#2minutebeachclean

Check out #2minutebeachclean and #2MINUTELITTERPICK on Twitter. The premise is quite simple. Whenever you are out, take two minutes to pick up some litter. The aim is not to scour the area clean (although that would be good) but to pick up a few bits of litter to make a small difference. And let people know about it so that they can consider doing it too.

I first heard of the concept on the BBC Springwatch programme and it seemed quite straight forward. I started taking a small bin liner with me on my walks in Gower with Rufus. I’d wait until we were on our way back and pick up litter. I concentrate on recyclables as these tend to be the things that will last the longest in the landscape. I also make a point of picking up anything that might cause injury, such as broken glass, sharp edged metal and anything that wildlife could get tangled in.

Be sensible. I tend to leave anything that could be contaminated, such as tissues or any container with liquid in it. If I was doing a proper litter pick with all the right kit it would be different, but this is just helping out. Only pick up what you’re comfortable doing. Every little bit you remove makes a difference. We only have one planet, lets help keep it tidy.

Today, Rufus and I went down to Whiteford for a paddle. I made a point of taking a larger bin bag with me as I wanted to pick up a load of litter on the way back. A 30minutebeachclean. On the walk to the beach we were watched carefully by a small robin who was happy for both of us to walk close by and even posed for the camera. On the beach, I let Rufus off the lead and he went off in search of aromatic things to roll in while I snapped away at the Oystercatchers on the water’s edge.

As we walked along, the tide was coming in and the Oystercatchers were getting closer. Rufus is inquisitive and I knew he’s be off to see what they were up to. I pointed the camera at the birds and waited. Sure enough, as soon as he got close, they rose as one and I got some fine photos of Oystercatchers on the wing. We left them alone and headed inland to a point where the tide was closest to the dunes. Here I threw stones and sticks for Rufus to chase into the sea, not that he needed an excuse to paddle. I love watching him bounce around and splash in the water and although he’s not as quick as he used to be, he makes up for it by enthusiastically barking to encourage me to throw more sticks.

It was time to turn around and now was when I got my bin bag out and started to pick up other people’s litter. Very quickly, it was clear that I couldn’t manage to collect everything so I decided to prioritise plastic and my personal objects of hatred – plastic fishing line and net. Soon I had a bag full, including two beer bottles and a broken plastic spade. Unfortunately, the sharp edged plastic tore the bag and before I knew it, the bin bag had shredded. I had a dilemma. I was about 30 minutes from the car and there was no way I could carry all the rubbish back with me.

I don’t claim to be practically clever but I today had a moment of insight. Most of the rubbish was plastic fishing line and with a little re-arranging and with the aid of two of Rufus’ poo bags, I managed to truss up most of the rubbish into a package I could carry. Unfortunately, I had to leave the two beer bottles but they weren’t broken so it wasn’t a disaster. For the next half hour, I carefully carried the bundle of rubbish through the dunes and along the tree lined pathway to the car park, where there was a convenient bin to deposit it all in.

Neither of us were ready to go home so we took a little detour to Broadpool on the way back. I think the heron has taken a dislike to my blue car. When I used to park the red one next to the pool, it would hang about but as soon as it sees the blue one it’s off. We don’t chase the heron as it’s nervous enough. Instead, I watched swallows diving for insects, the Canada Geese taking a nap and the turtles still basking in the sun. I tried to get photos of the dragonflies but they were too quick for the camera to focus on.

Back home, a shower was on the cards for the one of us that was covered in salt and sand.

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Sharing the scone

It just isn’t done. A scone is a beautiful thing, particularly when smothered in butter and/or (don’t judge the calories) thick cream. It’s not for sharing, after all there are other scones. So imagine my unease when, having sat down in the sunshine to eat my scone and drink my coffee, I was approached by two Chaffinches who wanted me to share my scone with them.

“They won’t sell us a scone of our own,” they protested. I fell for it. For 20 minutes, I shared bits of scone with two hungry and grateful chaffinches.

I set off early this morning for Dryslwyn Castle and the plan was to climb to the ruins and then head off to the National Botanic Gardens nearby. Weighed down by a full bag of camera and lenses, I set off from the car park, pausing only to chat to a bird watcher returning to his car. “The Whooper Swans haven’t arrived yet,” he said in answer to met enquiry about whether he’d seen anything interesting. “I’ll try further up the river, but I think they may be late this year.” We parted with a comment about the weather, and I started the short but steep climb to the old castle.

At the top, I could see the rain coming in from the west and a rainbow showed where the rain was already falling. I didn’t linger; taking photos of the castle still bathed in sunlight with my normal camera and the one converted to shoot infra red. In the distance, Paxton’s Tower was also picked out by the sun. This was built shortly after Admiral Nelson’s death at Trafalgar by his friend William Paxton. It was part of the estate that now makes up the Botanic Gardens.

As I left the hilltop, the rain started and I just managed to get to the car before the heavens opened. After the short drive back tot he gardens, I waited in the car until the rains topped. By the time I emerged from the ticket office, the sky was clear and blue and the sun warm on my back. I spent the next hour or so slowly wandering around the site, ending up in the fantastic biodome built on the site of the original manor house. Inside, it was pleasantly warm and the flora were all from parts of the world with Mediterranean climates. As I made my way through African and Australian bushes, a small plane buzzed overhead.

Then to the cafe, housed in the old stable yard. A scone and coffee were on order and I’d seen one of the staff wiping down the seats outside, so I decided to eat out in the sunshine. Before I’d even finished buttering my scone, two chaffinches turned up. While one distracted me by sitting on the back rest of the chair opposite, the other tried to sneak in under the table. I slowly reached for my camera and this seemed to put the sneaky bird off. But in no time, they were both back and jumping on to the table. Maybe the crumbs of cone I’d scattered for them was too tempting. Maybe they were interested in my camera. They were both very tame and for a few moments I thought I might be able to get one to eat from my hand. But a loud child shattering the calm spooked both birds and they disappeared.

It was time to head back and I left plenty of crumbs for my little friends and set off down the path to the gate. On the way, I spotted dragonflies and I managed to act as voyeur as two of them expressed their love for each other while darting about over a little inlet of a larger pond. Having finished, one sped off and the other dropped into the water, only just managed to drag itself out before the wings got too waterlogged. A fine finish to the morning.

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Broadpool

Back to Broadpool this evening to have another go at snapping the heron. It was a lovely evening and there was the promise of another nice sunset to tempt me, too.

I also wanted to try a couple of lenses on the infra red camera to check for hotspots. Boring bit alert. Some lenses suffer from internal reflections, particularly in the infra red spectrum. These manifest themselves as bright areas in the centre of the frame, but only on the image, not in the viewfinder. It’s nothing to do with the quality of the lens, rather the materials used to construct it. It’s almost impossible to get rid of the hotspot effectively post camera. Tonight I was trying a 24mm prime lens and the 18-270 zoom. Both passed with flying colours (well, flying shades of near infra red actually).

At the pond, a young couple were fishing. That’s not a euphemism. They were actually fishing. So I didn’t hold out much hope for spotting the heron, which is very shy. So I walked around the pond and concentrated on the tiny world of macro. You can see from some of the photos, there were a few tiny things around.

Making my way back towards the car, I suddenly heard a commotion ahead and at the same time, the heron leapt up into the air from about 5 yards away and flew off into the reeds. I hadn’t seen it and I was almost close enough to touch it. I have to learnt to walk more slowly to give me time to look more closely.

I was quite pleased with the infra red photos, though.

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When the sun beats down…

There is only one thing for the discerning dog about town to do. Get his chauffeur to drive him to the country so that he can take a relaxing dip in cool, fresh river water. So that’s what I did.

Rufus here. Dave’s preening himself for the airshow later this afternoon. I think he’s trying to decide which camera to take. Not which would be best for catching sharp pictures of the aircraft, but which one will look best hanging around his neck. He’s muttering about focal lengths and crop factors. If it keeps him happy, I don’t care. I’ve left him too it.

He’s missed out on exercise recently, using some excuse about having a bad paw. Well, he only has two paws and if one is sore, it can hinder him. But I didn’t believe him so I turned up to make sure he got out last night and this morning. It’s hot here. Very hot. So neither of us slept well last night. I know because every time I pushed my nose into his hand, he tickled my chin. So I got him out of bed at 6am and by 7am we were on our way to the source of the River Tawe. It’s one of my favourite bathing spots and this morning as the sun rapidly warmed the day, it was bliss. I managed to get Dave to throw stones for me to chase – he likes to feel involved. I spent a lot of time swimming and for once Dave didn’t stop and take loads of photographs. So I didn’t have to hurry him along.

We walked along the river for a bit before stopping by a large pool. I swam, Dave rested his foot and we both enjoyed. Then Dave saw a big dragon fly and that was it. I couldn’t attract his attention and he was off, chasing after it and trying to take photos. I suspect from some of the words he used that he didn’t get any photos. It was funny to watch him completely distracted, though.

We watched soldiers marching along into the hills. They looked a bit like Dave when he has his back pack, but they were bigger than him and they had guns.

It soon got too warm and I urged Dave to go back to the car. He gets overheated so quickly and then he starts to smell. It’s not pleasant, and always difficult to bring up the subject without upsetting him.

I’m glad he was able to get out again, though.

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Luck or skill?

Rufus and I went for a stroll this afternoon on Fairwood common, near Swansea airport. We like the area as there are lots of signs of the old wartime airfield (for me) and plenty of mud and water (for Rufus).

Today, as we walked in the warm sun, sky divers and parachutists were leaping from perfectly good planes to glide and float gently down. The air was still enough that I could hear the canopies open with a rip, and I could hear the excited voices of the parachutists as they called to each other.

On the way back, I spotted a large dragonfly flitting around a gorse bush. The photo below is one of 7 I took, 5 of which were reasonably in focus. I chose to manually focus and picked a small aperture to maximise depth of field as the autofocus couldn’t cope with the rapid movement. I like to think that given I got several usable shots, it was a result of experience and logical thinking rather than pot luck.

I came across the Meadow Brown butterflies while negotiating a large gorse bush. They were all gathered together, maybe eight or ten, and I disturbed them so that only three or four remained.

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