Sunday, September 30, 2018

πŸ“– #58 September End 🍁

After our visit to Le Parc du Marquenterre Friday 20th the remainder of our long weekend in France was spent at Dazza's parents but we did manage a brief afternoon visit to La Brenne on Saturday, where the highlights were Black Redstart, Pied Flycatcher, Short-toed Eagle, Great Egret, Cattle Egret, Kingfisher and several Coypu.

Coypu, no visit would be the same without one!
Kingfisher at La Brenne
Dazza's parents have a huge garden to explore and every morning and evening during our stay I took the opportunity to do just that. The resident Red Squirrels remained somewhat elusive, although seen on most occasions they never once gave me the opportunity for a photograph.

Firecrests resident in the orchards

Black Redstart a regular breeding species

Spotted Flycatcher
However, the same couldn't be said for the Firecrests, Black Redstarts and Spotted Flycatchers, which frequent the orchards around this time of year.

Grey Phalarope

Grey Phalarope

Grey Phalarope
After breakfast in Calais and the early train back through the Channel Tunnel, I headed off to the local patch after dropping Dazza back at her office. I was delighted that the star of the show, a Grey Phalarope which, as my luck would have it, was found just as we arrived in Calais the previous Wednesday, was still at Napton Reservoir.

Thursday, September 20, 2018

πŸ“– #57 Parc du Marquenterre ~ πŸ‡«πŸ‡· France 🍁

⛅️26C Thursday 20th September 2018 ~ I'm always amazed at just how a short 35-minute train ride under the Channel and a short drive along the Northern French coast can change your birding expectations so dramatically. On route to Dazza's parent's house near Chavigny, we decided to spend a couple of days birding in the Hauts-de-France region, just an hours drive south along the coast road from Calais.

Shortly after settling into our accommodation at Le Crotoy yesterday evening and while sitting on the terrace I was astonished to see a Common Crane drift silently overhead, a species which as far as I'm aware is quite rare to this region. I know of a local bird which has been around for a while, but this one has a damaged wing and apparently can't fly, so I can only assume my one was passing through.

This morning we enjoyed breakfast in Le Crotoy overlooking the sea. The many sandbanks just offshore covered with thousands of Oystercatchers, plus many juvenile Shelduck, 37 Spoonbills and a half dozen Meditteranean Gulls.

After breakfast, we made the short journey to Le Parc du Marquenterre, a Honey Buzzard passing overhead just prior to arriving. The Parc boasts over 200 hectares of dunes, pine forests and marshes and is situated within the Somme Bay nature reserve. It offers the opportunity to visit thirteen hides, so we were really looking forward to the visit and the weather today was perfect with beautiful autumnal sunshine and a balmy 26C.

The spectacular Spoonbill
It became obvious after visiting the first few hides that this is a premier site for Spoonbills and by the time we arrived back at the nature centre some four hours later we'd observed over 200 of one of Europe's most spectacular and enigmatic wading birds.

Trio of Little Stints

Temminck's Stint
Other waders were in good numbers too with many Black-tailed Godwits and smaller numbers of Avocet, Little-ringed Plover, Snipe, Greenshank, Common Sandpiper, Ruff, Dunlin and Redshank, plus a trio of Little Stint and a single Temminck's.

Juvenile Black Tern
At hide number 8 a juvenile Black Tern spent lots of its time over the water feeding, occasionally perching up on a nearby post for some rest bite. Three species of Egret could also be found quite easily with Great, Little and Cattle.

Great Egret
Around the reserve, Cetti's Warblers would occasionally call out from the reedbeds but passerines were thin on the ground with only LinnetChiffchaff and Blackcap noted. Swallows and House Martins were often overhead, with Kestrel, Sparrowhawk and Peregrine and the pine forests seemed to produce Crested Tits in every other tree.

Willow Emerald Damselfly

Tree Frog
Away from the birding lots of Clouded Yellow butterflies, refusing to settle, as usual, Willow Emerald Damselfly and several tiny Tree Frogs, one of which was well found by Dazza.

More Images of the Day...

Temminck's Stint


Great Egret

Monday, September 10, 2018

πŸ“– #56 ~Isle of Arran 🍁

With Dazza on business up in Scotland this weekend I thought the least I could do was to chauffeur her there in comfort! Of course, she was fully aware of my ulterior motive, which was to take the ferry across to the Isle of Arran for a few days of Nature Watching.

Having driven the six hours up, almost painlessly, on Friday afternoon with an overnight stay in Adrossan the plan was for me to take the first ferry across Saturday morning.

Unfortunately, my best-laid plans didn't get off to the greatest of starts when I received a text on Friday evening informing me that the ferry would be passenger only due to technical issues, apparently, a crane had damaged the ramps on the MV Caledonian Isles. However, with a quick phone call from my travel agent (Dazza) I was thankfully rebooked for the next available ferry, MV Isle of Arran, a few hours later

Kittiwake on route to Arran
The crossing takes around 55 minutes and is, of course, a perfect opportunity for a mini Pelagic. The conditions were good for the crossing with a slight swell and the odd squally shower passing through. By the time I docked at Brodick the weekend list had gotten off to a good start with of note: Black Guillemot, Guillemot, Kittiwake, Fulmar, Gannet, Red-breasted Merganser, Great Northern Diver, Shag.

The Isle of Arran is a stronghold for the endangered Red Squirrel with several seen during my stay.
Just 20 miles long and 10 miles wide, the island has earned it's somewhat cliched title, "Scotland in miniature", thanks to the dramatic granite peaks in the north and lush, low-lying terrain to the south, and it boasts miles of sweeping moorland, wooded glens, wide sandy beaches and impressive waterfalls. The Squirrels are Red, not Grey and Arran has a healthy population.

Several Red-throated Divers seen offshore
With the coast road, literally covering the whole of the Island, stops were inevitably every 5 minutes or so to scan the many beaches, rocks and channels. Off shore, many Gannets could be seen constantly diving around fish shoals and the odd small group of Eiders would feed alongside the many Guillimont. Occasionally I'd come across a Red-throated Diver, still almost in full summer plumage.

Sea Otter ~ This one at Sannox Bay
Several times while scanning the dorsal fin of a number of Harbour Porpoise would rise above the water as they take in air, Harbour Seals are also plentiful and can found in abundance. At one time some great views of a Sea Otter, which stayed around just long enough for a few photos.

A real abundance of Rock Pipits
Around the rocks I don't think I've ever come across so many Rock Pipits, mainly feeding on the seaweed, along with equal numbers of Pied Wagtails, the occasional Grey Wagtail within. Waders were thin on the ground with the only four species recorded: Oystercatcher, Curlew, Redshank and Ringed Plover.

I simply didn't have the time during my brief stay to do much walking, a must really if you want to see this fantastic Island in detail. However, a drive inland on both days along the only road which crosses the Island produced Stonechat, Spotted Flycatcher, Red Deer high on the slopes, two Golden Eagle over towards Goatfell, the Islands highest mountain but sadly no Hen Harriers, although Common Buzzards seemed plentiful.

Kittiwakes of all ages along the coastline
A great adventure on the sailing back Sunday evening when once again, more technical issues caused havoc! This time MV The Isle Of Arran was unable to leave Adrossan having docked leaving my boat MV Caledonian, on route back to Ardrossan with nowhere to dock. After being offloaded back at Arran and the risk of cancellation, not to mention an imminent gale, it was eventually decided they could get in at Gourock, some 2 1/2 hours sailing north and 40+ miles further up the coast. It actually took 3 hours but provided some great Pelagic birding, the highlights being many Manx Shearwater and a couple of stunning Sabine's Gulls as the light faded! Quite a rarity along these waters according to another local birder.

Eider Duck

Shags aplenty!

Harbour Seal
Sea Otter

Red-breasted Merganser

Red-throated Diver

Another Kittiwake
Full List Of Sightings....

Mute Swan, Mallard, Eider, Red-breasted Merganser, Pheasant, Red-throated Diver, Great Northern Diver, Fulmar, Manx Shearwater, Gannet, Cormorant, Shag, Grey Heron, Little Grebe, Sparrowhawk, Buzzard, Golden Eagle, Peregrine, Oystercatcher, Ringed Plover, Curlew, Redshank, Black Guillemot, Razorbill, Guillemot, Sabines Gull, Kittiwake, Black-headed Gull, Common Gull, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Herring Gull, Woodpigeon, Magpie, Jackdaw, Carrion Crow, Hooded Crow (including intermediate), Raven, Goldcrest, Blue Tit, Great Tit, Coal Tit, Swallow, House Martin, Long-tailed Tit, Chiffchaff, Blackcap, Treecreeper, Wren, Starling, Blackbird, Song Thrush, Mistle Thrush, Spotted Flycatcher, Robin, Stonechat, Dunnock, House Sparrow, Grey Wagtail, Pied Wagtail, Meadow Pipit, Rock Pipit, Chaffinch, Linnet, Goldfinch, Siskin

Thursday, September 06, 2018

πŸ“– #55 ~More Hedge Bashing 🍁

With Autumn migration now beginning to kick in, I've spent the first week of September checking out many a laden hawthorn and elder, both locally and at Brandon Marsh, with the occasional walk along Farborough bank at Draycote Water. Tit flocks, mainly Long-tailed are increasing in numbers and as always the odd Goldcrest, Chiffchaff and Willow Warbler can be found within, along with the possibility of that elusive rarity.

Whitethroat feeding up for the journey south with a 'berry-fest'
I'm pretty well off for habitat at my marina moorings with surrounding farmland and reedbeds directly outside my windows, plus lots of hawthorns and bramble along both the west and east banks, not to mention of course that I live on the water with Napton Hill to the south-east and the Reservoir directly opposite. Thus far this month the treeline has produced Blackcap, Whitethroat, Goldcrest and Lesser Whitethroat but in the last few days, there's been no further sign of any Reed Warblers, which are a regular breeder here and now likely moved south. Linnets are on the increase on the adjacent farmland and Lapwings feed nocturnally, the odd Yellowhammer can also be found. Fourteen Yellow Wagtails in our regular Pied Wagtail roost on the 1st is a record thus far this autumn and you never know, one day I might just come across a Citrine within! Great silhouette views too of a Tawny Owl shortly after sunset as it relocated across the marina.
Wheatear during a stroll along Farborough Bank, Draycote Water on Wednesday
Yesterday (Weds 5th) a brief early walk along Farborough Bank at Draycote Water produced of note a single Wheatear, before I headed off to Coventry Airport for Whinchat. A few hours at Brandon Marsh was dire with nothing on the top and farm reedbeds of note and the pools only produced (2) Snipe, Greenshank and (4) Wigeon. Finally, a brief visit to Napton Hill to look for a reported male Redstart was thwarted by several dog walkers!

Whinchats at Coventry Airport
New Venture.... I've always had an interest in identifying birds by call, an important addition to any birders portfolio and have more recently become fascinated by Nocmig (the recording of nocturnal bird migration). It's basically the equivalent of visible migration watching and typically involves the recording of flight calls made by migrating birds at night. To that end, I've just invested in equipment and software to allow me to listen out from the moorings and although it's a learning curve I'm pretty excited about the prospects, so watch this space!