Monthly Archives: March 2016

In training again

It has been a long time since Lily and Poppy have been doing agility training with Jaqui in the field near Longside.  Winter weather, wind and slippery ground are not the conditions for outdoor agility.   I wondered how they would get on after the long break from the autumn.

The view from the top

The view from the top

I needn’t have worried.   They got back into it right away, with gusto!  Lily showed young Poppy how to do it, at Lily’s unique sedate pace.   Poppy threw herself into it, leaping high over the jumps and scampering up the A fame.

Jumping is fun.

Jumping is fun.

Way up and over.

Way up and over.

The seesaw, which spooked her a bit last year seemed no trouble at all and it was a joy to see her little body zooming through the material of the cloth tunnel and emerging, delighted with herself.   Lily even managed the twelve pole weave, never her favourite piece of equipment.

The seesaw holds no fear for Poppy now.

The seesaw holds no fear for Poppy now.

"Which way now?"

“Which way now?

"I can do it!"

“I can do it!”

All this in the lovely setting of the little field just outside the village.   We are all looking forward to next week.

Bend it like Lily

Bend it like Lily

Bend it like Lily

Birdwatching in comfort

I am not a great bird photographer.  I have occasionally managed to catch a good picture, but I am not dedicated enough to sit in a hide for hours in the hope that the right bird will come along.  I am more of an opportunist.

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Red-necked phalarope, Fetlar 1997

One of the pictures I am particularly proud of was taken during a holiday we had in Shetland in 1997.  There was a delightful book left in our holiday cottage by Bobby Tulloch about Shetland wildlife. We look Bobby at his word and went off to find the red-necked phalarope.  Bobby said it would be no problem.  Just go to the island of Fetlar, park your car in a little layby beside the loch, take out your sandwiches and wait.  And sure enough along swam these lovely little birds.  It was easy to photograph them, they were right at the edge of the water.   Thank you Bobby!  These are very rare birds.  Only a couple of dozen or so breeding pairs in the UK, and most of them on Fetlar.   That day was certainly birdwatching in comfort.

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Puffin, Unst 1997

Less comfortable but a wonderful experience none the less, was the walk to the north cliffs of the island of Unst in Shetland.  The cliffs are a bird watcher’s paradise, and the puffins, or tammy norries as the Shetlanders call them, would just sit down right next to you and pose for photographs.

Yesterday’s birdwatching was from the comfort of the conservatory, with the door open, watching the birds which visited the garden. I managed to photograph a few – sparrows, chaffinches, starlings, a pair of collared doves and a rook,  all in the matter of an hour from the comfort of a chair.  A future project will be to capture the tits and goldfinches will are also regular visitors to the garden.   Birdwatching in comfort, indeed.

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Spring cleaning

One of the problems of having little dogs, especially a Shih Tzu with short hairy legs, is mud.  Poppy on the one hand, can saunter through a muddy field and is easy to clean up.  Lily, the  Shih Tzu on the other hand,  comes home with muddy legs and belly, with a bath (which she hates!) often the only solution.  Consequently the Hatton field, where we love to walk, has really been out of bounds for the past few months because of the very rainy weather, with even the path squelchy and muddy.

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Now that the weather has dried up a bit, the field is starting to dry up too and is becoming more accessible for hirsute, vertically challenged dogs.  It is great to be able to wander further along the burn again, hear the gurgling water and enjoy the signs of spring.  We have to enjoy it while we can, because when the grass becomes longer in the summer, it becomes another no-go zone for our little dogs.  They don’t like ploughing through an eighteen inch high jungle.  Well, would you, with undergrowth over the top of your head?

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I have enjoyed spotting the occasional crocus, the odd clump of snowdrops;  now the daffodils are coming out and the cheeky little yellow flowers of the celandine.  Come June, my favourite month for flowers, I will be looking for the appearance of the purple orchids and of course the buttercups.

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One thing that really saddened me about my walk in the field yesterday was the amount of rubbish lying about near the path.   So I decided to document it, and then pick up at least some of it after I found an old carrier bag in my jacket pocket. There were cigarette packets, cans, bottles, plastic bags, and bits of a torn up football.  I expect some of the other canine users of the field had really had fun with that.  I have watched pupils getting off the school bus in the afternoon and just tossing an empty can or bottle down the bank and into the field, rather than using the litter bin or taking it home.   We are lucky in Hatton that HARA, the local residents’ association organises village clean ups.  I expect there will be one soon.   But for now, there is a little less litter in the field.

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Even pieces of a torn up football

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Rubbish collected and ready for the bin.

 

A nautical theme

Easter Sunday this year was beautiful and sunny, but there was quite a strong cold wind blowing.  I went to Peterhead to join in the outdoor Easter Sunday Sunrise service which is held in the Lido car park, overlooking the bay and the harbour.  Because the clocks had gone forward I was out and about much earlier than usual and I look the opportunity to take a few pictures as well.

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The sun was right over the north breakwater when we gathered for the service and I was able to get a couple of silhouettes with the camera pointing right into the sunrise.

From there it was on to the harbour where I spotted an oil supply boat lying offshore and some spindrift.  I tried several pictures here and have eventually chosen this one as the best.   I wonder if it will make it into a Peterhead Calendar if we do one this year?

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I tried a few pictures of the boat from Buchanhaven harbour, further along the shore, but I was not really satisfied with them.  However I spotted some colourful boats lined up beside the slipway waiting for better weather, I expect.

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With time still on my hands and the hour still quite early,  I drove on to Boddam to see what I might take there.  Unfortunatley the sun was not really in the right position but I did attempt a couple of shots at my favourite Buchan Ness Lighthouse with the sea churning round the rocks.

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If you want to see more of the pictures from today you can find them on my Flickr Site.

The power of the wind

As we approached Aberdeen Airport the other day the plane circled round Aberdeenshire to approach from the north.  It was a lovely clear day and we could see the familiar countryside below.  One thing stood out clearly, the number of wind turbines in Aberdeenshire.  They were all over the place, in ones and twos.  I have been aware of them from ground level, but to see them all laid out on the patchwork of fields below was quite dramatic.

Debate rages on about these new appearances in the countryside.  A large wind farm near Hatton was proposed recently  but was the plan was eventually withdrawn after objections from the local community and groups such as Scottish Natural Heritage, Scottish Environmental Protection Authority and the Ministry of Defence.

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Wind turbines can be an interesting photographic subject.  I have watched two appearing beside the road to Peterhead.  You can see them from Hatton, and I have my eye on them for future photographs when the crops in the field below start to grow. I will also have to find just the right spot for the picture.  I took one yesterday, but I think a better viewpoint could be found.

Looking back through my previous pictures, I have found a few of my past efforts to picture the turbines.

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Midsummer evening near Stuartfield

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Early morning, Hatton

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Near New Deer

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From the Hatton field

 

The old, the new and the still to come

Living in the country as I do I am more used to taking landscape pictures of countryside.  A visit to Brentford in West London has challenged me to look for pictures in the urban landscape.

Right at the end of the street where my daughter and her family live is a huge tower block, now disused but adorned with enormous illuminated advertising posters.  The current one which greets drivers at eye view on the elevated section of the M4, as they drive into London draws attention to the photographic capabilities of the iPhone.  All the old industrial building round it have been demolish and replaced with town houses, but the tower.  Just the remain s of an old ramp up to the base of the tower, and the tower itself remain on the “Great West Road”.

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Soaring above all the new houses in the development (which has been designated, Great Western Quarter (GWG)) is the Tower, a 27 storey block which we have watched growing on our visits to Brentford.  Now completed I see you can rent a two bedroom apartment there for £595 per week.  I pass the Tower quite regularly, on visits to the Sainsbury’s Local there, or on the way to school with the grandchildren.

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Just over the road from the block with the advertising poster used to stand a derelict pub.  Now hoarding board surround it and this week we have seen the old building reduced to a pile of rubble as the diggers do their work.  My daughter tells me that there is to be a development of some 20 flats there at the end of their road.   It will certainly put an extra strain on parking in the area which is terrible at the best of times for local residents,  even those with parking permits.

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It is sad to see old buildings with character demolished.  I do hope that the new development is a building with some character.

The Streets of London (or Brentford, actually)

I took the opportunity yesterday to walk down to Brentford High Street.  I am more used to driving around here, but the bright spring sunshine and the need to get a phone fixed took me along roads on foot this time.

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Bretford High Street is in the process of renovation and you can see quite a change.   The old magistrates court has been converted into a restaurant (called Verdict) with a delightful little square in front.  Futher along the redevloped Brentford Dock is a very up market place to live and of course to take photographs.

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On my way back to the house I stopped to admire the pub at the traffic lights.  We have stopped here countless time in the car and admired the golden beehive on the roof.

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Then there was St Paul’s Church and the red brick Brentford Library, a gift of Andrew Carnegie it says on the large plaque on the front.   I was delighted to see that the benevolence of the Scots born industrialist had stretched even here to West London.

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Just a taste of some of the buildings to photograph in Brentford.

In an urban garden

Despite the fact that the elevated section of the M4 motorway and the very busy old A4 road round right along the end of the garden, there is still plenty signs of spring in this London  (or Brentford, to be strictly accurate) garden.  Plants are so much further on here than in Aberdeenshire.  The daffodils are now nearly past and the pussy willows have appeared.  No sign of them yet in our Hatton garden.  Today’s project was a walk round the tiny urban garden.

There are Magnolias and Jasmine, to mention but two bushes in  bloom, but no sign of the little Cherry tree budding yet.  How the grandchildren love the search among the foliage for the cherries there, later in the year!

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The pussy willows are out.

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Jasmine

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Magnolia flowers now in bloom.

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The rose hips give promise of the usual display of white roses.

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No sign of the cherry buds bursting yet.

Down with the kittens

It is delightful living in a house with kittens again.  I love to see them playing and exploring their world.  Co Co and Pepsi are adored by our grandchildren, and we have really enjoyed meeting them at last in the flesh, (or is it the fur?)   So now we have six grandchildren, six grand-dogs and  five grand-cats.  Of course I must not forget Scott, our grand-goldfish.

I have been crawling around the floor with them – that’s the only way to photograph them, at kitten eye level.

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A different view

When I look back over the pictures I have posted on here, they tend to reflect countryside and our dogs.   Today’s pictures are very different:  busy London streets, but still with countryside within walking distance.  A few days in Brentford may produce some more different pictures.   These ones were taken last June in lovely sunny weather.

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New developments alongside the M4 in West London

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A narrow boat makes a leisurely journey up the Grand Union Canal near Brentford

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Osterley Park in West London

On Stirling Hill

I love to take the dogs for a walk on Stirling Hill, just to the south-west of the village of Boddam, near Peterhead.  The local Community Association are to be congratulated for developing a network of paths on this little hill, among the remnants of the old quarries, the source of much of the Peterhead pink granite.   There is still a bit of the old main road preserved which makes parking easy and it is only ten minutes in the car from my house.  But it was just Poppy and me today, while Lily paid a visit to an old friend in Hatton.

Despite the grey overcast skies there was plenty to photograph:  the Buchanness Lighthouse peeping over the edge of the quarry;  an oil supply boat lying off Boddam, waiting to go into Peterhead Harbour;  a couple of Highland cows admiring the view;  and of course, Poppy sprinting and leaping about.

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Buchanness Lighthouse

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Oil supply boat

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She flies through the air…….

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Where to now?

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This grass smells lovely.

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Admiring the view.

A walk along the burn

DSCF2175After a few days of bright sunshine I felt that spring had arrived.  However, I must have  forgotten I was living in Scotland and we are now back to dull, cloudy weather.  Flat light is not so good for photograph.  Or so I thought till I read an article in a photography magazine last night, urging photographers to get out and make the best of even the dullest day.

The walk with the dogs along the burn in Hatton gave me the opportunity to try it out and the first hints of yellow in the gorse, the crocuses growing wild on the verges and the dwarf daffodils gave me plenty scope for photography and confirmation that spring is defiantly here, dull weather or not.

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Concentration

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I love watching Poppy run.   She gives it her all, often leaping up with all four paws off the ground.   Today she seemed to be concentrating hard as she rushed from one side of the field to where I was standing with my camera.   Perhaps not the most flattering of Poppy pictures but certainly one full of concentration.

The fog rolls in

I drive back and forwards to Peterhead quite a bit.  I love the view from the place where the road climbs up and goes along the top of the Longhaven cliffs.  Sometimes you will see Oil Supply Boats lying offshore there; sometimes it is the waves that catch your attention;  sometimes it is the bright blue sea.  The views are constantly changing.   There is a fine big layby on the road there.  A good place to stop look and sometimes photograph.

As I was driving home to Hatton this morning it was the fog rolling in from Cruden Bay that caught my eye, with just a hit of sunshine – a mysterious sky.  Thank goodness my phone can take pictures too.

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Red sky at night

It was a lovely night.  The sun was just dipping under the horizon as I drove towards Maud,  the sky a bright orange colour.   It was frustrating not being able to stop the car just where I wanted – there were so many views to photograph.  But dusk on narrow country roads, and a bit of time pressure to get to Turriff made stopping impossible

However, I remembered stopping before on a similar evening, watching the sunset sky as I approached Old Deer and I found the place again.   But the really spectacular views were on the road from Old Deer to Maud.

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I managed a couple of shots, but how I wished I could have stopped and captured that picture I saw of the silhouette of the bare tree against the orange sky, or the mysterious wood on top of a hill ahead of me.  But cars behind me and no place to stop put a damper on that.

Still, I was able to enjoy the view from the windscreen.   And there will be another night…..

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On the road to Turriff

There isn’t a direct road between Hatton and Turriff.  You have to take a trip along country roads, through Old Deer, New Deer and Cuminestown, to mention but a few.   I had to make a trip to Turriff this morning and I really enjoyed the drive in the spring sunshine.

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There in the distance was the familiar shape of Bennachie;  large wind turbines offered an interesting subject, especially with a crow posing on the fence for me;  but best of all was the small group of alpacas.  These wonderful creatures were as interested in me as I was in them.  They watched every move with the camera, perhaps suggesting, “I think this is my best side.”

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The vast stretch of an empty beach

I am aware that over the years I have developed particular styles when taking photographs.  Mary will comment when she sees a landscape that I am particularly proud of how there always seems to be a flower or something striking right at the front of the picture.   I know I am drawn to dramatic skies and the vast stretch of an empty beach.

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I was reminded of that yesterday when I was writing a piece for a church magazine and I included a picture of Mary, alone on the West Sands at St Andrew’s.  That location was made famous by the opening scene of the film, Chariots of Fire.  It’s a place that we knew well as students there in the 1960s and despite the terrible December weather, we managed a walk along the sands last December.  And of course the same style was in evidence in yesterday’s blog with Poppy on the beach.

I have dipped into the archives and here are some more empty beach pictures.

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Lily on the beach at Cruden Bay (January 2012)

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Mary and the dogs on Craigewan Beach, Peterhead (October 2014)

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Mary and Lily on Aberdour beach (March 2013)

Fifteen minutes on the beach

It is amazing what you can capture in just fifteen minutes.  Poppy and I had a few minutes to spare in Peterhead before collecting Lily from the groomers.  I said, “Let’s go to the beach.”  She replied, “Yes, yes, yes, yes!!!!!!”

We only had these few minutes, but we had Craigewan beach all  to ourselves and Poppy loved it.  She scampered all over the sand, up into the dunes while I clicked away with the camera.

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Spot the Poppy!

Spot the Poppy!

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A night to remember

What a night it was!  Our granddaughter Eira was chosen to be one of the player escorts at the UEFA Champion’s League match at Stamford Bridge in West London between Chelsea and Paris St Germain.  As devoted grandparents (if not Chelsea supporters) we sat in front of the television eager to catch sight of our wee Eira.  And there she was, walking hand in hand with Chelsea’s No 17, Pedro.   That was the most exciting part of the match:  Chelsea were outclassed and defeated.

I recorded the programme and experimented with taking a photograph of the television screen.  I remember in the old black and white television days that you would regularly get a broad black band in such photographs, as the television picture scanned.   But there was no such problem on this occasion.   The photograph is not of a wonderful quality. but it will be a good permanent record of that night to remember.

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Spring flowers

I have been watching a couple of dwarf daffodils blooming by the side of the road.  I tried to photograph them the other day, but the bright sunshine made it very difficult, with my shadow getting in the way of the picture.  And of course there was the sodden grass too.  A few attempted pictures were consigned to the bin.

Today it was less sunny and I went armed with a carrier bag to kneel on.  I am still not totally happy with the daffodil picture, but it is much better – a real sign that despite the snow, spring is on the way.

There are plenty of snowdrops too on the verges and now the occasional crocus too.

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