Apologies to Van Morrison for pinching some lyrics from his song “Coney Island” for the title of this post but it seems appropriate in the circumstances. My friend and fellow birder Ant who works in the music industry has been away a lot recently and so last Tuesday, 22 November, was the first chance that we’ve had in ages to go out birding together. It had been quite windy for several days perviously and we decided to start off at Le Croisic to see if there might be anything lurking along the coastline there. Arriving at the port there was a noticable lack of birds, not even the usual Black-necked Grebes were in evidence but we soon remedied that by getting out the ‘scopes and having a good scan all around. Sure enough there were a few grebes scattered about the area plus a distant Great Northern Diver and at least 8 Shags which was a good number for this spot. Moving on to the pier we added Red-breasted Merganser to the day list then along came Julien Merot and Yann Brilland who had already spent a couple of hours further west at the point but had seen very little. No wind-blown auks, Kittiwakes or anything better unfortunately. It seemed as if the wind hadn’t been strong enough to bring seabirds in close or else they had already moved back offshore since the previous day.
The marais salantes of Guerande beckoned so we set off to scour the various salt-pans. There were good numbers of Dunlin and Ringed Plover present here and there plus a total of 4 each of Little Stint, Ruff and Whimbrel. After several hours we had pretty much covered all the good spots so decided to head back towards Donges and have a look at my local patch at La Jallais. The weather was nice, cool but somewhat sunny, but there weren’t a lot of birds to be seen apart from a small flock of Meadow Pipits plus the usual Stonechats and a couple of Chiffchaffs. Arriving at the end of the track I jumped over the ditch and up the embankment to have a look into the big field on the other side and there, floating along quietly was a Short-eared Owl ! I beckoned to Ant who fortunately had his camera with him and we spent the next 30 minutes watching this stunning bird as it hunted in the area, sometimes approaching quite close and apparently undisturbed by our presence crouched on the embankment. Ths was the first record I’ve had for the patch although it was only a matter of time as the habitat here is ideal for the species. So, a perfect end to a very nice day and the craic was, pretty good ! Thanks to Ant for allowing me to show his photos below.
Short-eared Owl, La Jallais, Donges, 22 November 2016. (Photos: Anthony Oates)