Friday, September 29, 2006

Photo Friday- Anger

I wasn't sure i had anything fitting the topic, Anger. I think I tend to avoid topics like that, on the whole.

Then I remembered a photo I'd taken of a crabby swan pecking at a juvenile swan. Swans are usually very serene looking birds but when they are angry, they can be very agressive.

During nesting season, they will sometimes drive away other birds, animals and even people. Some swans will attack canoes, rowing boats and jet skis if they intrude on the swan's territory.

Their large wingspan and considerable weight [15 kilos, over 30lbs] makes them quite formidable if they are in a bad mood.

We were told as kids that an angry swan could break someones arm , though I don't know of anyone that ever happened to. I suppose it was intended to make us back away if a swan ever started hissing at us.

The same swans in a more relaxed mood.

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Saturday, September 23, 2006

A variety of bugs

This bee [Bombus hortorum , Small Garden Bumblebee think] has a bald patch on its thorax. This type of bee has a very long tongue which means it can choose flowers with more complex arrangements of petals which other bees can't harvest from , but it also means they lose hairs in the process.Greenbottles, Phaenicia sericata are my favourite blow flies , if its possible to have a favourite blowfly without being Renfield from Bram Stoker's book, Dracula.

However, I just like their metallic green bodies and how well they reflect their surroundings, I don't actually eat them.

One of the greenbottle's brethern but taken from underneath the leaf. I was impressed with how well the silhouette showed through, with even the wing outlines visible.
A small, slightly faded looking Painted Lady butterfly Vanessa cardui
Some of these butterflies hibernate in the 'south' during the winter - I'm not sure if we are far enough south though.
This is probably a mallow skipper Carcharodus alceae-it seemed to prefer being in awkward shady places between plants, which wasn't helpful from my point of view.
This is not an indistinct bird but snatched photo of a Hummingbird hawk moth Macroglossum stellarum.
It is hovering beside the flowerheads and feeding on nectar using its long tongue. It looks uncannily like a hummingbird [which are not native to Europe]

They fly mainly by day in bright sunlight. Their hovering wingbeats make a thrumming noise that reminded me of a toy windmill whierring in the wind [I think these are called pinwheels in the US] . Apparently hummingbird hawk moths have been studied extensively and found have a good memory and the ability to learn to distinguish colours.

They are supposed to be abundant in the Mediterranean region but I don't recall ever seeing one before - and they are quite large and distinctive so I think I would have noticed.

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Friday, September 22, 2006

Photo Friday- Girl

As soon as the topic, 'girl' came into my inbox, I knew exactly which photo to post.
A couple of months back, I saw this little girl looking wistfully into the water at Marineland . The colour of the water, the rail and wire fence and the stripes of her outfit just seemed to make a perfect photo.

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Sunday, September 17, 2006

Photo Friday- Bright

I took this photo in January while sitting at a table outside Antibes train station. The sun came up from behind Antibes old town and marina and was at just the right angle to be blindingly bright. I think it was the most startling sunrise I've seen or photographed.

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Thursday, September 14, 2006

Architectural bits and pieces

At the moment in Nice , there are a lot of roads dug up and diverted in order to put in the new tramway and I wish I had taken photos of the progress. I didn't think of that till I saw the shiny new rails being positioned.
I have been trying to find some photos of the original Tramway from 1900 but not had a great deal of success. There is a wikipedia article with one photo - I like to compare old photos with the modern urban scenery so I will have to look harder.

Nice has many impressive buildings -many are ornately decorated with carved stonework, plasterwork, mosaic and complex ironwork.

I've been trying to collect photos of some bits and pieces that appeal to me when i see them but its quite easy to just go from A to B without noticing the interesting details.

I liked this building- it reminded me of a Rapunzel tower so I suspect i might use it as an illustratioin refernce in the future.A lot of buildings here fit into very strange footprints this building is basically triangular with this turret end at the sharp end.

I liked this lion sculpture that was highlighted with a reflected rainbow. I wasn't sure what was creating the rainbow at first but it turned out to be a reflective streetsign that was catching the sun at just the right angle.

A different lion- this one has more of a foliate masklook to it.

There are lots of mythological or semi mythological statues and friezes. Some are related to the name of the building but others seem to be random decoration.

I liked this dancing drummer girl and lyre playing youth. I'm not sure who the woman/Goddess holding the birds is meant to be.

Quite an imposing statue of Athena, complete with winged Victory and shield and spear. It stands outside an Art Deco appartment block. There were some coiled snakes at here feet based on snakes found near the Acropolis in Athens but they didn't photograph well so I will need to go back and take photos of them another time.This is one of the lanterns outside the Opera House in Old Nice. I'm not a fan of opera but the building is stunning.

Some chestnut leaves and chestnuts immortalised in ironwork.

Some window bars decorated with elephants - really nice patina on this, and a change from plain 'utility' ones.
This is one of my favourites- I liked the idea of having heroic bats as decoration under the house eaves. I wonder if the original house owner asked for the bats specifically or if they were added by the architect.

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Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Photo Friday - Boy

I had a look through lots of photos but couldn't come up with anything very interesting for the topic 'boy'. However, I remembered some of my son's exploits that have provoked the phrase "that's a boy thing' when I've told the story to a friend.

I've written before about my son's interest in creating ephemeral sculptures from driftwood and and stones inspired by some photos he had seen of Andy Goldsworthy's work. Unfortunately, I haven't always had a camera with me to photograph the creations, which is a shame as they are often very interesting.

This one used some wet stones, but by the time I'd taken the photo, a lot of the moisture had evaporated in the heat so the sleek seal grey effect had disappeared.

A few weeks ago we were at the beach for a swim and as usual I'd taken all out swimming gear; flippers, masks and towels, in our shopping trolley. Shopping trolleys are only used by the elderly in Scotland but here in France , people of all ages trundle them around as they are so practical. You can buy all sorts of funky designs and colours so you aren't restricted to stuart or blackwatch tartan granny bags.

On the way home from the beach , I thought the trolley was really heavy and couldn't understand why it was taking so much effort to manoeuver it around. I came to the conclusion that I must have really tired myself out swimming.

When I got home, all was revealed. My son had added a few stones to the trolley with the idea of having some raw materials to decorate his room with some ephemeral artwork that he could change when he felt like it.
The picture below probably doesn't convey how big these stones are.

So I gathered them into a large paper bag and weighed them on the scales.

The bag of stones weighed in at 9 and a half kilos! [a shade under 21 pounds].

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Tuesday, September 05, 2006


Last friday we went off into the mountains on the 'Train des merveilles' [train of the marvels] which links Nice with Tende in the French Alps.

Its a beautiful trip through with magnificent scenery and very long tunnels [including some that sweep through 360 degrees] through the mountains. Some of the small towns and villages on the way were very pretty and we will probably visit them another time.

The station at Tende is quite odd- one of the platforms is just a grass verge - and full of wildlife- bugs, grasshoppers , butterflies and moths. Clouds of blue winged grasshoppers took flight as we walked along - they were not easy to photograph.

I could have spent a long time taking photos of interesting insects but I retrained myself so that we could go into the town and look around.

This is the view from the grassy platform.

The other platform and a railway building with mountain crags in the background. If you peer closely at the top left of the photo,part of the via ferrata is visible.

The via ferrata is not for vertigo sufferers [like me] as its a kind of fixed mountain route- half walking half climbing with spindly bridges that look more suitable for monkeys or squirrels than humans.
This is the town hall [Mairie ] of Tende- it must be one of the prettiest in France.This is the war monument-which is unusual in that it commemorates local people who fought on the Italian side and French side in WW2. Tende only became a full part of France in 1947 - it was the last commune to join the French Republic.
Tende has changed hands many times over the centuries due to its strategic position high in the Roya valley and close to the pass to Piedmont in Italy [Col de Tende]

This route used to be used by salt traders who took mules and donkeys laden with salt over the mountain passes. It must have been a very hard journey.

This is one of the arches in the mediaeval village, with the view through to the mountains.
A view through the arch from the other side.There are quite a few houses which look very Austrian or Swiss, in style and this is particularly emphasised by the cascading flowers and windowboxes.
This is the viaduct that the Train des Merveilles uses as it pulls into Tende Station. It passes over the river valley
This is a view of the mediaeval village of Tende taken from the small road bridge that runs under the viaduct. The sun wasn't in an ideal position but I suppose it still gives an idea of the village surrounded by mountains, with the river at its feet.

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Saturday, September 02, 2006

Photo Friday- silver

When I first saw this sealion at Marineland in Antibes, I thought it was a silver statue due to the water reflection. It was just preening and posing for the camera.

Sealions are Pinnipeds [which means fin feet] - as are walruses, fur seals and earless seals [true seals]
This one is a California sealion Zalophus californianus.

Sealions differ from seals in that they have small external ears and longer flippers that they can 'walk' with. You can see the small ear flap here.

True Seals have no external ear flaps and are also much clumsier on land than sealions - they have to wriggle along [galumph] mainly using their belly muscles and it takes a lot of effort. They are more adapted to life in the open sea than sealions, who tend to prefer coastal waters.

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