Stork Stalking

One of our neighbours on the campsite told us where there is a stork nest in the vicinity. It could just be seen through binoculars from our pitch but there is a track passing close by it so, after breakfast we pedalled off to have a look. The nest, an unkempt pile of sticks that must be six feet across on a platform, contained two chicks.

Stork nest The term "chick" feels a little odd applied to something this large. While we were watching, an adult 747 suddenly appeared over some nearby trees, casually flew in, landed neatly on the pile of sticks and started feeding the two 737s with yummy regurgitated food. This was a seriously large bird. White storks are a metre long with a wingspan of two metres. The so-called chicks were not much smaller and must be almost ready to fledge. Having fed the kids, the parent glided down into the surrounding field and stood on a roll of hay. There was no more activity so we moved on to the next activity.

Water vole Since this is a marsh area, many of the roads are dead-ends. Our stork hunt had taken us part way down one such so we decided to investigate it further. As we were cycling beside some of the water channels, small brown, furry things rushed off the bank and into the water. They proved very difficult to see properly. Eventually, patience and silence paid off and we captured one on film (well, on pixels, anyway). I think they are water voles, but don’t quote me.

Le Petit Moulin de ChateauneufOur afternoon bike ride took us to a wonderful old windmill. Le Petit Moulin de Châteauneuf was built in 1703 and has been operated by the same family grinding corn since the late 1700s. In a rare moment of extravagance, we coughed up the modest entrance fee for a guided tour in pretty fast French. I think we followed most of it, though. Well-worn wooden gear wheels turn the grinding stone, chain-operated metal gears are used for turning the windmill sails into the wind. The sails themselves are louvred to allow for varying wind strengths. The very worn, three hundred year old wooden stairs are a tad precarious but it was all very atmospheric and well worth the visit.

The route back took us past more white stork nests built on specially erected platforms. There was an observation deck quite close to one of the nests, this one containing three 737s, together with a board displaying some life history information. Much of the information comes from a yearly ringing operation. Surprisingly, they can live for up to 60 years.

Posted in France, 2008

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