Saturday, September 13, 2014

France - La Brenne

I spent the early morning in the in-laws garden chasing down yesterday evenings Black Redstart but the best I could mange was a top half shot of the little fellow hiding behind next doors chimney! Firecrest was next and once again a close encounter of the 'blurred kind' but simply fantastic to have these little gems right on the doorstep.

Black Redstart giving me the run-around!
Dee and I arrived in the La Brenne region around mid-morning after stopping off at various locations on route,  Tree Pipit, Stonechat, Whinchat, Yellow Wagtail, White Wagtail, Honey Buzzard, Common Buzzard and a couple of juvenile Marsh Harrier all recorded by the time we'd parked up. Renown to be one of France's best kept secrets and only a half hour drive from Dee's parents house this is without doubt one of our favourite birding hotspots. A patchwork of fishponds, heath and red sandstone outcrops La Brenne is an area of rich flora and fauna delicately preserved by its ‘National Park’ status. Known locally as 'The Land of a thousand Lakes' this is a rich tapestry of habitats including marshes, deciduous woods, dry heathland and farmland.

Great White Egret - All around La Brenne
Starting off at Etang (French for man-made lake) De La Sous the short walk to the hide always produces and by the time we'd settled the usual Great White Egrets and Cattle Egrets were a constant companion. The surrounding marshland was awash with Stonechat and two Spotted Flycatcher were also noted. Butterflies still on the wing included Common Blue,  Small Heath, Clouded Yellow and Wall.

Short-toed Eagle - A first for Dee and I in the Brenne
The lake itself was remarkably quiet but it wasn't long before the possible culprit was identified, a Marsh Harrier enjoying her catch towards the back end. Most of the action was airborne with both Peregrine and Hobby making an appearance and then a huge bird heading towards us at height turned out to a Common Crane, a very early one in fact as these birds normally winter late October to March. As if that wasn't enough as we exited the hide another large raptor overhead turned out to be a stunning Short-toed Eagle. My research tells me that there are only one or two pairs around this region and in fact it was a first for Dee and I at La Brenne.

Dee's discovery - A nice Pied flycatcher
Next stop the hide at Etang Ricot and immediately after parking in the woody area Dee came across a nice Pied Flycatcher. Nuthatch, Cormorant, Little Grebe, Chiffchaff, Short-toed Treecreeper and European Pond Tortoise was the best we could manage before heading off for lunch.

After lunch we parked up at the Brenne's Wildlife Visitor Centre and took a walk down to the hide which overlooks Cistude Lake. Two more Common Crane flew across high from the east but generally the lake was quiet with the exception of Little Egret and the usual Great White's. A couple of Kingfishers were entertaining for a while and another view of Short-toed Eagle in the distance was welcome.

Juvenile Red-backed Shrike
Our final stop for the day in the late afternoon were the two hides at Foucault Lakes. From the main hide a couple of Coypu but off hunting in the distance over Blizon Lake was our one a only Osprey of the day, offering well scoped but distant views. The walk down to the smaller of the two hides had the usual half dozen or so Stonechat and this time accompanied by a couple of juvenile Red-backed Shrike, one of which posed beautifully momentarily. Unfortunately Dee had the camera set on flight shots and over exposed! Shame but a really terrific day in the Brenne ending with our only two waders of the visit, Snipe and Green Sandpiper.