The Watcher         #16

Lagoa dos Salgados. Algarve. 31 December 2017

The barrier that separates the sea from the lagoon is as fundamental as the barrier of minds. And within this barrier stares the silent watcher.  

The lagoon birds are also watching. A game of hide and seek; an arms race of distance and stealth. Ground gained and lost, each reacting to the other. 

Hidden Teal bursting from reedbeds in an explosion of wings and panic and noise. An encroachment on this exact defined space.    

Flittering Chiffchaff lifting from low scrub to devour airborne insects. A circular ballet throughout the daylight hours, ever feeding, ever vigilant. 

The setting sun moves the gulls from the water to night-time safety. Soon to be joined by Spoonbill, Egret, Lapwing, and others. 

The enveloping dusk affords greater cover; revealing the feeding Black-winged Stilt, and the normally skulking Purple Swamp-hen. The watchers last spectacle. 

Beyond the lagoons barrier; in the dunes and beaches, laid the winter sun worshippers. Seeking perfection of their precious brown husks. Empty spaces now, save for the compacted imprints that witnessed them. 

With their setting sun they too have 'flown', but for different reasons. Celebrations of comrardary and revelry, a 'soon to be' time. In nearby Armação de Pêra, the music will shout and fireworks will explode. Shattering the lagoon calm. 

The human flocks have gathered for the ticking clock to close one year and open another...

Feliz Natal               #15

Silves. Algarve. 25 December 2017

It's here once again. Anticipation and expectation all wrapped up in present sized parcels. A day of giving and taking. 

A day of wanting and waiting; wishing for something to make life; better, easier, faster, slower. A day of hope. 

A day for loved ones to be cherished or endured, or both. A day of remembering those long gone, those close at hand; those divided by barriers, borders, or intolerance. 

Today of all days; the allowed day. Let's celebrate with self indulgence and gluttony, or pious 'hair shirt' abstinence. A day either to be worshipped or justified or ignored. 

So worship your God: be that God, deity, greed, or apathy. Because it's happiness day. A come 'hell or high water' day. A 'must be' one true special day...

Clacker Bird               #14

Silves. Algarve. 21 December 2017

Arching your neck and pointing skyward, calling your mate to join you. The incessant clacking reverberates around the town. Any town, all towns. But I've joined you in this town. Again. 

White Stork is how I know you, but here you are Cegonha-branca. Ciconia ciconia unifies the different tongues, but you don't change. Borders change, but not you. You carry on regardless. The ritual sky soaring, pair bonding, Incessant clacking. 

In our shared orchard you feed on the unwelcome and the unwanted. A benefit to both you and the owner, the incumbent, the smiling host. You glide from every high gantry, every building that supports your vast stick nest. Marching and feeding through the fields of vegetation and crops. Unstoppable. 

Back to your gantries, back to your buildings. Feeding done, territories regained and reinforced. Arching your neck skyward; incessant clacking, pair bonding, calling your mate to join you...

Your God                    #13

Tapas Bar O Cais. Silves.  Algarve. 17 December 2017

All the world's damaged people. They're here and they're with you. Don't look away. The hidden light shines through them. They are us, just as we are them.

Don't shun them. Help them. The voices are calling and we are failing them, and failing ourselves, because it's a fine line.

The bar shouters and street ranters; the homeless and the desperate. Our fragile brothers and sisters long unseen. Unwanted, unloved. 

Care less for your comfort, care more for your conscience. We're all walking the same road, the same life, the same end.

The festive season has left them, disowned them, never knew them. Be thankful it's not your time, your place, your circumstances. 

Because there for the grace of your God... 

Doppelganger            #12

Parque Natural da Ria Formosa. Algarve.                      15 December 2017

Dartford Warbler, you showed yourself today, many miles and many months from our last meeting. Heathland separated by a thousand miles. But it's you.

You keep new company. Not just Whitethroat and Chiffchaff, our summer sound; but Sardinian Warbler and Hoopoe, a Mediterranean staple. But it's still you.

The gulls above you are the same but different. Larus by name and Larus by nature, Yellow-legged predominant. Same niche exploiters. But you know.

The waders in the pool are Calidris and Tringa, but the Flamingos and Purple Swamp-hen leave their clues. Your 'also' home. 

The flight line of fowl, the Wigeon and Teal, the Potchard and Gadwall. The 'same old same old', home from home. And you. 

The strong winter sun emphasising your presence. You look brighter; more vibrant, more vivid, more alive. You look changed. But it's you...

Time Capsule            #11

Stone Pine bark.  Parque Nacional de Doñana.           Andelucia. 12 December 2017

Abundant Azure-winged Magpies muscle around habitation, delighting the watcher, a mutual reward. Unobserved and ignored, Crested Larks and Black Redstarts systematically feed. 

Stone Pines stand aloof, imposing height on a dwarfed arid landscape. A living icon. Sharing its bountiful seed, still welcome, still wanted; still harvested. Its empty cone to travel with me, a timeless time capsule. 

White Storks lift into the cloudless blue skies, thermals effortlessly making them dots. The occupiers wait, ritually craning their necks; incessant clacking. Every high structure occupied, nests at the ready. 

Endless Black Kites scour the 'Cotos', from black scrub to white scrub; the degree of dryness signalled by colour. The avian threat increased by the lone marauding and molevolent Imperial Eagle. 

The wetlands are home to the familiar and exotic. The divers, the dabblers, the 'A listers', the sculkers; all aware of the  Marsh Harrier patrolling silently above. A fine line between life and death, a game all must play. 

Deep in the flooded 'Algaidas', safe on the boardwalks, 'Mediterranean' warblers are flitting back and forth. Bringing back memories of times past, events past. Not seen since last in the ringers grip, all so similar, but all so new...

Prisoner                      #10

M/V Cap Finistère. Bay of Biscay. 09 December 2017

Where are the Great Shearwaters following the horizon, none to be seen in the mist.

The shouter, the loadsamoney loudmouth; a throwback to Maggies day. He's here.

No dolphins delight today, no riding our bow wave, no enchantment for both watcher and performer.  

'The trouble with the EU' brigade, the seeking the sun wallah, 'bring back the Empire' couple, they're here.

No delicate Storm Petrels twinkling as they paddle the tip of the wild surface water.  Not today. 

The old and the older, the setting of Britannia. When 'England ruled the waves' fool. All still here.

No exotic gulls or resting passerines, moribund on deck but escaping mortality. None. 

The 'trouble with the young today', the 'bring back the birch', the National Service bore. Still, still, here...  

Summer Bird            #9

Chapel Carn Brea. Cornwall. 06 December 2017

Where is the Cuckoo who's call rang out over this sun flicked mound, but last summer past. The Crows are still here, still mobbing the hunting Kestrel. The Ravens still 'cronk' as they twist overhead; all impervious to the sleet and the hailstones. But the Cuckoo has gone. 

The wild ponies stand against the gorse, sheltering from onrushing winter. Waiting for a break in the weather to resume feeding on the thickening vegetation. Life's work without harness. Their appetites never blunted, their sculpture never done. 

The mid-summer beacon stands and waits. A time to be endured before flame meets warmer air. Flickering beacon, newer in the landscape, but still hypnotic fire watching; a link to the ancestors that buried their dead on this most western hill.

Their barrows are now broken and desecrated by both the learned and the fool. The molevolent and the inquirer, different ideals and motivation, but the same destruction. Eleven now seven, but not as they once were; or should be still. Just husks.

And here flits a Dunnock, sheltering in the past, whilst a Meadow Pipit fights on high, prisoner of the wind. Both trying to survive the maelstrom, each waiting of spring; of fitness and fecundity. But perhaps ultimately to be thwarted; to be denied, duped by the Cuckoo. The summer bird, far, far, away...

Full Moon                  #8

West Penwith. Cornwall. 03 December 2017

Full Moon, primary Moon; from sunset to sunrise Moon. 

Perigee Supermoon, elliptical orbit never nearer Moon.  

Neither waxing nor waning Moon, same face shiny Moon. 

Dark face, never seen, but always hiding, hidden Moon. 

Syzygy alignment: the celestial coupling of our Sun-Earth-Moon.

One of times two constants: high and low tide Moon. 

Dragging oceans water, in the same direction Moon. 

Forever spring tides and king tides Moon...

Monolith                    #7

Goonhilly Downs NNR. Cornwall.  27 November 2017

It's cold and wet and grey. The wind lashes across the Lizard and continues through these ancient Downs. So different from before. So wintery. 

A lone buzzard struggles against the elements in seek of shelter or sustenance, or both. It drops into a patch of Cornish Heath, itself rare and localised, and is lost to view. No passing summer Hobby,  its long gone. 

The open pools are filling. No dragonflies flit on summer wings today, they're nothing but a dead memory now; but their future is beneath the rippling surface. Mini predators, waiting. 

The adders are here also, but sleeping, ready to awake on warmer days and warmer seasons. But not today; this cold day, this deep day of hibernation.

And the Menhir has seen it all. The seasons, the conflict, the aspirations. From the Bronze Age it has stood at this highest point and watched and suffered. The topplings, the robbers, the vandals. This guardian of a shrinking landscape, this sentinel, this constant. And still it silently watches...

Timeless                       #6

Tintagel. Cornwall. 24 November 2017

The land of a fairy-tale Arthur, so hated by scholars, so beloved by the masses. 

The land of tourist tat, of 'spirituality' and fantasy. All in exchange for cash and card. Cynical consumerism. Where business meets tree hugger, crystal waver, 'make me better' navel gazer. 

But there is a magic here; and it's not new age or old age, but it's ageless; and timeless.

The magic is where the sea meets the land and the land meets the sky. The crash of winter waves eroding boulders to pebbles, pebbles to sand. The vertigo views, foot upon timeless foot showing the high routes; walked for eternity, but now only for pleasure. 

The flight of the Fulmar leaving the rock. It's stiffed wings complete its set arc-only to alight once more upon the same ledge. Time after time after time. The billing and head shaking, not for this year's breeding; but still pair bonding, perhaps years in the waiting.

A lone Rock Pipit foraging around the kelp for springtails. Feeding until worried and then bolting for cover. Safe amongst the cracks and crevices above; leaving only its 'fist' call on the beach as it retreats to fight another day.

And the magic is in the howling wind and the biting rain; and the ever present Herring Gulls calling out high above... 

Dementia                   #5

Anywhere. 22 November 2017

I'm pitied and puzzled, mindlessly muddled. I'm endlessly troubled. 

Because I'm losing my mind...

 You're dutifully caring, I'm desperately staring. But you're secretly yearning. 

Because I'm losing my mind...

 Invisibly old, mind numbingly cold. A tale never told. 

Because I'm losing my mind... 

 From partner to bearer, from lover to carer. Oblivion nearer. 

Because I'm losing my mind...

 My father's my brother, my sister my mother. You are another. 

Because I'm losing my mind..

 My marbles are rolling, I'm shuffling not strolling. The rock has stopped rolling. 

Because I'm losing my mind... 

 My prognosis is poor, but I'm begging for more. For God's sake a cure!

Because I'm losing my mind...

Murmuration             #4

Somerset Levels. 19 November 2017

The reedbeds are empty, save for the occasional flitting Reed Bunting and squealing Water Rail.

They're empty for now because it's foraging time, a time to feed, a time to follow.

Messages were past last night in the reedbed, a community chat before safety and sleep. But it's empty now, because it's not the right time. 

Daylight is shortening, temperature is dropping, it's time to be active, to depend on each neighbour. One feeding, one looking, multiplied by hundreds. 

But the short day, the cold day, the 'life and death' struggle day is coming to a close. It's time to move and find safety, it's time to fly. 

Then comes the gathering. Pulsating hundreds and then thousands; and then tens of thousands. A bait ball, an ever expanding sea of noise. 

Seen from a distance it's a swarm. An unfathomable mass of individuals controlled for the greater good. For survival. 

The shock wave is real as they pass overhead. Wave upon wave converge; the sum gets greater, and greater, and greater. 

The mass is gyrating as it holds above the reedbed. The chatter is deafening. Down and then up again, down an then up. Indecision or something more? 

'It' tries again, but a few yards further along the same looking reedbed. Down and then up again, down and then up. The dance endlessly repeated. 

And then they're down and they stay down. The communication starts; the socialising, the squabbling, the transfer of information. 

And then it's quiet, and then it's still. Once more, Starlings at roost...

Carnival                      #3

Shepton Mallet. Somerset.  15 November 2017

The streets are lined, shoulder to shoulder. The young and the old, all standing and waiting. For the procession, for illumination, for dancing, and masquerading.

An overpowering eruption of light and music, that shatter the senses, but announces the arrival. 

Etiquette observed, clapping performers, comments are passed, and new friendships forged. Rigorous applause for those machines found wanting. A genuine mixture of empathy and love. 

Coins are thrown by ageless children, whilst buckets are shaken as consciences prick. Misfires recovered by the willing and the able, every coin a lifeline for next years endeavours. 

Then darkness fills the void, left by it's passing. But reflections and replays leave a community strengthened. 

And then it can be over.  And then it will be done... 

Bowl Barrow                   #2

Win Green NT. Wiltshire. 13 November 2017

Walking up the ancient Ox-drove, the silence is only broken by the 'cronk' of a passing Raven acknowledging human presence. 

Resting under the beech tree copse lies an even more ancient Bronze Age bowl barrow, complete with its distinctive ridge edge. 

Entering the trees sets flight to a cacophony of Jackdaws, whirling ever upwards and away into the darkening sky. 

The air inside is cold and still, the atmosphere, damp and haunted. Engendering a sense of foreboding, claustrophobic and stifling. 

Outside the wood, the watery winter sun illuminates the view. A view that stretches to the faraway coast; to lesser unknown hills, and the distant, equally ancient Plain. 

Below, a lone Fox searches a nearby hedgerow, the silent and dispassionate harbinger of death. 

All seen by the past. All seen by the ancestors. 

The highest point in the Cranborne Chase.


Little Sea                    #1

Studland NT. Dorset. 10 November 2017

Evening rushes in. The wind drops and the water is momentarily still. 

Herring Gulls tumble and drop to rest, scattering their smaller Black-headed cousins. 

Cormorants stand 'statue like' drying their wings. A Great Crested Grebe glides serenely past, moving the mirrored surface. 

Nearby, an overwintering Chiffchaff busily flits through the bankside scrub; searching for any late, life sustaining meal. 

In the distance, a lone Tawny Owl breaks the silence with its pearcingly shrill and alarmist 'kewich' call.

High above, Fieldfares and Redwings; 'our' visiting winter thrushes, call out as they beat rhythmically across a new Northern sky. 

And then nothing. Only silence. 

The light fades and the darkness strangles. All is gone, all is lost...

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