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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Flowers at Brazos Bend

On a perfect, warm sunny day, with low humidity, these are some of the wild flowers I saw growing in Brazos Bend State Park last week.

There were insects, birds, turtles and alligators too – more on these to follow.

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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Llano, Texas

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You can pick up quite a lot about a place, even if you’re only staying there overnight.

Llano is a small Texan town, quite rural and quite pleasant. There are antique shops on the main street, full of interesting clutter, jumble and a few possibly genuine pieces too. Such shops can be interesting for tourists to browse around – who knows what you might find? But as it gets dark, the shops close, the lights come on and the town exudes a different lifestyle.

Cafes and bars are open and busy, the lights draw those who are out and about on a Saturday night (as I was) and the lure of the Opry at the Lantex was calling to some (not to me; I’ve no idea what the Opry might be in Texan terms! Singing, music, a dance hall?).

P1060752 (2)Around the main square everything was closed but the sedate and respectable front of the building housing the Llano News drew my attention. Drab, proper, tidy and rather unexciting. I wonder if the kind of articles that make it to the pages of the local rag are as mundane as those in the local paper where I live?

Turning the corner of the square, ready to head back, I got a clue about something which goes on in the area. The well-illuminated sign bore the call to attend “License to carry classes” provided twice monthly at the Midway gun and ammo shop. This is rural Texas after all…..

I was puzzled by the lit up leaping deer, but discovered later via a poster in a shop window that there is an annual deer fest in the town, so it’s a huntin’ shootin’ kinda place.

Not my cup of tea, but the take out BBQ we had to eat that night was.P1060757 (2)

Osprey

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In the UK, birders would travel miles – maybe to Rutland Water in the Midlands or maybe to Aviemore in Scotland –  to see ospreys, amazingly powerful and graceful birds who fish from lakes, catching large fish in their powerful talons.

In Houston, Texas, it’s not unusual or remarkable at all to find  an osprey flying low over a local reservoir which is part of a country park. This one was out in broad daylight, flying overhead and calling as it clutched its large catch. All this against the distant backdrop and roar of a busy tollway.

We watched it – no binoculars were needed as it was so close – as it sought and found a perch on a nearby telegraph pole and proceeded to tuck into it with that powerful beak.

What a treat for the eyes to see it. The photo’s not perfect as it was taken against the light, but it conveys the size of both bird and fish.

Northern Cardinal

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I could hear the distinctive sound of a Northern Cardinal’s “birdybirdybirdy” call but I couldn’t see it anywhere.

It was like playing hide and seek in the backyard/garden trying to locate it and spot it. It was nearby. I looked up. Not on the wires or telegraph pole. Not on the roof. Not on the still-bare branches of one of the trees.

Returning to the house, I noticed a rather alarming-looking long legged insect loitering around one of the evergreen bushes near the door. Spotting what looked like an orange ball caught deep in the branches, I saw it wasn’t a ball at all. I’d found my singing cardinal.

He was watching me intently, having gone quiet as I was nearby. We eyeballed each other, pausing in a shared moment of stillness. He was beautiful.

I seized the moment and took a few shots of him, then he hopped away, deeper into the bush and I went into the house. I’m hoping he was one half of a pair, as I’d seen the female fly across the garden when I first went out.

And as it’s spring, they may be nesting.

Venerable Oak

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This 650 year old tree is in Attingham Park, Shrewsbury. It was looking pretty good in a gnarled, bumpy and ancient way, standing proud and solid amongst the younger whipper snappers of trees hanging around nearby.

The park has a lot of ancient trees. This one is called the Repton Oak, named after Humphry Repton, a garden designer who worked on the grounds at Attingham in the late 1700s.

P1060714The bare branches rising above the broad trunk remind me of long hair wildly standing on end.

The textures of the old lumpy trunk, with the smooth, younger bare branch set against them make a pleasing contrast.