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Shaggy Ink Caps, Geneva :           Nature continues to surprise and amaze me; not so long ago I happened across this unusual fungi group emerging from the scrubby, shadowed ground whilst I was walking through a residential area not far from where I live. The stark creamy whiteness and the perfect cone shape caught my eye and caused me to pause to inspect closer.

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And anyone who knows me, will understand that whatever mission I was on was immediately forgotten whilst I reached for my phone to take photos – and when I start snapping, minutes and hours become irrelevant..

So, once all angle and light composition combinations have been tried and tested, I drag myself away, remind myself of the task I initially set out to do, and continue on my way mentally noting ‘research Google toadstool/mushrooms’ immediately on arrival home.

My first investigation was to ascertain whether they were mushrooms or toadstools. Wikipedia states that both descriptions are simply titles, however over the years, the name “toadstool” has been linked to the more poisonous mushroom variety – my first interesting fact gleaned for the day!

Research of Google mushroom photography resources revealed this variety to be the ‘shaggy ink cap toadstools’, also called ‘lawyers wig’ and bearing the Latin name ‘coprinus comatus’. The first two names are obviously borne by the fungi’s appearance, with the distinct peeling of the exterior creamy surface in a ‘tiled’ effect up the cone shape. The stalk itself is long, creamy and smooth. The Latin name was given due to the cone shape and I believe, the sometimes undesirable effects suffered, having consumed a particular variety of coprinus mushrooms.

My confusion was elevated when I read there are several varieties of this type of mushroom – and some are poisonous, whilst others are perfectly edible. Personally, I tend to adopt a rather nervous approach to anything not resembling a field mushroom, having been brought up on these as a child and warned that any other fungi was to be avoided at all costs. I stand by that theory still today and therefore was quite happy to leave my ‘discovery’ untouched, to carry out its fascinating progression of disintegration and rebirth, as all fungi do over a period of time.

Apparently, this particular variety can be a delicious edible mushroom when young, whilst the gills are still pink and before they turn black – at which point they become poisonous.

The shaggy ink cap toadstool prefers alkaline soil, growing in small groups and can be found throughout Europe and North America from June to November, although they have also now been introduced to Australia, New Zealand and Iceland. (Wikipedia)

The unusual behaviour of this fungi is its fascinating process which takes place once the gills have changed from the young pink to the mature black colour. The mushroom then ‘dissolves’ in a matter of hours after depositing its spores. This also happens shortly after being picked and for those who are brave enough to consume them, the timing from reaping to eating is cut short by the rapid change of colour and therefore, edibility. Once the disintegration process commences, there is also a rather unsavoury smell emitted as the mushroom ‘drips’ to the ground in a liquified black puddle.

The liquification happens when the gills open and turn themselves upwards so the gills inside the cylinder can come into contact with the air and disperse the spoors through the dissolving process. My knowledge database was yet further expanded by learning that years ago, this black mess was used as an ink for writing.

And on that final interesting fact, I moved on to the more mundane household chores still awaiting my attention….

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Little Green Pockets:  
It’s such a delight to happen upon a small, lush oasis in the middle of a bustling conglomerate of concrete buildings and surging human bodies. A place where ‘solitude’ and tranquility reigns, and the world passes you by on its interminable course of growth and destruction.
To find a spot like this and to take time out from the hustle of everyday demands is positive therapy for the mind, body and soul. After pausing for just a few minutes, it’s possible to feel rejuvenated and refreshed – the tasks of the day ahead seeming far less substantial (well, apart from paying the bills…).
And then you move on with renewed spirit … to take the kids to their sports practice, music and dance lessons, help with homework commitments, prepare dinner and tidy the house before your partner arrives after their long soul destroying day at the “front”, whilst planning ahead for tomorrow’s timetable. All this, after you, too, have undertaken your own routine in the daily workforce…
These little havens are worth their weight in gold!

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Rouelbeau Castle, Meinier, Geneva:       Quite rightly now termed a “ruin”, lies in the municipality of Meinier, located in the Canton of Geneva.  Just last year, extensive archaeological research was completed and the site, including the castle and its grounds, has been opened to the public to wander through.

The Castle was built in 1318 and completed in a year.   Originally all constructed from wood, it was rebuilt in stone, after a fire.  It consisted of a quadrangle flanked by three angular towers of two floors.  (I believe the woods behind the Castle protected the fourth angle.)  The main house was positioned in  the centre of the quadrangle and was only a single storey.   There remains a reminder of a double moat surrounding the castle to which access was gained via two wooden drawbridges.  Today a wooden bridge has been constructed for visitors to access the Castle interior.

The site is nestled amongst swamplands which today have been regenerated and boast an increasing population of birds and wildlife.

Today, sitting in the grounds of the ruin, with the sun dropping at my back behind the trees and the shadows drawing longer, it’s hard to imagine what life must have been like for the residents of that time. Without a doubt, we are faced with far less physically stressful factors than envisaged in that bygone era…but are today’s problems any easier to deal with?

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The Kites Are Back!      

Well, they are in my neck of the woods anyway!  And it’s such a pleasure to hear their shrill mewing cry after their absence during the winter months this year.  It appears to be a good indication of a bad winter ahead, if the kites disappear from our skies.  They tend not to migrate to Southern France and the Iberian Peninsula if the winter is warmer.

I’ve still not had the thrill of capturing one of these beautiful birds in flight and it’s definitely on my list of challenges for 2017.  Having Googled the background of the bird and its habits, I discovered the Swiss population has become very important in terms of the breed’s European status, since its numbers appear to be decreasing in other parts of the continent.

The red kite is the third largest native bird of prey in Switzerland, eating a varied diet of field mice, moles, frogs, worms and occasionally a careless crow!  I have actually witnessed  carrion crows attacking red kites in mid-air and even pursuing a ‘taunting’ dance around the kites who look on with an arrogance worthy of a larger bird.

I love to watch these birds carrying out incredible aerial acrobatics during their courtship period which starts in March.  Their usual endless circling on air currents is fascinating to view, even without the acrobatics!

Roll on summer … to view this and other wildlife photos on mEYEvue’s Gallery, click here.

 

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Bern Fasnacht/Street Carnival :  

For a split second, I thought the bear at the front of the parade was real – but coming face to face with its open jaws, I spotted what could have been a misshapen tongue, but in fact was the nose and on closer inspection, revealed the eyes of the costume wearer!!

It’s a long time since I’ve been to a street parade where the whole community takes part; spectating parents and children alike dressed in costumes of all varieties to watch 50 marching bands walk the length of the main street of the old town of Bern, starting from the Bear Pits at one end of the route.

The carnival takes place over three days, from Thursday until Saturday, starting with (from history) the imprisoned bear being woken by drummers and released from his winter hibernation  by the drummers of the Guggenmusik-Cliques (the name for the bands of musicians – and the type of music), who enliven the crowd with their upbeat rhythm.

The bear heads up the procession on the 6km route and the crowd falls in behind groups, dispersing into the restaurants at the end of the journey.  It pays to make a quick diversion into a side street in search of a cafe to grab a quick bite if you haven’t already booked a restaurant for dinner because everything was booked out early.

To view a taster of photos in my Gallery – click here.  If you would like copies of any of the photos, please contact me or leave a comment below.

 

 

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Chamois, Le Pont :  

On the few occasions I have been privileged to be up close in the wild to one or more of these beautiful animals, I have been amazed by their seemingly gentle and almost docile manner.  Their doe-like eyes watch and assess my encroachment into their territory,  resuming their search for conifer sprouts amongst the rocks and moss in the melting snow of the mountainside, when no signs of threat are apparent.

Interesting facts :  the Chamois are from the goat-antelope family and are traditionally found in the French Alps, amongst other European mountainous regions (and for my Antipodean family – also in New Zealand; courtesy of a gift by the Austrian Emperor, Franz Joseph in 1907, in exchange for living specimens of ferns, rare birds and lizards!).  The Chamois are capable of reaching speeds of 50km per hour over uneven ground and I believe, can climb around 1,000 metres in 15 minutes or less – so much better than I was doing on the day I captured this shot!!!

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Davos, Switzerland :    

There is nothing more special than finding a piste half way through the morning, where no one else has been, other than those who groomed the slopes before you.

I’m not yet into skiing with my full camera kit, so on this occasion I was hiking and taking in the beauty of the blue sky and sparkling snow.  There was not much in the way of wildlife – the cacophony of human voices would have frightened off the hungriest animal, although I did get a brief view of a bear in the far distance making its way to quieter zones…

Davos is a snow fiend’s delight – there is easy access to many different slopes on both sides of the village.  The village, itself, offers a lot to visitors and accommodation of varying grades is abundant.

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Frozen Lac de Joux, Le Pont :     

This post encompasses a “first” for me – walking on a frozen lake.

I was amazingly brave for the first two-thirds of the journey.  However, when I relaxed sufficiently to notice the route had become well trodden and the surface quite slushy, my steps lengthened and I was elated to reach the other side … Regardless, I am delighted to be able to cross that off my ‘bucket list’.

Le Pont is at an altitude of just over 1,000 metres in Canton Vaud and in the Lac de Joux area.  A great area for outdoor sports in both winter and summer.  My favourite activity there has to be hiking to find the Chamois as they search out the lush greenery peeking through the ground after the winter snow has started to thaw.

This shot was taken just before sunrise.  I was so lucky with the colours, which changed rapidly as the sun pursued its course into the daylight hours.