Just down the road from me is a small marsh sandwiched between the Loire river, a road, a railway line, an oil storage depot and various industrial units. It looks fairly insignificant but can be surprisingly rich in birdlife both in winter and in summer. In fact it’s one of the few sites near me where waders and ducks can be watched at a reasonable distance with the sun behind the observer so I paid a visit there yesterday following reports of a Wood Sandpiper recently. On arrival I was pleased to see a good number of Black-winged Stilts (Himantopus himantopus) with at least 35 birds present plus a small group of Dunlin (Calidris alpina). Water levels were ideal for the stilts and I counted 9 nests although there were surely more hidden among the vegetation. Scanning the area I found the Wood Sandpiper (Tringa glareola) and over the following two hours managed to count a decent number of waders: 6 Dunlin, 5 Ruff (Philomachus pugnax) including a superb male complete with resplendent ruff, 3 Little Ringed Plover (Charadrius dubius), 5 Ringed Plover (Charadrius hiaticula), 2 Common Sandpipers (Actitis hypoleucos), 2 Redshank (Tringa totanus), and a Greenshank (Tringa nebularia). Two groups of Whimbrel (Numenius phaeopus) flew over adding to the ambience of the area with their distinctive calls. Among the non-wader species present were numerous Shelduck (Tadorna tadorna), several Mallard (Anas platyrhynchos), a pair of Gadwall (Anas strepera) ( a good record for the area considering we’re right at the end of April now. . . .potential breeders ?), a singing male Reed Bunting (Emberiza schoeniclus), Fan-tailed Warbler (Cisticola juncidis) and several Yellow Wagtails (Motacilla flava) including one individual which pretty much fitted all the criteria for the Centratlantica form, a hybrid between Spanish (M. f. iberica) x Blue-headed (M. f. flava) which typically exhibits a pure white throat. This particular individual perched on the fence near me and I managed a few record shots which showed the slightest suffusion of yellow just at the very bottom edge of the throat so it’s probably safest to say it was a 99% Centratlantica !
General views of the marsh at Cité de la Croix des Marins, Donges.
Ruff and Black-winged Stilts
Yellow Wagtail showing most of the characters of the centratlantica form (Spanish x Blue-headed hybrid)