Cormorant surprise

I was watching a Cormorant and  some wading birds, possibly Redshank, in Pwllheli harbour today.  The Cormorant looked as though it had recently returned from a fishing mission and the waders were scurrying around in the mud looking for worms and small crustaceans while the tide was out. There was a lot of avian activity, plenty of Oystercatchers on the waterline and Jackdaws closer to shore.

Cormorant and Redshank?I was hoping to see the Cormorant hang its wings out to dry but it seemed otherwise occupied and I noticed a movement slightly behind it, something flapping in the mud.  After a while I realised a fish was stranded within the Cormorant’s reach and from time-to-time it wriggled side-to-side in an attempt to escape into the water just a few feet away.

These aren’t the clearest of photographs but you can see the fish in front of the Cormorant in the shot below.

Cormorant and Small Spotted Catshark?

Cormorant and Small Spotted Catshark?

I watched for a while trying to work out what fish it might be. The shape reminded me of a dogfish, it was long and lean, muscular with its dorsal fins set a long way back on its body.  It had a very angular head just like a dogfish but after a bit of research I think it was most likely a Small Spotted Catshark.  They’re fairly common in the area, often discarded by anglers or commercial trawler crews which is a shame because they’re really rather attractive creatures and can live a long and fascinating life.

I confess I wanted the fish to escape, make its way back to the water and live to see another day. Cormorants are master fishers so one escapee wouldn’t be the end of the world and had it not been for the mud (fine for near-weightless wading birds, not nearly as navigable for a fully grown human) I’d have helped it on its way. The Cormorant eventually lost interest and took off when a Great Black-Backed Gull began to approach. Gulls are opportunists, bullies and scavengers and this one was sharp, fast and far more persistent than the Cormorant.  Bad news for the fish in the end because I’m fairly sure it wasn’t one that got away.

Something beautiful in a world that’s lost its way

Goldfinches are my favourite native bird. They have a beautifully melodic song and their vibrant plumage brings light and colour to these dull January days, days that are dulled even further by senseless acts of terrorism that are all too common in a world that seems to have lost its way.

A flock of around twenty goldfinches regularly visit my garden. They are a joy to watch and help serve as a timely reminder that there is much beauty in this world if we simply allow it to flourish. There is, I am sure, much beauty within each of us too if we choose to focus our efforts on compassion and kindness instead of perverse viewpoints and mindless violence.




They are probably our most common water bird but that doesn’t make them any less beautiful.

Mallard Drake

Mallard Drake

This one was particularly photogenic!

Chew Valley 27 Dec 2014 2014-12-27 028The Mallard is a sociable, adaptable and human-tolerant duck species found in many places throughout the world.  I am especially fond of them simply because they remind me of happy childhood days spent feeding them and their fluffy duckings at the local park. It’s a habit that hasn’t diminished, even though I’m now much older and the ducks are several generations removed from the originals.

Perfectly Frosted

It’s been cold over the last few days and every morning the garden is covered in sparkling frost.  In the shaded areas the icy blanket remains in place around the clock turning everything in its grip silver-white.  A sharp frost usually means bright sunny days and cloudless blue skies followed by ebony black nights filled with stars. These are my favourite days of winter, cold, crisp and clear.

This morning tiny icicle fingers were clinging to the orange blossoms

Frost on Orange Blossom

The wild Ivy was dusted in diamond frosting

Iced IvyAnd the remaining Fuchsia leaves seemed to be dipped in sugar or salt, perfectly edged with glistening crystals in readiness to garnish cocktails for New Year’s Eve.

Ice-edged Fuschia

Carrion Crow at Chew Valley Lake

Crows are often wary of humans so getting close to them isn’t always easy. They are intelligent, observant and move away quickly if they anticipate danger.

Carrion Crow, Chew Valley Lake

Carrion Crow, Chew Valley Lake

This one was wary but had worked out when people come to the lake to feed the geese, ducks and swans, not all the food makes it into the water.

It waited patiently appraising itself of our human faces and assessing our motives. Apparently crows can identify individual humans and recognise people who’ve been spiteful to them in the past.  It’s also thought they can share this information with other crows so as to ensure ‘bad’ people are avoided. It quickly realised I wasn’t a threat and took the opportunity to look at me from several angles while I tried to photograph it.

Carrion Crow - close up

Carrion Crow – close up

Turning its head from side to side it watched the ducks and geese but unlike the gulls it didn’t attempt to mob or bully its way to a meal. As soon as the other birds returned to the water the crow hopped down from its perch and began combing the area in search of discarded grains. It has probably followed this ritual hundreds of times – assess the humans, watch the other birds feeding, note where seed lies part-hidden between the rocks and wait… Wait patiently until the feeding frenzy subsides then casually comb the area picking up the leftovers without attracting unwanted attention.

I’ve never known anyone who names the crow their favourite bird. Crows aren’t particularly glamorous, they don’t enjoy a sweetly melodic voice, their plumage isn’t brightly coloured and their nests are untidy piles of sticks.  Beauty is in the eye of the beholder though and for me there’s something very appealing about these handsome, lustrous and highly intelligent birds.

Christmas Steps, Bristol


Between autumn’s offerings and spring’s wings
Our winter lights are everything.
Crisp sky nights string tinsel streams, and
Crystal air heils winter’s dreams.

Those Christmas lights light up the street
Down where the sea and city meet
May all your troubles soon be gone
Oh Christmas lights, keep shining on.

Stunning Snowdonia

IMG_0739 (2)

Looking across the river, Afon Glaslyn, towards the  mountains of Snowdonia. This area is beautiful all year through and it’s easy to see why walkers, trekkers and climbers are attracted to the rugged landscape and endless skies. Far from the madding crowd it’s a haven for wildlife, an inspiration for artists and poets, and a sanctuary for anyone who wants to escape the hustle and bustle of our non-stop never-resting cities.  A day here is priceless – nature has a way of working wonders for the soul…