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Sunday, 26 October 2014

October photo extravaganza

Okaaaaay here are some photos taken during the first half of October. I have a bit of catching up to do! Last weekend was fabulous and really warm, a true bit of Indian Summer and back in T-shirts again. All in all despite showers, which I am happy about as we have sown grass seed over the rest of the septic tank works and have had no need to water anymore, it's been probably the mildest October I can remember. No sign of any frost which is quite unbelievable, and at the moment the forecast is showing an optimistic 21C (70F) for Halloween! In fact our dinners have still been very summery and Mediterranean - ratatouille, moussaka, courgette fritters.... thankfully though the courgette plants have both died off now - huge sighs of relief all round although the aubergines are unbelievably still producing fruit and so are a few remaining cherry tomatoes, and we only bought our first commercially grown cucumber about 10 days ago.

My Forest Pansy tree has had the best colour ever this year. The leaves have stayed on for much longer than the previous couple of years since I planted it, and they've been a much needed blast of autumn colour in a garden which is largely full of natives which don't change to any spectacular colour - and other shrubs which do have nice colour have barely changed yet. So I have taken loads of photos of it and here are a few.... I have even more photos as it gradually turns caramel but they are still on the camera and await my next post.

Cercis canadensis 'Forest Pansy' at the beginning of October.

The yellow perennial was looking good too -
it has daisy like flowers but I don't know what it is.

Mid October and the Dogwood (Cornus sanguinea 'Winter Flame')
in the background was (and still is) looking a nice yellow colour.

When the sun shines through it from the other side it is just amazing!

In the veg patch I was amazed at how the ash wood chippings laid down on the paths last autumn suddenly erupted in 'shrooms!

First these ones popped up....

...which I'm pretty sure matured into these ones.

And then great swathes of these suddenly appeared!

I had to watch my step!

Unfortunately I have no idea what either of these species are
as fungi ID is beyond me.

My OH spotted this huge hairy caterpillar, 3 inches long! marching across the
gravel path and then over the grass. This is the best photo I could get as
it was travelling at speed - maybe off to pupate somewhere?
I think it is the larva of a Fox Moth (Macrothylacia rubi).

Borage in the morning dew.

And again in the early evening light.

Zephirine Drouhin the rose produced a few late fresh leaves and flowers.
I spot a tiny spider here too. :-)

Still no way to close the gate to the veg patch!

By the way there's an easy way to ID Ichneumon wasps, if you can get a clear photo of the wings that is. I was taught this a couple of years ago and it's been invaluable info. All wasps have a clear 'horse's head' shape in the wing vein pattern (known as wing venation) as can been seen here on this photo in this link.

An Ichneumon Wasp on my Dogwood - nice matching colours.
I have never seen one like this before but I don't have the time to try to ID it right now.

One day as I was pottering about the garden, there was a bit of excitement when something largish rushed past me followed by two cats. I had my Canon dslr and macro lens hanging around my neck at the time which I soon found was not ideal when I realised that what I had for a moment thought might have been a moorhen, was actually a Red Legged Partridge and I needed to save it from the cats! (That sounds like I wasn't going to bother saving a's just my badly constructed sentence!) Anyhow there I was yelling at the cats and trying to kick (nicely not hard) them out of the way whilst trying to also hold this heavy pendulous thing swinging around my neck but needing free hands.... luckily I managed to grab the bird but then I needed help. 

So there I was wandering around the house with all this by now irritating camera gear around my neck and a thankfully docile partridge in my hands yelling at all the windows for my OH. Finally found him in the living room and he came out of the French windows saying "Why are you walking around with a partridge in your hands?" to which my reply was something like oh for god's sake get this ruddy camera off from around my neck then take the bird so we can go and release it outside the property safe from the cats.... but I had to then grab my other bridge camera because of course I wanted photos. This is only the second time I've seen one since moving to Brittany 10 years ago; the first time was in the cow field on the other side of my veg patch, and as I know from seeing them in the past that they are reluctant fliers, how it had ended up in my fenced in garden I have no idea! We released it in the orchard which wasn't ideal as it ended up in the long vegetation on the banks of the stream, but I didn't want to scare it for longer by walking all the way up the road to an open field. And I did want to get a few photos as this was a rarity for us!

Red Legged Partridge (Alectoris rufa) being held by my OH.

Once released it rushed into the long vegetation.....

....where it spent some time looking around then we were kind and left it be!

Another new bug spotted by my OH was this guy, or gal. I was really lucky because I belong to a facebook insect group and it just so happened that someone had posted a photo of one that day, so that saved me possibly hours of IDing! It is actually a North American species that has only in fairly recent years been found in Europe and is spreading and is considered an invasive species. More about it on Wikipedia here.

Western Conifer Seed Bug (Leptoglossus occidentalis) on my garden table.
I love those hind legs!

Western Conifer Seed Bug (Leptoglossus occidentalis) on my wrist.

I was amazed last weekend to see more dragonflies and damselflies out mating - seems late in the year. I will never win any awards for my in-flight photos but I still like to try taking them and these are the best of the bunch! I can only get better and it's still good for my records.

On the left which was taken late September is a male Southern Hawker and the other two are
possibly Ruddy Darters - there were two pairs flying around like this with the female ovipositing
(laying eggs) in the shallower edges of the pond, whilst the male was still attached to it. It's my
first sighting of dragonflies mating and reproducing in my pond which I was really pleased about.

These two are the Western Willow Spreadwing (Lestes (or Chalcolestes) viridis)
which I'm still seeing around my pond even now.

And to finish up a few cat piccies. I keep meaning to take more photos of them but outside they rarely stand still, or come towards me as soon as they notice a camera pointing at them; the rest of the time they tend to be racing around like loonies or climbing trees.

Harry looking grumpy.

Hallie looking pensive (the bench to the right had fallen over due to wind).

And the usual evening let's take over the sofa and Mummy's blankie -
this time by Bertie and Hallie.

I didn't really want to mix talking about my health with a nice blog post back to the things I love best, but as who knows I may not blog again for a fortnight, I'll add little updates when I have some news. My surgeon finally was in touch last week after days of frustration and worry waiting, and he'd set up a few new appointments for me - finally things moving at last! So Friday I had an echographie (ultrasound) but an up the bum one (lovely jubbly!!) which incidentally was done by the Gastroenterologist who I'd first seen back in July when I was having gut problems..... anyhow we are cautiously optimistic because he said it looked from what he could see that my cancer is at Stage 2 but has not spread to my lymph nodes, and is a bit higher up from the anal sphincter muscle than they had originally thought which is great news. Before getting too excited though I'll wait for the proper results of that, my PETscan from the week before last and the MRI scan which I'm having done tomorrow. Then Tuesday I am seeing an oncologist or radiologist (or are they the same thing)... I am not sure but I'm feeling a lot happier just because things are happening. Waiting around is the worst thing! I will of course keep you posted.

And now I shall be checking out all your blogs and catching up!


  1. Never a dull moment at your Chateau!!! Your photos are awesome, as always, Mandy. I loved every one and every word but especially hearing the Partridge story and seeing how the cats have grown.So many wonderful captures for you to hold in your memory while going through your ordeal. Wishing you the best possible outcome!!! ♥♥♥

    1. Thanks very much Marianne! Life still goes on here and I try my best to capture it on 'film' and am enjoying our Indian summer as much as possible too. At least photography is a gentle hobby even if I don't feel up to much actual gardening - but it's slowing down in the garden and there isn't a lot that I really should be doing, that can't wait, thankfully. But a bit here and there is still getting done. :-)

  2. Good- glad to hear things are moving in the right direction health-wise. Do keep us posted.

    Gorgeous pics from the garden, as always. The light looks lovely and the in flight dragon pics are super. Much better than mine! xx

    1. Hi CT and thank you. Hopefully will know more later in the week healthwise.
      You are too kind about the dragonfly shots as I remember you got a good in-flight one yourself, but you know how hard it is! Even when they hover for a second or two they are still too fast! :-) xx

  3. Lovely colours, our's were looking good before the snow hit and I feel cheated so will enjoy your's instead.

    I am so glad things are looking a bit more positive for you.

    1. Hi Debrazzaman and thanks very much. I couldn't believe your snow when I saw it! I can imagine how you feel about that. :-( xx

  4. Hi Mandy, arrived in Brittany today and the weather has been sunny and warm, not a cloud in the sky. Will be out later to see the stars, moon is just a crescent so should be good, might see if can get a long exposure shot.

    Good getting Dragonflies flying, I use just the centre point on DSLR, but its still tricky to get a good shot.

    1. Hi Ian - you haven't mentioned whether the courgettes are still alive and producing! Enjoy the rest of this good mild weather. I was shooting these dragonflies with my Powershot SX50 which has a really slow focus lock/reaction time compared to my dslr, but I know for sure that if I got the zoom lens out for my dslr that no dragonflies would show their faces, that's sod's law for you.... :-) One of these days, next year now probably, I'll have a go with that camera. :-) Enjoy yourself in Brittany!

    2. Ah yes the courgettes! The green ones were all a soggy mush, but the yellow ones growing in same place are still thriving, and so we now have loads of them. Another pest is I now have for first time, is moles in the lawn, they could have at least tunnelled under the courgettes but oh no, maybe stuffing courgettes down their tunnels might rid them.

      I found I got best in flight shots of Dragonflies in morning, they seemed to follow a "route" round the pond so easier to predict.

    3. Haha that's a good way to get rid of excess courgettes. I would say bon appetit but I've really had enough of courgettes so turning a bit green just thinking about them (no, not really). :-)

      I actually did get out the dslr and zoom lens (75-300mm) today but no dragonflies, despite it being warm and sunny. Maybe it's too late now but I did see a Small Copper butterfly which made up for it!

  5. Beautiful set of photos Mandy, its been warm here too most days but very dull and windy, not the best combo for taking photos.. The Western Conifer Seed Bug looks huge, but stunning..

    1. Hi Amanda and thank you! Bit breezy here at times too now but we have some sun forecast but I seem to be missing half of it with annoying but necessary visits to the hospital. That bug was quite big compared to the usual ones. Not so many critters around now but still some hoverflies and bumble bees buzzing around and the odd butterfly when the sun shines. It's been a good month. Hope all is well with your hands. xx

  6. Cripes! Lots and lots here to enjoy. I think the first fungi pictures might be Shaggy Ink Cap Mandy? Not checked if you get that one though. The partridge is fabulous...what a treat.

    I have only ever found one Western Conifer Seed Bug here and they are much larger than our native species aren't they. Cracking looking bugs though with those strange hind legs.

    You did well with the in-flight dragonflies ;-) Not an easy thing to tackle...

    1. Hiya JJ and thanks! Marianne who commented above mentioned Shaggy Ink Cap on facebook and I think it is that - it must be due to the Ash chippings as I've never seen fungi like this before. The partridge was a nice surprise but I dread to think what might have happened if I hadn't been around, bloody cats! K found the bug in the barn!! and brought it to show me. It's great that I have my own personal bug finder. :-)

  7. They are never around when you need them, Husbands that is.
    I didn't think a cat could get anywhere near a 'Red leg' Mandy.

    1. Hi Roy and I know - and when they are around in the garden they usually have earplugs in listening to music so no point yelling as they can't hear..... ;-)

      One upon a time when we lived the other side of France we had a Red Leg come and visit our bird feeders, and stayed for weeks eating the bird seed that dropped on the ground, and the only time I saw it fly was when our then cats decided to chase it. They seem to need a good run and take off and fly quite low. Very much like moorhens!

  8. What a lovely post and beautiful photos. I'll look forward to future posts. :-)

    1. Hello Deb - thanks very much and nice to meet you and for following my blog! I will check you out ;-) in due course - not blogging very much at the moment due to ill health, unfortunately.

    2. Sorry to hear that Mandy, hope you're better soon. :-)