Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Popularity by visits

Two years ago I listed the three most popular blog-posts during that year. I have decided to do the same again for the last twelve months but instead of three this year just the single most popular. This is because the most popular piece by far was the downing of MH17 which took more hits than any other blog-post I have written and almost four times as many as the next most popular piece.

Russian Satellite Evidence

It is strange that the United States, which clearly has satellite images has not released its information even now. Perhaps, as with the weapons of mass destruction evidence for justifying the Iraq war, they are still manufacturing it.

My most popular article for News Junkie Post also concerned Ukraine. I suspect the popularity of Ukrainian news items has more to do with the fact that our media has just not been reporting the true state of affairs.

Ukraine and Crimea's Vanishing Gold

Finally, I have started a new blog about bird stories called 'Tales of Wings and Feathers', which contains my Christmas story of Malinovka.

Tales of Wings and Feathers

Here is wishing everybody peace for 2015.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

The Duchess's tale (with her kind permission)

I've worked with Duchess many times. One of my best models. She has graced the cover of "Magret de Canard de la Table Ronde" and posed a provocative centre spread for "Duck Times". I have high hopes of this latest photo of mine hitting it big somewhere, perhaps even  - I should be so lucky - "Crème de la crème of Water Fowl". When you get a good model you treat her well. Models are your bread and butter. Just look at how she presents and those beautiful brown eyes with eyelashes some chicks would die for. No wonder all the drakes are after her.

You treat a model well and she in turn will confide in you, tell you all her problems and secrets. If professional photographers did not have to adhere to a strict code of conduct some of the stories entering mainstream would really raise eyebrows, even hackles in some cases. "The last couple of days have been Hell, John," Duchess told me, "absolute Hell. I know you males stick together. But I hope you would never associate with the likes of some of those dirty-dancing drakes. Him in particular." She nodded towards a well-groomed specimen on the mill race who I thought looked quite a respectable sort. She called him Shylock. He was following her some short distance away.
From the photo, which I've entitled "study in green", you can see for yourself he's quite a dapper sort of chap; presentable, smooth and even sporting what we used to call a DA hairstyle. From behind he has very much the rearview image of John Travolta in "Grease". Anyway it was clear he fancied the Duchess. But then who doesn't? "He looks pretty decent to me," I said. "you should call him Travolta."

"Decent," she snapped back sharply, "decent. Look at these." She spread out some photographs on the bank. "It was Shylock who started this fight yesterday at the bridge. He went straight for the jugular of that young swimmer and just because the poor thing looked at me. All the young drakes look at me, and that's all he was doing, looking."
©  Duchess Studio
I could see she was right but to tell the truth I was rather more concerned about the quality of her photo. When your models start taking photos almost as good as your own it makes you think seriously about your future. When I get these negative thoughts I tend to console myself in the comforting knowledge that it is impossible to take professional-grade photos of yourself. My distraction was soon interrupted when the Duchess continued with her tale. "The fight moved round from the bridge onto the edge of Trittiford millpond." Her photo showed that Shylock was now attacking the young pretender from the other side.
 ©  Duchess Studio
"And then his mate joined in." Shylock was going for that pound of flesh nearest the heart. Her photos confirmed her account. He was attacking the young drakeling without mercy. You can see he's only a kid. The poor thing has not yet even developed his full magret plumage. Duchess felt sorry for the juvenile. "To begin with," she said, "I thought Shylock's mate, Antonio, was just as bad as he was until I could get a better angle with my built-in camera. Then I was able to see that he was actually trying to pull Shylock off."
 ©  Duchess Studio
Duchess told me she thought the fight was getting a bit out of hand. "Pack it in boys" she shouted at them "and grow up." As long as I've known her she has never stood for any nonsense and instructed the three of them to take take a dip and cool off. As we went along the mill-race, which is always a good place for a photo-shoot, she in the water, me on the bank, Duchess slipped me another photo. This one was stunning, so stunning. I thought it better even than my 'study in green', the first, and probably last one I will ever take of him. It crossed my mind that Duchess ought to open a studio. Perhaps I might invest in it.
 ©  Duchess Studio
Shylock has a certain something. Not money perhaps. But the cut of his cloth speaks volumes. I had to speak the truth. "What a photo, Duchess. You've captured everything. He's a very impressive drake indeed." I awaited her acknowledgment of my compliment. Instead she lifted those big brown eyes of hers. "John, John, what is it with you males?" Mentally I was not prepared for this. "Just a great photo, that's all. I used to work with male models and I never captured anything quite this good." I thought that would settle her down. "You're missing something." My mind worked overtime to try and deduce what I was missing. I looked at her imploringly. "Can't you see the feathers," she said, "those feathers Antonio nearly plucked out of his wings." Although a bit embarrassed that I had missed this important detail, it was still a good photo in my book. I took a few snaps of Duchess then we turned round and started home.
My problem was I had been looking at it from a photographer's point of view. She was looking at it from a model's point of view. Everything has to be in place for a model, every feather, every eyelash, every toe-nail. I thought of Helen doing her nails in the middle of a shoot. As we trundled along I had failed to notice just how close Shylock had got to her. Duchess had though. "Watch him, he's just behind and he's got a bit of a reputation." I dropped back. Would you believe it?
He picked his spot. He probably thought because of the grass I could not get a half-decent shot of his indecent exposure. And I have to admit this is not the best of photos. Naturally my snapshot of him proves nothing. Photography is such a demanding profession. Yes, I know, being a model is demanding too Duchess. After this encounter I am thinking seriously of not working with male models again. Shylock, if he is not in the duck pen, is unlikely to get work after this. Anyway I need not have worried about evidence against him. Duchess gave plenty of proof of the incident. And from the actual angle it happened. She's so cool.
 ©  Duchess Studio
She was probably as taken aback as me and I think her photo is ever so slightly out of focus. Having said that nobody can discount it is clearly Shylock exhibiting himself. It would stand up in any court of law. So, I thought to myself, you have exposed yourself for what you are. You were after a pound of flesh nearest to the heart earlier, then Antonio, the merchant of Venice, plucked at some of your quills. Now you will be appearing before the beak. And the evidence goes strongly against you.

Unfortunately, just when I started to think a case was cut and dried . . . "Why Duchess? You had all the evidence."

"I don't care" she said.
She went straight for his bits. I think I even heard the crunch. It made me grimace myself. So now there are two cases coming before the beak. Shylock's indecent exposure, and the rather more serious matter of assault and wounding with intent.
Justice Archibald Drake, QC
Knowing Drake they will probably both get tagged. I've seen quite a few birds with these electronic gadgets round their ankles. Not to worry. All's well that ends well and I met Duchess yesterday. We have agreed to go into business together. We're opening a photographic studio: Duchess Studio. Guess what though. Even better for her. She's only gone and got herself engaged to Antonio.

Thursday, November 27, 2014


The war on Islam has reached new depths or heights, depending on viewpoint. On the back of the recent "Go Home" failure of the Home Office the Association of Chief Police Officers has approved and is distributing leaflets in a new campaign to frighten the living daylights out of the poor populace of our capital and anyone in the country or from abroad that visits London. The leaflets look like this:

They are apparently, if you can believe it, being handed out at tube and railway stations in London. Even more unbelievable is they have not got the stamp of a private company but are the work of the Association of Chief Police Officers. Can you belive this?

My first thought was for the unarmed Jean Charles de Menenez who was gunned down mercilessly by Special Branch officers on a London tube station. Nobody has been charged with his murder.

If there was any gunfire or weapons' attack on a station in London that I was on I would be looking for flak-jacketed armed police officers with the latest most-sophisticated government-issue weapons. This is a country where gun-law has never been a major problem. The leaflet is nonsense. It is akin to the "walls have ears" and the "enemy within" mentality of the Second World War, both about threats that did not exist. The only terror threat on British soil today is likely to come from our own security services. This is the world we live in.

That is not to say an event which nobody could predict will not happen. Such scaremongering on the back of the announcement of more funding for the secret services is what worries me more than anything. It's like saying make sure you know what to do in the event of an earthquake, drone attack or tornado.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Her first naked outdoor photo-shoot - and it was cold and wet

Good models do not come cheap. You have to work fast with the camera but then you have to get beguiling images too. Chicks new to modelling work out a bit cheaper but then you have to spend more time posing them. Today's model, to begin with, was particularly shy.

She told me it was her first outdoor photo-shoot in the raw. "That's all right, Chick. Don't worry, you'll be fine." It was cold and wet which didn't help. "And don't think I'm doing any full frontals." She really was a novice. "All right, come out from behind those ferns or the session will be over before we start." Remember I was paying for this. "What's more I'll be using my fans" she said.
Agreeing to a rear view to begin with she timidly emerged. To break the ice I asked her her name. She had a bit of a speech impediment and I didn't quite catch it but I think she said "Helen" or something like that. Anyway, that's what I called her all through the session. "Don't be shy, Helen, you have striking good looks, and the shoot will go fine."
"You think so?"

Those fans of hers were something to behold. But she was all crunched up and I think the cold was getting to her. "Now, my dear, would you mind stretching out that lovely long neck of yours." Tentatively she straightened out her neck and stopped waving her fans about. I thought it was an improvement.
But the coyness, unless it was an act, gave her all the appearance of a novice. "All right Helen, now can we have a shot from the other side? Thanks. Think of the cinema stars." That always gets a new model if you ask me. They all have this ambition of being Hollywood actresses.

Turning round she complained of the cold. It was cold. But she wasn't the one who had to keep the camera steady. "We can take a break in a minute," I said, "just straighten up a shade and give me a smile. There's a girl."

Smiling seemed to be beyond Helen, but I guess she was trying, and most beginners are not particularly blessed with an over-abundant supply of patience.  However Helen, for someone so lean, long-necked and long-legged had an over-abundant supply of curves.

"Hold that pose for a minute, Helen, please." She was getting there. We knocked off for a break. I changed my camera card, while Helen popped something into her mouth. I hoped she wasn't on drugs. When I got back you won't believe what she was doing. Only manicuring her toe-nails.
"All right, Helen, since you've taken the trouble, let's get a shot of you kicking out your lovely long legs like in the Can-Can." "Wait a minute," she said, "my nails are not dry yet." These models don't care that it's costing you all the time they're pampering themselves. In fairness though she was starting to look more like a professional.
When she did eventually kick out a leg for me it gave the appearance of a young Nazi stormtrooper, but I didn't say anything. Getting the best out of a model is demanding work. "Can we try a few close-ups now Helen please. I'm looking for facial expression as well as poise.
It was her idea to use a cane to go with her top-hat. I thought it worked quite well. And she was no longer looking the gawky teenager I first encountered. "Great, Helen, great. Let's do another intimate shot."
Almost instinctively she gave me this classic pose. I suddenly realised the session was going well. "Super, chick, super." She had some rare talent for seductive posing, just opening her fans slightly for a glimpse of what was to come. "Any chance of doing something more flamboyant with those fans you brought with you, Helen?"
She gave me a look well beyond her years. Getting her fans out she presented the camera with an exotic, almost erotic, display of wonderful modelling talent. "Oh, yes, Helen, more of that please."
Although she had said at the beginning of the shoot there would be no full-frontal photos she did at least give me this. I was drooling.

"Absolutely gorgeous, Helen, absolutely gorgeous. Now can you just turn your head slightly to the left." Photographers are always looking for that prize-winning shot that brings home the dosh. "Sorry, John, your time's up." I looked at my watch. She was right. Just as things were starting to hot up. Life's like that. She turned around. "Just one more please" I begged.

"Sorry, John, I have another shoot this afternoon. And this one's not so exposed as this Garden of Eden as you called it to tempt me out into this freezing wasteland." I pleaded. "Wait, Helen, wait." She threw both her fans right up above her head totally exposing herself. "Helen, wait please."

"Sorry, John." I started getting my wallet out but before I could stop her she was on her way. "Helen," I shouted at the top of my voice. She looked back and called out: "It's not Helen, it's Heron, you twonk!" Perhaps this was not her first naked outdoor shoot, I thought.

Monday, October 27, 2014

The shag that was not a shag

Two days ago I was so pleased that I had discovered a shag and cormorant together. Today I have to revise that opinion. They were both cormorants - the one I thought was a shag was simply a young cormorant. As Alexander Pope put it "to err is human, to forgive divine." Forgive me, it was not a deliberate attempt to mislead. The photograph below clinches it. I sought further evidence afterwards and found it.

 Having got a closer view of the young cormorant I am now convinced that the two birds are the same type and this youngster is starting to get the white bib of an adult. Publishing before doing further research is almost as bad a mistake as my trusting Poroshenko to bring peace to Ukraine. Let me hope there are not too many more of these human peccadillos to come. But I have reached that age where I can blame every one of my human frailties on having reached that age.

It is a wonder there are any fish left in the lake. Just beyond the young cormorant was an old heron. It's reflection can be seen in this photo.

In mitigation for my identification mistake I have to say that the two small bird books I have are not very helpful. "The shag differs from the cormorant in its smaller size and the lack of a white chin and thighs" and "lacks white patches of Cormorant but has yellow gape." It was only when I came across this in-depth article that my suspicion from today's photos was confirmed.

As well as the heron and cormorant there was also this fellow, the great crested grebe, taking his fill.

The scavenging gulls will take some smaller fish as will the kingfishers. In the end though there's not much left for this fellow when the birds have raided the larder.


Saturday, October 25, 2014

Shag in a tree

(This article contains multiple errors. This one contradicts them.)

Our seas are overfished. There was a time when the trawlers threw something back if it was not the main quarry. With modern fishing, which is much more scientific, they take the lot, and everything is separated on factory ships. Nothing goes to waste. It may not be the only reason but sea-birds like herring-gulls, black-backed gulls, black-headed gulls and even common terns have become residents of, or frequent visitors to, Birmingham lakes. Occasionally, when it is rough at sea, cormorants come too.

Cormorant on lake (Birmingham, John Goss 24/10/2014)

It is doubtful many people can tell the diference between a cormorant and a shag. These seabirds and able fishermen are almost look-alike members of the pelican family. In the bird kingdom both are monarchs with their regal dark-coloured cloaks. They are fliers and swimmers of similar shape and size. What is unusual about the next photograph is that it shows both a cormorant (on top) and a shag (underneath) in the same tree in Birmingham. Cormorants and shags are most usually found on craggy coastal rocks and normally do their fishing in the sea.

Cormorant (top) and shag (below) in same tree (Birmingham, John Goss 22/10/2014)

In spring it is much easier to tell the difference. The shag sports a crest and the cormorant has a patch of white on its thigh, which is lost following the mating season. After that the most evident distinguishing feature is a white area on the cormorant's face below the beak as can be seen in the first photograph. A shag does not have that patch of white. Here is a photograph of the Birmingham shag on the wing.

Shag in flight (Birmingham, John Goss 22/10/2014)

Another distinguishing feature can be found with the shag only having twelve tail feathers whereas the cormorant has fourteen. After fishing both birds dry their wings in the wind in a display which is eye-catching and heraldic, as one bird-book describes it. Here is the cormorant doing just that. You can clearly count the fourteen tail feathers.

Cormorant drying itself in the breeze (Birmingham, John Goss 23/10/2014)

In observing the cormorant it was noticeable that it sat low in the water and dived from that position with an arch of the back. It stayed under for about half a minute and made some fifteen dives (if I saw them all) before catching anything and flying back to its perch. The shag on the other hand was not as long away from its perch and flew beyond the range of my camera. It may be that the shag is a better fisherman. Here it is in the drying off display.

Shag drying itself in the breeze (Birmingham, John Goss 22/10/2014)

Cormorants are heavy birds which, as mentioned, sit low in the water. Getting airborne is quite an effort. For this cormorant it took three bounces on the water before lift-off and it looked like the bomb designed by Barnes Wallis in the Dambusters film.

 Cormorant 'bouncing back to happiness' (Birmingham, John Goss 23/10/2014) 

Learning about these two incredible and impressive dark angels of the sea has been an experience for this ancient mariner. The luck of having both birds to hand at the same time on a lake rather than the crags by a choppy sea has been a pleasure and I hope this short blog-piece has added something, however small, to the canon of knowledge. A bird in the hand is worth two in the tree, or something.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Gossip: Birdwatching - grey wagtail or origami owl?

Gossip: Birdwatching - grey wagtail or origami owl?: My eyes are not as good as they used to be and this morning in wind that was not as strong as in some parts of the country, I spotted what a...

Birdwatching - grey wagtail or origami owl?

My eyes are not as good as they used to be and this morning in wind that was not as strong as in some parts of the country, I spotted what appeared to be a grey wagtail with its tail wagging on a rock. There are lots of these beautiful birds along the River Cole. The photograph below is enlarged through the camera lens from what I could actually see.

In fact one afternoon in summer I sat on the bank for half an hour snapping lots of photographs of them. For those unfamiliar with what a grey wagtail looks like here is one of the photographs I took that day.

Most birds are shy and you have to be very quiet and careful not to disturb them. So I crept quietly round to the other side of the rock where I took this photograph. Although the bird appeared to be moving I wondered why it never flew away because I was making too much noise. By the time I was close enough to see it was paper that was causing the illusion I was rather disappointed that I had been duped. Looking more closely I noticed that the paper caught on the rock had arranged itself into the shape of an owl and the wind had caused the illusion of movement. Can you see the origami owl?

Despite that disappointment I did go on to capture a few birds before it was time to take the dogs home. The dogs get bored when I take photographs. Anyway I captured a chaffinch, a goldfinch, a dunnock and blackbird.Birmingham is teeming with wildlife.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Breaking News! Moazzam Begg - charges dropped

Great news just in. Charges against Moazzam Begg have been dropped due to lack of evidence. Some of us have strongly suspected this was a fabrication from the start. It is why I have been carrying the ‪#‎ReleaseMoazzam‬ link and photo for the last eight months as my Facebook tag picture. Now all those who knew it was a put up job have been vindicated but that does not justify holding anybody prisoner under the unjust anti-terrorism laws enacted this century.

Moazzam (centre figure) at the disturbing Guantanamo Boy film showing earlier this year. Photo Robert Brenchley.

Asim Qureshi, Research Director of CAGE, said:

"This has been a testing time for Moazzam, his family and the Muslim community. The criminalisation of virtually any Muslim that has been to Syria has only increased in intensity, while CAGE has been attacked from every angle by a host of government agencies. We hope that Moazzam's release is a sign that the government are now willing to adopt a more measured strategy in relation to anti-terrorism policy and avoid the attempt to criminalise all dissent and crush any organisation like CAGE that stands up for the rule of law and justice."

"CAGE and Moazzam have been maligned , defamed and vilified by far too many and we hope that now our calls for the protection of basic rights and innovative approaches built on dialogue to dispute resolution will now be heeded. Violence and the destruction of freedoms and liberties inherent in the War on Terror doctrine can never be the solution."

"We thank everyone for their support of Moazzam, his family and the CAGE movement."

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Is the United States trying to wipe out the black populations of Africa?

This is a serious question. One respected Liberian doctor and professor of plant pathology, Dr Cyril Broderick, believes his country may be testing out strains of Ebola and Aids viruses on native Africans. Why would be difficult to understand were it not for a flagging economy at home which is only kept afloat because of petrodollar debtor states. It is impossible for America to eradicate its own debt. This is the real reason for the wars in Iraq and Libya. The article just linked explains why. It is the best summary I have read this year.

Published in a Liberian newspaper, the Daily Observer, Professor Broderick speculates that the US Department of Defence (DOD) is behind an experiment which, if true, would have far-reaching consequences for the African continent, and civilisation in general. At the 2013 Bilderberg Group meeting held at the Grove Hotel in Watford one of the items on the agenda was 'Africa's Challenges' which was significant in being devoid of any academic or political figure from Africa. The secretive Bilderberg Group consists of powerful people like Henry Kissinger, heads of states and high-ranking politicians many of whom also belong to the Committee of 300. These people are self-appointed would-be administrators of world policy.

Some of the crowd at the 2013 Bilderberg Fringe opposed to world domination by an unelected elite

There is no doubt that with all its wars the United States has its eyes fixed firmly on world domination to protect the petrodollar. Its disregard for international law and the imposition of its own ever stricter domestic laws against US citizens is a reflection of the current crisis. Would the United States resort to deliberately infesting Africans with man-made killer viruses? The answer is yes, if they can get away with it. They have got away with similar things before, nearly always perpetrated against blacks or Asians. The classic example though was the virtual elimination and subjugation of native Americans. Descendants of those who survived are still treated often as second-class citizens in the ancestral land of their birth.

In the 1960s with the demise of the British Empire the UK came to an agreement with Mauritius to grant it independence but had a clause written in to retain the Chagos Islands - Diego Garcia, Peros Banhos and Salomen - just to have a bit of "rock" in the area. But the plan was much more than that. All the islanders were removed on the instruction of the United States, all the dogs were gassed and in true conspiratorial fashion the US and UK had a leasing agreement to build a naval and military base upon the bit of "rock". Chagossians were deliberately displaced without work or homes so that the United States could tell Congress that the islands were uninhabited. Diego Garcia is one of the places where Muslims were extraordinarily rendered (and probably tortured) prior to 9/11 and afterwards. It was also an island in the vicinity where the Malaysian airliner disappeared mysteriously and towards which it appeared to be heading.

Would the US experiment on unwitting Africans? In May 1997 Bill Clinton apologised to the eight Tuskegee survivors of  a syphilis experiment which lasted for forty years and began in 1932. Alabama victims were given syphilis and deliberately left untreated to see how the disease progressed. Those experimented on were Americans of African descent, in other words black Americans. As if that was not bad enough it was not the only syphilis experiment on non-white Americans. From 1946 to 1948 seven hundred Guatemalans were infected by the US with syphilis to monitor what effect penicillin had on the disease. In October 2010 Hilary Clinton apologised to the Guatemalan government for this experiment.

Apologies that take place 50, 60 or 70 years after the experiments that caused so much physical and mental pain for the sufferers and those who nursed them are of no consolation to blacks who died horrific deaths due to Dr Josef Mengele type experiments perpetrated by the United States. As one of the most powerful of countries it has become a neo-nazi proponent of the twenty-first century eugenics for its elite and a widespread abuser of its poor. It is racist-religionist government comprising white supremacists. The United Kingdom follows very closely behind.

What about the United Nations? The United Nations (UN) was set up after the Second World War to replace an emasculated League of Nations which could not deal with Japan's intrusion into Manchuria, Mussolini's adventures into Ethiopia and the rise of National Socialism and racism against Jews, Communists, Romany gypsies and other minorities in Germany. Today the UN, which should be stopping the illegal war against ISIS in Syria and Iraq is as powerless as the old League of Nations. It is even worse than that because the UN has become part of the problem. Today it is no more than a servant of US foreign policy. Take the case of cholera in Haiti.

As Dr Dady Chery writes: "The introduction of the cholera into Haiti could not have been more efficient if it had been deliberate." Haiti had never experienced cholera until more than 1,200 UN troops who had formerly been in the middle of a cholera epidemic in Nepal, were stationed there. 5 days later, in the summer of 2010, cholera was seen for the first time in Haiti. 7,000 people died in the epidemic and despite promises to withdraw troops the UN renews contracts to keep a presence in Haiti to protect its puppet, Michel Martelly, and keep him in power. Martelly came to power in an undemocratic election which excluded the main party, Fanmi Lavalas (the former party of Aristide).

I think Dr Broderick has hit the nail on the head.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Close Guantanamo now

As the US/UK/NATO embark on another illegal war against ISIS the torture camp at Guantanamo Bay is still operating and still torturing Muslims who have had no trial. Emad Hassan has been held there since 2002. I have just received a letter in which he describes how his brother Abu was dragged from his cell by the FCE (Forcible Cell Extraction) team. What they did to him is diabolical. They broke one wrist and the other was badly swollen, applied strangulation techniques, kneed him in the back and left him in his cell unable to move his finger, hand or leg. “Every nerve, every vein, every muscle seems to be screaming with me” said Abu. Emad could not sleep. He has been held without trial and was told, seven years ago, along with Shaker Aamer that he had done no wrong. So why are these people being held in captivity by the torturing USA?

Reprieve http://www.reprieve.org/ desperately needs funds to take action against officers from the FCE team who did this dreadful deed. Force-feeding is still going on and people held in Guantanamo are worried that the world will forget about them. Please donate at the above link. Thanks.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Think positive Scotland

With 24 hours before polling stations open to accommodate voters in Thursday's referendum it will be a relief when the result is known, whichever way it goes. After much deliberation I came to the conclusion that Scotland and England could benefit from Scottish independence. Some of my thoughts are given here.

Whatever the outcome I wish Scotland well. In England we have three parties that can hardly be separated in policy. They all support a No result and have united to offer Scotland new measures of  independence should voters put their faith in Westminster to serve its interests. This is something it has singularly failed to do since 1707. But now it looks serious. Scotland, like New Zealand, Australia, Canada, India and South Africa could find itself in self-governance on Friday, though the transition will take some months.

If the Yes vote is carried it sets the bar for England. Scotland does not have to respond in sending young men to die in NATO wars. On education and health it is already streets ahead. Think positive Scotland.

Yes! Yes! Yes!

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Birmingham birds

About a month ago I bought a camera which allows me to take photographs of some of the local birdlife. The very small ones are really difficult to capture and ideally I need a more powerful telephoto lens. This morning a young robin remained close enough for me to take a few snaps. A beautiful songster (member of the thrush family) it is the most common English bird.

Yesterday I got quite close to a carrion crow with white primary and secondary wing feathers. What creates this pigmentation change is a gene mutation called leucism. One of the reasons I saved up for the camera was to try and get some pictures of a white magpie of which I had taken photos with my phone but no close-ups. Alas I have not seen this bird for three or four months, and it looks like it may no longer be around.

My first capture, of which I am quite proud, was of a buzzard. Buzzards are commonplace in Wales. Unusually they appear to be moving inland and my information is that there are six known breeding pairs in Birmingham.

Mute swans are easy to capture on camera. Graceful and slow-moving they are also very powerful birds.

But it is the offspring, the cygnet or 'ugly duckling' as Hans Christian Andersen called it, that has caused most comment. The photo below picks out the veins in its webbed foot as the sunlight shines through.

From another angle a circular nodule can be seen at the base of its foot. It made me question whether that is where the term signet ring is derived. After all it appears to be wearing it at the base of its middle claw and it is chunky too! Or is this just a coincidence.

Finally here is a heron. It can regularly be found at the same spot at the same time of day. It is encouraging to know that our rivers are recovering as the heron and kingfisher populations increase in Birmingham.