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Having had daily visits to the feeders by Blue Tits since I moved in a few weeks ago it came as no surprise when the adult birds arrived at the end of May with four newly fledged chicks in tow. The usual frenetic activity with begging chicks and the parent working at full speed to keep them fed and also teaching them how to actually use the fat ball as a source of food. The chicks proved to be incredibly confiding and during the first couple of weeks fed from my hand. This continued with at least on individual coming into the lounge on a regular basis !
Blue Tit (Cyanistes caeruleus)
Needless to say I installed a small and discreet feeding station on my tiny balcony as soon as I moved into my new apartment and it didn’t take long for birds to discover the fat balls and feeding tray with mixed seed. Blue Tits and House Sparrows were among the first visitors as might be expected followed by Chaffinch and Collared Dove. However within a few weeks I had the very pleasant surprise to see a Nuthatch making regular visits to the fat ball. Not only a first for the feeding station this is also the first ever Nuthatch I’ve seen in this area in the three years I’ve lived here.
Eurasian Nuthatch (Sitta europaea)
Collared Dove (Streptopelia decaocto)
House Sparrow (Passer domesticus)
At the end of March I moved home, still in the same town but now in a first-floor apartment with a view over a small park so at least there’s still some green space and natural habitat. Things got off to a good start when I picked up the bins on day one while moving in to check out a bird perched on top of a cypress tree and lo and behold, a nice Hawfinch ! In the following few weeks I added all the usual species plus Green Woodpecker and White Stork then in April a Hoopoe spent several minutes feeding not far from the lounge window. Black Kite a short while later, then a Cuckoo bumped the list up nicely and it’s continued to grow slowly but surely since.
Hoopoe (Upupa epops)
Common Cuckoo (Cuculus canorus)
Chaffinch (Fringilla coelebs)
Eurasian Magpie (Pica pica)
A lovely morning full of activity and birdsong at La Jallais the highlights of which had to be the several Nightingales which were doing their best to drown each other out with the strength of the songs. Two birds were on opposite sides of the road near the railway crossing while another was in the hedgerow below the farm. Needless to say all I got were some very dubious quality record shots as the birds stayed very well hidden !
Elsewhere at least four pairs of Stonechats were on territory, several Skylarks sang from abouve the larger fields and a flock of Whimbrel were also present busily feeding in one of the larger wet fields.
Common Nightingale (Luscinia megarhynchos)
European Stonechats (Saxicola rubicola)
Skylark (Alauda arvensis)
I don’t know what this plant is called but the two little ponds along the track were covered in these lovely daisy-like flowers
A few photos from mid-March of common birds in the garden. Nothing remarkable but nice all the same.
Robin (Erithacus rubecula)
Common Chiffchaff (Phylloscopus collybita)
House Sparrow (Passer domesticus)
A spring visit to the Prairie de Tenu near Frossay with Ant in the hope of connecting with some early migrants or perhaps something a little bit different (I always fancy a Great Grey Shrike around these parts !). Alas, there was nothing particularly out of the ordinary but we did manage to get some excellent photos of a rather confiding female Kestrel along the road followed by a nice flock of Black-tailed Godwits busily feeding in the wet fields in preparation for their return north to their breeding grounds.
Black-tailed Godwit (Limosa limosa)
Common Kestrel (Falco tinnunculus)
A Christmas trip down to the Marais Breton and along the coast which produced, as expected, a lovely Short-eared Owl. Happy hunting close to the road and indifferent to the occasional car passing nearby we were able to watch it comfortably from a distance through the ‘scope. Later on we went to Port du Brochets where a very smart male Black Redstart was on show on the breakwater though it was impossible to get close to it.
Short-eared Owl (Asio flammea)
Black Redstart (Phoenicurus ochruros)
Along with the influx of Hawfinches during the autumn the other notable avian phenomenen was the number of Redpolls recorded in western France. They really are quite scarce here generally and I’ve only come across them once in 10 years but this winter many sites held small groups of birds of two subspecies: Lesser (cabaret) and Common (Mealy) Redpoll. The lakes in the north of the departement were a favoured spot and so in mid-December I met up with some fellow birders at Etang de Gruellau near Treffieux where we had some difficulty in initially tracking down the birds and then getting reasonable views of them as the fed in the alder and birch trees. Some rather poor photos below along with a charming Red squirrel which was nearby.
Redpolls, lower photo of presumed Common (Mealy) Redpoll (Acanthis flammea flammea)
It’s been a record year, certainly a record autumn, for Hawfinchs with birds recorded just about everywhere in the region. Sites which had previously seemed out of the question for the species now have birds on a regular basis. Initially I, like many others I presume, had taken this influx to be an autumn movement but it now looks like these birds have installed themselves in new areas so it will be interesting to see how this pans out in 2018 and whether the number of breeding birds has increased dramatically. While most encounters with the species involve birds flying over and calling I have come across a few individuals here and there which have allowed decent views though invariably I haven’t had the camera to hand !
Hawfinch (Coccothraustes coccothraustes). The lower two photos taken on my local patch at La Jallais, definitely not classic Hawfinch habitat !