Monday, 14 November 2011


Figueres was our next destination, for me to see the Dali Museum, unfortunately we had chosen market day, so we drove round and round trying to find a parking space. At last we parked and walked to the extraordinary building that houses Dalis works, also where he is entombed. The building itself is painted crimson, on some elevations, with huge eggs placed at intervals along its roofline.

It used to be the Municipal Theatre and is the largest surrealist object in the world. The elevation we spent most time looking at, as we had to queue for nearly 2hrs, had a huge sculpture in the square in front of it and mounted on the wall behind you can see a strange man in a diving suite,
 perhaps alluding to the time Dali nearly suffocated in a diving suite, whilst in London,
 lecturing at a surrealist exhibition, in 1936. It may even be the same suite!

High above set against the blue sky, were gold figuers and knights with loaves of bread on their heads, but then he did have a thing about loaves too, having wanted to bake a 15 metre symbolic loaf, to be placed in the gardens of the Palais Royal, followed by even larger loaves in all the cities of Europe.

Evenually we entered, Mike much relieved, as he had stayed in the queue all the time, as I popped in and out of various shops, buying things! It was worth the wait, a palace of the imagination!  The installation done in 1934, of Mae West as a whole apartment, was pure genius.  To see his paintings, displayed in a setting that he had designed, so inspiring. What a man, what an epitaph!

Below are some of the stunning paintings we photographed, which we hope gives you the want to visit this unique place, if you have not already done so.

Leda Atomica, 1949

The Spectre of Libido. 1934

The Poetry of America - The Cosmic Athletes. 1943

His Last Painting. 1983
The next day we visited Cadiques, where he had spent some time, it was a very pretty village, but rather over commercialised, then drove on to Port Lligat, where he and his beloved Gala had a fishermans cottage. Below is the small port and his house in the background. By now we were feeling a bit Dalied out, so decided to go on to the wild and beautiful Cap de Creuse, where there are the most strange rock structures, sculpted by the wind and rain, which inspired Dali and featured in many of his paintings.

The smell of wild herbs pervade the air and Dartford and Sardinian Warblers dart out of bushes and back into them again, as soon as you point a camera at them!

What memorable days, thank you Mr Dali.

Sunday, 13 November 2011

AIGUAMOLLS DE L'EMPORDA (Catalunya last week of October2011)

As you can see from the above, not good weather for birding, but the beach near St Pere Pescador, where we were staying, was pretty awesome. Inspite of the conditions we set off to explore along the river Fluvia,  with only binos and hit the jackpot for us, an Osprey, who had just caught a fish and landed to devour it, high up in a tree, on the island. It is a must for us to return here tomorrow, if the weather lifts a little, with Mikes new 600mm Canon F4 lense, that he is test driving at the moment, so he is hot for the chase!

We returned the next day in hope, and were rewarded, although at great distance, and the light not good, there it was, a joy to observe, especially through the scope. AN OSPREY!

 We make no apologies for  three photographs of the Osprey, we have many more, but for us this was special, to watch this magnificent bird and try to capture it on camera. Whilst watching we met local bird lovers, Marty and his lovely wife, who informed us that an Osprey has over wintered here for the last 12 years.
 The next day we visited El Cortalet, again not a brilliant birding day, as all birds seem to have been through or had not arrived,  but we did see this little chap, making steady progress.

Crayfish out for a strole.
Observing from one of the hides we saw, Teal, Widgeon, Herons, Mallards (ofcourse) Grey Lag Geese and some beautiful Fallow Deer enjoying the sun and the peace, on one of the little islands, whilst hearing in the bushes, Cettis and Sardinian warblers, Robins and Stonechats and the call of at least one Stone Curlew.

Comming in to land!  Grey Heron.
Whilst walking along the trails to Mas del Mata, we were so pleased to see this little Water Pippit, sitting in the sun.

 We think that this is a Scarce Aeshna, but not too sure.
As always we have to explore the area, so we cycled to L'Escala along the coast, passing through St Marti, where there are ivy covered ruins and little cobbled Streets, very pretty.

Looking back towards St Pere Pescador.

This is a beautiful area when you get off the beaten track, with wind blown beaches, full of kite boarders  their brightly coloured sails streaming in the wind, secret quiet lagoons full of birdlife, pretty villages like Castello d'Empuries and orchards full of apples.

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

LAC d'ORIENT near TROYES ( October 19th 2011)

We left the Cranes and moved on to just east of Troyes, where lie enormous areas of lakes and forests, known as the Parc Naturel Regional de la Foret d'Orient. A beautiful place, the day is sunny but much colder, as we set off through the trees to the lake. Autumn is really in the air, trees covered in golden leaves.
There were many ducks, seagulls, herons, some swans and geese on the lake, but they were very flighty, so we had to approach with great caution (great white hunters, but a bit muddy!)

Greylag Geese.


Male Shovelers.

The sky began to look very threatening, so we retreated, very glad that we had got any phtographs at all.
The storm then hit, thunder, lightning, freezing hail and blowing a gale. In the morning it was a different world, winter was now here, very cold and grey, so we decided to do as the Cranes do, go south!

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

LAC DU DER CHANTECOQ for the Cranes. October16th 2011

Réserve Nationale de Chasse et de Faune Sauvage du Lac du Der-Chantecoq.

The Lac du Der Chantecoq is situated between Troyes and St Dizier, in Champagne-Ardenne.

 We arrive at this, the largest man made lake in France, 4,800 hectares, the sight that greets us is amazing, the most Cranes we have ever seen. The day is sunny, it is a Sunday and there are so many people here to witness the sight of the Cranes on migration. there must be 50,000 plus Cranes here. This place is now of huge importance for these birds on their migration south, from their breeding grounds as far north as the tundra. In family groups they seem almost to dance, when comming to land, wings out stretched, like ballet dancers.

As they continue their migration, they sometimes stay in areas where food is available, but as winter pushes on, so they move on, hence why we, in the Dordogne, see them coming through sometimes very late in the year. The best place to view them at Chantecoq is probably from the huge dyke west of the Port de Giffaumont.

The next morning we awake to fog and the ghostly sight of hundreds of Cranes flying overhead to their daytime feeding grounds.

The fog lifted a little so we set off in search of them on the fields, stopping at the E'tang des Landres, where there is a hide. There we waited and watched and were rewarded by this little Kingfisher, who was waiting and watching too.

There we also watched a little Grebe fishing, I have never seen one actually catch a fish before, but this little chap did, and ate it too!!

 Although we have all seen Swans before, we never tire of watching them, and the family we watched were very happy, especially this young one stretching its wings.

We moved on to a hide on the E'tang du Grand Coulon, where we photographed some Great White Egrets in the eerie grey light, looking like ghosts.

The next morning was sunny, so we set off in search of Cranes feeding on the farmland (they only go to the safety of the Lac to roost for the night) Near a village called Drosnay, we saw hundreds down feeding, so Mike stalked forth through the cover of an orchard, to photograph them, in the Autumn light.

Mum, Dad and youngster, happy landings!
We also explored the area, finding many pretty villages, with timbered buildings and beautiful enclosed courtyards. There was also the very interesting church  called Eglaise Lu Presquelquile de Champaubert, where the three villages that lay below the Lac, are commemorated. Some 300 souls gave up their homes, for this huge flood relief scheme.

  This beautiful little Black Redstart watched us at the church.
As the sun sets on the Lac, the Cranes come in waves, calling to each other, in the golden light. We watch transfixed, with many others, at this wonderful sight. For me, this memory will stay with me forever.

One of natures wonders.

Monday, 7 November 2011

HOME IN THE DORDOGNE. (Nature in the garden)

We returned in early May to find that the weather had been very dry, which affected our usual riot of Orchids, very few this year, we normally have many species, the only ones that did well were the Lizard Orchids. Spring turned into a long dry summer, which favoured the many butterflies visiting our wild flowers & of course our Lavender. Here are a few we photographed.

Swallow Tail

Queen of Spain Fritillary

Clouded Yellow


In France there seem to be many more snakes than we ever saw in England, probably due to the warmer weather conditions, we have been lucky enough to photograph some of them in their mating courtship. The ones below are the Western Whip Snake, which is non poisonous.

The garden was alive with baby birds and poor frazzled parents trying to keep up with the food supply.
Below are some Great Tits, familiar in all gardens and some Blue Tits, whose babies nearly drove the poor parents mad with their demands, caught in the early morning light.

Birds that mainly fed on insects began to find it really hard, because of the dry conditions, a brief spell of rain in July saved them. Melodious Warblers were happily feasting on the insects brought out by the rain, as was the Whitethroat and Redstarts.

Melodious Warbler


Female Black Redstart

As usual the Redstarts nested under our veranda and we have noticed a distinct lack of males again. The nest building seems to be done only by two females, who go on to raise the chicks alone, not a male in sight! ( the male is very noticeable, as he is very brightly coloured,
SELECT APRIL 2011 BLOG for the male)
We were so happy that our Nightingales returned and nested in our boundary woodland, filling our nights with beautiful trilling song. Thankfully they raised a good brood this year, without the attack of Sparrowhawk! This parent was photographed under our Lime Tree.

The Nuthatches and Greater Spotted Woodpeckers have also done really well with youngsters this year. We hope that we have helped them with our continued feeding of sunflower seeds through the summer and we know that we have certainly taken the pressure off the Tit families!


One of the lovely things about living in the Dordogne, is that we get exotic guests too, the Golden Oriole, (a flying banana) in the male version, and the Hoopoe, with that lovely soft ooo ooo call, a bit like blowing down a bottle!!

Golden Oriole


Late summer and the Swallows are diving into our swimming pool to drink and have a dunk! They are feeding their babies in some of our dead trees, that we have left standing, as so many birds like to perch there.

We are so lucky to be on a main migration route for so many birds travelling to Spain, Africa & Sub Saharan Africa. Not only do we have the wonderful flight of the Cranes, their wistful cries filling the air, as they go southward for the winter and again in early spring, northwards, but also flocks of smaller birds. This year we photographed Wood Larks, passing through to below the Sahara Desert, also Whinchats, this little bird is going all the way to Senegal, Kenya or Zambia and only lives for about 2years, how does that make you feel? We feel in awe!!

Wood Lark

Whinchat contemplating the journey!
Our Caucasian Mountain chiffchaff may be close to destination, the West coast of France for the winter, but for us a first in our garden! See below.

This year brought two new species to our garden, the spring migration brought our first ever Woodchat Shrike.... This is one we photographed earlier!!

On the Autumn passage we were so surprised, whilst drinking our aperitifs, on a beautiful sunny evening, with no marsh or water in sight, two Great White Egrets landed in our garden, racing to get the camera, we just caught them as they took off again, frightened by the church bells at 7pm.

As summer draws to its close, out steps the Roebuck, we so hope he will survive the season of the chasse, whilst overhead the Buzzard wheels, another year is passing away, and another will begin!

The farmers are bringing in the harvest, combines are working night and day, dust in evening light, we try to capture the moment.

Now we are off too, migrating north, to intercept the Cranes at the Lac du Der-Chantecoq, where we hope to see 50,000 or more Cranes before they go southward. We hope to join them again, in Spain, at the Laguna de Gallacanta, where the vistas are far and frozen.