Rainbow in the Lakes


In the middle of May, I went to the Lake District (again).  It has now been three and a half years since our first trip in February of 2014, but now I have learned a new appreciation for the Lakes, and yes this Island on which I live.

The shapes and the colours of the Lake District change so quickly with little notice or expectation that every hill pass and curve in the trail evokes a curiosity that needs to be quenched.  What’s it like on top of that peak?  What’s down that gulley?  Where does that trail go?  With hours of nothing to do besides walk, there is the freedom to follow a sheep’s path or scramble up a cragg.

The area around Keswick and in the neighbouring valleys were blanketed with bluebells, newborn lambs, and lots of rainbow rocks.  After laying down three of my rainbow markers, with the help of some good friends, a real rainbow appeared right in front of us!  It was if we had performed the sacred ceremony of the rainbow and evoked its powers!



Beacon of Light


As we crossed over the muddy field on the Brecon Beacon trail in Wales, the sun began to warm our hands and dry out our clothes.  My face became hot and my cheeks became puffy, which often happens to me while I’m hiking and it turns from cold to warm.  One of the students shouts, “Look, there’s a rainbow!”  I turn to my right and see this amazing rainbow.  Of course in the picture it’s not as bright and vibrant.  This rainbow stayed with us for about a mile and we climbed the hill. When we turned around to look back at it, we could see the end of the rainbow, where it almost met the ground.

Perhaps one of the most interesting things about this moment in the modern age, is that no one wanted to take a picture.  I’m standing with 12 teenagers on a mountain, and no one suggests getting a picture, we all just look at it and begin to talk about leprechauns, belief in the supernatural, cultural differences around spirituality, and physics of light.

This was not the only moment on my four day backpacking adventure that gave me hope for the future of humanity.  I hear over and over again, “Kids today ______.”  (Spend too much time on technology, don’t know how to enjoy the outdoors, prefer virtual conversations versus real ones.)  And on and on and on.  But as adults, it is our responsibility to provide them with the opportunities to explore nature, unplug, put them in situations where they must talk face to face, teach them empathy and social skills.  Because guess what?  When we give them that opportunity they take it!  Not only do they take it, they love it.

Here are some more photos from our trip on the Brecon Beacon Trail

🌈 Steph

Red: Rosehips


Rosehips are in bloom all over the UK right now.  Last week, on a backpacking trip to Wales, I ordered a Ploughman’s and on the platter there were rosehips in the salad.  At the time, I didn’t know what the sweet and tart little morsels were.  Yesterday, Andrew and I went on a bird watching trip to Rye Meads and I saw these growing.  I have since identified them as the same berries on my Ploughman’s and therefore as rosehips.  I could be completely wrong, and if I am, please let me know.

I know rosehips are used in naturopathy as a mood stabilizer and in my moisturizer as a smoothing oil.  Here’s to multi-use plants.

🌈 Steph


Nature Notes: Birds of a feather

Realizing that I know nothing about birding anymore (it’s like not practicing French for three years and then just expecting to pick it up immediately, it doesn’t happen like that!) I have to go back to beginner status.  This is actually the most amazing thing because I am learning a new continent, new nomenclature, and a therefore renewed interest in my feathered friends.

The one thing I have noticed this Spring is how all of the birds are appearing in pairs.  No surprise, it’s Spring after all.  It all started on a misty morning in Aviemore, Cairngorms national park.  I woke up at 6:00am because I was awoken by a blackbird on the roof outside of the room in our B&B.  I snuck out of the room, leaving Andrew to sleep and hiked down to the River Spey.  I found a nice spot on a rocky outcropping and just waited.  The first thing that happened was a pair of oystercatchers landed on the sandbar across the river from me and started mating!  Woo-hoo.  I didn’t take a picture, but here is Richard Bartz’s photo of an oystercatcher:


The next thing that happened was two plovers landed!  They weren’t mating, but they were just hanging out together.  Here’s Charles J Sharp’s picture of a plover:


Then, later in the day, we hiked to Loch an Eilein, and then to a smaller Lochan (Loch Gamhna) off the trail and saw a pair of Greylag Geese!  I know it might not sound that great, but they just seemed so majestic.  This reminds me of how birds that we see in the city often, take on a new luster and freshness out in the wild.  Here’s Donald Hobern’s photo:


The highlight pair of the trip were two Little Gulls we spotted with their full summer plumage on Loch Morlich.  They were so light and airy, not at all like their relative that can be aggressive and clunky.  I don’t know if it’s too early for them to have their summer feathers, but they did.  We got a really good look for about twenty minutes and identified them on the spot and got really close.  They weren’t shy Little Gulls:


Finally, almost as if to say goodbye to us, a pair of buzzards landed on a tree outside of our B & B in the field.  I always thought that Buzzard was another name for a scavenger bird, but it’s a bird of prey!  I don’t think we have them in the US.  Or, maybe it’s just another name for Hawk, because this looks like a Buteo to me!


Photo by: Francesco Veronesi

There you have it.  Four really common birds, two by two, in all of their glory!  One of the reasons I like going birding is because most people are excited to see any bird out in nature.  I remember teaching the birdwatching class at my old job and the kids would crawl on the ground and camouflage themselves and go to great lengths to see a crow!  Spying on an animal and being able to see it’s beauty up close if the most important part of the game.  It’s always great to see a new species, but sometimes just seeing what’s going on out there is good enough.  Happy birding.

What birds have you seen in a pair this spring?