Dog helps Blue Tits build nest

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There’s a bit of tabloid headline poetic licence in the title as there was some human intervention here. Mine.

We have a young Norfolk Terrier, a hairy beast, not unlike a teddy bear in appearance and very friendly and cuddly with it. His coat has to be hand stripped, and I’m gradually learning how to do this. My L-plates are still on but I’m slowly getting the hang of it and I regularly “roll” his coat to keep it tidy and in good shape.

P1070250Clearing up the tufts and clumps of loose hair I’d removed I wedged them into the bird feeder in the garden. There is a pair Blue Tits in a nesting box and there’s currently a lot of coming and going through the entrance – a bird arrives with moss and loose foliage in its beak, pops inside, disappears for a bit them emerges to search for more nesting material.

It didn’t take long for them to find the recently removed dog hair and flit off back to the nesting box with it. Grabbing my camera I managed to get a couple of shots of the tits at work.

Now that’s what I call recycling – from dog to birds to nest in a matter of minutes!

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Ubiquitous plastic

P1070199Ubiquitous: present everywhere or in several places simultaneously

Plastic: any of a number of synthetic polymeric substances that can be given any required shape

(The Concise Oxford Dictionary)

This lone plastic water bottle floating in a sea of green gunge in Brazos Bend State Park in Texas caught my eye. The park is pristine, tidy and well-kept. Staff and volunteers do a great job keeping it clean so visitors can enjoy the wildlife. So this lone bottle jarred.

It definitely should not have been there and I wondered which unthinking clown had thrown it into the lake rather then into one of the bins (there are plenty of them).

It jarred especially because of the context it was in. I was watching a Great Egret at the time. It was still and peering into the water at the edge of the green and gunky lake. Here it is peering – it let me get quite close but not too close. What a beauty.

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And here it is in context with the discarded plastic bottle

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It just doesn’t go. It shouldn’t be there and it’s a reminder of the vast amounts of discarded plastic we humans are allowing to overtake our planet. Recycling helps of course, but do we need SO MUCH plastic I have to ask.

You’re probably already aware of the plastic problem so I won’t bang on about it. While I was in the US I refused plastic straws given with any drinks ordered in cafes and restaurants. One place didn’t offer them – a small start but it was encouraging to see it nonetheless.

 

A day trip to Mexico

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On our recent road trip to Big Bend National Park in Texas, we took the legal crossing point across the Rio Grande into Mexico to visit the village of Boquillas. The day was overcast, cold and windy. We needed plenty of layers to keep warm and the constant, buffeting wind blew dust into our eyes. But it was worth the discomfort as we had a memorable and enjoyable day.

Not knowing what to expect was part of the experience. I’d not anticipated the scruffy dusty road which we followed to the village, athough there was the option to ride there on horseback. The male inhabitants of Boquillas hang around as each ferry arrives offering to be guides.  I was saddened when we got off the boat to be greeted by a needy but cringing small dog, looking for a little TLC  .

The ferry is a rowing boat; the crossing is quick as the Rio Grande is quite narrow at this point.  The walk into Boquillas is less than a mile.

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 More horses were tethered at the entrance to the village, and a less needy and probably more loved dog sat watching us as we walked by.

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Boquillas is small so it didn’t take too long to explore along the main street and some of the side streets, all of them dusty unmade roads.

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We found one of the two churches – there is a Catholic and Baptist church in the community. We heard music as we approached the village but didn’t know what it was or where it was coming from. There were trumpets and a furious banging of drums. It sounded awful. Turning down a side street we came across the school, where the children were lined up in the playground for band practise. This was being led by a soldier in uniform, and he was blasting away on the trumpet, the children joining in with trumpets and drums. I later learned that this was only their second lesson, which explained why it sounded, well…raw. The smiles from the children as I took this long shot are a delight; they were enjoying it!

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I stopped to look at the local crafts and wares on display outside some of the houses, and spoke to Ruffina, who was selling bags, wall hangings and pottery along with ocotillo, cacti, scorpions and roadrunner wire and bead ornaments. She was a friendly, cheerful lady, as were the staff in the restaurant where we had lunch.

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Granddaughter wanted to ride back to the ferry on a horse, which was led by a young woman named Veronica. She was happy to talk and told me that the village was a happy community where many people come from the same family and where everyone supports each other. She’d been to college, had worked away in a larger town, but returned to stay in Boquillas, simply because it’s friendly and it’s home. They have no AC in the village so suffer in the summer heat and stay indoors. It’s windy most days, some being worse than others, and although they have TV there is no internet. She laughed and said they just do without and if they really need to use it they travel to the nearest town. I got the impression they don’t bother to do so very much and suspect life is much simpler. What is important is their community.

I bought some bead and wire ornaments and a wall hanging, embroidered with a roadrunner and the words “No Wall” on it. Ruffina fetched it specially to show me when she realised I liked birds. The slogan it carries is bang on for current topical and historical significance. We never saw any signs of Trump’s wall on our trip; the mountains in this area form a natural barrier.

Then it was back into the US via the very small and efficient entry point, bringing with me the local crafts along with some good memories of a new and very enjoyable experience.

Roseate Spoonbill

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That flash of pink in the treetops…..what was it?

We’d just embarked on the walk along by Forty Acre Lake at Brazos Bend State Park, when a ruffling kerfuffle of pink erupted in the mid-distance treetops.

My brain said “Flamingoes? Here?” My binoculars said “Roseate Spoonbills – 4 of them!”

This was a first ever sighting of these rather weird large waders, with their prehistoric-looking spoon-shaped bills. What a treat! A trip to Brazos Bend is always rewarding, but the spoonbills made this trip even more so.

These birds were heavily persecuted in the late 1800s when feathered hats were in vogue and they all but died out, thanks to vain fashion and plume hunters. Thankfully they have made a recovery but the message is clear: persecute and destruction and/or extinction will follow.

What a treat it was to see these birds. The photo isn’t great – I was lucky to get it – but you’ll get the overall impact of this stunning, peculiar, wonderful bird.

The Citroen 2CV meet up

 

P1070064Our son has a 1978 Citroen 2CV named Fiona. She’s bright green. That’s her above.

Staying with the family in Houston, he mentioned that there was a meet up for the local group of 2CV owners one Saturday morning, did I want to go? I decided I could probably manage to hold my own amongst a group of potentially geeky enthusiasts (son is not geeky!) and off we set, roof rolled back, at one point flooring it, doing 80 kilometres an hour along the freeway to meet for breakfast at a diner. Other drivers tended to hoot or wave in appreciation along the way. It was fun.

They were  a friendly group, not especially geeky until the conversation turned to techy stuff beyond my comprehension, but I found myself amongst a cosmopolitan group of Francophiles. Over an American-style breakfast we we talked about Citroen cars, food, wine, cheese, Provencale lavender and French regions we’d visited.

I gather there are probably 17 2CVs in Texas, some rusting in outhouses, some in parts, some in roadworthy condition. Of the 3 that turned up, the one my son had described as “red and rust” needs the most attetnion, but the owner has been concentrating on the parts under the bodywork; attention to the rust and paintwork is yet to take place.

I was happy to be the unofficial photographer for their meet up and took a lot of candid shots and close ups for them. Here are a few of them.

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Muscovy Duck

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These are weird, unusual birds, but there are usually several hanging around near one of the artificially created ponds in Terry Hershey park in Houston. They are found across North America and we do have them in the UK too.

I watched a family of them, parents sitting down doing nothing much, while their smaller, younger offspring pottered around on a nearby bank of the bayou.

This one let me get close; they’re used to humans hanging around. Now why do I want to call him or her Warty McWartface?