In Their Element

In steady, heavy, rain this morning Jackie drove us to New Milton to collect my cleaning; to Ferndene Farm Shop for three bags of compost; and to Milford on Sea Pharmacy for a repeat prescription.

Now we were out, where could we visit next for a photoshoot but to Keyhaven in search of waterfowl?

Watched by a raindrop coated black-headed gull;

rapidly turning and darting, lifting heavily paddled feet in its stride, an egret was fishing for breakfast in the harbour.

Alongside the reed beds across the road a cormorant (?) would occasionally disappear beneath the surface, darting for its own sustenance.

Raindrops also glistened from mallards’ waterproofs.

Saltgrass Lane takes us from the harbour area to the salt flats beside Hurst spit. There is no speed limit on this road which is too narrow to permit parking at any time.

This is not a lane in which you would wish to meet an oncoming vehicle, such as this one which reversed some distance before reaching a passing space.

Active gulls and swans flapped, stretched, and flew across the flats;

another egret enjoyed successful fishing.

Fortunately, unusually, it was not raining in Manchester. I was therefore able to listen to the men’s Cricket World Cup match between England and Afghanistan at Old Trafford.

This evening we dined on Jackie’s Cumberland and caramelised onion sausages braised in red wine; creamy mashed medley of potato, swede and butternut squash; crunchy broccoli and cauliflower; and tender runner beans. I finished the Galodoro while the Culinary Queen drank Blue Moon.

The Pony And The Wagtail

This afternoon Jackie drove to Hockey’s Farm Shop at South Gorley. She kindly allowed me to accompany her so I could take some photographs.

As always we patiently waited for a pony to amble across the road as we approached North Gorley, where

a pair of mallards fished on the soggy terrain beside

the usual number of somnolent or grazing ponies.

One patient creature received the attentions of a darting wagtail. Not until the bird was out of shot did the gentle pony relieve itself of the weight of its head.

A pair of donkeys, one possibly pregnant, purposefully crossed the road before we moved on.

Towards South Gorley a grey pony drank from the stream.

We stopped at Deadman Hill beside Roger Penny Way, where I photographed some hazy landscapes.

When, once they had ascended the slope, I showed this couple how they had enhanced some of my pictures, they were very pleased. The woman said she now needed an oxygen tent.

Another young woman and her frisky spaniel also admired the landscape below.

Jackie did not miss the opportunity to photograph the photographer. She also caught him in conversation. Note the pony’s reflective collar hanging from the post in The Assistant Photographer’s first image.

This evening we dined on Jackie’s tasty steak and mushroom pie; boiled potatoes, crunchy carrots and cauliflower, and tender cabbage. I drank more of the Garnache while Jackie drank sparkling water.

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.

No Passenger Seat Was Vacated

This morning Jackie drove me to the GP surgery in Milford on Sea where I was relieved to learn that my lingering symptoms are probably due to stress – I can certainly agree with that, and just continue to take it easy.

This afternoon my Chauffeuse took me on a trip to the north of the forest.

A motley array of pigeons set off flying from the colourful tiles of the roof of Moyles Court School as we travelled through Rockford.

In a field across the road the more delicate domestic horses still sported their rugs as protection against the cold nights.

The sturdier New Forest breeds have no need of such raiment.

I closed my window before this chestnut at South Gorley could stick its nose through it.

As always, a pair of mallards took up occupation in a pool at North Gorley.

Donkeys lined the verges at Ibsley and on the Gorley Road,

where deer lounged in the sunshine, also frisking beneath Abbots Well Road,

where grazing ponies enhanced the landscape.

It is normally impossible to stop the car on Roger Penny Way. Today was the exception that enabled me to snatch this shot before following traffic arrived.

No passenger seat was vacated in the making of this post.

This evening we dined on excellent chicken shaslick, salad, and paratha from Forest Tandoori, followed by ginger ice cream.

Walking Better

This morning I reduced the codeine element of my pain relief and toured the garden with my camera.

I was walking better as I wandered around making these images.

Much of the rest of the morning was occupied with mutually supportive family telephone conversations.

This afternoon we took a drive into the forest.

A chestnut pony cropping the verge at North Gorley had clearly been indulging in a mud bath.

Not far away, we passed a distant field of young stags,

on one side of which perched a watching raptor. I am relying on John Knifton to identify this bird. (See Quercus’s comment below – a buzzard)

I can identify the pair of mallards rooting on the soggy terrain beside grazing ponies.

This evening we dined on Mr Pink’s cod, chips, and pea fritter with Garner’s pickled onions.

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.

Catch

We have been invited to a special meal in celebration of the 30th anniversary of

our favourite local Indian restaurant. Unfortunately this is tomorrow – less than a month since my knee replacement surgery. We therefore cannot manage it. This morning, featuring the above photograph, we made a card for Raja and his staff and placed in the post on our way to my physiotherapy appointment with Claire at New Hall hospital.

Progress is very encouraging. Both walking and flexibility are a great improvement on the first operation last May. I just wouldn’t have been able to sit comfortably at the restaurant tables.

The day, as evidenced in my photographs, was dismally damp and misty.

Even mistletoe was unable to brighten the lane through Bodeham,

Dripping snowdrops were more successful.

Mallards and a moorhen didn’t mind the weather over this stretch of the River Avon,

where an egret (I think) wandered and a cormorant (I think) watched from a treetop.

A circling kite was occasionally glimpsed above the naked trees.

Woodgreen Common was rather obscure.

As we headed towards Godshill we witnessed exciting catching practice. A gentleman playing frisbee with a circular ring skimmed it through the air where his triumphant dog leapt to catch and return it.

Someone had left a cap on a bench overlooking what would have been a splendid view in better light. The Godshill road itself was so shrouded in mist that a recently fallen tree was barely visible.

Fog lights were essential on the high risk (of animal deaths) Roger Penny Way, where some impatient drivers continued to follow the 40 m.p.h. speed limit.

This evening we dined on an excellent takeaway meal from New Forest Tandoori. My choice was king prawn madras with special fried rice; Jackie’s was prawn curry with pilau rice. We shared a paratha. I drank sparkling water and Jackie didn’t.