Thursday, 14 July 2016

Herts, Cornwall and France (23rd February-27th March)

Another few months have past since my last blog post.  A lot has happened since I got back from Germany and I don't remember many of the details so this post is condensed down considerably.  A short stay at home gave me some recuperation time with patch birding producing sizable flocks of Fieldfare and Redwing numbering into the hundreds on occasion.  Birds of prey included decent numbers of Red Kite, Buzzard, Kestrel and Sparrowhawk whilst remaining winter migrants and short-distance wanderers included Goldcrests, Robins and several flyover Siskins.

On the 29th Feb I left Herts for Cornwall to help out Dan on his small holding and fit in the occasional birding break.  A few visits to the old patch produced Peregrine, Black Redstarts, Stonechats, Bullfinches, Great Northern Divers and a distant indication of seabird passage with Kittiwakes, auks and Fulmars.  A brief excursion to Boat Cove for the Hudsonian Whimbrel resulted in a dip.  As it happens, its long stay in the cove ended the morning we went to visit, dammit!  2 Whimbrel and a Red-throated Diver were the only consolation.  The regular wintering Slavonian Grebe was back at Stithians Res and it was nice to see the feeders at the southern cutoff hosting Reed Buntings alongside the commoner garden birds as well as the showy Water Rail and a very tame Muscovy Duck.  Red Admiral and Small Tortoiseshell were also on the wing on nearby farmland.

Dan and I then headed down to Vianne in the south of France 16th-27th March to help out his parents with gardening.  Much of our time was spent working in the back garden but we kept a regular eye on the sky.  Raptor passage was impressive with hundreds of Black Kites moving north, regular Buzzards and Red Kites as well as Marsh Harriers, several Osprey, Goshawk and even a Short-toed Eagle.  A few excursions across the local farmland produced Water Pipit, Green Sandpiper, Snipe, White Wagtails, Grey Wagtail, Stonechat, Black Redstarts and a male White-spotted Bluethroat all feeding together around a small muddy puddle.  We also inadvertently flushed a Stone-curlew from the ploughed fields on our first day.  Common local residents included Cirl Buntings, Black Redstarts, HawfinchesSerin singing from many gardens and a walk to the local town for a food shop led to the surprise find of a male Wallcreeper scaling the gatehouse of Vianne!

male Wallcreeper

Black Woodpecker and several Lesser Spotted Woodpeckers were also encountered in the nearby woodland.  Other highlights included regular sightings of Short-toed Treecreepers, Bramblings2 White Storks a trickle of Black Storks, Crested Tits, flyover Woodlark, a calling Scops Owl, the first of the returning Hoopoes, passage Cormorants and an impressive movement of 1000's Chaffinches, Woodpigeons and a few Stock Doves.  Butterfly highlights included a Large Tortoiseshell and a Speckled Wood (ssp. aegeria).

Speckled Wood (ssp. aegeria)

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