Winter is definitely here: -3 degrees today but feeling a lot colder due to the stiff easterly wind. Surprising then that one of the first birds I saw this morning on leaving the house was a White Stork flying across the road, a species that has been absent from the area now for the last couple of months but which winters in reasonable numbers further south in France. On arriving at La Jallais 4 Mute Swans flew overhead and along the main track there was a nice flock of c.100 Lapwings along with 10 Golden Plover. Passerines were, however, in short supply apart from an unusually high number of Blue Tits, many of which were feeding on reed stems, presumably looking for larvae and grubs. It seemed a bit strange that these birds should leave the relatively sheltered surrounds of the gardens and hedges nearby and venture out into more open territory but perhaps they are not local birds at all and have been pushed further west by the cold weather ?
At the end of the track I climbed the embankment to search the fields towards Donges Est where more Lapwings were feeding on ground that wasn’t yet completely frozen hard. No sign of any Water Pipits today and only an handful of Meadow Pipits plus a couple of yarelli Pied Wagtails, one of which was feeding on the ice. A nice male Sparrowhawk was perched on a distant fence post but disappeared as soon as I reached for the camera.
Heading back towards Donges town I went down to the river to check the marsh just behind the main road. At least 60 Teal were present along with a couple of Shoveler and Shelduck plus a few Snipe. Then I tried La Hélardière between the oil storage depot and the town where a small area of farmland has proved productive in the past. This is also the site of one of the last Tree Sparrow colonies in the departement. I walked along the road through the hamlet but only one House Sparrow and a flock of Chaffinches, but on the return trip I heard a couple of chirrups coming from a small field with a herd of cows. Scanning the far hedge I discovered at least 6 Tree Sparrows in a large bramble bush so it was good to see that they are still around. Presumably the remainder of the House and Tree Sparrow flock were somewhere else behind the main farmyard which is not really viewable from the road. Last stop of the day was the Marais Liberge along the ring road around Donges where there were good numbers of Black-headed Gulls and a couple of Little Grebes but again, no ducks to be seen here.
Lapwings and Golden Plover at La Jallais
yarelli Pied Wagtail