St Omer - After a non-birding day yesterday it was good to get back out in the field; in northern France. After an early shuttle, and with CP at the wheel, we headed inland and dropped the ladies off in the quaint old town of St Omer for a spot of retail therapy, while we headed for the woods.
Foret de Clairmarais - Spent the morning in this superb old hunting forest full of atmosphere and abundant bird life. Singing Chiffchaffs, Willow Warblers and Blackcaps were all over the place along with common thrushes and tits, Short-toed Treecreepers, Nuthatches and Great Spotted Woodpeckers. We had particularly good views of one creeper on the wall of an old barn and a stunned pecker in the hand that eventually recovered and flew off. Several Buzzards over the canopy included one very pale individual with a black tail band and rear hind wing, while surrounding farmland held Skylarks, Lapwings and a pair of White Storks.
However, the best was yet to come as we wandered along a ride beside a mixed stand of old timber with the banks swathed in primroses, violets, barren strawberries and the like. A Middle Spotted Woodpecker called, followed by two hooting Tawny Owls and a flurry of tit activity; Long-tailed, Coal, Marsh Tit and several Crested Tits that showed brilliantly. One bird was in and out of a nest hole in an oak stump bringing out rotten wood when a Marsh Tit thought he`d get in on the act and have a go too! Amazing. We watched a Nuthatch collecting mud from a puddle for its nest hole and also noted a pair of Bullfinches, several brimstones and orange tips, plus a beautiful buck roe deer.
Romelaere - In the afternoon we moved onto the nearby wetland reserve which has had extensive work carried out on a new boardwalk. On the approach track we passed a bare tree that held a Greenfinch, Goldfinch, Linnet, Chaffinch and a stunning male Serin in full song. A White Stork sat comfortably atop its large stick nest in the warm sunshine while the willow swamp and reed beds were alive with Sedge, Cetti`s and Willow Warblers, Chiffchaffs and Blackcaps. In the Cormorant colony several pairs had nearly fledged young, plus four nests of Little Egrets in their midst. Also noted around the site Marsh Harrier, Sparrowhawk, Great White Egret, Shovelers, Teal, Wigeon, Kingfisher and White Wagtail.
Another great day over the water with, as usual, one or two surprises and many thanks to Chris for driving.