Morbihan

I stayed in the Gulf of Morbihan from 6 to 17 April 2002. Each day, half a day was dedicated to thalassotherapy, the other half to exploring the region and particularly its ornithological resources. I thoroughly enjoyed both activities.

If you want to go directly to the list of birds I saw, click here.

ACCOMMODATION

At the Miramar Hotel, visitors can find accommodation and also enjoy thalassotherapy in the same building. The prices and services are those of a four-star hotel. We opted for the Glann ar-Mor Hotel and we did not regret it. Jean-François made it his duty to present us with a different menu for 11 days. If you like fish and seafood among other good meals, this is the place to go. The hotel is very clean and the discussions with Philippe proved to be a great substitute to watching TV. Both like Mylene Farmer very much as we soon guessed while listening to the music in their restaurant.

Port Navalo

TOURISM

"Mor Bihan" means 'Little Sea" in Breton and with its 12,000 ha dotted with 40 islands, the Gulf of Morbihan is a very difficult place to navigate and you must be very cautious. The biggest islands are l'Ile aux Moines and the Ile d'Arz. The only opening toward the ocean is a strait located between Locmariaquer in the North and Port Navalo in the South. This strait is 800 m wide and generates violent currents which can reach up to 10 knots (nearly 18 km/h).

At the far end of the gulf there is a city called Vannes, whose walls dating back to the 14th and 15th centuries now seem to be the guardians of its fine wash houses and beautiful flower-beds. The old city shelters many half-timbered houses and in the Saint-Pierre cathedral there is a nice round chapel dedicated to Saint Vincent Ferrier. At some distance, the town-hall will almost make you feel like becoming mayor.

Auray is worth a visit too. There is a nice market on Mondays in the old town, and the harbour area near the beautiful bridge Saint Goustan is very pleasant. This is where Benjamin Franklin landed on 4 December 1776 as he came to negotiate the first alliance with France. We had lunch at "La Chasse-marée" where the "Marmite du Pêcheur" was excellent and the waiters very friendly.

L'Île aux Moines is said to be a little piece of heaven. It is a pity that the beach du Bois d'Amour was so dirty when we walked along it and that some restaurant keepers were not very friendly. On the other hand, I liked the little houses, the many camellias, mimosas and other trees in full blossom.

Île aux Moines

The Château de Suscinio was one of the favourite dwelling places of the Dukes of Brittany who came there mainly for hunting. It is now being rehabilitated and you can visit it.

Sarzeau is a small pleasant village and if you want to purchase some quality items do not miss the "Maison des Artisans d'Art".

ThePointe de Penvins can be recognised from afar by the characteristic architecture of its chapel. It is also a good spot for wind surfers.

Arzon, Port Navalo and Port Crouesty form a pleasant little urban area famous for its thalassotherapy centre, the "Institut Louison Bobet". You can visit some burial mounds near the town, such as the Petit Mont or la Butte de Cesar. If you like beautiful antiques go to the Escarpolette in Port Navalo.

Institut Louison Bobet

ORNITHOLOGY

You will find below information collected from our vantage point, the Rhuys Peninsula, stretching from the south branch of the gulf to the swamps of Séné, in the surburbs of Vannes. While we were there it rained for only half a day. The weather improved afterwards even though it was chilly and a bit windy. There are several interesting sites along the peninsula and especially along the coast but the following sites are a must.

DAILY OBSERVATIONS.

6 April. We explored the area. Nothing special except the numerous Sandwich Terns diving to catch fish.

A view of the Gulf

7 April. We saw 2 Slavonian Grebes on the sea in Port Crouesty. They were sporting their colourful summer plumage and a great sight to look at when the wind blew in their head plumes. Not far from the beach, 200 Red-breasted Merganser were resting before heading further north.

8 April. We saw several Sacred Ibises in different places. You can get very close to them, which is not surprising since these birds settled in the area after some of them had escaped from the Branfere zoological park. Another surprise was awaiting us at the reserve of the Pointe du Duer. A Green-winged Teal had crossed the Atlantic, perhaps carried away by the winds of the previous days or maybe after a winter storm.

9 April. I saw only very common birds, but was pleased to find a colony of Sand Martins not far from a Cirl Bunting which was singing its head off from the top of a pine.

10 April. Our first visit to the marshes of Suscinio filled us with wonder when we saw all these birds in excellent conditions. The shore birds you can find in Lorraine are so difficult to approach. At the top of a bush, a Bluethroat was showing off its white throat patch and I did not know which way to point my spotting scope first. We then went to the Pointe de Penvins to see some shore birds like the Rock Pipit. I saw some of them, accompanied by 25 Whimbrel and about twenty Ringed Plovers. As I was eager to check some details of the plumage of the Green-winged Teal, I headed for the Duer reserve where the bird was still there.

11 April. The teal was no longer there but I got over it by remembering the birds I had seen in Suscinio. With the hope of finding something new, I looked for the Dartford Warbler in the gorse between Petit Mont and Port Crouesty. I had only walked a few hundred yards when a male popped out of the bushes, squirted out its rattling song and disappeared just as quickly as it had appeared.

12 April. On the way back to Suscinio, I discovered a Marsh Sandpiper. At first it was just far enough to leave me with a hint of doubt but then it came closer and I was able to make out all the details of its plumage.

13April. We had not got enough of Suscinio yet and the Marsh Sandpiper was still there. There is no need to dwell on all the shore birds you can see in this area. Even without binoculars, you can still have a good time. We saw two Nutria and a Grey Heron which was trying to swallow an eel. It was heavy going but it finally got down.

14 April. We took a small boat at Port Navalo in order to tour the Gulf of Morbihan and stopped over at the Ile aux Moines. This place receives so many tourists that the Chaffinches saunter about the café tables like Rock Doves and House Sparrows. But I did not see anything special apart from this.

15 April. We visited Vannes and Auray and then the Séné Reserve. Four Spoonbills, some 50 Spotted Redshanks, about 200 Pied Avocets and about 40 Black-tailed Godwits were visible from the ideally situated hide. We returned to Suscinio just in case there was something new but we had to be content with watching the local star.

16 April. The teal was still here and because it was less windy, you could hear even more birds singing. I could see at least 4 or 5 Bluethroats. They were easier to find than the Zitting Cisticola which could be heard everywhere but refused to show themselves. My first Common Tern was proof that all migrants had not yet arrived. This was confirmed by a small flock of Northern Wheaters which had just landed. I saw several of them in Suscinio and in front of Tascon island.

17April. It was time to go back home and for the people of my region, it may be useful to know that we travelled nearly 2500 km.

List of birds
01 Slavonian Grebe Podiceps auritus 2 at sea, near Port Crouesty.
02 Black-necked Grebe Podiceps nigricollis Several at sea at the beginning of our stay.
03 Little Grebe Tachybaptus ruficollis Not many.
04 Great Crested Grebe Podiceps cristatus A few birds at sea.
05 Northern Gannet Morus bassanus A few.
06 Great Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo Pretty common.
07 European Shag Phalacrocorax cristatus A few.
08 Little Egret Egretta garzetta Very common.
09 Grey Heron Ardea cinerea Some.
10 Sacred Ibis Threskiornis aethiopicus Some have escaped from the Branféré zoological park. A feral bird in the area now.
11 Eurasian Spoonbill Platalea leucorodia 3 in Séné.
12 Mute Swan Cygnus olor Rather uncommon.
13 Brent Goose Branta bernicla Several birds among which a "hrota".
14 Common Shelduck Tadorna tadorna Very common indeed.
15 Mallard Anas platyrhynchos Very common.
16 Northern Pintail Anas acuta A few birds.
17 Northern Shoveler Anas clypeata A few birds.
18 Common Teal Anas crecca Pretty common.
19 Green-winged Teal Anas carolinensis A male bird in the Duer reserve.
20 Garganey Anas querquedula A male bird at Suscinio.
21 Tufted Duck Aythya fuligula A couple at Suscinio.
22 Black Scoter Melanitta nigra Small groups at sea.
23 Red-breasted Merganser Mergus serrator 200 in Port Crouesty at the beginning of the stay. Far less numerous later.
24 Black Kite Milvus migrans 1 at Suscinio.
25 Western Marsh Harrier Circus aeruginosus I expected many more of them.
26 Common Buzzard Buteo buteo Not very common on the peninsula.
27 Eurasian Sparrowhawk Accipiter nisus Just one bird.
28 Common Kestrel Falco tinnunculus Very common.
29 Red-legged Partridge Alectoris rufa One bird killed on the road.
30 Common Pheasant Phasianus colchicus) I heard 2 or 3 birds.
31 Water Rail Rallus aquaticus I heard 2 or 3 birds.
32 Common Moorhen Gallinula chloropus I heard 2 or 3 birds.
33 Common Coot Fulica atra Common.
34 Pied Avocet Recurvirostra avosetta Mainly at Suscinio and Séné.
35 Black-winged Stilt Himantopus himantopus Mainly at Suscinio.
36 Little Ringed Plover Charadrius dubius Not many.
37 Great Ringed Plover Charadrius hiaticula Some.
38 Kentish Plover Charadrius alexandrinus Some.
39 Grey Plover Pluvialis squatarola 2 at Port Crouesty.
40 Northern Lapwing Vanellus vanellus 4 at Suscinio.
41 Sanderling Calidris alba A rare bird.
42 Ruddy Turnstone Arenaria interpres Pretty common, especially at the Pointe de Penvins.
43 Dunlin Calidris alpina Some.
44 Least Sandpiper Calidris minuta Not many.
45 Common Sandpiper Tringa hypoleucos One at Suscinio.
46 Common Redshank Tringa totanus Common.
47 Spotted Redshank Tringa erythropus About 50 at Séné
48 Common Greenshank Tringa nebularia Pretty rare.
49 Marsh Sandpiper Tringa stagnatilis One at Suscinio.
50 Black-tailed Godwit Limosa limosa Mainly at Séné.
51 Eurasian Curlew Numenius arquata Pretty common.
52 Whimbrel Numenius phaeopus Some at the end of our stay.
53 Common Snipe Gallinago gallinago 4 at Suscinio
54 Ruff Philomachus pugnax One bird at Suscinio.
55 Black-headed Gull Larus ridibundus Common.
56 Common Gull Larus canus Some.
57 Herring Gull Larus argentatus Very common. One "argentatus".
58 Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus Rather common.
59 Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus Pretty common.
60 Sandwich Tern Sterna sandvicensis Everywhere at the seaside.
61 Common Tern Sterna hirundo One at Suscinio.
62 Rock Dove Columba livia Very common in town, just like everywhere.
63 Common Wood Pigeon Columba palumbus Very common.
64 Eurasian Collared Dove Streptopelia decaocto Pretty common.
65 Common Cuckoo Cuculus canorus A few, one of which was eating caterpillars at the seaside.
66 Eurasian Green Woodpecker Picus viridis Few.
67 Sky Lark Alauda arvensis Very common. Not a shy bird at all.
68 Sand Martin Riparia riparia Pretty common. I found a breeding site found at the sea-side.
69 Barn Swallow Hirundo rustica Common.
70 Northern House Martin Delichon urbicum Pretty common.
71 Rock Pipit Anthus petrosus 3 or 4 birds, especially at the Pointe de Penvins
72 White Wagtail and Pied Wagtail Motacilla alba and Motacilla alba yarrelli 2 Pied Wagtails at the Pointe de Penvins.
73 Yellow Wagtail Motacilla flava Several birds among which an " iberiae ".
74 Grey Wagtail Motacilla cinerea 2 birds near the wash houses in Vannes.
75 Winter Wren Troglodytes troglodytes Very common.
76 Dunnock Prunella modularis Very common.
77 European Robin Erithacus rubecula Very common.
78 Bluethroat Luscinia svecica 4 or 5 singing birds at Suscinio.
79 Black Redstart Phoenicurus ochruros Few.
80 Northern Wheatear Oenanthe oenanthe 5 or 6 at the end of the stay at Suscinio and opposite the Tascon island.
81 Common Stonechat Saxicola torquatus Very common.
82 Song Thrush Turdus philomelos Pretty common.
83 Mistle Thrush Turdus viscivorus Pretty common in the moor near the sea.
84 Eurasian Blackbird Turdus merula Very common.
85 Blackcap Sylvia atricapilla A few.
86 Common Whitethroat Sylvia communis A few.
87 Dartford Warbler Sylvia undata One bird at the Petit Mont at Port Navalo.
88 European Sedge Warbler Acrocephalus schoenobaenus Pretty common.
89 Zitting Cisticola Cisticola jundicis Very common in the moor.
90 Cetti's Warbler Cettia cetti Very common. You can see it very easily if you are patient enough.
91 Common Chiffchaff Phylloscopus collybita Very common.
92 Firecrest Regulus ignicapilla One bird.
93 Great Tit Parus major Very common.
94 Blue Tit Cyanistes caeruleus Not many, but you hear it less frequently than the preceding bird.
95 Crested Tit Parus cristatus 2 or 3 at Port Crouesty. Considering the great number of pines, I expected to see more of them.
96 Wood Nuthatch Sitta europea I did not see many of them.
97 Short-toed Treecreeper Certhia brachydactyla Not many.
98 Common Magpie Pica pica Common.
99 Eurasian Jay Garrulus glandarius I did not see many of them.
100 Eurasian Jackdaw Corvus monedula Some at the château de Suscinio.
101 Carrion Crow Corvus corone Very common.
102 Common Starling Sturnus vulgaris Very common.
103 House Sparrow Passer domesticus Pretty common.
104 Chaffinch Fringilla coelebs Very common.
105 Eurasian Linnet Carduelis cannabina Very common.
106 European Goldfinch Carduelis carduelis Very common.
107 European Greenfinch Carduelis chloris Very common.
108 European Serin Serinus serinus Pretty common.
109 Eurasian Bullfinch Pyrrhula pyrrhula Not many.
110 Reed Bunting Emberiza schoeniclus Not many, especially if you take into account the numerous reed beds.
111 Cirl Bunting Emberiza cirlus 3 or 4 singing birds.

Other animal species:

Common Eel (Anguilla anguilla)

Wild Rabbit (Oryctolagus cuniculus)

Nutria (Myocastor coypus)




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