 zip wires in caverns an old slate mine, with logs, chains and foot holds to get between the wires.  After the wires are a series of bridges, climbs and tunnels.  We spent a couple of hours there and it really was fantastic!

After ZipWorld we went for a jaunt up Snowdon.  By this time we were starting to get short on light (and energy!) so we just went up a short stretch, but it was far enough to get a beautiful view out towards the sea.

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@maddinaish

A walk in the woods

Close to us is Snelsmore Common Country Park.  It’s a nature reserve with a mixture of woodland and lowland heath, and it’s an all round great place to go with a picnic or the build dens in the woods.

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We visited last week with the intention of looking for toadstools.  When we visited around this time a few years ago there were hundred of fly agaric, the red toadstools with white spots (the ones that fairies sit on!)  Unfortunately we didn’t find any toadstools, but we did find blackberries in abundance and now have a freezer full of them.

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When maintenance work is carried out on the woodland, the cut branches are left intentionally to benefit insects and wildlife, and for making dens.  There are loads of little hideouts made all around the woods.  Some go for the red Indian tipi method of leaning large sticks against eachother, while others use a horizontal branch of a tree as the support for their den.

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And of course, it wouldn’t be a wood without a tree swing or two over a perilous drop.

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We were very lucky.  It had rained all morning and for about three days previously, but the sun finally made an appearance and it was beautiful.

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Something about a Spaniel

Since I’ve been home from Derbyshire I’ve taken over walking the dog on the days that mum’s at work (and some of the days she isn’t) and consequently have been spending quite a lot of time with this chappy.

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He’s more than happy to pose for a photo (provided he gets a piece of gravy bone every time the shutter goes) and therefore he’s taken over from Chatsworth’s sheep and deer herds to be the subject of a lot of my photography.

He gets a lot of attention from people we see on walks, to whom he gives a cursory glance and trots on by.  They greet him like an old friend ‘Oh, hello! Look at you!’ but he really couldn’t be less bothered, unless they were waving a steak at him, then he might take notice!  It’s because there’s something about a spaniel, with their floppy ears and kind temperament.

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One of our favourite walks circles a village close to town, and incorporates woodland, open fields and a pond to paddle in (we don’t chase sticks, we throw gravy bones into the water to be paddled too).

Below is the flying tree.

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Of course, this sort of clowning around is only tolerated if there is a large supply of gravy bones. Otherwise, frankly, it’s not worth his effort to even think about it.

Park Life

I’ve collected a few photos from around the beautiful village of Edensor, set in Chatsworth Park.  I thought I would share them.

When I first arrived I could barely pronounce Edensor (En-zer).  I’ll be sad to leave in a few weeks.

Edensor Church

Edensor Church

Sheep in the churchyard in Edensor

Sheep grazing in the churchyard

Cottage in Edensor

A small cottage in Edensor

Cottage in Edensor

A cottage in Edensor as seen from the church

An Edensor property in the sunshine

An Edensor property in the sunshine

Edensor and the church

Edensor and the church

Tomorrow (20 June) is Edensor Day – village fete and open gardens from 12noon – 4pm. 

Flower at the top of Edensor

Flower at the top of Edensor

That’s all for now.

Maddi