Monday, 12 September 2016

St. Valery-sur-Somme (03-10 September 2016)

Megan and I had a relaxing week in Northern France. We stayed in a mobile home on a campsite at Drancourt, just outside St. Valery-sur-Somme. It was our fourth visit to an area we have come to know quite well at this time of year and enjoy visiting. We travelled from Newhaven to Dieppe, a birdless crossing (Fulmar and Gannets) but nice views of the Sussex coast.
view west towards Brighton
leaving Newhaven Harbour
Seaford Head
Cuckmere Haven
Seven Sisters
Birling and Beachy Head
Seaford to Beachy
sister ferry the Seven Sisters heading north to Newhaven, we were on the Cote d'Alabatre
Morning and evening walks around the site and the fields beyond produced three species of harrier, Great White Egret, juvenile Tawny Pipit (my first here), 3 Crested Tits and 3 Short-toed Treecreepers. There were fewer migrants than on previous visits with single figures of Whitethroat, Blackcap, Chiffchaff and Willow Warbler and 3 Spotted Flycatchers. There was no sign of the apparent Rough-legged Buzzard I had seen on the previous two visits ad Grey Partridges were scarcer, not helped by the potato crops being harvested, with just three sightings of the same small covey. Most disappointing were the two or three Tawny Owls that called each night but remained unseen despite trying two or three times most evenings.
Drancourt early morning, Crested Tits were sometimes in the conifers on the left
Green Woodpecker
fields at Drancourt
Great White Egret at Drancourt
Hen Harrier
Marsh Harrier

potato harvesting, a Tawny Pipit had been seen on the narrow path bordering this field on our first evening. It was a big area and could easily have been around all week although we had no further sightings

We viewed the Baie de Somme at various tides from St. Valery promenade and Le Hourdel. We preferred the latter but many of the birds n the bay were too distant from either to identify with any confidence although we did see 50+ Spoonbills, 6 Yellow-legged Gulls and 2000 Oystercatchers. Migrants here were very few and far between with single Yellow Wagtail, Wheatear and Whinchat.
Yellow-legged Gull at St. Valery-sur-Somme

very faded gull at La Hourdel
Baie de Somme at low tide - Megan at Le Hourdel
Common Seal
looking northeast to Marquenterre
old WW2 bunker at La Hourdel
Non-birding trips were made to Amiens with its impressively large cathedral, La Treport/Mers-les-Baines (parking above the town and taking the funicular) and Cite Europe. We called in at Cap Griz Nez which was almost birdless – 13 Grey Herons flying south as we arrived and a Whinchat around some of the few bushes there. Doubtless the nice weather didn't help in grounding migrants.
the cathedral at Amiens
We visited the Parque Ornithologique du Marquenterre, stopping at a pool between Le Crotoy and Madagascar where I had previously seen a Spotted Crake but the water level was high and only 2 Great White Egrets and a Black Tern were present. We had not been inside Marquenterre before although had looked in from the public hides along the beach and visited the wooded car park previously (a good site for Crested Tits with 3 seen this time, maintaining my 100% record there). Marquenterre doesn't open until 10am and few of the visitors were birders but its three trails are well provided with hides overlooking several lagoons. We saw no sightings boards although might have been hard pressed to work out what french names referred to. We saw Black-necked Grebe, 200+ Spoonbills, 3-4 White Storks, 2 Caribbean Flamingoes, Egyptian Goose, Common Crane, 17 Cattle Egrets, Great White Egret, 4 Black-winged Stilts, a Temminck's Stint and 13 Curlew, 2 Wood and 3 Green Sandpipers.
Great White Egret on Madagascar Pools

Mouflon behind Marquenterre car park

Little and Cattle Egret
Cattle Egret
White Stork, one of three or four seen at Marquenterre
Common Crane at Marquenterre
I had seen one the previous year from outside and was a little surprised one was still here. I shouldn't have been as it had a damaged wing and been on or around the reserve since the 1990s!
two Caribbean Flamingoes were a surprise

more arriving

mum being pestered by junior

while the Mallard sleep on
Spotted Redshank
Curlew Sandpipers, 2 of 13 seen
Green Sandpiper
rather heavily cropped Temminck's Stint
with no sightings board I wasn't sure if it was a new arrival
not something I see very often so very nice either way

We returned from Dieppe to Newhaven seeing a Black Redstart in the ferry terminal and a single great skua on the crossing.

Dieppe ferry terminal, loading ramp going up
Dieppe seafront
Dieppe kite festival

first views of the Seven Sisters and Beachy Head

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