The Swan Family

I normally keep an eye out for the regular breeding pair of swans we have on the nearby Union Canal, especially in spring when they have their cygnets. This year being furloughed for so long during Lockdown, with a single permitted daily exercise walk the only thing I could do outside the house, I had more of an opportunity to walk that way with the camera, and capture photos of them, from the small, fluffball stage of a couple of weeks old, to now, where they are rapidly growing to a similar size to their mother (Papa Swan is rather larger!), so I thought I would post a sequence of pics of this year’s cygnets to show how they have grown in the last few months.

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Swan Family 09

Vid - Swan Family

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This is our 2020 cygnets when very small – and supercute! I always love seeing them every year, but this year with the grim reality of Lockdown, the isolation and every threatening stress and depression, the magic and beauty of nature became all the more important, a wonderful escape as I took my once a day allowed exercise walk during the Lockdown (and of course where I go walking, the camera goes too).

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Vid - Swans Feeding

My friend who runs the Union Canal Swans Twitter and Instagram is so known to the parent swans they let her feed their babies each year, the short video above is her feeding them some porridge (being Scottish swans they love a bit of porridge!)

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Sleeping on the grass by the side of the canal

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You can see how much larger they are by this point.

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Papa Swan shaking it all out.

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Quick close up portrait before they slipped back into the water after resting on the banking.

Vid - Swans Taking a Stroll

I love that slap-slap-slap of those big, webbed feet on the wet towpath!!!

Hello, little, furry chap!

Walking through historic Greyfriar’s kirkyard at the weekend (walking off a delicious Semla – a Swedish cream cake made only for a few weeks as part of an old Lent tradition), spotted little squirrel sprinting across the grass between the old tombstones, pausing to pick up little twigs and leaves. Couldn’t get a photo as he was too darned fast, zipping along then onto a tree, up and around to the other side. I followed him around but there was no sign of him. Then I saw movement, and noticed a small hole in a knot of of the tree trunk. And sure enough it turned out to be his little hidey-hole, and as I watched patiently he stuck his cute wee head out for a look down at me (you can see him right in the centre of the pic):

A few moments later he darted out, grabbed more of his little collection of twigs and leaves and dragged them back into his little tree home, front paws fiddling around inside while his bum and bushy tail hung out the entrance. Either that or I had just been mooned by a squirrel…

let sleeping swans lie

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If you should let sleeping dogs lie then I’d imagine you should certainly not disturb snoozing swans, given how grumpy and bad tempered they can be even when fully awake, let alone being roused from a pleasant nap. This was as close as I dared get to a couple of slumbering swans basking in the last golden rays of the setting sun by the Union Canal not far from my home, contentedly snoozing just a couple of feet from all the walkers, joggers, cyclists and canoeists. Lovely to have this so close by in the middle of a heavily populated part of a major city. If you click on the pic you can go to my Flickr stream and click the ‘all sizes’ buttons to see the much larger version; it was worth edging slowly closer to the animal as I managed to get some details of the feathers into the bigger version.

The birds

A very disturbing story doing the rounds of the Scottish media this week – the unlawful killing of various Scottish birds of prey, from hen harriers to one of the nation’s symbols, the magnificent Golden Eagle, are at a twenty year high despite legal protection. And gee, isn’t it just a coincidence that the geographical distribution of the cases often matches the location of major ‘sporting’ estates where fat businessmen shoot flocks of tame pheasants scared into the line of their shotguns by beaters? (I put ‘sporting’ in commas because I don’t see anything sporting in killing animals for kicks, especially when it involves practically tame creatures and almost no skill from the so-called ‘hunter’) Yes, I’m sure that’s just coincidence and not gamekeepers and landowners poisoning, trapping and shooting raptors on the side to make sure they don’t interfere with with their game birds.

Or maybe there are just a lot of scumbags out there who don’t give a damn about our wildlife and environment (or law) as long as they can exploit it for money – a double irony some of the people in these sorts of jobs who are probably doing this vile act like to tell the rest of us that they are ‘the guardians of the countryside’ No, you’re not, you condescending, tweed-clad twats, you’re vicious, amoral bastards. I’m sure there are plenty of gamekeepers who do adhere to the law and try to protect species including raptors, but from the evidence there are obviously a hell of a lot of them who are only to happy to kill even endangered animals. The answer? Well these feckers all love hunting and complain we’ve restricted so much of that, so let’s have some more hunting – open season on hunting anyone in tweeds or Barbour jackets and Deerstalker hat, anyone? Tally ho and give ’em both barrels – don’t worry, its a humane way to kill ’em, you know, otherwise they ruin the environment…

Bird in flight

Seabirds wheeling, screeching overhead, noisy, loud and then suddenly grace personified; flight, the dream of humans since time began, so effortless to the bird, wind slipping over and under wings constantly adjusting to the flow by instinct, making the finest human pilot look like a clown by comparison, feathers that took millions of years to evolve insulating, guiding, hollow bones to give less weight but remain strong to hold the elegant curve of wing. How can something which moments ago was a noisy nuisance scavenging for food from parties on the beach be so utterly perfect. More than a dozen frames in rapid succession on the multi-shot function, most blurred, out of frame, empty sky but one, just one like this came out and I am happy. What would it be like, I wonder, to fly like this? No engines, no whirling propellors or screaming jets, just the wind and muscle and instinct, skimming across the face of the world…

Come into my parlour, said the spider…

One of my Fotolet chums was carrying his new camera with him, went to try for a flower close-up, heard a bee, looked closer and took this amazing picture of a bee and a white spider on a flower having a disagreement – go and look, it is a stunning capture.

When Penguins Ruled the Earth

For years I’ve made jokes about gigantic prehistoric penguins, from millions of years ago – Penguinosaurus Rex, tall, with a huge, long, sharp and deadly beak, from the Time When Penguins Ruled The Earth and Doug McClure had to rescue buxom women in fur bikinis from them. Then today I read that actually there is a little truth to my penguin-obsessed nonsense. I just love it when real life is almost as weird as fantasy.