Ragtag Saturday: A Red Kite.

Ah, could I see a spinney nigh,
A paddock riding in the sky, 

Above the oaks, in easy sail, 
On stilly wings and forked tail.

John Clare (c. 1820)
Paddock is an old English name for the Red Kite

Red kite (Wikimedia Commons, Arturo de Frias Marques )

Red kites, coasting lazily across the skies on gentle thermals – floating, free-wheeling, gliding – command our instant attention.  When we spot them as we’re walking, we can’t help but stand and stare, and relish their easy command of an immense sky.  It’s that forked tail that gives them away.

And yet these noble-seeming creatures exist mainly on carrion.  They’ll swoop quickly down to snatch roadkill – after the crows have helped themselves – and take it off to perch on some quiet tree to dismember and eat.  Sometimes we’ll watch numbers of them wheeling above just-ploughed fields, questing for worms and small mammals.

Young red kite perching in a tree (Wikimedia Commons)

They used to be a very rare sight indeed.  But about twenty years ago, and thirty miles from here, some red kites were released onto the Harewood Estate as part of a conservation initiative.  We lived in Harrogate at the time, and got so excited if we were near Harewood, by very occasional sighting.

Fast forward a few years, and the kites reached the outskirts of Harrogate: we’d even spot them above the town centre.  Later still, they spread onwards and outwards  – north, south, east and west.

Yorkshire red kite sightings 2018
(www.yorkshireredkites.net)

And this week, just this week, for the very first time, this is what I saw, above the house, keeping an eye on me as I hung out the washing.  I’m very excited by our new neighbour.

A bit blurred, this image. But this red kite was very high above me.

Today’s Ragtag Challenge is ‘kite’.

Ragtag Saturday: Rus in urbe in Andalucia

Rus in urbe.  Signs of the countryside in town.  We spent a lot of our time in Andalucia, particularly in Córdoba and Málaga, hanging over river bridges staring at bird life, or gawping into trees to see what we could see.  Here’s a bit of a rogues’ gallery….

Cormorants on the river Guadalquivir…

Egrets, ditto.

Herons – or perhaps always just the same heron?  Fishing, always fishing.

A poor swallow (Was it a swallow?  Help me, someone) trapped in the synagogue in Córdoba, endlessly flying impotently towards the light, the incontestably glazed windows.

Then it was parakeets.  We’ve moved to Málaga now.  We could hear them all the time, squawking in the palm trees.  But this pair had time to bill, coo and preen.

La Concepción Botanical Gardens were at the edge of town.  But still definitively Málaga.  I offer you turtles…..

…. toads…

and – not from the Botanical Gardens – the inevitable herring gull.

 

And if it’s red squirrels you’re after, you’ll just have to read my last post.

As usual, click on any photo to view full size.  This is my entry for today’s Ragtag Challenge: rus in urbe.

Squirreling a snack

We’re back in England now, back to temperatures of under six degrees when we’d got used to nearer twenty in Spain.  Back to rain and wind instead of sunny breeze.  Still, I can sit and sort my photos out.

The view up – looking towards the Alcazaba: the adjoining castle to Gibralfro.

Here are some from the day we slogged up the 240′ to Castillo Gibralfro in Málaga. Part way up, we came upon this enchanting scene.

I know the arguments about the potential dangers to both humans and wildlife from too-close contact.  But these two Spanish children are not likely to forget, or be unaffected by this chance encounter with this little squirrel: or to resent the fact that he charmed the greater part of their mid-morning snack from them.

 

And here’s the view coming down.

Click on any image to view full size.

Taking my new camera for a walk

Father Christmas came early.  Three months without a camera was enough, he reckoned.  He lacked a beard and red clothing, and looked remarkably like Malcolm, but he helped me choose, provided the credit card and carried the new camera home for me.

We trialled it on Sunday.  The grounds of Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal is familiar territory, but reliably photogenic.

A misty morning over the Moon Ponds.

Even at ten o’clock, there was still mist rising from the Moon Ponds.  And even though the view from Surprise View is no longer surprising, it’s none the worse for that.

A distant view of Fountains Abbey from the High Ride, Studley Royal

But look!  This is what we spotted in a distant meadow.  Time to put the zoom lens through its paces.  Aren’t these deer magnificent?

Later, we passed the fine Elizabethan Fountains Hall.  It was fun to contrast the view of the house itself with the version spotted in a puddle we passed.

A good walk, and it’s good to have a camera once more.

Back in the valley, a less distant view of the Abbey.

As usual, click on any image to view it full size.

I enjoy Jo’s Monday Walks, and browsing through the posts of some of those who contribute too.  So I thought I’d join in the fun.  Yes, I know it’s Tuesday…..

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: 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.

Nosterfield-on-the-water

Nosterfield

We don’t live near the sea: 61 miles, to be exact.  But sometimes, on a hot day, only a wide expanse of water will fit the bill.  And that’s what Nosterfield, fewer than four miles away can provide. It was – and still is – a gravel quarry.  On any day of the week, you’ll see great yellow trucks lumbering down the road, laden with gravel.  Back before the 1980s, this area was a lunar landscape: sand and gravel pits, gargantuan earthmovers,spoilheaps.  Some of it still is.

Mid afternoon’s not a busy time for birds: the water level’s low too.

But in the 1990s, a professional landscape architect, Simon Warwick, spotted its potential.  He’d noticed how even as an industrial site, the area attracted thousands of migrating ducks and geese each autumn.  Parts of the site were no longer economically viable and no longer being worked.  Not without considerable difficulty, he established the Lower Ure Conservation Trust, and focused on creating an area of wet grassland, with water attached – sometimes extensive lakes, and at other times drying out into muddy scrapes.  Native flora were allowed to regenerate naturally.

The lakes can be full …..
….. or empty.

Wildfowl are delighted.  Wading birds are enchanted.  200 species of bird make use of this service station for birds, halfway between the important migratory staging posts of the Dee Estuary and Teesmouth.  Birdspotters and nature lovers generally love this place, and the well-appointed hides that are a feature of the site are rarely out of use.

If, like us, you’re strictly amateur in your knowledge of birds, you might love it too.  It’s a tranquil place, except when the birds are having spirited and raucous exchanges, and a perfect place to spend an hour or two at any time of year.  But especially on a hot day in summer, with a cooling breeze drifting from the waterside. With wild cherries, apples, plums and blackberries on offer, you’ll even have a snack provided.

Early blackberries near the path.