Hedgehogs in Poitou-Charentes.

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This year we have been blessed by the presence of some hedgehogs Erinaceus europaeus in our garden in France.Hedgehogs3

I have seen them on odd occasions several times in the past, but not that often. This year we have had a group of young ones, we have seen up to 3 at one time but as they only showed themselves at night time we are not sure how many were present. I suspect it was more than three, as we could here lots of rustling from other parts of the hedge at the same time as being able to see the one two or three that had emerged from the hedge.Hedgehogs1

They were only babies, and I wonder if they will survive the winter as they were quite small and need to grow and accumulate reserves quite quickly before winter sets in. In order to help them out a bit we did purchase some dog food and set out little morsels of it, they did eat some but did not seem to finish what was on offer. However all was gone by the morning, so they might have returned later, or more likely the local cats eat it.Hedgehogs4

Hedgehogs have between 4 to 6 young but as many as 10 are possible. They live for about 3/4 years but can live as long as 10 years. Although their numbers have declined significantly in Britain, their numbers are supposed to be stable in the rest of Europe.Hedgehogs2

We hear all sorts of noises in the garden at night, and have over the years seen several different animals, most common have been the Edible dormice but we also have seen Beech martens and Garden dormice, along with various mice voles and rats.

In order to get the photos I used my 100 to 400 mm telephoto but at 100mm and used the flash from the camera, hand held. They were then tweaked a bit to brighten them up and alter the colour  balance…. but not too much.

Dragonflies and damselflies, in Poitou-Charentes.

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This is not a definitive list at all, it is really just to get you started with the identification of bright coloured buzzy things that you might see at your local plan d’eau or in your garden.

Broad Bellied Chaser

Broad Bellied Chaser

Recently I spent some time sitting by my local lake with my grandchildren and I overheard a lot of English conversations. Sometimes it was about the insects flying over the lake. Sometimes people knew what they were looking at but more often than not they were fairly vague or wrong.

So here we have a basic guide, there are Dragonflies and Damselflies. Fist the dragonflies, these are big or quite big, they are fast and when at rest they have their wings out, more or less at right angles to their body.

The biggest are Hawkers, these have long bodies and fly very fast, often patrolling up and down the same route.

Hawker (laying eggs)

Hawker (laying eggs)

Then we have the Chasers, these have a shorter broader body and are quite big.Dragon and Damsell flies4

The smallest are the Darters, but still bigger than a damselfly. When at rest they will often move their wings so that they point forward and down, but they still stick out quite a bit.Dragon and Damsell flies6

Now onto the Damselflies, these are quite delicate and have long thin bodies and quite narrow wings. They often hover or flutter about, they are not very fast. When at rest they fold their wings up and have them lined up with their body.  Dragon and Damsell flies3

One group the agrions have slightly wider wings but still they fold them up in line with their bodies.Dragon and Damsell flies1

All dragonflies and damselflies have males and females with different colours, often the male is brighter and the female is a more dull colour. When they mate you can see this difference.Dragon and Damsell flies2

There are many different species and different ones will be out at different times of the year. They do not live for one day, as I heard someone tell his daughter, but hey have a relatively short life. The longest part of the life cycle is spent as a nymph in the water and depending on the species and the availability of food this can be anything from, just under a year to as much as three or four years. The bigger the species the longer it takes. When the nymph has fully developed it crawls out of the water, climbs up a reed or twig and hatches out into the adult. If you look carefully around the edge of a lake or pond you can often see the old case of a nymph still attached to a reed from when it hatched out.

So there you have it, If you want to identify which dragonfly or damselfly you have seen then this is a good web address, http://www.dragonflypix.com/database/foundcountry.php but be careful as many of the small blue damselflies look very similar. Not all damselflies are blue, some are red and some are green, even metallic green… Good luck.Dragon and Damsell flies5

Aquarium; La Rochelle

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My second visit, but the first was about 20 years ago and I suspect it has changed somewhat over the years.aquarium26

Now it is certainly large and impressive, also fairly busy on the first dull day after a long period of very hot sunshine during the school summer holidays. However it was still good despite the crowds.aquarium11

There are lots of animals to look at and marvel at and also take photos of. Everyone was taking photos, selfies, movies and here are a few of mine.

Cod,aquarium1

Sea anemones,aquarium2

Jelly fish,aquarium3

Tarpon,aquarium19and some I do not know the names of,aquarium15and corals,aquarium13a pipe fish,aquarium14Yellow tangs, ( we once had one of these in our sea water tropical aquarium, however on return from a holiday it was gone, but we knew what had happened as the octopus which was also resident in the same aquarium had a distinctly yellow hue.)aquarium9Lion fish,aquarium10and lots of sharks.aquarium12There was also this big chap, a grouper, I think?aquarium6and more corals with various pretty fish,aquarium7and finally this one,aquarium8There were many, many, more, this is reputed to be the biggest aquarium in Europe.

There is an area with tropical plants and here you can see terrapins and piranha fish amongst others.aquarium17

Of course there is the dreaded shop and it had a large number of clown fish which were of great interest to the small children.

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I was more impressed by the large fish structure hanging from the ceiling.aquarium25

If you want to it is a good idea to book in advance, then even on a busy day you can avoid the queues.

What’s on in Poitou-Charentes; August 2016

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th,6th d 7th

August, big holiday month and I will be in France for some of it… lets hope the queue for the ferry is not too long.

So here are some of the events which you might find interesting.

 

L’Ile aux Livres; Le Bois-plage -en-Re: 5th,6th and 7th  August (more)

Festival de Jazz José Cando; Fouras-les-Bains: 5th to 7th August (more)festival_jazz_fouras_6festival_jazz_fouras_4

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Festival de Confolens; Confolens: 10th to 15th August (more)voeuxhaut-745x479

Les Soirees Lyriques de Sanxay; Sanxay: 14th August (more)

Literary festival;Charroux:  In 2015 it was 27th to 29th August, however I think the next is 2017 (more)

Jazz en Re; Isle de Re,  19th to 21st August (more)

Tour de Poitou-Charentes (cycling) 23rd to 26th August (more)

Festival du film Francophone; Angouleme:23rd to 28th August  (more)

Les Choeurs de Feux Angles sur l’Anglin, August 3, (More)  2014 site!!!

Festival du livre Angles sur l’Anglin, August 15 – 17 (More) 2015 site!

European membership, part 59 ‘A chasm of uncertainty’

Tomorrow is referendum day ( I voted by post a couple of weeks ago).

A vote to remain in the EU is a vote for the status quo. We know what we are getting although some of us will know more about what the EU stands for than others.  If you still think its all about giving up our sovereignty, migration and straight bananas, then you have not read my last 60 articles. They are still available so its not too late to check them out before you vote.

However the EU will not remain as it now for ever. It will evolve and change as it always has done. If we remain a part of it then we will be able to influence the direction it moves in.overcoming-chasm Continue reading

European membership, part 58: Summing up

This is my penultimate blog on the European membership issue so I thought a little summing up would be in order.

Since starting on this exercise I have covered all sorts of issues from things like the supply of pork sausages and bacon to booze cruises to migration to life for expats in France/the EU as a whole and the one I consider to be the most important which is the continued peace in Europe. Some are more important than others but a lot depends on where you are standing. If you are a pig farmer then the cost of bacon might be a high priority.

As I see it there are five broad areas at issue.

  1. Migration…. my view is that we need people from other countries to do the jobs we either cannot  supply ourselves or are not willing to do ourselves. Better control and distribution of migrants would be good but lets look at them as an asset not a burden.
  2. The economic argument….Trade/Jobs, inward investment into GB, balance of payments.
  3. Maintaining peace in Europe;  This is the first time in recorded history that there has not been any wars between the EU members since the formation of the EEC.
  4. Personal issues. Things like how much alcohol you can bring back from France, living/working in Europe, the cost of airfares, health insurance.
  5. Sovereignty, I have covered many issues on this one… most of the ‘important’ areas of government are controlled by Westminster, not the EU. Defence, NHS, Education, Taxation, Welfare and pensions and others. The EU has a big influence on environment and workers rights, but that is probably for the best.

European membership, part 57: Nobel prize

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NobelUE2012The 2012 Nobel Peace prize was awarded to the European Union (EU) “for over six decades, having contributed to the advancement of peace and reconciliation, democracy and human rights in Europe” by a unanimous decision of the Norwegian Nobel Committee.

In a survey of  over 25,000 people across Europe, held after the peace prize was awarded, the majority of people in every European country thought that Peace and democracy are the most important achievements of the EU.

In Britain 63% of the people interviewed thought that Peace and democracy was the greatest achievement of the EU. Despite this being a good majority of the people we rated this achievement less highly than most other European countries. Only Cyprus and Greece gave it a lower approval rating than us, but even in these countries it was still well above 50%. To read all the results of this poll click European public opinion

In a recent article entitled ‘We have peace in Europe because of the EU’ published in the Huffington post  Alan Grant (Politics, economics and popular culture writer) said.

‘The success of the European Union has been in establishing a ‘positive peace’. This kind of peace is established when different nations, groups of people or organisations become so vested in the interests of one another, and dependent on mutual cooperation, that the prospect of conflict becomes remote to the point of impossibility.

This is what the European Union has done for the countries of Europe. As part of Europe, we have created a network of institutions, agreements, practices and operations that depend so much on our collaboration and shared efforts that the possibility of violent conflict is no more. There is, of course, ideological conflict, what else could happen when the Brits, the Germans, the Spanish and the Dutch get into the same room to talk politics? But ideological conflict is a good thing; it helps refine ideas, it puts them to the test and prevents stagnation. It is constructive; but violent conflict is not and it is the latter kind of conflict that the European project has helped to make virtually impossible’

He actually said a lot more but this is the most relevant passage. To read the whole article click Huffington post. Also the same sentiments were expressed by David Cameron but I thought you might have heard enough from him by now. If you would like to read what he said then click Dave on Peace in Europe

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