Having The Upper Hand…Or Would That Be Beak?

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In recent days there has been a bit of a coup over in the crab apple at the top of the garden. Mama Blackbird has staked her claim to the crop. In fact the other morning I caught her seeing off the male blackbird in a most aggressive manner. No quarter given there then. He went off in a fluster.

Back in early December it was he who was King of the Crab Apples.   There had been no frost or snow to soften the fruit, and he was finding the going tough, adopting a fencer’s lunging stroke to slice off shreds of fruity flesh. Once in a while he’d (accidently) end up with a whole mini-apple wedged in his beak, too hard to scrunch in one pincer movement. Next would come a rapid descent to the garden path to sort himself out. Once or twice I thought he was in danger of choking, and wondered what the procedure might be – to unchoke a blackbird.  But then he hopped back on the fence and, if birds can cough, he coughed a few times and returned to lunging.

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And so now all is clear. There was naturally a very  good reason why Mama Blackbird was biding her time, waiting for wintery weather to make easy pickings of the apples .

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Apple Sorbet on a stalk. Mine! All mine! says Mama Merle.

 

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Signs Of Squirrel-Dupery? Who knew?

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Grey squirrels don’t hibernate, though they are said to do less scampering in wintery weather, and when it is very cold, they will curl themselves up, using their tails like duvets.

These photos were taken before the snow when the big oaks at the top of the Linden Field were alive with squirrel-kind seeking out acorns. They were also pretty busy after the snow, doubtless seeking out their respective stashes. But here’s the thing. It seems they are a sneaky lot and will make a big pretence of burying nuts in particular places to fool other squirrels. The little dupers.

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Becky has a wonderful sun for us today.

Looking Up Between Mynd And Ragleth

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On Christmas Day we drove over Wenlock Edge to Little Stretton to spend the day with our family. It was a bright and chilly day, but as I climbed the steep steps to my sister’s home I saw the spring bulbs already emerging in her terraced beds and some frisky pink primroses freshly opened. The house is perched on a lower flank of the Long Mynd and overlooks Ragleth Hill. So while the turkey was roasting, I stood out on the deck and took these photos, watched a pair of buzzards who live in the garden’s larch trees waft over in the stillness.

And now I’m thinking that these views are rather apt for Jude’s new challenge at Travel Words. She wants us to think about colour through the coming year, and in January that colour is brown: earth shades.

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The close-up above was a very ‘long shot’, but I like the way the sun glints off the bare branches of the dark wood; the layers of russet leaves and bracken and the deeper soily looking browns among the ash trees. It could well be a candidate for Jabberwocky’s tulgey wood. It also reminds me of one of those ‘heavy’ Victorian oil paintings – Arcadia seemingly overdone with every expectation of rustic maids and shepherds popping up. But here it is. No time-slipped lads and lasses, just a piece of real Shropshire landscape.

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Becky is keeping us ‘upspired’ during trying times. Interpret ‘up’ anyway you like, but keep it sUPer square.

Life in Colour: brown   Jude at Travel Words wants us to really pay attention to colour. This month she asks us to explore shades of brown.

Always Up For A Spot Of Breakfast: Superb Starling

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A surreal image – over-exposed so you can see the colours of this Superb Starling, one of Kenya’s commonest birds. But surreal in other ways too. Did we really eat breakfast on the shores of Lake Elmenteita and share it with such birds. (See previous post). On fine days the tables were set out under the fever trees. The soundtrack: incessant chatter of Speke’s weavers from their thorn tree colony by the camp kitchen, fluting call of the black headed oriel, squabbling of babblers, warbling of robin chats, distant grunting of flamingos out on the lake.

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Under the fever trees. Can you spot the superb starlings?

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Delamere Camp reception and dining room

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The ‘Sleeping Warrior’ an exploded volcanic cone on the western lake shore, Eburru hills beyond.

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Kenya is of course a serious bird watcher’s paradise. The capital Nairobi boasts a species list of 600 plus. And if I were there now, even if equipped with only the digital zoom of a modest ‘point and shoot’, this blog would be bursting with wonderful bird photos. An irritating thought. For most of the time we lived in Kenya I had only a little Olympus-trip – which was great on landscapes and immobile subjects, but otherwise limited when it came to wildlife photography. Here are my better efforts from Elmenteita: a black headed oriel, glossy starling,  grey heron with egrets, Speke’s weaver, Abdim’s stork and greater flamingos.

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Up And Away ~ Flamingos Take Flight

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It is distinctly shivery in Shropshire just now, the wintery weather set to stay for a couple of weeks at least. And so as ever when the parts are chillier than is altogether comfortable, thoughts turn to the old Africa album and days when we lived in warmer climes. Christmas and New Year are the hot season in Kenya, following on the short rains (a term that these days belies their frequent flooding capacities).

Lake Elmenteita in the Great Rift Valley was one of our favourite getaway spots, only an hour or so’s drive north of Nairobi. The shallow soda lake is the breeding and feeding ground for  both greater and lesser flamingos (it’s mostly the former you see in this shot).

The small tented camp where we stayed nestled among fever trees at the foot of the East Rift escarpment, below the Aberdares range. I took the photo just as the early morning sun rose above the heights and lit up the flamingos. Of course this scan from an original photo doesn’t quite do the scene justice, the crispness lost in translation. But you get the gist. It’s still very lovely. Though come to think of it, this part of the Rift was very chilly at dawn: jumper and jacket and wellies required, so not so different from my usual Shropshire outdoor garb.

For those who want to know more about this extraordinary place plus a spot of Kenya’s colonial history see my earlier post:

On watch at Elmenteita: the lake that blows away

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Today I’m  doing a two-in-one post for Becky’s January Square Ups, and Lisa’s Bird Weekly. Please pay them a visit.

 

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Bird Weekly This week Lisa at Our Eyes Open wants to see birds with long wing spans.

Grub’s Up For The MacMoos

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The MacMoos have multiplied. They seem to have taken over the town. At the moment we have three in the Cutlins meadow near our house. But yesterday when we walked over to the petrol station supermarket at the other end of Wenlock, we found the field opposite was brimming with them. Must remember to take my camera the next time I go shopping. I’m not sure why they are so smile-inducing, only that they are. Such placid, shaggy souls.

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Looking Up

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Hurray for Becky and her January Squares. There are only two ‘rules’: the image must be square, and this month’s theme is UP – however you choose to interpret it. You can post a square a day, or dip in as and when.

My first ‘up’ is a slightly blurry grey squirrel, spotted by chance in the Linden Field while taking the snow photos I posted yesterday. It was perched way, way up in an oak tree, thus requiring lots of camera zoom and steadiness, both of which were hard to effect with frozen fingers. In fact it was sitting so still, it looked frozen to the branch. I think it must have been nibbling an acorn.

Onwards and upwards, everyone!

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The Changing Seasons: December 2020

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Here are some of the many photos taken in the last few days in my various spheres of activity. First: snow scenes in the Linden Field.

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And in and out the garden, over the garden fence:

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And up at the allotment and surrounding vistas:

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And finally my Happy New Year photo: all the very best to everyone in 2021.

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The Changing Seasons: December 2020

 

Another Snow Day In Wenlock

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By this morning most of yesterday’s snow had washed away in the rain. But then back it came at midday, leaving a layer deep enough for some happy sledging on Windmill Hill and giant snowball rolling in the Linden Field. Wenlock dogs were fizzing with delight and even the grown-up humans were having a good play. Nothing like a snowball fight if you’re well wrapped up. And it was bitterly cold this afternoon even as the trees began to drip and drip.

I had only popped out in the garden to photograph the crab apples, but one thing led to another, and soon I was heading for the Linden Walk, and then across the old railway line towards the Priory ruins. And while I was there I thought I’d carry on and have a wander round the Church Green, and see if I could get a photo of the Prior’s House from over the graveyard wall.

Time passed as I stood to watch the Highland Cattle tuck into their silage. So did lunch-time. He who binds books and lives in my house was very glad when I finally did turn up to make some soup. I made no excuses for absence without explanation. Nor did he expect any. He knows as well as I do:  you have to make the most of snow-days. The only thing lacking was a spot of sunshine to brighten up the place. Now as I write this, a frost has set in for the night, and there’s a fat moon shining over the Linden Field.

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