Chaffinches preparing for British exit from E.U. ?

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The Chaffinch has a very distinctive song and can now be heard from virtually every location in the Poitou-Charentes countryside.

Chaffinch Male

Chaffinch male

It starts with a rather stuttering phrase, my wife thinks it sounds like Bruce Forsyth gearing up to say something. Anyway it ends with a very distinctive ‘pleased to meet you’  Well it is quite distinctive, it does have a bit of a cockney accent so can sound like ‘pleased t’ meat chew’ and occasionally they can be a bit lazy and just say ‘t’ meat chew’ or even ‘meat chew’.

On this visit to France I have noticed that some of them are rounding off their song with a different phrase which sounds very much like ‘miss you’. Not all of them have adopted this song, some are still sticking with ‘pleased to meet you’.

Could it be that the chaffinches are hedging their bets in the run up to the forthcoming referendum on British membership of the European Community?

Wildlife in and around the Plan d’Eau.

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Saturday was a lovely day so we visited our local Plan d’Eau which is at Saint Macoux.Plan d'Eau2 My wife and her sister who was on a short visit were content to lie in the sun, read their books and talk about everything and anything.  I am a bit more restless so took a slow and steady walk round the lake with camera in hand, often stopping and watching and waiting and sometimes photographing whatever was of interest.Plan d'Eau10

The plan d’Eau is two lakes and a couple of steams with some side branches. some of it is very busy and has a water chute and beach and other bits are very natural and quite.Plan d'Eau22

There is a slow flow of water through the lakes but it is very slow. There is a lot of weed in the lakes. Much of it is a peculiar form of algae which is called Chara. I say peculiar because unlike most algae which are quite simple and just make the water green or maybe form a green slime, this algae develops a quite complex structure so that most people would think of it as a water plant and not something as primitive as an algae. More about this algae click https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chara_(alga)

Chara

Chara

There are other ‘proper’ plants like yellow water lilies.Plan d'Eau9

There are quite a lot of different fish and I tried to photograph some of them. Some were relatively obliging and I got some reasonable shots, but others stayed well away and deep down making it impossible to photograph them. For the record, I saw sunfish, pike, roach, trout, bream, perch and lots of little chaps, possibly minnows.

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The frogs were quite noisy but less easy to see. You sometimes disturbed one and it plopped into the water never to be seen again, but by careful approach I did see a few and interestingly there were two species; Edible frogs and Marsh frogs, though I expect you could have eaten the Marsh frog as well had you cared to . The Edible frog has a yellow stripe down its back.

Edible frog

Edible frog

The Marsh frog is fatter and no stripe.

Marsh frog

Marsh frog

There were a lot of Dragon flies and damsel flies, and I spent some time trying to get good shots of these. My sister-in-law asked me what is the difference between dragon and damsel flies and my not vet scientific reply was that dragon flies are bigger but at the limits there are some small dragonflies like darters which are barely bigger than some large damselflies like demoiselles.

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There was one butterfly which was quite an interesting one, and that was a Lesser Purple Emperor which was visiting the edge of the lake for a drink. It is called the Lesser Purple Emperor so you would guess correctly that there is another one. This is called simply the Purple Emperor, not a Greater Purple Emperor. However as with so many common names it is a bit confusing in that the lesser Purple Emperor is slightly bigger and has a more colourful look. The Purple Emperor does not have the ‘eyes’ on the fore wings.

Lesser Purple Emperor

Lesser Purple Emperor

I took some photos of pond skaters on the stream and there were a few birds around like Grey wagtails, which have a lot of yellow on them but not as much as a yellow wagtail. I also saw one solitary Mallard in the middle of the lake but did not bother to photograph it.

Pond Skaters

Pond Skaters

So that was my walk round the Plan ‘d’Eau  and I hope you enjoyed it.

Crops in Poitou-Charentes; Barley.

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The sun flower is probably the most photographed crop in the Poitou-Charentes region, and it does look good. However in the immediate vicinity of our house this year we have barley, and it too looks quite good.barley3

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Obviously it is not as bright and colourful  as the sunflower, but it is more subtle. And when there is a slight breeze it sways gently and is quite mesmerising.barley2

It is of course a much more useful crop than sunflowers as it is mainly used in the production of beer.barley1

Saint-Omer; a good place to break the journey?

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Gloucestershire to Poitou-Charentes seems like a bit more of a stretch than Norfolk to Poitou-Charentes, so recently we have taken to spending one night in northern France to split the journey.  Maybe it is something to do with getting older and perhaps having a little more time. No I don’t think so.Moulin des Forges1

So we went on booking.com and booked for a night in Saint-Omer, a good looking hotel with a recommended restaurant in a converted mill, called Le Moulin des Forges. And that is what it was, but it was in Saint-Omer en Chausee which is not just outside Calais but about 2 hours down towards Paris. As they say on their card it is 15mins from the aeroprt de Tille and from the autoroute A16.  I have never heard of the aeroport de Tille but presumably that is a selling point.

Moulin des Forges2 Anyway it was a very good place to stop, the meal was excellent,  and as it turned out not too far out of your way except that Mrs sat nav took us from there to Paris and as there was a hold up on the northern part of the peripherique she decided it would be best to just go right through the centre.Moulin des Forges3 Probably a shorter route than via Rouen which is what we normally do but not for the faint hearted.

Looking around, a very high proportion of vehicles had dents and scrapes. Similar to what I observed some years ago when driving in Rome.

Finally whilst on the subject of driving, what is the point of a significant number of French motorists driving 5cm from your rear bumper and positioning themselves over the white line in a place that says ‘I want to overtake you, NOW.’  Especially when you are on a motorway which has been reduced to one lane due to repair work and the only place for them to go would be into the central reservation/wall.

What’s on in Poitou-Charentes; June 2015

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Notes en Vert at Perigny 5th and 6th June (More)

Spectacles nocturnes Coeurs en Bataille; Nouaille-Maupetuis: 5th/6th June (more) Don’t forget your glasses.

500 Ferraris contre le cancer:

Yet more Ferraris

Yet more Ferraris

Val de Vienne, Le Vigeant:  4th 5th 6th 7th  June (more)

Festival Musiques et Gastronomiques du Monde; St George de Didonne: 12th to 14th June (more)

Festival Bailatino; La Roche-Posay: 12th and 13th June (more)

Trail de la Boeme, 21Km run; Mouthier sur Boeme: 13th June (more)

Highland Games; Bressuire: 13th and 14th June

Polychromies de Notre Dame le Grand; Poitiers: starts 15th June then every night till 15th Sept. (more)

L’escargouille (snail farm) open day; Blanzay: (around the 15th June ) (more) Rather like the occupants, the owners are rather slow in updating their web site!

Festival free music; Montendre: 19th and 20th June (more)

Maraisthon; Coulon: 20th and 21st June (more)

Fete de la Music; A one day event across Poitou-Charente, indeed all France check web site for what is on near you; 21st June (more)

Festival International du Film; La Rochelle  26th June to 5th July (more)

Les Sarabandes; Marcillac Lanville: 26th,27th and 28th June (more) 

La Journee Medieval ‘La Rancon du Roi: Nouaille-Mauperuis: 28th June (more)

Blues Passion; Cognac: 29th June to 5th July (more) So far this year includes Selah Sue, Lenny Kravitz and Angus/Julia Stone. No doubt other big names will be booked.

Respire Jazz Festival Aignes et Puypéroux: normally end of June …nothing published yet (More) This link takes you to 2014 site.

Panasonic DMC FZ72…..update

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Well not so good as I originally thought. I am having problems with close-ups of birds.

Recently I have spent a couple of afternoons in the Forest of Dean at the Nags Head RSPB reserve. I have been trying to get some decent shots of Pied Flycatchers and they are mediocre.

It could be my fault, and I would appreciate suggestions. I have tried with the Lumix Automatic settings (for idiots) and I have also tried with shutter priority so that I could use speeds of around 400th second to eliminate movement by the birds or me, I have also tried with the camera on a tripod and with it jammed up against something solid.

Here are some of the results, first of all a Mandarin duck which I photographed at about X40 and it was about 10M away from me. At first sight it looks OK but then I cropped it and it starts to look a bit ‘soft’ and then if you get in much closer, you can see that it is not as sharp as it could be.Nags Head7

Now we have the cropped photo. This is still acceptable?Nags Head8

And now we zoom in and it lacks definition.Nags Head9

May be I am being a bit picky here but now have a look at the  photos of the Pied Flycatcher.Nags Head10

This is what most of my photos looked like, it was taken at X60, or 1200mm and the distance was about 20M away, in good light. Here are two photos, the first is the original and the second is the same photo but cropped by about 50%.Nags Head2

Hmm its OK, a bit dark but that is not the problem its how sharp it is. Here is the same photo cropped.Nags Head3

Well that is not so good now here are another pair, first the original.Nags Head4

As is often the case the twigs are obscuring the bird somewhat. but here is the cropped version where it looks quite fuzzy.Nags Head5

So these were the best I achieved and many more have been deleted so I am not over impressed. They were at X60 so possibly at the optical limit the camera is just not so good.

Finally to finish off here are two other photos one is a close up of a flower (Bugle) which I think is quite good.Nags Head1

Finally a general landscape shot (entrance to Nags Head reserve) which again is, I also think quite good.Nags Head6

So all in all its a good camera for the price but at max optical zoom it struggles.   Over to you for your comments.

Whats on in Poitou-Charentes; May 2015

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v2Fete du Nautisme; Royan : 2nd and 3rd May (more)

Festival International de Music de Chambre en Charente; Chalais  9th May to 7thth June (More)

Journees des Vehicules du Futur Haute Saintonge  17th to 18th May.

Festival de Melle ; Melle: 21st May to 6th June (more)

Musiques Metisses; Angouleme : 22nd 23rd and 24th May (more)

Music/Rock; St Medard: 30th May (more)

Half Marathon; Aytre-La Rochelle: 31st May (more)

Half Marathon: Futuroscope: 31st May (more)

Plan d’eau in Poitou-Charentes

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With all this hot weather I have just added a new ‘page’ to this blog which lists some of the Plan d’eau in the region. I was going to put it on later in the year, probably late May or June  but it may be needed NOW. Click Plan D’Eau to see the listPland'Eau0003 I am sure its not comprehensive so please let me know if there is one near you that I have missed out.

New Camera…..Panasonic DMC FZ72

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Several events have conspired to result in my purchase of this camera. It is what is known as a ‘bridge’ camera, also sometimes referred to as a superzoom.DMC-FZ72EB-Product_ImageGlobal-1_uk_en

The bridge bit comes from it being a bridge between the simple point and shoot type of camera and the more complex DSLR (digital single lens reflex ) cameras which cost a lot more and are more complicated to use.

The superzoom comes from it having a lens which will magnify up to 60 times. Superzooms are lenses which will achieve anything from 40 to 60 magnification.

So why have I bought one when I already have some quite good Canon DSLR cameras?

First of all my camera equipment weighs a ton and when I am out and about for a day or on holiday then being weighed down with a big heavy rucksack does detract a bit. And as I am shortly going on a trip to Canada the thought of lugging all my gear half way across  the world was not something I was looking forward to.

Secondly my big heavy telephoto is a 100mm to 400mm zoom which is quite good, but this is as nothing to the lens on the Panasonic which is 20mm to a massive 1200mm lens. To achieve a comparable magnification with DSLR gear would need an investment of well over £10,000 and a wheelbarrow to move it round.

Thirdly I have been recommended these bridge cameras by ‘experts’ from a camera club which I have recently joined and by a friend in Charente Maritime who has a similar model but of the Canon make.

The down side, first of all you will not get the same quality photo as with the expensive gear. All the photos in Wildlife Photographer of the Year are taken with gear costing anything fro £2,000 to £20,000. This camera costs about £250. However if you are not entering prestigious competions or wanting photos which can be blown up for use on advertising hoardigs then it is not important.

Also when you are taking pictures at 60X magnification you really need to hold the camera still and that means a tripod.

So I have had my camera a few days and here are some photos and comments about them.new camera3

This is a Hedge sparrow taken at 60X mag and with the camera on a tripod. The bird was about 20 meters from the camera. The quality is OK, but if you look closely or zoom in on the original photo then it does lack some definition.new camera4

The camera will extend the magnification to 120X but this is achieved digitally. The photo above was at about 80X. It seems difficult to prevent zooming past the 60X optical limit which is to my mind a waste of time as you significantly loose quality and can always crop your photos afterwards.new camera14

I took some close ups and they seem quite good and seem to maintain better definition when you zoom in on the picture, this one of some moss shows this quite well.new camera7

This is a very small hunting spider, the body is probably less than 50mm long, I took this with the 20mm end of the zoom less and then I have cropped it to bring it up to the size you are seeing. Still the definition is good and it will even crop some more, so  am quite impressed with this aspect of the camera.

I will put some of the other photos into a slide show presentation so you can see what else has been achieved.

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I think this is excellent value for money, and if you want to spend a bit more (£600) then Panasonic have a new bridge camera out with a much larger sensor. This is the element of all cameras which controls the quality of the photo, and which is the main limitation of all bridge cameras.

No more Poitoucharentes on Face Book

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When I first started this blog, I also started a face book (FB) page. Initially I set up a page under the name of Alan Waterman. However my daughter said that not many people would respond to that name and a better name would be Poitoucharentes, that would be more likely to attract people to look at this blog.

So I had a page named Poitoucharentes and gradually more and more people became my friends. Some were real friends, ie people I knew and others were friends that I had never met but they became friends in a way because we corresponded and shared views and sometimes had disagreements and in all but physical contact were indeed friends. Whenever I published anything on my blog called poitoucharentesinphotos.wordpress.com it came up on my FB page and this alerted some of my friends to the new publication. I also set up a second blog about a piece of woodland which we purchased a couple of years ago. This woodland is in Monmouthshire Wales and the blog is called Catbrookwood.wordpress.com.

Recently when I tried to log into my FB page up came a message saying basically that Poitoucharentes is not a proper name like Joe Blogs or Betty Boo and that I was really using FB as a front for an organisation or business. As such they said I had to close my Poitoucharentes name and that I could set up Poitoucharentesinphotos as a ‘page’ and I had to use Alan Waterman as my FB page from now on. This means that all my friends have been lost, and that if you were my friend then you will no longer get any messages from me and so you will not know when I have put anything new on either of my two blogs.

I can understand that FB may not want commercial enterprises using the facility to get free publicity but what I was doing was not commercial….. I never made a single penny or euro from my blogs. I have also discovered that FB will kindly ‘promote’ my poitoucharentesinphotos page  and ensure that it reaches a far wider audience if I pay them a certain amount of money. This it would seem to me is the entire reason for their actions.

So it’s no more Poitoucharentes on Face book. If you want to be my friend then please look up Alan Waterman and request my friendship, which I will of course grant. Thank you for your messages and photos and all the other stuff over the past few years and maybe we will meet again sometime.

Yours,

Alan Waterman…… formerly Poitoucharentes.

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