Bevies of birds

On my way to yoga last Friday I was stopped in my tracks.  There, high above me was that unmistakeable raucous calling that only flying geese can deliver.  I watched, as ever transfixed by the cooperative and graceful weaving flight of these birds.  They maintained their traditional V shape as they journeyed on, but I realised they weren’t constantly following the same Top Goose.  First one, then another would fly forwards, only to be succeeded by another, only moments later.  Always, however, they remained connected, a purposeful team.

 

 

I saw these geese at Marfield Wetlands exactly this time last year. Disobligingly, they did not formed perfect Vs for me.

Later, lying on my back in the yoga group, I glimpsed a red kite, wheeling and diving directly above the skylight.

Red kite (Wikimedia Commons)

A Good Morning.

These photos were taken this time last year.  I still have no camera….

Ragtag Tuesday.  It’s  still there.  As is Ragtag-every-other-day-of-the-week. Have a look.  But I’ve moved to Saturday’s Ragtag Daily Prompt.  

Ragtag Tuesday: Wet walking

Near the Ripon Canal.

It was my turn to lead our walking group on a hike on Saturday.  When I was planning what to put in the programme a few months ago, I had an idea of taking the group on a pleasant wintry walk along frost-rimed canal paths with delicate fine sheets of ice coating any puddles we met.  A weak sun would glimpse through downy dove-grey cloud, and we’d walk briskly in the cold clear air.

Well, that didn’t work.  Last week,  we’d had four days of largely non-stop rain.  And Saturday was no different.  Anybody with any sense would have rolled over in bed that morning and gone back to sleep.  I got up, and took myself off to our rendezvous, completely confident that nobody would be there waiting for me.  I’d come home and toast my toes by the fire.

Five would-be walkers greeted me.  Yes, they did want to walk.  No, they didn’t think it was too wet.  We’re here now.  Let’s get on with it.

The Ripon Canal was still looking inviting as we began our walk.

So we did.  We’re an amiable bunch who like one another so the conversation flowed.  We got in our several-thousand-steps for the day.  But we also couldn’t see much as our glasses got wetter and wetter.  Our rain gear kept the rain out and the sweat in.  Our over trousers dripped and sulked.  Our boots got damper and damper. The canal tow path, normally a fine surface for a winter’s walk, slipped and oozed.  The trees dumped giant water drops on our heads to add to the rain’s constant spillage

Those umbrellas were a mighty fine idea.

We got to our half-way point in record time.  We got back to base in an even more record time.

‘Now honestly,’  I said to my fellow-martyrs as the end drew nigh.’If you had your time over again, knowing what you know now, would you have come?”Of course!’ they all said.  And they meant it.  Not me. I scuttled off home to my fireside, and stayed there for the rest of the day.

This bridge by the River Skell provided much needed shelter as we said our goodbyes at the edge of Ripon.

Today’s Ragtag Challenge is ‘Rain’.

Ragtag Tuesday: a parcel of deer

If you live near Studley Royal and its deer park, as we do, you’ll be used to deer.  They’re very shy though, and unless you’re there very early, or when poor weather is keeping visitors away, you’ll only get distant views of them.

Yesterday though, we were having a walk, a long walk, just outside the park grounds.  Our path had led us upwards, through woodland, and alongside the long stone wall which bounds the estate.  And that’s when we noticed them.  A stag with his harem of does – some twenty or thirty of them.  We stuck our noses over the wall, and watched.  The deer watched us, and concluded that since these faces apparently had no bodies attached, they posed no threat.

The stag – and there was only one – was striding around in an assertive manner, aiming to garner respect.  The deer weren’t bothered either way, and there were no other males to impress.  He realised he was wasting his time, and fell to grazing instead.

I’m still stuck without a camera, so these slightly fuzzy efforts will have to do as a record of a few magic moments shared with a parcel of deer we came across .

Did you know that ‘parcel‘ is a collective noun for deer?  Me neither.  Try these too.

Herd – leash – gang – brace – clash – bevy – rangale – bunch – mob.

We’ve seen the deer. Now we can continue our walk.

Today’s Ragtag prompt is ‘parcel’.  And as usual, click on any image to view it full size.

Ragtag Tuesday: a serendipitous sunset

I was dashing out to a meeting yesterday evening when this sight greeted me at the end of the road.

Pure serendipity.  I suddenly realised how early I was.  There were five minutes to spare when I could stand and stare at the black outlines of the newly-skeletal trees.  The sky was transforming from a sappy fresh green and yellow through to a pale teal blue, before bleeding into grey-edged tones of salmon pink cloud.  Why hurry?  I stayed and enjoyed the moment.

Tuesday’s Ragtag Prompt is ‘Serendipity’.

Who’d be a sheep dog?

A fortnight ago, I showed you something of the sheepdog trials at Wensleydale Show.  It reminded me of Masham Sheep Fair, three years ago.  Sheepdogs were demonstrating their skills there too – of course they were.  But not with sheep.  The creatures they were herding were – geese….

Geese being kept in order by a skillful sheep dog. What a come down.

And here is the post I wrote four years ago about Masham’s annual sheep show:

A sheep is a sheep is a sheep…..

… or not.

The splendid horns of a Swaledale sheep.
The splendid horns of a Swaledale sheep.

On Saturday we called in, far too briefly, at the annual Masham Sheep Fair. This is the place to go if you believe a sheep looks just like this.

549---Sheep

Saturday was the day a whole lot of sheep judging was going on in the market square.  Here are a few of the not-at-all identical candidates. And yet they are only a few of the many breeds in England, and in the world. There are 32 distinct breeds commonly seen in different parts of the UK, and many more half-breeds.  I was going to identify the ones I’m showing you, but have decided that with one or two exceptions (I know a Swaledale, a Blue-faced Leicester or a Jacobs when I see one), I’d get them wrong. So this is simply a Beauty Pageant for Masham and District sheep.

And if you thought wool was just wool, these pictures may be even more surprising.  Who knew that sheep are not simply…. just sheep?

 

Judgment day at Masham Sheep Fair
Judgment day at Masham Sheep Fair

Ragtag Tuesday: Wensleydale Show

The show at Wensleydale in full swing.

Summer in the countryside is show time. Here in Yorkshire, Harrogate kicks it off in July with The Great Yorkshire Show.  Then week after week until the end of September, villages, towns and whole Dales follow on with theirs.

This is when farmers, breeders, stock men, makers of agricultural machinery and equipment and The Great British Public all get together to celebrate all things rural, and in the case of farmers, normally so isolated in their day-to-day working lives, simply to meet and have a chin-wag.

Emily wanted to take City Boy Miquel to a proper country fair.  So the Wensleydale Show in Leyburn it was.  He saw more sheep and cattle in a single day than he’s probably seen in a lifetime.

We began with the sheep dog trials.  One expert dog, guided by the whistles and calls of its master, has to encourage a small group of sheep down the hill, through a gate, up the hill again and through another gate, round and back again to finish up closeted in a small wooden pen. Those dogs and their shepherds were pretty good.  But from the sheep’s point of view, why go through a gate which has no fence on either side of it?  Why not just go round?  And certainly, why go into a small pen when there’s all that hillside to enjoy?  Fun was had by all but the frustrated shepherds, none of whom completed the course with a full scorecard.  But that didn’t stop them being pretty damn’ good.

Off to inspect the sheep themselves.  Some had dense clouds of thick warm wool, others rangy dreadlocks.  Some had squat round faces, others magisterial aquiline profiles.  Miquel was astonished to find that sheep weren’t simply, well, sheep.

Swaledale sheep.

Poultry.  Large hens and ducks, small hens and ducks, sleek hens and ducks, messily-feathered hens and ducks, long scaly legs, short feather-trousered legs. White eggs, brown eggs, blue eggs, speckled eggs …..

Hens, ducks and eggs in the poultry tent.

Cattle with beautiful hides, and bulls looking unusually complacent in this showground setting.

Best of all, a heavy working horse, a Suffolk Punch, just the one, a reminder of what crop farming and ploughing used to involve.  This splendid beast was traditionally tricked up in her party clothes, reminding me of Whit Mondays when I was a child, when the shire horses employed for delivering beer and ale to pubs were dressed in all their finery for this one special day of the year.

And in among, we watched displays in the show ring, sampled local cheeses and pies, bought decadent and wholly nontraditional treats like gooey chocolate brownies, and generally enjoyed All the Fun of the Fair.

Hungry yet?
Not a bad view from the car park.

Today’s Ragtag Prompt is ‘Fair’.  Yesterday’s was ‘Coddiwomple’ – to travel purposefully towards a vague destination.  Well, we – Miquel especially – were a bit vague about how we’d spend the day…… until we got there.

Click on any image to see it full size.

A crowd in the countryside

Regular readers know I’m a member of a walking group.  Regular readers don’t know that one of the features of our summer programme is a series of evening pub walks: walks of only three or four miles, finishing up at a pub for a convivial meal or drink together.  Usually about eight to twelve people come along.  This time, it was my turn to lead the walk, which had been publicised round the area in a low-key kind of way.

I’d already been messaged by a Chinese woman who asked if, though they weren’t members of ‘rumbles’, a group of nine of them could come along.  Three other new-to-us people got in touch, and on the night, two other ‘newbies’ were there.  Then there were Emily and Miquel, over from Spain.

The group of nine proved after all to be eleven, and included two small children.  They were an extended family, living in various places all over the north of England, who’d snatched a few precious days staying together at a local campsite.

The usual regulars turned up.  I did a quick head count.  Twenty nine people….

The walk begins……

Have you ever tried getting twenty nine people over several stiles, down narrow paths, along the lakeside, through the woods, across the fields, down the road and back through the Nature Reserve without losing anyone en route?  Actually, because of the small children, the Chinese team left us at half time, but we had fun making new friends and promising to try out the restaurant that one branch of the family runs, many miles north from here.

Sunset over the lake at the Nature Reserve.

The pub coped admirably.  In fact only twelve of us chose to eat there, though most of the others stayed for a drink.  Here’s free publicity for The Freemason’s Arms, Nosterfield.  Great home-cooked food (try the fish and chips if you dare.  Massive), provided by a friendly, unflappable team.

Photo courtesy of Miquel, who was almost, but not quite, defeated by this plateful.