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.


Curassow encounter

My look through the photos I took in Costa Rica led me back to an earlier post I made last year, when I wrote about this huge bird which came on very friendly towards me. It was one of those experiences which makes the hair on the back of the neck prickle. Looking at the photo of this bird, which I took at very close quarters, I appreciate what a special encounter this was.

Eyes in the back of my Head


Visiting Zoo Ave, a rescue centre and wild life refuge in Costa Rica, we saw this huge bird strutting about on the ground some way off. Our guide said it was a female Great Currasow.

It was making a distinctive call, which I imitated. It immediately started coming towards me, flying up to perch on a railing, and then it began to edge towards me, closer and closer. We clearly had a big thing going on! I’d continued to imitate its call, but stopped when I realised it might get really friendly and leap into my arms!

View original post 52 more words

Cream Tea: Devon or Cornwall style?


Sitting in a cafe recently, virtuously sharing a large scone with jam and cream with my other half, we fell into conversation with a nearby couple over which should be spread on the scone first – jam or cream?

If it’s cream first and then jam, it’s the “official” Devon way; it it’s jam topped by cream, that’s the way it’s done in Cornwall.

The photo was taken in Devon, and it looks like we got it right with jam on cream. But now I’m not sure which way I usually prepare my scone prior to sinking my fangs into it – I just do it.

I think it’s the Cornish way, but in the spirit of research and accuracy, I really think I need to test this out for myself sometime in the near future!

Camberwell Beauty


Reading Patrick Barkham’s book The Butterfly Isles I was transported back to south London, where I grew up. I’d reached the chapter on urban butterflies where he describes Coldharbour Lane and the bus station at Camberwell Green. Immediately I was once again 9 years old, with my mum, sitting on the top deck of a red London bus on my way to my dancing class at Kennington Oval.

The bus route took us past a huge colourful mosaic of a Camberwell Beauty butterfly, set high up on the front of the Samuel Jones & Co factory, which produced gummed paper shapes. I was fascinated by this butterfly, ever after wanting to see one. I never managed to do so in the UK. They are very rare visitors and I had to wait until 1982 before I saw several for real in Sweden. That was memorable – I still recall how I couldn’t quite believe my eyes!

The Camberwell Beauty has stayed with me as being rather special. My mum bought me a gummed paper shape puzzle of this butterfly with a cardboard shape to base the pieces on. I still have it. It’s a childhood memento that I wouldn’t part with.

What I was interested to discover from Barkham’s book is that Coldharbour Lane ( not an especially nice place these days), was once known as Cool Arbour Lane, where there were green meadows and willow trees, a rural habitat suitable for this butterfly and its caterpillars.


January: a time for looking backwards or looking forward?

I wrote this post almost a year ago. Now here we are on the cusp of 2019 and the world is looking a slightly dodgier place. Excesses of Trump, war torn Syria, strife in Yemen, climate breakdown, and closer to home, Brexit.

The two faces of Janus could fit neatly into the “looking backward, looking forward” of the title when juxtaposed against the widening rift between those who voted to leave the EU and those who wish to remain.

I can personally look back and remember times were hard, challenging and not flush with the comparative luxuries we’ve become accustomed to for the last 40+ years since joining the EU. I don’t wish the post-war 1950s on anyone; I grew up in bombed London. Yet sad to say there is still plenty of comparable hardship around.

The words I wrote a year ago about the “looking forward” aspect of Janus – The face turned towards the future would be seeking out the new; a clean slate waiting to be drawn upon in creative, innovative ways – offer some small hope that those in positions of power, our MPs and government, might create a totally new appraoch to solving the divisive Brexit issue which makes our country a laughing stock.

Looking forward, at this point, is like wading into thick cloud; nobody knows what’s going to happen.

Eyes in the back of my Head


I guess it all depends on where you’re at in the month of January. Maybe the looking backwards has already been done at the turning of the year and looking forward to the year ahead has already begun.

January is named after the Roman god Janus, here in this statue in Vienna looking a bit grim and definitely two-faced as he surveys what’s behind him with a serious face. Yet looking forward into the eyes of Bellona, goddess of war, there’s a gentleness and softness to his features. Could he be trying to defuse a difficult situation? Trump claiming his big red button was bigger than Kim’s comes to mind.

View original post 131 more words

It’s beginning to look a lot like that time of year again….


I’ve just put our very ancient vintage Christmas tree up. It’s an artificial one, made of plastic (shock horror – but it’s not as bad as it sounds). I bought it long long ago – so long ago I can’t remember when, and certainly when excessive use of plastic wasn’t a known problem –  but it was probably sometime in the late 1970s or early 80s. It cost £17, which was quite expensive at that time.

Daughter, who was at primary school when we got this tree, recently sent a link to a short video outlining the pros and cons of plastic v. real Christmas trees. Watching this with the 30+ years of annual outings our tree has had in mind, I know its carbon footprint debt was paid off long ago. We did have a real tree for several years before we went plastic; at the time it seemed more sustainable to have an artificial, reusable tree than to “kill off” a real one every year.

Our trusty tree looks surprisingly good and passably realistic (if you ignore the brown plastic trunk and branches), especially when the lights and baubles are in place hiding the more naff details. It has its own peculiar cachet.IMG_0507

Comparing it with artificial trees in garden centres, it can certainly hold its own, and doesn’t appear too dated. Of course it’s a bit of joke in the family as it has been around for so long, but when grandchildren stayed last year they thought it was pretty good and there were no complaints. Nine-year-old granddaughter’s eyes might have widened a little though, when we told her how old the tree was!

This year, with an 11 month-old-puppy now part of our household, we’ve decided to introduce it gradually to keep the excitement and potential destructive chewing under some kind of control. I put it together in another part of the house, added the lights, then brought it into the room where it now stands, as yet untrimmed. There was interest, sniffing, a quick grab at the festive “skirt” I’d put around the base, which he sank his fangs into immediately. That won’t be going back! Then said puppy, curiosity satisfied for the time being, settled down to snooze beside the tree. Maybe that’s a good sign.

As long as he realises it’s not a pee post!

Clouded Yellow


Today the weather has been wonderful. More like summer than mid-October, and rather unnatural at that because it’s never this warm (21c in north west UK) at this time of year – more like damp or grey or even a touch of frost.

Looks like this could be will be the last warm stuff for a while, so here’s a late summer Clouded Yellow I saw in the Dordogne last month.

A reminder of sunshine.