Pas-de-Calais - Deserted the Marsh today at 0500hrs, in company with CP, MH, PB & TG, for a spot of cross-Channel birding on the shuttle, a fun-filled day full of good hearted banter - as well as one or two good birds.
Crecy Forest - First stop in cold, but sunny calm conditions, the ancient forest of Crecy for woodpeckers, and while we failed with Black Woodpecker we scored well with 2 pairs of Middle Spotted Woodpeckers at two random locations in the forest. Superb views were enjoyed as they flew amongst the bare canopy and clambered around the tree trunks showing their red top-knot, ladder back, pale cheeks and weak bill. They were very vocal, repeatedly giving a raptor-like `kek-kek-kek` call. Green and Great Spotted peckers also noted along with plenty of Nuthatches, common tits, 6 Marsh Tits, Short-toed Treecreepers, Chiffchaffs and singles of Siskin, Firecrest, Goldcrest and Hawfinch. At one location we had hundreds of Redwings feeding on the forest floor amongst the leaf litter which then flew into the canopy to a give a mass Starling like cacophony; with some actually breaking into song. Also, Red Kite and Buzzard noted over the woodland canopy.
Saille Bray - As we parked up my first Swallows and Sand Martin of the year sat on wires twittering away. No sign of any Bluethroats (they`re all in southern England!) but a scattering of Reed Bunting, Stonechat, Chiffchaff, Black Redstart, White Wagtail, Skylark, Long-tailed Tit, Mipit, Corn Bunting and Great White Egret. Raptors `claimed` here included Kestrel, Common Buzzard, Red Kite, Marsh and Hen Harriers, Sparrowhawk and Goshawk - honest!!
Le Crotoy - As always a very productive spot on the coastal marshes with plenty of common dabbling ducks including 5 Pintail and a pair of stunning Garganey. Several Med Gulls were noted among the Black-heads and at least 10 Common Snipe were present. Four fly-over White Storks gave teasing views but 2 Spoonbills showed well along with Great White and Little Egrets and Grey Heron. Best of all though was one spot that attracted 2 cracking pink-breasted Water Pipits, 2 White Wagtails and 3 Little Ringed Plovers.
Sangatte - Our final stop was back in the blast-chiller on the Channel coast where we logged a single Stone Curlew hunkered down in the quarry alongside a few Lapwings. A Marsh Harrier moved along the coast and somehow CP managed to `scope a Fulmar at sea!
It had been another great days birding in France with a load of old blokes who, it has to be said, have seen better days, are falling apart a bit and never stop farting!!! Between sites, and under the Channel, we were regaled with legions of birding tales from the `good ol days at Dungeness`, along with a steady stream of anecdotes and jokes`.
Bird of the day was undoubtedly the Middle Spots (check Plodding Birder blog for pics), although personally I enjoyed Le Crotoy for the Wipits and dabblers; we also noted Grey Partridges at several places driving between sites and notched up 87 species. Clocked up 190 miles and arrived home by 1930hrs.