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Saturday, December 17, 2011

Bird Report Nov 2011

Okey, dokey not exactly hot off the press but with a trip to the UK, Open University commitments and Christmas presents buy and parcel off to its been an unusually busy time ... oh and I got engaged too (more about this wonderful life event at a later date, when I've decided and consulted on how best to blogify!).

Maybe I've been a bit preoccupied but it seems to have been a fairly quiet month. In common with the rest of Western Europe its been unseaonably mild with winds mainly from the south and west - great for us warmth loving, sun craving humans but frankly rubbish for the usual mass movement of birds, they've simply not had anything to escape from!

Stand out highlights from earlier in the month and already reported here was of course the Common Crane passage with my last Southbound flocks overhead on the 18th, and the 200 or so I saw on that day brought my own personal tally to almost 6000! There may have been others after this date but I was UK bound the same day so I'll never know. I've already devoted a whole post on these magnificent winged creatures (Common Crane Migration ) but one can't get enough of the old grus grus so here's a couple more of my best pics of this years passage.

Staying with wetland birds, a trip out to Le Bren on the 11th brought about 50 Great White Egrets (pic right) in and around the various lakes I visited. Not sure about the migratory status of this bird, I suspect they disperse south and west after breeding but many breed around here and they are increasing as a species across France.

Equally good numbers of Grey Heron (c70) and Little Egret (c30) and it was good to see a couple of Water Rails at the Etange de Sous - ungainly and often overlooked, its always a red letter day when you see one and I was lucky enough to get a reaonable photograph from the hide (pic left)

Plenty of the ducks around at Le Bren with decent numbers of Teal, Shoveller, Gadwall and Tufted Duck as well as the more common Mallard. On to wading birds and those traditional winter wanderers Golden Plover were present in small numbers at Le Bren (c60) along with good numbers of Lapwing but generally a poor month for waders.
Better fare on the raptor front though with some good late Red Kite passage on the 10th with 3 passing through the Rouflamme Valley single Marsh Harrier at Le Bren on the 11th, a single Marsh Harrier over Le Bren on the 11th, a Peregrine Falcon at the Etange de Beavoir on the 14th and a general increase in the number of Sparrowhawks and Common Kestrels around Le Macherie whilst Common Buzzards remain as prominent as ever with a high of 13 seen on the 12th in the Rouflamme Valley; and why restrict this to France, Baggins is after all a traveller by name ... I had a superb male Merlin perched on a hedge whilst I was driving intrepidly across the Yorkshire Wolds on the 22nd - if i'd stopped the car to attempt a photograph it would have flown, so I just drooled and nearly drove into a ditch (that sort of thing is always nearly happening!)

Winter thrushes normally arrive in droves mid to late November, there again I'm normally in the UK so this all very interesting in a 'non thrush' sort of way. Plenty of Blackbirds, in fact a very noticeable influx and a smattering of Song and Mistle Thrushes but what we're after is Redwings and Fieldfares .... seasonal foragers of late autumn fruit and berries. Sadly though, apart from one flock of 40 Redwings nr Moulismes on the last day of the month I had a total of 8 around here in November and not a single Fieldfare! Obviously we're now into December and things have a got a little better, but not much ... .ah well, i'm such a bird nut that I even find their relative absence interesting! I'm sure there are more in the UK and it just goes to show what a great place for overwintering birds my native island is. Not my pics but these are handsome birds that should be adorning fields and hedgerows right now ... have you seen any?

If there were a god of birds (John James Audebon? Roger Tory Peterson? or maybe even Bill Oddie or Chris Packham?) what he doth takes he gives away, and
although I still think it was a quietish month in terms of winter arrivals there were still plenty of surprises in the locker - like the 70 or so Crested Larks in local fields around here and the stunning Water Pipit at La Gabriere on the 11th, whilst big flocks of Sylarks, Meadow Pipits and Cirl Buntings is becoming the norm once again as they mass together in search of food. Its great to be still seeing warblers around the village with a Blackcap on the 14th and a Chiff Chaff on the 28th.

A surprising bird to begin appearing in numbers has been the humble Reed Bunting, another bird that is often overlooked but I think very handsome - this pic was actually taken this month when even more arrived.

Other things to report - Firecrests are Europe's smallest bird and if you look closely and keep your ears peeled (something I find increasingly tricky!) you can see lots of these midget gems over here. Again, not my pic, really struggling to get a good a good shot (pic right) but aren't they little darlins?!

Jays seem to be absolutely everywhere, gathering nuts and making a racket in the woods. Less obvious and less in almost every way, the usually shy and retiring Lesser Spotted Woodpeckers are a bit more obvious now the trees have shed their leaves. Never an easy bird to photograph and this one isn't very good as it was taken at distance back in the Summer (pic left) but this is many a fair weather birder's bogey bird!

Ok that's November done, might seem like a strange thing to say but we hope for a cold snap or two to bring in the birds in numbers! Already well into December and dont think we've had a frost over here yet!

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