With recent temperatures rising into the mid-20’s (70’s F), even in Evolène @1,400m or 4,600ft, most of the snow has now gone from the lower mountain slopes. So I was expecting to be able to reach the Col du Torrent (@2,916m or 9,567ft), perhaps with a bit of detouring around any snow that might be left in the gullies. However, it soon became clear, as I got higher, that the late April snow had left its mark and I decided to turn back, maybe 400m, or around 70m in height, from the col. So I never did manage to get a picture of the fabulous view into the next valley. 🙁 Maybe next time.
Another dilemma was how much time to spend chasing butterflies. I knew I had a good 6 hours walking ahead of me, so I couldn’t wait around too long to capture as many as I would have liked. At least six Apollos escaped my lens, as did a couple of Painted Ladies (spotted on the descent). Apart from those shown below, there were numerous others, which I would only be able to name once downloaded onto my laptop. Thankfully, the flowers are a little easier to photograph, if not to identify!
No sooner had we arrived at our friend Arthur’s place on the Camino de Santiago, near Triacastella, (N. Spain), he announced that he had a blackbird’s nest in the bush clambering over his terrace and that there were two wrens building a nest in the palm tree only 2 to 3 yards away from his kitchen window. Not only that but we spotted a family of young blackcaps ‘playing’ in the elderflower bushes to the left of the terrace. So this is their story…
Let me first ‘set the scene’ with a (very poor) panoramic picture below of Arthur’s terrace – the palm tree is on the extreme far right, the (dark) green ‘blackbird’ bush is also to the right and the elderflowers to the left. (The glass of wine was mine! 😊)
The Blackbirds were clearly well advanced as they all fledged and disappeared within a few days of us arriving. But I did manage to capture the one picture below of at least 3 beaks (at the centre of the image).
The Wrens were having a hard time of it. Their first nest had been destroyed (I forget how now), but they were busy building their second towards the bottom of the dead brown leaves hanging down from the palm tree. Unfortunately a storm blew up and hail (yes, hail – in June!) knocked it to the ground. Undeterred, they carried on building another nest further up the tree. One can only admire the determination and industry of these tiny little birds!
Last, but not least, the Blackcaps entertained us all week with their presence. Rather than fly away when we approached the corner of the terrace, they simply hopped behind a leaf or onto the next branch. This allowed me to get a few good pictures, including a very interesting series (see pics numbered 9 to 14) where the male parent returned with a berry and offered it to 2 of the 3 chicks, but then gulped it down itself. It was as if the parent was saying, “Take a good look, this is what you should be out there looking for, now get going…!”) Alternatively, or as well, the ‘teenage’ young, were looking suitably grumpy and saying “Not berries for dinner again!”).
After several days, if not weeks, of misty, wet, dank weather, the sun finally came out in the Val d’Hérens yesterday. As you will see from some of the pictures below, the peaks are still covered in snow, so I chose to do a slightly different ‘medium level’ walk from La Luette to Nax via St Martin.
As soon as I set off I knew I was in for a good day with the camera. There were a lot more wild flowers in bloom and many more species of butterfly on the wing, including, I’m pretty sure, a Camberwell Beauty, which unfortunately escaped my lens.
My apologies for not naming all of the pictures below, but as you will see there are quite a few. But this only goes to show what a wide variety there is in nature. 😊
It’s hard to believe that I’ve now been blogging for over 4 years and this is the first time I’ve posted pictures, well, close up pictures, of one of the world’s most iconic mountains – the Matterhorn. My excuse, if I needed one, is that Jude and I have been to Zermatt so many times before, with almost every one of our friends and family who came to stay when we first moved over to Switzerland.
Anyway, my sister, Karen, has been visiting this week with her partner, Paul, and they were keen to go there. So, we drove around to Tasch, parked up and took the shuttle train to (the car free) Zermatt. Now although the Matterhorn looks impressive from almost any angle, it’s far best viewed from the Gornergrat at 3,100m (or 10,170ft). But do not worry if you are averse to hiking, as there is a train which will whisk you up to the top. 😊
To give you some idea of the scale of what you are looking at, I’ve posted a picture (no. 4) of the ultra modern, ‘space age’ looking, Monte Rosa Hut, which is 5 storeys high and sleeps 120 people. Picture 5 zooms out a little (and you can, I hope, spot the hut in the centre of the lower part of the image) and then picture 6 shows the full extent of Monte Rose (also called the Dufourspitze and is Switzerland’s highest mountain at 4,634m or 15,200ft), with the hut towards the lower right.
Yesterday, my car had to go to the garage in Les Haudères for it’s regular service, so I had some time to kill before picking it up later in the day. Rather than walk back home, I decided to check out the Ferpècle valley, to see how the snow was getting on. And, although there was quite a bit, knee deep even, from the small reservoir to the valley itself, a lot had disappeared. But it will be a while yet, before I can venture too far above 2,000m (6,500 ft).
There are clear signs though that more flowers and creatures are emerging from their winter hibernation. I couldn’t identify picture 22 though, so if anyone has any ideas, please let me know.
In an attempt to catch up and get up to date, I’ve decided to group all my other holiday photos together. (I say my, but I’ve included 2 of Jude’s as well – suitably credited to her). As you will see we had some nice weather (unlike the rest of the UK at the time I understand) and we had yet another fabulous boat ride to the Farne Islands, where thousands of seabirds were nesting.
My apologies for all the bird pictures, but I know there are some keen birders out there following my posts. If any of them/you can identify the little brown birds in pics 2 and 28 then I’d be very grateful. I have my suspicions about the first but no idea about the second.
For our last full day in the NW of Scotland, we drove around Loch Carron to Plockton and treated Jo, Aaron and Jude’s friend, Kate, to a boat ride on one of Calum’s famous* Seal Trips (where you are guaranteed to see seals, or your money back!) I have covered this village before, but I see that it was almost 3 years ago now, so I think it’s worth another post. Especially as, this time, Aaron and I went for a short walk to the viewpoint at An Fhrith Aird, where there is an exceptional view of where Loch Carron meets the Inner Sound between the Isle of Skye and the Scottish mainland. (See map at the end of the picture gallery).
*As featured on the BBC TV series “Paul Murton’s Grand Tours of Scotland’s Lochs”.
While Jude caught up with old friends at Kate and Geoff’s Waterside Café, Jo, Aaron and I drove just a few miles up the road to the Lochcarron Weavers to find some MaCrae memorabilia. We’d also been tipped off that just across the way there was a very interesting 10 minute walk up to the abandoned village of Stromemeanach, which was left to fall into ruin in the 19th century in favour of Lochcarron itself.
On the way back, we stopped off to view the ruined Strome Castle, where Jo actually broke into a run (possibly for the first time in 10 to 15 years) after taking some photos of the Highland cow and calf (in pic 11). I only took one picture of her running, but it turned out pretty well, so I had to post it.
Later that day I strolled down to Slumbay Island (though it’s inappropriately named as it’s still connected to the mainland even at high tide), where I captured a couple of shore birds and, as usual when I find myself on a beach, I found a few stones to stack. 😊
I’m normally quite strict in posting things in chronological order and so, at this point, I should be blogging about my daughter’s wedding. However, as things turned out, I didn’t get the chance to take many photographs (and the ones that I did take were quite ordinary). So I (and you) will have to wait until the newly weds return from honeymoon (in Houston, New Orleans and Miami) for me to post some of the best official photos.
So, in the meantime, I’ll get you up to date on the rest of our time in the UK…
You may recall that Judith and I had rented a cottage in Hathersage and on our last day there, before heading up to Scotland with my other daughter, Joanne, and her partner, Aaron, (see post tomorrow), we went for a quiet stroll along the River Derwent. (Regular followers may recall this post nearly 2 weeks ago).
It’s funny how certain places crop up again in your life. It was only last year that Colin and I started and finished our Inn Way to the Peak District walk in Hathersage and, this week, Jude and I just happen to be staying in a small cottage on the outskirts of the village.
On Tuesday, I had a little time to spare and so decided to do a walk, which didn’t cover the same ground as Colin and I along all the ‘Edges’. My route would take me south along the River Derwent as far as Calver, where I turned west to the ‘plague village’* of Eyam, before heading back across the moor to Hathersage.
Along the way I saw many birds, including 3 nuthatches (not captured on camera unfortunately). But just to forewarn any slightly squeamish readers, I’ve included a series of 3 pictures below of a European Robin taking care, as it were, of a huge worm.
*In 1665 the plague hit the small town of Eyam and, led by the Reverend William Monpesson, the locals agreed to a self-imposed quarantine to stop it spreading. At the top of the hill, I passed a well, where food and medicines were left in exchange for the villager’s money. The coins were subsequently disinfected with vinegar. Figures vary but around 270 villagers died, with anywhere between 83 and 430 surviving.