Thursday, 30 April 2015

Nightingales, owls and a stint

Dungeness - 0630-0730hrs - cool, sunny, sw 2- We rose early for what was a disappointing seawatch with only three Red-throated Divers, two Kittiwakes, a Fulmar and a trickle of scoters, auks, Gannets and terns.
Park Wood, Appledore - Much better here with at least six Nightingales in song, including brief views of two birds low down in ash regrowth. Also noted, three Garden Warblers, Treecreeper, Nuthatch, Jay, Chiffchaffs, Blackcaps and Long-tailed Tit. A good selection of woodland flowers still in bloom and a green-veined white butterfly.
Kenardington - A wander along the canal produced the usual range of wayside birds: Yellowhammer, Lesser Whitethroat, Bullfinch, Goldfinch, Buzzard, Sparrowhawk and Great Spotted Woodpecker, plus orange tip, holly blue and speckled wood butterflies.
Scotney - Through the farm and out back delivered the usual array of Corn Buntings and Yellow Wagtails, plus 20 Avocets, two Greenshanks, Redshank, Common Sandpiper, LRP, Med Gull, Common Terns and a summer plum Little Stint.
Dengemarsh - On hayfield 3 at least 10 Ringed Plovers present with a flyover Blackwit, two Greenshanks and a Whimbrel over hayfield 2. From the hide a pair of Garganeys, six Egyptian Geese, Hobby, Cuckoo, Marsh Harrier and all the usual warblers.
Romney Marsh - Took the guests owling this evening in perfect weather conditions as the wind had dropped away. Barn Owl was the target bird which we duly saw, but totally unexpected was cracking views of a Long-eared Owl in the same area just before lights out.
The slow start to the day was quickly forgotten as we ended on a high.

Wednesday, 29 April 2015

Seabirds and things

Dungeness - 0900hrs - cold, dryish, sw 4 - A 90 minute seawatch from the hide yielded a pretty decent return, at least by recent days, with the highlights being a Great Northern Diver, two Manxies, Arctic and Great Skuas, plus two Red-throated Divers, three Fulmars, 10 Gannets, 20 Brents, 50 Common Scoters, 10 auks, five Arctic Terns and plenty of Sandwich and Common Terns coming and going. On the land the wind prevented too many passerines showing although we had a singing Black Redstart on the power station, a Ring Ouzel and two Whimbrel at Long Pits, plus Wheatear and Skylark opposite Jarman`s.

                                Small Copper, Dungeness

RSPB - On Burrowes a 1st summer Little Gull was amongst the Black-headeds and a Common Sandpiper on the islands, while hundreds of hirundines and a few Swifts went through. On New Diggings we jammed a Great White Egret, while on ARC the two Spoonbills settled down on the `cormorant` island. There were more hirundines and Swifts to check through from Hanson and a Hobby nipped through. From the access road 14 Whimbrels, two Cuckoos and the usual Tree Sparrows around the car park.

Spoonbills, ARC 

Lade - We finished off on the local patch checking more hirundines over the willow swamp, where a Cuckoo was also noted.

Tuesday, 28 April 2015

Marvellous Marquenterre

Crecy - cool, dry, sunny, w 3 - An early start for the guests with a day across the water and Marshman at the wheel. We arrived at the forest and virtually the first bird we saw was a pair of Hawfinches out in the open gritting, so a cracking start. We spent a couple of hours at two sites in the forest noting the likes of Greater pecker, Nuthatch, Short-toed Treecreeper, Yellowhammer, Jay, Goldcrest, warblers, tits and finches. Just as we were about to call it a day Marshman found our target bird, a stunning male Middle Spotted Woodpecker near its nesting hole and calling like a good `un; and as we were watching it a ringtail Hen Harrier flew over the canopy!

                                Hawfinches, Crecy

Le Crotoy - We hit the harbour at high tide and what a feast of waders awaited us. There was a flock of at least 2,000 birds, mainly Dunlins, Ringed Plovers and Redshanks being moved about by a huge female Peregrine that eventually accounted for one of them. In amongst this incredible throng was 20 Whimbrel, 10 Avocets, 15 Barwits, five Grey Plovers, two Sanderlings, Greenshank, Curlew, Curlew Sandpiper and Little Stint. It was wader heaven.
We then birded the roadside pools adding Garganey, Cattle and Great White Egrets, Shoveler, Med Gull and Dabchick.

                               Shorebirds, Le Crotoy

                                Marquenterre Reserve

Marquenterre - Well what can I say about this amazing place. First off it was packed with families walking the reserve, but it didn`t seem to matter as it was heaving with birds, and let`s face it, the hide slots are weird. Not sure where to start really but lets get the waders out of way: 30 Avocets and 10 Black-winged Stilts breeding, 50 Greenshanks, 10 Whimbrel, 10 Redshanks, Common Sandpiper, Lapwings, Dunlin, Blackwit and Spotted Redshank. Then the other long-legged jobs: 30 White Storks, 20 Spoonbills, 20 Cattle Egrets, Night Heron, Little Egret and Grey Heron around the nesting colony and on the lagoons, plus a lone Common Crane. And then the rest: Nightingale, loads of common warblers, hirundines, Swifts, Pintail, Black-necked Grebes, Wheatear, Cuckoo, Common Buzzard, Sparrowhawk and Crested Tit in the car park.
What a superb days birding with 109 species recorded (including 20 species of waders) and many thanks to Marshman for driving.

                                Black-winged Stilts and Greenshank

                                Common Crane


                               White Storks

Monday, 27 April 2015

75 species in an afternoon

Dengemarsh - cold, cloudy, ne 3 - We commenced a five day birdwatching break for Jill, John and Tony from Dorset today and started in some style with a Little Owl in the army camp. By Brett`s a decent collection of passerines including Lesser Whitethroat, Whitethroat, Willow and Cetti`s Warblers and at least 20 Greenfinches. From Galloways, Mipit and Stonechat and a Peregrine near Brickwall Farm, but no sign of the Cattle Egrets.
A circuit of Dengemarsh produced cracking views of Cuckoo, Hobby, two Whimbrel on the hayfields, plus Marsh Harriers, `booming` Bittern, Raven, Yellow Wagtail, Brent Goose and Wigeon.

                                Little Owl and Greenfinch, Range Road

Greatstone Beach - With short, high tides conditions were perfect for wader watching around 1800hrs with a staggering 500 Dunlins, mostly in summer plumage, plus 200 Oystercatchers, 50 Curlews, 100 Sanderling, 30 Ringed Plovers, 30 Barwits, Turnstone, Redshank and a spanking Grey Plover to finish a pretty decent afternoon rattling up 75 species without even trying.

Sunday, 26 April 2015

Nightingale and Swallows

Lade - 0600hrs - mild, overcast, drizzle, light airs - At last, two moths in the garden trap this morning, Hebrew Character and Shuttle-shaped Dart. A mild start to the day but as the cold front moved over by midday the temperature plummeted and the rain increased.
We walked Mockmill which was jumping with Sedge Warblers and, at last, Whitethroats with more of both around the lakes and across the shingle scrub respectively. More Reed Warblers and Linnets had come in overnight along with several Willow Warblers, Chiffchaffs and Cuckoos. Bird of the morning though was a Nightingale, new for the Marsh year list (174th species) singing from cover behind the wall `mirror`, closely followed by a Common Sandpiper over north lake. Several pulses of hirundines went through along with small groups of Swifts.

                                Whitethroat, Lade

RSPB - Spent an hour or so nattering to Mick Price and birders from the South Beds RSPB group who were down for the day. Around the car park more hirundines and Swifts came and went with the rain bands and there was plenty of Tree Sparrow activity. Very little new reported today around the reserve with old favourites such as the Bean Geese and Cattle Egrets at Dengemarsh and Brickwall Farm still in situ.

                               Swallows, Lade

Lade - What is there not to admire about Swallows and their tribe. The cold northerly wind had driving hundreds of `em down to feed low over south lake, along with good numbers of House Martins and a few Sand Martins. Many had flopped down on the shingle bank on the lake side, sheltering from the wind, obviously exhausted, whilst others perched on wire fencing twittering away to one another. What a terrific sight and sound, and I couldn't help but muse over the journey they`d made over the past month or so traversing the great continent of Africa, across rain forests, deserts, savannah, mountains and seas, and then to pause a while on `my` local gravel pit. I spent a very happy hour in their company, a great privilege, sifting through the flock as more and more joined the throng from the south, the wonders of migration and all that, it never ceases to thrill.
Whilst there singles of Grey Plover, Greenshank and Whimbrel went over calling into the brisk wind and as we trudged back across the shingle a Sparrowhawk reduced the local Starling population by one.

Saturday, 25 April 2015

White-beaked Dolphins

Lade  - mild, cloudy, drizzle, sw 2 - Plenty of warblers around the local patch including the first Garden Warbler of the season. Mockmill was full of Sedge Warblers, but still only a couple of Whitethroats in song. Elsewhere, 50 Swallows and 10 Sand Martins on south lake, Wheatear, Mipit and Stonechat on the Desert.
Dungeness - An hour in the seawatch hide was largely uneventful due to poor visibility, apart from a pod of White-beaked Dolphins that showed briefly as they followed a small group of diving Gannets. The dolphins had been around for most of the early morning feeding just off the main cardinal buoy.
Lade - Had another look through the hirundines this afternoon, but there was nothing of note apart from the addition of five Swifts. Working in the garden today Med Gulls were constantly heard and a Whimbrel went over calling.

Friday, 24 April 2015

A trio of year ticks

Dungeness - 0715 - 1015hrs - warm, light airs, fog - Replacing the strong winds of recent weeks this morning we were plagued by fog, which made for limited visibility and restricted seawatching. A stop/start flow of Brents was noted plus a few Fulmars, Gannets, Whimbrels and Barwits. A couple of Med Gulls came and went and two Little Terns were new for year; also Sandwich Terns, Common Terns at the Patch and a couple of Swallows inbound. The land was quiet with a female Redstart in the lighthouse garden and a Tree Pipit over calling, which was also new for the year. Two Black Redstarts were in song on the power station and a singles of Chiffchaff, Whitethroat, Lesser Whitethroat elsewhere, plus Sparrowhawk, Kestrel and Curlew over.
An afternoon look at the sea from the boats yielded several Fulmars, Gannets, terns and gulls feeding offshore in the murk.

      "We`re going seawatching he says, but all I can see is fog, he`s lost the plot..."

Lade - Much clearer here with `loads` of Reed Warblers in the main reedbed, plus two Cuckoos and our first Hobby of the spring; cracking views too of what is surely everyones favourite raptor. A few Swallows over, two Yellow Wagtails and a soaring Buzzard completed a tidy hour on the local patch, but still not many Whitethroats on territory.

Thursday, 23 April 2015

What chance of a spring Pomarine Skua?

Dungeness - 0900hrs - cold, cloudy, ne 2 - The early morning seawatchers reported small numbers of Black-throated Divers, Arctic Skuas, Velvet Scoters and Little Gulls passed the point but the passage had fizzled out by the time we arrived. At the Patch 50 or so Common Terns amongst the gulls.
The land was quiet too with six Wheatears, Mipit, Skylark and Pied Wagtail opposite Jarmans, Chiffchaff in the lighthouse garden, Swallows, Yellow Wagtail and Goldfinch inbound.
Lade - The local patch delivered Cuckoo, Reed, Cetti`s and Sedge Warblers, Whitethroat and Chiffchaff, plus distant soaring Marsh Harrier and Buzzard.
In summary the guests had a pretty decent three days birding, despite the howling wind, with passage waders, and warblers the highlights amongst 109 species. The only disappointment was the poor seawatching, once again mainly due to the wind direction.

                                Early Purple Orchid and Wheatear, Dungeness

Pomarine Skuas at Dungeness
The question I get asked more than any other by visiting birders is, "when is the best time to see Pomarine Skuas at Dungeness in the spring?" To which my immediate response is, based on the past nine seasons down here, "usually the first week in May, but there are variables...".
So, in a vague attempt to be a little more precise I tabulated the last ten years of Pom records published in the Dungeness Bird Observatory reports from 2005-13 and 2014 from the website (many thanks to the warden David Walker). I only looked at April/May records, so excluded `wintering` birds and four June birds in 2012/13.
The earliest bird was one on the 1st April 2012 and the latest on the 29th May 2006. There are a scattering of records in the first three weeks of April and from mid-May onwards but the overwhelming majority of Poms occur within a 16 day window from 25th April to 10th May. Within that period the peak number of bird dates was from 29th April to 2nd May with 1st May being the optimum with birds noted on eight out of ten May Days from 2005-14.
And so to the variables, or rather the wind direction. I`ve not had time to check all the `big Pom days` but its generally accepted that an on shore wind is best and certainly last years record count (at least for the last ten years) of 103 birds on 3rd May was on a south-easterly wind. As for time of day, usually the first two or three hours after daybreak is best for a variety of seabird species, but Poms can come through at anytime, even late afternoon. The best viewing conditions are when its cloudy and while the seawatch hide is the place most birders congregate, given calm weather some of the closest views can be had off the boardwalk opposite the Britannia pub.
So, for the very best chance of encountering this iconic seabird check the weather patterns and if a south-easter is forecast within the 25th April to 10th May period head on down to Dungeness. Be prepared for the long haul though, take a chair, drink and grub and with a bit of luck you should score, but don't blame me if you dip out!

Wednesday, 22 April 2015

Passage waders and hirundines

Dungeness - 0900hrs - cold, dry, sunny, ne 5 - A day of shocking weather with a blasting north-easterly throughout making for a dearth of passerines and difficult viewing. It started poorly with a 30 minute seawatch during which time not a single passage seabird passed by, apart from six Common Scoters going west. A couple of Med Gulls and Sandwich Terns milled around offshore and three porpoises were noted. At the Patch up to 100 Common Terns amongst the immature gulls, while opposite Jarman`s three Wheatears hunkered down sheltering from the wind.
Galloways - Some good birds here and not quite as windy with two Cattle Egrets near Brickwall Farm, Stonechat by the range entrance and singing Lesser Whitethroat, Whitethroat, Chiffchaff, Reed, Sedge, Cetti`s and Willow Warblers by Brett`s.

                                Cattle Egrets, Brickwall Farm

Scotney - On the roadside fields passage waders in the form of two Whimbrel, six Ringed Plovers two Redshanks and a cracking summer plum Barwit. Behind the farm all the usual mix of waders and farmland birds: 20 Yellow Wagtails, ten Corn Buntings, Skylark and Mipit, 20 Avocets, LRP and Greenshank.

                                Bar-tailed Godwit and Corn Bunting, Scotney

RSPB -  A profitable circuit for migrant waders with a flock of 14 Greenshanks and two Redshanks on Burrowes, two Common Sandpipers over the hayfields that were our first of the year, a Snipe in front of Christmas Dell hide, two LRPs, two Ringed Plovers and a Dunlin on Hayfield 3 and Curlew on Dengemarsh, where also two Garganey, Wigeon, Common Tern and Peregrine. From the ramp the two Bean Geese were in the back field with all the usual Greylags and Egyptians.
Over the road on ARC we spent over an hour going through hundreds of hirundines, mainly Swallows, plus 20 House Martins, 10 Sand Martins and 30 Swifts, our first of the year.

                                Greenshanks, Burrowes
Dungeness - 1900-2000hrs - An evening seawatch from the boats produced 20 Sandwich Terns and 10 Gannets feeding offshore, plus up-Channel, three Little Gulls (first of the year), five Kittiwakes, five Brents, Whimbrel and Oystercatcher. 

Tuesday, 21 April 2015

Mostly warblers

Lade - 0900hrs - warm, dry, sunny, ne 2 - With the wind relenting it at last felt like spring with warm sunshine the order of the day and the coat and gloves left at home. However, birdwise it was pretty slow with only one singing Cuckoo, Whitethroat, Chiffchaff, Reed and Sedge Warblers on the summer migrant front. A party of Swallows pushed north while a mixed flock of Ringed Plovers and Dunlins swept over south lake. There seemed to be an increase in Med Gulls around the site and both Kestrel and Marsh Harrier noted hunting over by the airfield.
Yet again the Plovers moth trap was barren in what has been the worst start to a mothing season since I started eight years ago.

Faggs Wood - 1230hrs - After picking Ray and Stuart up from Ashford station (who are on their 25th visit to Plovers) we headed for the woods. Not the best time of day but we still managed one brief burst of Nightingale and our first Garden Warbler of the spring, plus decent numbers of singing Willow Warblers, Chiffchaffs and Blackcaps. Also, Jay, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Coal and Long-tailed Tits, Nuthatch, Kestrel and Buzzard. Plenty of butterflies on the wing along the rides including brimstones and orange tips, a lizard and woodland flowers in bloom.
Warehorne Bridge - A great place for wayside birds with the highlights a singing Lesser Whitethroat, Yellowhammer, Goldfinch, Green Woodpecker, Blackcap and Chiffchaff, plus distant views of soaring Buzzard and Sparrowhawk over Hamstreet Woods.

                               Royal Military Canal, Warehorne

Cheyne Ct - We walked out from the Woolpack to the first bend and scanned the grazing meadows and wetlands where several Marsh Harriers, Buzzard, 30 Lapwings, feral geese, Linnets, Yellow Wagtails and Skylarks noted.

                                 Linnet, Dungeness

Dungeness - A search of the gorse scrub for the reported Wryneck seen earlier was fruitless, but a male Ring Ouzel, two Whimbrel on the Desert and our first small copper butterflies of the spring provided ample compensation.

                                Small Coppers, Dungeness

Monday, 20 April 2015

First Black Tern and Cuckoo

Dungeness - 0730hrs - cool, sunny, ne 3 - Joined TG and PB in the seawatch hide for 30 minutes during which time nothing much happened apart from a few Whimbrel and scoter moving up-Channel. However, at the Patch our first Black Tern of the year was wheeling over the boil along with 100 or so Common Terns. Passerines were virtually absent and a Sparrowhawk zipped along the power station wall.
Lade - Fairly quiet here too with the highlight being the first Cuckoo of the spring calling from the willow swamp. Also, four Whimbrel overhead and 20 Swallows over south lake.

Sunday, 19 April 2015

First Arctic Skua

Dungeness - 0845hrs - cold, cloudy, ne 3 - We just about made it through a slow, hour long seawatch off the concrete road where the highlight was our first Arctic Skua of the season, a dark phase bird powering up-Channel just off shore. Also, several Gannets, Red-throated Divers, Whimbrels, Sandwich Terns, Kittiwakes and Common Scoters.
Scotney - The drake Scaup showed well at the Sussex end while five Barnacle Geese, five Med Gulls, Whimbrel and Ringed Plovers were on the grass. Out back up to 20 Yellow Wagtails, five Corn Buntings, Reed Bunting, Skylark and Stock Dove on the farmland. On the new gravel pits 22 Avocets, two Greenshanks, four Little Ringed Plovers and all the usual wildfowl, egrets and gulls.
Dengemarsh - We failed to locate the Cattle Egrets in their usual fields but did have good views of the Ravens. On Hayfield 3, four Dunlin, Redshank and Greenshank, plus two Garganey opposite the hide. There was plenty of harrier activity over the reedbed while a Bittern `boomed` and also put in a brief flight view.
In summary a pretty decent weekends birding for Lawrie and Sally, despite the strong wind, with 86 species noted, the highlights being: Garganey, Scaup, Whimbrel, Greenshank, Arctic Skua, Hoopoe, Wryneck, Yellow Wagtail and Ring Ouzel.

Saturday, 18 April 2015

Wryneck and Hoopoe

Dungeness - 0930hrs - cold, sunny, ne 5 - Lawrie and Sally were down for a weekends birding with a blasting wind off the sea, so far from ideal conditions for migrant hunting. However, a quick stop opposite Jarman`s yielded five Wheatears, Mipit, Skylark, Pied Wagtail, Ringed Plover and Stock Dove. In the gorse scrub south of the Trapping Area a Wryneck showed well, albeit briefly, but there were hardly any other passerines about apart from several Chiffchaffs, Swallows and Whitethroats. Two Whimbrels on the turf by West Beach was the first time I`ve ever seen these waders grounded at the point.

                                Whimbrels, Dungeness

RSPB - Very quiet around the reserve with two Whimbrel on the hayfields, three Garganeys on Dengemarsh, plus all the usual Sedge Warblers, Whitethroats, Marsh Harriers and the like.
Hythe - We then went twitching to Range Road, Hythe, where a Hoopoe had been found earlier on a piece of rough ground by the ranges. It didn't showed particularly well and spent most of its time skulking behind a fence, apart from a brief fly around.
Littlestone - We checked the bay, trying to find an area free of kite-surfers, not easy as there was over 100 out there today. However, five species of shorebirds were noted.
Dungeness - Back to the point and cracking views of a male Ring Ouzel out on the turf by Lloyds, and a Raven being mobbed by crows over the power station, rounded off a strange days birding that was low on numbers but high on quality.

Friday, 17 April 2015

Black-winged Stilts

Park Wood, Appledore - 0900hrs - cool, sunny, ne 3-5 - We started the day with a woodland walk where at least three Nightingales were already on territory and giving occasional bursts of song. Chiffchaffs and Blackcaps were the only warblers noted, plus all the usual resident species including Green and Great Spotted Woodpeckers, Treecreeper, Nuthatch, Coal and Long-tailed Tits, Jay and Buzzard. The woodland floor was covered in an array of spring flowers, a magnificent sight.

                                Park Wood, Appledore

Kenardington - A wander along the canal banks resulted in a host of wayside birds: warblers, finches, tits, thrushes and the like, plus our first Lesser Whitethroat of the spring. A family of four recently fledged Song Thrushes proved highly entertaining.

                                Song Thrush, juv, Kenardington

Dengemarsh - Around midday, having just picked up my forgotten phone from home, a call from PB told of a pair of Black-winged Stilts on view from the hide, along with yesterdays five Garganeys. The stilts had obviously just arrived as they were stationary throughout the time we watched them.

                                Black-winged Stilts, Dengemarsh

The two Bean Geese were also on show in the back field, plus the two Cattle Egrets in the sheep field by the battery farm where a Raven was having its fill of lamb afterbirth.
From Hanson hide the only bird of note was a Peregrine.

                                Cattle Egrets, Dengemarsh

                                Sedge Warbler, Dengemarsh

Littlestone - We finished the day scanning the bay for waders where 200 Oystercatchers, 100 Curlews, 20 Turnstones, 10 Sanderlings, two Dunlins, two Barwits and a Redshank were noted.
A cracking couple of days birding for our guest with 114 species noted, despite the nagging north-easterly wind. 

Thursday, 16 April 2015

Seabirds, chats and waders

Lade - 0700hrs - cool, sunny, ne 5 - In contrast to yesterdays heat wave it was the return of the blasting north-easter, that increased throughout the day, making for difficult birding conditions across the peninsula. However, first thing it wasn't too windy and a nice flock of chats on the Desert comprised 12 Wheatears (three Greenland types), four Stonechats and our first Whinchat of the year, plus several Linnets, Mipits and Skylarks with Yellow Wagtail and Greenshank overhead.

                                Stonechat, Lade

Dungeness - 0830hrs - Met Lew from Orpington who`s down for a couple of days birding. We started off in the seawatch hide where a steady up-Channel passage of scoters, Common and Sandwich Terns, Gannets, Brents and Whimbrels was underway. Also of note a Buzzard! several Mergansers, Red-throated Divers, Fulmars, Kittiwakes and Swallows. The land was quiet with two Sparrowhawks, two Kestrels, four Wheatears, two Ringed Plovers and a Goldfinch the highlights.

                                Goldfinch, Dungeness

RSPB - Highlights around the reserve included a grounded Whimbrel from the access road, Goldeneye on Burrowes, Ringed Plovers on Hayfield 3, five Garganey on Dengemarsh that joined a flock of 20 Teal and 15 Wigeon, two Ravens, Greenshank and Sand Martins over, `booming` Bittern and courting Marsh Harriers Hookers, Tree Sparrows car park, Sedge Warblers and Whitethroats elsewhere.

                                Whimbrel, RSPB

Scotney - On the lake virtually the only bird of note was the long-staying drake Scaup, while on the grass there were eight Ringed Plovers. Plenty of birds out back though with some cracking Yellow Wagtails and Corn Buntings, plus Med Gull, Egyptian Geese, Redshank, four Little Ringed Plovers, 14 Avocets and a Greenshank.

                                Scaup, Scotney

                                Yellow Wagtail, Corn and Reed Buntings, Scotney

In summary a fair days birding, despite the wind, with 90 species noted.

Wednesday, 15 April 2015

Buzzards, warblers and a Stork

Romelaere, St Omer - Hot, dry, sunny, light airs - With Marshman at the wheel we headed for northern France, along with four Romney Marsh ladies, for the day. En-route south we clocked two pairs of Grey Partridges, Black Redstarts, Swallows, Lapwings, Little Egrets and six brown hares. As we dropped off the ladies in town, a pair of Serins sang from a courtyard tree, a cracking start.
In the forest a hen Reeve`s Pheasant crossed in front of us, while calling cock birds were heard nearby, plus a White Wagtail by a foresters cottage. The forest was alive with singing Chiffchaffs, Blackcaps, Willow Warblers, two Common Whitethroats and two Grasshoppers Warblers, one of which sat up and showed like a good `un. Also noted around the clearings were Yellowhammer, Nuthatch, Green and Great Spotted Woodpeckers, Long-tailed and Marsh Tits, Cuckoo, Tawny Owl (calling) and Jay. The woodland floor was covered in spring flowers such as wood anemones, violets and primroses, plus brimstone, green-veined white, peacock and orange tip butterflies.
Whenever we come across the water France nearly always throws up a surprise or two, and today was no different. First off a large bulky buzzard flew over with a black and white tail and pale underparts that proved to be a Rough-legged Buzzard. Plenty of Common Buzzards came and went through the morning until, incredibly, one flew over with a Honey Buzzard in tow! The views we had were superb and needless to say neither of us had ever seen all three species of buzzards in one place on the same day, a sort of cross-over of buzzards if you like.

                                Reeve`s Pheasant, Romelaere

                               Romelaere Forest

By the time we moved onto the wetland reserve by early afternoon the temperature hit 25C, but the warblers were still going at it hammer and tongs: Sedge and Willow Warblers were in the ascendancy followed by Blackcaps and Chiffchaffs, plus several Cetti`s and Reed Warblers. Unfortunately the boardwalk to the main reedbed and hide was closed due to renovation and will be so until mid-June.
Also noted Shoveler, Gadwall, Little and Great Crested Grebes, Kestrel, Marsh Harriers, Little Egret, Grey Heron, Swallow, Goldcrest, Cuckoo, Bullfinch and Reed Bunting, plus plenty more butterflies and several grass snakes.

                               King Cups, Romelaere

We then `discovered` another section of the reserve that looked ideal habitat for Bluethroat, although none were found. However, a White Stork on a nest was a bonus, apparently only the second year running they`ve nested here.

                               White Stork, panting on a hot afternoon

It was another successful day in northern France, full of surprises, with buzzards, Serin, gropper and stork the highlights, and many thanks to Marshman for driving on what was a stifling hot day.