Birds of a feather

Photographed through glass: a pair of goldfinches through the car windscreen . . .

WHEN it comes to taking photos of Tilly the terrier, there is no need for complicated equipment. Trying to photograph wild birds, though, is altogether different.

I’ve never used a hide or a posh camera with different lenses, so I think some of my efforts aren’t too bad. Most of them I take through the glass of the kitchen window so I often have to crop away the glare. There is a definite incentive to keep the windows clean.

and, seen through the kitchen window, a hen pheasant who has timidly taken up residence in the garden . . .

and an equally nervous-looking green woodpecker

Tilly appears deep in thought as she guards the Happy Moonraker’s Mother’s Day flowers. No secrecy or special lens needed for this photo.

 

A walk in the woods

Winter sunset across the pond: I just love the reflection, the trees looking like lace.

Winter sunset across the pond: I just love the reflection, the trees looking like lace.

IT takes a certain determination to overlook the grey skies and rain and try to have a busy day. The Happy Moonraker’s first thought is to curl up under the duvet and forget trying to do anything useful.

Tilly the terrier doesn’t seem to notice weather. One day is like any other to her: food, walk, run, food, walk, run, doze, bark, sleep, and then more of the same.

If we’ve managed to pick a time when it is not raining, we have had more lovely walks in the beech woods.

Tilly and the two dogs she knows best, Budleigh and Rosie, know exactly where to go. Tilly ignores them both and refuses to play but the others romp and run and make sure they get as muddy as possible.

Budleigh is an enthusiastic Labrador and Rosie is a high-speed lurcher.

A female roe deer suddenly saw us as we turned a corner on the edge of the wood. Then she was off, through the young crop of oilseed rape.

A female roe deer suddenly saw us as we turned a corner on the edge of the wood. Then she was off, through the young crop of oilseed rape.

Tilly investigates quietly, sniffing and sometimes digging, but she is never far from me. Everything changes, though, if she spots a squirrel. Then all hell breaks loose. That’s when she sounds like a pack of feral terriers.

These pretty fungi (see below) were in the beech woods, just by the path.

These pretty fungi (see below) were in the beech woods, just by the path.

I did well to photograph the little red mushrooms without Tilly’s snout dominating the shot. She was fascinated. According to an identification website, they are called Elf Cups (Sarcoscypha coccinea) and are quite common, although I have never seen them before. They are described as edible but I think I’ll give them a miss.

 

Better days ahead?

Tilly on a beech tree, listening to chattering jays.

Tilly on a beech tree, listening to chattering jays.

Tilly the terrier hopes that her many fans enjoy 2017, and that they receive plenty of cheesy treats throughout the year.

The Happy Moonraker also hopes that the year improves for everyone after a depressing start.

With too many people in positions of power espousing the most loathsome beliefs, the omens are not good. It is up to the moderates to make our feelings known, wherever we are. We can’t look round when some appalling decisions have been implemented and say: “But how did that happen?”

Dog-walkers of the world unite. We have more power than you think.

There are also signs of spring all around, in spite of days of heavy frosts, dreary grey skies, and gardens boasting little but brown sticks. A careful look reveals snowdrops, catkins, and buds waiting to burst open.

We have had some lovely walks. Yes, there has been rather too much mud but you have to expect it at this time of year, and beech woods are always interesting and mood-lifting as we wade through puddles and thick carpets of brown leaves.

At home, when the ground isn’t too hard, the Happy Moonraker can always go out and dig up a couple of leeks. Granted, they are not everyone’s favourite vegetable, but I have devised one or two ways of preparing them which make them acceptable to just about everyone.

How to get warm but stay cool

COLD mornings and cold nights mean that you have to move a little faster. You certainly don’t have to resort to dressing your terrier in a knitted coat, however pretty it may be.

I almost sensed Tilly’s contempt as we walked past this terrier waiting for its owner outside M&S.

A well-dressed terrier on a cold morning. Or a dog-owner going a little OTT when it comes to the care of a hairy animal.

A well-dressed terrier on a cold morning. Or a dog-owner going a little OTT when it comes to the care of a hairy animal.

Tilly’s predecessor in The Happy Moonraker’s life, Herbert, was once given an attractive subtly coloured, hand-knitted coat but fortunately he never had to wear it because it was much too small.

Herbert the Jack Russell demonstrating that the coat he was given by a well-wisher was much too small.

Herbert the Jack Russell demonstrating that the coat he was given by a well-wisher was much too small.

A corkscrew for safety

TILLY wouldn’t have fallen into the river (see below) if she had been restrained by being attached to her corkscrew.

In situations where she is likely to become over-excited and lose all common sense – which, after all, Jack Russells are good at – this simple gadget is the perfect answer, as long as care is taken to ensure that it is screwed in as far as it will go.

You just have to be careful that you don’t strike an immoveable flint just beneath the surface because, if you do, there is no choice but to find a better spot.

The special corkscrew, or tether, that is screwed into the ground, together with Tilly’s lead.

The special corkscrew, or tether, that is screwed into the ground, together with Tilly’s lead.

Tilly demonstrates how the tether works, with her lead attached to it once the metal has been screwed firmly into the ground.

Tilly demonstrates how the tether works, with her lead attached to it once the metal has been screwed firmly into the ground.

Tilly takes a tumble

Tilly drying off at home after falling in the river.

Tilly drying off at home after falling in the river.

POOR Tilly the terrier had a bad fright the other day: she fell into a fast-flowing river. Not only that, she fell into a section at one of the hatches that are used to control river flow, so the stone lining meant she couldn’t clamber out.

She had to swim much further than she normally does and then got stuck, trapped in the river by the stone side.

The Happy Moonraker only heard about this adventure some hours after it happened, otherwise horror and panic might have prevented me being any use at all.

As it is, Tilly was wearing her little harness as usual so it was possible to lift her out of the water with the help of a huge weed-clearing fork.

It turned out that she had fallen in because she got over-excited at the sight of a stick that she thought was being thrown for her. If only she had realised it was being pulled out of the river, not being thrown in.

She was thoroughly drenched after her ducking and, because of her thick coat, it was hours before she was fully dry again.

I don’t think she has learned a lesson because she was back there a few days later, skipping about in the same place as though nothing had happened.

How not to park

bad-parking-10-16

THE Happy Moonraker long ago realised that the world is divided into people who don’t pull the roller towel down to expose a clean section for the next person, and those who do.

It’s all a question of thoughtfulness and consideration for others.

The same can be said for parking.

Have you ever seen parking like this? Coming towards the junction from the right, how was I meant to turn left past this vehicle, without going so far into the narrow road that I was on the wrong side and likely to hit an oncoming vehicle on the blind bend ahead? To say nothing of obstructing any vehicle that might appear from my right.

It seems the Highway Code can be flouted when it is Salisbury Rugby Festival, Daddy has overslept and his little rugby player can’t be late.

Quote from the Highway Code: “The nearest you can park to a junction is 10 metres (or 32 feet). This is to allow drivers emerging from, or turning into, the junction a clear view of the road they are joining. It also allows them to see hazards such as pedestrians or cyclists at the junction.”

That sort of arrogant parking behaviour is on a par with that of people who leave their dog’s mess neatly bagged but next to the footpath or hanging in the hedge. Agreed, the offending heap has been picked up, but why assume someone else will deal with the bag?