Baie de Somme, Picardy - Yes, folks it was time again for another trip over-the-water, today with Doug, Wendy and MH, and CP at the wheel. We left Folkestone on the 0550hrs shuttle and were soon down on the Somme for what turned out to be a cracking days birding of the highest order, complete with a couple of surprises (there`s rarely a trip down here that doesn't throw up something unexpected).
Sailly Bray - This fabulous site really turned up trumps today with 12 species of warblers scattered along the valley, including, Cetti`s, Savis`s, Gropper and Marsh (3) Warblers. We had one really good view of a male White-spotted Bluethroat and a brief sighting of a Little Bittern flushed by a Marsh Harrier, the first we`ve seen here. A strong supporting cast of Shelduck, Jay, Cuckoo, Turtle Doves, Yellow and White Wagtails, Mipit, Skylark, Stonechat, Corn Bunting, Yellowhammer, Nightingale, more Marsh Harriers, Buzzards, Kestrel and Hobby, turned it into a memorable session. Two White Storks soared over, along with Little and Great White Egrets, while breeding Black-winged Stilts, Avocet, Lapwing and LRP were all noted nearby, plus six Garganeys, Shoveler, Teal and Wigeon. Phew! is this a great birding spot, or what? And as for the flower-rich meadows, what a sight for sore eyes they were, a botanists dream, plus small tortoiseshells everywhere and several brown hares.
Le Crotoy - We arrived at high tide and as several Spoonbills flew across the bay along with more Great White and Little Egrets plus thermalling White Storks. Loads of common gulls, plus two Meds, were loafing on the sand bars, 20 Avocets, 20 Sandwich Terns, 10 Ringed Plovers and five Redshanks. A common seal was noted in the harbour at this most scenic of locations.
The roadside pools at La Bassee yielded Dabchick, Garganey, Sand Martins, Mistle Thrush, breeding Black-headed Gulls and two Cattle Egrets feeding amongst the Konick ponies.
Marquenterre - We paused in the car park for lunch on the Yogi Bear seats followed by a quick look at the heronry - White Storks, Spoonbills, egrets and Grey Herons. In the pines several Short-toed Treecreepers proved difficult, but the bird Wendy particularly wanted to see, Crested Tit was far more obliging and performed like a good `un at close range. On the drive out three White Storks were feeding in a newly mown hayfield.
Crecy Forest - We pitched up here in warm sunshine, mid afternoon (so the worst time of day for birding) and, first stop a superb Honey Buzzard flew across a broad clearing. More Buzzards were seen and heard, plus loads of Blackcaps and Chiffchaffs, Willow Warbler, Nuthatch and a hooting Tawny Owl. This old forest has a grandeur and an atmosphere unmatched by any in England, and a place I find deeply spiritual.
Now, a few weeks ago Marshman had located a pair of Hen Harriers in the forest and after a bit of driving around, and at the second attempt, an adult female was seen soaring over the same clearing. Hats off to the old boy, what a stunning find, in breeding habitat (although not the kind I would associate with Hen Harrier) and for me bird of the day. Also noted hereabouts, two roe deer and a white admiral butterfly. We finished off our picnic in the forest in celebratory mood and with a Spotted Flycatcher as the final bird of the day.
And so ended another memorable day in northern France, with 100 species of birds noted and we even got home in time for the Archers - it doesn`t get much better than that!
Thanks again to Marshman, our driver for day, and the Joker for a constant stream of gags (some new, mostly old!), Wendy and Doug, for making it such an enjoyable outing.