Rufous Motmot


What better thing to do on a cold, gloomy and snowy January afternoon than trawl through the archives of photos taken in Costa Rica. We were there getting on for two years ago, and I’ve still not ID’d some of the birds and other wildlife we saw.

I knew this was a Motmot, but had forgotten what sort. The guide must have told us because as soon as I looked it up I remembered the “Rufous” part of its name. I clearly remember, though, that the guide pointed out its tail which was moving from side to side, like a pendulum. “Tick tock” he said.

Rufous Motmots eat invertebrates, small vertebrates and various fruits. They feast on beetles, grasshoppers, spiders, scorpions and small crustaceans.




These birds are pretty spectacular, and I was delighted to get this shot of one, wings spread and gleaming in the sunlight, at Brazos Bend State Park near Houston.

They are  sometimes called snake birds or water turkeys. Their full description can be read here.

That aside, what really attracted me was the detail of the feathers on the body, giving a fluffy look, and the silvery gleam of the wing and tail feathers.

I’d never seen or heard of an anhinga before, but on my first visit to Brazos Bend I saw one and asked a ranger what it was. Thereafter, and on almost every visit since, I’ve seen several, maybe perched on a branch or partly submerged tree sticking out of one of the lakes, but usually at a distance.

This one, so close to the path was obligingly close, very still and rather beautiful.

Sorry seems to be the hardest word

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These words are in my head right now as I’m learning to play the Elton John song of the same name on my piano. I’ve got a touch of earworm – it’s a very poignant song with a touching melody – and it’s got me thinking about how hard it can be to say sorry, even when we know we’re wrong.

The words are roaming around in my head……….It’s a sad sad situation, and it’s getting more and more absurd………..sorry seems to be the hardest word………..and they make me consider them in the context of a couple of real life situations which are in the news:

1) Towards the end of last week, Prince Philip crashes his car into another on a public road, his large car rolls over on to its side and he somehow manages to get out shaken but basically unhurt.

The two people in the other car are hurt, not seriously, the baby in the back is mercifully unscathed, and the official announcement is that Philip has been “in touch” with these drivers to “wish them well” or somesuch weird words.

How about sorry? It probably is the hardest word to say if you come from a place of “never explain, never apologise.” One of the injured passengers says she is still waiting to hear from him, and that no apology has been offered.

2) The whole Brexit mess in the UK is getting more and more absurd almost by the hour; it’s taking over the headlines to the extent that the media can barely keep up with the twists, turns, events, happenings. Prime Minister Theresa May seems to be ever more stuck between a rock and hard place, her apparent innate inflexibility making her dig deeper into the hole she’s already in.

Absurd is one way of describing the Brexit mess. It’s the stuff that nightmares are made of.

Antidotes are necessary – walking in nature, watching birds, appreciating what is good in life and being kind and generous to others, maybe giving them a smile (however they voted in that confounded referendum).

A great nation is like a great man: when he makes mistakes, he realises it. Having realised it, he admits it. Having admitted it, he corrects it. He considers those who point out his faults as his most benevolent teachers.            Lao Tzu

Sorry doesn’t have to be the hardest word.


Photo by Pixabay on

In the Cloisters

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What were they discussing, these two middle-aged men in the cathedral cloisters in Najera, Spain?

It was hot and sunny, and I remember how cool and pleasant it was inside the cathedral and the cloistered area.

I liked the shadows formed by the fancy stone work of the arches, stopped to take a photo and noticed these two stocky men in shirt sleeves, deep in conversation.

This one from the archives; it’s not especially good quality, but I like the way it captured that moment. Two locals chatting, with a small group of tourists at the far end.

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!

Ancient clouds


It was hard to believe she’d been on Mirzam V for the quivalent of 10 Earth days. The longer days made her secondment on this weird planet feel like a life sentence. She’d jumped at the opportunity of being the correspondent for InterGal News (strapline “Beamed Beyond the Stars”), but hadn’t realised what the reality might be.

Her first taste of intergalactic travel had not been good. The rusty, rattly old bucket of a space shuttle she was booked on was poky and uncomfortable. She downed a double dose of Oblivion and slept through most of it.

But the comfortable hotel, where she’d been allocated a long stay suite, was good and she had some fun playing with the Autobutler, which would serve, via a smoked glass hatch set in the wall, whatever she ordered.  After a while, though, the novelty of asking for hot chocolate with whipped cream and marshmallows wore off, and she swore that the Autobutler now sighed when responding, “Yes, Madam” to her chocoholic requests.

The episode with the Crimson Salt, unpleasant and nauseating as it was, had unexpectedly solved her writer’s block. She’d written about her unnerving experience, filed it, and her boss at InterGal News was delighted. He asked for more of the same.

So today, she was on her way to experience Mirzam V’s Ancient Clouds. She’d learned that they appear once every 952 zobdars. “Oh,  so that’s what they call years on this poxy planet” she’d muttered to herself when she absorbed this in the daily briefing, beamed telepathically to all guests at the hotel.

The Ancient Clouds show up, radiating beautiful colours, displaying shapes which mutate and re-form, and at the same time they make music and sounds which are said to transport those who view them to other realms of imagination and fantasy. She was up for this; the hot chocolate was getting a bit boring.

She joined the other guests on the sky terrace as the clouds started to appear. It was packed. She edged into a space near the edge of the crowd and looked up. Strange and distant discordant musical sounds had started and seemed to getting louder. The crowd swayed in time to their erratic rhythm. People began to spontaneously elevate, drifting several feet into the air whilst humming and chanting, eyes closed, clearly blissed out as the clouds themselves formed kaleidoscopic swirling patterns.

She, however, had started to feel queasy. The spinning clouds, the discordant sounds and the deep, throbbing rhythms were affecting her, but not in the same way as the residents of Mirzam V. Her gut was churning, she felt faint, dizzy and sick. It was a horrible.

Grabbing hold of the gleaming purple safety rail which surrounded the sky terrace, she leaned over and threw up.