Swiss Trip to the North (part 2)

As mentioned in my post yesterday, the main reason for our trip to Basel was to see the Edward Hopper Exhibition at the Beyeler Museum. Due to the COVID virus, we had to book a time slot, but there still seemed to be too many people for our liking in each room. Thankfully, after pausing for a few minutes, the crowds dispersed and indeed, the other exhibits seemed to be almost free of people. In case you are wondering, masks were recommended, but not compulsory.

Sadly, we were not allowed to take photos of some of Hopper’s more famous works, so the images below are my personal favourites from the rest of the exhibits.

Afterwards we took the tram back to the city centre and any trip to Basel would not be complete without a look at, or around, the magnificent Rathaus. As you will see, I was again amused by some of the ‘face’ detailing.

As an added bonus, since any static image of the Tinguely Fountain could never do it justice, I’ve included a video of it at the bottom of the page. The Fountain was created in 1977 by Jean Tinguely where the stage of the old city theatre once stood. The Swiss artist has created 10 mechanical figures which are in constant motion, mimicking the artists, actors and dancers who once performed on the theatre stage. Enjoy!

Tinguely Fountain video:

Tinguely Fountain, Basel

Swiss Trip to the North (part 1)

Back in April, Jude and I were due to go to Basel, to see an Edward Hopper exhibition. But this, of course, had to be cancelled due to the COVID-19 outbreak. However, museums, hotels and restaurants have now re-opened in Switzerland, so we decided to re-book our trip.

In addition, we hope to visit every canton in Switzerland and see some of the many delights the country has to offer. So we decided to include a couple of nights in Schaffhausen, to see the famous Rhine Falls, which are the largest in Europe. But more of them later…

After driving directly to Basel and checking in to our accommodation, we had just enough time to visit the Kunstmuseum, which also has an excellent collection of artwork on show.

As you will see from my selection of photos below, I often find the detail of some paintings more fascinating than the overall images themselves! For example, I was particularly amused by the 3 tiny people standing on the glacier in the painting of the Finsteraarhorn by Kaspar Wolf. (See pic no. 7). It looks like one of them might be waving. Kaspar obviously had a great sense of humour as the 3 people sitting on the rock in the next painting look incredibly relaxed for such a precarious position.

Ferpècle Valley Walk to Bricola, Val d’Hérens, Switzerland

Long-time followers will recall how a ‘hole’ mysteriously appeared in the Ferpècle glacier in 2015. Each year since then I’ve been back to see how the hole has collapsed and receded to what it is today.

You can walk along the Ferpècle valley and scramble up a rock slab at the end to get a closer view, but this year I decided to walk up to Bricola, where you can look directly down upon the glacier.

The glacier doesn’t look to be much different from last year, but there was plenty of water rushing down the Borgne as I crossed the wooden bridge. It was so loud, I was drawn into taking a video. (It’s funny how, once you find a ‘feature’ on your camera, you keep using it! 🤔) However, I’ve spared you that today.

Bird, Bugs, Butterflies and Flowers around Les Fournaises, Evolène, Switzerland

In a slight departure from my usual style of one single gallery, I’ve split the images up into 4 sections, covering the topics in the title. The pictures were more or less in this sequence anyway, but I wanted to say something about each, so I thought this was the best way…

During the lockdown, when I’ve had nothing much better to do, I’ve been in the habit of walking up the paths at the back of our chalet. As you may recall from previous posts, there’s always something interesting up there and yesterday was no different.

For the past, 6 or 7 weeks, I’ve sometimes seen but often heard, what I think are Western Bonelli’s Warblers. I’ve been trying to get a decent picture, often taking Jude’s SLR with me in the hope of getting a ‘good’ shot. But they have proved very elusive. Yesterday, I went with just my point and shoot camera and so, you guessed it, Sod’s Law, two or three of them were right there no more than 12 feet in front of me. I snapped away regardless and these were the best results. I’m hoping someone can confirm my id.

Not for nothing is our home called Chalet Les Criquets (The Crickets). At this time of year there’s a constant chirruping noise, though mainly of grasshoppers. As you walk along our grass driveway there’s a moving cloud as 10’s of them leap out of your way. It’s no wonder the birds come to our garden. There are quite a few species too. Below are just a few examples, plus an ugly looking horsefly type thing.

And then of course, there are always butterflies. I was particularly pleased to capture what I think is an Alpine Zephyr Blue. (See first 2 pics below). It’s not normally seen this far down the Rhone valley so, if I’m right, it’s quite a rare find. I’ve also included my first (photographed) Hummingbird Hawkmoth of the year… 😊

Towards the end of my walk, I found 4 ‘new’ plants, more or less growing side by side (pics F2 to F5 below) and, to my delight, I’ve actually identified 3 of them! The mushrooms or toadstools were tiny, each no more than about 5 millimetres high, and they were growing in a tree stump. Finally I’ve included a map of my route at the end.

Walk along the Bisse d’Ayent to Lac Tseuzier, Valais, Switzerland

It only really occurred to me yesterday that, with restrictions still in place in many countries and travel off the menu for most, this site can transport you to another part of the world without you even having to leave home. So I make no apologies for including quite a lot of images in this post, as I think it will give you a better feel for the walk.

As you will see there are quite a few flowers in the gallery. I’ve deliberately left them unnamed so that you can both marvel at their variety and beauty and try to identify each, just as if you had been walking along the path yourself. The other reason of course is that it takes me ages to identify them and even then I sometimes cannot find the answer. This was/is particularly true of the ‘Light brown plant’ in pic 42. I thought it was a dead flower when I walked by the first time, but then took a closer look on my return. It looks very much like an orchid to me, but I cannot find anything similar looking anywhere online. There are no leaves, it just grows straight out of the ground. I’m guessing that it’s some form of Coralroot Orchid which, if true, is “rather rare” according to my Alpine Flora book.

I also thought I’d try to bring some sense of being abroad by including some French, as I often find the names of the butterflies much more exciting in French – like the Brimstone (which always reminds me of fire and brimstone) is known as a Citron. The Moorland Clouded Yellow is a Solitaire, the Mountain Clouded Yellow a Candide and the Purple-shot Copper is a Cuivré Flamboyant. The Black-veined White (which at least describes what it is – see pic 30), is a Gazé. But WordPress doesn’t seem to allow me to include the e with an acute accent in the gallery names, so I’ve had to stick with English. There is however a picture of an information board written in French and German for anyone who’d like to test their language skills. 😊

For more information (in English) and a video of some of the most ‘exciting’ (aka exposed) parts of the route, please click here.

Bonne promenade!

L’A Vielle Walk, Val d’Hérens Switzerland

Continuing the theme of “If at first you don’t succeed…” Regular followers may recall that my walk to the Tsalet d’Eison on May 9th was also hampered by snow. So yesterday, I decided to try again, but this time going in the other direction and taking in the small hamlet called L’A Vielle, where there is a Buvette which is normally open for drinks and snacks, but not yesterday sadly.

With quite some distance to cover. I mad a pact with myself not to chase down and stalk too many butterflies, otherwise I might still have been there today! So I basically only photographed those which landed in front of me and begged me to make them famous all around the world… And in 2 different places there were, what I’ve called, ‘Flotillas’ of butterflies, ‘puddling’ on the damp soil.

This was only upstaged by a group of people herding some Yaks along the path. For a moment I thought I was in the Himalaya. And, funnily enough, we passed each other at the exact spot where the snow had blocked my way last time.

Pic d’Artsinol Walk – 2nd attempt

Almost a month ago I set off to walk to the top of the Pic d’Artsinol, but I was thwarted by too much snow. The weather since has not been particularly warm, but yesterday I decided that it was probably time to give it another go, especially with the chairlift from Lanna opening, which saved me around 700m or 2,300ft of climbing to Chemeuille. 😊

I was however a little hesitant as I drove the car the 1 mile/2 km or so to Lanna, as the peak was covered in cloud. But I hoped that the sun might burn that off and I’d have 360 degree views. Sadly that was not the case, though I did get a good view of the Dixence Dam, which I thought was at least a nice link to my last post. And the clouds did add a little atmosphere to some of the photos.

As you will see in pics 8 and 9, I was joined on the ascent by a very small butterfly (one of only four I saw all day, surprisingly enough, given the number of flowers around). It very cleverly landed on the strap of my camera, making it a little difficult to get a photo, until I realised I had my phone in my pocket. After what seemed like an age, fumbling to get it out, typing in the pin code and selecting the camera option, all without disturbing the butterfly, I managed to get quite a few (and surprisingly good) shots. My only doubt as to its identity as a Small Blue (male) is that my book seems to suggest the first 2 dots on the hind wing should be “equal or less than 90 degrees to the edge of the wing”. (Though it looks identical to a Small Blue photo on the author’s website). So, if there are any experts out there who agree or disagree, I’d like to hear from them.

Equally, if anyone can tell me what the flower is in pic 22, I’d be most grateful. It was at around 2,750m or 9,000ft.

Grande Dixence Dam Walk, Val d’Hérens, Switzerland

Firstly let me say a big THANK YOU to Vivienne at BugWomanLondon, David at White-Rainbows and Brian at blhphotoblog for taking the time to reply to my Damsel/Dragonfly quiz. I don’t know the correct answers, so all I can say is, you’re all winners! 😊

The road up to the Grande Dixence dam is now open. So yesterday I thought I’d take a drive up there, to walk along the track which runs by the side of the reservoir. Everything was going well until I came across a huge patch of snow, (see pic 21), which was probably the result of an avalanche during the winter. So I turned about and headed up to the Gentiane hut, which was closed and completely deserted.

The reservoir is one of a 1000 in Switzerland and ‘Lac des Dix’ is the largest lake over 2,000m in the Alps. As I’m sure many of you will already know, (since I’ve posted this a few times now 😉) at 285m or 935ft, it’s also the tallest gravity dam in the world. (It’s the 5th tallest in the world and the tallest in Europe). The dam itself is 700m or 3,000 ft wide and contains around 6 million cubic metres of concrete. It holds up to 400 million cubic metres of water, but it was only just over half full yesterday. It’s fed by 4 smaller reservoirs in the neighbouring valleys, including Ferpècle and Zermatt, via around 100km or 62 miles of tunnels. The level of water gradually rises throughout the year in preparation for the huge increase in electricity usage during the cold winters.

My walk started in sunshine, but the clouds soon came over, so it wasn’t a great day for photography. If you’d like to see some impressive aerial shots and to find out more fascinating facts about the dam, please click here.

Foret de Pfynges Walk and a Damsel/Dragonfly Quiz

Today my wife, Judith, and I went for a walk around the Foret de Pfynges Nature Reserve which runs alongside the river Rhone. We had hoped to spot a few birds but, with the trees being so tall and canopy thick with foliage, in the event, we spotted everything but birds. We saw fish, frogs (or toads), butterflies, crickets and a couple of Coots. (OK, they are birds. but they were not exactly what we were looking for).

HOWEVER, we did see an awful lot of damselflies and dragonflies. So many in fact, I haven’t the time to look them all up, (and I’d probably get them wrong anyway). So I thought I’d throw them out there as a sort of quiz… (See pics Q1 to Q11). I know at least 2 people who may know quite a few (if not all?) of the answers.
(Vivienne – I bet you’ve been dying to test out that new book of yours. I see Question 10 is on the front cover…)