About Two Owls

Monday 31 March 2014

48hrs Poole - Cherbourg - Poole

Jackie and I decided to sell our caravan in Normandie and popped over to clear it out and tidy it up for the sale.  But you can't not do a little birding can you?  So as we left Poole we had a few Red-breasted Mergansers, Shags, Cormorants, a distant auk species, as we passed Brownsea there were a half dozen Sandwich Terns fishing in the channel.   Looking over into the lagoon it was obvious that there was a large flock of Black-tailed Godwit, all in their summer finery, resting out on the middle of the lagoon 800 to a 1000 birds at a guess all readying themselves for their flight back north to Iceland.

Black-tailed Godwit flock Brownsea Is. Lagoon
As we passed through the harbour mouth we saw around sixteen Sanderling on Shell bay beach and off the trading bank was a couple of immature Eider.  It wasn't until we were quite a bit further out that we saw our first Gannets passing up channel.  As is usual when crossing to Cherbourg once you get out over ten miles you see nothing, so it's time to go and grab breakfast and wait until you are approaching the French coast.

As we came into Cherbourg we recorded much the same species of course particularly gulls though there were a few more Common Gulls this side, Cormorants and Shags were the only other species noted.  We had plenty of time so we headed along the coast towards Barfleur and Gatteville only adding Sandwich Tern, Gannet, Buzzard, Meadow Pipit, Dunnock, Robin, Blackbird and a few singing Chiffchaff, our last bird of the day was a Tawny Owl calling at the campsite.

Monday morning we were packed up and off site heading for Port-en-Bessin and from there we travelled the coast road toward Cherbourg stopping off in a few of our favourite places for birding enroute.  We hadn't recorded much until heading across the polder towards Le Grand Veys and Jackie noticed a new site for White Stork with a pair stood statue like on their massive stick nest. Further on we came across two Grey Partridge walking across the road. This is a species we had only recorded once before in Normandie so we were pretty pleased, though unknown to us something even better was instore for us.  Continuing on our route towards Utah Beach we took a side road to a favoured spot where often we have our picnic when staying over longer.  Looking over towards the Baie du Veys there is a flooded polder field which often holds good numbers of waterfowl.  Today was no different we had Mallard, Teal, Wigeon, Little Egrets and at least eight Spoonbill, Curlew and Lapwing.  There was probably more but we hadn't taken a scope so the smaller waders couldn't be id'ed at the distance we were at.

Very poor shot of the Black Kite flying away showing full crop.

As we continued our drive back to the main road Jackie spotted a bird of prey resting in a tree close to the road.  I had a brief ten second view before we were past, and realised it looked interesting and should be checked out properly.  So it was a quick look in the rear mirror, nothing behind, hit the brakes, into reverse, and thinking it's going to be just another buzzard.  As we passed it in reverse it took off and I saw a dark upperside with brown carpal bars and a slightly forked tail, I called Black Kite and parked the car and we bailed out binoculars and camera in hand.  It perched briefly in another tree a little farther away, before lifting off again and heading off toward Beauguillot and the sea.  Before we headed off Jackie noticed why the kite was where it was, it had been feeding on a dead bird carcass which didn't look to appetising to me. We parking in the small car park at Beauguillot and we were out of the car in seconds scanning the sky.   I spotted the kite soaring and then it continued it's flight across the flooded polder towards the sea gaining height as it went.  Giving up we went into the hide to check out what birds were out on the reserve and saw more of the same wildfowl species already seen, but in better numbers. As we returned to the car I caught sight of a bird of prey and suddenly realised it was the kite flying back towards where we had first saw it.  I grabbed the camera and took the most awful shot (above) but it does show it's flat level gliding flight unlike Marsh Harrier and Buzzards shallow V, also a full crop, a Normandie first.

Our journey back to Cherbourg after this wasn't quite the anti-climax we thought it might be as we had another piece of luck. We stopped to have lunch at Grancamp Maisy and as we walk from where we parked the car by the harbour I heard the sweet trilling of a Serin and found it sat on a chimney singing its heart out.  It made a real nice finish to a few hours birding and what a way to end 48hrs in Normandie. Roll on our next visit.

Tuesday 11 March 2014

Birding in Early March

The past week has seen us in the New Forest a couple of times and to Hengistbury Head.  Considering this time of year is rather a transitionary period, with wintering birds leaving us and our summer visitors not arrived yet, we did well.
On 5th March, our Wednesday monthly group met at Hengistbury Head on a beautifully sunny warm morning.  Before we left the car park we had Skylarks singing and a hovering Kestrel, soon after we added Greenfinch and Stonechat.  Looking over towards Stanpit we could see Brent Geese, Wigeon and Teal.  In the woodland we had Jay and a pair of Reed Buntings, also a Grey Heron flying back into the nest.  A Pheasant looked out of place here, but Stock Dove was more expected as well as common woodland birds including a smart little Goldcrest.  
As we reached the beach huts in the small pond we were pleased to see a Water Rail walking along the edge of the water eventually disappearing in the vegetation. It was very quiet offshore but we did find 16 Purple Sandpipers on one of groynes.  Friends told us that the Black Redstart was showing round the Head but unfortunately we never did catch up with that one.  
On Sunday (9th) we had a group at Acres Down, a warm day with not a cloud in the blue sky.  We went up to the viewpoint to watch for Goshawks, on the way we could hear Mistle Thrush singing and then the beautiful call of Wood Lark.  Eventually we did see three Wood Lark flying around but never giving brilliant views, we also found another pair later on. A pair of Stonechats were more obliging and as we approached our viewpoint we had a short display by a Meadow Pipit.  Almost immediately we had a Goshawk, followed by a pair, Buzzards were also soaring and easily in double figures, such a perfect day for them to be soaring.  Walking back towards the car park we stopped once more to watch another Goshawk making at least four birds seen this morning.
In the woodland we had a couple of Jays, Siskins calling as they flew over and Great Spotted Woodpecker drumming.  In one area we could hear Goldcrest and Firecrest eventually giving some views.  There seemed be quite a squabble going on and a lot of chasing around with both species involved, making them hard to keep up with.  On such a beautiful day we also had lots of Brimstone butterflies, also Comma, Peacock and Small Tortoiseshell.  This photo of a Treecreeper was taken near Ringwood where we stopped on our way home.
Treecreeper © Nick Hull

We returned again today (11th) with our Tuesday group to Acres Down, a much cooler and cloudy day, not a good day for watching raptors.  We started in the woodland with a brilliant little Firecrest flitting around in the holly, in the next tree a Coal Tit hung upside down over the path.  Once again drumming Great Spotted Woodpecker though we only saw him as he flew away.  As we watched Stock Doves we heard the “buzzing” call of Redpoll as they flew overhead, soon after Siskins came over.  Walking back to where we had the Firecrest earlier we then had a Marsh Tit and Long-tailed Tit, this brought the number of tit species seen up to five.  Walking up the hill a male Bullfinch called attention to it’s presence as it flew to the top of a holly.  Carrying on we had Meadow Pipit and a pair of Wood Lark, the latter singing it’s beautiful and distinctive song.  At the pond we found a huge amount of frog spawn, the most I think I’ve ever seen in one area.  We finished our walk with a Goldcrest, another superb walk.

Sunday 2 March 2014

West Bexington Twitch.

Yesterday Jackie and i took a trip down to West Bexington to see if we could catch up with one of the white-winged gulls that have been continually being seen there.  There were several fishermen on the beach and many of the large gulls were resting on the water and looking carefully through these birds produced a blank.

Looking west we saw another birder looking intently towards the Mere so we headed towards him hoping he was watching our quarry.  But before we reached the other birder all the gulls, which must have been settled on the Mere, took flight and I picked up the Glaucous straight away.  Luckily it turned towards us and I realised that I might get a shot with the camera, so a quick scramble in the bag for the camera ensued.  Doesn't it seem a long time for a camera to boot-up - three seconds seems an age.  Click the button to sports mode, I lifted the camera and managed two shots which are stitched together below, not the best shot by far but a good record shot.

Two Shots of the West Bexington adult Glaucous Gull flyby.