Archive | August 2017

Castle Rapture~


Near Haut-Koenigsbourg in France is a castle called Kintzheim that houses only raptors.

These are bateleur eagles that I photographed in the wild in Africa and never expected to see again in France!

Of course you recognize these beauties, who I also never expected to see in France.

The castle runs a program called “La Volerie des Aigles,” which is dedicated to breeding, conserving and educating the public about vulnerable raptors. Birds are flown daily, and are an unusual sight soaring over the old towns and orderly fields of France. The castle has bred many endangered raptor species including Andean condors, and stellar, imperial and white-tailed eagles, and many other species, including vultures.

The white-headed vulture is endemic to Africa. Populations have been declining steeply in recent years due to habitat degradation and poisoning. Our planet needs vultures, they are designed to keep our world clean.

The cinereous vulture has an impressive wing-span of 10 feet. It is under serious threat. There are only an estimated 4,500-5000 of these amazing birds left in the wild.


The golden eagle is distributed across Eurasia, North America, and parts of North Africa, but has been eliminated from much of it’s prior habitats.

Harry Potter’s snowy owls are here too!
The public can visit the castle for a nominal fee which not only supports the raptor conservation program, but also provides an up close experience with these incredible birds which will, unless your heart is made of stone, cause you to become enraptured by them.
Admission also enables you to explore the quite impressive old castle ruins.


Cheers to you from Castle Kintzheim’s gorgeous and threatened raptors~

Azulejos I~


Portugal’s iconic blue and white hand painted tiles are called azulejos.

Arabs brought the art of tile making to Portugal, and to Spain, along with the artistic tradition of “horror vacui,” the disdain for empty or plain spaces. The result of this Islamic Arabic artistic influence can be seen in the stunningly creative tile work covering the empty spaces of both Spain and Portugal.

The first classic blue and white tiles were made in Portugal in the 1500’s.

By the 17th century, yellow was added to create the stunning blue, white and yellow combination.


Purple and green were added next, along with geometric designs. (See Azulejos II for more of these multi-colored tiles.)


In the 18th century a formal tile making school opened in Lisbon.

The proliferation of historic tile work throughout Portugal creates a unique and distinctively Portuguese visual experience.

Cheers to you from Portugal’s beautiful azulejos~

http://www.the-art-minute.com/just-a-second-horror-vacui/

Azulejos II~


When we think of Portugal’s historical tradition of hand painted tile work,

we normally think of the traditional blue and white,


or Portugal’s unique and iconic blue, yellow and white.

But Portugal, historically, is more colorful than our imagination.

It is amazing to consider that each tile,


in this country of seemingly infinite historical tile work,

was handmade.

Artistic beauty,

created by ordinary human beings,

helps us,

recognize what we all are capable of.
Cheers to you from Portugal’s enduring art & artisans~
For more info see:
http://www.nytimes.com/1989/06/25/travel/shopper-s-world-vibrant-tiles-from-portugal.html?pagewanted=all

Hummingbirds~


I can’t believe I finally got a photo of a hummingbird’s forked tongue! I have never captured the fork at the end of the tongue because it typically springs open once a hummer inserts her tongue in a flower. But here it is, for us to see!

We have somewhere around 70 or more hummers at The Holler now, so we are getting lots of very bright color. Hummers flash their colors at will, sometimes as warnings when sparring. This guy was caught at dusk, flashing away to keep intruders at bay.


Once a year, at peak swarm, I feed the hummers by hand. I only do it once, for about an hour because I don’t want the hummers to become tame, thinking all humans can be trusted, because unfortunately, as we all know, some humans should not be trusted.
By the way, the white dust you see on this hummer’s beak is pollen.


I saw this photo that went viral awhile ago, where a woman was photographed, with a hummingbird drinking nectar out of her mouth. People loved it, but it bothered me. Did the photographer consider how tiny and wild hummingbirds are? Did he consider how easily this woman’s viral and bacterial load could kill hummingbirds? Did they think about how taming a wild hummingbird, for a photo, through nectar offering, and then withholding, might lead a migrating hummingbird to harm at the hands of humans?

Garden nectar feeder stations have brought seriously declining hummingbird populations back to healthy numbers. Handled responsibly, garden feeders are important for hummingbird population survival. But taming wild birds that migrate, to perform tricks, isn’t helping hummingbird survival.


Taking these photos is very difficult. I have a tripod, but don’t ever use it. Why have a stationary camera in a moving world? Wild animals don’t find this interesting. So, I hold the feeder with my left hand and take the photo with my right. After about 10 minutes this starts to hurt!


Thankfully my son volunteered to hold the feeder.

The Holler hummers do know us and have learned to trust us, many of them were born here. As mentioned a few stay year round and others return annually. Wherever they stay when they migrate south for the winter, they survive and thrive. Maybe they hang out in a garden in Central America where a bird lover keeps their feeders going and the hummers happy!


Cheers to you from the incredible, wild, and much-loved, Holler Hummers~

Ribeauville & Riquewhir~


are two typical Alsatian towns.

The architecture,

is fairytale,

meets living history,

with the added benefit of French dessert!


There are little towns like these scattered all over Alsace,

exploring, (note Jupiter near clock tower)

and eating,

here is a delightful way to spend your days!

Cheers to you from beautiful Alsace~

Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari~


Is one of the greatest “minor” basilicas in Venice, which of course, is saying quite a lot. Building began in 1250. This is the entry way.


This photo, and the next, show the woodwork in the choir stalls, with the organ pipes above.


Think for a minute what it would sound like to hear the organ and the choir sing in these stalls, as you sat in the church, in say 1400.


In the cathedral are two works by the 16th century master Titian, as well as Donatello’s first painting. They were magnificent, but what struck me most was this piece from Paola Veneziano, depicting the Madonna with saints. I knew little of Veneziano and had to google him. All that is known about him is the artwork he created between 1333-1358. His work represents, “an amazing balance between his Byzantine training and the romantic influences of northern Europe.” (Wiki)
It was the influence of Byzantine mosaic in this piece that caught my attention.

The interior is an amazing example of how architecture, art, and reverence, can create an environment that has soothed human souls for hundreds of years.

The painted, wooden art in the basilica is remarkable. This horse and rider made of painted wood, was the first of its type ever made in Venice, and depicts a Roman Prince.


This wooden clock was carved in 1630 by the artist Stefano Panatta.

There are many beautiful pieces of very old furniture in the basilica like this pew and wood painted fresco, of unknown origin.


Cheers to you from the sacred serenity of Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari~