Monday, December 30, 2013

French New Year

We arrived in Limoges France on Sunday evening after the usual Ryanair fiasco. Please bring back the Easyjet flights into Poitiers!! Fortunately, we'd had the foresight to book legroom seats in advance, which also includes priority boarding and so by the time we stowed our luggage in the overheads, we settled to watch the fiasco of 'find the luggage space' unfold. The fun didn't stop there! As by the time the crew had organised the trolley's, we were already on our descent into Limoges and so we didn't even get a chance to enjoy a nice glass of wine during the flight to lighten the experience!

The 90 minute drive north to Ste Radegonde was a joy, little traffic, Barn Owls and Fox on route and an amazing starlit sky at Dee's parents, no light pollution here. I managed to spend a good half hour stargazing around midnight after an excellent dinner, with the eerie call of a nearby Barn Owl and Tawny Owl to keep me company.

A real challenge trying for a flighty Firecrest with the new Canon SX50!
Waking around 11am after a rather late night, I took a stroll around the cherry orchard and the huge grounds that accompany Dee's parents house. Although quite a dull morning it was a good opportunity to further test my new Canon Powershot SX50 HS.  By the time I'd reached the wooded area at the bottom of the garden I'd recorded Jay, several Chaffinch and a couple of Chiffchaff. I paused for a while to explore the area and was delighted to come across at least two Firecrest, Nuthatch and Lesser-spotted Woodpecker. From the wood itself you emerge into the village and here an apple orchard held a good supply of windfall. A small House Sparrow population were taking advantage of the fallen fruit, along with a couple of Blackcap and a single Marsh Tit, which I finally got a positive ID on after hearing the unmistakable 'pitchoo' call.

A better effort in poor light of this Blackcap - Canon SX50
After breakfast we headed off for Réserve naturelle du Pinaila reserve Dee and I have come to know very well. The mosaic of over 3000 small pools, moor and heathland are a real haven for harriers, chats and a great place to see Dartford Warbler. Unfortunately today wasn't our day, as on arrival it was evident that the area just beyond the reserve was playing host to at least two 'Chasse' (French hunts). The noise of horns blowing, hounds barking and 'maniacs' screaming was spine-chilling. Even more amplified by the stiff breeze, I can't even imagine what fear and dread the animals being hunted must have felt, let alone all other surrounding wildlife! Suffice to say, the birding was poor and although we walked the tracks, I was uneasy during my whole time there.

Lac de Saint-Cyr
Finally with the rain now falling, we made off for Lac de Saint-Cyr which is a large lake, a section of which has been developed into a Réserve Ornithologique. Only constructed a few years ago Dee and I have followed it's progress and were keen to see how it was progressing. With several hides surrounding smaller pools, three of which are only used during guided walks to protect the wildlife, it's a good place to see Kingfishers and one of my favourite, Coypu.

Coypu - One of five today - Full normal zoom in rain on the SX50
We weren't disappointed, with at least five Coypu and a couple of Kingfishers, which delighted Dee's mum. The only down side and a critic from our previous visits was the shielding of the pools. With the newly planted trees and bushes still yet to flourish, most of the wildfowl is spooked when you approach the hides as your almost in full view, still the potential for future years after this develops is huge.