Brittany – Birding around St Malo and Dinan

Brittany, France – May, 2016 – the northern coast of Brittany in France is a great place to spend some time. The dramatic rugged coastline, sandy beaches, wildlife, food and Breton culture are well worth exploring!

We were based around Cancale on the east side of the bay of Mont St Michel. Here the oysters grow in profussion in the shallow tidal bay and are harvested throughout the year.

The town itself isn’t too touristy although it is a place where people travel to eat in the various restaurants that line the long coastal main street. We certainly enjoyed the delicious food, fine white wines and ambience.

Northern Brittany
Pointe de Gruins near Coutance

We ere lucky with the early summer weather at the end of May and there were plenty of birds around.

Early mornings were quite productive and although I hadn’t been to this particular part of Brittany beofre there was quite a lot of bird activity out at sea with distant Gannets, Shags and gulls. On two occasions I watched a Peregrine Falcon high above a group of little islands off Cancale which are a designated nature reserve. Lnding there isn’t allowed without permission.

Green Lizard
Meadow Pipit amongst the Sea Thrift

Lizards, Pipits, Nightingales, Stonechats, Wrens, Linnets, Cirl Buntings and Common Kestrels were always not too far off. Inland I found Yellow and White Wagtails, Common Buzzards, Skylarks and Woodlarks, Greenfinces, Yellowhammers, Common Whitethroats, Melodious Warblers, Green and Great spotted Woodpeckers and did see a few but heard many Common Cuckoos.

Rock Lizard
Californian Poppies with other summer flowers
(Eurasian) Reed Warbler in flight

(Eurasian) Reed Warblers were quite obliging around Mont St Michel where we spent a morning. The tide was quite far out although Whimbrel, Oystercatcher and a few and a single Hobby were seen.

and peeking out…
The ‘Sloop John B’
Breton Fisihng boat
Lighthouse off Coutance

There were some opportunities to take a ferry to islands off the coast north of St Malo. I did want to spend a day doing this but the service was a bit scat out of season, so to speak and on the day I wanted to go (having skillfully worked up my points to get a day away) the weather wasn’t so kind out at sea. Next time perhaps and I’d certainly reccommend this part of France for such an easy holiday break.

There are lots of quiet, sheltered sandy bays
Le Mont St Michel from Cancale
Male Reed Bunting

Reed Buntings were present at the appropriate habitat and Grasshopper Warbler, Cetti’s Warbler were heard as was Sedge Warbler. A pair of Red-backed Shrikes were also seen as well as a dashing Sparrowhawk.

Melodious Warbler
A male with a rather jaunty pose
Street scene in Dinan
Beach to the fort off the city of St Malo
St Malo Hotel

Chiffchaffs were singing in the woodland as were Wood and Willow Warblers

Yellow Wagtail
Common Swift preening in flight
Common Swift, Brittany
Cirl Buntings, male and female
Looking south to Cancale
There are lots of walking trails all along the coast
Family picnic time…
A Fench Air Force Alphajet scared away a Wren that I was trying to phograph…
…and off he went!


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Stephen Daly

Stephen Daly

Stephen Daly, has been birding since he was eight years old in his native Scotland. After living in Germany and France he established Andalucian Guides the successful birding and wildlife tour company on The Strait of Gibraltar in Spain and has been living here since 2001. Photographing birds in flight is one passion and his photos can be found in many books, magazines and journals. Studying bird behaviour and bird migration are two other positive aspects of being based on one of the busiest migration routes on Earth.

Vanished - Megascops Choliba by Jose Garcia Allievi

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