Tuesday, 5 August 2008

Will Bidou breed this year?

Could this be mating?
Since Bidou's return to our stretch of the river the male mute swan has mostly ignored her and she hasn't been welcomed by the family, especially the cygnets. She's no longer encouraged to tag along with them and seems forlorn. Recently I haven't seen her with them at all except when she turns up for food at the same time. Several weeks ago she managed to flirt with the cob when he was on his own and it was difficult to tell whether they attempted to mate or whether he was attacking her. However, she is now nesting on Duck Ait and sitting on eggs!

Attack or an attempt at mating?

Shortly afterwards Bidou made a show of building a nest on our plank

Snakey returning to her uncoventional nest
Snakey has raised a second brood in this unusual spot. I would occasionally add a little meadow hay to the nest to cover the eggs and protect them from attack by magpies and crows but it seemed to disappear and we wondered whether she ate some of it.

Snakey returning for the final 'sit in'
She spent longer than usual in the pond, washing and grooming and seemed in no hurry to return to the nest. The weather was warm so we assumed the eggs would be fine on their own for a while. When we looked they were covered in her downy feathers. Two eggs looked like they were slightly cracked so we guessed that they were beginning to hatch. The next morning she flew down into the river and called to the ducklings frantically to follow but either they couldn't climb the steep sides or just didn't fancy the long drop. She kept returning to the pot in an effort to urge them to follow her. In the end Dave carried the pot downstairs and helped launch the ducklings into the river close to Snakey. Nine healthy ducklings rushed over to her and for a day stuck like limpets to her sides. That afternoon we watched with amusement as she rounded them all up and led them into the empty riverside nesting box, their little feet slipping on the plank as it got wetter and wetter. Like Golden Eye, who is sitting on eggs in the adjacent box, Snakey has found a safe and dry shelter for the ducklings to return to. By the second day she was down to seven ducklings, then she lost four yesterday and now she's has only one. Meanwhile, some of Golden Eye's ducklings hatched yesterday but, as it's raining hard she can't persuade them to leave their nest! So far we've only seen one of them. In fact, we're a little puzzled because it seemed to us that one of Snakey's two remaining ducklings clambered into the wrong nesting box and wasn't rejected. We'll know eventually because Golden Eye had nine eggs so we'll be able to work out whether this might have happened. It's unlikely, but we know that Golden Eye's partner was 'unfaithful' several times with Snakey so there could be a common 'dad'! If Golden Eye ends up with more than nine ducklings, we'll be able to tell what happened to Snakey's last but one duckling.

The Fab Four photographed through the glass patio door
At least these ducklings are a success. They're the only ones, so far, to survive on this stretch of the river. As you can see they're a reasonable size now and they've already grown since I took this picture of them a week or so ago. In fact, it's getting difficult to tell them apart from the adult ducks.

Neighbours Malcolm & Lyn trying out their new kayak
While we were in Portugal England had its summer and since then the weather's been very changeable, hence the dull light in most of the images.

Sunday, 3 August 2008

Music Festivals

We've been in Portugal, again this year, half way between Lisbon and the Algarve, celebrating the 10th anniversary of the wonderful Festival Músicas Do Mundo (FMM) in Sines. Held every year in July, FMM invites the most important names of the global circuit in world music, jazz and blues to perform at the biggest world music festival in Portugal. The festival kicked off in Sines for one night with music from Brasil, Mali and Galicia. It then moved to Porto Covo, a picturesque village in Alentejo, for three nights with a selection of bands from Portugal, Cape Verde, USA, Belgium/Finland, Italy, India and Belize/Honduras, before returning to Sines.

Danae, one of the many vibrant performers, wowed the crowd outside the Arts Centre with her amazing voice and performance.

Waldemar Bastos from Angola
The castle of Sines is a superb setting for many of the performers, culminating in a magnificent firework display on the final night of the festival.

Vinicio Capossela from Italy

A statue of Vasco da Gama, adjacent to the castle, overlooks the harbour of Sines

Asif Ali Khan & Party musicians from Pakistan
Each year an eclectic mix of musical talent entertains the crowd in a variety of locations including the Arts Centre, the Beach and the Castle at Sines as well as by the beach at Porto Covo.
Praia de S. Torpes
This is one of the most crowded beaches in the area but, as you can see, it doesn't look overcrowded for a sunny day in July. This is a view from the lovely beach restaurant/bar Trinca Espinhas which we can highly recommend for its lovely seafood and delicious starters.

Ashraf Malik behind his stall of crystals and natural stones
During the music festival the steps from Sines castle to the beach are lined with interesting stalls offering crystals, jewellery, ayurvedic massages, clothing and artefacts. Ashraf had a beautiful collection of crystals, pendulums, essential oils and the like.

KTU from Finland/USA

A view from backstage looking across the castle grounds

Alcácer do Sal
Bunting decorates one of the streets in Alcácer do Sal, a pretty riverside town an hour's drive from Sines. Seek out one of the riverside restaurants for some good Portugese food.

Colourful stalls line the promenade at Sines
One of the pleasures of Sines during the music festival is its collection of (mostly) hippie stalls by the beach. Another is its mix of 'tasquinhas' or food and drink stands next to the stage by the beach. Wander off the beach and you've a great selection of food and drink to chose from. This year we really liked the Kibes (minced meat patties flavoured with pine nuts, bulgar wheat and herbs, in particular mint) washed down with a mean mojito cocktail made by one of the stalls.

The Dizu Plaatjies' Ibuyambo Ensemble
This band from South Africa entranced the audience on the stage by the beach, giving the sunset that evening a special feel. It's a magical setting, a sea of happy faces bordered by the sea, and spirits are high!

The Vasco da Gama beach of Sines
The statue of navigator Vasco da Gama, which is adjacent to the town castle, overlooks this beach. You can just see the dark scaffolding of the beach stage to the left of the image. Although ringed by industry and large shipping piers, Sines beach and harbour remain unspoilt.

The Hypnotic Brass Ensemble USA
Last year the festival featured street musicians. This colourful ensemble proved popular with the crowds beachside.

Porto Palafito Carrasqueira on the Sado River estuary

Harry Manx on stage 2007
The wonderful Blues man and mohan veena player Harry Manx from Canada performing on the beach stage.

A magical moment between father and child

Lula Pena performs for a young audience in the Arts Centre in 2007

Lula gives a workshop at the Arts Centre

A view of Sines harbour from the castle walls

Mud Morganfield at the Mijas Blues Festival in Spain, June 2008
Music from another part of the Mediterranean - Mijas in Spain. We spent a great long weekend in June at the Blues Festival in Mijas listening to some excellent musicians, including eldest son of Muddy Waters, Mud Morganfield.

Big Joe Louis and Wes Weston on stage at Mijas
If you love The Blues you'll love this festival, set in the lovely surroundings of Mijas.

Peaches Staten from Chicago

Sunday morning, after the festival
The streets were quiet on the morning following the festival. Mijas is a picturesque white village (pueblo blanca) in the foothills of the Costa del Sol which overlooks the sea. It attracts artists and tourists alike and has many tempting boutiques.

A street scene in Mijas