Tuesday, October 10, 2017

πŸ“– Diary #60 πŸ‡«πŸ‡· France

Dee and I arrived on Friday evening for a long weekend stay with her parents, who live near Chavigny, in the New-Aquitaine region of western France. Despite being a family visit there's still plenty of opportunity for some birding, not the very least around the substantial gardens, wood and orchards which surround the house. Even a short walk on Friday evening managed to produce Blackcap, Nuthatch, Cirl Bunting, Black Redstart, Firecrest and Red Squirrel.

Black Redstart ~ At least three around the gardens!
πŸ‚ ⛅19C Saturday 7th October 2017 ~ Saturday we did manage an enjoyable afternoon at La Brenne, renown to be one of France's best-kept secrets and only a modest 40-minute drive. 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.

Coypu [Ragondin in Frech] abound at La Brenne
At this time of year, La Brenne's summer visitors have already left: Whiskered Terns [c1000 pairs] Black-necked Grebes [150+ pairs] nest, as do Purple Heron, Cattle Egret, Night Heron, Black-winged Stilt, a few pairs of Short-toed Eagle, and 30+ nesting pairs of Bee-eater, plus wintering Cranes which are yet to arrive in numbers, but there's still a decent variety of species to see.

Great Egret ~ Resident around La Brenne
With such a big area to explore and limited time we only visited a small selection of locations we've become familiar with, and in particular the Reserve Naturelle de Cherine. Great Egrets are plentiful around the lakes, along with smaller numbers of Little Egret, a single Water Pipit was also noted. Waders during our visit, although small in numbers, included WhimbrelBlack-tailed Godwit, Snipe, Green Sandpiper and Greenshank. Common Buzzard, Kestrel and a distant Hen Harrier were the only raptors of the day.

Small Heath
Most of the activity was actually along the many paths and in the warm sunshine, a good number of butterflies were still on the wing with Clouded Yellow, Wall Brown, Small Copper, Small Heath and Common Blue. Black Redstarts seemed plentiful and Stonechats a regular feature. Two Woodlark were found during our stay and Skylarks too were seen passing through overhead.

πŸ‚ ☔️16C Monday 9th October 2017 ~ In sharp contrast to Saturdays glorious autumnal day Sunday and Monday's weather turned out to dank and drizzly. However, in saying that, a visit to La Pinail on Monday morning before our flight home did brighten sufficiently for a pleasant hour or so.

Dartford Warbler in the gloom!
Pinail Nature Reserve is situated about 10 miles from the house, in the ChΓ’tellerault 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, Dartford Warblers are for me the most iconic.

Long-tailed Blue

Long-tailed Blue

Langs Short-tailed Blue
Finally, just prior to heading off a brief sunny period encouraged a few butterflies to make an appearance and these included several Wall Brown, a couple of lovely Long-tailed Blues and a Langs Short-tailed Blue to end the visit!