Monday, August 23, 2010

La Pinail - France

Aerial view of Pinail
Pinail Nature Reserve is situated about 10 miles from the wifes parents house in St Radegonde and is in the Châtellerault area, this is the only Natural Reserve of France to be found in the district known as La Vienne.

The result of millstone quarrying has given way to a mosaic of 3,000 ponds which are surrounded by moor and heathland rich in rare fauna and flora. Amongst the many bird species you can find here such as Montague, Hen Harrier and Dartford Warbler are 48 species of dragonflies.

After breakfast we took the drive down to Pinail, the weather forecast for the day wasn't looking too good with prolonged periods of rain and quite a strong wind. On arrival the site was extremely quiet, apart from the many Gatekeeper Butterfly and Common Frog, which can be found resting atop the water lily on most pools. We took the main path which passes through the centre of the reserve and gives excellent views of the surrounding heath and moor, on our last visit in June 2009 the area was awash with Linnet and Stonechat, but not today!

Today the birding was extremely hard work, probably down to the weather conditions, but after a slow start our efforts were rewarded with some good views of Osprey, flying quite low over the pools before disappearing behind a small copse. Linnet, female Whinchat, Chiffchaff, Whitethroat, Hobby and Stonchat were the only other species of note recorded with no record of either Harrier, two birds we'd picked up here last year. During our stay the sun did shine on occasions, raising the temperature and humidity quite quickly and bringing out a number of Butterfly and Dragonfly which included Holly Blue, Wall, Purple Hairstreak, Silver-washed Frittilary Butterfly and Migrant Hawker Dragonfly.

After Pinail we took a drive out to some of the other birding areas we've become familiar with within the vicinity, taking all back roads and had some better luck. Arriving in the village of Monthoiron, we came across Wheatear, more Stonechat and although not in song had excellent views of Nightingale. On one recently harvested field we encountered 5 Yellow Wagtail and sitting up on one of the newly chopped stalks was a nice looking Black Redstart. While we were parked at the side of the road a Sparrowhawk flew straight toward the car inches from the road surface giving some tremendous views before making off into the distance.

On the road back to the house we suddenly spotted what at first sight looked like a Gull sitting in the middle of a field, but after turning around to investigate we were amazed to see an almost completely white Buzzard type species. I'm aware that Common Buzzard come in all colours, particularly the young, but this was by far the whitest bird I've ever seen, after much research I came to the conclusion that it simply couldn't have been anything other than Common Buzzard.

Finally, one absolute bolt out of the blue and totally unexpected was located quite by chance sitting in the middle of sparse open ground quite close to Dee's parents house, and that was the unmistakable sight of a Stone Curlew, what a way to finish what I thought was a slow birding day.