Sundown over Clwyd

The Marina lake at West Kirby was mirror-like as people walked around its edge on a fine January afternoon (featured image).

As sundown approached, it was impossible to look directly at the twin suns, but somehow the camera made some sense of the scene, making it appear already dark.

Walking along the beach towards Hoylake and Red Rocks, there was promise of a good sunset over the wet sand as cloud welled up and sun slipped down.

With the sun gone, the colours of the sky began to deepen.

And finally, the coup de grace, layers viewed over sand, sea and mountains at Hoylake.

It didn’t last long. But what magic. Not bad for telephoto lens, hand held in low light.

Red sentinel

A group of red deer are grazing or just enjoying the low January sunshine under the oaks in Tatton Park. Just one magnificent specimen keeps an eye on us, as we walk by with the dog.

Taken with zoom lens to retain respectful distance.

Lake, oak, puddle

A crisp, sunny January afternoon in Tatton Park. A glorious day to raise the spirits.

One of Tatton’s lesser lakes. The featured image shows another one.
Mature oak tree

Don’t just look up and around, look down when snow is melting.

Puddle with oak.

Lake, oak, puddle.

Brimstone

Here’s a picture from springtime in Devon to light up these wintry days – a brimstone butterfly on a dandelion flower.

It’s a fairly shaggy individual with weak markings bleached out by strong sunshine, probably over-wintered. The distinctive green colouring suggests it’s probably a male.

Feeding from the dandelion.

At first I thought it was a clouded yellow, but the markings and time of year suggest brimstone.

Beauty and the Beast

From the promenade at Southport, the sun goes down over Liverpool Bay. At a wide angle, great brush strokes of cloud over the setting ball.

Zooming in gives a different riot of colour.

In a detailed crop (featured image), the setting dome highlights the oil and gas rigs of Liverpool Bay.

Beauty and the beast!

Amid the mêlée

In autumn and winter huge numbers of birds gather together at WWT Martin Mere ready for feeding time. When the warden scatters seed on the ground, the great rush and natural spectacle begins. Particularly prominent are the shelducks, greylag geese, mallards and Icelandic whooper swans. But there are quite a few species there in the mêlée. The challenge is to make any sense of it all photographically.

Here are just a few individuals I managed to isolate with a reasonable shot, albeit in rather poor light.

Southport Pier and Clwyd

As the sun was going down there was sure to be something spectacular going on after a sunny day in Southport, despite gathering cloud. I had never really noticed this particular feature before – the Clwydian Hills of North Wales, emphasised by back lighting from the setting sun, framed by the picturesque structures of the Victorian pier.

Just wait for the walker to reach the centre and shoot… Shame about the bin.

Southport pier is the second longest in England, after Southend-on-Sea.

Runaway Rant: The New Definition of the “Good” is “Obsequiousness”

Eric Wayne’s runaway rant is very thought-provoking on the state of the world today. He shows the neverending need to protect open societies and individual freedoms from the predations of the powerful and of governments seeking to force particular narratives on their populations.
And the purpose of that freedom is not a life of watching Netflix, pleasant as that may be. It is the becoming of better human beings, along the lines of Maslow’s hierarchy.

Art & Crit by Eric Wayne

Are people still reading the classics? Are the great thoughts of humankind that have endured for thousands of years still relevant? Antigone is a play written by Sophocles in 441 BCE, or 2,463 years ago. I read it a couple decades ago, and never forgot its core message.

I find it odd that there is such great thought before the birth of Christ. This is just a byproduct of my passive education via the media and dominant culture, whereby I generally think of the Greeks, and the great philosopher Socrates (who died in 399 BC), as having more advanced ideas, and as coming later. While I did manage to earn an “A” in my college level year of history, I found the instruction deadly boring, and mostly rote memorized facts that I promptly forgot the day after whichever exam. Fortunately, I greatly appreciated literature, and learned a thing or two…

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Compassion is Great Intelligence

Beaautiful post by Tom on compassion, with superb photograph and ee cummings poem. Compassion – a symptom reflecting wholeness.

Tom's Nature-up-close Photography and Mindfulness Blog

One may ask, “Is compassion very significant in life?” Yes, compassion is immensely significant because it reflects and is a wonderful radiation of the whole. That whole has its own intrinsic, organic intelligence (of which compassion is a very big component). A fragmented, isolated consciousness, that merely perceives with self-idolizing boundaries and cold distance is, unfortunately, not of compassion. Such a debilitated mind is distorted and is not of the whole. Such a mind is isolated and apart. It may be intelligent in a very mechanical, crude, and limited way, but it is not intelligent in a living and wonderfully dynamic way. The isolated mind’s intelligence is — being limited — like that of a programmed, mechanical, robotic computer.

A mindful consciousness is of the whole. Such a dynamic, living mind sees beyond “learned distance” and learned isolating patterns. It is not like a left hand that is attacking the…

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Modern and indigenous cultures

I commend to you Andrew’s recent post on Indigenous Knowledge: A Roadmap to Belonging Again, which gives a succinct and clear message about how the modern world has departed from the wisdom of those more closely connected to the earth.

I quote two paragraphs from his post. One is about each of us being but part of a system, a greater whole:

“The core tenet of Indigenous knowledge systems is the need to cultivate a sense of kinship with others and the environment. Relationships are the core aspect of existence. We are shaped and molded through our connections to our family, friends and place. Humans are not viewed as separate or isolated individuals but intertwined in a vast array of different living systems. Thus, we are just one component of the greater whole.”

And the second is about the need for balance and harmony:

“What Indigenous cultures understood is the importance of a developing a sense of reverence for the gifts provided by nature. Indigenous Peoples aim to maintain a sense of balance and harmony with the natural world.  Natural resources and other species are not to be exploited but respected and carefully preserved… The goal is to establish a healthy and reciprocal relationship between us humans and the world around us.”

Yes, there’s a danger in viewing ‘the past’ as some sort of idyll, and by comparison denigrating modernity. Each era has its positives. And yet we have moved so far from that interconnection, way too far, and the natural world is paying back our negligence in its many ‘environmental’ crises, which are really crises of our own collective psyche.

Featured image of Amazon rainforest on the Urubu river, Amazonas State, Brazil.
By Andre Deak, CC BY 2.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Prize parasol

The featured image above illustrates the size of this magnificent parasol mushroom recently spotted in Knutsford’s Tatton Park.

The dog refused to stand by said mushroom and pointedly looked the other way. Using him as a measure, the height and diameter must be something like 10 inches.

They’re said to be edible and make a good pizza base, but you’d have to really know what you’re doing, as similar fungi are poisonous.

Crossing feature

Limeuil is just one of those pretty little Dordogne villages. notable for its dramatic location overlooking the confluence of the rivers Dordogne and Vézère. The bridge over the river Dordogne was asking for something to feature crossing over. The cyclists were first to appear. (Featured image.)

Next came the walkers.

And finally, a horse and rider.

I wasn’t quick enough to capture the 2CV!

Chatellerault abstract

On a long journey by French autoroute, we’d detoured into Chatellerault to eat lunch by the river Vienne. Something about the pattern of weeds under the water surface caught my eye, resulting in this photograph, taken quickly but long forgotten, until I eventually caught up with the backlog.

At least, I think that’s what it was!

Bracket fungi

This rather striking bracket fungus is, I think, a giant polypore, found recently in a wood in Surrey.

Giant polypore

Here are a few more brackets seen recently. Identification is difficult, despite having the Collins Fungi Guide!

Any ideas?

Garden surprise and heartbreak

Catching up on the gardening after a period of neglect, I came across this sunflower, growing in a hole in the side of the old apple tree. The seed was probably dropped in by a bird, from the nearby feeders.

I’d guess the tree is over fifty years old now, still producing apples. Age seems to have given it a new dimension as a nursery for other plants. Sadly autumn is rushing in, so there does not seem time for the sunflower to fully develop.

The apple crop was remarkably blemish free, unlike 36 years ago, when we first moved in. In those days there were always lots of bugs boring their way through the apples, as we never use pesticides, and lots of bird pecks in evidence. Just one measure of the dramatic decline in biodiversity around here over those 36 years. Less insects, less butterflies, less birds, less caterpillars, less beetles, less frogs, less hedgehogs, less owls… You can even grow brassicas without the then-inevitable cabbage white caterpillar, gooseberries without the then-inevitable sawfly larvae. Huge gangs of frogs are replaced by the odd survivor. Year by year things appear much the same, but this slow reduction in biodiversity is huge and heartbreaking.

What are we doing to our natural world?

Featured image is not my apples – from Ukraine by George Chernilevsky, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

French reflections

Along the French rivers Loire and Vienne are quite a few castles/chateaux that make good use of reflections on the slow moving waters. Those at Chinon and Amboise are particularly striking after it’s fallen dark – a great time for a walk with the camera.

Chinon chateau by the Vienne
Amboise chateau by the Loire

If you’ve seen the Amazon Prime series Bosch, this will remind you of the introductory scenes.

Featured image shows a bridge at Amboise.

Purple Emperor

What on earth is that butterfly doing on that jam buttee, I mused to myself, as I munched into my own. Then she-who-knows-a-lot-about-butterflies got really excited. It’s a PURPLE EMPEROR! Well, yes I did wonder if that might not be correct – it doesn’t look very purple, does it? But then apparently it is a female, and they aren’t purple.

Now, purple emperors usually swan around in the treetops and only come down to eat dung and rotting fruit – unlike most butterflies they don’t go for flowers and their nectar. So this was a most unusual event, and the females are even rarer than the males.

She stayed there awhile, sucking up jam, mostly with wings closed. They almost opened once.

Not a great shot, but then it is the first purple emperor I’ve ever knowlingly seen!

I double checked the jam – it was certainly not rotten.