A Cost Too Deer

Fallow Deer by bin in Bushy park


It's the weekend and it's warm, some would argue hot. It feels too soon to call it a Summer's day, but a little late to call it Spring. One thing beyond doubt is that this weekend is the hottest of the year so far.


Just like flying ant day, the sun has stirred the sleepy inhabitants of South West London's suburbs into a frenzy of activity. They come in their hundreds and thousands as they descend upon the carefully managed and tightly bordered Royal Parks of Richmond and Kingston. They come to feast on the sun's rays and breathe in the ancient green air.


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First Leaves of Autumn

Despite the brilliant sunshine there's a distinct and definite dip in the temperature. I notice it as soon as I open the door. I almost go back in to fetch a jumper, then I remember I'm in Yorkshire, and layering up before November round here attracts many a disapproving look.


The sudden cooling has catapulted the birds into a hub of activity. Fifty plus Starling have grouped and lingered on the roof tops and telegraph wires that surround our street. Overhead a herd of Curlew hungrily hurry past, while higher up several groups of geese dent the crisp blue sky with their familiar V shaped flight formations. It's tempting to go no further; to just stop and watch the drifters, passers-by and hangers on. But the water has too much pull for me to stay.


As I make my way along the road to the river, the flanks of trees and bushes contain the usual suspects. Chaffinches, a female Bullfinch (the male won't be too far away), blue tits, a solitary robin and long tailed tits whom I have the biggest soft spot for. By now though I'm too excited to see what's on the water to slow down.


The river is higher than I was expecting and I get a wet foot making my way out to the shape-shifting pebble island that is usually accessible via stepping stones. The small island is not more than twenty metres in length and conforms with the flow of the river.



With our silver Lurcher, Alfie walking to my heel we make our way to the far end of the island where I can get a better view of the events and occurrings down stream. As we make a cautious approach a Kingfisher whizzes into view and lands on a protruding stone just five or six metres away. It pauses and looks at us quizzically for what feels like a minute but is more likely five seconds before flying to the safety of a nearby tree. Below the tree I spot a dipper hopping along the rocks and pebbles. A second dipper lands close to stone where the Kingfisher initially landed. Alfie and I freeze. The Dipper continues its quest for nymphs and larvae, clearly aware of us but unconcerned.



Suddenly splash! A chocolate and white Spaniel has caught us all by surprise. The Dipper immediately takes flight followed by the other Dipper who then gets clobbered by the Kingfisher as it also makes its get away! The Kingfisher follows the curve of the river and glides out of view but the two Dippers stop short of the bend and have a toe-to-toe on a half submerged boulder. This extraordinary flurry of activity is all over in less than thirty seconds and I'm left wondering whether to curse or thank our new four legged acquaintance.



We leave the island and tramp a little further down stream away from the frolics of the island's visitors. This time it's me that ruffles some feathers as I disturb a young Heron fishing. We get tantalising glimpses of bickering Dippers and darting Kingfisher, presumably the same characters observed earlier.



Alfie and I find a quiet spot and lounge. After an hour, a day, a year of drinking in the surrounding sounds, smells and sights we dust ourselves off and head home. Just as we depart several golden leaves land and charge along the surface of the water like mythical dragon boats about to inflict terror on some unsuspecting settlement.


It's the first leaves of Autumn.




Photo Book of the Month: Hide That Can, Deirdre O'Callaghan

Hide That Can Book by Deirdre O Callaghan


This month's photo book is a throw back to a time before photography was mainstream. Before camera phones had arrived and before documentary photography was overshadowed by this thing they call "street photography".


I bought the book after seeing Deirdre O'Callaghan's 'Hide That Can' project on the walls of the V&A museum. I was instantly drawn to the way she composed her photographs and the way she represented the characters in front of the camera. It is a book a often draw reference from.


Much of the contemporary documentary and street photography I see in the media today seems more invasive, more sensationalistic and maybe more opinionated than ever. What I love about this book is the sense of honesty, sensitivity, modesty and objectivity that flows throughout the collection of photos. And that's why I chose it for August's Photo Book of the Month!

See more of the book and O'Callaghan's work on http://www.deirdreocallaghan.co.uk/albums/published-book/

Bagging Service Stations Down South


Some people collect stamps, some shoes, others like to spot trains or planes. We all have our own slightly eccentric whims that are more embarrassing pleasures than guilty ones! For me it's service stations...


So when I heard we were heading to Ledbury in Herefordshire to celebrate my Dad's 70th Birthday my initial thoughts were not of the spectacular view of the Malvern hills; nor the renowned Slimbridge Wetland Centre nearby; not even the Ledbury-based Hand Made Scotch Egg Company (with over forty varieties!). No, my immediate excitement was at the thought of visiting the legendary M5 Gloucester services! Read more

Photo Book of the Month: Casey Orr's Saturday Girl

Saturday Girl, Casey Orr


June's Photo Book is a vibrant celebration of young women and their expressions of individuality. I bought this book from the exhibition at The Gallery at Munro House (an absolutely wonderful spot with a stunning Cafe next door!). The "book" has the feel of a broadsheet weekend supplement except bigger, more weighty and with no adverts!

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Above and Below at Bempton Cliffs

Gannet taking off at sea


What's better than looking down on thousands of nesting sea birds? Looking up at them!


Last year I had a spectacular weekend at Bempton Cliffs when I took a tour with Yorkshire Coast Nature. Read more

Bempton Cliffs Phoodle

Here's an experimental phoodle I took last year at Bempton Cliffs.

Bempton Cliffs experimental phoodle

Photo Book of the Month: magnum°

Magnum Photo Book Montage


magnum° - published by Phaidon


Be warned; all who enter this photo book will weep tears of both joy and sorrow.


You will laugh at the wit, admire the beauty, despair at the horror, jump back with shock and dive-in with optimism. This book is a collation of every emotion that could be experienced from looking at a photo. Some photos you will want to look at again and again, some photos you will want to forget. But all the photos are unforgettable. Read more

Close Encounters of the Greylag Goose Kind

Greylag Goose Portrait

But who is this creature with monstrous wings on its waterproof back? It has knobbly knees and a long stretchy neck and has terrible teeth in its terrible beak; its feet are webbed, its eyes are black. "Oh help, oh no its a Greylag Goose!"


If you're not familiar with the borrowed and adapted lines above, you've probably not read the Gruffalo (yet). For the last year or so everywhere we take our 2¾ year old involves either a great big bear (hunt) or the Gruffalo!


Observing the imagination at this age is a beautiful and inspiring thing. But when you visit a place like Slimbridge Wetland Centre, as we did last year, you don't need too much imagination to have a wild time!
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Dipper Fledgling on the Wharfe

Here's a short video of a Dipper fledgling being fed by a parent. The footage was shot just over a week ago along the River Wharfe.