Here are a few pictures that John and I took during a leisurely stroll along the Chichester Canal recently. It was a cold clear day and the sun reflected brightly off the water as people walked their dogs and couples hand-in-hand took their morning constitutionals. I dipped a paw in just to get a feel for the chilly water and froze in wonder as I caught sight of something small, chestnut-brown and furry. The chubby little wet face gazed at me for a moment and disappeared under the water before I had time to whip my camera out. Apparently the canal has a well-established water vole population which is protected by law and reliant on the diverse vegetation along the banks to survive.
Chichester Canal is designated as a site of nature conservation importance due to the value of its wildlife and some sections have reed-beds that are a scarce type of habitat in the county and of importance for certain species of birds. Canal construction started in 1819 and connected Portsmouth to London mainly for the transport of coal. In 1906 the last commercial cargo of shingle was carried along the canal before it was abandoned. Happily, the Chichester Canal Restoration Project aims to restore navigation through the canal and volunteers from the Chichester Ship Canal Trust operate services such as pleasure-boat trips and a shop to support that aim.
We sat down for a rest on one of the benches, inhaling the fresh air and listening to the sounds of the creatures that live along the canal, like the croaking toads and the pretty black and yellow bumble-bees. My ears were swiveling in every direction as the long grass rustled and the dragonflies whizzed by, their large transparent wings beating swiftly. I like dragonflies because they eat mosquitos, flies and wasps, some of my least favourite organisms. John had a chuckle because I can move each ear independently of the other and he seems to find that amusing! But these super-evolved ear-flaps of mine can judge within 3 inches the location of a sound being made a yard away. No wonder my tiger senses were tingling!
Jumpin’ jiminy was it windy out there this weekend! John and I were driving along the seafront and spotted some large kites swaying and souring through the air. Intrigued, we pulled up and saw a photo opportunity – wet-suited kite-surfers riding the waves. It was exhilarating to say the least, setting up my camera on the promenade whilst the wind whipped through my fur and the salty sea-mist sprayed my whiskers.
It looked like a tough and risky business but I imagine the surfers must have been getting a real adrenaline kick as they harnessed the power of the wind with their kites and propelled themselves across the choppy water. They spotted us taking photos and started showing off, maneuvering their bodies with strength and balance. They performed tricks, gliding across the surface of the sea and jumping and flying through the air, grabbing their boards and landing skilfully. I was amazed that they didn’t get their kites caught up in each others’ and I was impressed with their persistence, no matter how many times they came off their boards, they just climbed right back on and kept going. That’s the spirit!
Much as I enjoyed shooting the surfers, we packed up after an hour because my paws were getting damp and I had a heck of a hankering for fish. We gave the surfers a wave goodbye and jumped into the car to dry off. Luckily, John keeps my favourite travelling blanket on the back seat, so I curled up and had one of my cat-naps, dreaming of crowds of people applauding as I back-flipped my way across the water, the first hot-footing free-styling feline to ride a surfboard!
Thursday 31st October is National Black Cat Day. It’s a tribute to black domestic cats and perhaps some of my wild feline cousins too. It’s intended to help dispel age-old superstitions about black cats that have led to people being less inclined to take one of these dark creatures home. There are hundreds of homeless black cats in Cat Protection’s care and an apparent reluctance to adopt them. This has led the charity to organise an annual event to raise awareness of their plight. So if you want to celebrate black and black-and-white cats, you can download a free black cat pack which includes posters and masks and fun ideas.
Here are a few fascinating facts to peak your interest! Black fur is a result of melanism which is the development of the dark coloured pigment called melanin in the skin and is the opposite of albinism. It is linked to the process of adaptation in the animal kingdom because it allows the animal to be better camouflaged. Dark individuals are therefore better adapted to survive and reproduce in their environments. I can vouch for that! My sleek dark coat allows me to crouch in corners hidden from view while I practice my stalking techniques on my toy mouse and John’s feet.
Melanism is most prevalent in male cats and is seen in 11 of the 36 wild cat species. It produces yellow irises, as demonstrated by my sparkling golden eyes, and can make some species less noticeable to predators, while other species such as the majestic black jaguars or leopards use it to their advantage during night hunting. There is also evidence to show that having a black coat is associated with resistance to some viral infections.
So there are lots of reasons to appreciate black cats. Here are a few photos of some of my black and black-and-white cat friends and cousins. They come in all shapes and sizes, and all characters and temperaments, from amicable and affectionate to petulant and proud. You will also see a few exclusive images of me, looking rather buff, showing off my glossy and gleaming silky black coat. Go on, give black cats the love!
Here are some rather stylish images (though I say so myself!) John and I captured when we took another jaunt to the Felbridge Showground. This horsebox is for sale and is 3½ tonne as opposed to the 7½ tonne vehicle I told you about a few months ago. John’s friend took the horsebox in to the jumping ring and we were lucky enough to find a nice rider willing to pose for us in one of the photos. Horse and rider appeared so dignified that I couldn’t resist a closer look, so I hopped up on to a fence where I was level with the horse’s face.
Soon all dignity had gone out the window as we were nuzzling and shnozzling unashamedly. I’m not normally given to swooning, but I am a cat after all, and when I find something I like, I have to rub myself against it!! He had a lovely big nose with soft lips and short thick whiskers, and every time he huffed and whinnied, hot air blew out of his large round nostrils. I like horses, they’re loyal and work hard, and I’ve seen some horses happily let a cat have a snooze on their back too.
It was raining on the day so I spent most of the time lounging around inside the horsebox, enjoying a nap on the cream leather seats of the cabin, checking out my reflection in the mirror and watching John contort himself into all sorts of weird and wonderful positions to get some good shots. He had wet knees and frizzy hair by the time we left. On the way home, he made a remark about my apparent lack of exertion during the day, but I explained that I was conducting research in the vehicle, serious corporate quality assurance work, all part of the business. He rolled his eyeballs and smiled while I shut my eyes for a late afternoon siesta. It’s a cats life!