The F words

(After this post I will probably go quiet till March, because I am heading to Zambia today. But when I come back, brace yourselves!)

I am testing my new camera before heading off, so each morning I wander round the Serpentine in Hyde Park.  It is Valentine’s Day as I write this, and clearly Hallmark picked mid-February after watching London’s waterfowl. The males are engaging in two activities that begin with “f”, the first of which is fighting.

Here is a coot, psyching himself up for his joust. Pay attention to the feet, they are his weapons.

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Coots have an amazing technique. They launch themselves out of the water by using one foot as a sort of single waterski:

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and the other foot is then used to karate-kick the adversary in the chest:

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and with luck submerge the poor sod.

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The swans just push each other around and chase their competitors away:

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Then the victor (possibly Zeus in swan’s form?) reaps the spoils (and this is the other word that begins with “f”).

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To calm you down, here is how the greylag geese spend Valentine’s Day: some mutual grooming,  a little cuddle…

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One thing leads to another,

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and the result is a happy gander:

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The upshot of all this is apparent when, outside the café, I almost trip over an Egyptian Goose family (such a cosmopolitan city we live in), recently enlarged by seven new chicks (three of which are still hiding underneath her skirts.)

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After all this excitement, you probably need a rest, so luckily for you there will be two weeks of silence from me..

 

 

Lulu the micropig

You may remember that I went to Shoreditch to draw snakes a couple of months ago?? I had so much fun I went again, this time to a room above a pub not that far from the home of Arsenal football team, to draw a baby micropig called Lulu. Here she is:

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She is much harder to draw than the snakes, because she never stops moving, hence the blurry photos:

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She was very curious, and pretty calm once she got used to being at the centre of a circle of besotted would-be artists.

She was about 8 weeks old, and weighed about 3Kg. She may grow up to be as big as 50lbs, or 23 Kg, so although I rather covet her as my emotional support animal, she will be a little large for those long-distance flights. And think carefully before considering one as a pet…

This was my best attempt:

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I will let her say goodbye in person (and notice that like wild pigs her tail is straight rather than curly):

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Piglet: “How do you spell ‘love’?”
Pooh:  “You don’t spell it…you feel it.”

A.A. Milne

The Kites and the Swans: Present Blessings

The Kites and the Swans, from Aesop’s Fables (6th century BC)

The kites of old time had, equally with the swans, the privilege of song. But having heard the neigh of the horse, they were so enchanted with the sound that they tried to imitate it; and, in trying to neigh, they forgot how to sing.

Moral: The desire for imaginary benefits often involves the loss of present blessings.

Here in England the BBC have been broadcasting Winterwatch from Sherborne, my village.  They have shown us stoats in ermine, badgers collecting nest materials, and hawfinches in the yews by the church. I have failed to photograph (or even see) any of these, but the local National Trust Chief Ranger, Mike Robinson, told me where to find the winter roost of the red kites.

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So down I went at dusk to a small copse next to the water meadow, and sure enough there were dozens of them circling overhead coming in to roost. Here is a somewhat unexciting photo of something that made my heart soar too:

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Back by the weir, the swans do not seem to feel the cold:

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But I suspect their huge black rubber feet need to warm up from time to time, so out they come onto the banks, ready to defend their patch against all comers, or at least against me:

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Then back to the water:

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