Tuesday, September 18, 2012

The 'Gite'

Gite Le Ristou
After the weekend at Dee's parents a 4 hour drive south yesterday to our next destination of Leon, here we've rented a 'Gite'(French Holiday cottage) for several days near the coastal town of Leon. The 'Gite' itself is set within a large woodland, very isolated and very rustic, it's also only 50 miles from the Spanish border so very southern France.

On arrival Monday evening it was quite obvious that this location would suit us perfectly, Lesser-spotted Woodpeckers drumming, Firecrests and Nuthatch calling and over dinner Tawny Owls a plenty.

Firecrest (record shot)
On Tuesday after breakfast we took a short drive to 'Etang' de Leon were a short stroll around the southern end in the light rain, the only part of the lake which has public access, started off the days birding list nicely with of note: Nuthatch (3), Short-toed Treecreeper (4), Cetti's Warbler (2), Spotted Flycatcher (2), White Wagtail (3), Wheatear (1), Willow Warbler (4), Whitethroat (1), Mistle Thrush (1), Pied Flycatcher (1) and Wood Lark (1). The only waterfowl of note were a few Great-crested Grebe.

Courant D'Houchet
Our next stop was Reserve Naturelle Courant D'Huchet: This connects Lake Leon with the Atlantic Ocean, it's a site rich in history for flora and fauna and is around 618 hectares in size. It is the only river of Biscay who's mouth was not stabilised by diking. We began our walk at Pichelebe and decided to take one of the woodland trails which runs alongside the river and out towards the sand dunes and Atlantic Ocean.

Literally minutes into our walk we hit upon a Long-tailed Tit flock containing around 14 birds but almost immediately Dee was on to a Firecrest! By the time we'd moved on some 10 minutes later the count had increased to: Long-tailed Tit (14), Firecrest (3), Crested Tit (2), in fact we stopped counting those species from this point as they were literally too numerous in numbers.

Southern White Admiral
Our walk continued for what seemed an eternity with some fantastic outcrops of heath, marsh and sand dunes, by this stage we'd also recorded a couple of Roe deer. Although the temperature was a comfortable 22C it remained quite muggy and the light rain continued intermittently throughout, notwithstanding there was still a number of Butterflies to be had. Southern Speckled Wood (7), Southern White admiral (4), Meadow Brown (17), Gatekeeper (7) and Wall (3) were the best of the bunch.

At one heath outcrop Dee and I took a short breather and here we came upon a good fall of Wheatear with at least 20 or so and I must say very obliging from a photographic point of view.

One Of Many Wheatears!
By the time we returned to the car some 4 hours later, having completed a major hike of around 10 miles, birds of note in addition to the above mentioned were: Little Egret (2), Black Redstart (5), Peregrine (1), Raven (1), Reed Warbler (3), Great Reed Warbler (1), Chiffchaff (2), Blackcap (4), Melodius Warbler (1) and Wood Warbler (1).

Finally, a walk along the beach and coffee at Moliets Plage produced numerous passage Barn Swallow's plus a number of Gannets offshore along with of note: Yellow Wagtail (4), Sandwich Tern (3), Mediterranean Gull (2) and Yellow-legged Gull (4).