Saturday, September 15, 2012

Back To France

One of a Dozen Black Redstart
As a change from our usual routine Dee and I decided to travel to her parents house near Chavigny in France by car, taking the Eurotunnel and forgoing the usual Ryanair antics!

I must say that its been a while since I drove any great distance in Europe and by the time we reached our destination some 425 miles later I didn't feel too wiped out. In fact we took a slight detour to visit one of our favourite places, La Pinnail, a short distance from Dee's parents and a great place to see Chats. Indeed it wasn't long before we had both Whinchat and Stonechat in our sights, plus the addition to our growing list of Turtle Dove

France is a wonderful place to drive around and you can actually take in the scenery without fear of someone cutting you up or any sudden halts in the traffic. To this end and with Dee taking on some of the driving the birding list for the drive down yesterday made good reading. Good numbers of Common Buzzard and Kestrel along with Marsh Harrier, Hen Harrier (ringtail), Black Kite and Peregrine would have kept any birder happy. After our eventual arrival and the usual excellent food and wine I even went to bed last night with the windows open listening to the local Tawny and Little Owls calling.

Pied Flycatcher (female)
This morning I took a stroll around the huge gardens, which at the moment are awash with various fruits and vegetables, some of which looked prehistoric in size. When we were here in the spring I'd noticed a pair of Black Redstart hanging around and it wasn't long before it was quite obvious to me that they had in fact stayed around to nest. An amazing count of 12 birds in various areas of the garden, some enjoying a good amount of the in-laws raspberries but surely more than just one brood!

I spent an hour or so photographing the birds, a little bit more of a challenge than I'd anticipated and also during this time managed, Chiffchaff, Willow Warbler, Nuthatch and a couple of female Pied Flycatcher, who I also managed to snap after another challenging 10 minutes or so. Although I'm still studying a slightly distant photograph of a small warbler I may even have stumbled on a Western Bonelli's Warbler, but that remains only a possibility! A good few Butterflies are still around here in France and Large White, Dingy Skipper, Holly Blue, Wall and Clouded Yellow were all recorded.

Extracting the juice for tests!
This afternoon was a real treat for Dee and I as we'd been invited, along with her parents to a family friends vineyard. Here we were given a personal tour by Francois the owner and were given the opportunity to help test the sweetness of the grapes in preparation for next weeks harvest. After the vineyard a look at the 'chai' where the wine is fermented, a 15th century cellar first used by his great grandfather. Of course any good wine producer is very proud of their produce and we were naturally given the chance to taste last years wines! A few beers back at Francois beautiful house ended what I can only describe as one of my best ever French experiences. You can view the Eifel Tower and France's many other great sites anytime but something as personal as this is just priceless!!