Five Owls for Five Monday Portraits

farming, Festivals

It was the first Agricultural Show of the season yesterday. A great day out for the farming community, and for all the rest of us, who can admire cattle, calves, sheep, horses, shire horses, donkeys all being judged on who knows what esoteric criteria. Tractors, machinery, country crafts and produce … and in among all that, a Birds of Prey display. I picked some owls to showcase for you today, particularly this Northern Pygmy Owl. He’s barely the size of a blackbird.

The Indian Skops Owl is hardly any bigger:

But the other three are much the size you might expect, being pretty much Barn Owl size:

I’ll probably bring you all the fun of the Agricultural Fair another week. As crops are gathered in, and young animals grow less dependent on their mothers, the season starts in earnest.

A Group of Goats posing for Monday Portraits

Balkans

I know it’s not a Group of Goats. It’s a Flock; it’s a Herd; it’s a Drove (as in the header photo); it’s a Tribe. But Group is more alliterative.

On our Balkan journey, we got used in Albania to seeing shepherds wandering along the mountainsides with their mixed herds of sheep and goats.

In Greece though, we stayed on a small island, Agios Achillios, on Lake Prespa. Semi-nomadic practices weren’t an option. Instead the goats had to put up with lush and varied pasture on hillsides overlooking the lake, which they shared with their neighbours the pigs and the dwarf cattle of the area, and who may have their moment of fame another week.

Monday Portrait meets Post from the Past

Ariège, Balkans, France, Laroque d'Olmes, Wildlife

With what joy we greeted the lizards we encountered on our recent Balkan Journey! How we miss the companions who shared our daily life in France, during the summer months, at least.

Here‘s what I wrote about them, ten whole years ago:

Summer’s arrived: well, this week anyway.  So from before breakfast until long after the evening meal we’re spending as much time as we can out in the garden.  And we have plenty of company.  Lizards.  Common wall lizards, podarcis muralis.  They are indeed spectacularly common here.  We have no idea exactly where they live, but there are plenty who call our garden ‘home’.  We’re beginning to get to know a few.

Easily the most identifiable is Ms. Forktail, she of the two tails.  She’s the only one we’ve been able to sex conclusively as well, because we caught her ‘in flagrante’ with Mr. Big behind the gas bottles recently.  And then the next day she was making eyes at a younger, lither specimen, and the day after that it was someone else.  She’s lowering the moral tone of our back yard.

Then there’s Longstump, who’s lost a tiny portion of tail, and Mr. Stumpy, who hasn’t got one at all, though it seems not to bother him.  Redthroat has a patch of crimson under her chin.  There are several youngsters who zip around with enthusiasm and incredible speed.

Longstump

In fact they all divide their time between sitting motionless for many minutes on end, and suddenly accelerating, at top speed and usually for no apparent reason, from one end of the garden to the other, or vertically up the wall that supports our young wisteria. On hot days like this  (36 degrees and counting) they’ll seem to be waving at us.  Really they’re just cooling a foot, sizzled on the hot wood or concrete.  Sometimes you’ll see them chomping their way through some insect they’ve hunted, but often they’ll step carelessly and without interest over an ant or other miniature creepy-crawly in their path.

‘Our’ lizards on their personal sun-loungers

Mainly they ignore one another, but sometimes there are tussles.  These may end with an uneasy standoff, or with the two concerned knotted briefly together in what could scarcely be described as an act of love.

Happy hour for Longstump

We could spend hours watching them, and sometimes we do.  But there is still a bathroom to build, a workroom to fit out, and a pergola to design.  The kings and queens of the yard have no such worries.  They can do anything: they choose not to.

A Pride of Peacocks

Balkans, Wildlife

These peacocks live in North Macedonia, where they have, uninvited but none the less welcome, taken up residence at the hotel we stayed at on the shores of Lake Ohrid, St. Naum. I think they can speak for themselves – as they did, very noisily, every morning.

The rear view proved just as interesting as that draped tail.

… for a few moments – at rest.

And now … a peacock in action. Not for nothing is one of its collective nouns an Ostentation of Peacocks.

I’ll be honest. I conceived and wrote this post as a Monday Portrait. But then Tina’s Lens-Artists Challenge dropped into my in-box: ‘The eyes have it’. I’m not entirely sure she had peacocks in mind, but the hundreds of ‘eyes’ that make up the peacock’s tail, and that slightly penetrating gaze displayed in that head shot allowed me to think I might get away with including this post in the challenge.

Am I too late … ?

Balkans, Wildlife

I wanted to be in the Monday Portrait from Prespa, but the birds got there first. Am I too late? It’s not Monday? Well, I’m here now …

Look, I got here as soon as I could … And now I’m here, you might wait till I’m properly in shot.

… I’ve had to overcome all kinds of difficulties …

But here I am, ready for my profile to be shown to best advantage.

And by the way: that feature photo. Those gnarled old olive stumps are quite my favourite spot.

Who wants to feature in a Monday Portrait from Prespa?

Balkans

Don’t take photos of us …

… we’re too shy.

… or these pelicans. They’re too far away.

… If I hurry, could it be me?

Great crested grebe

… Am I too late? …

Great egret

… You need a cormorant. But me, not him…

Cormorants

… See? I knew you’d choose me! …

…… D’you know what? I think we got away with it. I think she’s gone now …