May 4, 2015

Camargue

Renting apartments in three places, one week at a go, has worked well this spring. It's a big change: overall more relaxed, a  slower way to see a place, to get a feel for it. Before leaving I was a bit anxious that I might be edgy, wanting to go, go, go, go. That hasn't happened, though there have been some surprising differences. One not so surprising that I had hoped for, is that I am enjoying days off the bike, exploring the location; today recovering from yesterday's more than challenging ride, buying incredible pastries from the bakery down the street (ok, hackneyed, I know, but this is one of the 2 or 3 best I have come across), walking in town, reading and relaxing on the apartment terrace in the sun, doing laundry in the washer. Hoping my legs will be back tomorrow.

Late afternoon I went for a local ride, as short or long as I chose, just to keep the legs moving, and to see what was left in them after yesterday's climb. The answer: nothing. But I did see a few new birds. Here is one of many in a field near town.


Another difference, completely unanticipated, and not yet understood, is that it has taken the daily wind out of the sails of posting to my blog. But, no import the order, or frequency. Readers, I hope you don't object to seeing this trip in a bit of a jumble.

Several days ago, I enjoyed a relaxed ride from Arles to the Camargue. In 2009 my husband Roy and I also rode from Arles to the Camargue: same start, same destination. I believe that, if he liked bicycling at all, he would have liked the ride this year. I know so much more now about choosing roads than we did then.


Using the northern bridge out of town, with spectacular views north and south over the Rhone, I immediately turned south, then followed first the quai, then little roads to the sea. Yes, there was some riding on a busy local road, but less than a kilometer.

The yellow iris remind me of home; the little roads and respectful traffic do not.




Magpies,with their raucous calls, are everywhere. This is the first year they haven't so startled me as to just about crash my bike.

 

My goal was birds... and the sea. As a child, my family visited the Atlantic regularly, and while I am no longer a swimmer, I do love being near the ocean, walking the coast, looking, listening, absorbing. So, the sea and birds. There are mallards here, both domestic and wild, a complicated ecoystem that I have no understanding of.


I expected to see rice fields. The Camargue near Arles is the first and only place I have ever seen rice growing. Also expected the famous white horses, and black bulls. I did see those, though the rice was either tiny or not germinated. I did not know to expect the sheep. I imagine they taste delicious, of salt grass, thyme and herbs.


Larry and Shari are always along with me in some unexplicable fashion wherever I see or hear birds; they have taught me that if I want to see good birds, I should look for good birders. This ride, I had no idea who was, or wasn't, good, but there were other birders around. I am such a child in my joy at speaking French that I was tickled at being able to say (and be understood) by a couple who I kept seeing that we jumped around each other like frogs. And I thought I was hearing frogs, but it was the hoarse calls of flamingos.

I was the first to stop, simply because I was in front, near this rookery.




And here



But the direction of their binoculars pointed these out.



The land immediately inland from the sea is flat, with huge étangs, salt water lakes. And I mean immediately inland. I don't know whether there are inlets feeding these lakes or not. They describe as lakes, not bays or coves.


Once I got to Digue a la Mer flamingos were everywhere. Thousands of them, in huge flocks. Though I saw a few eccentric solitary birds, mostly they flock. That is not to say they are peaceable, I saw more then a few ruffled feathers and apparent squabbles. To the human eye, they are comical. It is easy to think the same of us.






8 comments:

  1. Loving your posts, now that i've figured out howto get them...and respond. You'll be happy to know that for the last 3 days our weather has been something just short of a miracle. Finally the spring!

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    1. Glad you are getting them, and also to have your voice here. Wonder what the problem was, I've had wordpress people tell me they sometimes have a hard time, but not before blogger users.

      Also glad to hear it is spring there finally...Roy sent me a few photos. Daffodils starting to open, no leaves on the trees. Yikes!

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  2. I am glad that you saw the flamingos. Your new camera is getting really good results.

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    1. This camera is fun, heavy but fun. Saw a guy with a jersey that said "draft me if you can." Mine should say "this bike stops for birds."

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    2. Mine would say, "Any chance of a lift?"

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    3. Ha! You don't fool me, I read your time in that race ... I'd be glad to draft you.

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  3. OK, Bird ID time:
    You have a Grey Wagtail (Note I use the English spelling since you're in Europe)
    Those look like Great Blue Herons, but are in fact Grey Herons. (Basically the same bird in either ecosystem)
    That coot is a Eurasian Coot--not much different than our American.
    The Mallards and flamingos you know. Flamingos flying overhead look like broomsticks with wings.I can't make out the last duck.
    You sound like you're having a grand time. A real vacation instead of an endurance test. Funny about the "brake for birds" because when we're at Brig I say "I DON'T brake for egrets"

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    1. I am having a grand time ... and with your help, adding to my lifelist, thanks! I think the straight-on duck is a hoot, somehow. I'll see if I have a flying flamingo to add.

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