Ferpècle Valley Walk, Take 2…

Following on from my slight ‘mishap’ yesterday, I returned to the same car park, at almost the same time and set off to do the same walk but, this time, with a memory card in my camera! The only real difference was that my car told me it was -13 degrees C (8.6 F) instead of -11 C (12 F). Though, rather strangely, it felt warmer.

Anyway here are the photos that you (and I) missed yesterday. And, since I mentioned taking a video, I’ve also included three videos. The second and third have 2 or 3 clips stitched together to save you opening several links. If you want to see how far I got this time, I suggest you view video 2 before 3… 😉
(There is a bit of wind noise on the last clip, but it wasn’t very windy at all).

Never let it be said that you don’t get value for money on this site!! 😊

More visitors in the night…

Firstly let me say a very Happy New Year to everyone and a big THANK YOU to all my followers and especially to those of you who have provided comments throughout 2020. Let’s all keep our fingers crossed that 2021 is a much more joyful year.

At the risk of becoming boring and a bit one dimensional, (I promise to go out walking when the weather improves and the sun begins to shine), I have a few more Trail cam videos for you to enjoy…

After 2 blank nights where nothing was captured at all, last night, around 11:45pm, we had two small (Roe?) deer. Again the videos are extremely short for some reason, being only 1 to 2 seconds long instead of the 10 seconds I was expecting. I’ll check the settings and let’s hope things are OK next time.

On the 2nd video you can see one of the deer taking an interest in the bin full of bird food, but it didn’t dislodge the lid. There was a 3rd clip (not shown) showing the back end of one running away, so something must have spooked them.

About 3 hours later, at least one of the two stags seen in my previous posts made another appearance. And again, I’ve stitched together 5 very short clips to make the one below. He clearly enjoyed some of the bread and carrots that we’d left out. You will be pleased to know that the, now pieced together, bird feeder is safely out of harms way, attached to the railing of our 1st floor terrace (off camera, towards the top right of the video). 😊

Another Stag Night in Evolène, Val d’Hérens, Switzerland

After a quiet night on Monday, when only a fox appeared on my Trail cam, last night it captured another case of wanton destruction of the bird feeder. Jude had deliberately removed all the bird food containers to see whether the stag(s) would still demolish the holder.

It snowed during the day yesterday, leaving about 3 inches of fresh snow covering the garden. The pictures below show the view this morning from our upstairs balcony. As you will see, there were lots of hoof prints, the main pole had been uprooted and bent, while the top part of the feeder was about 10 yards away, down in the field below.

This time I’d pointed the Trail camera towards the feeder to catch the culprit(s*) in action. Unfortunately, in the event, the first 10 second video was OK, but the remainder of the videos were only 1 to 2 seconds long. (I’m not sure if this is a fault in the camera, e.g. if there is constant movement when the ‘hybrid’ photo/video option is selected). Anyway to save me posting and you clicking through numerous 1 to 2 second videos, I’ve merged some of them together to show a) the stag’s arrival and b) the start of the demolition.

*One of the later videos captured, (not included here), shows the pole moving up and down without the stag in view touching it, so we suspect there is another one off camera pulling and/or pushing at the top of the feeder. Certainly we did catch 2 pairs of eyes on camera coming into the field the other night and someone in the village posted a picture of 2 stags during the daytime on facebook a few days ago. So we know there are 2 lurking in the vicinity.

Clearly they are simply looking for food and not vandals after all. But, to save dismantling the bird feeder every night, we are now going to move it up to the corner of our balcony, well out of the reach of those long antlers!

I’m afraid the following 2 videos are a bit jerky, but I hope you will get the idea.

Destruction in Evolène…

The day started brightly enough, though it was probably a sign of the imminent strong winds which have been forecast across central Europe.

Jude went outside and soon ran back in asking me to stop everything and come and look. Our bird feeder had been destroyed… again! (This happened last year too). Pieces were everywhere – the furthest being about 25 yards down the fields (to the left of the right hand bush in the first image).

It was at this point that I’d wished I’d left the Trail cam pointing in the same direction as yesterday to capture what happened. However, the culpritS have been identified…

Firstly the one I’m calling 3 pointer, because he has 3 prongs on the top of his antlers.

Immediately after the above, there was another video with sounds of bashing and crashing. Here’s his partner in crime – 2 pointer.

In the midst of this mayhem, a fox trotted across a few times, but this was the best video.

One of them obviously had something stuck on its antlers as it came back into view trying to get rid of whatever it was. There’s no tree or bush to the right where it’s standing.

Last, but not least 3 pointer returns to check on his handiwork…

First Time Lucky…

I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas Day. One of the presents my lovely wife gave me was a Trail camera. It has “Dual image sensors optimized for highest quality images day and night.” So, like all boys with new toys, I was onto it straight away, inserting the batteries and setting it up. I had a choice between video and still images and one called hybrid. I wasn’t sure what the hybrid option did, as the instruction booklet didn’t seem to cover that. I was so keen to get it fixed to our tree that I didn’t have time to read ALL the instructions! (I’ve subsequently learnt, via the online instructions, that it can do both video and still photos at the same time! 😊)

So yesterday afternoon, I strapped it to the tree at the corner of our garden, between 3 and 4 feet up and crossed my fingers. (No time to do a test of course!)

There was a little more snow later yesterday evening and when I awoke this morning I noticed some tracks across the garden. Yippee, I thought, I can’t wait to see what happened. Well, upon inserting the SD card into my laptop I noticed not one, but 30 files! Six of these were taken this morning (which turned out to be me shovelling the snow away and approaching the camera to remove it). All 24 of the others were taken within about 10 minutes of each other. So I was hopeful that whatever it was, it had mooched about for a bit.

In the event, the very first file showed the video below, while all the others were just falling snow. (Maybe the creature was slightly off camera). I plan to adjust the settings and try again this evening (as there’s no snow forecast). I’ll also point it out towards our field as there seems to have been a lot more activity there. We’ll see what tomorrow brings…

For the techies amongst you, the device is a Bushnell, Core DS, model no. 119977M.

Note: You’ll have to be quick at spotting what it was… (though it’s playing on a loop, so if you leave it, the animal will re-appear…) There is also a still image further below in case you missed it.

Happy (White) Christmas

I guess many of you will not be blessed with a white Christmas this year, so I thought I’d bring you a little bit of ‘virtual’ snowfall, via the video below, which I took this morning.

I’d also like to thank all of you who have followed me over the past 12 months and especially those who have provided comments, your feedback is very much appreciated.

Wishing you all a very merry Christmas and, hopefully, a safe and peaceful new year.

Snowy Riverside Walk, Evolène, Valais, Switzerland

This morning I went for a stroll down through the village and along the riverside to the first footbridge and back. You cannot normally walk on the prepared cross-country ski piste which runs along the far side of the river, but it’s not yet ready for action. So I took the opportunity to go that way before it becomes off limits.

Before setting off, Jude heard the sound of some ‘unusual’ birds twittering outside. We went to investigate and discovered two Alpine Accentors having a right old beak wag on our bedroom balcony. Goodness knows what they were saying to each other. They are the most placid of birds and were not bothered at all when we both pointed cameras in their direction. I even had the time to take a short video, which I’ve added below the gallery. I hope you enjoy! 😊

Bella Lui Walk, Rhone Valley, Switzerland

We had a small amount of rain on Monday night which left a layer of snow down to around 2,300m or 7,500ft. With this in mind I scoured the map for something new and south facing, as the snow may well have melted away. I settled upon a walk above Crans-Montana to Bella Lui (at 2,548m or 8,360ft), with the possibility of carrying on to a peak called Tubang (at 2,826m or 9,272ft), if the snow conditions allowed. I also noticed that there was a return path from the Col de l’Arpochey, which sits between the two peaks, that would take me down to the Bisse de Ro and back to the parking area.

The map also showed that there was a ladder somewhere between the peaks, which I assumed would be to go up, but it turned out to be to descend. As you will see from some of the pictures below, there was quite a lot of snow still around and it was when I reached that ladder (pics 23 & 24) that I turned around and retraced my steps. I’d also spotted quite a lot of snow on the steep descent path (pics 21 & 22). After having had one fall this week, I wasn’t planning on having another!

The initial path was also interesting in that my GPS route took me up a mountain biking track. It wasn’t clear where the walker’s path was, but I have to say, those mountain bikers are brave souls! I tried to take a video on my way back down to show you how difficult the terrain was, but it didn’t work out very well. I did however manage to get a video of two parascenders (also in pic 18) taking off – which is at the end of this post.

The rather swanky resort of Crans-Montana couldn’t be more different to our, rather humble, little village. I only walked passed about 5 chalets and 3 of them are featured below.

Val de Réchy Walk, Valais, Switzerland

This is another of my favourite walks, which I haven’t done this year, so I thought I’d give it a go before the winter sets in. The snow, which fell a few weeks ago now, has largely melted away, certainly on the south facing slopes, but I wasn’t sure what I’d find in the valley.

My mate Pete has been encouraging me to post some more videos, so yesterday I decided to take one as I approached the Pas de Lovegno and then another near the lake called Le Louché (not Lac de Lovegno as I incorrectly said on the video). You’ll find the videos below the usual gallery of photos and I hope you find them interesting.

As you will see the skies were blue, but there was definitely a chill in the air and I was a little surprised to see 4 butterflies, two of which I captured, but a blue one and an unidentified one escaped my lens.

Life in Switzerland, Part 1 – Cows

For some time I’ve thought about describing some of the ‘nuances’ of an expat living in Switzerland, but never quite got around to it. (It’s amazing what self-isolation can do to you!*) So here is the first in a series, which may run and run, depending upon what life here throws at me (and Jude) during the year. I hope you will find it interesting, or at least a little different to life wherever you may be. 😊

Regular readers may recall that we live in a small village, called Evolène, which lies at almost 1,400m or 4,600ft in the Val d’Hérens in the southern part of Switzerland. We describe it as authentic, as the traditions that have gone on for eons are still continuing today. In particular the Val d’Hérens breed of cow is almost revered around here (quite rightly of course), due to its uniqueness.

There are several small farms in and around the 6 villages at the top of the valley (the other 5 are Les Haudères, Villa, La Sage, La Forclaz and Arolla) and each farmer has only around 8 to 12 cows. (This compares with about 100 per typical farm in the UK). In the winter, since we’re under 1 to 2 feet of snow for most of the time, the cows are kept in their sheds until the Spring/early Summer.

Sometime in June, when there’s a spell of good dry weather, the farmers will come to cut the grass in the fields. The whole of the Commune is divided up into hundreds of small plots, each legally owned by different people, but it seems each farmer ‘owns’ the right to cut the grass on many different plots. Rather curiously, these plots are not always adjacent to each other, so it can lead to a sort of patchwork of cut/not cut grass. (See pic 6 below).

Every year, 2 ladies come with their grass cutter, go through our small field and cut the grass in the 4 plots below. The total size of these 4 plots is only about 20 yards by 70 yards (max). So it’s farming on a small scale by anyone’s standards. How many plots these 2 ladies cut altogether, is a mystery. When these ladies came the very first time, just after we’d moved in, we thought we must have upset the locals as they disappeared without touching our grass. We needn’t have worried as our plot is used by another famer…

Almost exactly 2 weeks later, Johan, the farmer who lives just below us, comes to cut the grass in our field and many of the other plots around and about the neighbouring chalets. The grass is then left for a day, before being turned or tossed around by a sort of spinning machine (and/or by hand) and a day later it’s ‘rowed up’ to be scooped up into the back of a truck. Every little blade of useful hay is gathered up by 2, sometimes 3, helpers raking into line any stray bits which have escaped or were not rowed correctly. Below are a few pictures of the machines and farmers in action on various plots in the valley.

At the end of June, once the snow has disappeared from what’s known as the ‘alpage’ (i.e. that area of lush meadow between the higher villages and the rocky mountain tops), the cows are all taken up to graze for the summer. This is known locally as the Inalp or transhumance, which I joined in with once and blogged about here.

At the end of September, all the cows are brought back down to their respective farms to get ready for the winter again. However, there are often several days of glorious sunshine to be had. So the farmers, Johan again in this case, places an electric wire or fence around the fields he uses and then brings the cows up for the day – usually around 10am. (The sun has reached the fields by then). Around 4pm, he, or someone from his family, then leads them back to the sheds.

All of this brings me neatly to this video of the cows arriving for the day and crossing our small field. (I would call it a garden but we enjoy the cows coming so much, we have resisted the temptation to ‘do something with it’ and have left it in the capable hands of the farmer to use. 😊

*Footnote: Our 10 day isolation period ends today (though I understand the UK has now been taken off the Swiss ‘red list’!) Glorious weather is forecast for the next few days, so ‘normal service’ will resume tomorrow… 🤗🎆👍