Blog Header

Blog Header

Monday, 25 April 2016

MoHo trip Sarzeau Part 2

Our third and last day dawned bright and sunny and we had already decided to go and check out the marshland around the Chateau de Suscinio which was not far from where we were camping; indeed we had had a glimpse of it on our wet and bracing walk the day before.

Very handily in the car park for the chateau there were motorhome spaces, so we nabbed one of them and set off past the chateau to the marshes which surround it. Had to take a few photos along the way, of course. 

We passed a few gardens and could see how far advanced spring was here - this was the first week of April yet bearded irises were already flowering. Mine are still only showing some buds all these weeks later!

This plant fascinated me and I don't have a clue what it is. Unless it is a stubby looking allium? It was beautiful, whatever it was.

We had been given a fairly decent map by the campsite owner which had the paths marked on it, so off we set on one of these around the back of the marshes. The track turned a bit damp and we only had our trainers on, having stupidly chosen not to wear our hiking boots, so we were glad to discover a boardwalk. That little butterfly is a Holly Blue; it's a very zoomed in pic but I wanted to get a record of it. The other pic is a bumble bee on willow catkins and you can see it properly if you click on it if you are on a computer with a reasonable sized screen. Otherwise you'll just have to take my word for it!

So much for that path! In one place the boardwalk had rotted and about five foot of planks were missing, but there was one loose plank so we managed to get over it with K helping me. When we got to the end there was a fork in the path with a signpost, one track leading to a hamlet and the other to the beach. We decided to head to the beach but it wasn't to be, a few minutes later and we discovered the path was under water! It is obviously a seasonal path to be used only when the water level is lower. So we had to retrace our steps via the dodgy boardwalk. 

Back through the little hamlet we passed these cutesy cottages.

Then we took another path round the back of the marais (that's the French word for marsh), only to find it rather wet and boggy. This is when we really rued having not put on our hiking boots, although wellies would have been far more suitable footwear! It was the kind of path where in places you are standing on grass then look down and realise you are slowly sinking into water which is coming over your shoes..... by this time there was no point in returning and finally we made it to the beach area on the far side of the marsh.

Here it was completely different habitat. We hadn't seen any interesting birds along our walk but to be honest we were mostly looking at our feet! We did hear loads though, including the ubiquitous Cetti's Warbler, which we hear so often but very rarely see. Blackcaps and Chiffchaffs were singing away everywhere where there were trees or bushes.

This grassy area beside the beach was fascinating, already full of flowers, many of which were tiny. I can imagine it full of butterflies later on. There were lots of these orchids but I don't know anything about orchids so can't tell you which one.

Here though there were birds galore. We kept disturbing Skylarks which had been standing in this grassy area - not sure if they would have been nesting here as it was not part of any fenced off bit. One flew onto the fence post and sang its face off for us. This first photo is mine with my Lumix which has a 400mm zoom.

And this is Keith's with a Canon SX40, which zooms in a lot further. I got fed up with changing cameras as I had my SX50 in my backpack, but as there were so many lovely landscapes here I kept on using my Lumix.

A view of the beach here - we'd walked as far as that point the day before.

Looking the other way - later in the afternoon we visited the area in the distance with the church.

I did manage this distant shot of a female Stonechat. There were loads of Stonechats and Linnets flitting about on low bushes.

Well as you can see, the sky was somewhat changeable and it was to become true April showery weather later on. We walked back to the MoHo via the middle path, the sensible dry one which we'll know another time to take! We had lunch in the van looking out over another lake beside the castle. We had originally thought we might visit it but after one long walk, and knowing it would be full of staircases, we decided to give it a miss until a time when I am fitter. Even K didn't fancy it saying that he too was knackered as walking uses different muscles from cycling!

The last photo sums up the afternoon weather! This little chapel, Chapelle Notre-Dame-de-la-Côte, is on a fairly flat promontory called la Pointe de Penvins. We'd been told by one of the guys working at the reserve at Sene that it was good for sea bird watching. It was sunny when we set out to walk here, and indeed we did see flocks of a wader that we haven't managed to ID, and Turnstones. However before we could get many photos the weather changed, it started to bucket down and we rushed back to the van! Wet jackets yet again to go with the already trashed trainers (and hair do).

We had a cup of tea and waited until the sun came out again. This time we decided to put our hiking boots on; however by the time I had done so K pointed to the sky behind us. Beautiful sunshine and blue sky looking out to sea, but looking like in the photo and worse, looking inland. Sighing, we took our boots off again and sheltered back inside the van. We watched with amusement a party of school kids with their teachers setting off with enthusiasm towards the chapel.... wondering if any of them would look back. Yes, somebody must have as suddenly the whole lot of them started dashing back to the sanctuary of their coach and then the heavens opened yet again.

At this point, we decided to call it a day and head home!

So that was our first MoHo adventure and very successful it was too. We loved the whole experience, despite being drenched twice! We learned lots about our van; it certainly is a squeeze at times with two people and we wonder how whole families cope in vans not much bigger than ours, especially when it comes to preparing meals. But when warmer weather comes we will have outside space to utilise so that will make it seem roomier. And by the way - what depression? It suddenly disappears when Mary MoHo is around! Brilliant therapy. :-)

Saturday, 23 April 2016

MoHo trip Sarzeau Part 1

Back again like a bad penny. I know it's been a while and I was desperate to get this post up but guess what, we decided to go away again this last week so there was no time! But I want to keep a record of all our trips so finally here's the first one, which is from several weeks ago. Of course I had way too many photos so have condensed many down by collaging them and splitting this three day trip into two posts. 

For this trip, our first proper one as virgin motorhomers, we booked a campsite not far from the coast near Sarzeau, on the Presqu'île de Rhuys in Morbihan, southern Brittany. It was French school holidays so whilst the weather wasn't great, we were not sure what to expect in terms of numbers of people. It seemed that some campsites right beside the ocean were quite full whereas the one that we chose was practically empty, so we were happy about that! The first day we revisited the Reserve Naturelle de Séné, which we had discovered and visited twice in spring 2014. It's good for Avocet watching as they nest here and there are many other species of birds to be seen. We managed to see two lifers, a Reeve (which is a female Ruff) - not exciting for me as it was distant and just looked like many other wading birds, and finally the elusive Bluethroat, although I really only saw its head whilst K manged to get a good view of the blue throat. We have not seen one since despite being in Bluethroat territory the whole time. Ah well.

Avocet (Recurvirostra avosetta) - in French they are called Avocette élégante, which is a very suitable descriptive name for them.

View from one of the many hides, but they keep the plastic windows shut here - good for keeping the wind out, not so great for taking photos through. All the photos in the post can be clicked on to open larger, which is better for the collaged photos and landscapes.

I am rubbish at wader ID so leave that to Keith. This is a Greenshank (Tringa nebularia), which I'm just about beginning to recognise. It doesn't help that at this time of year so many birds are changing to their breeding plumage from winter plumage which can be completely different. If you catch one in between the change it can be even more difficult to ID them.

Of course I knew what these were though! They were walking across a path and are the caterpillars of the Pine Processionary Moth (Thaumetopoea pityocampa). Those hairs are dangerous and can cause nasty rashes so I was a bit wary getting in to take the close up pic!

I also recognised this lady as I'd seen one before. It seemed quite happy to stand and pose on the boardwalk whilst both we and another family took photos of it. It's a European Green Lizard (Lacerta viridis) and I'm pretty sure it's a female as the males have blue under their throats.

It was a delight to see a Spoonbill (Platalea leucorodia) relatively close up too.

Though I forgot the birds when I saw this fox on one of the banks amongst the lagoons. Probably looking for a free lunch but that is nature for you. I expect they eat a number of bird eggs during the breeding season. That's a Shoveler in the background.

There were plenty of Redshanks (Tringa totanus) around and I can recognise them now so long as I see their red legs and their bills which contain some red too.

More Avocets :-)

Oh here comes a phone photo..... eating dinner the first night. I took ready prepared meals from the freezer, a hearty soup/stew for the first night to eat with bread rolls, and good old spag bol for the second, which only required cooking pasta for. We are slowly figuring out our mini kitchen and how it works (and can work), given the tiny work surface space.

Day two, and Keith decides to take a phone shot from bed......

Now this day was mixed weather to say the least. The day before had been lovely and sunny, not really warm but hardly cold. Perfect for walking and bird watching.

And later, doing my drowned rat impersonation. We'd just had a bracing two hour walk along a coastal path in biting wind; on the return journey it decided to drizzle on us, so we got drenched and it was cold and miserable!

Ready to rock and roll again in the afternoon. This time we wanted to revisit Duer, on the Golfe of Morbihan side (i.e. not the open sea side of the peninsula). However parking in a MoHo is not always easy and there are many car parks with barriers to keep the likes of us away from wild parking (particularly on the beach). But we found a space, although we had to walk a lot further to get to where we wanted to visit.

Brent Geese (Branta bernicla) - not sure if we've seen these before or not but if so it was a long time ago. The photo on the right was taken from the motorhome window!

This photo was taken through the plastic of the hide window at Duer marshes showing how springlike it was looking back then, way ahead of where we live.

After walking all the way to the forest where we once spotted the Black Woodpeckers which live there (unlucky this time), we ummed and ahhed about going into the hide again on the long walk back to the Moho. Finally making our minds up, we were rewarded by a whole flock of presumably roosting Curlews (Numenius arquata), with more arriving which gave us the opportunity to see them with their great long bills out from under their wings! A lovely sight.

Mary MoHo in the distance.

On the walk back we passed this ancient lavoir (public wash house). Inside the little house was water full of what looked like duck weed and those are stone troughs for doing your laundry in. I'll stick to my electric washing machine and thank goodness that I live in the century that I do. :-)

More to come in Part 2....... (and I promise it won't be a two week wait before I post it!)

Friday, 8 April 2016

We have Siskins! (and a health update)

I'm back in the land of blog! Where have I been - well we got out for our first camping trip this week, and we were busy over the weekend packing up and organising - the first trip takes more time as you are figuring out where to put things. Anyway I'll tell you all about that in another post, for now it's about birds! Our Swallows are back, so are the Chiffchaffs who are singing their hearts out although I have yet to hear a Blackcap singing here.

What has delighted us in the last few weeks though is to have a different species of bird visiting our feeders! It's not the first time we have seen Siskins in the garden, as they are on my garden bird list, but it's been many a long year and I'm not sure if they ever fed on the feeders before (unlike previous houses where they were regular winter visitors).

Photos are taken through the kitchen window and the birds look different colours depending on the camera and the light conditions.

First of all a couple of females visited for a few days.

Then a male arrived, swiftly followed by another, so we had two of each species here. They were only interested in the fat balls and not the peanuts at all. Fat balls don't make for very pretty photos though!

Both species together have a bit of a barney in the next three photos, which I found quite amusing!

Health Update

I had my six month checkup which this time was an ultrasound of the abdominal/pelvic area and I'm happy to say that all was clear. I was told this by the doctor doing the test and had to wait to receive his written report where it confirms it. On Tuesday I'm seeing my Oncologist and I have to have a blood test for a couple of cancer marker tests, but I can't imagine they will show anything untoward as they never shot way up even when I did have cancer!

I saw my own GP recently as I was fed up with the infection between my buttocks which hadn't got any better since I saw the surgeon about it back in December and took the ABs which hadn't worked. My GP was concerned and said she thought I should see a dermatologist about it, and even phoned the hospital herself to tell them to see me urgently. As luck would have it, I managed to get an appointment the same afternoon as my ultrasound. Well blow me down, if it wasn't an infection at all, but psoriasis!!! Apparently it can flare up after a trauma, and reading about it afterwards it says that if you are predisposed to having psoriasis then things like injury, surgery and emotional stress can all be triggers to set it off. As my mother and her father before her all have/had psoriasis then it's not surprising. 

I also have it on the palms of my hands - this one is pustular and in fact started before I got ill. It then disappeared all the time I wasn't well only to come back again a few months ago. Yet another skin condition that chemo killed off, even though this one was only temporary. I now have some steroid cream which is helping my butt area which is much better, although there's not much improvement with my hands yet.

I also bit the bullet and discussed my depression with my GP who has prescribed me some anti-depressants. I've been taking them for two weeks now and these particular ones are supposed to start working as quickly as a couple of weeks, so we will see if I start jumping for joy any time soon...... I really hope so.

The neuropathy is definitely getting better although it is still doing so very slowly. Typing is improving now so long as I remember to cut my fingernails short! I don't even notice it in my hands a lot of the time. It's also getting a lot easier handling cameras and turning knobs and dials.

I'll leave you with this Speckled Wood which is the most common butterfly here, and who have been out and about this last week when the sun has been shining.