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October, 2009:

The competition is hotting up.

So then, to the 25th annual Festival International du Film Ornithologique in Menigouté. Run over six days the festival is geared around a film competition which draws a remarkable range of entries from wildlife cinematogrophers from around the world.  The entire town was packed out – the streets approaching the village were heaving with parked cars and in towards the stadium and exhibition grounds it was wall to wall. An excellent range of diverse activities on offer,  multiple syposium discussions in the town hall, art exhibitions, a nature forum, off-site nature expeditions etc. etc. Checking online and I could see that many of the events were sold out. Cars in the car parks from all over Europe.

This year, for the first time there was an amateur photographic competition that was geared towards capturing images in some specific locations around Poitou-Charentes. Aimed at representing the varied landscapes and biodiversity of the region. I’ve never submitted a photo for a juried competition quite like this before and had a go. Some very worthy prizes on offer as well as a little incentive. So… not at all like me but I’d left it a little late… so late infact that I only realistically had one day to get a snap, get it printed and in the post before the competition deadline. We set out for the Lac du Cebron, one of the sites on the permitted list and just driving around scouting out sites and likely photos and there was plenty to see. Unbagged my camera bag only to discover that I’d left my camera at home, well played. Just had the point and shoot camera with me which I have as a backup (good policy that!) so we left it at that and off we went. The brief was very strict and I thought I had a good idea what the judges might be looking for. Took a handful of snaps, did nothing about them until early on the Saturday morning and couldn’t believe my luck. In one of the photos I’d taken had something remarkable in it – I was shooting some driftwood on the dried up shore of the lake only to find after the fact – it had a chrysalid in it. When I’d taken it to be printed the print looked superb… and that was another first… a 12MP print on A4 looked mindblowing – I was very very impressed and certain I was a shoe-in.

My effort didn’t win, didn’t even place but I did get a letter in the post with an invite to one of the film screenings for the film competition – a nice consolation.

First time I’ve been to a cinema in six years. Funny how as former avid cinema goers we’ve completely stopped going. The cinema was packed out. Some nice introductions by a couple of the filmmakers and then a screening.

We watched a couple of films, the standout one being from the BBC on the impact of salmon migrating back to their spawning grounds. Standing in a half frozen river watching grizzlies chow down on fish deserves more prizes than stumbling across a lump of driftwood!

BBC Salmon Run film

Bear enjoying a fishy snack.

All told, excellent festival, good exhibitions, full of impressive art and artists work and I broke my duck at entering competitions. Now all I need to do is win one.

Momiji gari

A long long hot summer punished the trees in the garden. We lost a few prized specimens despite a valiant effort to sustain them. A Tulipifera and a Liquidamber were notable casualties. A Lilac that I was sure was gone appears to have pulled through. A splendid Magnolia Grandiflora long gone along with two mulberry trees. A harsh toll.

We’ve lavished care and attention on the newly planted beech hedge. Spent a small fortune on watering it and even when a couple of the plants looked like they’ve snuffed it they seem to have pulled through. Everything has taken on it’s autumn robe right now and this year the colours are looking spectacular. And where there are colours there are… photographs! It’s momiji gari time.

Luminous apricot leaves

Apricot tree

That’s just a couple from our garden – it’s a similar story all around so I’ll get out and about and try and capture some more over the next few days and update this at the weekend.

Update… set now on flickr.

If you wish to make an apple pie from scratch…

…you must first invent the universe.


I took a walk, took some pictures

Joan’s folks were visiting in early October so on a reasonably sunny afternoon we took an autumnal stroll along the river Thouet.

Parthenay viaduct 1886

John and Sue approach the viaduct

Starting at the Base de Loisirs at the back of Parthenay town, it’s possible to walk along the banks of the Thouet right through the old parts of the town, the Quartier St. Paul, the Citadel and old medieval Quartier St.Jacques and through to Chatillion Sur Thouet.

Thouet Walk map

Plenty to see and photograph, from tranquil ancient  riverside houses, the medieval town centre and victorian era mega engineering. So, 19  varied (and I hope interesting!) photos in this set, please do have a look at the snaps and as ever I appreciate comments here or on flickr

The liquid darkness outside my front door

A few early mornings photographic tomfoolery trying to get some meteor snaps of the Orionids and whilst they’ve been good it wasn’t quite the same as doing it in August for the Leonids. (more…)

Sweet Pepper Dash

So, at 8.00pm last night, after putting all the birds to bed, I had a quick look on the weather forecast.  Two sites told me that the lowest night time temperature would be either 1 or 3 degrees – so no real frost.  But…  I didn’t trust them.


Gonzo Fanfare, Parthenay

Confession time.

I don’t understand this.

I can’t even come close to comprehending it.

It doesn’t make any sense.


Surprise twitcher encounter part 2, Osprey

A spectacular autumnal Sunday afternoon and we nipped up the road to the Lac du Cebron for a little twitching activity. The lake has an excellent visitor facility and a specialist on hand on a Sunday afternoon. We were keen to validate a spotting of a bird we’d first seen previously in late September and then only a few days ago on October 7th.

Turns out that that bird was a Grande Aigrette and had arrived at the lake a few weeks earlier – we’d seen the same animal arriving and leaving as it flew through our hamlet.

And then, things took an utterly unexpected, exciting twist. There was a quick buzz of excitement as a Balbuzard Pecheur turned up and started hunting – an Osprey. The bird was hunting on the far shore and whilst it was in the air it was easy enough to spot by eye. (more…)

I haven’t used one of these since last time I sedated an Elephant

Or, an eye watering tale of how we take chilli sauce pretty seriously around these parts.

First, take your chillis. You did grow some at home this year didn’t you?!


Ristras, neatly threaded by Joan


Surprise twitcher encounter part 1, Great White Egret.

Sitting out looking over the garden a few weeks ago and I spotted an unusual bird flying due North across the bottom of the garden. It looked for all the world like an albino heron. Similar size (if not a little bigger) similar distinctive flying style. Camera wasn’t at hand and as soon as I’d run indoors to collect it it had obligingly landed but we lost sight of it in a neighbouring field.

Ploughing through our limited selection of bird books (French and English) and nothing pops up. Oh well… just one of those things.

Fast forward three weeks and we’re once more sitting out and sure as eggs is eggs… the same bird flying back due South not 50M from it’s prior flight path… and YES it starts to make a landing manoeuvre. Running to grab my camera and I managed to get a few shots of it as it was landing in the hamlet.

Grande Aigrette / Great White Egret

Great White Egret flying through Bellebouche

It was BIG, definitely not in the books we had and definately not a little cattle egret that we’ve seen around. In the absence of any information to the contrary I was chalking it up to being some kind of Albino Heron.

Great White Egret / Grande Aigrette

Egret takeoff

We left it at that for a while and the mystery of what it really was (A great white Egret) was soon to be solved

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