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Having been out for a significant chunk of the day on Friday last (not returning home until around six o’ clock of the evening) I realised on our return that I had not yet checked the mail.

Now – for our first month in this house, back in 2015, the post was still delivered to the door. Ever since then we have been obliged to scamper along to far end of the terrace to the new roadside mailbox stack – an ‘improvement’ to the service which has naturally been planted in quite the most inconvenient of locations. These days I usually break out the bike and cycle up the road: Friday being no exception.

As I went to get my bicycle from the store in which we keep all of our outdoor equipment I glanced – as is my habit – out to sea. I was immediately taken by an unusual pattern of marine movement; an odd assemblage of a not insignificant number of assorted vessels. One gets quite used to the tracks that boaters take across the bay and this unusual gathering of craft – some eight or ten of them – was definitely not normal. Something was up.

We live up on the hillside above Highway 17 (the Pat Bay) at a point at which it follows the coast quite closely (a little below the uppermost ’17’ on the accompanying map) on about the same latitude as the top end of James Island. It takes less than five minutes to ride down the hill and to cross the highway on the pedestrian bridge to get to the shore. Coming back up takes a a little longer as one might expect, for the gradient is quite severe.

As I rode along the terrace I could see that the cluster of boats below was still extant, though now moving slowly southwards down the coast. Curiosity got the better of me and I decided that I just had to ride down to see what was going on. Once I reached the waterfront I could see that the craft had arranged themselves into a broad U-shape between the shore and James Island – a stretch of water called the Cordova Channel. There was clearly something unseen at the centre of this formation.

Image by djmboxsterman on PixabayA little patient watching and waiting revealed the answer: a pod of some five or six Orcas! My best guess is that the boats were trying to guide the Orcas out of the channel into the open ocean, thus preventing any of them becoming beached in the shallows around Cordova Spit.

What a stunning and beautiful sight! Inevitably I had neither camera nor mobile phone with me (hence the splendid stock image accompanying this piece) though I very much doubt that I could have got any decent shots in any case.

This is not a sight that one sees every day. Had anyone suggested – ten years ago – that on a Friday evening in August I would have been watching a flotilla of small boats shepherding a pod of killer whales past the bottom of my garden…

…I would have had a good chuckle!

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…read all about it!

Having returned from our trip up island we discover that our hummingbirds have grown dramatically – to the extant that they can scarce any longer fit in the nest (however expandable it might be). As they are not yet quite ready to ‘fly the coop’ they spend their time patiently sitting (apparently) one atop the other on the rim of the nest, remaining as still as possible to avoid attracting predators.

It can now be but a few days until they depart. Herewith a couple more (grainy as ever) photographs…

Photo by Andy Dawson ReidPhoto by Andy Dawson Reid

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It occurs to me that regular readers (should any such be in attendance) might care for a progress report on the hummingbird that chose to nest on the string of festive lights that were left hanging immediately outside our front door. Any such adherents will doubtless be delighted to hear that the mother is finished her long stint of nest sitting and is now furiously feeding two rapidly growing chicks. The nest itself is starting to expand to keep pace with their increase.

Photo by Andy Dawson ReidIn the above image you can just make out one chick’s fast growing beak poking out of the nest. Whilst in the egg the bill is tiny – no more than a bump – but it grows quickly once hatched. I must apologise, incidentally, for the grainy nature of these images, to which a certain amount of enlarging, cropping and processing was required for them to become at all clear. I really don’t want to impose myself any more than I have already done on these gorgeous but minute creatures.

Photo by Andy Dawson ReidIn this image above (double-click to get it as large as your screen will allow) you might just be able to make out the mother delivering a regurgitated mixture of insect protein and nectar to one of the chicks. Yum!

Here below – one hopefully happy hummingbird family (sans father, naturally!)…

Photo by Andy Dawson Reid


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Of all of the many joys that the natural world has to offer the expat from Europe one of the most enthralling is the prevalence of hummingbirds throughout the Americas. These amazing, beautiful but minscule birds are simply not found in the wild to the east of ‘the pond’.

For the price of a cheap plastic hummingbird feeder and a bag of sugar one may readily contrive countless hours of wonder and entertainment throughout the year as the diminutive creatures besport themselves before our mesmerised gaze (although not, of course, actually for our benefit!).

The nesting habits of hummingbirds are – however – considerably less public and significantly more mysterious. This – from ‘Birds & Blooms‘:

“Like a crown jewel, the nest of a hummingbird is one of the great wonders in all of nature. They are so tiny, yet so perfect. Few of us have ever seen a hummingbird nest. This is because they are nearly impossible to find. From the ground, they look like another bump on a branch. From above, an umbrella of leaves conceals them. And from the side, they look like a tiny knot, quilted with lichens, plant down and fibers.”

…and this from ‘The Spruce‘:

“Hummingbirds choose safe, sheltered locations for their nests, ensuring that their hatchlings are protected from sun, wind, rain or predators. The most common nest locations are in the forked branch of a tree, along thin plant branches or sheltered in bushes. Thicket-like areas or thorny bushes are especially preferred for the extra protection they provide.”

Why should it be – therefore – that one particular hummingbird has chosen to construct her nest (the males play no part at all subsequent to conception) in the string of festive lights that I had left up for far too long after Christmas – immediately outside our front door? Hardly a ‘safe, sheltered location’, given that most traffic into and out of the house passes immediately below the spot. Did the bird simply not notice?

Given that ‘The Spruce’ advises:

“Like all nesting birds female hummingbirds can be shy and skittish, and may abandon nests if they do not feel secure. It is always best to keep your distance from a nest and enjoy it from afar rather than risk harming the nest or chicks by being too eager to see them.”

…we have been forced to adopt a new route into and out of the house – through the garage…

We know our place!

(I do encourage the gentle reader to enlarge the attached image by double-clicking it. I didn’t want to get any closer to the nest and my little Fuji camera has only a limited zoom).

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Image from PixabayBy the time we leave our Berkshire residence – in a little more than a month’s time – we will have been in occupation for just under four years.

We have greatly enjoyed living in such a lovely, quiet, rural location, but we are very much looking forward not only to actually owning the house in which we live in but also to having a whole property to ourselves. Renting an apartment is all very well but it ain’t the same, and it has been more than a decade and a half now since I lived in an actual house.

One thing which I have absolutely no recollection at all of noticing when we first explored the grounds that surround the elegant property of which our apartment is but a portion… is the rabbits!

Which is odd…

Because there are now hundreds of them!

OK – yes – I do know that that is what rabbits do… but from there being no population at all to the current multitude would seem to me to be pretty good going even so.

I throw back the curtains of a morning to greet the day and there – sitting on the lawn in the hazy sunlight – is an arc of rabbits, all sitting perfectly motionless looking up at the house. They are frozen into postures as though having been caught in the act – but of doing what?

“Blimey!” – I exclaim to the Kickass Canada Girl, who is still in bed – “It’s like Watership Down out there”. She scathes me with a bleary look and grunts (delicately!)…

It does make one wonder, though. What do all those rabbits do out there (apart from the obvious)? What can they be thinking? Are they just waiting for us to move out – so that they can move in? Will the next occupants trip lightly across the threshold and throw the light switch to be greeted by a veritable sea of bunny eyes all looking up at them – in a guiltily petrified tableau – from the drawing room carpet?

Who knows?



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Photo by Jane HoltWe flatter those we scarcely know
We please the fleeting guest
And deal full many a thoughtless blow
To those who love us best.

Ella Wheeler Wilcox

I recently made reference to our most welcome guest – our visitor from Canada. As far as is possible for me to discern she and the Kickass Canada Girl are having a whale of a time seeing the sights and catching up with each other. Our dear friend has not previously visited these shores so there is much to be covered in a short space of time. Tomorrow morning the two of them are off to Paris for a few days. Lucky things!

From this you will deduce that I am staying here and working.


We have – coincidentally – also found ourselves of late playing ‘host’ to an altogether different guest. Some months ago, now, we – in common with those who live in the surrounding apartments – could not help but notice that a rather splendid Pea Hen had taken to paying us irregular visits – popping up in the vicinity of the garage block. Finally – about a month ago – she moved in more permanently, taking up residence and becoming a fixture on our lawns.

Now – I really like peacocks. There is something about the shameless splendour of the bird that just looks right in the grounds of a country house. I personally also love their plaintive and melancholy call – though I do realise that I am in a serious minority in this regard. As is often the way with… ‘other‘… animals the female of the species pales by comparison with the male – but in this case I considered our unexpected visitor to be a welcome (if somewhat messy!) addition to the estate.

The question remained – however. Whence came this unlooked for lodger that had of late adopted us?

One of our neighbours did some digging. It turns out that the Pea Hen had belonged to a lady who lived in a nearby residence. She had moved away – leaving the Pea Hen behind – and the house was in the process of being demolished for redevelopment. The Pea Hen – very sensibly – had located a new safe haven.

Sadly not all of our neighbours feel the way that I do about these magnificent birds. Apparently they object to the increased car cleaning costs that seem to have become a necessity. Moves were made to find our new friend an alternative home and on Saturday last we received this email circular:

“We are sure you will be delighted to know that the Pea Hen has┬ámoved on. She was humanely caught this morning by the people at Tri Lakes*. They need to cage her for a few weeks otherwise the home sick bird will return to us. She will be introduced to a number of other peacocks so should have a happy and contented life with lots of friends. She will be happy to receive visitors any time you are passing.”

I miss her already!


* a nearby country park!

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