Tuesday, 8 November 2011

Bird Report Oct 31st - Nov 7th

Another good week or so of mainly mild & dry weather here and once again I've stayed put and not ventured very far ... been content to observe the continuing passage of birds South and the week has turned up a several goodies.

I did stray to a new lake about 10k away called le grand etang (rather confusingly there are roughly 500 similarly named lakes in France but this one is near Rischauveron, the chateau featured in an earlier post). There were plenty of Great Crested Grebes (I counted 28) and the usual Mallard, Great White Egret (2), a Kingfisher and Cormorant (6) on the lake but little else and hoping for bigger wildfowl numbers as Winter approaches. In the associated woodland held plenty of Chaffinches, Greenfinch, both Great Spotted & Green WoodpeckersFirecrest (4) and Long Tailed Tits, whilst overhead there were Sylarks (c30), Woodlark (4) & Meadow Pipit (c15) on passage. Star bird of the aftternoon though was a splendid Marsh Harrier south over the lake ... never actually got my bins on it because I knew it something different from the more common Buzzards, so I just concentrated on trying to get a good shot - of the 20 or so pics I got one, but it was a good un!

Looks like a 2nd yr male to me but happy to be corrected. Hey I know Marsh Harriers aren't rare but to see one on passage (and this thing was belting past!) on the last day of Ocober is always a good record! I also had at least 9 Common Buzzards in the air at the same time at the same location.

The rest of the time my daily sojourns has been around La Macherie and my favourite walk down the valley of the river Gartemps nr Rouflamme, what I call the Rouflamme valley and although it's low in altitude, being a natural North / South valley it's a very reasonable place to watch birds on passage. I could expand on the various geological land features that aid and abet bird migration but maybe not now...too many birds to cram in!

Ok, well after thinking I'd somehow missed Common Cranes returning to their wintering grounds in Southern France, Spain and beyond, they came en masse on the 2nd Nov with roughly 300 over the barn. The previous night I'd also heard some eithetr flying over or feeding in local fields. A further 45 flew over on the 4th & on the 6th I had roughly 500 over during the day in flocks of up to 100 and suspect they've been flying over all week. The West European population of Comon Crane numbers about 100,000 and they all migrate over this part of France!

On the 2nd Nov I really thought I'd stumbled across ny first real rarity here in France. Scanning the fence posts as I like to do on a bright and breezy day I spied something that always makes the birder's heart quicken - something I couldn't recognize ... a real 'ey up, what's that' moment! It was plainly knackered, didn't seem to want to fly very far and hence I got some corking photographs .... can you guess what it is yet?

And then some even closer shots - here's just one of many, revealed this to be (I think) an immature Whinchat, not very rare at all but again, as with the Marsh Harrrier, a bird that should be safely tucked away somewhere warm & cosy in Africa by now!
On the 4th Nov I had a Red Kite  & a Merlin flying South down the Rouflamme valley, no pics of either I'm afraid but here's one of a series of pics I took of a Red Kite earlier in the year in the Pyrenees.

As yet there have been no real numbers of winter thrushes here, just the odd Redwing here and there and an obvious increase in Blackbirds, Mistle and Song Thrushes. No Fieldfares! Plenty of Robins about of course and there has been a noticeable increase in Cirl Buntings with a massive flock of about 120 seen on the 6th, along with c40 Meadow Pipits and c60 Skylarks. Most days there have been small flocks of both of the later passing over along with bigger flocks of Chaffinches. Woodlarks still abound with flocks of up to 20 not uncommon and although overlooked by many as a passage bird there have been some impressive gangs of Woodpigeons flying over too - really tricky to photograph because they fly so fast but this one isn't bad (pic below) 

Ok folks thats it for now, I'll be visiting Le Bren in the coming few days and maybe the coast so hopefully we'll be seeing some different birds to boost the species list for the year Stay tuned!

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