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.

Razor shells

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There were more razor shells than I’ve ever seen together in one place on the beach at Rhyl in North Wales. This is a small sample of the banks and piles of them created by the tides.

If they weren’t en masse like these, they were spread out more thinly, with the firm sand showing through. The walk on the beach was at times quite a noisy one, my feet making satisfying sounds as I crunched on them.

There were plenty of other shells mixed in – mostly cockle shells and the odd mussel shell. Just think – living creatures once inhabited every single one of them. There were countless thousands.

Black and white photography

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Traditional diner, Tucumcari, New Mexico

I recently watched a TV programme about Don McCullin, veteran photojournalist, whose iconic black and white photography had me looking at some of my own humble archive shots.

Famed for his war photography and images of urban strife, McCullin took viewers on a tour of modern day Britain as he revisted and photographed places he’d been to many years before. Armed with old-fashioned but stalwart cameras which have seen much action, he was equally comfortable wandering around in towns, talking to people, asking them if he could photgraph them and taking candid shots, as he was joining a local hunt in the countryside to get some excellent shots (although I was glad to hear he didn’t think much of fox hunting).

All his photographs are in black and white – the detail is superb. Viewers were taken, at the end of the day, into his dark room. He develops in the “old fashioned” way; no digital cameras for him. At 83, he’s still working…or should that be doing what he loves doing?

Every now and then I try my hand at some candid or street photography. In this shot the customer in the diner had laid his stetson on the seat beside him, and I liked the row of chairs lined up against the counter. But I didn’t ask if I could take his photo as I didn’t want him to pose. I had my lunch, left the diner and he was none the wiser.  But I’m glad he was there for my picture.

Bw old timer in diner

Rufous Motmot

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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.

Anhinga

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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.