Thursday, April 28, 2011

Talking Royal Wedding Blues

My wonderful neighbors, Greg and Liza Taylor recently celebrated Greg’s birthday in London (while I chronicled Spring bursting forth in their garden (Bonus shots at the end of the story).  During their trips abroad, Greg has generally produced a daily update of their travels in the form of an ever-so-erudite travelogue. On this short fling in London, he broke with his usual style and interjected a bit of “fluff” regarding his lost invitation to the Royal Wedding.  And I break with  tradition to bring you a story having nothing whatever to do with photography, but nevertheless a story of  true Relentless Pursuit!  You’re sure to enjoy enjoy Greg’s unique brand of self deprecating humor as you delight in sorting the truth of the tale from the historical whimsy!
All the London photos were shot by Liza.

P.S:.  You may need to keep a handbook of British heraldry close to your arm chair.

Thanks so much for visiting "Tales of Relentless Pursuit." If you have a free moment or two, please check out my Photography Website, Your Best Shot, and sign up for the mailing list! And also consider sending the link to this blog to your circle of friends.

  Michelle Alton


April 10

Weeks have gone by and still no sign of the Invitation.  Called the Royal Chamberlain and was told they had no record.  Told them there must be a mistake,and please take more care with the checking.  Transferred to what seems to be their Department of Monetary Affairs for Canada: seemed odd to me too, but then why would there by so much talk in the background about the Loony.  Still no trace.  Nothing for it but to go to London myself.

Leaving from Philadelphia is a vastly more pleasant experience than using New York’s JFK.  Parked right in front of our terminal and walked in; at JFK the parking is in a different time zone, and you need to get shots.  Went to line up at British Air, fully prepared for the usual hour or so among the shuffling damned, and was astounded that the line was us.  Pleasant wait and good seats.  A bit late on take-off, owing to an airline debacle, but an uneventful flight.

Leaving Brooklyn (Photograph by Michelle Alton)
April 11

Breezed through Customs: was ready with Oscar Wilde's "Only my genius" if they asked me if I had anything to declare, but they didn't.  Took the Tube into London, reading "Time Out London" to see what to catch.  Rabid to try "Aida" at the Royal Opera or the new Rory Kinnear "Hamlet."  Short walk to the hotel.

The Montague Hotel on the Garden is in Bloomsbury, across from the British  Museum.  Room a bit small: have to step outside to change your mind.

Hotel Shower

Called up the Palace directly.  Told the Royal Chamberlain that I was here and was not to be trifled with.  Back to Canadian Monetary Affairs, but after assuring them I was not pleased with their level of service, spoke with someone at the top.  He agreed with me completely that sixty years of listening to Gilbert and Sullivan should count for more than an accident of birth, and was as aggrieved as I when a careful search once more failed to turn up my name on the list.  He was, however, delighted to find among guests a hereditary invitation for Gregory, Marquis of Wode, and felt that perhaps it was here that the error lay.  Just a matter of calling up the College of Heralds and confirming my identity and Bob's your uncle {Used to describe the means of straightforwardly obtaining a successful result. For example, 'left over right; right over left, and Bob's your uncle--ed.}.  Promised to call first thing tomorrow.

We spent the early afternoon exploring Bloomsbury.  We love to get lost and wander, since one always fetches up back at the British Museum.  Saw many good  restaurants, over and above the tourist traps, and located Busaba Eatthai, which nicely presents Asian and other foods.  Great lunch.

Spent the remainder of the afternoon communing with the Elgin Marbles and the other wonders of the museum.  Light dinner and so to bed.

April 12

Up betimes {translation: in good time or bright and early--ed.} and called the College of Heralds.  Put through to the Griffin Pursuivant Gules, who is their top man on Invitations snafus.  Told him about the misunderstanding and the need to correct Gregory, Marquis of Wode with Gregory Taylor.  After some whispered discussions in the background, I was given to the Lion Couchant D’or, who noted that we would need a fair degree of follow-up, since while the hereditary marquis got a free pass, the line went extinct in 1321 when the last Gregory was hanged owing to an ownership dispute involving a horse.  Gave him my forebears as far back as I could.  After taking my credit card information, promised to call the hotel shortly with results.

After a fortifying breakfast we walked in unaccustomed sun and then took the Tube to Pimlico for the Tate.  We very much enjoy their pageant of English paintings, and I particularly like the Pre-Raphaelites.  Their Recent Acquisitions left much to be desired, however, as one involved a Murano glass chandelier the size of a well-fed studio apartment, which blinked on and off without pattern.  Probably defective wiring, but for what they paid, they should get it fixed.

Yorkshire Pudding for Breakfast?

On a more solemn mission, we took a double-decker bus along the Thames to Westminster, then the Tube to Tower Hill.

We had promised our neighbor, Jeff, that we would look up the monument to the Merchant Marine.  Jeff's father had been First Radio Officer on the Almeda Star, lost with all hands in 1941{torpedoed by U-96 in the North Atlantic, in January--ed.}, and there is a memorial we wanted to see.  The monument sits in its own park, covering several blocks of well-kept grass and plantings, the former of which was well used by Londoners delighting in the weather.

Tower Hill Park
There is a handsome columnar monument to those lost in the Merchant Marine in the Great War, and a (sadly) far larger one for those lost in the Second World War.  It beautifully anticipates the Vietnam Memorial, listing those lost at sea on bronze plaques in a sunken space below ground level.  When we got there, the memorial was closed for care and cleaning.  It was heartening to see the scrupulous attention paid to its maintenance, but we despaired of getting a picture of the plaque honoring Jeff's father.  Liza was equal to the task, however, and dodged the barrier to show the workers her information on the Almeda Star and the reason for our visit.  They could not have been more obliging, and although there are nearly 24,000 names, they walked her directly to the site. Got a clear picture.

Alton, T. F.  Father of neighbor, Jeff
Lunch today was at Murano, an agreeably spare restaurant in Mayfair, the labor of love of Angela Hartnett.  It had come highly recommended and our concierge was at some pains to get us a late reservation.  Wonderful menu (a copy of which Liza had signed by the chef) and a delightful lunch, details of which upon request.

After walking around Mayfair we tubed to Covent Garden.  It was the work of a minute to find the Royal Opera House.  As luck would have it, they did indeed have tickets to "Aida" tomorrow night.  Our soaring hopes, however, were dashed when we did the quick arithmatic and found that seats in the Second Balcony (all that was available) would separate us from 540 dearly loved dollars.  Wondering if our accents suggested idle wealth, we sadly departed.  Walked back,
delighting in the neighborhood and the hustling crowds...

After a light dinner (all we could manage after the splendid lunch), an early evening.

April 13
The sun is shining in England and nowhere brighter than Bloomsbury, where good news wings its way from the College of Heralds. Unsleeping labor has been crowned with success, as they have closed in on Gregory, Marquis of Wode.  The call this morning said that they were back to 1535, with Harold of Scode, a distant ancestor of mine.  While not himself a clear descendent of our illustrious borrower of horses, they said that his coat of arms was breathtakingly similar.  If one replaces the lions rampant with  ducks couchant and the eagles with spaniels, and changes the gules for argent, they are virtually identical.  Harold was an Oxford scholar, who achieved fame by debating Henry VIII on the proposition "Resolved, the King can do no wrong."  Harold took the off side, and while the King won the votes of all those courtiers present, it was considered a spirited debate.  Never one to hold a grudge, the king showed his puckish humor by having Harold parboiled. The College felt strongly that they were closing in on Wode, although their zeal had apparently maxed out the credit card I had given them.  One does not count nickels at a time like this, and I gave them two more.

"The King Can Do No Wrong" (Google Images)

We had labored for weeks to get into the highly fashionable restaurant "Dinner", the masterwork of Heston Blumenthal.  Our efforts were crowned with success and we had a luncheon reservation.  The restaurant's premise is to use recipes from years past (try 1585) in the preparation of modern dishes.  Liza, never one to shy from a challenge, had an appetizer that involved a ragout of pig's ear (nor could I restrain myself from comments involving silk purses).  I had a wonderful lemon salad.  Our entrees involved an exquisite salmon dish and splendid quail.  For administrative reasons, we were obliged to have four desserts, and barely left the place without help.  Thus fortified, Liza put Knightsbridge to the sack, and thus sated and laden we repaired to our hotel.

April 14

No word from the College, we spent the morning at the British Museum.  Oppressed by battalions of foreign students, who seemed interested only in getting their pictures taken in front of one splendor or another before moving on.  Still, what can you say about being able to see large pieces of the original Mausoleum.  You don't get an Ancient Wonder of the World every day, and we enjoyed it.

Transferred after noon to the Mandarin Oriental, which is in Knightsbridge across the street from Harvey Nichols.  The location was not lost on Liza, and our clothing was barely unpacked before we were walking down Sloan Street in quest for a sale promising ruin to the venders.  Took a wonderful double-decker down Kings Road, and spent a useful and constructive time putting Britain back on the gold standard.

Putting Britain back on the Gold Standard (shot by an obliging tourist in front of "Vic 'n Al")

This can only take its toll, so we went directly to Wagamama for noodles and beer, at prices normally associated with lobster and champagne.  Stopped off at Harrods food court for provisions and dragged them back to the hotel for a splendid dinner.

Tomatoes at Harrods
Epilogue:  Talking Royal Wedding Blues

Well, the Dragon Puissant {Powerful Dragon--ed.} finally got back to us as we were preparing to bid a fond farewell to the Mandarin Oriental.  Seems there was good news and bad news.  Never one to back down from the worst, I took the bitter first.  Their research finally explained the origin of Gregory of Wode's hereditary invitation.  Seems he was hanging with the Prince and caught him about to shag the tavern wench.  Put him wise that she had the most clinically interesting case of clap in Worcestershire, the kind where the doctor tells you up front that the good news is that if he cures you, he's famous.  Appalled at the narrow brush he had had with a loathsome disease, the Prince stated then and there that Gregory and his line in perpetuity would always be welcome at the royal weddings (anticipating, not without reason, that a discerning eye as to social diseases might come in handy before the nuptials).  All very interesting, of course, but when I asked Puissant to cut to the chase, the bottom line was that Wode's misunderstanding about the horse caught him short one heir.  The line is extinct, even for ready money. 

My disappointment can only be surmised.  Ever one to take the rough with the smooth, I asked about the good news.  Learned that I was only two virgin credit cards away from being declared the true and rightful king of Latvia.  Thanking the Dragon, I took a pass, the underground to the airport and the next flight home.  I will watch the wedding on TV, but if there's a guy there named Wode, I want my money back.

Disappointment  (Photo by Michelle Alton) [a section of mosaic flooring at Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens]

  All photos by Liza Taylor unless otherwise specified.

Greg Taylor Bio

Taylor was raised in coastal New Jersey (not the Jersey Shore) but left as soon as he could spell carcinogenic.  After happy years at school in Virginia and eventful years at school in Boston, he settled in New York's Brooklyn Heights for a blameless career as a securities attorney.  Now retired to Bucks County, Pennsylvania, he works as a harmless drudge in the Sisyphus-like labor of planting his garden faster than the deer can eat it {Sisyphus was a king punished by being compelled to roll an immense boulder up a hill, only to watch it roll back down, and to repeat this throughout eternity.--ed.}  Sometimes gets to travel.


I'd love to know what you think of the "Relentless Pursuit" series. Please leave a comment below or email me
 with your suggestions on what you'd like to see on this blog. If you have a story to post on this theme, contact me [at this moment there are only two stories still on tap--we need YOURS!]. And be sure to take a look at my Photography site. I'd love to hear from you!

  Michelle Alton


Bonus:  Taylors' Garden, Photographs by Michelle Alton
(Click on photo to enlarge)

Taylors' House

Gardener Greg
Day Lillies in the Night
The Apple doesn't Fall Far From the Tree

Alliums and Rhodos

Bee in Fox Glove
Echinacea Gulch

Dogwood Berries


Astilbes Roadside


Thursday, April 21, 2011

Brag, Brag, Brag...

Laura Swan is a transplanted Californian who now calls Calgary, Alberta Canada “Home.” This story, with magnificent shots of her beloved Rockies, delightfully depicts her unabashed passion for her adopted country and plays on her propensity to shamelessly boast about it! You’ll find yourself gasping at the extraordinary beauty and blushing at Laura’s embarrassing adventures in Braggadocio! 

Laura credits her dad, a professional photographer, for instilling in her the basic technical photographic skills—though she takes pride in the fact that he told her she was a “natural.” Much later she began to delve into digital art and she openly admits to adoring that art form. To see more of Laura’s artistry, please visit her gallery .

I'd love to know what you think of the "Relentless Pursuit" series. Please leave a comment below or email me with your suggestions on what you'd like to see on this blog.  If you have a story to post on this theme, contact me [at this moment there are only two stories still on tap--we need YOURS!]. And be sure to take a look at my Photography site. I'd love to hear from you!


Michelle Alton


Brag, Brag, Brag....

What started with harmless bragging ended in a perilous hunt for wild bear. Let me tell you the story.

I live in western Canada, at the eastern edge of the big, beautiful Canadian Rockies where the lakes are turquoise blue and the animals run wild and free. The air is fresh; the water is straight from our glaciers. The crime rate is low. We get more sunshine, here in Calgary Alberta Canada, than anywhere in ALL of Canada.  It's heaven here on earth. Oh. Was I bragging again? I thought I had learned my lesson???  There I go again!

I was born and raised in California. At age 21 I went on a blind double date as a favor to my roommate, Kathy. My blind date was a nice, hard working Canadian fellow--Tall, blond and handsome with tight speech, so clearly Canadian. He had a logger’s beard and the strongest arms I'd ever seen on a man.  (Oops! More bragging! I MUST learn my lesson!)

Dale Swan

Engagement of Dale and Laura (Photo by Alan McKeegan 1984)

Well, that date turned into many dates and finally turned into marriage three years later. Five years after that, in 1990, we moved to Calgary, Alberta, Canada to be near Dale’s family and we have been here ever since.

That November, so long ago, I left my own "people" behind. It was very hard for me, so my mission became to get my family and friends to come and visit as soon as possible. That is where my bragging troubles began.

I wrote regular letters to them telling of my new adventures here. Trying to sound up and positive and to be the entertaining person they always knew back home. I took many beautiful photos to enclose in each letter, hoping someone would come see us here.  We moved here in the beginning of the Canadian Winter season so my first letters were filled with tales of survival in the great white North!!! The very night we arrived, U-hauls in tow, it was -25 degrees C. This was unheard of to someone like me or my "people." We were all accustomed to mild and bearable weather. I had to explain to my family and friends what -25C really meant--that it was way worse than sticking your head in the freezer for a prolonged period of time! And how we had to dress in several layers of clothing wearing Kodiak socks on our frozen feet. Walking outside with huge big Alaskan boots on and parkas was the “norm” for Rocky Mountain “garb.” Oh, and of course, not forgetting to add the final fashion touch. face masks to avoid frost bite.


Frost on the Window

My tales must have gripped them, as they’d reply saying that they were at the edge of their seats waiting for my next letter and more photos to arrive. My bragging about Canada, and about the unusual, was paying off big time with every description of crunching snow beneath our feet.

Well when our first spring and summer finally came, and our nose hairs no longer froze fetching the mail from the box, and song birds returned to Canada, windows opened and I had much better things to report. The beauty of the Canadian Rockies was emerging. We were able to make the drive up into the woodlands of the mountains where waterfalls and nature became available to me for the first time. My letters and photos of Canada made Calgary a bigger temptation for them as a travel destination!

Friends and family began to trickle up, even in that first summer. Then more arrived in the next years where they experienced the immense beauty for themselves, returning home to spread the word that all that Laura wrote about was true! Turquoise lakes, bears in abundance, moose, eagles, foxes, elk, all
running and flying wild and free. The beautiful Canadian Rocky Mountains. They all returned to their homes doing their own bragging about this heaven on earth!!!

Visiting Friends from the American Midwest, Ron and Shirley McEwan

Kiki Kjaer (from Denmark) and Laura Swan  (Photo by Leif Kjaer)

There was only one person in my immediate family that I just couldn’t seem to talk into coming here. My eldest brother. My sister flew up to visit as did my nephew; then a second cousin’s wife, my aunt, cousins, friends, and the list got longer from there…Everyone that was able, came. But not my brother.

Nothing I'd say would get him to come see me. No bragging seemed to do the trick. He seemed determined not to visit. ”Too far away” for him. “Too busy working -- No time, no time, NO TIME...

Then one shocking happy Summer 17 years after we moved here, he changed his mind and said, "YES!", he'd come. He wanted to see me and to see some wild life--The BEARS-- The ones I always bragged about.

At some point during my absence from California my big brother had become a hunter. Wild Boar, Bear, Deer...So the notion of seeing animals running wild and in abundance, (under protection of the land), seemed to spark his interest.

He stayed for ten glorious days as did many of our visitors. I guess the word spread that ten days was a good amount. Not too short and long enough to see the BEARS!

As we did with everyone else, we took my brother sightseeing all around the wilderness of the Rockies. I drove; Dale and my brother sat in the back seat in style. Almost every day we got up early and headed straight into the Rockies. Banff, Kananaskis, Johnston's Canyon, several lakes...all the famous spots...My brother salivated at each huge wild elk that we'd see.  Each deer, each eagle, fox
or whatever. We stopped to take photos when we could.

I was glad he didn't have his rifle or a permit! (Insert nervous laughter here on my part!)  Each day someone would remark that we hadn't seen a bear yet. We searched hard and strained our eyes! It was uncanny that we hadn't. We drove to the tops of Rockies, around secret roads that only the locals like us know about.  We hiked, nature trailed along rivers and took gondolas. Not a bear in sight. So we brought picnic food to eat in the car and had fun, making the best of it anyway. Each day brought different weather. Sunshine, rain, sleet and even snow at the mountain tops! Each day brought everything but a you-know-what!

My Brother On the Banff  Gondola, Sulphur Mountain.

Moraine Lake, Banff Natioanal Park, Alberta Canada
Lake Minnewanka, Banff National Park
Cameras were clicking. We did have so much fun. Yet his goal each day for over a week now, was still unrealised. Not a grizzly in sight. Not a black bear to marvel over and take photos of. The one animal we are the most famous for eluded us! The ones I had so often bragged about in my letters. Dear readers, it was Day 8 and we had not seen one measly bear. Not one!  I shouldn't have bragged so much about the bears. After all, the BEARS were his main reason (besides a family visit) for coming to the area. As his little sister, I felt like a failure and thought to myself that this might have ruined his trip because he had come such a long way to see them! I had blocked from my mind that it was his little sister and his brother in law he had most wanted to see!

That 8th day, when I woke up something hit me. OH MY GOSH. I felt it in my heart. TODAY WE WILL SEE Three BEARS!  ("Huh?!" I said to myself,  “Three?  LAURA. Don't you DARE say that to anyone. That is just going too far with the empty hopes! A dead worm on a fishing hook!”)

So I marched to the breakfast table, and contrary to my beliefs, said to the boys, “Today we are GOING to see three bears!!!" Well, this got a good laugh and I said "You just wait and see!" After I said this, I said in my heart to myself, "Laura, listen to you! WHAT DID I JUST TELL YOU ABOUT BRAGGING??? Your bragging has just gone too far this time! What if we don't see a bear today?"

Wedge Pond, Kananaskis Country Alberta
Well, I learned my lesson in bragging. Now today I would pay the piper and be silenced for life.

On this day we would take my big brother to Lake Louise. It is a very famous lake far into the Rockies. When we arrived it snowed a little. It was so beautiful...I was hopeful because it is Lake Louise that we ALWAYS see bears! ALWAYS! Well always, for 17 years, except on this day.

On our way home, with my head hanging low, we drove back through the Banff National Park. All of a sudden, we saw a crowd of cars on the right shoulder of the road!  HA! This was a good sign! People always crowd around and park their cars on the road if they see an animal! Could it be my three bears?

Well...NO! It wasn't! But it was ONE BEAR! One big, beautiful GRIZZLY BEAR eating dandelions, peacefully. Hurray!!!!!!!!! One bear was better than NO BEARS. Excited for my brother, I watch as he opened his car door slowly and crept out of the back seat like a true hunter, leaving the door open behind him as not to make a sound. He was in his element. He had found what he was waiting for. He set his camera and zoomed in for his prized photos to take home with him to show the family.

A very ignorant male tourist with a fancy camera ran up the hill there charging the fence trying to startle the bear to get a better shot of its face, maybe hoping the grizzly bear would rear up!  Little did he know that with one retorted charge that bear could have easily plowed that fencing down and we'd all have been history!

Gratefully the bear had more sense than the man and soon ran off into the woods, roaring. Several other tourists then roared at the ignorant tourist and we all got back in our cars and left. As we drove off my brother said, "Well Sis you were right. We saw a bear today.” With renewed confidence and obviously no sense in my head I said, "Yes, but that was only ONE bear. We have two more to go!" They laughed. I smiled.

Before exiting the Banff National Park gates there was one more place I wanted to show my brother and felt we had time to do so: Mount Norquay. Many postcard photos are shot from there overlooking the Banff Townsite. It’s so very pretty. There is a huge ski hill at the top and it is always very worth taking the riveting two lane road up and back. On the way back it's a bit of a “white knuckle” ride down because it's on the outer edge and on cliffs. The views from there are spectacular. It would be our last thrill for the day.

My brother, tired but very impressed with another fun filled Canadian day, sat in the back seat of our car with his window down enjoying the fresh mountain air. As we slowly made our way back down Mt. Norquay we almost got into a wreck around one of the tight and blind bends in the road. Thankfully I was driving very slowly at the time. That is all that saved us.

There were three vehicles stopped in their tracks. Something was happening there. Up on the side of the green grassy hill, but what? We couldn't see anything yet.  As cameras ahead of us hung out of camper and truck windows we waited our turn in the back of the line.  I said "Get your cameras ready folks. We have wild life ahead. Maybe more mountain sheep or MAYBE OUR BEARS?" I said in
suspenseful and joking tones, raising my eye brows at them! Okay. I know you readers here are clever right? But at the time we were not and had no idea what it would be.

"It" was a "them"!

It was a Mama Black Bear and her two new little springtime cubs!!! Her darling babies were little and round and fat and brown (as many cubs can be until they age). They couldn't have been more than 20 pounds each. It was so exciting. She had them there at a fallen tree trunk and she was banging on it to break it up for them. There were maggots inside the rotting trunk and she was teaching them to eat!

Black Bear Cubs

With the bears acting completely unaware of any of us, we took many respectfully quiet photos and eased away so the next car could see what was there. We never got great head shots but with bears you take what you can get, and quietly move on.

This all happened four years ago now, and my brother is still busy back in California bragging about our Relentless Pursuit of the bears and the final victory that his little sister Laura foretold with confidence on that eighth day at the breakfast table.

"Not three bears, like she predicted, but we actually saw four!"

So friends, my bragging rights and reputation unscathed, my stories are still much revered back home. Have I learned my lesson about bragging? Hmm...I don't know. Oh say, have I told you yet about the time we...Oh never mind. Maybe I'd better not?

Laura Swan’s Bio

Born and raised in Northern California with a professional photographer for a father, I learned very early how to compose and shoot photographs. Although digital art is my first love, I have always enjoyed the challenge of making a great shot.

I feel very blessed to now live just a short drive from the Great Canadian Rockies, where there are always new and exciting things to shoot and on which to ply my digital artistry. I shoot with a Nikon D90 and a great point-and-shoot Canon PowerShot SD800 IS.

My work can be seen at my gallery.


 All photos, unless otherwise stated, are by Laura Swan.


Thanks so much for visiting "Tales of Relentless Pursuit." If you have a free moment or two, please check out my Photography Website, Your Best Shot, and sign up for the mailing list! And also consider sending the link to this blog to your circle of friends.



Thursday, April 14, 2011

The Little Red WattleBird

Australian photographer extraordinaire Brett Dolsen shares with us the heartwarming experience of being chosen for adoption by a wild wattlebird. Wattlebirds (Anthochaera) are members of the Honeyeater family, and native to Australia.  You'll love the photographs that Brett shot, chronicling the entire story, still ongoing at this writing.  At the end of the wattlebird tale, we are treated to a small collection of Brett's magnificent photographs.


I'd love to know what you think of the "Relentless Pursuit" series. Please leave a comment below or email me with your suggestions on what you'd like to see on this blog. If you have a story to post on this theme, contact me [at this moment there are only two stories still on tap--we need YOURS!]. And be sure to take a look at my Photography site. I'd love to hear from you!

  Michelle Alton


The Little Red Wattlebird

It was just another another morning and living in such a great location as Lake Cathie on the east coast of Australia my usual morning ritual is to get up early and venture out onto the verandah to see what gifts the new day has presented.  It is usually decision making time based on clouds at dawn, surf conditions or bird life down on the lake all visible from my verandah. Of course if I don’t see anything that captures my attention I head for the coffee rather than my camera.

It was the first day in February of 2011 and as I ventured outside I noticed a Wattlebird in the Kentia Palms adjacent to my home.  Usually they are very flighty so like most photographers I headed back for my camera expecting him to be gone on my return.

Little Red Wattlebird's First Appearance

To my surprise, as I moved closer for a better point of view, the bird continued with his activities and relocated to a Dracena bush where I managed to take a few quick shots.

Suddenly without warning he flew straight toward me and landed on the handrail next to me within touching distance.

As bewildered as I was, I immediately entered into dialogue with this extremely sociable wild bird, welcoming him to our house and looking for answers as to what was happening here.



Following our introduction and my quick lesson in bird language, my wife Janet appeared, wondering who I was talking to.

It was now time for that ever-important first cup of coffee and bewildered discussions about our welcome visitor who had now joined us for breakfast at the outside dining cable. With Janet's quick thinking and knowledge of birds, she headed for the pantry cupboard and returned with some honey. Wattlebirds are honey eaters and he appeared to be delighted as his tongue rapidly worked Janet's fingers and consumed all traces of this golden treat.

First Cup

Honey for Breakfast

And a Drop of Tenderness

A short time later he suddenly took off and left us wondering whether he would return. I headed for my Readers Digest "Complete Guide to Australian Birds" and then to the internet searching for further information regarding the Red Wattlebird.

I discovered an article in which a bird of the same species had been orphaned and raised by humans. It seems that the orphaned bird became very fond of the people that nurtured him and a favourite treat was watermelon. Some time later a female was introduced and the bird became less interactive with humans and was finally released back into the wild. Apparently he returns about once a year and knocks on the window until watermelon is brought out. Then after feasting and most likely sharing with his family, he disappears into the wild again. Wattle birds are migratory and stay in an area as long as there is a constant food supply.

That first day he reappeared on several occasions and became very comfortable, often preening himself from a perch on the top of a dining room chair. It appeared that it wasn’t just food he was after but also company and perhaps a sense of safety.

The Author and his New Friend

Over the next couple of days there were regular visits and then on the evening of the third day just before nightfall he landed in a Bottle Brush tree outside our bedroom window where he settled in for the night. This night nesting became intermittent as tales were spreading around the neighbourhood of the same bird interreacting at other households.

The following morning at day break he was off and during the day could be seen flying with other birds in the trees across the road.  He was quite distingishable as he had a certain clumsiness that made him stand out from the other birds.

We would be sitting at the outside table when he would suddenly swoop in with a gust of air narrowly missing us as he landed on a chair or sometimes on the table in front of us.

The Red Wattle Showcased


A feed of bread, honey and water and sometimes watermelon was becoming popular not only with our new friend but also with a family of eight or so sparrows that had become aware of free meals being handed out at the Dolsen’s.


On about the fifth day our balcony came under siege by four magpies who had become curious as to what was on offer.They had obviously been watching from the trees across the road and after surrounding the perimeter, one was sent in to check out the food bowl. On close inspection he turned his nose up and as quick as they appeared they were gone. Magpies are somewhat sinister in appearance, not unlike crows, but more threatening.


Occasionally our little friend would turn up with others of his kind who would be too timid to stay but he was quite content with remaining behind as they continued off into the wild.

After about two weeks of constant visits it became noticeable that he was less interested in our food offerings and began hunting around the house for insects of different kinds. He would busily skip along the gutters changing feet from side to side as he searched for another treat. He began to land on the fly screens and search for moths hidden in the channels and this has now become a daily occurrence. After two months he is no longer looking for easy food but still comes and sits with me regularly and preens contentedly for around twenty minutes at a time.

Moth for Dinner!
It is impossible to say with certainty what has occurred with this little native bird but I have a strong feeling that he was most likely hand raised and cannot live without human companionship. He is not demanding but appears very safe and secure in our environment.

Safe and Secure
 At first one could say it was quite spiritual, but now it is more of a mutual relationship with no demands. As our balcony has become part of his personal wilderness I think the photos may tell the story better than I can.

Call of the Wild

Brett Dolsen Biographic Sketch

Growing up in Bankstown a western suburb of Sydney NSW Australia, Brett's ancestral roots date from the early 1600's to mid 1850's in North America. His great great grandfather arrived in Australia in 1851 from Chatham Ontario during the Australian Goldrush.  Brett began researching history around middle age and the more he learnt about his ancestors the more his views on the world began to change.

After 30 years in the landscape gardening business,  Brett was also influenced by the appearance of a Black Necked Stork, more commonly known as Jabiru, adjacent to his residence in Lake Cathie NSW. As a result Brett purchased a Canon D400 kit in the hope of capturing this rarely seen bird (early images below).  This relentless pursuit continued as the Jabiru reappeared almost daily for around four weeks and Brett soon realised the need to develop better photography techniques.

After four years Brett has decided to start his own photography business and very recently purchased new equipment."This will hopefully take me to another level and yes it is all about lenses. I love action captures of all types and this where I would like my business to go."
History will perhaps tell the rest of the story.


Brett's Bonus Shots

Body Board

Eucalyptus Forest


Paddling with Pals

Jabiru in Flight


Peter Hudson

Portrait of a Surfer

Relentless Pursuit


Thanks so much for visiting "Tales of Relentless Pursuit." If you have a free moment or two, please check out my Photography Website, Your Best Shot, and sign up for the mailing list! And also consider sending the link to this blog to your circle of friends.


   All photographs by Brett Dolsen