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Friday, 26 August 2016

Large Chequered Skipper and other goodies at the shooting range

The what skipper, I hear you cry? I certainly did, and I thought I was pretty clued up about butterfly species that I might expect to see in France. But no, I saw a lifer and I didn't even know it existed!!

Different habitat from at home is key here. K is a member of a shooting club and the location is beside a military base in a forest. Not just any kind of forest but at least in this spot, a very damp forest, which has green grass within even in the driest of summers. There are plenty of ditches which remain damper still and I usually see dragonflies here. Why am I going with K to his club? Well I have been shooting with him in the past and immediately saw that the surrounding area would be interesting to explore, and so on the rare occasions when the sun shines on a spring or summer Saturday morning, I go along, armed with my camera, to do a bit of shooting of a different kind! I have only been twice this summer which attests to the infrequence of sunny mornings, at least on Saturday! 

This is the place where I saw the Chequered Skipper a few years ago which was very exciting, so I at least knew that species existed. The Large one is not quite so striking; in fact is rather drab on the upper side, but the underwing markings are beautiful. I couldn't get really close to it as it was very flitty, indeed it's flight pattern has been described as unique - it is very 'bobby' for want of a better word. I got to observe it for quite a while when it was too hard to take photos.

This butterfly is found on the western side of France and its habitat is in damp forest rides and clearings and marshy heathland. The larva feed on various grasses and the butterfly is on the wing from June to August.

Large Chequered Skipper (Heteropterus morpheus).

By contrast, here is the Chequered Skipper (Carterocephalus palaemon) that I saw here several times in May 2014. You can see that I managed to get a lot closer to this species!

Yes, that is my finger there. It was a magical moment. One of the pictures of it on my finger is in my banner image above.

I've seen other interesting butterflies here, as there are a number of disused tarmac roads round the back of the range, where sunlight penetrates and butterflies and other insects can be found around the edges on the flowers. The best place though is the (infrequently) mown grassed area where the archery targets are - here there are flowers in amongst the grass and taller wildflowers and bracken around the perimeter, which includes a ditch. The only downside is that we only get to come here in the morning, and often the bees and butterflies etc are only just waking up close to when we have to leave. I'm not sure about coming here in the afternoon, as although it is outside of the actual military camp it is primarily a part of it and the range is used by the police and military outside of the Saturday morning civilian club slot.

This is the place where I first saw a Dingy Skipper (Erynnis tages), and as I have (for the first time) been seeing a number of them around my home territory, I am including an image that I took here in 2014. All my recent shots have been a bit rubbish. There are some skippers that like to rest on vegetation so it is quite easy to photograph them, and others that rarely do!

Back to last Saturday and for the first time I saw a Red Squirrel there. It was quite an amazing, if very brief, encounter. Now the moment I spotted the squirrel on the edge of the mown grassed area and started to try to focus on it, it was off.... and then I realised it was running towards me, so I just snapped and snapped (never mind camera settings!). It came really close, looked at me, seemed to realise that I was a human and not an archery target board, and then legged it!

It stopped one more time to check on me, then off it bounded again and my photos after that were of a blurred bushy tail. We used to have Red Squirrels living in our garden, but I haven't seen one in years now so this moment was all the more special for that.

Some dragonflies have been out and about these two times I have been here this month.

I think is a female Common Darter (Sympetrum striolatum).

The following one I think is a male Ruddy Darter (Sympetrum sanguineum). I haven't much time for IDing at the moment but it seems that Ruddys have black legs whereas Commons have black legs with a pale stripe. Here's a good link which helps with ID. 

I was hoping to see, and was so pleased when it appeared... a Silver Washed Fritillary (Argynnis paphia). Not the best specimen but never mind! I've since seen a tatty looking female in my garden. This one is a male.

I'll leave you with a piccy of me shooting my OH's Smith & Wesson revolver. I call it his Cowboy Gun. So be warned - don't mess with me!!

Adios Amigos!

I won't have time to do any more blog posts before leaving for our MoHo trip to the Pyrenees and Spanish Mediterranean. This is our holiday that I planned whilst having chemotherapy - I decided we would have a decent holiday when it was all over and I had had some time to recover. Of course at the time I never imagined that we would have bought a motorhome and that our holiday would be in that! I have managed to extend the original 2 weeks to most of September now *big grin* - well we need to get our money's worth! - OK that is my excuse. :-)

So I won't be blogging whilst away but when I do have access to WiFi I will upload some photos to social media, so if you are interested you can follow me on the following sites to see the photos, which are all posted publically.


I am akaMillymollymandy and @MadameMoorhen
(I've never understood why one needs two names on Twitter) 


I hope you all have a wonderful rest of summer and I will catch up with you in October! xx

Sunday, 14 August 2016

MoHo Trip No. 3: Gulf of Morbihan

After our trip to England in May, we felt the urge to get away in our MoHo again. We were desperate to get back down to the Gulf of Morbihan around the Sarzeau area in search of the elusive Bluethroat once more. We also fancied just revisiting some places we'd been to in April, wanting to see what they would be like now a couple of months later. So off we trotted back to the same campsite, just for an overnighter, on June 7th.

At the Duer Marshes, not surprisingly, there were avocets all over the place.....

.... and Shelducks too, but it was the first time we'd seen any baby ones, which were mega cute.

Various birds seen, from top left clockwise: Kestrel, Brent Geese, Kentish Plover, Chiffchaff, and Kestrel again.

Back at the marshes and dunes around the Chateau de Suscinio, we were really hoping to see a Bluethroat. We passed some birders with tripods and scopes who we chatted to, who then called out that there was a Bluethroat in the reeds. At home my not very good extremely zoomed in photos were hard to figure out; it certainly wasn't a male but didn't look much like a female either. Eventually I came to the conclusion that it was a juvenile or female Stonechat! Oh never mind! We will just have to go back and try again next year.

The dunes beside the marsh were looking pretty with bright splashes of yellow and blue from the Sedums and Viper's Bugloss (Echium vulgare) everywhere. Surprisingly there were very few butterflies here. Maybe it was too windy. Plenty of bees though enjoying the nectar. 

I managed to capture this Skylark singing - there were a fair few of them around, as well as the by now usual Linnets and Stonechats, which we keep encountering on our coastal forays.

Below - the Skylark again top right, and I think a Yellowhammer bottom right. Left, there were snails like this all over the coastal plants!

The highlight though was this magnificent dragonfly which flew over the marshes and settled quite close to us. It's a Golden Ringed Dragonfly (Cordulegaster boltonii) and I've only seen one twice before (one time in my veg patch!).

On the path round the back of the marshes we were pleased to find that the ground had dried out - in April this path was practically underwater and although we managed to walk it, our trainers got extremely wet and muddy!

Suddenly we discovered an explosion of Meadow Browns - I think they had just recently eclosed. There were dozens of them and we walked amongst clouds of them. When we stopped walking they settled on plants, flying up again when we resumed walking. It was a great experience - I don't think I've ever seen so many butterflies in one place before!

They were already doing the business!

I saw a few Marbled Whites too, but the one at the bottom of the collage had just eclosed I think, which I hadn't realised at the time of taking the photo. I think there is something wrong with its underwings though as they haven't unfolded like the forewings, and if that was the case then it wouldn't have had a very long life, sadly.

A little way further along the track and ...... drum roll....... I saw a lifer butterfly! A Black-veined White (Aporia crataegi). I'm surprised I haven't seen one before as the larva feed on various common fruit trees, including Blackthorn and Hawthorn. It was the only one we saw but very exciting!

Moving on to a flat rocky headland, the Pointe de Penvins, which we hadn't managed to explore last time as it kept raining - this time the sun shone, it was warm and the birds and butterflies were out.

A Rock Pipit (Anthus petrosus) which was strutting its stuff with a grub in its beak.

Rock Pipit again, and a Painted Lady butterfly. There were more Ladies than any other butterfly in this place! I don't necessarily expect to see them beside the sea!

Our final point of call on day two was the end of the Rhuys Peninsular at the Port du Crouesty in Arzon. Thankfully we managed to find a parking space which is not always easy in a motorhome. The weather was just perfect and all that was needed was an ice cream.

This ice cream shop had the most amount of flavours that I've ever seen. Look closely at the ones in the image below. Do you see anything odd?

Yuk and double yuk!! Can you imagine goat's cheese (chèvre) ice cream? Or Reblochon? Ugh, that's a horrible cheese just as cheese, but as ice cream? Tomato, maybe. Pepper? I don't think so. But oh, cheese ice cream. Dear god. Interestingly enough, I don't see any scoops taken out of either of the cheesy ones. I wonder why not!

We were sensible and I had the most wonderful home made real fresh banana I've ever tasted, plus chocolate brownie which I've never had before and was just absolutely amazing. We'll have to come back here just for the ice cream!

Squeezed into a regular spot in a car park. When we came back to the parking there were several more MoHos - once you spot where a MoHo has parked, you tend to go there and congregate. I guess we have become part of the 'camping car' brigade now. We are not loved by all though - on our most recent trip out in Mary MoHo we came across the idiot van driver who swerved towards us on purpose. That's one of the reasons for having spent a few bucks on the white wing mirror protectors - we've heard some tales of people who have had their wing mirrors smashed by truck drivers who don't care for motorhomes. 

By the way what is going on with the followers numbers? At one point I had 82, then Blogger said they would remove anyone who had followed using a Twitter account or other accounts I've never heard of, so my numbers dropped. Fair enough. But then it said I had 59 whereas when I counted the followers there were about 70! And now I'm suddenly down to 57 as the last two followers have disappeared. Soon I'll be Billy No Mates! :-)

Wednesday, 3 August 2016

July news from home and a health update

At the beginning of the month my brother was here and in amongst going off MoHoing, he helped a bit with the varnishing. All the windows had peeling varnish and the house was looking very tatty, as nothing got done last year. My brother is not scared of heights so was quite happy to varnish the highest lintel - K was happier to be down the bottom of the ladder because it bounces when he goes up it! Now most of the house has been done and looks a lot better.

In chicken news, poor Davie has Scaly Leg Mite. I haven't encountered that ailment before, so had to do some research to find treatment. It seems that dunking their legs in vegetable oil, or smearing them with vaseline, seems to be the most popular. Either literally suffocates the mites, but you have to keep up with the treatment because just like fleas, there's a breeding cycle of x amount of weeks (I forget right now and can't be bothered to go googling again!). Plus it's necessary to sprinkle insecticide powder or diatomaceous earth (the latter I don't have but mean to order some) around the shed/coop to kill any mites lurking there.

As for Randy, Sue who was his original breeder and who rehomed him after the fiasco here, has let me know that she has had to put him down. At first all seemed well and he seemed calm and happy with his new flock of hens. Then one day he attacked Sue for no reason whatsoever and caused her injury. She wasn't bothered about herself but feared for her old Labrador who wanders around amongst the chickens. It wasn't a good idea to breed from a cockerel with aggressive tendencies either. So he's history now.

In butterfly news, I was really pleased to spot a Lulworth Skipper on the Verbena, as I've been watching my lavender for them, which is where I have usually spotted them. They are tiny and only the female has light coloured markings on her.

I found a Swallowtail cat on my bronze fennel and it's funny how they are much more yellow than those who munch dill. There is also a really daft caterpillar who has decided that the (umbrella) base to the bird feeder on the lawn is a good place to pupate. I wonder if it will be eaten by a bird, or will those danger colours work to protect it? Those colours won't still be there once it has pupated though. I'll keep you updated as I can see it out of the kitchen window!

The Chiffchaffs like the fennel too, and flit about after insects. I can watch them through the living room window as they can't see me unless I get too close.

In pond news, first of all, the moorhens have only been around sporadically. It's been two years since we had any nesting here. However recently the food we put down for the ducks by the beach was disappearing at a rate of knots and we were being shouted at by hungry ducks when we went outside! The mystery was solved, as after several times of seeing five 'somethings' gliding away into the undergrowth, and thinking they might have been juvenile moorhens, it seems we have Mrs Mallard and her four nearly full grown babies living here!!! This last week I have managed to see them a few times as they are getting a little braver, but it's amazing how five ducks can hide themselves so well on a pond as relatively small as mine.

There hasn't been a lot of dragonfly activity, but there have been tons of damselflies! I see several species of blue ones but can't ID them all unless I get reasonably close up photos. The ones below are White-legged Damselflies (Platycnemis pennipes) and they have been mating and ovipositing like crazy. Good, all the more damselflies in future years!

This bee was sleeping on a leaf on a plant in the pond.

In veg patch news, it continues to be a mix of complete overgrown mess and floral wonderment. And I have some potatoes! There are three plants which must have come from tiny seed potatoes that got left in the soil two years ago. Hopefully they will be Desirees, the red potatoes. Soon it'll be time to harvest them so I will find out.

I have been to the Melodious Warbler Walk twice, on warm sunny days, to look for butterflies. Being a farm track the verges don't get cut like beside the roads. There are a good amount of Skippers but the vast majority of butterflies are Meadow Browns and Gatekeepers, and its teeming with them.

A bit of Skipper ID advice - below is a Small Skipper (Thymelicus sylvestris), and its antennae tips are red.

And here is an Essex Skipper, with black antennae tips.

I have seen quite a few Dingy Skippers but I just seem to miss getting any decent shots! This is the best I could do.

A female Brimstone.

I managed to capture a male Brimstone as it was flapping its wings open.

As you all know what colour male Brimstones are by now, then may I present one of my images in monochrome...

... and to make up for that lack of colour, here's a blast of clashing colour! There's even a free hoverfly thrown in for good measure.

Health Update

So what's this about, you might wonder? Well it's the results of my most recent blood test and shows the state of both my red and white blood cells. Ignore the numbers, what is special is that there is NO BOLD on the page!!! I've been seeing bold for about 18 months plus, as bold signifies the results outside of the normal range. I've been anything but normal obviously, so to see that my body must finally be throwing off the chemo poisons and getting back to normal is a cause for celebration. 

There is other good news, and some not so good. Whilst the neuropathy in my fingers has got a lot better, my feet are not doing so well. There hasn't been any change for several months and just lately it feels like they are getting worse, particularly my right foot. It feels like it's being held in a vise - it's a bit like if you tie up shoe laces way too tight, but I can't undo them to relieve the pressure. However I can feel with my toes and the soles of my feet much better than before, but that also means that walking barefoot, like on a beach, is difficult - every tiny little pebble that is bigger than sand grains is like walking on barbs for me. Not so great when bits like that get between my sandals and my feet! Unfortunately I now feel too much and my feet are mega sensitive. Even light fingertips can feel like I've been pricked by something sharp. It's very disappointing as it's been a year now and I don't know what I can do about it. Except wait and hope for the best. :-/

OK it's time to be cheerful again, and that is precisely how I feel. Three months after taking them and my antidepressants are working properly! The last few weeks I have felt happy - someone else told me that when she took them there was no sudden change but that one day she realised she felt normal again, and that's exactly what has happened to me! I feel human again as my sense of pleasure has been returned to me. And not just when away from home, but finally at home I can walk around the garden and take pleasure in the little things again. I haven't quite got full vim and vigour back (that will probably take many months and not just to do with the depression, but still getting over the illness) but I've been pottering about the garden doing jobs that need doing, although I'm still putting off housework! I do feel much more energetic than I was. I now have the utmost sympathy for anyone suffering from depression having been there myself. It's hell.

I have also started doing exercises as we are off on holiday next month and I want to be able to do some hikes without collapsing in a heap! Believe it or not I've been back on my exercise bike - yes I can manage to sit on it - it's not exactly comfortable but like many seats, after a while the nerve damaged bits sort of forget that it's uncomfortable.

I ordered some new swimming cossies as my old ones were ancient anyway and wouldn't fit me now. I also have to think about hiding the bag. So I've got some brilliant swim shorts from Lands' End and a sort of swim skirt that I bought from an ostomy supplier - that one comes up above the belly button and is ruched so hides a bag very easily, and has a pouch thingy to put it in and hold it in place. The swim shorts show a bit of the top of my bag but that will be covered with the tankini tops. However I went wild and ordered a bikini top too - it's kind of large and retro looking so looks great with either the shorts or swim skirt for a 50s look. Apparently that's quite trendy these days! I'm feeling so chilled these days that I couldn't care less if I show a bit of bag top - who is going to notice anyway? I'm far more self concious about my flabby cellulitic thighs! (Another really good reason for getting swim shorts.... oh and doing exercise).

All that brings me to more good news. I already have a supply of mini bags which is for when I go swimming on holiday, but I am wearing them more often now. That is because the last couple of weeks I have been self irrigating! My first two sessions were with my stoma nurse who has taught me how to do it. Basically I am giving myself an enema through my stoma, and getting rid of the contents of my colon. That gives me a couple of days (cross fingers) where no, or little, poo comes out of my stoma, meaning I can feel much more confident about going out and about, no worries about leaks, no discomfort, no more bad smells, no more having to go to the loo just to 'fiddle about with' my bag even though I don't need a pee. Anyway so far it seems to be working great now I am getting the hang of how my body is functioning and how much water I need to use. Hopefully if it continues to go well and I am confident enough I can wear just a stoma cover/plug which isn't much bigger than a large plaster. Being poo free will be a godsend on holiday as if we are out all day in the mountains, away from the MoHo, then I won't have any worries about having to bag change 'behind a bush'! I will, however, have the fun of irrigating in the van's tiny bathroom, and the accompanying smells emanating throughout the van. Hey ho, K will just have to get out of bed and go and sit outside! :-)


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Honey Bee on Sedum

Honey Bee on Sedum

Dewy Web

Dewy Web



Broad Bodied Chaser

Broad Bodied Chaser

Broad-bordered Bee Hawkmoth

Broad-bordered Bee Hawkmoth

Cats past and present

Cats past and present

Cats Past and Present

Cats Past and Present

Holly Blue Butterfly

Holly Blue Butterfly

Swallowtail Butterfly

Swallowtail Butterfly







Marmalade Hoverfly

Marmalade Hoverfly

Peacock Butterfly

Peacock Butterfly

Swallowtail Caterpillar

Swallowtail Caterpillar