“Aaaaand… hold that pose. Beautiful!”
While I was busily looking at blossom and daffodils on yesterday’s riverside walk, I was quite astonished to turn a corner on the towpath and encounter this heron. I’ve posted about herons before – but I’ve never managed to get so close to one in all my years of exploring the area. It really didn’t seem at all bothered by the many Sunday strollers milling around, and it let me get within a few feet of it to snatch these shots as it happily posed. Having consulted the bird guide on the RSPB website, I suspect this may be a juvenile bird, which might account for it showing off for us humans! A supermodel in the making, perhaps?
Watch out Kate Moss – there’s a new kid in town…
The common cormorant or shag
Lays eggs inside a paper bag
The reason you will see no doubt
It is to keep the lightning out
But what these unobservant birds
Have never noticed is that herds
Of wandering bears may come with buns
And steal the bags to hold the crumbs.
Yes, this silly little ditty (one of the first poems I learned by heart as a child) is apparently* by the very same Christopher Isherwood who wrote Mr Norris Changes Trains (1935) and Goodbye To Berlin (1938) – the novels that were later adapted into the play I Am A Camera (1951) and the 1966 stage musical and cult 1972 film Cabaret. I was irresistably reminded of Isherwood’s nonsense poem when I encountered this beautiful cormorant stretching out his wings in the July sunshine as I walked by the Thames in Richmond last week. Incidentally, you might like to know that cormorants and shags (no sniggering at the back there!) are, although of the same avian family, two totally different types of bird – and there were no bears (with or without buns) to be seen anywhere, rather disappointingly…
*There is some debate over whether the poem is actually by Isherwood at all, but it is certainly widely attributed to him on most poetry websites and in pre-internet poetry collections (of the physical book kind) dating back over a number of decades that I have either personally seen or own.
Well, more like a coot actually. And this one, believe it or not, is actually building a nest on this floating platform. Most birds are pretty secretive about where they nest, tucking themselves away in trees (like the parakeet nest I recently spotted, cunningly hidden in a hole half way up a tree trunk), hedges or undergrowth to prevent predators from getting at them and their precious offspring – but coots are a bit more blatant about their nest building.
Highly aggressive and very territorial, particularly during the breeding season, coots are, as you can see, pretty in your face about nesting, despite the fact that they often lose a high percentage of their young to gulls and herons because they make so little effort to disguise their nest sites. Being omnivores, they will even eat the eggs of other water birds, and are also known to viciously bully their own young, all of which – despite their small size and attractive appearance – makes them a bird not to be crossed under any circumstances, quite frankly!
Fortunately, this one didn’t spot me as I photographed it – I dread to think what would have happened if it had…
Duck and cover, methinks!
“You can learn more about the human condition in a voyage along the Thames than on any long journey over the oceans of the world” – Peter Ackroyd¹
Whether you’re a Londoner by birth or by inclination (or even not at all), there is no denying that there is something special about the River Thames; something powerful that describes and defines this city (and beyond) in a way that nothing else can.
I was born in a west London suburb not far from the river, and grew into adulthood at various locations along the winding path of the Thames; all of which probably goes a long way towards explaining my continuing fascination with it.
The Thames inspires. Like so many before me, I’m creatively inspired by its sheer size and power and beauty – and by its profoundly ancient presence, a presence that almost borders on a sentience. It comes as no surprise, then, to hear that there have been countless myths, legends and ghost stories associated with the Thames since time immemorial. The river is a place of mystery and natural power.
Things have been very quiet on the blogging front for the last couple of months – and quiet is something you wouldn’t normally ever be able to accuse me of… ;)
Real life has unfortunately and rather annoyingly got in the way of my attempts to write as much as possible recently, but I hope to remedy that in the very near future with some lovely shiny new blog posts for your reading pleasure – especially as this month marks Another Kind Of Mind’s first birthday on WordPress!
To celebrate this momentous occasion, I’m on the look out for some brand new guest posts. Having enjoyed last month’s excellent guest post on Brazilian football by Martin from Marshall Law, I wanted to see what else my readers could write about… Got an idea for an interesting post? Pitch it to me in a comment right here or on the Facebook page!
In the meantime, I’m really looking forward to writing the upcoming post on bad movies, it has been so much fun reading everyone’s wonderfully opinionated comments and responses – a big thank you to everyone who has contributed to the discussion so far!