Saturday, 29 October 2011

Bird Report Oct 10th - 29th

Spent a week back in the UK (12th - 20th) so this is an extended report covering more than the usual week (one day I'll get into the swing of publishling weekly reports every week!)
I've had a comment from a birder asking why I don't report my sightings using the usually accepted taxonomic format listing bird families from Divers / Pelicans through to Finches - good point, and since it makes it easier for me simply flick through my field guide which of course uses this system, here goes ....

Surprise surprise ... NO pelicans! Plenty of other goodies though and as Autumn takes a firm grip here there have been new birds arriving and others that have moved on.
Ok, according to said order we need to consider yon herons, storks & grebes. Totaly unsure about the wintering habits of Great White Egrets but 34 of these magnificent birds were on the Etang de Beavoir on the 26th along with 17 Grey Herons. The odd one of the former have ben turning up along the river too and on the 29th I had 20 Common Cranes flying south (pic right) in the Rouflamme valley which I hope is a sign of further Stork / Crane passage. 22 Great Crested Grebes on the Etang de Beavoir is my highest record for this location.

Next in the hallowed order of all things feathered we come to Wildfowl (how interesting is this non birders?)... well, not very for me either with just a few extra Mallard aboutr and 10 Pochard on a local resevoir (simply must get to the coast soon!). 8 Mute Swans overhead on the 11th were probably just local wanderers.

Better fare with raptors & owls with a Merlin and male Hen Harrier both at Etang de Bouvoir on the 26th and a further male Hen Harrier in local fields yesterday (28th). Buzzards remain as visible as ever with 10 or so in my immediate locale - always good to photograph, the pics below are all of the same bird and although they're commonly mobbed by crows it was a lucky shot to get this harassed individual calling (in irritation prsumably!)

Common Kestrels seem a tad more abundant then usual with almost daily sightings of 1 or 2 in local fields and several Sparrowhawks are about in the Rouflamme valley.

No wading birds of note here in the past couple of weeks but a flock of about 120 Golden Plover & 150 Lapwing somewhere along the A59 nr York (UK) was a reassuring reminder that 'big plover' flocks are still patrolling the skies in that neck of the woods.

For the sake of brevity I'm skipping gulls, auks & pheasants, escept to mention a couple of Common Gulls in ploughed fields en route back through Northern France - apart from Black Headed Gulls on resevoirs any other species of gull around here is a find!

Pigeons. Love 'em, race 'em or shoot 'em (definitely the French preference!), they fly like masters of the sky and personally I'm quite liking seeing big flocks of Wood Pigeons rising out of nowhere and filling the sky - so much so I snapped a few doing just that today, not a great photograph but it gives some idea of the how they fill the sky (pic left)

Still not seen a single Stock Dove over here though!

Ok, on to that middle group of birds including Swifts, Kingfishers, Hoopoes, Rollers & Bee-eaters - apart from regular Kingfisher on the river, unsurprisingly there's zilcho to report.

Woodpeckers next and of course there have been many Great Spotted & Greens about but I was also fortunate to bag another Black Woodpecker flying over the village (counts for the garden list!) on my way back from emptying the bins - looked so prehistoric and wished I'd had a camera!

Next in line - and maybe at this point you'd be interested to know that the further we go along the bird families, the more intelligence said bods are said to possess... I sense you're now rivetted, so, where were we - yes, next in line come Larks & Pipits and call me abnormal but I HAVE BEEN RIVETTED by some spectacular flocks of Skylarks and Meadow Pipits flying south over the village with 150 + Skylarks over in an hr on the 26th and about 200 south today. Smaller flocks of Meadow Pipits are a daily occurence at present and there has been another influx of Woodlarks with flocks of up to 20 not uncommon on higher ground.

No further Swallows but a late House Martin south over the barn on the 11th is my last to date.
Accentors are next and I mention these only to tease ... an Alpine Accentor is damn fine bird but unless your garden bird table is situated in Southern Europe and at an altitude of over 2,000 meters then you're just not going to see one, but it has a closely related and far more widespread cousin - the Dunnock or Hedge Sparrrow, they're another bird that tends to move south in Winter and many more around the woods here. Likewise Robins and after last month's influx numbers have stabilised with maybe 20 - 30 a reasonable number on any given walk.

Right, we're into the 'Chats & Thrushes' and here's a thing ... Stonechats, common as you like, perched on just about every other telegraph wire through the Spring & Summer seem to have disappeared from around here. Saw 1 today but apart from that - where have they gone? Maybe it's a Westward migration to the coast, I know not. Less mystifying has been the expected influx of Song & Mistle Thrushes, Blackbirds and in smaller numbers Redwings. No Fieldfares here as yet but did have 35 over south in Sherwood Forest on the 16th along with 15 Redwings. Acompletely random extra sighting on that day was a bollock naked man walking along a forest track (oo er missus!)... not photographed or dwelled upon!

On to the 'wee birds' or 'little brown jobs' as they're often somewhat unfairly labelled by fairweather birdwatchers. Warblers have all but flown on to more insect laden lands but a few persist and 2 Chiff Chaff on the 25th in the Rouflamme Valley may be my last aprt from the odd over wintering individual. Also had a male Blackcap in the garden on the 21st and although I suspect they over winter a Cetti's Warbler at the Etang de Beauvoir on the 26th. The 'weeist' of the 'wee' - Firecrests have noticeably increased in number around here with small gatherings of up to 10 locally. Also on the increase are Great, Blue and Long Tailed Tits along suitable hedgerows and green lanes with the occassional Marsh Tit in there for good measure. Nuthatches are as abundant as ever and there seems to be increasing numbers of Treecreepers in the woods flying from trunk to trunk and generally being as unphotographical as ever!

Getting to the truly advanced species now with Rooks, Carrion Crows & Jackdaws gathering in ever increasing flocks; and along with the ever present, acorn gathering Jays, their evening fly overs in the dimming Autumn afternoon are to me symbolic of the changing seasons.

Last but not least, and therefore presumably the most advanced of birds, we have Finches & Buntings.
Last Spring I witnessed many Chaffinches flying North, literally hundreds of them and more than I had ever seen in the UK on migration and although not in such huge numbers I'm seeing them again fling in the opposite direction. Not sure where they spend the Winter, some will stay here of course but hey there must be a lot of Chaffinches in world! Few other finches in there too - Greenfinch, the occassional Linnet, Goldfinch and Siskin and a good highligh was 4 Hawfinches south on the 27th through the Rouflamme Valley. Cirl Buntings are as common as ever and have been joined by ever increasing numbers of Yellowhammers (not a common bird in France) with 6 seen on the 11th. About 15 roosting Reed Buntings at Etang de Beavoir were believe or not my first for France and I suspect they over winter here.

Ok thats it folks, been a quietish couple of weeks here, almost 'in between' seasons. Pretty sure there will be more Cranes and hopefully some Geese flying over soon and that the hedges will be full of Fieldfares, Redwings and I wonder if Waxwings will grace us with their presence in numbers this year?

I leave you with a few images of Autumn around here

Stay tuned to the skies folks!

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