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Good bird days

I’ve had a couple of good days of birding. Yesterday we had a walk in some dry scrubby brush – cistus (ie rock rose), wild lavender, broom and flowers like wild gladiolus, orchids and so on. There were nightingales and woodlarks singing, and I also saw Dartford warbler, woodchat shrike, black kite and possibly most exciting, turtle dove, a bird I haven’t seen for a surprisingly long time.

Then today we went for a walk somewhere picked for no other reason than there was a big lake on the map, and again it was a lovely landscape with masses of flowers. Nightingales singing beautifully, and this time I managed to see subalpine warbler. And even better, red-backed shrike, which is a bird I’ve only seen once before, many years ago, and then I saw a juvenile or a female, so it was a boring mottled brown instead of the attractive male I saw today with a pink tummy, a rufous back, grey head and a rakish highwayman’s mask.

Then just to top it off, a family of crested tits turned up at the villa during lunch. So that was nice.

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Exciting wildlife update

The wildlife picked up a bit today: some very camouflaged geckos on the walls of the house (I’ll post a pic when I get back to England), a raven flying over, bee-eaters heard but not seen.

And the treecreepers nesting in the roof, which I think I mentioned on Twitter but not here, turned out to be Short-toed Treecreeper. I thought initially it was a new bird for my life list, but I realised I saw them in Spain a couple of years ago. Still, it was a challenge to identify them, so I’m glad I managed.

And most exciting, what initially looked like a big fat bumblebee but turned out to be a bee mimic: the Narrow-bordered Bee Hawkmoth. I’d post a link but I’m blogging from the iPhone and it’s a PITA. I’ve wanted to see one of these little clear winged hawkmoths for years and years and years, though, so that was very pleasing.

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Holiday update

I’m still in France; no hot news on the bird front or indeed any other front, but it’s all very pleasant.

Some kind of lizard orchid. Not the prettiest orchid I’ve found, but maybe the coolest.

There’s a gecko behind the sofa on the other side of the room.

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Holiday

I am in France, in a villa (or at least C17th farmhouse) in the hills behind the Côte d’Azur. Cork oak, cypresses, asphodel, thyme, broom, lavender, poppies etc etc. Scarce swallowtail butterflies, Sardinian warbler.

I’ll post some pics tomorrow. If I feel like it.

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Me zzz

Araf

One of the few ways that being in Wales is noticeably different to being in England is the presence of Welsh everywhere. Not spoken Welsh — there was some of that, but not much, at least in the part of Wales I was visiting — but written. Every piece of public information — every road sign, every bus timetable — is written in both Welsh and English. And although a lot of smaller businesses just run in English, the bigger organisations like banks and supermarkets are also bilingual. The result is a continual sequence of double-takes as you go to read something and stare blankly for a moment before realising that you’re looking at the wrong bit.

At times this feels more like a political statement than a vital public service: I know that the language is relatively healthy these days — apart from anything else, Welsh is now a useful career skill because of the need to produce translations of everything — but people who are so profoundly monoglot that they need SLOW to be painted on the road in Welsh as well as English must be vanishingly rare.

It is often said, in fact, and it seems plausible, that Welsh is the most heavily subsidised language in the world. That’s not just the cost of all the signage and government literature; there’s also BBC Radio Cymru and S4C, the Welsh language TV channel, for a start.

I’m not suggesting for a moment that this is a bad thing. Of all the things a government can do with its money, helping keep a language alive seems pretty benign. 

» untitled photo of a Welsh road posted to Flickr by Herr Julian.

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Me

Wales photos

I’ve uploaded a set of photos from Welsh trip to Flickr. Here’s one of them, a singing whitethroat:

Singing whitethroat

I somewhat felt the lack of a wide-angle lens, with all that scenery all over the place, and I’ve held back some of the best ones for my photoblog Clouded Drab (there’s a couple already posted), but I hope you can find some you like. Over the next week or so I’ll decide which others to post to Clouded Drab and post the ones which don’t make the cut to Flickr.