Search This Blog

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

A cold snap with plenty of snow in the Vienne

Freezing cold it might be here in the Vienne but you know what? This cold snap and heavyish snow fall (I reckon about 5 centimetres) has certainly brought a bit of vim n vigour to the land ... a bit of real Winter weather instead of all this namby pamby grey, damp nonsense!
So, out with the camera and binocs this morning and was rewarded with some reasonable snow pics, a selection of which are below

Plenty of birds about in the local fields and allotments, all foraging like mad for food in order to survive the cold snap. The usual variety of small birds - Reed Buntings, Greenfinch, Yellowhammers and Cirl Buntings ..... and here's one of each (can you tell which is which?

A fair number of Lapwings on the move, with about 200 over in total and whereas that could be expected in cold weather, I was surprised to see Common Cranes on the move also with 3 small flocks overhead and heading south west. I think this must represent a small population of over wintering birds somewhere to the north of here that tend to wander around from time to time in search of suitable grazing. Good to see anyway and got a few decent pics.

Back in the garden and the feeding frenzy that surrounds my bird feeders! Do hope you're all being kind to the birds if it's Winter where you are and if you want any tips on how best to help wild birds in Winter try this site

Here's a couple of snaps out of the window at the barn, one of a Chaffinch on the ground and other a rather well fed looking Goldinch! Neither of these pics came out very well, not sure why but maybe shooting from inside has confused the light sensor on my camera.

Heavy snow overnight!

Yey! Some real winter weather at last and with heavy snow overnight here in La Macherie I'm gonna grab my camera and get some snow pics later. When I looked out of the window this morning there were masses of finches around my bird feeders so maybe I'll get some good close ups with the tripod - if I can bear the cold for that long!

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Born at the Right Time & a break in the weather!

I tried all afternoon and most of the evening yesterday to get this song and sound right and think I just about managed a reasonable result, in any case I'm not spending any more time on it! The song is called Born at the Right Time by Lindesfarne ..... a band I have to admit to having a bit of a blind spot to for years, thinking them a bit too middle of the road. That may still be true of course but as soon as I heard the lyrics on this tune I had to cover it, so apt I thought! See what you think .... if you're my age and fearing for the current generation you might agree!??

Depending on your allegiances the past couple of days have been very disappointing for sports fans with England somehow conspiring to loose the 2nd test match against Pakistan ... been following the match via free streaming sites on the net and for the bother that takes I wish I hadn't bothered! Andy Murray got us all hoping he would finally break his grand slam duck only to fail valiantly against that Djorkavic chap and then my team Manchester Utd lost against arch rivals Liverpool this afternoon in the FA Cup.

Better day all round away from the box and the settee that is gradually moulding itself to by resting position ..... its good to have my neighbours Pat & Clive back from Australia, they're both looking well and it'll be good to have someone to have a natter with and share a cuppa every now and again! Weatherwise, the gloomy skies seem to have departed giving rise to some brighter, albeit colder conditions outside and the ever increasing daylight hours are at least providing some hints of the Spring that's waiting to be sprung! This morning I saw a couple of Great Spotted Woodpeckers flying around together and what looked very much like courtship behaviour to me and this Nuthatch was singing at the top of a tree in the cold sunshine!

During a walk around some tracks near to the village of Pleasance yesterday(I was hoping to catch up with the Peregrine Falcon that got away a few days before!) and I stumbled on a church I hadn't seen before - such a typical French Church I had to snap it!

Finally, I've taken many pictures of the local Buzzards around here, and this is by no way the best, but there was something about  this one's purposeful and jaunty flight over the top of me that again had the hint of Spring about it ....  and I'll swear he was giving me the eye!

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

'Only if You're Lucky', sychronicity and a large water tower!

Yo my merry men, women, children and all animals alike!

I'm trying like a good 'un to inoculate myself from the dismal skies that seem to have descended upon rural France and have to admit to watching rather a lot of TV and sport of late .... been good though - thoroughly enjoyed seeing England take a bagful of Pakistani wickets in the 2nd Test in Dubai (about time!), super football match last night and hats off to Cardiff City for reaching the league cup final and of course Masterchef is as good as ever ... I think the young Asian girl (Raki?) will win.

Now before I sing another song for you, this is what it's like stepping out in the countryside at the moment  .... the other day, feeling somewhat dulled by the overcast weather I stealed myself to go out and take one, just one good photograph .. be good if it was a good bird, a stray fox, a nice looking bit of mossy bark even! This is all I could come up with - a water tower, albeit a fairly impressive one though don't you think?

I know, I could do better in terms of subject matter but us photographers need inspiration and LIGHT!

Right, on to some music. Here is a super little tune from Ryan Adams called 'If You're Lucky'. I'm just getting into the Adams after catching him on the Jools Holland show a while back and must say I'm mightily impressed. Bizarrely, whilst I was taking a break from committing this song to file I heard a snatch of the tune on TV ... backing track to a poignant scene on Holby City! Now I think there must be a word for that kind of coincidence .... synchronicity maybe or I think something German that I can't remember, anyway enough .... enjoy the track!

Minor frustrations and missed opportunities!

What a frustrating couple of days I've just had, on a couple of fronts. Now don't get me wrong, I can't complain ... don't have to get up too early in the morning and can go to bed whenever I like, I don't have to go to work every morning and I'm getting married to wonderful woman in the Autumn - so life is good! Maybe that's why minor irritations assume far greater importance than they should but added to the damp, grey and generally depressing weather here minor frustrations I do not need.

First off I discover that this LPG adaptor I ordered off the net doesn't fit my car.

Think I need this one, which I've now ordered!

Petrol is so expensive at the moment and I was hoping using LPG on my duel fuel vehicle would make a trip to the coast far more feasible - not to be, for now anyway.

Then I was out birding yesterday nr Pleasance and found this pretty good lake with plenty of birds on it, the light was good (for a change) and thought 'at last, an opportunity to take some good pics' ... only to be turfed off by this irate Frenchman in a tractor who communicated to be in no uncertain terms that photography was not allowed! No idea why, my command of the language doesn't extend to the vagaries of property and land laws here, but sure it wasn't private land! Then Balloo rolled in fox shit (no pic) ...... then, later to mixed feelings of delight and frustration, I spotted a superb male Peregrine Falcon stood in the middle of a field next to some flood water, got the camera out but couldn't get a shot through the hedge. Knew it would take off if I stuck my head up and sure enough it did .... great bird, my favourite bird of prey, but what a photo that would have made!

So, as with the Wild Boar experience I'm left with great memories but no photographs and having to post what might have been! Neither of these pics are mine of course but the one of the falcon standing is similar to the bird and pose I was looking at. Damn shame! I've added another pic of one of these superb hunters in flight just because it was a great photograph!

On the plus side I'm enjoying posting some of the songs I cover on here and there will be another couple very soon, if not today and I go back to the UK next week to cover some of my OU responsibilities so I'll be able to see my fiancee Gabrielle, my family and maybe catch up with a few friends.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Grey is the New Blonde ... a song for middle aged lovers!

Much the same outside in the dank, damp countyside out there and as I speak it's drizzling and just not nice to be out in ... so nothing much doing out there! So I've been spending more time indoors recording songs (and watching TV ..... masters snooker and masterchef mainly!)

So here's another song for you. It's called 'Grey is the new blonde' by Henry Priestman (ex of the Christians) ... a great little tune for middle aged lovers! Enjoy!

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

TimboBaggins sings a couple of songs for you

Ok, as promised and finally uploaded, here are a couple of songs I do live now and again. The first is my version of an old John Sebastian (ex frontman of Lovin Spoonfull) song 'Stories we can tell' and then I do a more energetic tune by Tom Petty called 'Last DJ'.

Overall I'm pretty happy with how both songs have turned out, especially since I was fdeeling much less than 100% when I was recording them. I would have preferred a better recording sound and better quality video but the HD recording I attempted using my Canon 550D played back in slow motion!

See what you think anyway. The experience has certanly honed both songs in readiness for any forthcoming solo gigs and I'll be posting more over the next few weeks.

95% recovered and the frost begins to bite!

Hi folks! It feels like I'm emerging out into the wide world again after a period of hibernation and whilst that is obviously not true (i've not turned into a squirrel just yet!), I have most definitely been house bound for a while. Been poorly with 2 colds in the space of 2 weeks and probably some kind of flu that has confined me to barracks and more often than not either my bed or the settee and the TV .... not very adventurous of me I know but honestly folks I've been wretched so not really had anything to report and didn't think you good people would be too interested in the changing colour of my snot!

Anyway, moving on ..... I'm on the mend and ready to get out and about again and post some pics.

It has finally turned cold here and whilst I couldn't drag myself out into some of the harsh frosts and take some pics here's a reasonable look up the lane to La Macherie one frosty morning earlier in the week and one of the rising river Gartemps.

Have to say that although I've not been doing much birding, my sense is that it's staggeringly quiet around here. Bit disappointing really but since I haven't ventured further than the village and one or two local spots I suppose one can't complain. I had a nice Merlin last month along with a couple of Hen Harriers. There are masses of finches but apart from a couple of Hawfinches, all either Chaffinch, Greenfinch or Goldfinch. Plenty of Skylarks and Meadow Pipits around and some impressive flocks of Reed Buntings with around 200 seen today in meadows and fields around the village.

One interesting aspect is the number of over-wintering Chiff Chaffs and Blackcaps with several of both species around the village, probably benefiting from garden feeders, but also not uncommon to see either in local woods and along hedgerows. Here's a couple of pics of a female Blackcap foraging in a largely frozen elderberry tree.

Whilst it's been quiet on the bird front I've been busy playing my guitar and aim to play a solo gig at a bar in Drux one Friday eve soon, so madly practising and massaging my vocal chords! Just finished rerecording the couple of songs I posted a few weeks ago .... I wasn't happy with the final result and still not but I have to get over that slightly perfectionist streak and just post! Still uploading the clips but will post very soon!

Thursday, January 12, 2012

All quiet here but my sister turns 50!

Hi folks, really quiet here in terms of local wildlife and really nothing of note to report. I'm a bit tied to the village because I'm looking out for my neighbour's 3 cats, otherwise I might have headed out to the coast .... maybe in a few weeks when said neighbours get back from Australia I'll take some time out.

Been much more interesting on the music front though. Jane (my sister) was back last week along with her partner and my beloved fiancee Gabrielle. Jane celebrated her 50th birthday with a party at the biggest bar in town - Henri's and a few local musicians turned up and played. We played too and although a bit stage rusty it was good to get back to playing .... here's a few pics of the night

Thursday, January 5, 2012

My best pics of 2011

Here we are then 2 days into the new 'leap' year 2012, the designated year of sustainable energy to all, the international year of 'co-operatives', the year of the London Olympics and according to the Mayan culture the year the world as we know it will end (on Dec 21st apparently!) ...... best not think about it!

As is the the tradition at the end of one year and the beginning of the next I thought a spot of reminiscence should be in order, bit late (that's my own tradition) but here are a few of my favourite photographs from my first 9 months in France, some of which have found their way into other blog posts but mainly these are unpublished.

I arrived here in March just as trees were beginning to bud and took a series of photographs of garden birds out of the back of the barn, these 2 of blue tit and goldfinch were amongst the best.

Later in the month I went over to the coast at Isle De Oleron and although seagulls are maybe not the most photogenic of birds, these couple of Lesser Blacked Backed Gulls negotiating the incoming tide made for some good shots

In April we, that's me Jane & Mark, spent a week or so down in the Pyrenees. They wanted some chillout time from the barn restoration project and I just fancied a trip somewhere to celebrate my retirement. Some half decent landscape photographs of La Pic de Ger and Le Pont D'espagne here plus one of Mark after an evening of fine wine tasting and singing and one of me the day after looking decidedly hung over (but still smiling!)


The bird pics are of Red Kite ..... one of a pair that hovered over us one day while we were camping high up in the mountains and Griffon Vulture of which we saw many patrolling the skies

Later on that month, back at La Macherie I saw a Western Whip Snake on the road as I was walking Balloo ....not seen one of these before and at the time wasn't sure if it was one of the poisonous ones so kept my distance and kept the dog away, still managed a couple of good shots though (the close up is with the zoom!)


Into May and peak breeding season for birds, stacks going on of course but here's just a couple of my favourite memories - first a pretty good overhead shot of a migrating Osprey in the Limousin (right) and below are 2 of many close up pictures I got of a pair of Black Redstarts that were nesting in the barn and that I tempted into using a home made perching post just outside .....judging by the huge array of food they brought back to the nest, if I'd taken more I could have compiled a half decent pictorial record of all the insects in the garden!

June saw me down in the south of France and although I somehow managed to time my trip down to the Camargue with some of the heaviest and most violent electrical storms certainly I've ever witnessed there were enough bright interludes to allow some good photographic opportunities.

Flamingoes are photogenic at the best of times and the good numbers on the Camargue allowed many good shots. I've also picked out a good shot of a Kentish Plover I took from the car and some excellent dragonflies that came out in the sun after yet another downpour.

At a nearby location (Plaines de La Crau) I managed this cracking good shot of a Black Kite (right) along with a speciality bird of the Mediterranean area, the splendidly exotic Roller

July and August were quiet months but this photograph of a Grey Heron and Little Egret squabbling over food was memorable for the interaction alone whilst coming across a family group of white horses walking towards me and then having them follow me on my local patch was one of those encounters that was both quaint and disturbing in equal measure!

Autumn here was marked by plenty of late summer sunshine with temperatures of 30 degrees C not uncommon well into October. Goodish rather than spectacular bird migration with late warblers, redstarts, whinchats and a half decent passage of Red Kites coming through providing daily interest in terms of birds but a high flying wandering Black Stork (right) over the barn spotted by my mate Mark was a highlight for me.

Blooming wild flowers in the meadows and  almost into November! (pic left)
Short Toed Eagle on passage nr Montmorillon (pic right)

Nice and pretty lucky shot of a Marsh Tit in flight in the Autumn sun here ..... been looking for an opportunity to showcase this pic!

More bird passage in November with masses of Common Cranes flying south over the village but equally impressive to me was the Wood Pigeon passage with big flocks in the early winter sunshine looking splendid (pic right)

Into December and still relatively mild with hardly any frost yet, I had Common Cranes still migrating south on Boxing Day with 35 south over the village and this picture of a Ewe with lamb (pic below) would normally be unremarkable had it not been taken on Dec 17th!

Ok folks that's my year with some of my best pictures. It seems fitting to end the post with an end of the day shot and here's a nice shot of reeds at my nearest wetland habitat, L'etang de Beavoir.