A Strange Find…

After a pleasant lunch on the balcony, watching and photographing some birds, I had a little time to kill before the football started.  So off I went up the path behind our chalet.  In a way, this was a little foolhardy, as the road has been cordoned off for 3 or 4 weeks, due to some (and by that I mean several tonnes) of loose rock above.  However, my neighbour told me that it had been given the all clear, so it seemed like a change from walking by the river.

Now I often say that you never know what you are going to find, or see, on a walk and today was no exception.  With all the snow around I was amazed to find a small skull, no bigger than 6 inches or 15cm long.  It clearly had some sharp teeth, but I have no idea what it might have been.  So if anyone out there can identify it for me, I’d be eternally grateful.

Snow and birds

Yesterday morning we were woken by the sound of a helicopter and bombs going off.  No, we don’t live in a war torn area (thankfully) and the bombs were not like those I remember from my days living in London in the early 70’s.  The bombs in question were being dropped to deliberately set off avalanches.  After 2 solid days of snow, the mountains can be a very dangerous place to wander and the powers that be send up the helicopter(s) to trigger the avalanches in a controlled way.  See this link for a video of some bombs being dropped in our neighbouring valley above Grimentz:
Huge Avalanche triggered by helicopter bombing

I think I’ve said before that it never ceases to amaze me that some birds hang around throughout the winter in this extremely harsh environment.  Temperatures recently have been as low as -14 C (7F) with a high during the day of no more than -4 C (25F).   The ground is now covered completely, so there can’t be many insects for them to find.  Needless to say, our feeder has proved very popular, with the birds below all photographed in the last couple of days.

Merry Christmas Everyone

The clock is ticking and we are nearing Christmas Day here in Western Europe, though I do know it is already past midnight in Australia.  So I’d like to take this opportunity to wish all of my followers a Merry Christmas and a very peaceful new year.

The photo below was taken by my wife a few years ago now and features a very festive looking male Eurasian Bullfinch (Pyrrhula pyrrhula).

Cheers everyone! 🍻

Merry Christmas

La Luette Walk

I’ve agonised over posting pictures of this walk (from last Thursday) because ‘silly Mike’ forgot to take his camera with him and these images were taken on his phone.  After downloading them, it soon became clear that the zoom on a mobile phone does not take very good landscape images.  You all probably knew that, but I don’t use my phone very often, (even for calls), so it sort of came as a surprise how blurred and grainy they were.  However, I was very impressed by the close ups and, in particular, the quality of the first image…

I was also pleased to see one or two butterflies still around, though I suspect picture 7 will probably the last one for this year.  The weather has turned decidedly cool in the Val d’Hérens over the past week and is currently barely over the freezing point.

 

Lake Como trip

My sister, Karen, came over to stay with us last week and she wanted to visit somewhere a little different.  So we booked an apartment in Argegno on Lake Como, Italy, for 3 nights.  Although the drive over the Simplon Pass was on a perfectly clear day, the forecast wasn’t great for the few days that we were there.  However, we did risk walking to the top of Mount Tremezzo (@1,700m or 5,577ft), hoping the mist would clear, but it didn’t quite, (see pics 5 to 15).  And, of course, we had to visit Como itself and take a boat ride back from there to Argegno.

It rained pretty much all the way back via Lake Lugano and up the Nufenen Pass, but as soon as we arrived back in the Valais, the sun was shining again… (as indeed it is again today). 😊  Makes you wonder why you go away sometimes!

Lac Léman lakeside walk

Today, Judith, her mum, Angela, and I went for a walk along the eastern shores of Lac Léman, (aka Lake Geneva), from Villeneuve to Territet.  The lakeside path passes one of Switzerland’s most famous tourist sites – the Chateau de Chillon, which is a medieval fortress built on a tiny island just off the shore.

When the sun shines, there is no finer place to be, with the mountain views, the many and varied colourful flower beds and passing paddle steamers.  It’s a must for an visitor to the “Swiss Riviera”. 🙂

Col des Ignes Walk, Val d’Hérens, Switzerland

The forecast for the week was (indeed still is) bright, with sun followed by more sun, so I just had to do a new walk, which I’ve been promising myself for the past year or so.  The route sets off from Arolla and climbs to the Pas de Chevres, with its infamous set of (now new) ladders, before dropping down slightly and turning right up to the Col des Ignes at 3,183m or 10,443 ft.  From there the path descends quite steeply before returning to Arolla via the Remointse de Pra Gra.

During my drive up to Arolla, I noticed that the grass was all covered in frost and the car warned me that the temperature had dropped to 3 degrees, so I wondered if my fleece and light windproof top would be enough.  But I needn’t have worried as within 20 minutes of setting off, the fleece was off and it never went back on all day.  With hardly a breath of wind, it turned out to be THE most perfect day for walking in the Alps… 😊

Circular Walk via La Sage, La Forclaz, Sépey and Les Haudères

Grass plays a very important part in the lifecycle of the mountains.  It’s around this time of year that the farmers take their second cut to feed the animals during the long cold winter.  And, of course, where there is grass, you will often find an abundance of tiny creatures, which leap out of your way as you walk along the paths.  Below are just some of the grasshoppers and crickets that I managed to capture.  (They are devilishly quick at jumping out of the way when you approach with a camera).

I’m often asked what’s the difference between a cricket and a grasshopper and the answer is that, in general, crickets have very long antennae, whereas the grasshopper’s are quite short.  The same sort of distinction can be made between moths and butterflies where, again in general, the latter have a sort of bulb at the end of their antennae, while moths don’t and theirs can be more feathery or saw-edged.

Ferpècle valley walk (and glacier ‘hole’ update)

A few weeks ago, my friend Matt asked me what had happened to the hole in the Ferpècle glacier.  I told him that it had collapsed last year, but I hadn’t been up there recently to see what the latest was.  So off I went on Wednesday to provide this report…

Although my photo from last year is not really comparable, as it was taken from above, near the Bricola hut, it is clear the collapsed ‘end’ of the glacier no longer exists and the whole glacier must have receded somewhere between 20 and 50 metres.  (It’s hard to gauge when you are standing maybe 500 metres away).  Perhaps a better comparison can be made with these two  photos though they were taken 2 years ago.

I also came across what must be one of the smallest species of frog in the world.  The little creature in picture 14 was no bigger than my little finger nail.  How they survive through the winter, when this whole area is covered in snow and ice for several months, is a complete mystery to me.