Balkan postcards 7: Pastoral Prespa.

Balkans, farming, Wildlife

Today was a day of birdsong: of nightingales without end, of golden orioles and hoopoes. It was a day to watch bee-eaters, pelicans, grey herons, night herons flying over the lake. It was a day to watch sows idling away the morning under a shady tree, or goats commandeering the hillside. Or to see a wild tortoise lumbering across the path.

Birdsong in the woods

Balkan Postcards 6: Postcards from Prespa

Balkans, Wildlife

Today, we journeyed to Lake Prespa, Grecian section. To Little Prespa to be exact. We are staying on an island where we were promised a cacophony of frogs – all night – and a plethora of pelicans. The frogs are delivering: but the pelicans, up to perhaps 80% of them, have been decimated by avian flu. They were not there to greet us as we hoped. But aided by powerful lenses, we finally saw them. Trust me, they’re there, and there in abundance, roughly in the middle of the first shot.

Little Prespa and its pelicans, behind a carpet of asphodels.

I’ll send just one more postcard this evening, taken just as the sun set.

Just two stories from Ukraine

Music, Wildlife

Back in March, I brought a daily diary, by Yevgenia Belorusets from Kyiv to your attention.  It went silent nearly two weeks ago.  But news from Ukraine is unremitting, and none of it good. 

I thought it would be good to remember that Ukrainians are so much more than victims, and fighters for their country.  They have towns, cities and countryside that are important to them.  They have a cultural life that mustn’t be extinguished.  Here are two stories to remind us of that.  The first is from the Guardian’s Country Diary last week.  Here, Olexandr Ruchko describes the annual arrival of the storks to his homeland.

This stork is in Spain.  But his cousins are now in Ukraine.

The next is about a children’s choir, the Shchedryk Children’s Choir, Kyiv.

Do have a look at their website, and listen to the two pieces you’ll find there.  They’d like you to share this site, and share it again, so their music continues to live on, even though the choir members are scattered:

Many of you, by ‘liking’ a previous post, enabled me to give a donation to World Central Kitchens, which works in Ukraine and disaster zones throughout the world. Here‘s a link, in case you too are interested in donating.

My header image recalls the Ukrainian flag.  Though this image was taken in North Yorkshire, it reminds us that Ukraine is, in normal times, the Breadbasket of Europe.

As it happens, Brian Butler, in his engaging Travel Between the Pages blog, features today a short video of Kyiv, as it experienced a normal day, only last summer. You can view it here.

Monday Portrait

Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal, National Trust, Wildlife

It wasn’t much more than a year ago. I was walking in the grounds of Fountains Abbey when I heard a vicious one-sided conversation going on above me. It was a squirrel, a very heated and angry squirrel, who evidently had a great deal to complain about. Maybe it was me he was angry with. I never found out. The complaining went on long after I’d gone out of his sight.

Monday Portraits: Herons


The river down the track from us is a favourite fishing ground for herons. I love to watch them as they patiently watch too, for fish. And I love it too that wherever we travel, we’re likely to see local herons about their business. The one in the featured photo lives on the Guadalquivir in C√≥rdoba, but his routines seem just the same as those of our Yorkshire birds.

This one lives in Kew Gardens, and the heavy rain makes him look a little out of focus:

Here are a few more:

 Elke of Pictures Imperfect demonstrates that the black-and-greyness of these birds makes them ideal for Jude’s Life in Colour challenge, as she’s seeking shots that are black and grey this month.