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Caracara With Plenty Of Character!

Sparky The Caracara

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 ­čśÇ

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Blue Monday: The Eye Of The Beholder

Robyn the Hooded Vulture

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!

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Kestrel Portrait

Female Kestrel

Kestrel Portrait

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.

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Look Of Love 


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. 

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Weekly Photo Challenge: Ambience

Meg Barwell

Weekly Photo Challenge: Ambience

Music and lighting really is the embodiment of ambience! I prefer my music LIVE and ORIGINAL. Fortunately, there is an abundance of musical talent in my area with many local, live-music venues and promoters! I am blessed to be able to call some of these fantastic musicians my friends and artistic collaborators. I love discovering new music! Open-mic nights are a great way to support local talent and and enjoy an eclectic mix of musical genres.

One Winter’s Night is the brainchild of Guildford based promoter and musician Gavin Thomas. Produced every January by GT Live Sessions, this concert is a collection of acoustic performances at Guildford’s Yvonne Arnaud Theatre. It was fantastic to watch my friends Richard and Calliopi, from Cardboard Carousel, and Claudia Stark perform on a big stage where they truly belong! The lighting design from John Harris along with the subtle staging from Liza Cheal and Jamie Barber, of the Yvonne Arnaud, added yet more ambience to what was a magical evening of music from the community, for the community.

Thanks to sponsorship from KP Snacks Limited, all the money raised on the night will be donated to two local charities, Challengers and The Onslow Ward at the Royal Surrey County Hospital. Challengers are an independent charity, developing and delivering inclusive play and leisure for disabled children and young people across Surrey, Hampshire and the surrounding areas. Onslow Ward is the inpatient unit for Oncology and Haematology at the Royal Surrey Hospital. The ward is in desperate need of a powered hoist that can be positioned by any bed on the ward, enabling a single nurse/carer to safely move patients in and out of the beds. I know the Royal Surrey Hospital very well myself as it is where I was first admitted with Crohn’s nearly twenty two years ago. They saved my life. My first stay as an inpatient was for about six weeks so I know how much of a difference a hoist like this will mean to both staff and patients alike!

The Dirty Carols and Sophie & Vikki

Tom Gortler

Claudia Stark

Keith Bayley featuring Gavin Thomas

Eva Perrin Fontana

Cardboard Carousel

Portland

Meg Barwell

Bare Jams

And finally…..

I’ve also put together a compilation video of the nights’ performances for your enjoyment! Please note that The Dirty Carols recreate songs that you may know well, BUT with alternate and slightly rude (sometimes, oh okay, most of the time!) lyrics. If you are playing this video to younger people, or are of a sensitive nature, then you may forward through (or mute) their hilarious songs. No offence is intended or taken!

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NaBloPoMo – Saturday Night Music

NaBloPoMo – Saturday Night Music

Tonight’s music was brought to us by the brilliant STEViE – One Bloke One Mandolin. The observant among you will notice that he also has a Mandola and a Banjo! Stevie Simpson is one of the very best songwriters that I have the pleasure of knowing ­čÖé