Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Red cabbage shield bugs

As a child, I was a huge fan of wildlife documentaries , particularly ones by David Attenborough.

I was fascinated by films of exotic and more mundane creatures and I was quite envious the film crews who were able to spend time observing wonderful animal behaviour at close quarters, even while covered in leeches or stalked by lions.

Maybe I watched too many documentatires as I could easily imagine David Attenborough's distinctive voice narrating while I observed some creature native to Scotland, though rarely anything more exotic than bees, wasps or butterflies.

My passion for macro photography probably fulfills my childhood desire to be a documentary maker in a small way ; though nettle stings and thorns scratches are really the only hazards.

These mating bugs are Eurydema ornatum Punaise rouge du chou, in French or Red cabbage shield bug in English.
The first photo is like a spot the second bug competition. However I really liked how i'd manage to capture the texture on the foreground bug .

Although these bugs are very decorative, they are a pest of cultivated plants-especially those of the cabbage family.
A side view of a pair of shield bugs.
The bugs were surprisingly fast runners , even while dragging their conjoined partners around with them.

They red cabbage shield bugs resemble the Gendarme bugs, Pyrrhocoris apterus -especially if they are busy scurrying around and you don't get a good look.
However, the Gendarme bugs have a distinctive 'tribal mask' design with two 'eye' spots. Here is one I photographed previously for comparison.

There are quite a few bugs with the same general red and black colouration and its generally a sign that the bugs taste horrible. Some even release a bitter tasting liquid if handled roughly. [eg Red cabbage shield bugs, ladybirds etc]

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Monday, April 23, 2007

Photo Friday- The country

I started writing a post based on a panorama i made some photos from my visit to Saint Paul de Vence. Its quite pretty [ I'll probably post it later this week ] but I decided that it was a bit tame.

So last night I decided that I would like to visit some less tame scenery and here are some of the few photos of the countryside.

As usual I concentrated mainly on the plant and insect life - I suppose I get caught up in the joy of being outside, enjoying the rich smells of resin and aromatic plants, and the view is just part of the whole scene and so I end up taking very few photos of the place itself.

This the the view from the Parc Naturel Départemental de la Grande Corniche [at the Plateau de la Justice part of the park ].

The natural park is about 660 hectares in area [over 1600 acres] and takes in land from the communes of the La Trinité, Villefranche-sur-Mer, Eze et La Turbie.

The pink flowers in the foreground are grey-leaved cistus Cistus albidus . There were masses of these plants in bloom today and lots of insects taking advantage of the pollen.
This is actually the view from the busstop beside closest to the park [the terminus for the ligne d'azur bus number 82 Nice-Eze-Plateau de la Justice]. Its quite impressive. The foreground plants here were thistles but they were really just in bud.

Another view from the bustop . The mountains here and the sea views from Eze were very hazy today but it was really a lovely day.

Since i've been home Gandalf the cat has been acting as if my clothes and shoes and bag are covered in catnip. I'm not sure which scent is attracting him so immensely -but he was sniffing excitedly then blissing out as he rolled over and dozed and then started the sniff-high-dose cycle again. Its a much more intense reaction than to catnip for him.

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Monday, April 16, 2007

Photo Friday- the Blues

Auguste Rodin's famous bronze scuplture , The Thinker [le Penseur] was originally intended to sit in contemplation beside another work, The Gates of Hell [la Porte de l'Enfer ] inspired by Dante's Divine Comedy

One of the 20-odd monumental casts of the Thinker sits in Saint Paul de Vence - a mediaeval fortified village fairly close to Nice.

The sculpture has always looked pretty depressed and blue to me and the very odd weather emphasised this. Here it is in silhouette.

This young American tourist was posing like the Thinker for his parents to photograph and kindly agreed to pose for me too.
This is the statue in place in Saint Paul de Vence in a rare moment of solitude. Immediately after i took the photo, the statue was swarmed by a bus load of tourists.
The Thinker looking left - the blue green verdigris colour of the bronze is more apparent from this angle.
A closer view of the Thinker's head.
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Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Wild Spring flowers

Here are some tiny germander speedwell [Veronica chamaedrys] flowers - we called them cat's eyes but they are also known as angel's eyes and Paul's betony.

In French they are called Véronique petit Chêne [petit Chêne and chamaedrys mean dwarf oak and refers to the shape of the leaves although i think it would be very hard to mistake the speedwell leaves for oak leaves]

Some of the first sweet violets Viola odorata I saw this year. This one is surrounded by wood sorrel leaves [triple heart shaped leaves which are mistaken for shamrocks or clover leaves]
It doesn't seem like spring till i've seen some growing wild.

The colour varies from intense violet to lilacs and pinks to white - this one is particularly pink. I haven't seen any white ones this year,so far.

This is a lesser celandine flower [Ranunculus ficaria]. Its a relative of the buttercup and is also called the fig buttercup or pilewort because it used to be used to treat piles [haemorrhoids].

In german its called Scharbockskraut meaning scurvy wort because the new young leaves are high in vitamin c and were used for treating scurvy. This particular flower has quite rounded petals , usually they are longer and thinner.

A common daisy bud - this one has marked cerise pink edges to the petals.
A pure white daisy flower Bellis perennis. It is also called bruisewort and is still used in homoeopathy for minor crush type injuries after initial treatment with arnica.

In Scots its called bairnwort because kids have always liked to gather the flowers and make daisy chains.
Here are some flowers a child abandones on a tree stump. They had started making a chain but given up. It looked almost like an offering to a dryad or tree spirit.

Wood sorrel [Oxalis acetosella] is also known as 'soor dook' in Scots which is also the Scots name for a grumpy person. The 'soor-ness' or sourness is due to the high oxalic acid content and it used to be used as a salad herb but fell out of favour [its similar in taste to samphire].

Since its a spring plant it also has the name 'gowke meat' [cuckoo meat in Scots] and 'Pain de coucou' - Cuckoo bread in French.

The leaves fold up and open out according to the light conditions - they open out in shade and fold in direct sunshine or at night and in bad weather.
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Monday, April 09, 2007

Spring flower borders

A lot of towns in this area spend a lot of time and effort [and money] on flower borders and hanging baskets and other kinds of planted floral displays.

The flowers hardly seem to be planted and flowering before they are uprooted and changed to something else and most of the towns here take part in a France-wide competition designed to promote green spaces and a nicer envoronment for locals and tourists.

Apparently around one in 3 towns take part in the competition.
Nice and Antibes both won a 4 flower grand prize last year which means they are entitled to display a sign at the entry points showing the 4 flower sign.

Inside the tulips - the stamens are the male parts of a flower -are the yellow and black stalk things made up of filament and dark brown anthers [which carrry the pollen] and the central yellow thing with the knobbly end is the pistil [the female part].

This photo reminds me a lot of some of Georgia O'Keefe's paintings.

I'm not sure what this is- a small cheery daisy-ish thing. I liked how it was stained with dusty marks where the irrigation system had left water beads. Its the small red flower in the yellow and pink tulip photo above; which gives an idea of the scale.

These seem to be some kind of garden type Forget-me-nots with very short stems.
Very pretty blue and lots of flowers framed nicely by the slightly hair green leaves but I think like the wild spindly plants better.

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Saturday, April 07, 2007

Photo Friday- Blessing

I took some photos in La Collégiale de la Conversion de Saint-Paul [Collegiate Church of the Conversion of Saint Paul] in St Paul de Vence. There is no ban on photography there, and noone was praying so I felt ok about taking some photos without flash.

The oldest part of the chapel is the bell tower which was built in the 13th century. The side aisle chapels were added in the 15th and 16th centuries and the church was extensively refurbished in the 17th century. The photos below are of one of the side aisle chapels.

This was the only side aisle with the remains of extensive Trompe l'Oeil painting of marble paneling and columns and huge floral designs.

If the whole church was originally painted like this it must have been quite disorienting, though impressive.

I didn't intend to try and recreate the chapel in photographs until I saw the Photo Friday topic.
It would have been better to have taken the photos with the intention of patching them together, so the composite image is somewhat wonky. At the time i was mainly focusing on the painted walls and statue.

The composite gives an idea of how opulently decorated it is, and I suppose thats the main thing.

This is the 13th century bell tower.

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Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Photo Friday - growth

My son has been growing some tree seeds as part of a bonsai kit. Amazingly all 4 of the seeds sprouted and are healthy looking mini plants. [We've had zero success with previous attempts to grow trees from seed]
Anyway, I promised him that i'd take a photo of the best one and i tried to get a similar look to some of the palm tree photos I've taken in the past.
It had just been misted, hence the couple of beads of water.

I was in St paul de Vence today and noticed this vineyard under the ramparts. I thought the vines look more like dead sticks planted at regular intervals than bountiful grape producers at the moment. This particularly contrasts with the heavy blossom on the fruit trees and the grey green leaves of the olives in the background.

In a short while though, these dead looking sticks will burst into life and be laden with leaves and later bunches of grapes.

Seeing vines change dramatically like this year after year made me realise why so many green man depictions have vine leaves sprouting from their mouths and eyes; the vine is an amazing example of fertility, new growth and rebirth.

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