Chickadee textures – Monochrome Madness Week 49

Black capped chickadee on branch, monochrome

I somehow missed a few weeks of Monochrome Madness but maybe I can get my brain cleared enough to keep up with future challenges now that we’re getting closer to spring. You can check out this week’s whole diverse collection at Leanne Cole’s blog, click here.

This little black-capped chickadee (Parus atricapillus) perched on the weathered wood that was the branch of a long-dead tree right beside me while I set up for an owl shot earlier in the winter. I shot this image against a plain pale grey sky that conveniently disappeared when I exposed the image for the chickadee, allowing the wood and feather textures to easily take center stage.


Great Horned Owl – Monochrome Madness Week 45

Here we are on Tuesday in the Pacific Northwest of North America, so it’s time again for Monochrome Madness over on Leanne Cole’s blog. She has a lot of new participants in the challenge this week, so head on over and check them out!

I’m back to posting images of critters again this week, and this Great Horned Owl (Bubo virginianus) moved into the bird sanctuary back in the fall, presumably from somewhere further north. Most of these guys tend not to migrate, but some of those who live up north will do so. This magnificent creature didn’t seem too bothered by my presence at all, s/he’s glaring at me here, but slept through most of the visitors. S/he’s actually safely tucked away in a very high tree, tho it doesn’t look like it in this image.

Great horned owl in tree, monochrome
Here’s a little info on these large owls.

Great Horned Owls hunt by perching on snags and poles and watching for prey, or by gliding slowly above the ground. From high perches they dive down to the ground with wings folded, before snatching prey. Prey are usually killed instantly when grasped by its large talons. They also hunt by walking on the ground to capture small prey or wading into water to snatch frogs and fish. They have been known to walk into chicken coops to take domestic fowl. Rodents and small rabbits can be swallowed whole while larger prey are carried off and ripped apart at feeding perches or at the nest. Birds are often plucked first, and legs and wing tips discarded. An extremely wide range of prey species (over 250 identified) are captured, but rabbits and hares are its preferred prey. Mammalian prey includes all coexisting rodents, squirrels, mink, skunks, raccoons, armadillos, porcupines, shrews, moles, muskrats, and bats. They may sometimes take small domestic dogs and cats. Bird prey includes all other Owls (except Snowy Owl), grouse, woodpeckers, crows, turkeys, pigeons, Red-tailed Hawks, bitterns, Great Blue Heron, ducks, swans, gulls, etc. Reptiles include snakes, turtles, lizards, and young alligators. Amphibians include frogs, toads, and salamanders. Other foods include fish, large insects, scorpions, centipedes, crayfish, worms, spiders, and road killed animals. A Great Horned Owl is powerful enough to take prey 2 to 3 times heavier than itself.

Nesting season is in January or February when the males and females hoot to each other. When close they bow to each other, with drooped wings. Mutual bill rubbing and preening also occurs. They do not build a nest of their own but utilize the nests of other birds such as the hawk, crow and heron. They may also use squirrel nests, hollows in trees, rocky caves, clumps of witches broom, abandoned buildings, or on artificial platforms.  They are extremely aggressive when defending the nest and will continue to attack until the intruder is killed or driven off. Families remain loosely associated during summer before young disperse in the autumn. Adults tend to remain near their breeding areas year-round while juveniles disperse widely, over 250 km in the autumn. Territories are maintained by the same pair for as many as 8 consecutive years, however, these Owls are solitary in nature, only staying with their mate during the nesting season. Average home ranges in various studies have been shown to be approximately 2.5 square kms.

A long-lived Owl, captive birds have been known to live 29 to 38 years, and wild Owls up to 13 years. Most mortality is related to man – shootings, traps, road kills and electrocutions. The only natural enemies are other Great Horned Owls and, occasionally, Northern Goshawks during disputes over nest sites. Peregrine Falcons have also been observed attacking Great Horned Owls.

Great Horned Owls are found throughout North America from the northern treeline and then in Central and South America. They are resident year-round, however, birds living in the northern part of the species’ range may migrate south.


Gruyères Part 2 & Monochrome Madness

I’m combining my second post on Gruyères with this week’s Monochrome Madness submission which – unusual for me – doesn’t feature an animal! Don’t get used to it! 🙂 I liked the way the top of the gate – arched, with a thingamajig on top – echoes the shape of the mountain behind. And then there all the different straight line textures as well. It was surprising to me, when looking at a map or seeing the castle and town from a distance, to see how far away the mountains actually were…on site it felt like they were looming over my shoulder all the time, it felt as if I could almost reach out and touch them.

Anyway, back to MMC, to see everyone else’s great submissions head on over to Leanne Cole’s blog, click here.

Click on each image for larger view.Gate to Gruyères castle grounds, black and white


After lunch the rest of the family opted not to climb up to the castle (this was not their first trip to see it), so I made a whirlwind tour of it, just capturing images that caught my eye on the way around. I wish now I had images of the interior, but I didn’t have a tripod with me and I only saw a few of the rooms. Finding extensive history of the castle is difficult, so I resorted to Wikipedia, which has this to say about it.

“The castle was constructed between 1270 and 1282 in the typical square plan of the fortifications in Savoy. The end of the 15th century stands out as the golden age in the history of the counts. In 1476, count Louis takes part in the Burgundy war by the Confederates’ side. Following this deed of valour, modernization works were undertaken. The castle loses its fortress appearance to become a stately residence.”

Below: the entrance to the castleSteps to Gruyères castle entrance

The next 3 images show the forecourt of the castle.

Looking east from Gruyères castle forecourtLooking east from Gruyères castle forecourtLooking east from Gruyères castle forecourt

This small chapel, below, was also located in the castle forecourt next to, but outside the castle keep, which you can see next to it. There were tiny rooms, possibly cells (?), inside that tower that forms part of the keep wall, and it must have been miserably cold in there.

The small chapel in the Gruyères castle forecourt

Below are various views of and from the castle ramparts and include the French gardens within the castle walls…you can see the maze which in summer is filled with flowers.

Looking northeast from Gruyères castle ramparts

The maze garden in Gruyères castle from the ramparts Looking along Gruyères castle garden ramparts Ramparts next to Gruyères churchLooking east from Gruyères castle ramparts

Looking north along Gruyères castle garden ramparts

Looking down into the castle keep’s small courtyard. This part of the structure is the main living area.

Overlooking the courtyard in Gruyères castle

Looking out over the town from one of the castle windows, over top of the town towards, I think the southwest.

Looking west from inside Gruyères castle

The archway that leads into and out of the castle looking more or less southwest or SSW. The town is to the right, the church that you saw in yesterday’s post to the left.

Looking southwest from Gruyères castle entrance


Log roost – Monochrome Madness Christmas edition

Click on image for larger view.hen lounging on fallen tree, monochrome with color splash

This week’s festive season Monochrome Madness Challenge called for a splash of color. As much as I love the spirit of Christmas I opted not to do a Christmas-themed submission, although I did want my splash of color to be red. I captured this image of a hen lounging in a pile of logs last spring. I converted it to black and white but the hen almost disappeared and I wasn’t quite happy with it so it’s been sitting around waiting for a little something. This week when I added the touch of color I felt the image came to life.

Lots more splashes of color from everyone who submitted an image to this week’s challenge over on Leanne Cole’s blog, click here. Thank you, Leanne!


Working dog

Hard working farm pooch catching a few zzz’s in the farmyard. This dog has been seen before on my blog last summer, in a post entitled Lunch on the Col de la Colombiere.

shaggy dog sleeping against barn wall

This time, I have used this image as this week’s Monochrome Madness entry. Everyone’s submissions can be seen at Leanne Cole’s blog, click here. I selected this image for monochrome because I felt it really emphasized the eyeful of textures.



Farrier visit – Monochrome Madness Challenge Week 41

Dogs love to hang around when it’s time for horses to have their feet trimmed. They’re hoping that the person working on the horse’s feet will cut off a piece of hoof wall large enough to chew on, and that they will be able to sneak in and grab it. Then they’ll find a quiet corner to gnaw on it and eat it. Just so they can regurgitate it all over the living room carpet later that evening… 🙂

dog waiting for hoof trimmings

This is my submission to this week’s Monochrome Madness Challenge. You can check out all of this week’s submissions on Leanne Cole’s blog.

Ebbing tide patrol – Monochrome Madness Challenge Week 40

Here is this week’s submission to Leanne Cole’s Monochrome Madness Challenge. Click on the link to view some lovely black and white photography.

Following on from yesterday’s post, this image shows some gulls patrolling the receding tideline, and one of them has found a clam. When they couldn’t break into them, many of the gulls were dropping the clams from a height to crack them open, and then swooping down to capture their prize before somebody else rushed in. A few smarty-pants were flying up to drop their clams on the pier decking, as seen in the images below.  This tactic was very successful – dropping the clams onto the beach was not very effective, not surprisingly, and dropping them onto the rocks above the beach risked losing the clam between the larger rocks.