Thursday, 23 July 2009

Dead ringers

I wouldn't go so far as to say I've mastered the art of wild life photography, or indeed that I've mastered my new camera!  But I have learnt a little about shutter speeds.
I've also learnt that birds love, and gobble up, at an amazingly expensive rate, sunflower hearts.
At times, most times in fact, providing I can keep up with the tremendously quick turn around. I have two seed containers, filled twice a day, sometimes three times (but then it gets ridiculous) a lump of fat,  peanut containers and a bird table with scraps. Some days I think there must be in excess of sixty or seventy birds, (Niels said it's like something out of a Hitchcock film) mainly chaffinches, green finches, blue tits, great tits and siskins by the herd! They bicker and squabble, and when suddenly they all take off together the 'whoosh' and down draft is considerable!
 I think the one on the right is just attention seeking!
In May, I found a dead siskin, and in June another one. Both were found near the bird feeders, on the ground. I thought at first they had just got too fat to take off but neither bird seemed to show any sign of injury or indigestion. They were both ringed. I'd seen on a recent Springwatch programme on tv  a feature on ringing birds - they showed you how they put the rings on, - they didn't show you how they took them off! It's a little bit gory and involved my needle work scissors!. Anyway for the advancement of research I de-ringed both birds, and took a photo of the rings to show how tiny they are. It doesn't really work though,  because you can't see that it's not an Albatrosse's feather
nor that this isn't a giant's thimble. Seriously the rings were minuscule and weighed nothing. I logged my findings on the internet. Both were metal rings the same as the one shown on the Euring website, with a museum address on them, in this case The British Museum, London SW7  followed by a number - I needed my glasses, I couldn't see the rings, let alone read what was on them without them!
I haven't had a response from the ringers, and although I realise these little birds didn't just fly up from London it would be quite nice to know where and when they were ringed.

Saturday, 18 July 2009

Under the spotlight

Yesterday evening  the sun refused to lie down quietly
It must have been around 9.45pm. The glow in the west
shone a spotlight on to the hillside opposite
bathing the houses in sunlight and throwing the hills into sharp relief. Every nook and cranny, often unnoticed, making giant ridges deep in the hillside
The day competing with the night, shadows reaching out.
Slowly the night took control but not before the day had the final word

Thursday, 16 July 2009

No mean feet!

Feet up!
I joined a drawing group - I may have mentioned it. "Everyday Matters" The idea is to draw everyday stuff. There is a list on the Everyday Matters website (they've recently moved to Facebook) of things for you to draw - everyday things. You then post your drawing/s either on to the website or on to Flickr, a photography based website.
Well - I haven't done that yet, I keep meaning to. The thing is, the nearest things for me to draw when I sit down in the evening are my feet, and they really are very everyday - constantly everyday I'd say!
I did draw a lemon the other evening, but that was a bit out of my comfort zone!
Sometimes I draw other things - the occasional thumb!
I don't draw in pencil and consequently don't rub out 'gone wrong' bits. I use a scratchy old drawing pen which  clogs up and tears the paper. I have to shake it at times to revive the ink flow, sometimes the ink goes on the table/floor/arm of the chair. I don't have long toe nails, neither blue nor bright red nail polish, nor do I  have swollen ankles or one foot bigger than the other - that's artistic licence!
I should like to show Everyday Matters that I can draw other things, but somehow, feet are so handy!

Sunday, 12 July 2009


We've had friends staying, and it's been a perfect time to be out and about with them - just like I was on holiday myself! There was no chance they could spend time on their own and I tagged around with them having a thoroughly nice time!  When they arrived Niels was down in London, he has been very busy of late, and I devoted my time to showing them the hills the mountains and the lochs.
Day 1. This is loch a Bhraoin. At the end of the loch and just before the rough track disappears into the remote hills
there is an empty cottage, recently renovated, and used by the hunting and fishing fraternity. I think it's owned by the Inverbroom estate, but I'm not sure.
                     There is also a bothy with a proper flushing loo, a rare find when hill walking!
We saw a bird in the distance flying low over the water that we couldn't identify even with the help of a bird book, a sandpiper maybe? either that or we've discovered a new bird.
                                                             A common spotted orchid
 Day 3. (On day 2 I left my camera behind!) We went down to Poolewe and almost opposite Inverewe Garden lies Loch Kernsary. We didn't have time to complete the walk, but it looked possible to get all the way round the loch and the views as always were quite beautiful - worth a return trip
 This cottage, situated near where the walk started, wasn't particularly relevant, but I liked it for the oldy, worldly cottagey higgledy-piggledy way of the garden.
This was out at Rhue Lighthouse on the last evening of our friends stay - just before they managed to shake me off! It was around 9.30pm and the sun was still relatively high in the sky. On sunny days when there isn't much cloud cover it stays light until 11.00, and even then doesn't seem to get really dark.
We made  l  o  n  g  shadows. The fourth shadow is Niels who made it home again! and actually I think the fifth shadow might be the car. It was great to have friends to stay and I was sorry when they left to continue their holiday a little further to the south of us near Pitlochry - quietly!

Wednesday, 1 July 2009

Coming home

It's been a while since I had a bit of a blog! We've been down south visiting friends and working. Strictly speaking just Niels worked, but I had to do all the talking, socialising and eating and drinking, and as you can imagine it wasn't easy!
It was just lovely to see friends, some I haven't seen for two years. I'm sorry I couldn't see everybody. Our friends in Brookwood gave me a birthday party (it's July I really have to stop celebrating it now!) and it was so comfortable being together with friends that I've known for so long. I enjoyed being in London too with all the bustle and busyness. It's amazing there are shops where ever you go! And people and restaurants and garages and public transport - now there's a thing! But as much as I loved  it all,  I can't describe the feeling I felt on coming home. Once the car got to Perth and I saw signs for Inverness I felt butterflies  -  maybe I was just hungry!
I felt homesick for the big views and space and a glorious sense of peace and tranquility.
The day before we were due to travel home home, I drove over to see my aunt and uncle in Harrow, and on the way I learned something about cars! And sitting in laybys! And the AA man! I learnt about dipsticks and oil. A dipstick, not only  lets you know when the oil level is low, it tells you (and this I didn't know!) when the oil level is just right! The oil light in the car came on and I topped up the engine oil, to the top, much the same as filling up the windscreen washer container. I thought I'd made a jolly good job of it and managed to get loads of oil in without spilling a drop, enough to keep as going for miles, I thought.
Two days later, crawling round the M25 on the way to visit my aunt and uncle, I noticed that the lorry sitting behind me disappeared in a cloud of  smoke and in that  split second, thinking, poor lorry driver breaking down on the motorway,  realised it was me. I pulled on to the hard shoulder and turned the engine off and then on ( it works on computers) pulled back on to the motorway  and off again  (it doesn't work on cars) at junction 11. As I pulled in to a very convenient layby a parked police car gave a round of applause - almost!  They said they'd seen the car coming and watched the road disappearing.
When the AA man arrived he was very kind and not in the least bit patronising and gave not the slightest hint  he was dealing with more than one dipstick! He drained the oil and admitted there was rather a lot.  We talked about the Scottish highlands, he seemed rather relieved  I lived there, and after a few pleasantries and a little chat lesson in fouling spark plugs and excessive carbon residue he sent me on my way!
 This wasn't the lorry sitting behind me on the M25. We overtook this one on the M80 I think, on its way to Inverness. The Nederlands Dans Theater. We went and saw them dance at Eden Court on Saturday evening. They were very good, super fit, super healthy and super young!
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