Northern Harrier in our garden

We had a black cat visiting our house for a while, killing the birds at the feeder.  We haven’t seen it for a couple of months but it has now been replaced by another predator.  I haven’t seen it get a bird yet; they stay away while it is perching.  It is a hawk, a Northern Harrier (sometimes called a Marsh Hawk).  It sits almost motionless on a perch, but the smaller birds are well aware of its presence and stay away until it leaves.

Northern Harrier perched
Northern Harrier perched

I hope it will visit soon when I have the time to set up the camera for some action shots when it is flying.  I just have a few so far but as I was working I didn’t have time to do anything but shoot on automatic, so most moving shots were blurred, the light being too dim for the camera to decide on short exposures.  Here are the few that almost worked:

Harrier takes off from perch


Harrier in full flight

It does an amazing job of flying through dense bushes, in pursuit of juncos and chickadees, but they are too fast for it.

On a different topic:

We had a heavy mist a couple of weeks ago, when the temperature was just below zero, so it left a coating of frost on everything. Here is a picture of our road, once the mist had lifted enough for a picture:

Frost and mist on rolling hills near Pontypool


Baking day at our house

On Christmas morning I had no idea what a tagine was. In fact, my spell-checker still doesn’t, do you?  Well, I got one for Christmas so today was the day to try it out.  It is a Moroccan slow cooker.  I checked the Internet for recipes and found one for Moroccan Tagine Lamb and as luck would have it, I had all the ingredients.

First the meat, marinated in spices and mixed with fried onions and garlic.

Tagine Moroccan Lamb - first layer
Tagine Moroccan Lamb – first layer

Then I garnished it with olives

Tagine Moroccan Lamb – garnished with olives

put the conical lid on and put in a slow oven for 2½ to 3 hours.  It was delicious and luckily I had some couscous around too, which is a traditional accompaniment.

If you spotted the flour in the background, you might have guessed I made bread too.  Not with that flour, I used whole wheat but didn’t have enough left to dust my hands while kneading.
This is just before it went in the oven:

Raw bread

and this is what came out:

Italian loaf and a roll


Buns – (Flour cakes, or baps for those who speak English or Scots)

Makes me feel sorry for this guy, but he prefers his cold fat with seeds.


White Christmas

We had our white Christmas again this year.  So it can go, now.  The days are getting longer but I expect we haven’t seen the last of it.  Last winter, we only had our driveway ploughed six times, but we’ve already had it done three times before the year really started.

Still, the redpolls are safer from the stray cat that’s been wandering around. It is black so very easy to spot against the snow.

Redpolls on Snow
Redpolls on Snow

We had a beautiful hoar frost a few days ago, with a fairly heavy mist.  It was too misty for the longer-range pictures but this closer look at pine needles worked OK.

Hoar frost on a red pine
Hoar frost on a red pine

Family Christmas Party December 27th

We had perhaps the lightest turnout ever – Laurie counted 56 but people don’t stand still long enough to be counted, or even photographed. Here are a selection of the pictures that turned out not too badly, in no particular order.  As usual, anyone who wants a higher-resolution copy or a print can just ask.