Nature is Home: the joys and pleasures of birdwatching

“There is something infinitely healing in the repeated refrains of nature — the assurance that dawn comes after night, and spring after winter.”
― Rachel Carson, Silent Spring

A little while ago, I wrote about the return of a pair of black-backed gulls to the roof-tops opposite our apartment. Since then, we have been keeping a keen eye on proceedings and I am delighted to be able to provide an update (click on any image for a closer look).

To give some context, you can see in the photo below our vantage point across to the gulls’ nest, which has been built in front of the third chimney pot to the right of the gull in the centre of the picture:

 

Hub is the ‘proper’ photographer in our house and has been magnificently putting up with my nagging gentle encouragement to take some pictures of events as they have unfolded. He has produced some crackers. Here is Mum (and/or possibly Dad):

 

The gulls seemed to spend weeks on the nest, to the point where we were wondering if the embryos had perished. But the gulls of course knew what they were doing.

“Adopt the pace of nature: her secret is patience.”
― Ralph Waldo Emerson

 

One sunny morning, a couple of days a go, we could see a different scene….

 

Aren’t they gorgeous! But wait, when we looked again…..

THREE chicks – woo hoo!!

Here’s another picture of them already starting to stretch their wings:

 

The two outer gulls in this next picture came to visit. ‘Our’ two gulls are in the centre. Interestingly, they were not at all bothered by the arrival of these two, whereas they have been chasing off any other gulls which have tried to come near the nest. Could these be relatives saying hello to the new additions to the family?

 

So that’s us glued to the binoculars now for a while – it’s such a privilege to see nature in action like this.  🙂

“Nature is not a place to visit. It is home.”
― Gary Snyder

Come, on wings of joy we’ll fly…*

When I was writing about our holiday on the Western Isles recently, I promised a guest post from Hub about the amazing nature photos he was able to take. Sit back and enjoy…. 🙂


I had always promised myself that when I retired I would treat myself to a prime telephoto lens.  Photography is something I have always enjoyed, but for me the challenge is to capture moving things.  My two main subjects are steam locomotives or nature photography, principally birds.  Steam Engines will let you get as close as you like without being the slightest bit concerned.  You can do what you like to a steam engine, and it will contentedly sit there simmering away.  Birds on the other hand are skittish things that will, at the first real sight of you, fly away; unless it is the companionable robin or a pigeon (who is a scavenger always on the make).   Birds also, rather annoyingly, like to flaunt their ability to reach high places.  They will perch just out of range of a standard telephoto or zoom lens.  I can tell they are looking down on me, smugly, pitying my attempts to get a good shot of them.  So my long held promise to myself was fulfilled when I took possession of a 500mm telephoto lens.

 

 

So grand is the lens that it has its own reinforced case in which it lives most of the time.  It needs its own carrying strap.  It requires a tripod, with a specialist gimbal head to make it easy to use.  It is big and declares itself as a lens that needs deference and attention.  It is a joy to use and own.

Editor’s note: to give you a sense of scale, here is a photo I took of Hub with his new baby…

 

Liz has written about our holiday in the Western Isles, starting in Skye, moving to Harris and then to South Uist.  This would be the proving ground for my new pride and joy.   Our first location just outside of Portree in Skye was stunning.  Within an hour of arriving I was startled to see two Golden Eagles gently flying along the ridge on which the property stood.  Seeing a Golden Eagle at eye level is not something that happens often.  I don’t think I have ever set up a camera and tripod so fast.

I didn’t think we would see Golden Eagles again, but in fact we saw them every day of the two weeks we were there.  As if to say that the Goldies shouldn’t have it all their own way, White Tailed Eagles (also known as Sea Eagles) decided also to pay a visit. So good was the sightings of birds that despite our intention to spend much time travelling around Skye, we stayed at the property on most days, waiting for the eagles to arrive.  It was such a privilege to see them at all, even as specks in the sky high up, but at close quarters a rare honour.

The images in the slide show below are some of the images that I took from my vantage point on the decking outside the property and a few from our time on Harris and South Uist.  I have included some of the smaller birds, whose perching high up or by the water’s edge gave them no hiding place.   All truly beautiful.

 

 

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You can see more of Hub’s photos, including more nature photography and plenty of steam trains on his Flickr page.

 

*The title of this post is from William Blake’s poem, The Birds:

He. Where thou dwellest, in what grove,
Tell me Fair One, tell me Love;
Where thou thy charming nest dost build,
O thou pride of every field!
She. Yonder stands a lonely tree,
There I live and mourn for thee;
Morning drinks my silent tear,
And evening winds my sorrow bear.

He. O thou summer’s harmony,
I have liv’d and mourn’d for thee;
Each day I mourn along the wood,
And night hath heard my sorrows loud.

She. Dost thou truly long for me?
And am I thus sweet to thee?
Sorrow now is at an end,
O my Lover and my Friend!

He. Come, on wings of joy we’ll fly
To where my bower hangs on high;
Come, and make thy calm retreat
Among green leaves and blossoms sweet.

Is this summer….?

We are having another lovely run of warm weather and sunshine here in Edinburgh.  I took this photo yesterday while Hub and I were out for a stroll. Although the blossom is starting to go over on most of the trees, it is wonderful to see the trees filling out with their new leaves – I love all the greens at this time of year.

And in the distance, you can see Arthur’s Seat which is currently be-decked with gorgeous orange gorse flowers.

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It is rare to be able to walk out without a jacket in this part of the world, making it seem all the more special when we can.

It is also extremely civilised to be able to sit in this window with the sun pouring in, surrounded by one’s hobbies. This photo was difficult to take and process because of the wide contrast between the sunny exterior and the darker interior, but hopefully you can get an idea of this delightful spot.

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I very much hope you are all having an equally nice evening. 😀

 

 

Perfect! Date Night in Edinburgh

I wrote last Saturday that Hub and I would be eating out to celebrate Burns Night yesterday (25 January).

We ate at one of our favourite Edinburgh restaurants – Howies.

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Continue reading “Perfect! Date Night in Edinburgh”