Wednesday, 4 March 2015

Bat Surveying in the Touraine Loire Valley

When my friend Jean Claude asked me if I wished to go on a bat survey I accepted with alacrity. I like bats and see them often but don't know all that much about them. This was a chance to hang out with professional bat workers.

Chateau de Cingé, winter home to 7 species of bat.
The survey group included three members of the local bat group (including my friend Corinne), someone on a placement with the League pour la Protection des Oiseaux (LPO), me, Jean Claude and his wife Elisabeth. We were joined halfway through by Hélène, who lives at one of the survey sites and Elisabeth had organised a simple but delicious lunch for us.

Daubenton's Bat. 
Virginie's tip for distinguishing this species from its lookalike cousin the Whiskered Bat is that Daubentons have pink noses, Whiskereds have black.
We visited a number of sites, which ranged from the cellars of several chateaux to some holes in the ground. My top tip for anyone who wants to see privately owned chateaux not open to the public -- join a bat survey group! We visited three, one of which caused me to immediately lose interest in bats and spend quite a bit of time photographing architectural details.

Large Mouse-eared Bat.
The bats were photographed by me as quickly as possible without flash but with
Virginie shining her torch on them.
Jean Claude had organised the day and set up meetings and permissions with landowners but the surveying itself was led by the redoutable Virginie, from the local bat group. She is an experienced bat surveyor and was able to spot a bat crammed into the darkest most unfeasibly narrow crevice and identify it to species level at a glance. Just amazing! All species of bat are protected in France, which means you cannot disturb them at roosting sites. The national monitoring programme orchestrated from the Natural History Museum in Bourges. Last year 13 000 individual bats were counted in Indre et Loire.

Holes in the ground ideal for hibernating bats. 
Unusually for this area these former quarries are sandstone, not limestone. Virginie is in the blue hat, Lucie (LPO) next to her. The spaniel belongs to the Chateau de Vinceuil estate manager and was very excited to be bat surveying with her new friends.
Virginie warned us not to disturb the bats as they were hibernating. We had to be quiet, no loud chatting in cellars and caves. We couldn't all go into a cave or cellar at the same time as our body heat would raise the temperature and the hibernating bats would start to wake up. We mustn't shine our torches on sleeping bats for more than a few seconds and of course, no flash photography.

The remains of beetles that have been eaten by a large bat (either Greater Horseshoe or Large Mouse-eared according to Virginie). The discarded wing cases had mostly come from Dor Beetles but there were also some ground beetles and a couple of other families represented.
Most of the bats we saw were tiny, dark brown and extremely difficult to spot in the dim light. They tuck themselves away between stones, in narrow gaps between wooden lintels or hanging from ceilings high up in the dark.

Chateau de Bridoré.
 We saw a total of 35 individuals from 8 species. The plan is to get together again in June for a follow up survey of summer roosts.
Species and numbers seen:
4 Greater Horseshoe Bat (Fr. Grand Rhinolphe) Rhinolophus ferrumequinum.
10 Lesser Horseshoe Bat (Fr. Petit Rhinolphe) R. hipposideros.
5 Daubenton's Bat (Fr. Murin de Daubenton) Myotis daubentonii.
7 Whiskered Bat (Fr. Murin à moustaches) M. mystacinus.
2 Natterer's Bat (Fr. Murin de Natterer) M. nattereri.
2 Large Mouse-eared Bat (Fr. Grand Murin) M. myotis.
1 Barbastelle (Fr. Barbastelle) Barbastella barbastella.
4 Pipistrelle (Fr. Pipistrelle) Pipistrellus sp.

Tuesday, 3 March 2015

Pianos in Stations

SNCF, the French national railway company, installed pianos in selected stations all over France in 2014. They were for any passing member of the public to play, and play them they did. The piano seat was rarely empty in Tours Centre or Paris Montparnasse last year when I passed through.

 Someone in transit at Paris Montparnasse railway station playing the piano. 
He was rather good.
The one in Montparnasse was apparently not as popular with shop owners as it was with the public. They complained that too many players were really bad and the noise was awful. As a compromise the piano was moved around the station so no one got to suffer for too long.

Keen pianists could record their efforts and post them on the internet for judging at the end of the year. The winner of the competition was 12 year old Jean Cotro from Tours, chosen from 900 entries.To see his video click here.

Monday, 2 March 2015

Filming in Preuilly

As we left for Paris last month we noticed big coaches and pantechnicons parked outside the médiatheque and across the road at the cemetery in Preuilly. Clearly some filming was in progress. We snapped some photos as we drove by, but it was only on reading the newspaper that we found out what it was all about.
To quote (in translation) the article:

On 3 February an unusual buzz animated the town of Preuilly. Some big trucks were parked opposite the mediatheque. The reason for these strange sights? Sylvain Desclous was shooting a scene from his film Vendeur ('Salesman').
This screenwriter has already made 6 short films. Vendeur is his first feature film. The theme of the film showcases salesmanship as a trade but it is mainly a pretext for the evocation of the father-son relationship, of affection and conflict, separation and reunion.

The film was shot in Marseille, Paris and several municipalities in the northern Touraine, but Sylvain Desclous was particularly keen to shoot some of the important scenes in Preuilly-sur-Claise. As a child he spent his summer holidays in the village, at his grandparent's place in the Faubourg Saint Nicolas, and where some of the family still reside.
Preuilly contributed to the logistics. A dozen locals were recruited from the local populace. They were able to share for an afternoon the cinematic artistic sentiments. 

This film is supported by the Centre Region through the Ciclic Agency. The main roles are played by Gilbert Melki, Pio Marmai and Sara Giraudeau. Romain Bouteille is involved in the distribution.

Sunday, 1 March 2015

Here and There: Catholic Churches

 Above, the Catholic church, dedicated to Saint Stephen, which opened for business in 1909 in the small Australian town that I grew up in. Below, the Abbey of Saint Pierre in Preuilly sur Claise, consecrated 1009.
A la cuisine hier: The Parthenaise beef has been combined with beer, carrots, onions, celery, bay leaves, salt and pepper and slow cooked on our wood stove. It was quite good, but not outstanding. I think not enough connective tissue.