Weekly Photo Challenge – Carefree

DSCN1885 Both of my photos for the WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge  (Carefree)  were taken at the fishing port in Javea, Spain, which seems to attract its fair share of animals waiting for the fleet to come in during the late afternoon.  Is there any animal that can relax in the same way that a cat does?

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To see lots of other takes on the theme of ‘Carefree’ check out the following links:

  1. Weekly Photo Challenge: Carefree (SF Hippies) | skpfoto
  2. Weekly Photo Challenge: Carefree | Ese’ s Voice
  3. Weekly Photo Challenge: Carefree | Flickr Comments
  4. Weekly Photo Challenge: Carefree – Joy and Woe
  5. Weekly Photo Challenge – Carefree | Just Snaps
  6. Carefree Nightscape | Cardinal Guzman
  7. Weekly Photo Challenge : Carefree | So where’s the snow?
  8. Weekly Photo Challenge: Carefree | patriciaddrury
  9. Weekly Photo Challenge – Carefree | Chittle Chattle
  10. Weekly Photo Challenge: Carefree | A mom’s blog
  11. Weekly Photo Challenge: Carefree | Travel. Garden. Eat.
  12. Weekly Photo Challenge: Carefree | The Eclectic Eccentric Shopaholic
  13. Misusing Liquids Insults My Intelligence | Bumblepuppies
  14. Weekly Photo Challenge: Carefree | scillagrace
  15. Escape | Broken Light: A Photography Collective
  16. Weekly Photo Challenge: Carefree | Ruined for Life: Phoenix Edition
  17. Weekly Photo Challenge : Carefree Deep Creek Lake Style | I see beauty all around by rob paine
  18. Carefree (Weekly Photo Challenge) | Icezine
  19. Weekly Photo Challenge: Carefree #iphoneography | Captured With My Phone, iPhoneography
  20. Carefree why can we not be? | Beyond the Brush
  21. Weekly Photo Challenge: Carefree | nancy merrill photography
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Remember when …

DSCN4542I remember a summer, not so long ago, when we picked about a hundred apples from the tree in our garden.  I made apple pies, apple sauce and stewed them with cinnamon to have with yoghourt.

Thanks to a wet and miserable Spring,  this is the entire crop for this year.  They’re smaller and it’s hardly worth while making room in the freezer for them.  So … maybe next year then … 😦

A week later, I had to bin the lot (if that’s the right word) of them.  😦   I discovered that the tray was littered with little piles of brown powder, a bit like cinnamon actually.  There must have been some grub or something mining away in a few of them.  (And I’d purposely picked them early to stop the birds damaging them…)

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The Waiting Game

DSC_0413Ring necked doves tend to attract the same bad press as the common pigeon, but in general we’ve always had a fond tolerance for them.  They’re not quite so messy or aggressive as pigeons, and once they get used to you, they can become quite confident, almost tame.

We’ve wintered a couple of times at Los Gigantes, Tenerife which is a picturesque harbour town beneath towering cliffs, hence the name.  At the first apartment we were specifically asked not to feed the doves, and the owners had stretched wire about three inches above the top of the balcony rail to prevent them perching there.  No such restrictions at the second apartment, and our balcony there soon attracted the attention of half a dozen regular visitors from the dove community.  Toast crumbs, biscuits, crisps were always welcome to our new friends.

DSCF1277One day we were having coffee on the terrace with a dove sitting on the balcony fairly close by, patiently waiting for us to drop some biscuit crumbs.  

Suddenly we noticed that he’d frozen in position, his head half twisted at an uncomfortable angle, completely unmoving.  We watched for several minutes before we scanned the rooftops around us and detected the reason for his complete immobilisation.

A large hawk, one of several we’d observed wheeling gracefully around the cliff face, was perched on a chimney about fifty yards away with his eyes firmly focused on our poor dove.

The minutes passed, with all parties remaining totally still.  If we had moved we might have startled the dove into flight, thus triggering the hawk attack.  (Doves commonly fall prey to hawks, who capture them in mid-flight and literally squeeze them to death as they hold them away from their bodies, or submerse them in water until they drown.)

So we sat there, immobile, observing.

Clouds scudded by, eventually covering the sun.  Still no movement from any of us.

And then it began to rain…

And we continued to sit there… wondering how long this exercise in self-preservation could possibly last.

A short while later, by which time we were uncomfortably damp, we detected a visible relaxation in the posture of the dove, and turning to the chimney we saw that the hawk had tired of the vigil and flown away.

 

A few minutes later, the sun came out, a greatly relieved dove flew away, and a rainbow emerged over the sea.

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When Nature Doesn’t Cut It …

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On the whole, I think nature had the edge…

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Weekly Photo Challenge – Masterpiece

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When I use the word ‘masterpiece’, I refer to the subject not the photo itself, of course.  🙂  (Taken in the Royal Botanical Gardens, Sidney.)

Post your interpretation of ‘Masterpiece’ to the Weekly Photo Challenge.

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Ducks Galore (France)

There’s no end to the variety of ducks to be found on the canals of France.  And then of course there’s Duck a l’Orange.  😉

These photographs were taken along the Canal du Midi and the Canal Lateral a la Garonne.  The temperament of the ducks varies greatly from one stretch of canal to another.  On the Midi, at Castelnaudary, most of the ducks tend to live on the large basin between the locks and the port itself.  There is a small man-made island there (L’île Cybele) which the ducks seem to have made their own, together with a coule of coypu and, during the winter of 2010/2011 one solitary swan.

Some of these ducks never stray from the island itself, and many townspeople visit the quayside behind the island to feed them.  Other ducks, the bolder ones, make several forays a days to the boats moored in the port area, begging for bread.  It’s not unusual to be woken in the early hours of the morning by tapping on the hull of your boat, which is the ducks doing an early morning patrol to nibble the flora that attaches itself to the bottom of the boat, particularly when stationary for long periods.

In the spring of 2011 we had the opportunity to watch the development of the baby ducklings around the port  One duck had given birth to 12 ducklings, which with a bit of careless parenting was quickly reduced to 7, then 4 and finally to only 2.  Some are unable to get out of the water unless mother duck leads them to an appropriate place and one of these remaining 2 was seen close to our boat in some distress, head falling forward into the water, obviously exhausted.  The mother was nowhere to be seen. My husband tried to fish it out of the canal using our bucket, but only succeeded in losing our bucket.  When he did finally manage to fish it out with his hands, its eyes were already closed and though he did try to revive it, sadly it died.  This is why many town councils or port authorities will anchor sloping duck ramps against the banks to help the young get in and out of the water.

The next morning the mother duck floated past with only one remaining chick behind her.

Other mother ducks are a bit more conscientious fortunately.

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The Coypu – France

DSC_0070We had been in France for more than a year before I saw my first Coypu.  We were in southern France in a little village called Dieupentale, which is located in the Tarn-et-Garonne department of the Midi Pyrenees region.  Suddenly, something large, furry and brown launched itself off the bank into the water, emerging a few minutes later to trundle up the back again.  I assumed it was some kind of beaver, or even perhaps a giant water rate, but then later that week were at a gathering of fellow-boaters in Moissac when someone started talking about their dog having been badly injured when it attacked a coypu’.  It became clear that this was what I had seen, and I googled Coypu to find out more about them.

They were imported to Europe from South America and known as a Swamp Beaver, are often classed as a rodent, related to the porcupine.  Its long soft fur was once quite fashionable, and the animal is known in the fur trade as Nutria (the Spanish word for otter).  Originally it was successfully farmed for its fur in many locations including Britain.  Many escaped or, when the fur trade declined, were set free.  In France and Spain in particular, it has become a major nuisance, causing damage to crops nd waterways.  It feeds on plants in or near to the water and burrows into the banks of streams and canals to make its home and breed.  Its burrowing activities were said to be one of the contributor factors to the collapse of the levees bordering the Mississippi, leading to the flooding in New Orleans.

DSC_0077The coypu can weight up to 9 kg, and grow to 600mm in length.  It can hold and manipulate things using its clawed front fee, and we have quite often seen them floating in the water, clutching pieces of bread whilst they eat it.

Its young are born in the winter, and many are lost when their tails are attacked by frostbite causing them to die from subsequent infection.  The young are carried on their mother’s back when young, and can feed from her nipples which are conveniently placed high on her sides.

DSC_0069In Germany the meat is sold for consumption as a low cholesterol alternative to conventional met.  In many places it is reviled and hunted or trapped.  Its long orange front teeth are a particularly nasty source of infection, and many dogs have died from subsequent septicaemia after engaging with a coypu along the waterways.

Their teeth are not their only unwelcome attribute.  They also harbour a roundworm parasite in their intestines, which when the eggs are deposited in faces in the water, can cause problems for humans if they enter an open wound as they burrow beneath the skin.  It’s not fatal, and the roundworm soon dies as humans are not a natural host, but the condition can be very painful until it clears up with treatment.

It’s said that the coypu has been obliterated from England, but some say that there are still a few to be found in Norfolk.  You have been warned!

* As a writer, see  castelsarrasin,  I’ve found the coypu a source of inspiration for a poem at Every Day Poets, and a short story at Ether Books.

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Le Citadel, Besancon, France

DSC_0090Besançon, the capital of France-Compte, is a beautiful old city nestling at the foot of a towering promontory, Mount St Etienne, at the top of which lies Le Citadel.  This site, nominated a World Heritage site in 2008 was the original conception of Vauban, the military architect.

A quarter of a million visitors pass through the historic gateway each year, many of whom will have climbed the 200+ steps up the side of the cliff.  (There are buses from the town though!)

The zoo within the Citadel houses a diverse population, including an insectarium, aquarium, vivarium and climatorium.

DSC_0125There is also a pedagogical exhibit on evolution, a well stocked botanical garden and a children’s farm together with restaurant and shops.  You could easily spend a day within the confines of the Citadel.

The zoo places an emphasis  on the conservation of threatened species, in particular big cats, primates and birds (around 30 tropical or aquatic species).DSC_0118     Other species included  in over 400 animals housed there incude Visayan warty pigs, spotted deer, rock wallabies and red kangaroo.  I’m not a fan of zoos of any kind, but the animals here are housed in fairly large planted enclosures.

If you do make a visit, it’s worth spending a while in some of the very interesting museums, one of which features artefacts, letters and photographs relating to the work of the resistance movement and the deportation activities which took place in the southern part of France during the last world war.

View from the Citadel.  Our barge is moored against the jetty in the lower right hand corner.

View from the Citadel. Our barge is moored against the jetty in the lower right hand corner.

And whatever you do, be sure to take your camera to capture the spectacular views.

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African Penguins at Boulders , South Africa

DSCN2019 DSCN2005DSC_0335In the early eighties a pair of penguins turned up at Foxy Beach, Boulders, near Simon’s Town.  After a couple of years they began to breed and by the late nineties there were over 2000 birds living there.

Cape Peninsula National Park took over the settlement, as the birds were fast becoming a nuisance in Simon’s Town and barricades have been erected to stop them spilling over into the town.  Walkways have been constructed so that tourists have several viewing points from which they can watch the birds, without frightening them.  I believe that these are picture of breeding boxes, but though these penguins are not particularly large, these do look a tad on the small side.

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Owls at Boschendahl, South Africa

DSCN1944Each time we visit Cape Town we always make a point of visiting the Boschendahl vineyard for a picnic lunch.  Here, in beautiful grounds complete with a lily pond and sparkling white gazebo, a traditional picnic basket is brought to your white-clothed table in the shade of ancient trees.  A bottle of Blanc de Noir makes a great accompaniment to a delightful array of salads, cooked meats, fresh bread, cheese and a confectionery dessert.

Throughout a delightful lunch, our activities were observed from an effectively camouflaged perch, by a beautiful if cautious owl.

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