Wednesday, 19 October 2016

Risso's Dolphin encounter

The first window in the weather for a while for a trip out on the Holly Jo was yesterday afternoon, but as I was on the airport run with my West Cork Photography Breaks guests, it was disappointment all round that we couldn't take up a place on the boat. So, this morning I was able to hop on board with the promise I would let my guests have an insight into what they might have experienced. Such is the way of nature and weather, these trips can't unfortunately be guaranteed but here I was now, on a beautiful calm morning, heading out into West Cork waters.

Almost as soon as we turned east out of Castlehaven, there were shouts of 'Blow!' Observers on the cabin roof could see a huge mass of diving birds which in turn showed up the presence of at least two fin whales, which had been seen in a similar area yesterday afternoon. Promising!

Along the way, we paused briefly for a minke whale but our pot of gold would be to find the fin whale, so we pressed on towards Galley Head. We could still see the the seabird mass ahead of us and as we got closer, it was clear that the speed-merchants of the sea had motored off, leaving the birds to carry on forming a smaller baitball than the dolphins do, and which is just too small to be of interest the fin whales.

As we turned south through the gulls and gannets, it gave an opportunity to observe the guillemots who were resplendent in their winter plumage 'specatcles'.

Now the search was on for the fin whales once more but at the speed they travel, they could have been half way to Cork. We turned tack again and headed west and were soon joined by the ever delightful short beaked common dolphins, happy to bow ride.

As we were enjoying their antics, a shout came from the observation platform.

"What was that?! It's either a Risso's or an orca with a fin like that!"

We all trained our eyes on the sea ahead. An orca?! Now that would be something, as on the pre-sailing introduction, Colin always points out that we won't be finding orcas.

"Risso's - it's a Risso's!"

This seldom seen deep water dolphin was right there in front of us and we all looked out for 'that' fin with a taller and straighter profile which can be mistaken for an orca.

And there it was, not a fin whale today but instead a relative rarity in West Cork cetacean terms, and one that I hadn't yet ticked off my list. I was delighted. Not least because all of this was happening right on my home patch just east of the Stag Rocks.

We watched with excitement, and the original thought that there was just a solitary Risso's dolphin got updated to...there may be more than one.
And then...

...there were two - a Risso's mother and her calf.

How amazing!!

I will just have to wait until another time to tick off the orca but today, I was truly happy to have watched these rarities swim and breach - several times in the water around us.

Time was up - we had to head back to Reen Pier and just then, Colin got a phone call through

"We are watching fin whales lunge feeding off Galley Head...!!!"

Thanks as always to Colin of Cork Whale Watch

Thursday, 6 October 2016

Bodacious The Cat Shepherd

It's not every day you get to meet celebrities but recently, I finally made my acquaintance with a fabulous feline, who is a veritable star within the Facebook and Twitter communities. With several thousand followers and his own website, Bodacious the Cat Shepherd is, well, a cat who, along with his human, oversees a flock of the wonderful rare breed Zwartbles sheep in beautiful rural Ireland.

I first got to know about Bodacious when some years ago, I linked with his human on Twitter, but that is a story for another blog post. Instantly, his character appealed. What with that 'take me seriously or else' look, this fluffy cat had a way of captivating his audience whilst giving the low-down on the daily sheepy activities. Forget the A-list celebs social media tantrums - this is a C-list celeb who has also been known to tweet a strop or two when he hasn't had his daily fresh egg.

It was a beautiful early autumn day when I visited the Kilkenny farm, and whilst I was initially greeted by some wonderful canines, I wondered when Bodacious might deign to put in an appearance for this English human. We had probably wandered the farm for around an hour and a half before his human said "There he is" pointing to a corner of the farmyard from the far side of the field we were in. Suddenly a little flutter of excitement ran through me (Yes! I know, for a cat!) As we walked over, he put on the typical 'look-at-meee' greeting...for his human, it certainly wasn't for me!

Knowing that I was keen to capture a few shots of this big little star, his human paid a quick visit to the hen house and returned with a handful of fresh eggs.

Oh yes! His eggs and didn't he make it known he wanted...

Up on his hind legs with a loud meeow - give me!

However, it wasn't yet time for his treat, as there was a photo shoot to do first. And for once he wasn't going to be the centre of attention as this photo shoot was to be for his human. I'm not sure if he appreciated me engaging with his human for this time, when really, all he wanted was his egg.

The photo shoot completed, his human invited me back to the cosy farmhouse kitchen for a welcome bowl of soup, heated up by the Aga. On one of the counter tops, and looking even more cosy was Bodacious's fellow feline Marley, snuggled into a special cat-sized Zwartbles blanket. She looked really happy and content and quietly rested whilst we enjoyed the soup and a chat.

However, we had not long finished when Bodacious hopped up onto the kitchen chair and gave me the kind of hard stare as if to say "You are distracting my human from giving me my egg"

Oh dear!!
It still wasn't time for his treat as now it was time to go and feed the Zwartbles rams in the orchard.

Here, we met Ovenmitt, the third feline resident, along with Bear, a lovely and very lively young dog. It was a case of hey guys, time for a family portrait...if you would just stay still for a moment please Bear!

Ovenmitt is quite used to having his picture taken and even has a trick...

Feed time over and we made our way back to the kitchen where Marley was still resting in her Zwartbles blanket.

Sadly, it was time for me to leave and I had had a purrfectly wonderful afternoon with Bodacious the Cat Shepherd, his human and all the wonderful animals that lived in this beautiful corner of Ireland. I was delighted to come away with lovely memories, and a bag of my favourite Worcester Permain apples picked fresh from the tree - delicious!

And finally, his patience would be rewarded. Bodacious could have his delicious egg.

My thanks to Suzanna for her hospitality and a wonderful afternoon.

Sunday, 18 September 2016

Wedding of Charlotte & Dale - Preparations

Every bride wants the perfect wedding day and when I got an out of the blue phonecall on the 3rd September, it was from a bride who was staring disappointment in the face.

"Our photographer has let us down. Can you do our wedding on 17th September?"

Two weeks later, there I was, squeezing into the home of Charlies' parents-in-law-to-be, along with a host of family members, the make-up lady, a veritable menagerie of pets, including her lovely and huge German Shepherd dog. Despite the initial impression of chaos that greeted me, everyone was amzingly relaxed, none more so than the beautiful bride. She calmly sipped her glass of prosecco through a straw as her makeup was done, and whilst the music channel TV played hits of the 80s in the corner of the room. Her response to "How are you feeling?" was:
"I can't wait!!"
Charlie was truly happy and her plan for a perfect wedding day was clearly on course.

Bridal preparations are such an important part - the weeks of planning finally coming together in the hours before the ceremony, and yet it is just the ceremony that all the guests get to see. They and indeed the groom, would probably never see what went on behind the scenes if it weren't for the photographs. So, Dale, here is a little black and white insight into what went on before your gorgeous bride walked down the aisle to marry you.

Just before 2.45 on Saturday afternoon, a pensive Miss Charlotte Bone left home with her father, soon to become Mrs Dale Hatt in a 3.30 ceremony in Braintree Town Hall.

Congratulations and may I wish you both a wonderful honeymoon on the Maldives!
There will be a full gallery of colourful pictures ready for you and your guests to view in a few weeks time.

Please feel free to leave your comments below.

Friday, 22 July 2016

Dunmow Flitch Trials 2016

Saturday 9th July 2016 once again saw the ancient Flitch Trials take place in Great Dunmow, Essex. Held every leap year, five couples or 'the claimants' (who have to have been married for a year and a day) are put to trial in an attempt to determine that they have "not wisht themselves unmarried again" during that year and a day. If successful, the couples are awarded a flitch - a whole side of bacon.

The evidence is put to a jury of 6 maidens and 6 bachelors, with counsel for both the claimants and the flitch, whilst the proceedings are overseen by the Flitch Judge. Once awarded, the couples are paraded through the town on the Flitch chair before taking the Flitch Oath whilst kneeling on the 'sharp stones'

This was the first time I had covered the Flitch Trials and I was hoping that I would be able to enjoy the whole evening, from the back of the marquee where the press were allowed, without being interrupted by the vibrating buzz of my phone in my pocket. You see, I was expecting news, and at least from the back, I would be able to slip away easily if I needed...but more of that later.
Do scroll down through the pictures to see if I did indeed make it through to the end of the evening.

The sharp stones await successful couples

The Flitch Chair carried through the town by the 'simple folk'

The 'simple folk' who carry both the Flitch and the Flitch Chair
are distinguished by their traditional country smocks.

The Flitch is paraded through the town of
Great Dunmow in Essex

The Flitch Trial court beginning the evening session

The jury of 6 maidens and 6 bachelors are sworn in

Counsel for the claimants...
...and counsel for the Flitch

In his first year as Flitch Judge, lawyer and radio presenter Dave Monk provided interludes of quips, wit,
and variable expressions.

First couple for the night were Mr Mohammed Mizan Sabur and Ms Emma Marcus who were questioned about their desire for bacon even with their (non-practising) Muslim and Jewish origins.

Once the foreman for the jury had been teased by counsel for the claimants, for his Orville impression, he was allowed to deliver the verdict...

...a majority verdict that the couple should be awarded a flitch...

...the judge became a little confused as to what sentence he was passing!

Second couple for the night were...but where was his wife?

On the counsel bench! This created a bit of a dilemma

Until retired judge, Michael Chapman stepped up into the vacant role, whilst proudly showing-off his tie covered in pigs!

Couple, Dr and Mrs Parkes (aka Caroline Bradley for the counsel) discussed how on their skiing trips, that she had twice been transported down the mountain in a body bag.


A majority verdict was reached that they too should be awarded a flitch.

Now all that remained was for the triumphant couples to be carried back through the town by the 'simple folk'

Then to swear the Flitch Oath whilst kneeling on the 'sharp stones'

So, until 2020 when more couples will put the strength of their marriage to the test, in public...