BAD in memoriam

14 years ago today was a bad day. My mother died. Today’s images are in her memory. She was a kitchen window birdwatcher. We used to get Green Woodpeckers on the lawn, a one-legged Jay, all sorts of woodland birds. We lived for years on the edge of the Woolhope Dome, below Haugh Wood. When I moved to Hertfordshire  she came to visit. She had never seen a Kingfisher so I took her to a local reserve where kingfishers were probable if not certain. We were lucky, one of the kingfishers put on a show, perching, then zipping up and down the river. She could not believe the colours. So much better than the book, she thought.

Today I went to Long Valley. At 7am the sun had not yet begun to warm the area and it was almost 8am by the time I felt the chill subside. The soft light was wonderful but few birds had yet roused themselves. Soon though they struggled out of the roosts and started to preen and feed. The waders were early birds. Two ponds held avocets. I approached slowly. There is no cover here. They either fly or they stay. Today they were preoccupied with their breakfast. I realised quickly that they were doing a circuit round and around. Not too demanding to work out where the best shots were to be had. I thought about my mother – she would have liked avocets. So here, for mum, is today’s bird, Recurvirostra avosetta.

Avocet Avocet1 Avocet2 Avocet3 Avocet4 Avocet5 Avocet7 Avocet6

31 thoughts on “BAD in memoriam

  1. Andrew, your post today made me cry. I’m sure your mum would love the avocets and all of your bird photographs. I reckon she’d be bursting with pride! How wonderful that you had the opportunity to show her, her first kingfisher! No book, no photo, no painting, nothing comes even close to actually seeing a kingfisher with ones own eyes! I’ll never forget the first time I saw one, I was so excited and, even though I’ve now seen 100’s (I once counted 85 on one stretch of river in the Dordorgne whilst out canoeing) my heart still leaps when I see that brilliant flash of colour.

    • Well my father was a good photographer too, Lottie so I expect she would have said I have inherited his photographic gene. I hope she would have found some pride in what I have done but I am probably prouder of her than she of me. Growing up in the late 20s and 30s, going through the war, bringing up the 2 boys….. she achieved a lot. She just never saw it that way.

  2. A moving tribute and wonderful photos .
    It brought back memories of the first Avocet I saw , and then only in a book, It was a card from a box of tea (Brooke Bond), back in the 1950’s. I could hardly believe such a wonderful bird could be found in Britain and was my first memory of the start of a life long interest in birds.
    Thanks for sharing.

    • Gosh Geoff, I collected the Brooke Bond tea cards and I vaguely recall PG Tips also did cards but later. One of my favourite books features the Avocet, Flying in the Face of Nature, by Simon Barnes (The Times sports writer). Its a gentle but compelling story of a year in the life of Minsmere. I think you would enjoy it greatly. My first bird books were the Ladybird series and then the Observer’s Book of…… I still have them and the birds themselves have brought me much comfort over the years.

  3. Avocets are beautiful aren’t they? Weren’t they they symbol of the RSPB? (she says dredging the memories from some 40 or more years ago when my bedroom was filled with their mags).

    Like Lottie, I remember the first and only time I saw a kingfisher. It was our second trip on the Norfolk Broads, and unlike the first one with glorious sun, this day was damp and overcast – but who needed sun when I spotted a quiet flash of brilliance sitting watching us slowly chug by. Even my non-birdy parents were impressed. I remember nothing else from that holiday.

    May have been a bad day 14 years ago, and sad memories today, but a good day for some beautiful photos. Lovely shots Andrew. Can’t even remember the day my mother died. Perhaps I choose not to.

    • It was the RSPB symbol and may still be. When my mother was in hospital I remember going for a long walk with my binoculars. It was new years day, cold, frosty and sunny. The perfect day to walk and think with a few birds thrown in if lucky. There is not much that can’t be cured by birds but sadly it wasn’t to be for my mum. But they have helped me greatly over the years.

  4. Avocets are such delicately beautiful birds and your fine captures make a lovely tribute to your mother, Andrew. No doubt she would have loved these birds if she was impressed with the beautiful kingfishers and these images show them off wonderfully.
    As Lottie says above, she would have been proud of you for your ability to photograph birds so well and for all you have accomplished with your life. Parents always say that their hope for their children is for them to have it a little better than where they started. You have done that indeed and more so. I hope your memories today are of all the pleasant bits of life with your mum and little of the sadness at her loss.

    • Steve, thank you. You are very kind and I thank you for helping me make my photography just a little bit better over the recent times. I’m sure mum is grateful too.

  5. Divine blessings to your Mother, Andrew, and you also. It’s my Father’s 83rd birthday today and, last month after years of regular tests saying everything’s fine, he was told bluntly and suddenly that he had so much wrong he could die any day. (My Mother told my son and I secretly; he doesn’t want anyone to know). Unethical medical attitude to say the least but that’s the way to shock people into taking even more medication. The sudden stress of that announcement has deteriorated my Mother’s dementia and, after 3 days of my son’s and my visit, she hallucinated and didn’t recognise either of us and asked what we were doing in her house. It is sad indeed to see such episodes where parents’ previously happy, joyful personalities become a distant memory and communication becomes miscommunication and distress. I love this Earth but I cannot say the same for the crass, primitive structure of society. In my own way, I’ve done my best to resonate, shine and made intention and ritual for a renewed, pure co-operative world that cares for one another. I truly appreciate what the Kogi have done. My Father taught us the beauty and wonder of Nature as the priority over all else and he continues to practise that appreciation daily. This is why I smile and gasp when I see your exquisite photographs, Andrew. I really love the connection of gazing closely into the little lives of the birds. What a beautiful shared passion it is between your Mother and yourself. She will appreciate what you’ve carefully selected. “What will survive of us is Love.” An Arundel Tomb, Larkin

    • What a lovely quote, Dawn. And very true. How sad that your father should be treated in such a way. The impact on others seems to have been ignored. I can not begin to imagine the distress it is causing. My father died very suddenly whilst gardening. My mother just slipped into a coma and never woke. The Earth is much abused. There is much wrong with the world today but I suspect people have thought that throughout history. Today however we have greater capacity to damage than ever before. All we can do is to make our individual contributions and urge others to do the same. Whatever I have today is largely down to my upbringing. Doubtless old-fashioned and traditional but it has stood me in good stead. I can never thank my parents enough for that. I’m sure my mother would have loved avocets. I send my heartfelt best wishes that your father proves the medics wrong and your poor mother can be restored to a happier self.

  6. The Avocet photos are a beautiful selection to honor your mother. Memories of good times are salve for the heart and soul even though the memories are tinged with sadness. We never totally come to terms with the loss of a close family member especially our parents. Your mother would be bursting with pride to see your photographic skills if she were alive. That is one consolation and you have lots of enduring stories to remember her love of birds.

    • Thank you Yvonne. I do take a lot of comfort from the past and enjoy the memories. Looking through old photos is a lot of fun. The way we were……

  7. A heartwarming post and such wonderful photos of the Avocets Andrew.
    My mum also died in the Millenium year, though later in the year.
    She also gave me a love for nature especially birds and wild animals.
    She was a backyard bird-watcher. She loved to talk to the birds.
    We had a pet rabbit and mum would put out mashed potatoes to cool, before feeding ‘Tinkerbell’. The sparrows discovered this practice and would start to gather and complain if the mashed was late. This would lead to a laughter-filled scolding from mum about patience. She ended up making a little extra food! Not sure this was good for the birds, but the numbers seemed to grow.
    I’m sure your mum would be very pleased with this memorial.
    Kingfisher is one of my favourite birds too.

  8. A lovely way to pay tribute to your mother. It’s the little things that stick in the memory, isn’t it.
    And yes, as far as I know, the avocet is still the emblem of the RSPB

  9. Such Beautiful and elegant looking Birds, Andrew, (you know, I’m sure they look like professional models, almost waiting for their Photo Opportunity, 2nd one down especially , bent leg, head just so? ) and a beautiful tribute to your Mother. (Our Mam was a keen birdwatcher too, she would’ve loved your gorgeous photo’s ) xPenx

  10. A very nice post Andrew. I remember my mum as a terrific ‘doer’ and swimmer. She won a medal for the over 85 swimmers. She also never threw away food scraps. She would walk to the creek and feed the ducks. However, I once noticed she was chucking chicken scraps to the ducks. I don’t know that was good bird psychology nor what the ducks thought of being fed bits of feathered friends. Anyway, that’s what my mum used to do.

    • Vulture Ducks, probably, Gerard. Scavenging. My mum was a very good tennis player and taught me to play. I used to sit with her and watch Maria Bueno play – her favourite. A long time ago.

  11. Beautiful images 🙂
    I’m sure your mum was with you as you took the photos.
    I’ve never seen a kingfisher properly, just a flash of electric blue as one shot past me once.

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