Growing…

Remember the tiny young cygnets I photographed back in early June, sleeping in their nest among the reeds by the side of the canal near my home?

Nest of wonderfulness 03

I snapped them again about a month after that, swimming along the canal with their parents, now shedding the adorable fluffball look and starting to grow in their proper feathers:

The Swan Family 05

That last one was early July. Tonight I saw the whole Swan Family again as I walked home alongside the canal, one parent and cygnets all snoozing by the side of the canal and on the towpath, while one of the parents kept a watchful eye open:

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It’s as well one of the parents was on guard duty – most walkers, joggers and cyclists moved over onto the nearby grass to give the birds plenty of space, but one utter arsebag of a cyclist came charging at them full speed, with a “out my way” look on his face, he tried to zip past them only inches away. And the parent swan reared up, huge wings opened up, started hissing and lunged to peck his legs. Frightened the hell out of him, you better believe he finally swerved out the way then. Just pure stupidity and arrogance, he could have avoided them easily. Stupid thing to do, he could have harmed one of the swans, and swans can be quite bad tempered anyway if you get too close, but to do it to one guarding its children is just asking for the swan to have a go at you!

Frankly I’d have happily shoved him and his bike into the canal myself if I could. Anyway, most people passing were more considerate, gave them space and were clearly enjoying seeing such a lovely little natural bit of beauty and wonder. Quite lovely to just see things like this on your walk home in the middle of the city, from tiny, fluffy baby cygnets to rapidly growing youngsters, won’t be long before they are taking wing themselves.

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The Swan Family 09

The Swan Family 010

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So. Much. Fluffiness

Walking home a couple of weeks ago along the Union Canal at Fountainbridge I came across the lovely sight of Mr and Mrs Swan taking their new fledglings along for a wee paddle, a flotilla of fluffy cuteness:

So Much Fluffiness 01

So Much Fluffiness 03

Then this afternoon I found this little natural wonder: the fluffy cygnets all curled up together in their nest in some reeds by the edge of the canal, dozing in the warm afternoon sunlight as their parents floated in the water nearby, keeping an eye on their young charges. What a lovely little wonder to just come across…

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And here is one of the proud parents:

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Proud parent 01

Bright eyed and bushy tailed

Made a new friend while walking down Middle Meadow Walk. Extremely busy at rush hour with folks walking home from work and legions of students from the nearby university, and here is this handsome wee chap darting around among the trees just a few feet from hundreds of people, most walking past without even noticing he was there. I love that little things like this can happen even just walking home from work in a bustling city:

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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…

The Swan

A few days ago I took a black and white photograph of a swan on the Union Canal, close to my home in Edinburgh. I’ve taken plenty of shots along the canal, including many of the swans, ducks and other wildlife that enjoy the waters, but this one, for some reason, has proved to be incredibly popular on Flickr. A simple shot, last hour of daylight (sun setting so early this time of year) giving some great reflections, and a swan which instead of paddling along was drifting, slowly, as if gently dozing, or perhaps lost in admiring its own reflection. I lined up to fit in both swan and reflection and took a pic, posted it up one evening last week, to discover by the next evening, less than twenty hours later, it had received over six thousand views. It’s now sitting just a shade under nine thousand. It had, like my recent Edinburgh in Blue Hour shot, made it onto Flickr’s Explore front page, so a lot more people saw it than usual, but even so I’m blown away with how many views, I’ve never had any shot gather to many views in such a short time (and so many favourites too). I’m also slightly puzzled – don’t get me wrong, it’s a lovely picture, but I think I’ve taken many that are far better and they never got that sort of reception. Guess you can never truly predict what people will really like, and I never take a photo with number of views in mind anyway, I take them because I see something interesting, or unusual, or beautiful, and I want to capture a little of it and share it. And if people really like it even more than usual, then I’m quite happy, if slightly puzzled, but certainly happy and satisfied too…

Low tide

Musselburgh harbour at very low tide – looks almost like you could walk out off the beach and right into the harbour mouth – I don’t recommend it, tried that once at low tide, but the sand near the entrance becomes increasingly ‘sinky’ and unwilling to tolerate the weight of any creature heavier than a mudlarking bird

Musselburgh Harbour, low tide 01

I’ve understood how the tides work since I was a boy reading my astronomy books, but even now as an adult I still find it a little bit magical that somewhere like a harbour can become absolutely empty of water, the boats left on the mud, high and dry, tilted over on their keels, awaiting the return of the water to float them again and make them useful.

Musselburgh Harbour, low tide 06

Chap sitting by the sea wall looking out, while the harbour mouth awaits the salty kiss of the returning tide…

Musselburgh Harbour, low tide 07

Meanwhile nature makes good use of the changing conditions tidal spaces bring each day (twice), with birds probing at the wet sand in the harbour floor with their specially adapted long beaks, looking for supper. Odd to see them walking pass the bottom of the hulls of boats knowing that in just a few hours this will all again be submerged, the floor hidden and the boats bobbing up and down on the water. The birds had colouring on their feathers that made them blend in very well with their surroundings, had to wait for them to walk near a small muddy pool to try and get some contrast to make them stand out even this little amount:

Musselburgh Harbour, low tide 09

A short conversation with a squirrel

I was out in town to take a photo of the Easter mural at Saint John’s church on Princes Street last week (they often put up great art works commenting on current social, ethical and political events and concerns) and, having bagged my picture, I was about to head off to the Filmhouse. On a whim I decided not to go back out the gate and along the pavement and round the corner, instead opting to go down the stairs and cut through the church’s cemetery and past the fair trade shop and cafe that are underneath the church in the crypt area (the cafe has seats outside for the better weather, you can sit and have your coffee and cake but the Victorian tombs!). And I am glad I suddenly decided to cut through the kirkyard, because look at this splendid little fellow who I found poised by an old Celtic cross headstone as I walked through. I still had the camera around my neck and so very slowly picked it up so as not to frighten him off, and managed to get this shot:

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To my surprise he didn’t dart off in that rapid way squirrels usually do, he stayed in his spot, little look around and then often looking right at me, as if we were having a quiet little chat, so I moved over a few feet (slowly again so as not to alarm him) and zoomed in for some more shots:

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Even got him calmly looking right at me – how cute is he? And what a magnificent tail! I thought my Pandora puss had a big, bushy tail, but this is something else…

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After a few moments he scarpered away over the wall and the tops of the gravestones, leapt onto a low branch and scuttled up into his tree, but before I left I noticed he had again paused and was looking right at me, so I took one last picture:

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Although the kirkyard is sunken below the level of the nearby roads and streets and a nice quiet, peaceful spot, only twenty feet from where this happened are two very busy city centre bus stops and a main road, hundreds of people and vehicles passing by every few minutes in the middle of the day. No-one else came down the steps while I was there, all those people busily walking by up above on the street just feet away totally oblivious to the wonderful little scene I alone was witnessing. I love when little moments like this happen – especially when I can catch them on camera (another reason I keep my camera in my bag most of the time). With most others walking by unaware it feels like my city is giving me a little present, sharing a little moment of magic with me as a reward for being able to see such things. Little magical moments like this just make a day…

Heron

Out walking in Edinburgh with my friend and his dog, at Cramond where the River Almond empties into the mighty Firth of Forth, past the wee harbour in Cramond, spotted this Heron sitting motionless on the far banking in the shadow of hanging foliage, almost didn’t notice it at first as it was in shadow and not moving, good job I had the new camera with the much more powerful zoom to snap it.

Heron on the Almond

Heron

Walking along the Water of Leith, once a river full of industry, now a beautiful country walk in the middle of the city (and with some incredibly expensive properties dotted along it) we stopped to watch a heron wading for fish, its long legs moving in that slow, deliberate manner of wading birds. Right in the middle of Edinburgh. This is one of the reasons I love living here. The water of Leith passes fairly close to me and you can walk along its shady trees and use it as a quiet, off-road route to the Scottish Gallery of Modern Art and the Dean Gallery. Apparently some otters have moved back into it a bit further upstream from me, near the Water of Leith Visitor Centre (by the Union Canal aquaduct and rail viaduct), but I haven’t been lucky enough to see them yet.

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