Caracara With Plenty Of Character!
Meet Sparky, a wonderful caracara who has more character than one image alone can express! We watched in awe as Sparky performed to the crowds at RHS Wisley Gardens, with Martin Ballam and Peter Warne from Xtreme Falconry, on Saturday afternoon. The caracara is an unusual bird of prey from the Falkland Islands. You can look up more about the caracara here, but I shall hint at why they are so unusual by telling you that there aren’t any trees for them to roost in or hunt from! I love Sparky so much that I’m sharing this as my Fotospeed challenge entry this week and adding a little video I made of the show on Saturday. I hope you all enjoy it as much as we did 😀
I was so entranced by beautiful Robyn, the Hooded Vulture, that I was inspired to create this piece of digital art AND write a new poem! The plight of these incredible birds is not one that makes the headlines. They’re not as cute and fluffy as some other critically endangered species! You can read more about this in my earlier Blue Monday post. To raise awareness of the decline of the Hooded Vulture, I’m sharing this image for Wex Mondays this week.
Navigating stormy skies
Scanning the vast landscape
With steely eyes
Seeking out the
Of departed souls
Laid out upon the plains
A winged canopy
Encloses the carcass
Last rites in ancient ceremony
Feathered funeral cortege
Regret or remorse
Guardians of the dead
Carry away the corpse
Rising on broad wings
Circling above the expanse
The wind sings
Of their passing
Above the clouds
Dark and heavy with rain
Their dispersal amongst
Blue Monday: The Eye Of The Beholder
This is Robyn, a beautiful hooded vulture belonging to the fantastic Xtreme Falconry team from Dorset. Xtreme have been putting on Bird Of Prey events at RHS Wisley Gardens for many years now and always draw a crowd. Many, like myself, return time after time to see these wonderful birds! This is my Blue Monday post for that startling ring of blue around Robyn’s eye that is distinctive of this species. Hooded vultures come from Africa where they are currently declining in numbers at an alarming rate. They are now listed as a critically endangered species. Much of the decline is from poisoning. Trappers, hunters, poachers and misinformed farmers are all gunning for these shy carrion birds. This is tragic in more ways than the obvious! Vultures are not the only creatures that will be drawn to a carcass that has been poisoned. Lions, hyenas, leopard, cheetah and hunting dogs will all feed on carrion if they are hungry and haven’t got a fresh catch. Not only that, vultures and other carrion feeders are responsible for clearing away the dead animals that when left can rot and spread disease among both local animal and human populations. There is so very much to love about vultures, if you didn’t already find them beautiful and fascinating, I hope you do now!
My hubby and I braved the elements on Saturday to go to the Cheese and Chilli Festival near Guildford on Saturday. We were all hoping for a break in the rain to watch the GMG Falconry display! No such luck, complete washout. The birds were out on perches under gazebos but they were still getting a bit damp and chilly. I did manage to take a few portraits and I really like the way the damp feathers brought exaggerated detail to this female kestrel’s expression! She had puffed her feathers up to get a bit more insulation from the damp and cold. Such a beautiful bird but she really wasn’t impressed. The phrase “fed up” actually comes from falconry language. It was used to describe a bird that had eaten enough food that it wasn’t interested in flying anymore, literally fed up! The birds on display certainly looked completely fed up but not from feeding. Birds of prey really can’t fly in such heavy rain! Although oils spread through their feathers give them a certain amount of weatherproofing, a wild kestrel would have been hunkered down in a tree or rock roost waiting for the rain to pass. We decided that it was too wet to stick around and returned to our own roost to wait out the weather! So my choices for today’s Fotospeed challenge were limited but I can’t really complain when I had this lovely kestrel.
Look Of Love
This year at Plaka nature reserve, on Kos Island, one man has taken over the care of the wildlife and much of the habitat of the area. The cats and birds are much healthier and he has started a programme to neuter a number of the cats living in the park.
He told us that almost every day when he arrives, there have been more kittens or puppies dumped at the main part of the park. Often it is residents but occasionally tourists bring kittens along thinking to give them a safer home.
He’s quite overwhelmed but has strategies in place and arrangements with a local vet. I think he needs the park and the animals as much as they need someone to care for them. Widowed some 13yrs, retired from 39yrs with the military, only remaining member of his family still on the island, he lost his mother to altzheimers just a few weeks ago. He had cared for her for a long time and felt that she had at last found peace.
He has found his own peace within Plaka and can fulfil the ongoing need to be caring for something. There is much to be gained from nature and wildlife during times of hardship, grief or illness. While local authorities do not have the funds to maintain some of Greece’s nature reserves, local people and visiting tourists can do much to safeguard these precious places.
Singing In The Rain
The rain didn’t dampen our spirits at Phoenix Rising, our free community music festival, in Woking Park yesterday! Young Jessica’s face has such a sunny disposition that says everything about the spirit of the Phoenix Cultural Centre and all the brilliant people involved in organising, performing, volunteering and promoting the project. Jessica was at the side of the bandstand watching her mum, the talented Anna Neale, perform to everyone sheltering under trees and brollies in the park. I love her expression of happiness here and felt that this would make a good image to share for Fotospeed’s weekly photo challenge! I hope she makes everyone smile 🙂
Eye To Eye
I have produced this portrait of a vixen for this week’s Wex Mondays challenge. I had the most wonderful encounter with her at Winkworth Arboretum during the week. I’d seen her wandering near the lake on a previous visit but that was fleeting. This week she approached close enough that I could have reached out to stroke her! Somehow I felt that actually would have been a violation of the trust she had given me. She is wild even if she is more used to the sight of people than many other countryside foxes! The most precious part of the encounter was when we made eye contact. She stood right in front of me for several minutes as I, naturally, chatted to her. I think she was mostly intrigued by the odd human in the motorised, moving chair! She stayed put even when I moved the camera to take her portrait. I wasn’t expecting her to lick her face, that was an added bonus! I then carried on photographing the busy blue tit parents, feeding their hungry brood, hidden in the boathouse walls. More on those blue tits soon! The vixen carried on exploring near me, stopping to sit and scratch, then circling all around me again. We chatted some more (you know what I mean!), I took a few more photos of her and then she resumed her patrol of the lakeside. I hope I will see her again on other visits but I will always treasure this particular encounter.
Something a bit different for Wex Monday this week! These wee little piggies are Gloucester Old Spots, a rare breed pig, that are being raised at The Cotswold Farm Park in Gloucestershire. The farm belongs to Adam Henson who is a co-presenter of BBC’s Countryfile program. He specialises in rare, British breeds of all farm animals. I had such a large album to choose from but just couldn’t get this image of the piglets out of my head! They really were so cute playing together in the field. It’s lovely to visit a free range, ethically managed farm! The park is only a part of Adam Henson’s farm and is a great day out for families and animal lovers. I even managed to bring home dinner from the wonderful farm shop!