Wednesday, June 17, 2009

French Weekend

We arrived back from France last night after a visit to the wife’s parents on what was supposed to be a non-birding break. Their house, situated a short distance from Chauvigny, lies in a small rural village surrounded by fruit orchards and rolling fields of corn and grassland, an Ideal location for some superb wildlife. My first taster of the said wildlife was the Black Redstart which I awoke to each morning singing from atop the telegraph pole opposite.

On a pre-dinner walk through the garden on Sunday evening, picking cherries and as ever binoculars at the ready, my second notable of the trip suddenly appeared and turned out to be a Little Owl, which flew down from a tree and perched on the log pile opposite. Satisfied with my find I returned to the house for our barbecue and certainly wasn’t prepared for my next birding delight!

During dinner we were enjoying good wine, food and conversation and listening to the incredible mating calls of the many Common Green Frogs which grace the area, and of course the incessant noise of Crickets, when out of the blue at the rear of the garden came the unmistakable calls of a Nightjar! My wife’s parents commenting, oh we’ve heard that before, you can imagine my delight on this incredible find.

My unscheduled birding adventure continued the followed day when a 10-minute drive took nearly an hour to complete, having now got the bug. Amazing what you can discover when you stop every time you see a bird perched on the telephone wires, Red Backed Shrike (pictured), Pied Flycatcher and Corn Bunting all within the first half hour, of course by now I'm really going for it!

Over the remainder of our stay Dee and I discovered two excellent nature reserves within a 25-mile radius of her parents house where we spent most of our day, returning back to the house for dinner each evening and the superb gastronomic delights of her dad. The first was Pinail Nature Reserve, which is a mosaic of 3,000 small ponds surrounded by moor and heathland rich in rare flora and fauna. Here we saw more Stonechat and Linnet you can shake a stick at, but the highlight of the visit was a lone Montague’s Harrier which we watched several times gliding gracefully over the heath. Just prior to arriving back to her parents we watched another Harrier, this time a Hen, foraging over fields close to the house.

Our final day (Tuesday) was the discovery of Reserve Naturalle Cherine, which lies within the Brenne National Park, here we managed to visit two of the three hides on offer. We came across a large and extremely noisy colony on Black Headed Gulls and were delighted to see a whole host of other species, which included Black and Whiskered Tern, Black Necked Grebe, Bar-tailed Godwit, Black Winged Stilt, Cirl Bunting and Purple Heron, however the highlight for me was a Great White Egret which drifted like a ghost across the reserve. The drive back to the house yielded Hoopoe, Turtle Dove and Nightingale. Also worth a mention are the other non bird species seen over the course of our break which included Coypu, Fox, Red Squirrel and an extraordinary amount of butterfly activity with Marbled White, Comma, Meadow Brown and Red Admiral in there hundreds!

I dedicate this post to my wife Dee for her unlimited patience!!