Out In The Late Day Sun

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Usually when it comes to lime tree photos, I’m snapping the Linden Walk which is just a short trot from the house. But when I walked up there on Sunday afternoon the photos I took of it looked flat and gloomy. It was only as I was heading for home that there was a sudden change in the weather. Sun. Here it is shining through the lime trees that line the road beside the Linden Field. And here it is marking an end to our recent bout of storms and rain. At least for the next week or so. Time to get sowing and planting.

Spiky Squares #20

Signs Of Spring In Rookery Wood

The things I do. Yesterday’s twilight with its magnificent post-storm sky had me standing on the cabin bed in my study and resting my camera on the open rooflight. If I use lots of zoom I can spy on the rooks in the wood on Sytche Lane.  At this time of year there’s much to watch. For one thing they are making some serious extensions to their old nests.

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For another, now is the time when the more spectacular ‘fly pasts’ begin. There seem to be two modes. The first kind involves a sudden outburst in the rookery (there are jackdaws in the wood too). For no apparent reason all the roosting birds whoosh out over the meadow, bowl around in a swirling mass and then return to the trees as if nothing had happened. The second kind is a much bigger production and usually happens around sunset or shortly afterwards. It seems to be about a gathering in of rook cohorts from the four quarters, a reconfirmation of rookery membership perhaps (?) –  this after their day’s foraging around the fields.

As they return to the rookery so the aerial dance begins: sometimes high above Townsend Meadow, at others in high-speed mass swoops at ground level. It is very exhilarating. And perhaps that’s it. The display is an expression of rookish joi de vivre. And why not? If I were selling my house, I would say the view of rooks from the study rooflight is a very particular asset, though maybe not for the ornithophobic or anyone with a tendency to vertigo.

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Spiky Squares #18

copyright 2019 Tish Farrell

And It’s Not Only A Pelican…

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Not the best photo, I know. I cropped it so you can just about see what is going on in the papyrus to the right of the pelican. i.e. the rear end of one of Lake Naivasha’s hippos going ashore and the roaring, open mouth of another hippo who is objecting to the intrusion. Hippos have whopping teeth and tusks, and quite apart from being grouchy with each other, they also kill quite a few humans, especially fishermen. They are at their best when mostly immersed in water, and their surprisingly tender hides well protected from the heat of the sun. But even so, it always pays to be wary.

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A glimpse of some of Lake Naivasha’s rich bird life (apologies for grainy old ‘out-of-Africa’ shot).

The lake is fed by underground rivers and is Kenya’s only freshwater lake among its Great Rift string of soda lakes. Many of the fresh flowers bought in Europe – roses as well as carnations – are grown in corporate-owned flower factories around the lake shore. Their presence has created jobs and some social services (e.g. company funded primary schools and clinics) for local people, but there are big costs too: too much water abstraction that has shrunk the lake and pesticide and fertilizer run off that have threatened fish stocks. There’s a good  little video (7 mins) focusing on these problems and showing more of life around the lake HERE.

Spiky Squares #13

Today The Weather Feels Like This

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Country lore has it that if March comes in like a lion it will leave like a lamb. Well roll on flocks of little ovine entities. As I write this, the wind is roaring up over the Edge, and blowing right through the house even though all the windows are shut. And IT IS ICY. And outside,  it is blow-you-over gale force across the field with intermittent fierce rain squalls. Yet the BBC weather people claim that here in our corner of Shropshire we are currently having ‘sunny intervals with a fresh breeze’. In support of this contention, they have staked out their hourly weather map with a row of sunny-cloud icons. It’s a sign of the times of course. You can no longer trust a single mediated report, not matter how supposedly trustworthy the source. Wear more vests, that’s my advice. And balaclavas.

Photo: Bin bag and barbed wire, St Bride’s Bay, Pembroke, March 2018

Spiky Square #9

Six Word Saturday

Lions Among Thorns

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This photo documents my first real-life encounter with lions. We were on a Saturday afternoon drive in Southern Kenya when some game rangers flagged us down and asked us if we’d seen the lions. They then headed off into the bush in their truck and we followed – in a Peugeot 304 saloon.

I’d only been in Africa a few days, a camp follower in the Team Leader’s Team (aka Graham’s Outfit). He was there working, as in serious crop protection entomologist, hot on the trail of larger grain borers (LGB), an alien species of wood-boring beetles imported into Africa on American food aid in the 1980s. The pest’s original home is in Mexico where it had grown a taste for maize, a proclivity it brought with it to Africa where it causes havoc in grain stores up and down the continent. The greatest incidence seems to be along the line of rail, doubtless due to beetle escapes from goods wagons hauling grain upcountry from East African ports.

Anyway, the Team Leader had business up in the Taita Hills, interviewing smallholder farmers to gauge how far these nasty dudus had spread. It is beautiful country on the way to Taveta in Tanzania – and the setting for much of William Boyd’s An Ice-Cream War and thus once the front line in the First World War guerrilla conflict between the forces of British East Africa (later Kenya Colony) and German East Africa (Tanganyika). And being rather remote, there was nowhere handy to stay apart from the 5 star Taita Hills Hilton.  Oh dear, the trials and tribulations of exotic travel. The lovely Kenyan manager even forced a suite upon us (well stocked fridge, Air Con, swish bathroom and all).

The hotel also has its own game reserve, formerly a colonial sisal plantation run back to bush. To the south lie the plains of the Serengeti grasslands, to the north the vast expanse of the Tsavo game reserves. It is thus a wildlife gem, and you can stay there too, in an extraordinary stilted creation inspired by the traditional homesteads of the local Taita people, though rather oddly constructed using congealed cement sacks which instead reminded us of sand-bagged gun emplacements and so presumably with an intentional nod to the ‘Ice-Cream War’.

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Not a thing of beauty then, but providing magnificent viewing of the wildlife, especially elephants which, in our time, would come in the night to drink at the ornamental pool within the lodge’s basement bar – a whole herd only a few feet away. At dawn you can walk along the raised walkways between the rooms and watch Kilimanjaro make its brief morning appearance, floating high above the horizon like a magic carpet mountain. The next time you’d look it would be gone – poof! Only a clear blue sky.

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Taita Hilton - safari vans come and go

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Spiky Squares #7