Birds of a feather…

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! 😊)

0 Terrace

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).

1 Blackbird beaks

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!”).

 

Walk from La Luette to Nax

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. 😊

 

Walk from Alnmouth to Boulmer, Northumberland

Judith and I spent the last week of our UK holiday in Northumberland.  On our way down from Scotland, we dropped off Jo & Aaron at Edinburgh airport to continue their European holiday (in Berlin and Nice and then who knows where…)

We were quite fortunate with the weather and our first day out was to take a shortish walk along the coast from our base in Alnmouth to the next village north, called Boulmer (pronounced Boomer for some reason.  How people ever learn English I’ll never know.  It’s hard enough coping with the various accents without pronouncing things differently to how they look.  Or maybe people just couldn’t spell properly in the old days!)

Anyway, it was a beautiful walk, with plenty of things to photograph along the way. 😊

 

Circular Walk from Castleton, Derbyshire

By the time most of you read this I will probably be at my daughter’s wedding.  Eventually I will post pictures of said event, if I’m allowed, but for the time being, I’m trying to keep up to date with recent events, otherwise you will all be bombarded with an even longer series of posts when I get back home…

So, on Thursday, while my wife was enjoying herself baking cakes and finishing off her dress for the wedding, I set out to do a loop from Castleton.  It started by walking south west up Cave Dale, before striking north west and over Mam Tor (at the dizzy height of 517m / 1,696 ft), to follow the ridge or crest north east over Hollins Hill and Back Tor to Lose Hill, (which is also called Ward’s Piece for some reason) and then returning to Castleton for a well earned refreshment. 🍺

The forecast was for ‘good’ weather, but the sun seemed to take an age to burn off the early morning mist, so the pictures below are a little murky.  Being pretty much in the middle of England, the Peak District is easily accessible to many and, as such, the paths can get very eroded.  So the powers that be have placed massive paving stones to help alleviate the problem.

P.S. Re pic 10: Don’t worry, I do plan to have a shave and smarten myself up for the wedding.  You may not even recognise me! 😊

4th Blogiversary

They say time flies when you’re enjoying yourself, but where does time go?  Quite incredibly, it’s 4 years to the day since I entered the blogosphere.  It’s been an amazing journey so far and it’s certainly kept me busy during my retirement, which was one of my goals when I first started this site.  (My long suffering wife, Jude, will tell you it’s kept me too busy at times, but I do like to put my heart and soul into things!)

I’m not really into the stats, but I’m very grateful for 439 followers (11 of them via email) and especially to those who have been, shall we say, more ‘active’ with comments to let me know that I’ve not been talking to myself (something my mates will tell I’m very good at) and to give me even more motivation and inspiration to continue.    I don’t really want to single out any one individual, but Jet Eliot has been with me for all but one month of this journey and I’d like to thank her for sticking with me all this time.  She deserves a medal for her fortitude.  I would certainly recommend her website to anyone interested in Travel and Wildlife – or anyone who might like reading or writing murder mystery thrillers.  Despite being retired, I still really don’t have enough time or, if truth be known, the inclination to read books, but her Golden Gate Graveyard is a humdinger.

So, to today’s pictures… The first two below I took on Monday, the first with Jude’s SLR camera and a zoom lens from about a metre away.  The next ‘set’ were during a walk up the track/path at the back of our chalet.  I’d seen a small deer casually walking up the road earlier in the day and I hoped to find it, but it had disappeared, as only wild animals can.  Then, at the risk of making you all feel a little cold, or glad that you are where you are, some pictures I took this morning after about a foot (30 cm) of snow fell overnight.  Enjoy!

Of course, I shall be celebrating this momentous occasion in the usual way this evening.  Cheers!  🍺🍺 😋

Walk from La Forclaz to the Mayens de Bréona

It was more in hope than expectation that I drove the few miles to La Forclaz yesterday.  The sun has been out for the past week and, although the snow has completely gone now from our garden (at 1,400m / 4,600ft), I wasn’t sure if even the south facing slopes at 1,700m to 2,100m (5,600ft to 6,900ft) would be clear.  As it turned out, after a short stretch of snow leaving La Forclaz, the footpaths were as good as clear up to the Mayens de Bréona.  However, the descent tracks, which were mainly through the woods, were still covered in about 30cm, or a foot, of the white stuff.

 

Les Flantses Walk, Evolène, Val d’Hérens

While I was away in Krakow it snowed, as indeed it did the day I came back, so our little valley was completely white once more.   As ever though, it seems, the sun has been out since and doing its best to clear it all away again, particularly on the south facing slopes and this has led to the emergence of the first Spring flowers…  (My little Swiss Alpine Flora book has been gathering dust for 6 months, so it was good to get it out again. 🙂)

I decided to get some fresh air yesterday and took a short (maybe 3km / 2 miles) walk behind our chalet along the still partially covered paths and tracks in the area called Les Flantses, which lead up to the small hamlet of Volovron.  As you can see below, you don’t have to walk very far to get a good view of the valley and surrounding mountains.

 

Mont d’Orge, Sion, Switzerland

Sion, (pronounced Cee-on, as in Sea-on, by the way), is the capital of the Swiss canton of the Valais, which is in the south west, french speaking, part of the country.  It has around 30,000 inhabitants and a football team in the Swiss Super League.  Due to its position in the fertile Rhone valley, it has a rich and wonderful history going back to Prehistoric times.  It’s perhaps best known now for its two 13th century hilltop fortifications – the Basilique de Valère and Chateau de Tourbillon.

However there is a 3rd hill close by, called Mont d’Orge, which also has a ruined castle or chateau on top.  It can easily be reached from the railway/bus station and, for added interest, there is a small lake to the north, which teems with wildlife in the summer.  (See information sheet, pic 21, for a list, in French, of some of the creatures found thereabouts).

I’d read about this walk some years ago in a Rother walking guide, but had never done it, until yesterday.  Sadly the skies were a little dull for good photography, but I’ve done my best.

Those clever Swiss people have made best use of the geography by setting out a fitness trail up and around it’s sides.  (See pics 4, 15, 16 & 17 below).  I also stumbled across a yellow flower which my research suggests, (please let me know if I’m wrong), is either a Yellow Star-of-Bethlehem or an Early Star-of-Bethlehem.  If it’s the latter, then this is a very rare flower in the UK (where it’s also known as the Radnor Lily) as it only grows at Stanner Rocks in Radnorshire, Central Wales.  They believe that there are only 1,000 plants, of which only 1% flower each year.  However, it is quite widespread across Europe, North Africa and the Middle East.

Last, but not least, I spotted a signpost with a plaque (pic 29) which shows that I was on one of the Swiss links to the famous Way of St James or Camino de Santiago de Compostela.   That makes it a little over 1,900 km to my good friend Arthur’s house. 😊

 

Small Tortoiseshell butterfly

I mentioned in my previous post that the weather here in the Val d’Hérens has been rather sunny of late.  Well, despite the air temperature only hovering between 0 and 11 degrees C (32 and 52 F) and there still being 80-90% snow cover in our valley, we’ve actually seen 3 or 4 butterflies flitting about.

I was interested to find out which type they were, so I went in search of a photograph and sure enough, only a few yards up our road, I spotted a Small Tortoiseshell.  It had its wings closed and was well camouflaged so, given the distance I was away and the light shining on the back of my point and shoot camera, I was amazed to capture it in the centre of the picture.  The image below is exactly as it was taken (though reduced in pixel size to make it easier for you to load).

This is not the first time I’ve witnessed these brave and hardy little things out in the snow – as this picture from March 2017 shows.

 

Walk from Euseigne to Sion, Switzerland

We’re having some pretty incredible weather here in the Val d’Hérens at the moment.  Since we returned from the UK last week, it’s been blue skies all the way and at least one forecast suggests it will continue for another 10 days, at least… (see pic 1).  😅  Early morning temperatures are still pretty cold mind you, with the ground frozen and as soon as the sun drops behind the mountains (currently around 3pm in Evolène) the warmth disappears instantly.

So I have little or no excuse for not going out for a walk, except that all the paths in the upper valley are still covered in snow and that’s turning into a squelchy wet mush under the sun, before freezing again overnight.  Undeterred I decided to drive down the valley to the village of Euseigne, where most of the snow has now disappeared and walk right down the valley to Sion, before catching the Postbus back to Euseigne.

The total distance of the walk was around 15k or just over 9 miles.  I had a few minutes to spare before the bus arrived, so I decided to run, well jog, another 1k around a 400 metre track which was laid out around a football pitch.  (See last pic).