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Sunday, 28 June 2015

Lots of interesting things to share!

I'm behind with my blogging - that's not due to lack of things to talk about or photos - more that when I was feeling grotty I couldn't find the energy or motivation, and as soon as I felt well, I was far more interested in being outdoors than sitting at a computer sorting and processing photos, and writing the stories to go with them! When you only get say three or four good days in a fortnight, you've got to get your priorities right. Especially when the weather is good! Health update at the end as usual, and it's more positive this time I'm happy to say.

I'll start with this Privet Hawkmoth that my OH found the other day at the base of the metal swings frame. We have actually seen it here before many moons ago but this is the first time I've got to photograph one. Afterwards I moved it to a shaded wall where it seemed happy to settle. We have no privet around here but their larvae feed on other plants including ash and lilac, which there are plenty of here.

Privet Hawkmoth (Sphinx ligustri).

Privet Hawkmoth (Sphinx ligustri), seemed happier to be in the shade on the house wall.

Then there's the story of my tadpoles. Well after we had an enormous amount of rain a few weeks back, they seemed to have disappeared! I did come across about 20 sheltering under an overhanging bramble, but last time I looked they were none there at all. I wonder if this is the culprit? I've no idea if they eat tadpoles, but the tads I last saw still only had hind legs and couldn't surely have become froglets in such a short space of time, could they? Also as sods law would have it, I was out with my DSLR and macro lens and no zoom just when I needed it.

Grass snake (Natrix natrix).

However as Keith (think I'm going to start calling him by his name now; all these years of calling the poor guy my OH seems a bit impersonal, specially as most of you know I'm Mandy rather than my nom de plume!) was mowing near the lake the other day he started noticing teeny things hopping about. Sure enough, they were tiny froglets! (Hope none got injured by the mower). So we had some fun watching them and trying to take photos, which wasn't easy as no sooner did I get focus lock but they'd hopped out of my viewfinder! I hope just a few survive - seems crazy considering the amount of tadpoles we started with but I guess tons get eaten by all sorts of things. I'm not very clued up about tadpoles and frogs to be honest. The amount of hours I've  been spending trying to ID Odonata (damsels and dragons) lately hasn't given me time to learn about tadpoles.

Teensy froglet, about 1cm long!

Back to the country lanes and Keith's cycle rides - here are some great photos he's taken. He also discovered several Melodious Warblers along the track where I went for a walk with him (I've been back twice, more about that later). We once saw M. Warblers the other side of France near the Doubs river about 13 years ago, although we were never sure if they could have been Icterine Warblers, both of which have yellowy underparts. It was rather exciting as we had no idea that eastern Brittany was within their range. They are quite easy to ID by their song, if you are away from reedbeds, as they sound a bit like a demented Reed Warbler! Wikipedia describes the sound as a pleasant babbling. Well, it's a bit of both. :-)

Melodious Warbler (Hippolais polyglotta).

And a couple more pics of Stonechats - I haven't been lucky enough to see one yet.

Stonechat (Saxicola rubicola), male.

Stonechat (Saxicola rubicola), male.

These pictures are the icing on the cake - I chuckle every time I look at the surprised expressions on both the fox cub and the unsuspecting rabbit's face! Bunny just appeared, then was off like speedy gonzales, and K was very lucky to be already in the process of taking photos of the young fox when it all happened.

One startled bunny and
one rather confused fox cub.

When I got the opportunity to get back to this track in the sunshine, I'd spotted my first Skipper before even getting out of the car! I was really happy to see both Large and Small Skippers here. The second time I was able to get some pics of the Small Skipper so could confirm that it was indeed that and not an Essex Skipper. Also saw something minute and blue grey which flew into a clump of Greater Birds-foot Trefoil (Lotus pedunculatus) and promptly disappeared from view. After searching in vain we touched the plant and it flew out and in between K's legs! By a process of elimination, I think it could have been a female Short-tailed Blue, which are often found around said plant it landed on as it's one of the host plants, and I know it was smaller than a Small Skipper as I'd just been looking at them. We don't have chalky soil here so I don't think it was a Small Blue. It may forever remain a mystery. Also saw my first Marbled Whites of the year. Back to my photos again.

Large Skipper (Ochlodes sylvanus), male.

Small Skipper (Thymelicus sylvestris) - the tips of the antennae showing red differentiate
it from the Essex Skipper, whose undersides to the tips are black.

This lovely dragonfly was accomodating and happy to pose for a number of photos - how often does that happen? :-)

I think this is a Clubtail of the Gomphus genus,
but unsure as to which one just yet!

Yours truly Skipper spotting.

I'll finish off with a few woodpecker photos from home taken through the kitchen window. I have more garden photos to share and various damsels and dragons but I'll make that another post, because nearly two weeks of photos is quite a lot to whittle down to one blog post!

Green Woodpecker (Picus viridis).

Juvenile Great Spotted Woodpecker (Dendrocopos major).

Dad feeding juvenile Great Spotted Woodpecker (Dendrocopos major).

Health Update
Things are getting better - my non abscess is properly healing and the hole in my perineal scar has shrunk enormously and I have hardly any pain from there at all. After three months of that I'm breathing a sigh of relief, I can tell you! I'm now more bendy and can do some garden jobs which involve bending down low. The worst is getting down on one knee though as I've lost so much weight and muscle that it's hard work getting up again!

I saw my Oncologist on Weds after having an abdominal pelvic ultrasound where nothing out of the ordinary was found. I told him I was concerned about my weight and muscle loss and that I couldn't see myself coping with another six sessions of chemo without ending up being hospitalised as I was bound to lose a load more weight. I asked for a two week extra break between round 7 and 8. At first he wasn't happy to give me more than one week, but then when he checked my blood test results from the day before, he was happy with it and agreed to the two weeks. All my red blood cells and platelets are still going slowly up in the right direction since starting the jabs and meds for anaemia. And my cancer marker test was in the normal healthy zone. They don't check for this at every blood test so the last one was pre the start of chemo and it hasn't changed, so that's good. He's also prescribed some new stronger anti nausea meds to take for five days during/after chemo and so far so good, no nausea and whilst I'm not hugely hungry at least I am eating three meals a day, even if they are on the small side.

Hopefully with this two week 'holiday', I'll get a chance to pig out, do some gardening, help K with some housework, and better yet, maybe even get out for a meal (preferably up at the coast). And get in some walks and try to put on some weight and a bit of muscle. My brother is coming over during this time which will be a lot better than if he'd come later in the summer as planned whilst I was feeling tired and grotty from the chemo! :-)

Will catch up with your blog posts now - I'm behind with that as well, and I know you are all finding exciting things too so I'm looking forward to what you have to share. xx


  1. What a fabulous garden ménagerie you keep, Mandy :)))

    I'm amazed the Privet Hawkmoth stayed in your hand, I've never seen one before, it's got a very smart pink and black striped waistcoat!

    I'm in love with the cute Melodious Warbler ♥

    Now the triptych sequence with the Fox and Rabbit would make a wonderful illustration to a Jean de La Fontaine fable, if he had written it :)

    The Small Skipper looks like a cute witch on her broomstick :)

    Congrats on the Woodpecker pictures, they are really awesome!

    All the best to you and enjoy your holiday, Mandy :)

    1. Thanks very much Marie-Helene - it's sweet of you to comment and I appreciate it. I've just been out with the hosepipe (can't manage a big lwatering can yet!) and some plants look quite dried out already, and the heatwave has not yet begun! But glad there are more butterflies in my garden to keep me amused, and there are tons of damselflies around the pond. :-)

    2. From the weather map I just saw, your region should stay cool :)
      I'm glad to see you're enjoying your garden, and hope you're not overdoing it :)
      Have fun with your wee playmates with wings, Mandy!

    3. The Rennes forecast is for 36c tomorrow and 35 a few days later! But thank goodness for stone houses and shutters which keep our house cool, especially the ground floor. Trying not to overdo it, but I did sleep all afternoon - probably sensible to have a siesta in hot weather anyway. :-)

    4. :-) Our other favourite place when it is hot is in the shade by the pond, where if there is a breeze, tends to be cooling due to the body of water. Add to this, eating ice cream, which is also cooling! :-)

  2. First of all...enjoy your break from chemo and enjoy some yummy food while you have the apetite!

    You are right, snakes will take amphibians, but they will not make a dent in your popuation as they don't eat regularly like most other animals. Fish and invertebrates will take taddies though, in their masses. The grass snake is a sign of a healthy wildlife garden, lucky you.

    Fabulous photos from both of you.

    1. Thanks Debrazzawoman - I'm actually feeling better than usual so soon after chemo, must be the new anti nausea meds! Even done some hosepiping and weeding just now.

      Thanks for the info about the tadpoles/frogs/snakes etc. I was just surprised that we had a black heaving mass of taddies for weeks, then suddenly they'd nearly all gone! But I did see a teeny froglet come out of the water this afternoon and start hopping up the bank. Not good timing as it's about to turn really hot and some years back I kept finding dessicated froglets during a hot dry spell. There was a heron here the other day who was probably eating the poor things too! :-)

  3. What a fabulous update Mandy. Such a plethora of subjects and ret illustrative photos as always. I really enjoyed seeing all of these creatures and reading about them too. By the way, could that rabbit be a hare? Just a thought ;-)

    Well done on reverting to calling Keith by his given name too...although I notice that before the end of this update, he'd already been demoted to just...'K' ;-)

    1. OOops...Great photos that should read...I have a sticking 'g' on my excuse for the 'a' tho...

    2. Haha I'm not typing out his name in full each time...... and I did check with him first if he wanted to be named! Also I thought you were talking in a different accent saying 'ret'. :-)

      Cheers JJ - wish I was seeing as many critters as K is, I've seen a bunny and mum and bambi, but not any hares or foxes yet. Hopefully will get out more over the next few weeks so here's hoping. Personally I'm not always sure with hares/rabbits, but he's been seeing both and from his photos hares have less of a cute look, and this one doesn't seem to have very long ears. So I'm guessing rabbit and that's what He Who Must Be Obeyed said it was. :-)

  4. What a wonderful set of photos they are all quite stunning, with a lazy day summer feeling.
    So glad you are feeling better and can get out a will be nice to spend some time with your brother.
    Amanda xx

    1. It is feeling nice and summery now Amanda and thank you. Gonna turn hot though so I'll be moaning soon! Hope it is not too hot when my brother comes here as I have some jobs for him to do outside....... evil grin. :-) xx

  5. Absolutely cracking photos- I especially love the middle one of the fox cub and surprised bunny! Brilliant! So pleased you're getting out and about again and seeing lovely things. Also, great news that you're feeling better and all the results are good. xx

    1. Many thanks CT - the new anti nausea meds are working well and managed to keep eating, which is brilliant. Not feeling so grotty either although I did sleep all afternoon today! But I'm managing a few little jobs in the garden which is great. Still out there taking photos most days of course! xx

  6. Great photos Mandy apart from the snake!!
    I love the fox and rabbit ones, just like a children's book illustration. I'd be tempted to photoshop
    a little blue waistcoat on the bunny so he looks like Peter Rabbit.
    You'll probably be relieved to hear that we won't be venturing up your way this time so we won't be invading you. We've had a few days in La Baule and La Rochelle, no, not that hotel, ha ha! We found an aparthotel just behind that hotel which was cheaper and it had a lovely bathroom and a kitchenette with a fridge. It's going to get hotter here in the next few days so we will be staying at base till we go back to the UK next Sunday.
    I'll shut up now as it is your blog after all, really pleased that you are feeling better and getting out and about in the garden. A break from chemo sounds good too.

    Philippa xx

    1. Sorry about the snake Philippa! Yes I love the fox and bunny too - hope I get to see some foxes, so long as they are not inside our garden!

      Glad you've had a chance to get away and go somewhere different this time too - we haven't visited la Baule but did a day trip around the Guerande area last June and visited a pretty town nearby called la Croisic. I wish I lived closer to southern Morbihan actually as I love it around the gulf of Morbihan. Might have to retire down there when we eventually downsize! (Great birdwatching, plus it's a few hours closer to Spain and other places I'd like to visit more like isle de Re and Oleron nr la Rochelle.) Well plans are England in the spring, maybe April or May, so will catch up with you then, if not before! xx

  7. Good to hear that your health is improving, if only slowly Mandy.
    Love the Fox and the Rabbit story, just great.
    A wonderful series of Woodpecker shots as well.

    1. Thanks very much Roy - I'm enjoying feeling more able bodied and able to start doing things again - albeit slowly. But I cooked dinner last night, much to hubby 's amazement! Little steps. :-)

  8. So sorry for the late comment (we've been away for a week). So pleased to hear you are feeling a little better and test results were good.

    The photos are gorgeous and very jealous of the grass snake! :) Lovely story too about the rabbit and fox.

    Saw my frist Marbled Whites and Skippers last week too :) Interestingly, there was a huge twitch on near Marsh Lane (a reserve I visit) a few weeks ago where a Melodious Warbler had appeared. Sadly, never had time to go along a get a glimpse :(

    1. Oh RR please don't feel obliged to comment - or even read all my posts! Especially when you have been away. I know it's hard work to keep up with other blogs, as well as writing your own! I hope you had a good time if it was that kind of being away. Anyway, thank you. xx

      I haven't seen a grass snake here for a few years but somewhere on the blog I have some close up photos as one was curled up in the grass outside the chicken shed, then when it got fed up of being photographed, slunk inside the shed and disappeared through a gap into the duck shed.... And our first year here we found a nest with eggs and babies in a pile of horse manure that a local horse owner had given us. I love them and they don't give me the creeps at all. Great news about the M. Warbler near you, although of course a shame you didn't get to see it. I've already seen more Marbled Whites than last year, which wasn't a good year for them here. Well actually after a good spring, it was quite a naff butterfly summer and autumn! :-)