Lac Léman and Château de Chillon, Vaud, Switzerland

On Tuesday, Jude and I took a trip down to Switzerland’s largest lake, Lac Léman or Lake Geneva. We parked up in Villeneuve, which lies at the eastern end and walked along the lakeside towards Montreux. Along the way is one of Switzerland’s “Top 10” tourist sites, the Château de Chillon.

The site began as a Roman outpost, to guard the route through the alpine passes, but construction started in the 10th century. As you can imagine it has an interesting history and you can read all about it here.

Equally interesting are the legends which surround the small island seen in picture 4. Surprisingly (to me anyway) it’s the only natural island in the lake, Technically it’s called the Île de Peilz but, being British, I like the story about it being given as a gift to Queen Victoria when she visited the region. A tree was planted on the island and it’s known as Queen Victoria’s tree. For more legends and even a video of the tree please click here.

Note that the first two images below were taken near Ollon, on our way to the lake.

Deer, deer, deer… (Nature watch, Evolène, Valais, Switzerland)

With the snow still being around, I put the trail cam up around the tree to see what might wander into our garden. Jude and I wondered whether the stag might return, but no, last Saturday evening the camera captured this (young?) male Roe deer (below). His antlers are just growing and somewhat smaller than those of ‘our’ Red deer stag!

I should point out that Jude has been putting up the bird feeders during the day and taking them in at night, which is why they seem to like grazing under the tree and a little too close to the camera. So I’ve been adjusting it and the 2 plant pots, which were beneath the tree, as the week has progressed to get some better shots of the action.

The following night (around 2am on Monday morning) he returned and was surprised, but seemingly not concerned, by another visitor…

And, the following night, (Tuesday at 1am), a slightly more mature male visited…

Around 4 hours later, (5am Tuesday) a female arrived. She obviously felt at home as she settled down for a rest…

And then last night, this fox was obviously taken aback by the ‘eyes’ (aka lenses) of the trail cam…

Finally we have 2 videos, (one taken at 3am this morning and one at 5:45am) of both a male and female happily grazing together on the bits and pieces that we had left out for them… (I also have a clip of 3 together but it wasn’t as good as these… 😊)

Let me tell you a story…

I hope you’re sitting comfortably, as this a little bit different to my usual posts… There are several ‘points’ to this story, as you will see at the end, though I’ll be as brief as I can. 😊

It’s been snowing off and on for the past week or so. The garden was completely clear of the white stuff before it came. So just when we thought Spring was on its way, we were back to square one.

But when the sun comes out, everything looks beautiful…

Though it does mean some work is necessary if you want to go anywhere and not be up to your knees in it all the time. Note: It’s around 60 to 70 metres/yards to get to the parking area (which makes for good training! 💪)

Consequently, some of the bird feeders came out again and we had a visitor on the balcony, sheltering from the snow… an Alpine Accentor. (It was a friendly little thing – even allowing me to open the window to get this uncropped shot from about 2m / 6 feet away).

But this also meant we had some other, bigger visitors…

So I decided to put up the Trail cam again and two nights ago, amongst several others, it captured this video:

And then again last night, this one (of around 10 clips) at 10:45pm. Regular readers may note that it’s the same stag (with 3 prongs and 2 prongs) as my previous posts in December and January.

Then, around 2:45am, the trail cam captured another series, including this one nearer to the camera…

Hopefully you’ve viewed the last video, to see the ‘point’ of this story… (or lack of them). If not, shame on you, go back and watch!

The stag must have shed its antlers sometime between 10:45pm last night and 2:45am today. And below is what we found this morning… How kind of him, after using those antlers to destroy our bird feeders over the past 3 months to leave them behind for us as a souvenir! They each weigh 1.4kg (just over 3 lbs) and measure 70 cm (or 2ft 3.5″) in length.

Also, who knew that the ‘bottom end’ of the antler is called the corona or burr and the area on the stag’s head where it attaches (or detaches in this case) is called the pedicle? You learn something new every day! 😊

Walk from La Luette to Sion, Val d’Hérens, Switzerland

Most times my walks go very smoothly but, occasionally, there are a few hiccups… Yesterday, I drove down to La Luette, with the intention of walking down the east side of the valley to Sion. I’d no sooner got out of the car when I discovered I’d left my camera at home. A quick about turn to pick it up and 20 minutes later I was setting off. Less than five minutes later, I was taking my first photo and the camera said it couldn’t read the SD Card. My heart sank! I was sure I’d put the card back in and, thankfully, I had. But, for some reason, it took 3 attempts to get it working. Phew!

Not long after that, I came across the sign in pic 2, saying the path was closed due to the danger of rock fall. You can see where the rocks are sticking out (in pic 3), so I ignored the sign and maybe 150 metres later I exited the danger zone (having kept a watchful eye on the rocks above!) Phew 2!
Note: this is not recommended practice of course and should only be undertaken by intrepid explorers or idiots like me!

Another unusual encounter was with a herd of goats, which decided to follow me from their apparent home at Ossona. You can just about see them to the bottom left of pic 8. As I continued along the track, I was suddenly aware of the tinkling of bells behind (see pic 9). I stopped to see if they would continue to some unknown destination, but no, they just hung around. (Maybe it was the smell of Jude’s delicious peanut butter biscuits in my bum-bag, I don’t know). All I could do was continue and they seemed to drop back, but again they decided I was worth following (pic 12) and I only got rid of them when I reached a gate about 500 metres later. Phew 3!

As I was walking along several small, brown and orange looking, fluttery things kept taking off in front of me. I knew they were not Tortoiseshell butterflies as they were much smaller. But none of them would re-land to have their photo taken. About half way along the walk, two more appeared in quick succession, so I kept my eyes peeled for no. 3 and, bingo, I finally caught one before it took off. I’m still not exactly sure what they were, but my best guess is an Orange or Light-Orange Underwing moth. (See pic 19).

Lastly, for your entertainment, (never let it be said you don’t get full value on this website), I decided to take a video of my crossing of the Passerelle de la Grande Combe. Since WP only allows a maximum of 250Mb, I did it in 2 sections and spliced them together (cutting off the ends of each to make it small enough to upload). I hope you enjoy. (It’s at the end of the post, after the gallery).

Trail cam update

You may have been wondering what’s been happening with the trail cam I got for Christmas. Well, firstly the batteries gave out after only 3 days. This may have been partly due to the sub-zero temperatures, partly the quality of the batteries and partly due to the camera taking numerous (apparently blank) videos. My conclusion is that the field of ‘vision’ of the movement sensor is much wider than that of the camera, so it is continuing to record things which are off camera. (I have plenty of clips with bums just about visible in the corners).

Next, you may recall I went for a walk without a memory card in my camera – because I’d put the SD card in the trail cam. Well, I bought a new SD card and formatted it using the trail cam, but it didn’t seem to work. The next 2 days drew blanks – even though there were clear signs of activity in the snow. It didn’t actually recognise the SD card, so I swapped it with another from my camera and now everything seems to be working OK. (You’ll be glad to know that after re-formatting the new SD card, it is also working fine in my camera).

In between times I had been tinkering with some settings, which also seemed to mess things up, so now I’m down to a simple, 15 second video with 20 second pause in between, though the camera is meant to carry on recording for a short while if there is activity in the last 4 seconds. (The manual talks about a Dynamic setting, which my device doesn’t seem to have!)

Anyhow, below are 3 of the best videos, with the last two having 3 clips stitched together.

First up is a roe deer, which came around 6:30pm a few days ago now and you can see the tree to which the Trail cam is attached for the second two videos.

Second, here’s a huge stag, again from 2 or 3 days ago, which was timed at 10:15pm, tucking into some vegetable scraps we left outside.

Last, but not least, is another roe deer, (could even be the same one as above), again timed at 6:30pm yesterday evening. You can see how alert it is to any surrounding noises, with the ears acting like radar scanners.

It may also be worth saying that we live only about 100 metres above the road which goes around the village, though the woods are not far behind our group of 6 or 7 chalets. So these creatures are coming down quite low to find food. Indeed, 2 of our neighbour’s young trees have had their lower branches nipped off completely.

And, just in case you wonder what the light is, which appears towards the end of this video (top left), it’s not a plane or UFO, but the piste machine preparing the ski slopes above Lannaz. 🏂

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!! 😊

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.

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.