Highlights of a Bird-free Bird Reserve

RSPB Saltholme.

We had to go to Middlesbrough for an appointment the other day, so we thought we’d stay and explore.

Middlesbrough is what’s known as a ‘post-industrial town’.  Once, its steel and other heavy industry and its port brought wealth (to some), employment, and attendant grime and looming industrial architecture.  Now, it’s reliant on newer technologies, engineering and the presence of  the university developed in the 1990s from the older Polytechnic.

But its landscape is still an industrial one, as is that of the surrounding towns: Billingham, Stockton, Redcar.  Could it be true that the RSPB had developed a Nature Reserve here, on its outskirts?

It could.  RSPB Saltholme.  Though it was hard to believe, as we navigated along roads edged by towering chimneys, great metal hangars, clattering unseen machinery.

But in the end, there it was, among the industrial flatlands – wetlands actually, punctuated by shallow lakes and pools.  We’d arrived.

Light-providing pylons stride purposefully across the landscape behind the reserve.

But the birds had left.  How silly of us not to remember.  At our local nature reserve, Nosterfield, the birds regularly knock off at lunchtime, only reappearing towards dusk.  Who knows where they go?

Sunlight plays across the bird-free water. There’s the Tees Transporter Bridge dominating the skyline.

Never mind.  We enjoyed a peaceful walk.  We got a moment of drama when flocks of birds DID appear, swirling and swooping above the lake.  It was quite likely that they were taking evasive action from a resident peregrine falcon hunting for a meal.  Drama over, they disappeared once more.

We enjoyed our time in this peaceful oasis.  We explored trails that ended in well-equipped hides.

Sky-light, lake-light from the hides.

We studied noticeboards with information about what better-informed visitors had spotted that very day.  We passed fields with the inevitable large numbers of greylag  geese. And towards the end, we were rewarded with just a few sightings: some shelducks feeding; a shoveler or two;  a few swans and a very distant heron.

But we enjoyed our afternoon. A near-empty wetland, with its unusual backdrop of an industrial past and present, and the never-out-of-sight Tees Transporter Bridge made for a fine afternoon’s walking … and there was even a café.

Camera-shy shelducks.

This multi-tasking post is for Six Word Saturday, January Light (January Squares), and Jo’s Monday Walk.

The Consolations of Winter

Winter’s not all bad.  The day begins well for us.  Winter light. If we push breakfast just a little bit later than usual – just before 8 o’clock say – we can watch the sun rise, and the sky lighten and brighten in Neapolitan ice-cream colours as we sit near the kitchen window and chomp through our cereal.

Go outside in the daylight, and we can enjoy the snowdrops, and watch green shoots thrusting through the soil.

The trees are handsome, statuesque as they thrust their naked branches skyward.

Long shadows reach across the fields in the thin, clear January light.

 

And back in the house … there’s still some Christmas cake left in the tin.

 

 

#January Light

Spanish Views from Spanish Windows

This is my last post about Spain for a while, and it includes images from previous visits too. Browsing through my collection, I see that windows feature – a lot.

Views through, of, and reflected from windows; views through spaces that serve as windows; and finally, views of things outside windows (washing lines!) that have me imagining the lives lived behind them . You’ll see all of these here – mainly, but not exclusively from Barcelona.

But let’s start in Granada, at the Alhambra. This young woman was impossible to get out of shot, as she had to take a selfie from every angle. In the end, I decided to put her centre stage.

A real view from a real window: our go-to tourist attraction in Barcelona: the Modernista Hospital de Sant Pau.

I’m a sucker for reflecting windows. This high-end grocery store in Barcelona offered those reflections in bright light, as well as showing the goods on offer inside (this one’s for you, Becky)

More windows where it’s the reflections providing the views.

And now it’s time for those washing lines.

Two contrasting views through not-a-window: in a garden in the Jewish quarter, Córdoba: and at El Clot-Aragó station, Barcelona.

Finally – this isn’t a view through a window at all. But who could resist viewing this window in Barcelona?

An entry for Lens Artist Challenge #79: ‘A window with a view’,

and #January Light.

Wandering round Cádiz

Near the Cathedral, walking by the Atlantic.

Do you want to come for a walk with me in Cádiz?  Let’s see.  We’ll want to see the Cathedral and its museum; the former Cathedral; the Roman Theatre; the Mercado Central; the Castillo de Santa Catalina; the monument to Cortes of Cádiz, promulgators of the Spanish constitution in 1812; the city walls …..

That sounds too much?  You’re right.  Let’s just go for a stroll instead, and see what turns up.

We’ll start out from our hotel. It was a convent once, and while it’s still a spacious and gracious place, we didn’t have to get up in the small hours to pray.

We’re surrounded by a warren of old streets just like this.

And just down the street is this greengrocer, with its inviting wall display that changes every day.

Breakfast first though.  Let’s find a bar.  We’re having a large glass of freshly squeezed orange juice, pan con tomate (grilled bread with grated raw tomato and a drizzle of olive oil), and a good strong coffee.

This is from an earlier holiday. But it’s still our standard breakfast.

We needed to post a letter on our first day.  It took us ages to find somewhere.  And  it’s here, in the wall of the Central Post Office.  That was once a convent too.

And look!  These narrow streets need protection from ill-driven carriages crashing into them,  Corners of buildings are kept intact by covering them with metal plates, or even using redundant canons from the Napoleonic wars.

We haven’t been to the market yet.  It’s in the hub of the city, and all about the fish: stall after stall of it.  It’s hard to believe there’s anything left in the sea.  Fruit and veg., meat and cheese and all the rest come a poor second here.

We said no sightseeing.  But we have to pop into the cathedral – mind that crane!

The Cathedral interior.

And climb the tower for views over the city.

The industrial face of Cadiz, and a distant view of Puente de la Constitucion, 1812

You’re never more then a minute or two from the sea here.  Views? Of course there are.  But there are also community-driven cats’ homes, randomly furnished with boxes and cast-off carpets, and lots and lots of cats.

And while we’re walking along the seafront – look at this.  It’s a ficus macrophylla – a giant kind of fig tree, allegedly brought back from India as seedlings round about 900 by two nuns.  It’s too big to photograph really.

This ficus was easier to photograph at night.

And here’s La Casa de las Cinco Torres (five houses, despite the name), built facing the sea in the 18th century, to make a fine impression on incoming visitors.

La Casa de las Cinco Torres.

Time for a drink now?  You’re in sherry country (Jerez is just down the road), so let’s go where the locals go, and ask for some advice about what to choose.  Here’s Taberna Manzanilla. Malcolm was offered a 7 year old number, but mine was 14 years old, and accompanied by a local sheep-and-goat cheese. What will you choose?

We could just as well choose La Manteca.  Either way, decorating the interior with bull-fighting posters seems obligatory.

Tired now?  Well, mooch round a bit then – here are some entirely random images.

 

Then we’ll finish off the day in the fisherman’s quarter, La Viña , at la Tabernita, a family concern only open at the back end of the week, and weekends, share a few tapas, and wander back to the hotel.

An entry for Jo’s Monday Walk Jo – I don’t think this walk will get past Quality Control, as it’s a composite.  But I just couldn’t pick one!

Longer Daylight, More Sunlight = The First Flowers of Spring….

… spotted on a walk through our village yesterday.

Snowdrops – first spotted on January 1st.
These daffodils by the village pond are always extra-early – even though it’s North Yorkshire.
Aconites bravely push up through the gravel.

January Light

A Parakeet Alights

Back home in chilly England, I’ve been going through my photos.  All 485 of them. I rather want to go back to the days when you had a Kodak Box Brownie, and one, maybe two films of twelve or sixteen shots to get you through the holiday: and when you had to wait more than a week for the chemist (the chemist!) to develop them. I’ve spent all day chucking photos out, re-living special moments , and wondering which snaps may get an airing on this blog.

But this shot asked for its moment in the limelight.  We were at a height, up at the top of the tower of Cádiz  Cathedral.  A parakeet was wheeling in the bright sky.  And it spotted Jesus.  Well, I think it’s Jesus. And it chose to alight.  I think he deserves a spot in January Light.