18 May 2009

2006: May 18, Thursday

Even though the weather has not been "reasonable" of late, I decided to head out anyway to get as much "good" out of the day as possible. And, between squalls and (at-times) 50mph winds, some of my best nature photography of the trip was taken today.

The day started with an attempt to find Ménez Bré, a natural site at 303 metres above sea level, one of the highest points in Bretagne. If it weren't for the clouds screaming by, and the wind trying to blow me off the top of the hill when it was finally found, the chiseled stone map that describes the surrounding countryside makes me believe I could have seen towns as far as 30 miles away... Among items of interest anyway: (1) an unidentified bird a bit larger than a sparrow singing its heart out about 50 feet above my head as s/he surfed the wind over the abandoned church building, and (2) the mass of children (with a few chaperones) who were peddling to the top of the hill. As this was a Thursday, around 10.30 am, it had me wondering if there was a national school holiday (and these kids were part of a cycling club), or if this was an accepted local school exercise program. Most of the surrounding countryside is perhaps 30 metres at most above sea level, and the climb up the hill from either side is fairly steep, so anyone attempting to bicycle to the top is either going to get their heart started or stopped.

As I headed eastbound on the N12 towards St Brieuc, the sun really started to shine. In the town of Binic, the flags were pegged straight-out with a wind clocked at 30mph steady, and windsurfers were laying claim to bits of the inner harbour. Just north, the Chapelle Notre-Dame d'Espérance, a tiny (comparatively) chapel high on a bluff overlooking Étables-sur-Mer and the Baie de Saint-Brieuc posed for the camera.

Of course, the sun is now starting to play peek-a-boo, and the occasional squall moves through. After stopping in a patisserie in Plouha for expensive sugar goodness, it's back behind the wheel to Paimpol and the drive along the Circuit de la Côte des Ajoncs (the Coast of "I HAVE NO IDEA WHAT AJONCS MEANS"). Talk about drop-dead gorgeous, especially for those into rugged coastlines akin to that seen on the northwest Olympic Peninsula or at Big Sur, California. The tide was headed out, so I wasn't thinking shorebirds, and yet found both a sandpiper (12+) and a plover (30+) species. The plovers reminded me of Ruddy Turnstones found in Washington state. [ 2009: The plovers were Ruddy Turnstones. I hadn't realized a Pacific Northwet bird could be found in Europe. Huh. ] Neither were particular skittish, which was nice, and both allowed me within 50 feet for some nice photos.

In between getting squalled on, I've located a house built between and into two huge rock outcroppings, a chateau on top of a narrow bluff, a few beach hiking trails, my first French nature preserve, and more young bicycle enthusiasts (with chaperones). Before the squalls became downright biblical in proportions, it was my pleasure to photograph what I originally took to be a harrier (from the way it hovered/flew over open fields), but was probably a Kestrel instead. [ 2009: Some folks (myself included) believe the bird may be a Lesser Kestrel, based on local (to Bretagne) research made for French publication (paler colours, no obvious black spots on back, small size, shorter wings and tail, for example). Some believe this is more likely a Common Kestrel, exclusively because of the grey malar stripe. However, there are photos and descriptions extant from reputable birding websites and photographers that feel the malar stripe is not determinate. Huh. Either way, the bird was a wonderful find, and ...] The photo made my day...

Purple to black clouds are now dumping impressive amounts of water on ma voiture (car) as it heads home eight hours after the start of the day.

Two hours later, the sun has just gone down, and there's not a cloud to be seen to my direct south. Go figure...

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