Christmas 2008                             Page 2

Local  birds and animals

This is a big grasshopper, over 2" (5 cms) long

A preying Mantis in front of the garage.  He was a little bit bigger than the grasshopper.

And a stick insect on my radiator.  
My Dad use to have some in an aquarium.  I never thought of seeing one in the wild.

This little fellow is a tree frog.  He really is bright green, 
and he really is climbing up the window.  He was about an inch long.

This is a normal frog.  But very tiny.  the photo is blurred because he was hopping
about all over the place, he didn't stay in one place long enough for the camera to focus.

We had a few butterflies.  Nice, they seem to have gone from the UK.  
I had great problems getting this photo.  He was fluttering around all over the place,
as soon as I went near he flew off, and when he did stop a moment he closed his wings, 
only opening them momentarily.

I don't know what this caterpillar is going to grow into. He's big though.

Here was something I'd never seen before.  An otter.
You can't see much of him but he is causing the ripple towards the front left. 
Just his nose is out of the water.

I was on a bridge for the above photo, just the other side of the bridge, very early one morning, 
I saw all these birds.

I saw a similar group of birds when I was travelling in Mexico.  
This one below, was hanging around our group of houses for 10 days or so, on his own.  
We surmised he had been injured since he could only make short flying hops, 20 yards or so. 
But what a handsome bird!  A little less than 18" (50 cm) in length.

I found out he was a cattle egret.  I asked my Auntie Lucy, who knows about these things. 
At 84 she had only recently got her first computer but is doing brilliantly.  
It seems this year is the first year cattle egrets have been seen in the UK, so they are not in any of my books.  

I found where our lone visitor was based, on an island on a small lake about half a mile from
here, with the gang shown below..  

This particular island was the scene of  one of the  strangest flight effects 
I have ever experienced when ballooning.  Early one morning I drifted towards
the island flying very low, only a few feet over the water and flying in 
about the same direction as the photo. I passed the island to the right 
and as I reached he end I turned left.  I climbed a little until the basket 
was maybe half the height of the trees.  I continued turning left and 
finished up flying right around the island, crossed my original track and exited the lake
to the right at about right angles to my approach, having completed a 450 degree circuit.

They don't take a lot of notice if you drive past, or even if you stop.  
But if you open the car door they're off.

It's fascination watching them coming in to roost. 
They come in, in groups of 10, 20, or 30, swooping down, sometimes
stopping on the side of the lake for an evening drink.  Just like people.
Talking to neighbours, it seems that this year is the first year they have been 
around here.  Maybe with global warming they are able to move further north?
 Below they are lined up beside another small lake a few hundred metres from my house.

Generally there are very few overhead wires round about, although we still have 
some just here.  Below you see house martins, just in front of my house, making use of a 4 lane parking.

These are just behind my house - you can just see the corner of my 
garage in the photo - I temporarily forget their name, they are not pigeons, but similar.

There are huge flocks of birds that appear from time to time, some. sparrow size,
I don't know what they are.  Below you see a flock of pigeons, just a few days ago.

Now we reach domestic animals.  Here's Pica, in front of my balloon weather vane.

Here's Smokey.  Abandoned, he's been adopted by some English neighbours.  
How could anyone abandon such handsome person loving cat? 
He's currently boarding here as his people are in the UK at the moment.  
He can be a bit of  pain though.  Since 'the operation' he started putting 
on a bit of weight so I've put him on a diet.  
(The photo was taken a while ago, when he was slim)
So whenever he's not cuddling up and dribbling all over me with love 
he's trying to steal food wherever he can.  
He's about the most unaggressive cat I've seen but Pica hates him, 
hissing whenever he goes near.  Might be something to do with the fact that 
Pica is a little tiny lady cat and Smokey is twice her size!

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