Monday, 10 August 2009


My apologies for the radio silence of late... About 10 days ago I went to spend a few days at my parents in Normandy. Afternoon ferry from Portsmouth to Ouistreham. I killed the first 2 hours by inputting the peregrines' diary in my pda; doing it in small batches while watching TV usually, I didn't realise it was this time consuming, but it was a really useful way to kill 2 hours. It was quite windy and I was rather surprised that the decks were even open, but I managed to find myself a sunny and fairly sheltered spot and watched the clouds pass by while scanning for gannets. My patience was rewarded with 3 individuals, including a juvenile, but a some distance. After going back in for a cup of tea, I discovered that the wind must have increased enough for them to close access to the upper decks, and I understood why when trying to get to the front of the boat, the wind was indeed very strong. But it was well worth it, as, right above my head, was a gannet, riding the wind... I grabbed my camera as quickly as I could and took a few photos, with great difficulties. I can't unfortunately show you any of them, and I may never know if it was all worth it, as I managed to misplace the card while at my parents in my efforts to try and read it. Kicking myself! Especially as later on I filmed another one flying above the waves and diving, presumably to fish...
Arrival was at high tide. Somehow, I think all my previous arrivals lately were at low tide, and I wasn't quite expecting the hordes of gulls, mostly black headed gulls, with a few herring gulls, to descend on the water was we were turning round, especially as I couldn't really see many as we were approaching. With the sunset upon a leaden sky and water the colour of emerald, it was magical.
Then it rained. Welcome home!!!

On the first day, we went to theParc Naturel Regional des Marais du Cotentin et du Bessin (created 1991) to try and find Storks. When I was a kid, we used to travel the width of France to Alsace to see storks, now they're almost on my parents' doorstep. It was not the best of time to go and see them, as most will be leaving on their migration soon, to Spain apparently [though some are now staying all year round], but one was having a nap on the first nest we looked at:

This is the same nest featured in these photos I took in May 2004. The other nest we looked at was empty, but a little further away, we were looking a some young Cormorants, Grey Herons, Little Egrets and Lapwings when this individual arrived:

and landed in a field with cows [you cannot do much more Normandy than that ;) ]

At my parents', it was really nice to hear sounds I haven't been hearing much in London the past years. Up to 2 years ago, I would stand on the balcony in the evenings and watch the Housemartins hunt insects with the Swifts above. Not so this year, and I haven't seen much activity at the last remaining nest I know of on my patch since I saw it being repaired. So it was really heart warming to hear some for a few days. One thing my parents have been really happy about this year is that Swallows have finally nested again in their outbuilidings for the first time in years. As we would be eating dinner I could see them preening on the wires outside the house:

In my parents' LPO l'Oiseau magazine there was an article about the Bessin, following Obama's visit to the area for D-Day celebrations, making the point that it is due to the D-Day landing that this part of the Normandy coastline is fairly unspoiled, which does make sense. It mentioned several Peregrine pairs nesting on the cliffs, so I thought I'd go and check one where I used to go fossil hunting as a teenager. It was fun going down memory lane, and the cliff, and I saw lots of gulls, wagtails, and some very pretty wild orchids, but no peregrine.

Finally, if someone could help me identify this moth on a glass panel of my parents' conservatorym I have drawn a blank so far. I think it must have been newly emerged, so bright are the colours and undamaged it appears:
Update 12 Aug.: thanks to fst0pped it has been id's as Guernsey Underwing (Polyphaenis sericata).


  1. The closest in my moth book is a very pristine Guernsey underwing. The white barring and light/dark pattern is just right. Don't suppose you got a glimpse of the topside of the hindwing at all? Should be orange.

    Best reference I could fine online is here

  2. Thank you very much!
    I didn't see it with its wings extended, if I'd known I'd have disturbed it... (not really) but if you look closely at the full size image there is a bit of orange poking out.
    It fits with the Wikipedia photo and those on a French site and they are found in that part of France.
    I so need a book :)

  3. I fought the urge to get a book for a long while. I'm still holding out on the moth trap. Slippery slope...