Reflecting Over The Best Part Of Half A Century

Towards the end of yesterday afternoon Giles collected me from home and drove me to the bird hide at Milford on Sea. It is his task to lock up the accessible public facility at 5 p.m. or dusk, whichever is earlier. We spent a happy hour in each other’s company as I benefitted from my friend’s avian knowledge.

Alongside the stilted structure bird feeders hang from trees. A couple of sleek, well-fed, rats crouched poised to scoop up spillage. Note the hind toes clinging to a fallen branch for purchase while tiny hands clutch the spoils.

In the distance, against the backdrop of holiday homes, a variety of gulls and swans skimmed over the stream reflecting the bordering reeds.

Groups of swans sought rest, relaxation, and sustenance on the soggy terrain.

A pair of mallards dozed among the tufts; nearby a Brent goose investigated dining options.

I had forgotten my specs, so relied upon Giles to spot and direct me to this godwit wading amongst the teal.

I have John Knifton to thank for my being able to identify the teal from the luminous green flashes on their sunlit plumage.

When it was time for us to depart, Giles scaled a wooden fence and went Wombling to gather rubbish blown into the bird sanctuary.

It is the best part of half a century since I last photographed my friend reflected upside down in his glass chessboard while we were playing a game in 1973.

Yesterday evening Jackie produced perfect roast chicken, potatoes, and parsnips; Yorkshire pudding; sage and onion stuffing; crunchy carrots and broccoli; and rich red cabbage.

Much of today was spent on culling photographs and putting this post together.

This evening we dined at The Royal Oak. We both enjoyed crisp battered haddock; chunky chips with intact peel; garden peas that, like lemmings, were dead set on diving off the plate and rolling off the table; and onion rings containing slices of onion rather than the usual mush. We shared a carafe of most potable Pino Grigio.

They Think It’s Spring

On another bright, almost balmy, morning, Jackie drove us out to Hatchet Pond and back.

Donkeys,

cattle,

and ponies, basked, dozed, chewed the cud, or cropped the grass on the approach to the pond. Eyes open or closed, they definitely think it’s spring.

Have the usual companions of the

sole cormorant on sentry duty

metamorphosed into a pair of swans gliding to and fro beside their posts?

Sedate gulls basked and preened on the opposite bank.

More ponies could be glimpsed among the still leafless trees within the nearby Rans Wood.

This evening we dined on rack of pork ribs in barbecue sauce, prawn toasts, aromatic spring rolls, and Jackie’s special savoury rice, with which she drank Hoegaarden, from which I abstained.

Provoking A Squabble

Overnight winds had been powerful enough to blow this planted up stone urn off its pedestal.

Early this morning Jackie drove me to our G.P. surgery at Milford on Sea to order a repeat prescription.

We were not surprised to learn on BBC News that, at 79 m.p.h., the strongest gusts in Britain had rushed through The Needles which still seemed borne on a bed of spray as we passed them. Our home is in a direct line from these rocks, and always shares their buffeting.

The foaming waves of the Solent rolled rapidly towards our coastline, flinging ragged curtains of ocean droplets skyward. A motorboat speeding across the surface, despite its rapid rate, seemed to be bobbing up and down as it appeared to be engulfed.

Gulls reflected in pools in the car parks.

Masts at the Yacht Club stood against the sky at Keyhaven, where a group of walkers of the third age passed a younger woman with a dog.

We continued along the coast road towards Hurst Spit on and around which walkers strode beneath a fretwork of cotton clouds and streaking jet trails.

As we approached the bridge over the stream we became aware of a frenzied, shrieking, squabble of seagulls. What, we wondered, had provoked this activity?

A gentleman carefully placing muzzles on his pair of Dalmatians had spotted the answer.

He wasn’t prepared to risk a conflict between his dogs and the swans being fed from the bridge.

A string of Brent geese had found their own food in a field opposite.

Outside Solent Grange a store of stone sculptures awaited installation on the so pretentious walls.

This evening we dined on Jackie’s comforting cottage pie; crunchy carrots of virus hues; tender runner beans and cabbage.

The Sap Is Rising

A light frost fell on the fields last night and Jackie had to scrape ice off the windscreen before driving me to the G.P. surgery at Milford on Sea for the successful removal of the staples from my knee. Rather unfairly, it seems to me, some members of the medical fraternities and sororities refer to orthopaedics as ‘The Carpenters’. However, I have to say that the curving row of hurdles penetrating my flesh did look as if it has been applied by an upholsterer’s gun. The nurse’s staple remover was a little more delicate than those found in Staples stationary stores.

After this we travelled along the coast road, where I began my morning’s photoshoots through my passenger window.

The Needles convoy trailed after the Isle of Wight lighthouse;

Also silhouetted along the Milford coastline were walkers with dogs and a woman pushing a child in a buggy;

A few gulls wandered about the car parks, where a crow set itself up for a long vigil.

Turning away from the coast we set off along the Beaulieu Road out of Lymington, where ponies, the silvery greys blending with similar hued birches, enhanced the landscape.

On Bull Hill, the younger cattle squared up for head butts, competing for or waiting their turn for humping practice. The older beasts watched in silence. The sap was definitely rising.

Whilst in Pilley we briefly visited Elizabeth who had spent the morning with BT engineers attempting to discover why her landline had stopped working.

A trio of goats we passed in Warborne Lane on our way home were rather less frisky than their bovine neighbours.

This evening we dined on Jackie’s tasty chicken jalfrezi with savoury rice.

P. S. Jackie has researched the activities of the young heifers. This is what she learned from Wikipedia:

‘Bulling is a behaviour seen in cattle when one mounts another, usually when one or the other is a female in oestrus (on heat);[1] “bulling” is commonly used as a term for a female in oestrus. Female cattle in oestrus may mount any adult cattle, especially a bull (fertile male) if one is present, but they will also mount castrated males or other females. A bulling female will often also be mounted by other cattle, both male and female (only fertile males are usually capable of mating). A dominant bull will defend the bulling female from being mounted by other cattle.

Bulling is used by farmers to recognise oestrus, which is important to determine the fertile period when cows may be artificially inseminated.[1] Care is needed to identify whether the animal in oestrus is the one mounting or being mounted, and of course sometimes both animals may be in oestrus.

Mounting behaviour is also sometimes seen between adult cattle in the absence of a female in oestrus.’

Feeding The Birds

This afternoon Jackie and I drove to Hatchet Pond where

a small family were enjoying feeding the birds. Turns were taken to carry the youngest child, while another delighted in tossing the bread.

As always, the gulls, on the bank and in the air, squabbled over the crumbs.

A pair of persistent donkeys silently clamoured for their share. There is nothing more insistent than an animal fixing you with a still and patiently pleading expression.

A couple of cormorants on the far side of the lake were more interested in fish.

Ian returned later in the afternoon and we all dined on Jackie’s splendid pasta Bolognese sprinkled with grated parmesan cheese. Jackie and Ian finished the Chardonnay, while Becky and I consumed the last of the Malbec.

Up On The Roof

This morning I made four 5 x 7 prints for Ian from his and Becky’s wedding.

After lunch I made a start on the Christmas cards and Jackie and I drove to New Milton for some Christmas shopping, and continued on into the forest.

The day was dull and dry.

We arrived at a glassy Hatchet Pond when a pink strip above the tree line was a precursor of the impending weak sunset.

Waterfowl in evidence included a pair of swans and their adolescent cygnet

flexing its muscles

in sight of gulls, mallards, and moorhens.

One vociferous gull seemed to be reflecting on this 1962 classic of The Drifters:

 

The tide was high at Tanners Lane where the Isle of Wight, The Needles, and the lighthouse were silhouetted against the pink precursor.

This evening we dined on Jackie’s flavoursome lamb jalfrezi with tasty savoury rice. The Culinary Queen drank Hoegaarden and I drank more of the Malbec.