Sunday, 14 September 2014

Brittany (6-13 September)

We caught the ferry to Calais (100+ Common Terns on mooring ropes the most notable sighting of the rather murky crossing) and drove south towards St Valery-sur-Somme for an overnight stop at Drancourt. A brief stop at a viewpoint north of Boulogne produced a male Marsh and two female plumaged Hen Harriers while a pool north of Le Crotoy that had held a Spotted Crake two years earlier had been partly dug out but still hosted White Stork, Great White Egret, Avocet, Egyptian Goose and Black Swan!  A Crested Tit was in the same conifer belt at the Drancourt camp site as I'd seen one on our previous visit in 2012, always very nice to see despite it being moderately foggy.  We drove down to St. Cast, just west of St. Malo, glimpsing Mont Saint Michael on the way.  We had five nights in a mobile home on the coast at St Cast and each morning I walked around a nearby headland although grounded migrants were not much in evidence in the unchanging warm but rather hazy weather -  3 Whinchats, a Wheatear, 2 Whitethroats, up to 20 Blackcaps and 6 Chiffchaffs, a Willow Warbler and 3 Firecrests.  Small numbers of Swallows flew over, mostly heading north(!), while one morning a Honey Buzzard cruised north then later south along the cliff, a distant Balearic Shearwater flew east and a Barnacle Goose flew west!  Presumed residents included Cetti's Warblers with several singing each day but I only saw two, a juvenile Dartford Warbler and best of all a family of Cirl Buntings. We visited St Malo, Dinan and Cap Frehel where there were 350 Shags, a Wheatear and Megan and Nessa flushed what might have been a Wryneck which I only glimpsed.  On our return to St Valery we spent a couple of hours at Mont Saint Michael where Marsh Harier, Yellow-legged Gull and a Common Redstart were the best I could find.  Back at St Valery on a falling tide a juvenile Spoonbill was in a creek off the prom and a quick scan of the many hundreds (thousands) of gulls revealed a North Thames Herring Gull (AS6T).  The following morning at Drancourt I could not refind the Crested Tit but while scanning the nearby fields had reasonable views of a juvenile Rough-legged Buzzard.  It was on view for about five minutes hovering over the stubble fields at increasing distance but it was another murky day and by the time i thought to get photos my autofocus failed to latch onto it.  A (the) Great White Egret was still on the pool at Le Crotoy (as was the Avocet and Egyptian Goose) and two Cattle Egrets flew over.  Five minutes in the car park at Marquenterre produced 3 Crested Tits but another 15 only added another heard and a Bullfinch.  We drove back north to Citie Europe and another dull ferry crossing.  An enjoyable break and very nice that Vanessa came too although Megan was unfortunately fighting off a chest infection which French antibiotics eventually got on top of.  
leaving Dover on a murky morning
sunrise over St Cast, not often one can look directly at the sun
campsite at St Cast, we had a rather nice mobile home towards the right hand end of the site
fort off the end of St Cast, only accessible to invaders at low tide or by boat
St Cast beach at low tide, looking east
St Cast headland, my morning walk took me to the distant house, where sadly the coastal path headed inland
Baye de la Frenaye from St Cast, tide coming in, lines of sticks are for mussels
view west from St Cast
juvenile and female Cirl Buntings
male Cirl Bunting on the campsite's side gate 
in poor early morning light

coasting Honey Buzzard, honest!
Fort de la Lotte from St Cast
St Malo city wall
St Malo street
St Malo
looking across from one side of the city wall to the other
St Malo harbour, 'pirate' ship hiding behind yachts

Nessa looking east to Fort de la Lotte and St Cast from Cap Frehel
Cap Frehel looking north towards Jersey (a bit hazy so not visible while we were there) 
Cap Frehel looking west
Shag at Cap Frehel
Dinan city wall and the River Rance
old streets in Dinan 
Mont Saint Michael (just in Normandie)
the very high tide had just covered the causeway at the entrance to the Mont and flooded the lower levels of the tower on the extreme left
Mont Saint Michael experiences the largest tidal variation in Europe, over 15m at its greatest, as it was on the day of our visit. The white signs in the foreground are in the old car park, under a metre of water.
Yellow-legged Gull at Mont Saint Michael
Great White Egret at Le Crotoy

one of two Cattle Egrets over Le Crotoy

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