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Friday, September 30, 2011

La Chasse!

Friday afternoon and French men all over this neck of the woods are clocking off early. Are France playing at the rugby world cup? Yet another public holiday w/e shutdown?

Nope, neither of these, something much more 'basic instinct' – it's the hunting season (La Chasse) and from now until March the countryside will resound with the sound of barking dogs, beasts in flight & shotgun blasts!

One article I read on the subject describes 'La Chasse' as less of a weekend pursuit and more of a 'genetic obsession' for many Frenchmen (as far as I can gather 'les madames' are either disinterested or not invited!)

Vast stretches of the French countryside and especially certain favoured wooded areas are 'off limits' at this time of the year, and although I'm not averse to hopping the occasional fence in pursuit of a mysterious bird call or to get a good shot (photographic I mean!), yours truly will NOT be risking a round of lead in my backside and straying into the sights of blood thirsty Frenchmen with guns!

I have it on good opinion that the underlying aim of these highly organized forays into the woods is to 'cleanse' the countryside and control the numbers of wild boar, deer, hare, rabbit and the like – fair enough, all those animals can do a lot of damage to the land if unchecked ( witness the damage to native forests in Scotland a few years ago by unchecked numbers of red deer), but I've also been told that anything on 4 legs or 2 if it has feathers on it, is fair game and although the hunt is supposed to be regulated, that means very little when the vast majority of hunting takes place in rural areas where the word regulation looses everything in translation!

Where do I stand on La Chasse? Hey look, I love this country and there's nothing worse than foreign residents taking pot shots (pun very much intended!) at local traditions. It's very much an accepted part of life here and there's no anti hunting lobby at all. I think the whole 'man hunting beast' thing is instinctual and has its place still in the 21st Century – at least it hasn't warped into a class issue and a political hot potato like it has in the UK. Having said that – I see one red kite fall out of the sky following 'un coup de feu' and I'll be hopping over that fence en route to expressing some good old English outrage!

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Somtimes I watch the skies for hours!

Sometimes I stare at the sky for hours on end; seems like a completely mad thing to do but amongst other things I'm a 'birder', and at this time of the year some, in fact most of our feathered friends are on the move in one way or another, and 'birders' like me like to keep our heads up!

I say 'birder' to distinguish myself from the other 2 types of so called birdwatchers – now I'm not being dismissive here, each to their own and all that but it grates a little when a common response I get upon mentioning that I'm a birdwatcher is 'oh a twitcher eh?' Time for some definitions!

Twitchers – Interested in birds - yes, but only in terms of ticking them off. A bone fide 'twitcher' would think nothing of upping sticks and travelling the length and breadth of the country just to see and then 'tick off' the latest rarity to flutter into their country.

Part time enthusiasts – Bird table in the garden and binoculars from the conservatory with the occasional trip out the their local RSPB reserve of a Sunday.

Birders – Totally in to birds. Slightly mad breed, fascinated by what birds are occurring on their patch and why.

All good folk and birds need the attention of as many fanatics, however mad, as possible in order to thrive and thus continue to thrill us.
OK, OK, enough already…. back to the skies! The past couple of weeks I've been fairly sedentary in and around La Macherie, the weather has been fine and the skies full of birds moving South, mainly swallows ans house martins but also several birds of prey including Red Kite, Booted & Short Toes Eagle and Honey Buzzard - any like minded birders will doubtless find the first of my weekly bird reports quite interesting! For those with more of a passing interest here are a few recent 'upward' shots'

Ok from the top - Honey Buzzard, to be honest I don't remember much about this bird, just realised it was a buzzard that didn't look quite right and started clicking! It was only later when I was editing my pics that I thought WOWSER - that's a definite Honey Buzzard!
Middle 2 - Pretty sure these are Hen Harriers, they were messing about and my guess it that they're immatures dispersing from a nest site somewhere.
Bottom left - Ah! Confusion time - was convinced at the time this was a migrating Booted Eagle but the carpal patches give it away - its a pale phase Common Buzzard!
Bottom right - so lucky on this one ... thats a Black Stork and one of a pair that I just happened to be flying South as I was looking up. Fair distance up like, as are most of these travellers - hence the need to crop these pics, however a good birding lesson in always keeping an eye on the skies!

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Autumn is on its way!

The French countryside was just bursting out into Spring when I arrived in this neck of the woods, now the Summer is all but gone and the leaves are turning ... its taken me that long to get this blog up and running! Well better late than never, and I'm very often late ... spend too much time looking at things!

I'm new to blogging so this is likely to be a slightly sloppy start but I'm doing this as much for myself as for any other mad fool who might choose to take an interest in my travelling experiences. Read my bio if you really do have nothing else to do but in a nutshell I'm a self confessed wildlife, photography & music lover and have taken early retirement (courtesy of the good ole NHS) so that I can dwell a bit on these pleasures before I'm too old to pursue them .... I actually enjoyed working but sometimes life throws up opportunities and being a bit of chancer I took this one!

Hope you enjoy the blog, hope it inspires  ... if its still going in 6 months time then I'll be enjoying it too!