Fungi fun

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It’s that time of year again, mushroom picking time and there is no shortage this year due to the mild, wet autumn so far. I have already had some on toast though not the particular mushroom pictured, which is the easily spotted Amanita and poisonous.

Although there is a wide variety to choose from and no doubt many are edible, I tend to restrict myself the 3-4 types that I can easily identify and have often tried in the past with no ill effects.

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The golden colours of autumn are everywhere to be seen.

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Sud France

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The scenery is spectacular along the south coast of France as I head from Barcelona to Montpellier. Water stretches both side of the train and occasionally it seems like we are traveling in some sort of high speed boat. Masses of flamingos, herons, egrets and birds of prey can be seen along the marshy strips of land. A nature paradise, perfect for wading birds and ducks.

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Flamingos group together on an inshore lake as the sun sets behind them.

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Two flamingos wade in shallow water with their heads down.

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What appears to be a siege of herons heading south, maybe for the winter. Below more flamingos on the waters edge.

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Return to the Outback

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Rattling along at 300kph through the outback on my return leg.

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I have taken loads of interesting photos along the way but unfortunately I forgot to take my camera cable for transferring the images. So here are a couple of mobile phone shots until I download the other images. Even at 300kph it is possible to capture quite good images of the Spanish outback because the landscape is huge, so only passing trees tend to blur which give them a nice sense of speed too …

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… a perfect sunset as we near the Camargue and southern France.

Outback

Barcelona – Malaga

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Sweltering hot sunshine outside Barcelona station but a landscape of water does much to help temper the heat. I have yet to discover what those bizarre towers are dotted around this concrete and water landscape. They look like lighthouses but are too far from the sea for that.

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An almost empty restaurant car and very relaxed journey headed for Barcelona.

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Traveling in style at high speed through the heart of Spain’s outback. Scenery that never fails to impress me despite much of it being desert-like and barren. The restaurant car is always a great place to record the passing scenes and have a cup of coffee of course.

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Olive trees can be seen littering the hard baked sandy earth inland …

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… and sometimes there is little sign of vegetation.

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Eco warriors

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We all know who the biggest capitalist is and his disliking for environmental issues.

Here is just one reason why eco warriors are right:

The wildlife charity Plantlife recommends reducing how often roadside grassland is cut.

Brilliant!

Why? Because it saves money, reduces pollution and helps the environment by allowing wildflowers to grow, insects to flourish, particularly bees, which are needed for pollination and honey. Of course Mr. Big C would probably rather the scientists invented artificial honey, then he could concrete over everything, build skyscrapers everywhere and maybe a few golf courses for his green concience.

According to the Guardian this morning (see article) 97% of wildflower meadows have been destroyed in Britain in less than a century. Thankfully now roadside grassland has become a haven for wildlife and wildflowers.

I have long called for less trimming in towns, maybe now things are finally registering and governments and councils are beginning to listen and realize that being environmentally friendly makes financial sense as well as helping the environment.

My particular bugbear with this subject concerns Germany and Spain, the two countries I am most familiar with, where I see wonderful nature areas yearly cut down for no good reason other than to keep a few unemployed youngsters in work. – (Council workers simply lack the imagination to think of anything more creative) – Spain (Andalusia) is particular is guilty of this which is bizarre as being a hot country cutting the grass back to its roots just adds to a parched earth environment and more likelihood of fires.

Guardian article

Mouse-trap

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Yesterday I received a new mouse trap and already today, with the help of a chocolate cookie, I caught at least one of the culprits that have been plundering my store cupboard.

A cute thing, probably a field mouse or maybe even a dormouse. I promptly took him outside and released it from its overnight incarceration. It seemed unperturbed by its ordeal as I had expected wild shrieks overnight but thankfully it made no sounds at all. I returned the trap to the cupboard.

A short while later I heard the trap go off again and looked inside the cupboard. The trap had clearly been pushed around the floor, which had triggered the release mechanism but it was empty. Had they already cottoned on ?

No, later in the afternoon another one found its way into the trap, however it looked suspiciously like the first one. This could become a bit of a game. This time the chocolate cookie was almost completely eaten. They are a bit morish, I must say.

Update 26.10.2019

Overnight another mouse was caught in the trap, making it three in two days. It looked slightly different to the others, being smaller, slimmer and more nervous, but otherwise it was the same type of field mouse.

I replaced the trap with a new biscuit and in the afternoon I inspected the trap again. The biscuit was gone. WOW! somehow a mouse had entered the cage and dragged a pretty large cookie out without releasing the trap door. Not a crumb in sight and no sign of the biscuit. These mice are no fools.

Reflections

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A visit to Karlsruhe for their spectacular ‘Schlosslichtspiele’. This is an annual light festival event lasting for several weeks from August till September. Many artists and companies are involved in putting together a light show projected onto the impressive baroque facade of the palace.

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The setting was perfect with a warm summer evening and clear skies. The event is free and there was plenty of space in the enormous grounds to find an ideal viewing spot.

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After a weekend in Karlsruhe it was back to Pforzheim and time to reflect on how different the two towns are.

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Pforzheim suffered greatly during WW2 and I took time out to visit the memorial, which stands high on a hill where the debris from bombed building was taken and now over looks the town.

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It’s a bit of a slog to get up to but well worth it just for the views over Pforzheim and Baden Wuerttemberg. The shiny metallic memorial sculptures reminded me of a mix between 911 and 2001 and below this plaque explains the event:

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Which roughly translated reads as follows:

Debris hill 23rd February 1945

This artificial hill was created on the Wallberg (hill) from the debris of Pforzheim.

It reminds us of the horrors of WW2, particularly on the 23rd February 1945. In less than 20 minutes the town was completely devastated. More than 18,000 people died.

The total war – started by the National Socialists, Germany – aimed now also at our own town.

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A beautiful mix of wildflowers alongside the Enz riverbanks.

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A duck on the River Nagold, which also flows through Pforzheim. The two rivers intersect in the town centre and this made it attractive to the Romans who first settled here. In fact for all I know I would not be surprised if the duck was standing on old Roman ruins.

Humming hawk moth

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The arrival of the humming hawk moth must be a sign that the climate is hotting up. I have only seen this interesting insect once before and that was in southern Spain 2500 kms south of here and that was also relatively recently.

This insect gets its name from the humming bird, which it resembles as it darts about hovering in flight, but there the similarity ends. On closer inspection it looks more like a mix between a fish, crustacean and butterfly.

While sat on a park bench I was surprised and delighted to see one hovering around flowers and quickly grabbed my camera for this rare photo opportunity.

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Damn! The autofocus once again refused to work, despite trying everything. In my frustration I banged the camera down on the wooden bench and gave up. When I picked the camera up again I noticed the lens focus ring was stiff and thought that might be the cause, maybe dirt had become trapped. Then the focus ring suddenly detached itself revealing the innards of the Tamron 18mm-270mm lens. At first I thought the problem was with the camera but it seems to have been the lens.

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The Nikon D300 has a magnesium alloy body, so it is pretty robust and I did drop it once onto concrete to no ill effect. However the Tamron lens is not build to the same standards and I may well have damaged it by banging it down on the bench. Anyway, I was still fuming as I wrestled with the focus ring, trying to force it back in place, all the time thinking a new lens replacement would set me back over 300 euros.

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With anger and brute force I knocked the ring back and resigned myself to replacing the lens as the ring was now stiffer than before. So was I surprised to find it working properly once mounted back on the camera … even the autofocus, so maybe I had dislodged some dirt in my frustration.

Having cooled down a bit, despite the hot sunshine, I resumed taking photos but a little more relaxed. Even with autofocus capturing this insect is a real challenge and this was the best I was able to come up with, but at least I got something. Maybe time to upgrade to a D500.

The Zone

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Have you ever noticed how little animals and birds do. Look at your average dog or cat, they sleep all night and then for much of the day. Notice a field of sheep or ducks beside a pond, they too spend much of the day sleeping and I am pretty sure they are not suffering from insomnia.

You have to ask yourself what are we humans doing wrong. We dash around the world polluting the environment, provoke wars or else we spend hours frustrated waiting in traffic queues, checkins and such like.

Is it not time to rethink what we are doing and where we are headed. Why are people working their butts off just to buy things that give a momentary buzz. What’s with all these famous, rich, celebrities living in those huge mansions you see on YouTube. Empty mansions, spotless, sterile, never lived in. Too big even for three generations of one family. OK, so some are investments and some are historic buildings being preserved. However, even your average middle class family own a large house that will soon only echo to the hollow sounds of the children who once lived there.

I read that algorithms will soon replace most of what we humans do. No profession is untouched. Even art! A computer that composes music has already dumbfounded music critics. They could not tell the difference between real Bach and this computer that had been programmed to create Bach style music. The speed of change is so great now that even educating youngsters for specific professions is rapidly becoming obsolete.

Never mind, there is always Weezer.

Weezer – Islands in the sun.