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Post Info TOPIC: France-Loire Valley


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RE: France-Loire Valley


My last day and at last a SW wind to help the birds. I walked over to Cre again as that seemed the best bet for new migrants. It rained all the way across, and I could not even shelter in the Tabac, as it is that day of the week when most places are closed. "I don't like Mondays".
Bang on time the rained stopped when I got to the Nature Reserve. Made the right decision to come here.
Heavy showers, including hail, in the afternoon.
Cre Nature Reserve :-
Little Grebes
Little Egret
Grey Herons
Pair of Mute Swans
Mallards
Gadwalls, more than last time.
Teal
Shovelers
Garganeys. Male seen in shallow water, and at least one pair flying around the reedbed. Not sure if I saw two pairs or the same pair twice.
Buzzards
Kestrel
Pheasants
Moorhens, no water Rails heard for a change.
Coots
1 Lapwing flying over. The only one seen over the fortnight which is rather surprising.
Mediterranean Gulls flying over. Only 8km from the breeding colony at La Fleche.
1 Common Tern flying along the river
Woodpigeons
Collared Doves
Stock Doves
1 Hoopoe heard calling. I did manage to see one though at the edge of Bazouges heading home.
No Kingfishers here, but one in Bazouges near the Chateau.
Green Woodpeckers
Great Spotted Woodpeckers
1 Wryneck seen in flight only about 10 yards away. Soon dropped back into cover, well hidden as usual.
Skylarks
A few Swallows flying through. More seen flying through at the Twin Lakes down the road with Sand Martins.
2 House Martins with the Swallows
White Wagtails
Black Redstart at the tennis courts
Blackbirds
Song Thrushes
Mistle Thrushes
Exactly 60 Redwings. I counted them flying across the river a few at a time. Smaller flock still at Bazouges derelict camp site.
Blackcaps
At least 2 Whitethroats. New species for the trip.
Sedge Warbler
Reed Warbler
No Willow Warblers here but a few at the twin lakes
Chiffchaffs
Goldcrest
Wrens
Long-tailed Tits
Blue Tits
Great Tits
Nuthatches
Short-toed Treecreepers
Jays
Jackdaws flying over
Carrion Crows
Starlings
House Sparrows in Cre village
Chaffinches
Greenfinches
Goldfinches
2 Cirl Buntings
Numerous Reed Buntings, which were not here a few days ago.
4 Coypu
A large Catfish in the river which made me jump with the large splash it made.

Back at the farm they are now finally ploughing the fields after all the heavy rain a few weeks ago. A small flock of Lesser Black-backed Gulls and Yellow-legged Gulls followed the plough.

At dusk tonight I saw 2 Corncrakes walking around together and a few in flight or calling. More Stone Curlews than of late.

Tomorrow night in Bromley Cross the only thing flying around will probably be the police helicopter !

Thanks for your comments, and I hope the slow migration here will now speed up and start back home.


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Cheers David, much appreciated and inspiring reports

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Keep calm and carry on birding....


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Sunny spells today, warmer, but still a slight NE wind.

Just got in from a walk at dusk. Same as last night, Stone Curlews, a Woodcock, and Corncrakes. I went out a bit earlier tonight and actually saw some Corncrakes, I only heard them last night. I have heard them here before, on Iona, and on Benbecula. I was shown a dead one on Benbecula which had been run over by a lawn mover, so these are my first live ones, three chasing each other around on a farmer's field. Probably a reward for giving the farm workers some beer a couple of days ago when they were muck spreading !

This morning I had a couple of hours looking for Crested Tits in the local forest, without success. A good woodpecker morning though.
Numerous Green & Great Spotted Woodpeckers.
Black Woodpecker heard drumming and calling. In a dense part of the forest so I could not get near enough to have a chance of seeing it.
Male Lesser Spotted Woodpecker. Picked up on it's drumming and call close to the forest track. I even got photos of it.

A flock of 35 Greenfinches at the farm tonight. 12 new finches in the aviary have been attracting extra birds for the last couple of days, but I did not expect this many.

Afternoon spent at Domaine de Boudre Nature Reserve and the woods around Seiches-sur-le-Loire racecourse.
Little Grebes
Cormorant
Mute Swans
Mallards
Lots of Teal and Shovelers
Pair of Gadwall
Buzzard
Coots
Black-headed Gulls
Mediterranean Gulls
Woodpigeons
Cuckoo
Green Woodpeckers
Great Spotted Woodpeckers
Woodlark. Beautiful song as it flew along the road in front of me, before giving a really good view on a branch.
Sand Martins and Swallows passing through
White Wagtails
Dunnocks
Robins
Blackbirds
Mistle Thrushes
1 Cetti's Warbler heard
Blackcaps
Chiffchaffs
Willow Warblers
Goldcrests
Wrens
Long-tailed Tits
Blue Tits
Great Tits
Nuthatches
Jays
Carrion Crows
Chaffinches
Greenfinches
Goldfinches
Siskins
1 Reed Bunting
Lots of midges & other beasties. The birds loved it.
4 butterfly species, only one of each though. Peacock, Small Tortoiseshell, Red Admiral, & Painted Lady.


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My niece had an open day at her college in Angers, so I took the opportunity to revisit Lac du Maine. My sister "dumped" me at 8.30am, but that gave me a good 3 hours to do a thorough search this time. Overcast again and still that nagging northerly wind. In the exposed areas it was freezing as the wind whipped across the lake. The cold does not normally bother me, but my fingers were dropping off scanning the reservoir. Lots of joggers, or maybe it was just people running to keep warm !
Well worth the visit though, especially for the massed ranks of hirundines. They are on their way boys and girls. Not be long now, hopefully.

Great Crested Grebes
Little Grebes
Cormorants, still collecting sticks for their nests.
Cattle Egrets. At least two back now. In the same area I have seen them in previous years, so I am sure I would have seen them last time if they had been there.
Little Egrets
Grey Herons
Mute Swans. No sign of the Black Swan today, but it does disappear into the bushy areas.
Mallards
1 male Gadwall
20+ Teal, I only saw one last time.
Small flock of about 8 Pintails. A French lifer for me. They flew in from across the river, but immediately flew back across to the flooded fields. I did not expect them at this time of year, but I did not expect all the Fieldfares and Redwings I have seen on this trip.
Moorhens
Coots
Black-headed Gulls on the flooded fields
At least two Yellow-legged Gulls along the river
Only about 10 Common Terns this time. The missing ones must be on their way to the rafts at Doffcocker !
1 Black Tern. Possibly a second one, but it could have been the same bird moving around.
Feral Pigeons
Woodpigeons
1 male Cuckoo calling
Kingfisher
Green Woodpeckers
Great Spotted Woodpeckers. While I was watching these a Starling landed on a tree trunk copying them. I know they can copy different calls, but this really took me by surprise.
Sand Martins. Hundreds of them. This lake is a little larger than Pennington Flash and the whole area was full of them.
Swallows. Lots of them also, but this time outnumbered by the Sand Martins.
I could not pick out any House Martins.
White Wagtails
Robins
Blackbirds
Song Thrushes
Mistle Thrushes
Blackcaps
Willow Warblers
Chiffchaffs
Goldcrests. Lots of them, but I could not find a Firecrest.
Wrens
Long-tailed Tits
1 Marsh Tit. Possibly more about as I have seen them here before.
Great Tits
Blue Tits
Nuthatches
Short-toed Treecreepers
Magpies
Jays
Jackdaws
Rookery at the edge of the lake
Carrion Crows
Starlings
Chaffinches
Greenfinches
Goldfinches

No raptors here, but in a short stretch of road on the way back, we saw a hovering Kestrel, a Sparrowhawk on a roundabout, a Buzzard on a wire, and a dead Barn Owl by the roadside.


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Wandered to Durtal and back in overcast, damp, and cool weather. More like West Pennine Moors weather than Loire Valley.

Common Tern along the Loire in Durtal, with a Great Crested Grebe, a Great Egret, a few Cormorants, Mallards, Moorhens, and Swallows.

A pair of Melodious Warblers back on breeding territory near the farm. Still waiting for a second pair to arrive. Like the pair of Stonechats they seem to watch my every move as I set out in the morning. Great to see my mates back.

Not much on the farmland today, all the Linnets seem to have gone, but I did get Red-legged Partridges and Brown Hares for the first time this trip.

Hopefully something might pass through this afternoon as I watch from the bird hide (caravan).
Hoping for a Hoopoe which is back around. My sister saw it a couple of days ago as she drove us back to the farm. I missed it from the passenger seat. I was either watching the road or had my eyes shut in terror. She had already tried to put the car in a ditch that a Grey Heron had flown out of. Don't twitch and drive. I wonder where I have seen that quote before !


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Did not look promising when I set out on a 6 hour mooch around today, after overnight frost, overcast all day, and a northerly cold wind. Nothing new until lunctime and then things went daft.

On the way over to Cre Nature Reserve I only had a Red Squirrel in the local forest and a Green Sandpiper by a small stream in Bazouges of note.

I checked through the ducks at Cre first. Shovelers up to 20+, Mallards, numerous Gadwalls and Teal, and my first new migrant, a female GARGANEY. A first for me in France.
It was a good job I checked them first as later on a large immature gull flushed everything. Probably a Lesser Black-backed Gull.
After finding Little Grebes, a Grey Heron, the pair of Mute Swans, hearing Water Rails, Moorhens, & Coots, I found my second new migrant, a REDSTART. a beautiful male perched on a fence post. It was not long before I flushed 14 snipe from a field. A few Swallows then appeared at the duck area.

I headed down to the twin lakes, thinking the Swallows had stopped moving. Until I got to the lakes that is. 150 hirundines needed examination. Almost all Swallows, but as usual a few Sand Martins, and I was then surprised to see a few HOUSE MARTINS. A Sparrowhawk overhead was new for the trip.

After a beer at the Tabac in Bazouges I headed back along the country lane. Near the cemetry on the edge of town I checked the bit of flooded field where I saw a Green Sandpiper last week. Another French first for me with a BLUE-HEADED WAGTAIL mixed with White Wagatils and Meadow Pipits. . I have not seen any sort of Yellow Wagtail around here before. They must have been here, but I always missed them. One of my target birds this trip as it has been bugging me not finding one on previous trips.

Arrived back at the farm thinking what a good day it had been. I stopped to check my 10+ Song Thrush flock which had turned up yesterday, and turned around to see a male HEN HARRIER gliding across the field. It flew down to the farm buildings down the lane, landed in a field, and then disappeared. Our friends Dorothy and Peter will be happy as I have got a photo of it with their house in the background. They are forever telling me about Hen Harriers here.


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Good day for migrants today around the lakes at La Fleche. Light winds and much warmer.

I arrived to find a large flock of Swallows and Sand Martins, 100+ mainly Swallows. They were skimming the water, flying overhead, and at least 20 Swallows were in lakeside bushes.
Good day for warblers also. 3 Sedge Warblers and a Reed Warbler in lakeside reeds. Lots of Blackcaps, Chiffchaffs, and Willow Warblers. Only one Cetti's Warbler heard, compared to 3 a week ago.
Away from the main lake, on one which has been created by sand extraction, a conveyer belt runs from here to the sand plant near the car parks, I found where all the gulls breed, on a sandy island. Hundreds of Mediterranean Gulls with a much smaller number of Black-headed Gulls.
2 Little Ringed Plovers and quite a few White Wagtails also on the sandy shore.

Other birds similar to last week, but a squealing Water Rail was new.



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A couple of Stone Curlews heard last night.

Still that cold NE wind this morning, and the only birds moving were Fieldfares and Redwings. Surely they must leave soon.

Trip to Angers this afternoon, with lighter winds at last. Walked around Lac de Maine (the footpath between the lake and the river was flooded a couple of weeks ago, and the marshy bit is still under water) and along the river into the city centre.
Great Crested Grebes
Little Grebes
Cormorants, Little Egrets and Grey Herons in the heronry. Searched for Cattle Egrets (I normally see a couple of pairs in breeding season) but they do not appear to have arrived yet.
1 Mute Swan
1 Black Swan which has been around for a few years.
Mallards
1 Teal
Moorhens
Coots
Black-headed Gulls
1 Lesser Black-backed Gull
A couple of dozen Common Terns. Tried to find other species of Terns but they all seemed to be Common. A good site for breeding Little Terns but obviously I am too early this year.
Feral Pigeons
Woodpigeons
Kingfisher
Green Woodpecker
Great Spotted Woodpecker
Swallows passing through
White Wagtail
Robins
Blackbirds
Blackcaps
Willow Warblers. Only 2 or 3 but something I do not see much of in the Loire.
Chiffchaffs
Goldcrest
Firecrest. A first for me here.
Wrens
Long-tailed Tits
Great Tits
Blue Tits
Nuthatches
Short-toed Treecreepers. They always seem easy to find here.
Magpies
Jackdaws
Rooks
Carrion Crows
Chaffinches, Surprised not to see other finches but I was concentrating on the water birds.
Lots of Terrapins in the heronry area. European Pond & Red-eared here.
Lots of freshwater snail & mussel shells left behind by the receeding water.
A few Peacock butterflies. I have still not had to open my butterfly field guide on this trip. My second week will surely get me a non British species to check up.

Hopefully tomorrow will be better weatherwise without that wind, and the sight of Common Terns looks promising.


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Really enjoying your reports David. Keep them coming.

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Some of my photos. www.flickr.com/photos/nickish77


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Clear blue sky, but a strong, eye watering, NE wind, not helping migration. Fieldfares & Redwings still here, but at least some of the Fieldfares are in breeding plumage.

Not long after the mixed thrush flock, Song Thrushes included, I finally got a French lifer for this trip. A Montagu's Harrier flew low across the fields, and I was able to keep picking it up for about half an hour. The highlight was an aerial battle with a Buzzard.

Not much movement today except for at least 200 Linnets and two Green Sandpipers which flew off together.

Wall Lizard a sign that things might be warming up, and in sheltered spots various types of insects. Still only Peacocks and a Red Admiral on the butterfly front.


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More like spring today, hence more bird movement at last. Still got Redwings & Fieldfares seemingly going nowhere though.

Lots of Swallows at twin lakes between Bazouges & Cre, with a couple of Sand Martins. They did not hang around and at last seem to be heading north.

A Green Sandpiper on a partly flooded field, and a Great Egret in a lush green field nearby. A Crested Lark, Skylarks, and a number of newly arrived Meadow Pipits also on local farmland. Linnet and Chaffinch numbers also higher today.

Melodious Warblers around today, in a copse full of Mistletoe, with Blackcaps, a Garden Warbler, and Chiffchaffs. On the other side of Bazouges to the campsite where I found Blackcaps a few days ago. Nearby 4 Black Redstarts were on a small playing field at a school in Bazouges, a pair on each wing.

Highlight of the day though was a couple of Firecrests at the edge of our local forest.

Mostly the same birds at Cre Nature Reserve as a few days ago :-
Little Grebes, Cormorant, Little Egret, Grey Heron, pair of Mute Swans, Mallards, Teal, Gadwalls, Shovelers, Moorhens, and Coots.

I had a lazy Sunday afternoon, sat in the sun with a beer, listening to Mediterranean Gulls flying over, as well as watching and listening to the farm residents.


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Weather/migrants update. Not good news.

Misty with that horrible drizzle that wets you through this morning. A snow storm around Le Mans at lunchtime (not surprising as it is one of Bolton's twin towns) and it felt more like home than France. Had to find bars to shelter in ! Even friends 4 hours drive south of here are blaming us English for snow there as well.

Swallows at the local lake increased to about 20, with a Sand Martin.

2 Mediterranean Gulls flew over the farm.

Fieldfares & Redwings still here.

Cracking views of a Cuckoo on a wire as we headed back from Le Mans. As it was on a quiet country lane (are there any other sort here) we were able to stop right next to it without disturbing it. Finally my sister can say she has seen one, after 5 years of trying , and after hearing dozens, and even talking back to some of them !
That is what living on "The Funny Farm" does to you.


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Red moon last night and another Stone Curlew flying around on my way back to the caravan in the farmyard.

Checked the local lake this morning and saw the Swallows were now in double figures. Little Grebes, Great Crested Grebes, Cormorants, Mallards & Coots with them.
On the way down the lane to the lake I saw 6 Fieldfares, and the way back up a mixed flock of 30+ Fieldfares & Redwings. Not long after a few snowflakes at the farm !
Also a Coypu swimming in the lake.

Spent a couple of hours in the La Fleche area early afternoon. 4 degrees when we left the farm, it seemed more like -4 around the lake and fishing pond. Only a man and his dog on the beach. Definitely not sunbathing weather.
Little Grebes
Great Crested Grebes
Cormorants
Grey Herons
Mallards
Moorhens
Coots
Cetti's Warblers
Chiffchaffs
White Wagtails
100+ Swallows
A few Sand Martins mixed in. They and the Swallows seem to be feeding as they skim the water, but there can't be much food out there.
About half a dozen Green Woodpeckers around the lake and along the river into the town centre.
A very busy Rookery on the edge of town.
A few Black-headed Gulls along the river in town but nothing else except Mallards and an Aylesbury Duck.


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Blackcaps, Garden Warblers, & Chiffchaffs widespread again.

Wood Warbler. It has taken me five years to find one here. It might be longer since I saw one back in Bolton. Used to get a family group at Eagley Cricket Club, post breeding, to ease the pain of losing again. No Wood Warblers now but we still lose !
Lesser Spotted and Green Woodpeckers in the same copse.

Only saw half a dozen Swallows, all at a local lake today. None along the river in Durtal.

Black Redstarts are definitely back. Birds seen on a farm, in a works yard, and in Durtal.

Stone Curlew. One flew over the farm at dusk. Wasn't sure if one woke me up a couple of nights ago or if it was one of those "birding dreams".

No winter thrushes today. I was surprised to see them the last couple of days.


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Back on my other local patch, arriving yesterday lunchtime, and and having a full day's birding today. Good mixture of winter & spring birds.
Durtal, Cre, & Bazouges today to get a feel of how things are shaping up.

Great Crested Grebe
Little Grebe
Cormorant
Little Egret
Grey Heron
Mute Swan
Mallard
Gadwall
Teal
Shoveler (my first record at Cre, and over a dozen outnumbered the other ducks)
Buzzard
Kestrel
Pheasant
Grey Partridge
Water Rail
Moorhen
Coot
Black-headed Gull
Feral Pigeon
Stock Dove
Woodpigeon
Collared Dove
Cuckoo (male heard from the farm this morning)
Tawny Owl
Kingfisher (first time I have took a photo of two together)
Green Woodpecker
Great Spotted Woodpecker
Skylark
Swallow (nothing until luchtime but numbers increased during the afternoon)
Meadow Pipit
White Wagtail
Dunnock
Robin
Black Redstart (a couple in Cre, one landing a few yards away in the village street)
Stonechat
Blackbird
Song Thrush
Mistle Thrush
Fieldfare (a couple of dozen yesterday passing through)
Redwing (numerous seen about today)
Blackcap (Saw the odd ones before seeing numerous at Cre. Realised they were gathering together when I saw them feeding in the mistletoe, coming out to eat the berries on open branches)
Garden Warbler (a couple with the Blackcaps in the mistletoe, and another at Cre Nature Reserve)
Chiffchaff (Everywhere)
Goldcrest
Wren
Long-tailed Tit
Coal Tit
Great Tit
Blue Tit
Nuthatch
Short-toed Treecreeper (collecting nesting material below the Blackcaps, I might have missed them if i had not been amazed by the Blackcap feeding)
Magpie, including a tailess one, presumably a very early young one
Jay. An early reminder that they make very strange calls in breeding season, totally different to ours at home
Jackdaw
Rook
Carrion Crow
Starling
Golden Oriole. Only heard a distant call, but friends I met later said they are back
House Sparrow
Chaffinch
Greenfinch
Goldfinch
Siskin
Serin (usual spot at Cre, but this time a cracking view of a male flying into the top of a bush)
Linnet (20+ when I got back to the farm this afetrnoon)
Yellowhammer (normally only the odd one, biut a pair today near the farm)
Cirl Bunting


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Cheers for your comments Paul.

My French is not good enough for that site but I will keep it in mind, and will get my sister's partrner to help when I am next there (end of March hopefully for spring migration and the arrival of summer birds). I know the districts vary a lot and the farmland is actually in two different districts, the farmhouse being smack on the line seperating two districts.
Nesting Swallows only arrived in June this year and a few days after I returned home someone was visiting all the farms to see if any had arrived. No one took his name which would have been handy.

I keep trying trying different months to compare the wildlife. At the moment we are doing building work to turn part of the stables back into housing as it was before, so I will be spending more time out there than I have previously. It is good to cover different areas to those suggested in books like the Crossbill Guide to Loire Valley. None of my local sites are mentioned. Just like at home I set off walking in a morning looking at anything that turns up.

With regard to the Hoopoe I doubted Jenny when she said one was on her lane. Must be something else at this time of year surely I thought. I was in no doubt about the call I heard but without actually seeing the bird I would not enter an official record.








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Just a quick word to say thanks a lot for the daily update of your time in France. It is really nice reading about all those reports on the French avifauna, and reminds me a bit of all my holidays birding in the French countryside. Don't stop!

Moving onto another point, are you familiar with the french bird recording system? They haven't done a website covering the whole of the Loire region , but there is one covering the "la Maine" departements (Mayenne and Sarthe), of which Cre-sur-Loire and La Fleche are part of. It's http://www.faune-maine.org/ (It's in french)
It is quick to register, and it is much easier to enter your records than on BirdTrack (just point on the map and enter your records). It is the last year for the wintering bird survey in France, and I am sure they will be really interested in your Bittern and Hoopoe! (Though they may query that last one).

Thanks again for the daily reports; I've been really enjoying them.
Cheers,
Paul


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Two new species for the trip today without trying.

Hoopoe. Only mooching about and having breakfast when I heard the familiar "oop-oop-oop" call. I searched for it in nearby bushes, but then the call continued from down the field, and gradually it called from further afield. Another pesky individual heard and not seen.
Not supposed to be a winter bird here, but some friends have also had one at their home.

The afternoon was supposed to be a Xmas shopping trip to La Fleche. I got my sister to drop me off at La Monnerie Lake so she could do the shopping. Seemed to be just the usual common birds until a BITTERN flew across the large lake. My early Xmas present, a first for me in France.
I have been here many times, there is the large lake and a fishing pond, plus streams and the River Loire. I had never bothered to check how many small reedbeds there are until this bird got me thinking, and there are more than I thought. I should have realised as I have had Water Rail, Sedge Warbler, Reed Warbler, and Cetti's Warbler before.




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Checking for something different for this trip before heading home soon.

Reed Buntings are unusual here but one was at the farm this morning with a couple of Cirl Buntings (a flock of at least half a dozen was unusual a little later) and a few of the Bramblings. A Brown Hare was trotting down the farm lane at the same time.

After checking all the Long-tailed Tit flocks for nearly a fortnight, with at least ten flocks today, I finally found a Firecrest as I got back near the farm. That saves a trip to Whalley Range !

Not new for the trip, but new for Bazouges lakes was a male Wigeon. Also present were Great Crested Grebes, Cormorants, a Grey Heron, Mallards, Gadwalls, Pochards, Tufted Ducks, Coots, Black-headed Gulls, a Kingfisher, and black-headed Gulls.

Cre Nature Reserve had Cormorants, a Grey Heron, loads of Mallards and Teal, Moorhens, Coots, a pair of Kestrels, Snipe calling, Great Spotted and Green Woodpeckers, a Nuthatch, a Short-toed Treecreeper, and lots of finches including a couple of Serins.
A few days ago I heard a strange call coming from the reed beds. I was expecting an unusual bird to appear until a Coypu came walking out. I did not fall for that again today.




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Similar birds over the last few days. Main difference today was the large finch flock which has now grown to about 700, mainly Chaffinches, 100+ Greenfinches, Goldfinches, Siskins, and increasing Bramblings. The latter are now into double figures, but as the flock is constantly on the move it is difficult to see how many are actually here.
Other local farmland birds today included the daily sighting of a Great Egret and a Crested Lark.

A walk to Durtal and back made me wish for the icy conditions like at home. In February when even parts of the river froze I had lots of waterfowl there.
Today only a Little Grebe, a few Cormorants, 3 Mute Swans, 2 Swan Geese (there is a flock on a farm here, the obvious source), Mallards, Muscovys, Moorhens, Coots, Black-headed Gulls, and a Kingfisher. Last winter included Goldeneye and Goosander. I followed a Chiffchaff along the river bank for quite a while. I seem to be getting them every day here and there.
Snipe last winter included birds flying into gardens from a roadside ditch, and on the same small estate I photographed one on the pavement moving in between parked cars !

The most impressive thing over the last few days has been the council JCBs and tractors being used to trim hedgerows and cut grass verges. The smallest country lanes and even a dirt track in the forest were done. Something I am unlikely to see back in Bolton, even on main routes.



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Still the large flock of Chaffinches/Greenfinches, going nowhere by the look of it. Local fields still had a Great Egret, a male Stonechat, Cirl Buntings, a calling Woodlark, 30+ Skylarks, Kestrel, Buzzard, and the usual common birds.

Had a walk to Durtal along the longer route via a country lane. As busy as usual with only a tractor, a van, and a wagon going to a farm passing me !
A lake along the way had a couple of Great Crested Grebes, Mallards and Coots. Normally a good site for Little Grebes, but like everywhere else none seen over the last week.
A flock of about a thousand Lapwings flew over, with a Yellow-legged Gull, confirming what my sister told me a couple of days ago. She said there seemed seemed thousands of Lapwings as she drove to work.
No sign of the 7 Grey Partridges from yesterday but some of the more interersting birds included a mixed flock of Redwings/Fieldfares, a couple of Serins, a Chiffchaff (another was by the river in the town centre), more Cirl Buntings, Green Woodpeckers, a Great Spotted Woodpecker, and a female Sparrowhawk chasing yet another flock of Chaffinches.





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Tried a new site today. Not on any maps or the internet, which is typical around here. My sister found some lakes by chance doing one of her jobs, riding horses to train them for endurance races. Our problem was finding the site by road. As she knew it was near a racecourse we managed to find it and it does has signs there displaying it as a nature reserve (Domaine de Boudre). Well worth finding as we checked four lakes finding :-

4 Cormorants, 1 Great Egret, 1 Little Egret, 1 Grey Heron, 2 Mute Swans (she has seen lots more here), Lots of Mallards, Teal, and Shovlers (at least a couple of dozen Shovelers, I have only seen one in the Loire region before), Lapwings, Coots, Black-headed Gulls, 1 Lesser Black-backed Gull.

I will be certainly be checking here for dragonflies in future. Looks perfect for insects and nesting birds, as well as passing migrants.

As we were leaving the farm we saw a Green Woodpecker in the field with the horses, and two Great Egrets in the field by the farm lane.




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Interesting to read about the large finch flock at Carrington Moss. The flock here reached 400+ yesterday.

Maybe there is a large movement west and I have heard some bad weather is following. I keep getting told snow is heading our way.

On my visit in February the fields were full of Woodlarks, with some Skylarks and Crested Larks, not a lot of finches.

Today it was West Pennine Moors weather, raining all day, so I used the farmyard caravan as a bird hide. I am still not allowed to sleep in the farmhouse !
It paid off as birds starting passing, with some landing in the fields in front. Woodlarks have arrived. For most of the afternoon a Great Egret could be seen on the now wet meadows. Cirl Bunting, Green Woodpecker, Goldcrest, Buzzard, and the regulars kept things interesting.

I kept my eyes on the hens as some birds like to mix with them. In June this year I had two Red-legged Partridge one day, and three Hoopoe a couple of days later. Again from the "bird hide" whilst enjoying a glass of wine !


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Very misty until after lunch. Not too bad in the local forest as I decided to look for Crested Tits. A few days ago they were in the treetops as I struggled to see them through wet glasses in steady drizzle.
As I tried to listen for them I had the distraction of trees being cut by an electric saw, then three Wild Boar behind a fence seperating the track from a private estate. The plastic tags in their ears made me want to release the Durtal three. Next I had the problem of the sound of dogs & guns creeping closer. Do not mess with the French shooters after they have had their eau de vie (water of life), which is actually turps tasting pure alcohol. As most years they shoot each other, sometimes fatally, there would not be much hope for me if they found a Roast Beef from the across the channel. Around here we are allowed to called them Frogs if they can call us Roast Beef, a term going back hundreds of years.
It made my visit brief but I did find Marsh Tits, my first time seeing them without Crested Tits.

Heading into Bazouges I saw a couple of Bullfinches, only my second sighting in nearly five years of visiting, the other being on the other side of town at the two lakes. A Coypu was swimming in the narrow stream heading into town.
Lots of Chaffinches and House Sparrows were at the entrance to a large works yard, and as I searched for anything different a rusty looking larger bird flew across. Lucikily it landed in the yard, and I now realised I had my first Crested Lark of the trip. A typical habitat for these birds.

The two lakes were covered in mist. From what I could see there was nothing different.

The nature reserve at Cre was also difficult to cover, with only larger things easy to see. Great Egret, Cormorant, Grey Heron, Highland Cattle, and a rare horse breed - Konik Polski. A good flock of Goldfinches and a couple of Great Spotted Woodpeckers also present.

After a drink in the Bazouges Tabac, it was back along the road to the farm. A Grey Wagtail flew out of the roadside ditch, and I also found Buzzard, Kestrel, and Green Woodpecker
amongst others. Signs along the road warned that a Wild Boar shoot was going on. A car stopped and I had to explain that I was only looking for oiseaux as I pointed to my binoculars. I thought the French for bird was spelt wassou until I just asked my niece.




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Very cold night led to a beautiful morning, sun rising in the east, and a full moon still showing in the west. A calling Cirl Bunting added to the early morning flavour. A short walk around confirmed that the finch flock was about 300. Fieldfares up to 9 now.
Checked the piglets down the road at a friends house, an accident waiting to happen, having two female French Kune Kune pigs in a Wild Boar area. Some time ago a Boar broke in producing 18 mixed species piglets.
After today's venture to Angers we called at Lidl to stock up. A bright yellow bird flew past the car, and was obviously a Canary to my sister and me. Someone coming out of the store disturbed it, sending it into the row of supermarket baskets. Trying to put the coin into the right basket to get to it, with the help of a bemused local, was not as easy as it would seem. As we got to the right basket it flew back across the car park, landing on the top of a car. The next attempt to catch it send it back towards the store. We finally threw a coat over it, and it is now living happily in the farmyard aviary.

Angers/Lac Du Maine. The lake is only 10 minutes from the City Centre, with parkland in between. The River Maine runs alongside the lake and through the town. The lake has a large breeding colony of Cormorants, Grey Herons, Little Egrets and Cattle Egrets. Also a good site in summer for Little Terns.

Today's species :-
Great Crested Grebe
Cormorant
Little Egret
Grey Heron
Mute Swan. A pair flying along the river in the City Centre
Mallard
Gadwall
Wigeon
Teal
Pochard
Tufted Duck
Sparrowhawk
Buzzard
Pheasant
Moorhen
Coot
Redshank. My first one in the Loire region.
Common Sandpiper, Two together.
Black-headed Gull
Herring Gull
Yellow-legged Gull
Lesser Black-backed Gull
Feral Pigeon
Woodpigeon
Kingfisher
Lesser Spotted Woodpecker
Great Spotted Woodpeckeer
Green Woodpecker
White Wagtail
Wren
Dunnock
Robin
Blackbird
Song Thrush
Chiffchaff. At least a dozen around the lake edges.
Goldcrest
Long-tailed Tit
Coal Tit
Blue Tit
Great Tit
Short-toed Treecreeper. Over half a dozen seen. Seen all around the lake and photos confirmed I am still only finding this species here.
Nuthatch
Jay
Magpie
Jackdaw
Rook
Carrion Crow
House Sparrow
Chaffinch
Greenfinch
Goldfinch
Siskin




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The local farmer has spent the last couple of days ploughing his fields next to our farm. Today there was no disturbance so I could do a proper check of undisturbed birds.

1 Buzzard
1 Kestrel
3 Pheasants
No Partridges seen by myself but they have been seen regularly by my sister on our way out early morning. Grey & Red-legged species.
80+ Lapwings
2 Black-headed Gulls
34 Feral Pigeons
24 Collared Doves
4 Woodpigeons
1 Green Woodpecker
20+ Skylarks
10+ Meadow Pipits
3 White Wagtails
1 Stonechat
Blackbirds. Did not seem many until I heard them all at dusk.
1 Fieldfare in the farmyard
2 Mistle Thrushes in the farmyard
50+ Starlings
Resident House Sparrows
200+ Chaffinches/Greenfinches. These birds are absolutely everywhere with maybe as many as 300. Difficult to tell how many of each. Probably more Chaffinches but seem to be split about 50/50. The farms here still work on a three year cycle, and I have seen these large flocks before in summer, especially when it is Sunflower year.
Numerous Goldfinches & Siskins were mixed in.
1 Cirl Bunting
Numerous Wrens, Dunnocks, Robins, Blue Tits, Great Tits, Jays, Magpies, Jackdaws, Carrion Crows, Rooks


Other farm birds since I arrived :-
Tawny Owl calling each night
Redwings outside the car on my arrival

On a walk into Durtal I found another Chiffchaff, and a Brambling by the Loire with lots more finches.


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Arrived yesterday for a fortnight at my sister's farm near Durtal.

Today's targeted area was around Bazouges-sur-Loire and Cre-sur-Loire. The names give a clue that the two small towns are joined by the river, only a short walk between them.

Around Bazouges I heard a Grey-headed Woodpecker and saw Green and Great Spotted. The Green Woodpeckers here do not seem as shy as those back home, giving good views. As I searched for a noisy Cirl Bunting (fairly common here), I found instead a few Redpolls (uncommon) amongst a mixed finch & tit flock. On my way back out of town later in the day I came across a small flock of Cirl Buntings which included a Yellowhammer. Sparrowhawk, Buzzard, an impressive flock of about 20 Collared Doves, and Nuthatches were also present.

Along the river between Bazouges and Cre I saw a pair of Mute Swans, and as usual lots of Cormorants in the tree tops. A Great White Egret flew along the river towards Cre.

Two adjoining lakes near the football club had Great Crested Grebes, a Cormorant, a Grey Heron, Mallards, Pochards, Tufted Ducks, Coots, and Black-headed Gulls. My best bird here was a Purple Heron a couple of years ago.

Walking along the narrow street through Cre it became very noisy as four military jets flew low over the church, where the bells seemed to ring for ages. That Quasimodo never seems to stop once he has started !

The only nature reserve I know over here is just outside Cre. I am quite impressed with the ongoing work to create different habitats. Not too much about today, but birds included two Great White Egrets, half a dozen Cormorants, a Grey Heron, lots of Mallards and Teal, Coots on the river with a couple of Kingfishers, Redwings, and a nice flock of Siskins. Last February I had Water Rails and a Water Pipit here.
At the moment this reserve is better in summer. I have seen Black Kites, Common Sandpipers, Sedge Warblers, Reed Warblers, Great Reed Warblers, Cetti's Warblers, Zitting Cisticola, Melodious Warblers, Serins, and Golden Orioles amongst other species.

Heading back to the farm along the country lane from Bazouges I had close views of a very noisy Chiffchaff.






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This forum is dedicated to the memory of Eva Janice McKerchar; rest in peace mum.