Street musicians, New Orleans

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Oh they were good, this trio, very good, with a nice easy style. They’d gathered quite a crowd around them on this busy Sunday morning and I stood around watching and listening for quite a while.

They deserved every dollar bill and more that was put in the hat out front of their space.

New Orleans – NOLA – what a place, with a special buzz and music at every street corner.

I first featured NOLA in a post a last year, when these musicians made an appearance along with other street scenes.

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Albenga

Albenga cafe

A photo from a few years back, taken in a back street of Albenga on the Italian riviera.

It was an interesting city to visit, a bit scruffy and crumbly, its narrow streets hung with washing from balconies, friendly cafe’s, a cathedral and many tall towers.

Exploring the maze of streets we came across this one, a cyclist appearing from around the corner and people meeting for a late afternoon drink.

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.

 

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.

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?

 

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)

A strange gurgling in the night

P1060986There it was again –  a loud, odd gurgling sound – a bit like the warble of a bird but far more urgent. I was suddenly wide awake. Confused too, as I briefly wondered if I was at home and hearing the dawn chorus. But no, I was definitely not at home because I was sleeping in a cabin-style house in the desert, surrounded by mountians. And it was dark.

Something was definitely going on outside. Scuffles? That gurgling noise again, like an alarm call. It stopped and I went back to sleep.

Next morning there was excited talk amongst our family party about the noise which I’d heard, husband had heard, son and daughter-in-law had heard. The grandchildren slept through it all.

Our cabin’s location was just outside Big Bend National Park in the far south of Texas. Wildlife in that area includes deer, road runners, javelina and mountain lions. The conclusion was that what we’d heard was a mountain lion in pursuit of prey. The gurgling sound could have been the prey, or the alarm call of a bird aroused by the lion.

Our son, sleeping at the front of the house, had got up and looked out, shining a torch into the blackness of the night. He’d seen the lion attacking something else; the light from his torch had startled the lion and it (and preseumably the prey) hadP1070004 (2) run off.

We went to look at the loose sand and soil outside the cabin where he’d seen the activity and found the evidence – paw prints and what looked like deer hoof prints. No blood.

Just another night in the desert maybe – but a real bit of colourful excitement for us.