Friday, 27 March 2015

Real radio

If you only listen to one programme on the radio this year, please make it this one.

Dawn Chorus, as recorded by Chris Watson, in BBC Radio 4's programme Soundstage.  It's fifteen minutes of pure perfection.  It has all my favourite sounds - birdsong, waves, music. The programme just finished and it will be on iPlayer, and also available as a podcast.  Don't miss it, any which way!

Thursday, 26 March 2015

A little jaunt south

I flew down to London on Tuesday morning.
Flybe operate a good service to London City Airport but I flew in what looked like a purple dragonfly, with very noisy engines!  The important thing, however, is that I got there and back safely, which is all that matters.  I do like to sit by the window in an aircraft.  Down below, on Tuesday, I could see a smidgen of snow on the top of some peaks in the Lake District.
Tilly and I had enjoyed a short walk around one of the fields a few hours before I found myself standing on this platform, staring at the golden syrup factory, and a solitary street of Victorian terraced villas.  The woods, the fields, the wild animals, and the cry of the curlew were a world away.
The Docklands Light Railway bore me off towards central London, past the Emirates Air Line which straddles the River Thames, near the O2 arena.  I had no idea it existed, and only know the name now because I have just Googled itI  It was one of many changes I found.  I can't remember the last time I was in London.
The evening was spent at a rather special reception, related to some part-time work I am doing.  It was a brilliant evening which I thoroughly enjoyed, and the next morning I walked from my hotel, in Frith Street, through streets I once knew well, to Regent Street and on to the Royal Academy, in Piccadilly.
London is not host to the kind of graffiti you can find in Melbourne, but I did see this on a wall off Dean Street, so took the photo for Mr Gaucho, who loves this stuff!
I rather liked these lovely red apples, which have survived the winter, hanging on their tree in Dean Street.  It's tempting to think they may be fakes, and although the tree looked like the real deal, I am still slightly suspicious!
When I was young and worked in London, in my lunch hour, I would walk through to Berwick Street market to do some shopping.  I loved to visit a long established Italian deli called Fratelli Camisa.  They were both institutions in this part of London, and I was looking forward to spending some time in both.  But it was not to be.  The market has dwindled to a sorrowful handful of stalls. It would have been less sad if they had not been there at all.  And the deli had gone completely.  I couldn't believe it!  In fact the whole area has lost its character.  Carnaby Street is lifeless, with the exception of one shoe shop, which was just brilliant!   Sadly, though, the colour, the characters, and the life and soul of that legendary part of London has been swept away, and replaced by bland new buildings of dubious architectural merit, boring shops - all the usual high street suspects.  Isn't it always the way - it's never a good idea to go back to a place after a long absence - it is not going to be the same, because life doesn't stand still.  The memories are safe though, and much treasured!
I just had time to whizz round the Richard Diebenkorn exhibition at the Royal Academy.  There is a sculpture in the courtyard area at the front of the Academy.  It is by the American artist Frank Stella (  It's not my cup of tea, but made for a few interesting photographs!
And then home.  I think Samuel Johnson was wrong when he declared that if a man was tired of London, he was tired of life.  I find more life in the woods and the fields around me here, than I did on the streets of central London!  I was amazed at how many changes have taken place in the years since I worked in town, but I was even more amazed when I got home to see the transformation in the field I mentioned in an earlier post (  The dead field now looks like this!
 What a difference a day makes!
On the other side fence, the violet patch is flourishing, and that makes me very happy.  I had a great time in London.  It all seems like a bit of a dream, but now I'm glad to be back in the wood.  There is so much going on here!

Sunday, 22 March 2015

Sunday surfers

I love the subtle colours of the saltmarsh at Belhaven Beach.  With the cold wind at our backs this morning, we walked across to the beach.  The wind had switched direction from yesterday, when it blew in from the east.  It had created a good swell for today's surfers.  I counted about 26 of them, all tumbling about and enjoying the North Sea surf.
Out at sea we could see the gannets fishing, diving headlong into the sea, leaving a telltale splash where they hit the water and disappeared.  And on the sand, appropriately enough, a surf clam.
As I type this post I am listening to Words and Music on Radio 3.  A fabulous programme.  Today the theme is 'The Silver Sea'.  It's all very atmospheric!

Friday, 20 March 2015

Eclipsed - by a hare

My camera and I have failed to capture the eclipse this morning, although I did get a good glimpse as I drove back from North Berwick, when a small black cloud passed in front of the sun, and I could clearly see a decent black crescent of moon.  :o)

I did take some photos, none of which came out, so I had a little play around with them on iPhoto, just to get a bit of fun out of the experience!  Starting off in Tesco car park, where it became apparent that I wasn't going to get much joy, I decided to make a dash for home.
On the way back I passed one of East Lothian's countryside rangers, standing behind her van, with a piece of card in one hand, and holding a second bit of paper behind it.  The card had a small hole in it, and she told me she was waiting for the moon to pass across the sun, when the light shining through the hole onto the paper behind would disappear.  She had chosen a quiet spot, where you could only hear the birdsong - mostly skylarks - and she said when the light faded the birds would stop singing.  I had forgotten about the hole in the paper trick, we must have done something like that at school.  I dashed back to the car and stuck a pencil through a piece of paper and stood by the car for a few minutes.  Nothing much was happening, apart from the slightly dimmed daylight, so I headed for home.  
 I tried to take another photo from the garden, but, as you can see, just a blinding light!
Actually, seeing this little lady, sitting quietly on her form, has been the biggest thrill of the morning for me!

Thursday, 19 March 2015

Thursday walk

I was going to give the walk reports a bit of break, having posted quite a lot of photos of the same common reeds, and the local wildlife, over the past couple of weeks.  But this morning, despite a sharp frost, the sun was making a hazy appearance, and everything was just looking so lovely.  I am pretty sure the haze was not the smog the UK has been experiencing today, because it all cleared away as the sun got stronger.

The sights were great, but so were the sounds.  I could hear seagulls calling, curlews mewing, larks singing above, and lots of assorted twittering from the smaller birds.  
We were about to turn the corner at the bottom of the field, to walk up the side of the pine wood, and ahead of us there were these ladies!  Aren't they just fabulous?  I didn't want to spook them any further, so we changed our route, crossed a little wooden footbridge over the burn, and walked back along the edge of another field.
On the ground I saw a group of about 20 pied wagtails.  I looked up the collective noun - it's a volery of wagtails.  A volery is a flock of birds.  Not as romantic a description as for the exultation of skylarks I could hear overhead!
Altogether, today, we saw about ten hares.  There were three in the big field, running around in circles - just as you see them depicted in medieval art, and at the moment they seem to be buzzing around all over the place!  Look at the light in this hare's eye - so knowing, so keen, bright and intelligent.  He/she very kindly sat for a second or two to let me take a couple of photos, before shooting off into the cover, across the burn and off across the field beyond, with the rest of his gang.
As I walked home I reflected, as I always do, on how lucky I am to have all this on my doorstep.  To see and hear these wild creatures, just being in their habitat, is the most perfect way to start a new day.

I'm just saying ....

I walked down the drive towards the road into the village yesterday.  I had the Doggie Girls with me so both hands were pretty full - two leads being yanked off in different directions!  I stopped to see whether the tiny patch of violets were in bloom yet.  Sure enough, they were.  Just a few flowers, but it was wonderful to see them.
 A few feet away, there is a big field.  I walk around it with the DGs.  I haven't done so for a while because when I drove past it a couple of weeks ago, it was being sprayed.  We have had heavy rain since then, so I felt it was probably OK to take the dogs in there.  

The field is now dead.  And by that I mean completely dead.  Not just whatever the farmer was trying to kill off, but every tiny wild plant - heartsease, common mouse-ear, germander speedwell, camomile - that would have been re-awakening from winter, like the violet, to flower and provide food for the bees.  As I walked back to the gate, out of the field, a great big bumble bee came buzzing past.  (I have seen three so far this week, the first of the year).  It didn't stay long because it was a fruitless search.  I apologised out loud to the bee.  I felt the human race had let it down, again.  
I've got an extra verse for the Peter, Paul and Mary song 'Where have all the flowers gone", which my grandchildren will be singing in a few years time.

Where have all the flowers gone, long time passing?
Where have all the flowers gone, long time ago?
Where have all the flowers gone?
Farmers killed them, every one
Oh, when will they ever learn?
Oh, when will they ever learn?

Dunbar harbour

The drear of last weekend and the first few days of this week finally lifted on Wednesday.  The day was slightly misty, but the sun was warm enough to filter through and, bonus - no wind either!  Mr Gaucho and I decided to go and have a mooch around Dunbar harbour.  The last time we went there it was so windy we could barely stand up, and it was bitterly cold.  Yesterday was much more promising.

You can't fail to find masses of things to photograph in a fishing port!  The boats, the lobster pots, and piles of fishing paraphernalia and, of course, the catch!  It was all there in Dunbar harbour, and so we had a rather nice time!
On the outer side of the harbour is the Lamer Island Battery, which was built in 1781, but never saw any action, other than providing an isolation hospital for infectious diseases in 1872, and caring for invalids during the First World War.
Dunbar Harbour has three parts.  Dating back to 1710, it was a major herring and whaling port.  This is the inner harbour, where the fisherman mending the nets was very happy to be sitting and working in the sunshine.  
This is an alabaster carving of a fisherman saying goodbye to his wife and family, as he leaves on another fishing trip, out into the cold North Sea.
A few feet away from the carving, and over the sea wall, there is the cold North Sea.  It comes pounding in, on to the slipway and crashing along the shoreline of Dunbar.
The soundtrack of a fishing harbour must be the calling and squawking of the seagulls.  Here is a young herring gull, 
and diving down into the depths of the water in the harbour, doing a spot of fishing of their own, were three or four eider duck.
One of Dunbar's most famous sons is John Muir, and he gets mentioned occasionally on the running wave, because we have the John Muir Way further down the drive, and I walk along it quite often.  A couple of years ago I did a post about the man himself, which might interest you
Around the harbour there are a number of information boards, and I thought this one was interesting, because it mentions another accomplished resident of Dunbar.
Someone who lives up behind the harbour has been very creative with the lost buoys!
The harbour is in three parts, and at the opening to the sea stands the ruin of an ancient castle.  There is an artist's impression of the fortress and then a rather scruffy information board, which gives more details.

It sounds to me as though Black Agnes, written about below, was quite a dame!  I love this story!
The castle was made of red sandstone which weathers away quite dramatically, creating ledges for a colony of kittiwakes.
A cheery red fishing boat came in while we were there.  They off-loaded on crate of crabs on  to the quayside, before chugging around to the inner harbour.  The crew of three must have been out in the Forth all night.  They didn't seem to have much to show for their efforts - no wonder fish is so expensive to buy.  It's a tough way to make a living.