This is the first of my weekly round up of bird sightings and seeing as its my first and this is a brand new blog I'll extend this one to include the highlights over the past month or so.
August was predictably hot & humid in this part of France and not the most conducive of months anywhere for birdwatching, certainly in the early weeks, with little or no passage to speak of it's a case of catching up on resident breeding birds. As is the case everywhere in Summer birdsong diminishes and our feathered friends become rather elusive as they get on with the business of bringing young ones into the world. Birds of note around here were a surprise discovery of breeding Purple Herons at a small lake just outside Montmorillon where I had a maximum of 6 alongside some 40 pairs of Grey Heron and attendant Little Egrets, Continental Cormorants and at least 2 pairs of Great White Egrets – a species that is rapidly expanding its range Westwards in Europe. At the same location 4 Stone Curlews flew over the lake and were later heard in nearby fields.
On the passerine front (that's those small birds that annoyingly disappear into the nearest tree, hedge or bit of deep grass before you can even lift your binoculars!) … a single Hawfinch in the village was a good record, but disappointing numbers of Serins which seemed to disappear completely. Stonechats have been present in good numbers but rather less abundant have been the related Redstart, Spotted & Pied Flyctachers with only occasional records in the month. On the warbler front Chiff Chaffs, Blackcaps, Nightingales & Whitethroats in abundance. Surprisingly not recorded a single Willow Warbler though!
Going slightly larger, Golden Orioles have brightened up my days with their dashing colour and weird song & I reckon there are about a dozen pairs in and around the village, even had a couple in the garden! Both Great Spotted & Green Woodpecker are very common around here, as are Nuthatches and although less visible Lesser Spotted and Middle Spotted are both present in smaller numbers. Red Backed Shrikes, became visible mid month with maybe half a dozen pairs in and around the village. Hoopoe's crop up just about anywhere and there are at least 2 pairs nesting somewhere in the village.
On the bird of prey front, very disappointing year for Hobby's so far with only 3 records. A couple of sightings of Honey Buzzard early in the month suggest a breeding presence whilst Common Buzzards are as ever abundant. Montagues Harrier, Goshawk & Booted Eagle were all elusive during the month but certainly present and all breed around here.
August 24th was my last Swift record and in the same week Common & Green Sandpipers begin to crop up on local wetland areas – evidence of early Autumn passage.
Into September then and, along with October, one of the best months to observe the annual North to South movement of birds in the Northern Hemisphere. Some places are better than others of course (East coast of England springs to mind … and this ex pat misses just that bit of the UK and at just this time of year!) but no matter where you are, if you have a pair of eyes and take even a passing interest in nature, bird movement is very visible.
Several of the region's over summering birds disappeared South during the first week in Sept including Red Backed Shrike, Turtle Dove, Hoopoe, Melodious Warbler & Purple Heron. In there wake, during the 2nd week of the month, many passerines previously notable only for their absence began to crop up along the hedgerows such as Redstart, Spotted & Pied Flycatcher with many treks around the green lanes turning up 10ish of each. There was also a noticeable influx of Robins at the same time with their melancholy song replacing the more vibrant Blackcap as the most dominant noise in the woods!
I'd hoped to squeeze a trip to the Auvergne, a well known raptor migration hotspot, during the month but social and car issues intervened, so have had to content myself with catching what birds of prey decide to float southwards over La Macherie. Sure I'd have had greater numbers up in the mountains but the 14th of Sept saw 3 Honey Buzzards, 2 Red Kites, 2 Booted Eagles, 2 Immature Hen Harriers, 1 Merlin, 1 Short Toed Eagle and 2 Black Storks over the village with a couple more Honey Buzzard and single Booted & Short Toed Eagles on the 16th. A single Marsh Harrier flew south over the village on the 20th and a pair of the same species did likewise on the 22nd. On the 26th my mate Mark, who's much better on raptor identification than me, popped over for a few days and we had a wandering male Hen Harrier on the Etang de Beauvoir plus an Osprey at the same location, another splendid male Hen Harrier on the Camp de Militaire, near Montmorillon on the 27th and at the same location we had Merlin plus a Short Toed Eagle. All in all, not a bad haul for a rural location in the middle of France!
Apart from birds of prey, other September highlights included 45 White Storks south over the village on the 7th, a migrant Nightjar nr Saulge on the 24th , a late Whinchat on the 24th, at least 6 Tree Pipits on the 26th along with a posssible Little Crake several singing Chiff Chaffs, Willow Warblers & 2 Whitethroats and a Yellow Wagtail (all at Etang de Beavoir). Swallows gave been passing overhead and making their way south all month with about 550 over the barn in 3 hours on the 14th. There was a noticeable influx of Woodlarks on the 16th with about 20 seen in nearby fields that day plus a wonderful flock of 8 Blue Headed Wagtails on the same day - unusual for around here and clearly passage birds. House Martins started to move during the last couple of weeks with a handful of resident birds still hanging around the village on the last day of the month. A single Serin in the garden on the 29th was spotted my my friend Mark who also heard a Stone Curlew the previous evening whilst he was watering the plants in the garden!
Last day of the month (30th ) brought some goodies – a male Redstart, my first Black Woodpecker (sunning itself on the top of a dead tree!), another Honey Buzzard south, 3 Whinchats, 10 Woodlarks and several Blackcaps and Chiff Chaffs still holding on in this glorious, if slightly unseasonal 30c heat!
Wow that was a lot of words but hopefully of interest to some, from now on I'll be updating on a weekly basis and as I finish this off its already Oct 2nd and I can safely say that if the first 2 days of the month is anything to go by the next report will make interesting reading!