Tuesday, 23 December 2014

Norway of the Year

“November always seemed to me the Norway of the year”

~Emily Dickinson~

Roadtrip to Slimbridge WWT

November was an in-between month. Neither was it exactly autumn anymore nor can we say that it was winter. It was often described as devoid of character and drab. But, despite its apparent insipidity, this epoch of the year was far from being dreadfully uninteresting or desperately morose. If you open your eyes and look around, there was something delightful beautiful as well as totally romantic about the late fall season. Seri stuff december 2014  25-11-2014 07-43-55

Jack Frost was back. Plummeting overnight temperatures caused a bitterly cold start with layers of frost creating spectacular scenes. Beautiful dawn scenes were captured as the rising sun melted layers of overnight frost. Misty landscapes were captured where dramatic haze of overnight fog had settled. Earlier in the week, strong winds and heavy rain brought a weekend of wet weather misery triggered by massive snowstorms in the US. A meandering jet stream resulted in an Arctic blast that battered the country.Slimbridge WWT - Autumnal scenes

To brighten up the dark, cold, wet autumnal evenings, the Arts Centre set up an arts installation called The Pool to celebrate its 40th birthday. Created by the US-based artist, Jen Lewin, it took up residence outside the building for 2 weeks. It was an experience not to be missed because of its good reviews from audiences around the world that had been painting and splashing light in unison. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to attend the opening day due to other commitments but I made up a few days later.Seri stuff december 2014  26-11-2014 17-38-00

The actions started at 4 pm where everyone gathered at the arena. Formed from interactive circular pads, The Pool was an environment of giant, concentric circles. The audience then stepped on these circles into a playful world where everyone collaborated to generate mesmerising patterns of shifting and fading colours. It transformed into a giant fun game where everyone was running, jumping, adding , bouncing and mixing the lights together. It was fun, fun, fun. What a lovely way to wind down in the dark, cold evening.Seri stuff december 2014  26-11-2014 17-38-10

“Transforms casual observers into animated and engaged revellers, causing grownups and kids alike to jump, stomp, run and cheer”

~Wired Magazine~  

Seri stuff december 2014  26-11-2014 17-38-40

I also attended a UKSG forum in London. I only knew about it when I replied to a tweet regarding a paper on “…OPAC is dead” by S. Kortekaas. I’d participated in this webinar before and UKSG commented that they were organising a forum where such topic was on the agenda. Although the date was already closed, they managed to squeeze me in. Thanks a million. Then it was a rush to fill in the application form to attend, asking permission from my manager, the finance department and then for the PA to purchase the train tickets. All accomplished within 3 days. Phew…

I was on the 7.30 am train to London and walked for half an hour to the destination. It was lovely seeing my old manager again. We managed to have a little chat before we were engrossed in the very packed schedule. The forum was divided into 2 parts where in the first part 3 presenters discussed their papers for 8 minutes each and Q&A squeezed in 5 minutes before everyone rushing to different rooms to attend the lightning talks. The organisers didn’t anticipate the number of people attending the talks resulting in a few of us (moi included) had to sit on the floor :-(.Seri stuff december 2014  21-11-2014 15-29-10

Lunch was interesting. Tiny bowls of food were served and I thought at first that they were amuse bouche. But then the next courses were still in the same style. The problem was that we were all queuing and those in front were not moving at all from the table which left those at the back very frustrated. In the end, a few of us left and bought sandwiches from the many eateries outside the building. What a letdown. Then it was back to the forum again. I didn’t stay for the drinks at the end of the day because I’d a train to catch. And as soon as I arrived in Euston, the heavens opened. Phew …

Then it was our long-awaited trip to Donna Nook. And we weren’t alone. Thousands of people were there. The farmer had put the parking price up to £2 but we didn’t mind because he provided toilet facilities for everyone. We walked across the sand dunes and from the top we came across this amazing view of the sea, mudflats, birds and hundreds upon hundreds of seals in various sizes, colours and ages. They hauled to these sites to rest, mate, moult and give birth. I couldn’t wait to join the hundreds already lining up along the chestnut-paling fence that ran the entire length of the beach. Donna Nook - November

It was a pleasure to be back. We checked out the board and there were 1220 pups born to date. It was cute overload. Grey seal pups were born with shaggy white fur, called lanugo, which after 2-4 weeks moulted away. When they had shed the white baby fur and developed the dense waterproof pelt, they began to have the markings of an adult, the male being an overall colour of dark-grey, brown or black, with sometimes a lighter patch around the neck or flanks. The females were lighter with a background colour of cream or grey, paler on the belly with dark blotches or spotting  and every seal had a uniquely different pattern. Because the white baby fur wasn’t waterproof, pups can’t swim until they had shed it. Donna Nook - November

Mums were encouraging the pups to feed by scratching their face. Pups suckled for 3 weeks during which time their weight tripled and gradually lost their pale coat. In the meantime, the mums could loose half of their body fat during lactation as they don’t feed themselves. The pups were weaned after losing their baby coat. The pups remained in the area until they were driven by hunger and had to make its way to the sea to find their first solid food. If they survived into adulthood, the males will be ready to breed at about 8 years and the females at five years. 

Donna Nook - November

Males (Bulls) were rolling, snoozing, slumbering and scratching in the mudbanks, bidding time, waiting for the pups to be weaned and the females (cows) to be in season and ready to mate. At the moment, the males were quite content to be together. But not for long. At the onset of the breeding season, the hormone levels changed and became aggressive . Soon they will be fighting to keep other males and stake their territory. Fights were often vicious and bloody. There were open mouth threatening displays, hisses and vocalisations. Donna Nook - November

We think the pupping season had peaked because there were numerous weaned pups spreading out along the fence. They were quite round and having an easy life resting and living off fat reserves. But, as we walked further down the beach, we were very fortunate to see the birth of a pup. We just happened to be standing at the right place at the right time. As soon as the yellow-tinged pup was born, the proud mum spun around to sniff and call to it. Within a few minutes of the birth, the pup and mum bonded by learning each other’s smell and voices. Aaah….Donna Nook - November

We also saw hundreds of Shelducks but they were feeding on the seashore which was too far to photograph. Flocks of starlings were enjoying the sea-buckthorn berries that dotted the sand dunes. It was unbelievable that nearly a year ago, these beaches were devastated by the storms. The meteorological-induced surge combined with the already high spring tide of 5th Dec had caused widespread damage and disruption to both seals and site infrastructure.  It was incredible to see how Mother Nature bounced back. Meadow pipits and Pied wagtails were foraging along the mud-banks. Turnstones were feeding on the after-births which were littered every where.Donna Nook - November

After thousands of shots, we walked back to the car to warm our cockles with corned beef sandwiches and washed down with mugs of hot coffee from a thermos. We watched cars queuing to get into the very muddy field and also cars trying to get out. We contemplated whether to go back to the seals. By this time, the car-park was nearly full and hundreds of more people were pouring to the beach. It was also beginning to rain and the freezing North Sea winds were whipping furiously. We still have 3 hours on the road and it was getting dark soon. So we decided to head home instead. But before that, I bought home-grown cauliflowers and cabbages from the farmer’s vegetable stalls for only £2.We bid this lovely gem goodbye and promised to be back same time next year, Insyaallah.Donna Nook - November

FLOURISH greener, as ye clamber,
Oh ye leaves, to seek my chamber,

Up the trellis'd vine on high!
May ye swell, twin-berries tender,
Juicier far,--and with more splendour

Donna Nook - November

Ripen, and more speedily!
O'er ye broods the sun at even
As he sinks to rest, and heaven

Softly breathes into your ear
All its fertilising fullness,
While the moon's refreshing coolness,

Donna Nook - November

Magic-laden, hovers near;
And, alas! ye're watered ever

By a stream of tears that rill
From mine eyes--tears ceasing never,

Donna Nook - November

Tears of love that nought can still!

~Johann Wolfgang von Goethe ‘Autumn Feelings~ 

We also made another trip to Slimbridge Wetlands and Wildlife Trust because the Bewick’s swans had arrived back to the reserve. And we weren’t alone because on such a gloomy, cold day the car-park was nearly full. A huge flock of jackdaws greeted us from the tree tops their all black plumage glistening and their short, harsh calls, echoing around us. It was quite sad that none of the visitors even bothered to stop and looked up at them.Slimbridge WWT - Autumnal scenes

“There is a bird who, by his coat

And by the hoarseness of his note,

Might be supposed a crow,

A great frequenter of the church,

Where bishop like, he finds a perch

And dormitory too”

~William Couper~

We walked straight to Rushy Hide and it was buzzing both in the hide and on the mudflats. 55 Bewick’s swans were cruising the water, taking a breather after their long flight from the Siberian breeding grounds. Apart from the variable yellow/orange bill colour and size, they were shorter-necked and shorter-bodied than other swans, and their bills were smaller than those of the Whoopers. It was quite discerning to see only one juvenile among these wintering pairs. Hopefully, more will arrive in the coming months as the weather got colder in the continent. It was lovely to hear the different family groups making yodelling calls.Slimbridge WWT - Autumnal scenes

The elegant Pintails were all snoozing away along the banks. Among the most handsome of all ducks, they were easily recognised by their slender built, long, elegant neck and elongated spiky, central tail feathers, a feature that gave rise to their common name. A few woke up and started walking with a slight waddle which was rather cute. These ducks were graceful and acrobatic in flight which earned them the nickname ‘greyhound of the air”.  According to the sighting boards, there were 100 in the area. Slimbridge WWT - Autumnal scenes

The plump compact Pochards were quite numerous too. There were 170 of them. The males with brown head, black breast and patterned grey backs and sides were handsome ducks. The females were nondescript brown but the amount of grey among the brown, and the grey-banded bill made her recognisable. Although an expert diver, they were also dabblers and upenders, and their mixed feeding methods had led to the name, with the old French ‘poacher’ meaning to poke about.  Slimbridge WWT - Autumnal scenes

We checked out the Martin Smith hide which was surprisingly empty. On the tack field, large flocks of birds and waders were busy feeding and grazing but too far for a good photograph. We quickly nipped to the Robert Garnet Hide and it was buzzing with birdwatchers and photographers. We managed to find a seat and had good views of 2 Peregrines causing absolute havoc amongst the thousands of wildfowl and waders. Babe spotted one with a damaged leg which according to the warden was a female and had been there for 6 years.  Slimbridge WWT - Autumnal scenes

Then 7 Common cranes from the Great Crane Projects flew in. In flight, the neck was extended with legs trailing well beyond their tails. There were plenty of interactions and displays where they leapt up with raised wings, their tail plumes fluffed which happened to be the most beautiful part of the plumage. After acknowledging each other, trumpeting and pirouetting, they started feeding on the marshland. They eat a range of items from suitably sized small rodents, fish, amphibians, and insects to grain, berries and plants. Slimbridge WWT - Autumnal scenes

From the sighting board, we knew that there were 200 Black-tailed Godwits, 80 Curlews, 200 Dunlins, 800 Lapwings, 800 whistling Wigeons, 300 dabblingTeals, 90 Greylags, 250 Canada Geese 250, 16 Redshanks, 15 Ruff and Bewick’s swans. The Black-tailed Godwits were in their uniform grey winter colours  and we were very excited when a few got closer to the hide, probing the banks for worms. These large, graceful waders were very distinctive when flying, with their bold white wing bar, large white area of rump and tail-base and black terminal tail-band that gave them their name.Slimbridge WWT - Autumnal scenes

We’d never seen so many Curlews before. It was usually heard before seen. The bubbling, rippling call with rich whistling ‘corlee corlee corlee’ pierced through the reserve These were delivered in an undulating display flight which was a sight to behold. Curlews were Europe’s largest waders with long, decurved bill and speckled brown plumage. They were feeding on the damp soil by inserting their distinctive beaks to extract invertebrates. Slimbridge WWT - Autumnal scenes

At the far end of the tack field by the pond, a pair of Bewick’s Swans flew in to join another group. But they weren’t welcome and a huge fight resulted with plenty of honkings. There was a lot of wing flapping and wing-beats. These aggressive encounters were common in wintering flocks to determine the establishment of a dominance hierarchy. We watched one lunged at the other and the two birds, male I presumed, grappled together, pecking at the base of the neck and flapping each other with their wings. It only stopped when one of them retreated. Slimbridge WWT - Autumnal scenes

We could have stayed here the whole day but our tummies were rumbling and it was bitterly cold in the hide. We decided to head back to the car for something to warm our cockles. We checked out the Willow Hide to see if anything was about. A few Chaffinches and Goldfinches were feeding on the bird-feeder and below it was a Moorhen picking up any seeds that fallen down. Suddenly, the not very secretive Water Rail was seen at the edge of the reed-bed, stalking closer and closer towards the hide. It was an attractive bird with the long, red bill, impressively barred flanks and an actively jerking tail. When it spotted us, it fluttered off into the reeds, with its legs trailing behind.Slimbridge WWT - Autumnal scenes

On the way out, we stopped at the tunnel before the fox fence to see if the vole was about. I noticed that there were now 2 different entrances by the bank. I put some tiny broken chocolate wafers by the entrance and waited patiently. And there it was, sniffing out and having a bite. Unfortunately, a few people walked past and it dashed back into the hole carrying the wafer with it. It was lovely to see this adorable guy again. We hoped he enjoyed his treat. We walked straight to the car and had something to eat and drink before coming back to see the rest of the reserve.Slimbridge WWT - Autumnal scenes

We headed straight for Wader Shore but most of the inhabitants were being anti-social and refused to stand still for a photograph. We left them alone and checked out the South Lake Hide. We were very surprised to see the place void of birds. I think this was because the water level was very high. We walked back through the Amphibian room and checked out a few amazing toads. They were colourful specimens from all over the world but don’t be fooled. Most of them were very poisonous. Slimbridge WWT - Autumnal scenes

The it was time for the swan feed. Rushy Hide was standing room only that we’d to join the crowd at the very warm and cosy Peng Observatory. The only downside was that you can’t get a good photograph because we were sitting behind glass walls. We could see the wildfowl started gathering and flying in. The warden gave a very good commentary of what was going on. He pushed a barrow full of seeds from one side of the lake to the other and the birds were all following after him. We’d a good laugh when a few of the Greylags started pecking on his legs when he wasn’t fast enough to distribute the food. Some were impatient too and started helping themselves straight into the barrow. More wildfowl were flying in as this was taking place.Slimbridge WWT - Autumnal scenes

We left as soon as the feed was over because it was getting darker and we could see the fog coming down. We don’t want to be caught in the M5 in the fog. But we still kept on driving through pockets of them. Thankfully, the Highway Agency was aware of this and lowered down the speed limit. Unfortunately, not many drivers adhered to them.       Slimbridge WWT - Autumnal scenes 

The wild duck startles like a sudden thought,
And heron slow as if it might be caught

The flopping crows on weary wings go by
And grey beard jackdaws noising as they fly.

Slimbridge WWT - Autumnal scenes 
The crowds of starnels whizz and hurry by,
And darken like a clod the evening sky.

The larks like thunder rise and suthy round,
Then drop and nestle in the stubble ground.

Slimbridge WWT - Autumnal scenes
The wild swan hurries hight and noises loud
With white neck peering to the evening clowd.

The weary rooks to distant woods are gone.
With lengths of tail the magpie winnows on

Slimbridge WWT - Autumnal scenes

To neighbouring tree, and leaves the distant crow
While small birds nestle in the edge below.

~John Clare ‘Autumn birds’~

Slimbridge WWT - Autumnal scenes 

“These autumn days will shorten and grow cold. The leaves will shake lose from the trees and fall. Christmas will come and the snows of winter. You will live to enjoy the beauty of the frozen world. Winter will pass, the days will lengthen, the ice will melt in the pasture world. The song sparrow will return and sing, the frogs will awake, the warm wind will blow again. All these sights and sounds and smells will be yours to enjoy –this lovely world, these precious days.”

~E.B. White ~

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Monday, 8 December 2014

Come Bleak November

Brandon Marsh - Autumnal scenes

  It was November…

the month of crimson sunsets,

parting birds,

deep sad hymns of the sea,

passionate wind songs in the pines

~L.M. Montgomery~

November was ushered in on a gust of wind, on a harsh platter of rain across the window and heavy, grey skies laden with rain. As Pooh said, “the wind was a-blowing and a-tossing and a-whistling”.   It was dark, dreary and wet. As the days unfold, leaves spread a cloth of gold and amber.  The wind continued to howl loudly, and the trees lifted their roots, swaying like sail boats far out at sea. Leaves took to the sky in a mad Dervish dance swirling all the way down. The patio was drowning in leaves and I seemed to be playing catch-up with the sweeping. Thousands of leaves shaken from the trees and seemed to land in one place, my patio :-(Brandon Marsh - Autumnal scenes

Fall, leaves, fall; die, flowers, away;

Lengthen night and shorten day;

Every leaf speaks bliss to me

Fluttering from the autumn tree.

I shall smile when wreaths of snow

Blossom where the rose should grow;

I shall sing when night’s decay

Ushers in a drearier day.

~Fall, leaves fall by Emily Bronte~

Brandon Marsh - November

In the garden, squirrels were scurrying across the carpet of fallen leaves carrying the last of their winter larder between their teeth like thieves running from a crime, while performing ninja-like gymnastics in the tree-branches. They were quite ingenuous in their drive to empty the nut feeders and storing by burying them to hide their stash so that they have food to last through winter. It was very entertaining to watch these furry tailed partygoers bounding up and down the lawn, with their quivering tails.behind them. From time to time, they stood up on their hind legs checking their surroundings.

Shots from Home - October 

According to folklore, if squirrels were more active than usual, it was an indication that a severe winter was on its way. This was because during autumn, their main task was to gather nuts and seeds for their storehouse. So if their efforts had noticeably increased, it could only meant that they were preparing for the worst. And when their tails were very bushy, that was a sign of a tough winter to come. 

Squirrels gathering nuts in a flurry

Will cause snow to gather in a hurry

Brandon Marsh - Autumnal scenes

It was Bonfire Night and everyone was excited about the Catherine Wheels and beautiful shimmering displays. It always rained on bonfire night and I guess standing in a muddy field with cold feet doesn’t dampen the thrill of it. The dark of night was punctuated with the sound of shrieking fireworks, loud bangs and the whooshing of rockets. The air filled with the smell of a myriad of explosions as ‘guys’ got thrown into funeral pyres. The next morning, walking to the bus stop on a damp, cold morning, trying not to step on the slippery,wet leaves on the pavements, I came across pieces of burnt rockets littering the ground  with the whiff of gunpowder in the morning air. Aah…the day after the night before.

We had purchased 2 pumpkins and I’d fun going through my recipe books for ideas. I made a spicy Thai pumpkin soup as starters and added chunks of pumpkin to a beef casserole as the main meal which was bubbling away in the slow cooker. It made the sauce very thick and yummy. We’d it with couscous to soak up the rich gravy. To end the meal, I made a  pumpkin pie for dessert. Babe regarded the day as ‘death by pumpkin’ day. :-)

Pumpkin Pie

  • 750g/1lb 10oz pumpkin or butternut squash, peeled, deseeded and cut into chunks
  • 350g sweet shortcrust pastry
  • plain flour, for dusting
  • 140g caster sugar
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ½ tsp fresh nutmeg, grated
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 25g butter, melted
  • 175ml milk
  • 1 tbsp icing sugar
  • Place pumpkin in a large saucepan, cover with water and bring to the boil. Cover with a lid and simmer for 15 mins or until tender. Drain pumpkin; let cool.
  • Heat oven to 180C/160C fan/gas 4. Roll out the pastry on a lightly floured surface and use it to line a 22cm loose-bottomed tart tin. Chill for 15 mins. Line the pastry with baking parchment and baking beans, then bake for 15 mins. Remove the beans and paper, and cook for a further 10 mins until the base is pale golden and biscuity. Remove from the oven and allow to cool slightly.
  • Increase oven to 220C/200C fan/gas 7. Push cooled pumpkin through a sieve into a large bowl. In a separate bowl, combine the sugar, salt, nutmeg and half the cinnamon. Mix in the beaten eggs, melted butter and milk, then add to the pumpkin purée and stir to combine. Pour into the tart shell and cook for 10 mins, then reduce the temperature to 180C/160C fan/gas 4. Continue to bake for 35-40 mins until the filling has just set.
  • Leave to cool, then remove the pie from the tin. Mix the remaining cinnamon with the icing sugar and dust over the pie. Serve chilled

On Remembrance Sunday, we commemorated the day with a trip to our favourite playground. A pair of Pied and Grey wagtail greeted us from the visitor centre’s rooftop. Their rapid  twittering followed their looping flight as they fly after each other. Along the path near Goose Pool, a flock of Redpolls, Siskins, Blue, Great and Long Tits were busy feeding on the conifers. We checked out Baldwin Hide and there he was a pristine looking Golden Eye looking fabulous with the sun reflecting off its plumage. The drake was one of our most attractive ducks, with its shiny green head, bright yellow eye and white face patch.

Brandon Marsh - November 

“Or sadly listen to the tuneless cry

Of fishing gull or clanging golden eye”

~George Crabbe (1754-1832)~

Brandon Marsh - November

After having our fill with this handsome duck. we waded through the muddy foothpath towards East Marsh Hide. The lake was heaving with dabbling teals and mallards, upending and surface dabbling shovellers while wigeons were terrestrial grazing on the banks opposite the hide. Tufted ducks were busy diving for food, sieving  food from the bottom of the lake. Common Snipes were very well camouflaged among the reeds. But the highlight was when this adorable Little Grebe popped its head up.

Brandon Marsh - Autumnal scenes

Then we went straight to the Ted Jury hide. We didn’t stay long because the smell of the freshly varnished walls had been too overpowering. We walked back to Carlton Hide and made ourselves comfortable. The pond was nearly covered with weeds. The volunteers were running a loosing battle trying to clear the pond. We’d something to eat while waiting for the piece de resistance. As predicted, s soon as the Gulls made their way to Draycote Waters to roost, flocks of starlings began to appear and they came together in huge clouds, wheeling, turning and swooping in unison. All you could hear were our cameras rattling away. After about half an hour, they slowly rained down and funnel en masse to roost in the reed-beds.

Brandon Marsh - Autumnal scenes

We also made a trip to Middletton Lakes to check out the mumuration display. About 3k starlings had been sighted and we wanted to see them. But first, as we walked along the boardwalk, we saw this Great Spotted Woodpecker having a go at the bird-feeder. Bullfinches, Robins, House sparrows, Great and Blue tits too were taking turns to feed. We continued walking along the very muddy bridleway where we came across a bridge where seeds had been scattered. We stood silently and waited and half a dozen Nuthatches, Chaffinches and Robins were taking turn to feed.

Middleton Lakes - November

We came across dozens of fat-balls hanging on the branches along the path. I know that people have good intentions to feed the birds but the nettings that came with the balls were very dangerous to them. Their feet could get tangled and worse still was that they could choke on the plastic. We took the netting off and placed the fat-balls on the ground. We continued on and walked towards the wetlands. The lake was full of Tufted ducks, Wigeons and Great Crested Grebes in their winter colours.

Middleton Lakes - November

We stopped at the viewing screen near the West Scrape. It was very quiet as the water levels had risen quite high. We were distracted by a flock of Dunlins flying above us with their purring trill cries. Across the scrape, among the reed-beds we saw a herd of Old English Longhorn cattle grazing. By foraging here, they helped to prevent the newly-created pools from becoming choked with vegetation by foraging and improving the wetlands for waders.

Middleton Lakes - November

We followed the trail between the Jubilee wetlands south and the new reed-beds. It was a very warm afternoon and we started stripping off, not literally off course. We don’t want to scare off the birds. Little brown jobs were darting in and out of the bulrushes that were glittering in the sun. The weather don’t feel right for the end of October. It was one of those dazzling golden, breezy, sunshiny days that you often witness in mid-September. A flock of birds flew in front of us and were feeding on the gorse scrub. We crept closer and it was a pair of Linnets. Middleton Lakes - November

While we were busy photographing them, a jerky low flight caught our attention. We stood still and spotted a familiar orange belly and blue top perched on the very top of a thistle bush. It was a Stonechat . Whoop…whoop. And they were popping up everywhere. There were at least half a dozen pairs flying about. The calls, aptly and frequently likened to two stones being struck together, greeted our approach as they flew from perch to perch on rapidly whirring broad wings. I could have stayed here longer but the sun was beginning to set and we wanted to be in position for the starlings.

Middleton Lakes - November

As predicted, flocks of Gulls were flying to Dosthill Lakes situated at the back of the reserve to roost. Then flocks of starlings started flying in and gathering around the Fisher’s Mill reed-beds. More flew in but they kept on flying away from us. There was nearly a thousand flying across but they weren’t roosting. Where on earth were they sleeping for the night? But, it wasn’t so bad when at least a dozen Little Egrets followed the starlings. Unfortunately, it was too dark for a good photograph. Then it was time to head home in the dark, walking past a large rookery that filled the woods with noise as the crows got ready for the night. Bonn nuit guys.Middleton Lakes - November

Earlier in the week, it was Armstice Day. As we observed the one minute silence at 11 am, in honour of those who gave their lives for their country, we need to remember those who were left as widows and widowers and those who came back to a largely uncaring society, left to cope with their own injuries and care. Also the innocent millions who died. I prayed and hoped that by the 100th anniversary of this very sad day, peace will get an opportunity to change the future. Wishful thinking, me thinks. War had always been a scourge. It was mankind’s fatal flaw. 

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They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old

Age shall not weary them, nor the years condem.

At the going down of the sun and in the morning,

We will remember them.

My life was always a gentle chaos, where I permanently chase around, striving to hold together the threads and keeping some sort of order. After a proper summer, I am liking the darker season, the shutting down and the closing in that winter winter brings. A spirit of quietness broods out there beneath the leafless trees. It was as if the earth spoke and whispered to me …. “Let everything lie fallow for a bit …  rest and wait … rest and wait. “ Autumn made me feel a little nostalgic, serene and pensive, and winter reminded of the human condition, a time of intense reflection during which we come back on the past, think of the future and were ready to start everything fresh.

Middleton Lakes - November

“Use what you have, use what the world gives you. Use the first day of fall: bright flame before winter’s deadness; harvest; orange, gold, amber; cool nights and the smell of fire. Our tree-lined streets are set ablaze, our kitchens filled with the smells of nostalgia: apples bubbling into sauce, roasting squash, cinnamon, nutmeg, cider, warmth itself. The leaves as they spark into wild colour just before they die are the world’s oldest performance art, and everything we see is celebrating one last violently hued hurrah before the black and white silence of winter”

~Shauna Niequist~

Middleton Lakes - November