Boulogne Forest - cool, cloudy, sw 4 - Teamed up with the MH and CP for a day out across the water. We caught the 0620hr Shuttle and arrived shortly after on the outskirts of Boulogne for woodland birds, where despite the blustery conditions Garden Warblers and Blackcaps were plentiful and in good voice, along with Chiffchaffs, Willow Warblers and Whitethroat. Also noted Short-toed Treecreeper, Marsh Tit, Nuthatch, Green and Great Spotted Woodpecker, Jay, Buzzard, Sparrowhawk and Long-tailed Tit. The broad forest rides were covered in flowers attracting green-veined whites, red admirals and speckled woods.
Guines - Moving onto the wetlands a circuit of the boardwalk delivered at least 11 Marsh Warblers in song with their usual wide range of mimicry. One bird was seen carrying nest material and we had cracking views of two males singing from herbaceous cover, while at another nearby location we noted another five singing males. Also in the area, Sedge, Reed, Cetti`s, Garden and Willow Warblers, Chiffchaffs, Whitethroat and Blackcap, a `purring` Turtle Dove, Marsh Harrier, Kestrel, Cuckoo, Little Egret, Grey Heron, Reed Buntings, hirundines and Swifts. At the second location we had more of the same, plus a stunning male Honey Buzzard low overhead.
Coastal Pas-de-Calais - At a location on the coast we enjoyed good views of Kentish Plovers with a total of seven birds, including four on nests. Sadly, one of the nests had been flooded out by the high tide and the female was trying to brood/reclaim two of her eggs that were remote from the nest. Through the scope we could clearly see the scattered clutch and commented on how large the eggs were in comparison to her body size; needless to say this was the first time we`d seen KP eggs. It was heart breaking to watch this rare breeding bird making a forlorn attempt to reclaim her clutch, but on the bright side the other three nests were above the high water mark, so hopefully they`ll be more successful.
Also nearby was an active Little Tern colony, where at least 100 birds were counted, many on nests, and the good news was that the adults were finding plenty of small fish. What cracking little seabirds where they appeared to be faring much better here than on our side of the Channel. Three Avocets came and went, plus two Ringed Plovers, Skylark, Mipit and Mistle Thrush, while offshore, five Kittiwakes, Common and Sandwich Terns.
Oye-Plage - Further along the coast we visited an established wetland reserve which was full of birds including more breeding Little and Common Terns, Black-headed Gulls, Dabchicks, a pair of Black-necked Grebes, Avocets and Lapwings, feral geese, Shelducks, Redshank, Oystercatcher, Pochard and Shoveler, many of which had young. Also noted Black-winged Stilt, Whimbrel, Common Sandpiper, 14 Spoonbills, two Wigeon, Gadwall, Garganey, Hobby, Cuckoo, Skylark, Mipit, Corn Bunting and hundreds of Sand and House Martins, Swallows and Swifts.
The icing on the cake however was a mixed flock of Ringed Plovers with one each of Kentish and Little Ringed in their midst, plus an unexpected female Long-tailed Duck nearby - how weird was that!
And so ended another great birding day in northern France with the highlights being the high numbers of Marsh Warblers, Little Terns and Kentish Plovers, plus Honey Buzzard, Long-tailed Duck and the flock of Spoonbills.
Thanks to CP for driving.