Yellow fields

I don’t have an image which truly expresses the parched yellowness of the French countryside I travelled through recently.

France, in September when I was there, was dry, dusty and gasping for rain. I travelled through part of eastern France to Burgundy, the Dordogne and then northwards, on the western side on my way back to the UK.

In the eastern, near-empty areas, the fields were yellow, some admittedly because crops had been harvested, their stubble like a blonde buzz cut. This mainly agricultural area is one of lakes and big open fields, the yellowness unbroken apart from a few small woods and very few hedgerows.

France doImage result for north by northwestesn’t do hedgerows nowadays;  parts of it look like large prairies. The roads running through areas like this remind me of the scene from the classic thriller North by North West, where Cary Grant, standing at a bus stop in the US prairies  is attacked by a crop-spraying plane.

It’s a depressing fact that in France, shooters will take pops at birds and wildlife…but then what chance do birds and wildlife have to breed and prosper in an environment almost devoid of naural features like hedgerows?

The journey was made in warm sunshine. A clear blue sky with a few perfect cotton-wool clouds provided a stunning contrast to the yellow countryside. It wasn’t just harvested fields which were yellow; grass had turned to straw in meadows, and where the soil had been ploughed or tilled, the earth was varying shades of burnt umber, sienna and ochre.

France had had a summer of intense heat, which is why these yellow fields were in evidence pretty much everywhere I travelled. It was still very hot in the Dordogne, with July/August temperatures, making it the hottest I’ve experienced in this area in September. Not quite like usual. Not normal.

This is the new “normal” we have to get used to as climate breakdown sets in and time begins to run out to restrain or halt it. We’ll be having extremes of heat and wet, bringing flooding, disruption and danger to life (just as intense heat does).

This is just one of the concerns of Extinction Rebellion, who are bringing the breakdown of the web of life to public attention with peaceful demos and non-violent activities. Like it or not, environmental concerns are real and breakdown is happening now. Just keep an eye on the global weather and you’ll get the picture.

Image courtesy of no6cinema.co.uk

Shooting Wildlife

Important to ask WHY? Why do people still do these out-dated, so-called “traditional” pursuits of killing wildlife. For fun? Our wildlife needs all the help it can get, so exposure of all kinds pointing out the weird futility of killing for “sport” get a bit shout out from me, hence the reblog. Please read on….

I can't believe it!

We’re driving through the Limousin countryside on a Sunday morning. I become aware of strange goings-on.  A man is sat on a chair on his own on the edge of a field. A car is parked in a field entry. A man is striding along with a shotgun. Two men are in a raised wooden platform in the middle of a field. All men. All with guns.

Yes I’ve heard that shooting anything that moves is a French country pastime, this is the real thing.

Now, as far as I can see, there is no great preponderance of wildlife in this part of France. It’s much like the rest of Europe, over-cultivated and lacking in the huge biodiversity of some other parts of our planet. Even perceptibly over a lifetime, nature’s abundance has been reducing, notably with declining populations of insects and birds.

Yet still many thousands of country dwellers…

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Those unexpected little extras….

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Our Norfolk terrier is 21 months old. He came to live with us when he was 4 months old, past the most intensive of the early puppy stages of house training, but still in need of some guidance into the garden. It didn’t take too long; it was a hot summer so doors were open and the penny soon dropped.

During the puppy stage Bosworth emerged as the delightful, interactive dog he is now. Good with children, very friendly and with an amusing line in vocal greetings and a tendency to “chat” or emit little howls of excitement, he also got into chewing – all puppies do – and having reflected on what he has chewed, ruined, and what’s needed replacing etc. since we had him, here’s the current list:

One hairdryer – left unplugged on the bedroom floor and munched to death, wires hanging out of it. Replaced by new one, now stored in a cupboard.

Three duvet covers – pulled off beds as he searched for daughter’s cat who’d been staying. Being a mender rather than a thrower-away, I got out the sewing machine and patched up the gnawed ripped bits. They’re all usable. Good job our guests aren’t fussy!

Three sheets – ditto. Still searching for same cat. Having pulled off the duvets, he had a go at the sheets. Also mended & back in use.

Garden fence take 1 –  the fence  was elderly and good enough to stop The Great Escape happening while he was still in the first puppy stages….until one day he was missing. A hole had been chewed through the bamboo screening attached to our 3 foot trellis fence. He’d squeezed through, had the freedom of the garden backing on to ours and was going crazy searching for the cat who lives there. Returned by the neighbour, who was rather amused. Agree to share cost of new fence.

We call our local fencer who’s done some previous work and fix a date for installation. In the meantime we block off the chewed hole and any other likely escape routes, supervising trips into the garden.

Garden fence take 2 – new fence installed. It’s 6 feet high. Dog sits looking intently and fixedly at fence. A few days later goes missing and is seen racing round the neighbour’s garden again, still trying to find their cat. Said cat is sitting watching this through the patio doors. We find a hole dug under the new fence. He will come to it from the other side but not come through. I go round and try to get into the garden. Side gate is locked, neighbour is out.

We devise a rescue and retrieval operation. We lift one of the bottom panels of the fence and wedge it open. Husband crawls through and gets dog. We tell neighbour what happened and he fills in the escape route hole with concrete.

Garden fence take 3 – dog starts looking intently at other areas of the fence, frequently disappearing behind the arbour in the corner of the garden, where we find him staring at the fence. We keep an eye on him but he finds a way through the corner gap where two panels of the fence meet. We lift the bottom fence panel again, husband crawls through and gets dog. We block the gap.

Garden fence take 4 – we didn’t block it enough. Dog repeats escape. We repeat retrieval procedure. Gap is successfully barricaded and blocked. The garden should now be like Fort Knox.

Garden side gate – dog begins sitting looking intently at the locked side gate, nose down on the small gap beneath it. It’s suspiciously quiet, so I go to check. Dog in process of digging up plants and soil by the gate and adjacent fence. Very swiftly bricks and concrete slabs are put in place. Dog continues to sit and look at gate and fence, but The Great Escape game is over.

Garden bench – we notice he’s started creating a hole underneath the seat of our stone bench on the lawn and say “Oh what the hell – he’s a terrier – let him have a bit of fun!” We’re hoping he’s now past the stage of springing these unexpected extra outlays on us, but to be honest, we did need a new fence anyway…..

 

Five or six spots?

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I recently photographed this burnet moth in the Dordogne, at a place on a walk we enjoy in the hills near the river Vezere. We’ve dubbed this place Butterfly Corner. It’s where the path through the woods opens out and joins a road which leads down to the nearby village.

Why is it Butterfly Corner for us? It’s because the patch of land belonging to the house there has been allowed to go wild and be natural, and it attracts a large number of insects – we saw bees, a hornet, and plenty of butterflies. It’s no great hardship, after a walk uphill, to hang around for a while watching and photographing what we see there, busy in the wild flowers.

I was quite excited to see this burnet moth as I’ve not seen one in the UK for several years. I said, with the confidence of the incorrect, “It’s a Six Spot Burnet”. But now I’m home and I’ve had time to look at my photos, it’s clear that it doesn’t have six spots. It has five.

A look at the Butterfly Conservation website threw more confusion my way. Apparently there is more than one kind of Five Spot Burnet; there is a Narrow-bordered Five Spot Burnet – and guess what? They’re very similar and it’s difficult to say which is which unless you’re an absolute expert on the shape and angle of the narrowness of the wings.

So here it is. A Five – not a Six – Spot Burnet, and that will have to do!

The annual photo challenge

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We’re just back from France, having toured in our motorhome for the past 4 weeks through Belgium, Germany, Luxembourg and France. We ended up for some R&R at our favourite lush and floral campsite in the Dordogne region, near the River Vezere.

In September there are banks of colourful flowers like these, attracting, bees, butterflies and hummingbird hawk moths. The annual challenge is to get a half decent photograph of  one of these furry moths in action. They move fast, their wings are ususally a blur, and worst of all, they flit rapidly from one flower to another, so the chances of getting a shot often becomes less likely as they seem to know when the lens is on them.

This one isn’t too bad; it’s the best of the bunch. But whenever we visit this campsite I go back for more of what I call photographic torture!

More of our travels to follow – life back in Blighty has be caught up on – but here are links to a few earlier posts with photos from the same location taken at the same time of year.

Hummingbird hawk moth on orange flower – not too bad, this one.

Carpenter bee smothered in pollen.

Clouded yellow butterfly on wild scabious.

A selection of insects, all photpgraphed in the same location.