Romelaere, St Omer - Hot, dry, sunny, light airs - With Marshman at the wheel we headed for northern France, along with four Romney Marsh ladies, for the day. En-route south we clocked two pairs of Grey Partridges, Black Redstarts, Swallows, Lapwings, Little Egrets and six brown hares. As we dropped off the ladies in town, a pair of Serins sang from a courtyard tree, a cracking start.
In the forest a hen Reeve`s Pheasant crossed in front of us, while calling cock birds were heard nearby, plus a White Wagtail by a foresters cottage. The forest was alive with singing Chiffchaffs, Blackcaps, Willow Warblers, two Common Whitethroats and two Grasshoppers Warblers, one of which sat up and showed like a good `un. Also noted around the clearings were Yellowhammer, Nuthatch, Green and Great Spotted Woodpeckers, Long-tailed and Marsh Tits, Cuckoo, Tawny Owl (calling) and Jay. The woodland floor was covered in spring flowers such as wood anemones, violets and primroses, plus brimstone, green-veined white, peacock and orange tip butterflies.
Whenever we come across the water France nearly always throws up a surprise or two, and today was no different. First off a large bulky buzzard flew over with a black and white tail and pale underparts that proved to be a Rough-legged Buzzard. Plenty of Common Buzzards came and went through the morning until, incredibly, one flew over with a Honey Buzzard in tow! The views we had were superb and needless to say neither of us had ever seen all three species of buzzards in one place on the same day, a sort of cross-over of buzzards if you like.
By the time we moved onto the wetland reserve by early afternoon the temperature hit 25C, but the warblers were still going at it hammer and tongs: Sedge and Willow Warblers were in the ascendancy followed by Blackcaps and Chiffchaffs, plus several Cetti`s and Reed Warblers. Unfortunately the boardwalk to the main reedbed and hide was closed due to renovation and will be so until mid-June.
Also noted Shoveler, Gadwall, Little and Great Crested Grebes, Kestrel, Marsh Harriers, Little Egret, Grey Heron, Swallow, Goldcrest, Cuckoo, Bullfinch and Reed Bunting, plus plenty more butterflies and several grass snakes.
We then `discovered` another section of the reserve that looked ideal habitat for Bluethroat, although none were found. However, a White Stork on a nest was a bonus, apparently only the second year running they`ve nested here.
It was another successful day in northern France, full of surprises, with buzzards, Serin, gropper and stork the highlights, and many thanks to Marshman for driving on what was a stifling hot day.