Another spur of the moment decision to go to France, this time the tour bus packed to the rafters with the company of Martyn Wilson, Steve Ray, Alan Ashdown and Steve Ray. A tight fit in my little Ford Fiesta but it was not uncomfortable. (Well not for me anyway, I was in the front driving) We arrived early at Folkestone and boarded the train due to leave 15 minutes before our expected departure time but ended up arriving 15 minutes after the train we should of caught, due to a communications problem with our early train. A sort of poetic justice there but it was only 15 minutes lost in real time. We stopped first by the area where we saw the four Savi's Warblers on our last visit, this time finding none but did see Great White, Cattle and Little Egret in the space of 5 minutes and also seeing a female hepatic Cuckoo being chased off by a Meadow Pipit across the marsh, the Pipit obviously not taking too kindly to the possibility of another mouth to feed, and a large one at that. Then it was on to a new reserve for us at Grand-Lavier, a newly constructed series of large pits that had been dug out and screens placed periodically around the perimeter to view what was on the water. In fairness, there was quite a bit out there but a scope was needed to see it, preferably a Hubble. It was distant and the viewing was somewhat hampered by the grass and vegetation that has been allowed to grow up over the holes cut into the screens for viewing. Obviously they have not collected enough 6 Euro entrance fees to buy any equipment to deal with this problem yet. I think the list from the first screen was 3 Grasshoppers, 2 Snails, a Cricket and a pair of Ladybirds lol. Although we could not see the pools clearly through the vegetation, we were still able to note several Black Necked Grebes and Black-winged Stilts present. With no photos we all soon got fed up so decided to drive back to the reserve at Marquenterre where if nothing else, there would be Spoonbills and Storks to snap away at. Our first stop on the reserve was the area where we found a Bluethroat on our trip before last.
Click on images for full size.
We then moved onto the hide that seems to attract Black-necked Grebes and saw three birds in front of the viewing holes but the sun was right in front of you making the task of getting any images virtually impossible. I took a few record shots with most being deleted.
The rest of the afternoon was spent lounging around the first two pools where we waited to see if any of the four Black-winged Stilts present would venture close enough for a photo. This never happened so it was lucky we had our fill of them on our last visit. The good thing about Marquenterre is if it is quiet, which it was on this visit, there are always the Storks and Spoonbills to play around with. Whilst sitting on a bench in the sun watching the Stilts in the distance, juvenile Spoonbills were seen flying over the pool. It's the first time I have seen newly fledged Spoonbills so grabbed a few shots. Note how small their bills are at this age.
A White Stork flew low over the pool and below the tree line giving me an easy target and about a dozen Avocets provided a bit of entertainment throughout the afternoon.
So that was that, we were done and dusted and back on the train an hour earlier than scheduled. Although the photography was not at its best, (the Bluethroat saving the day) the trip was a good one with the banter rising a level as it does when things tend not go your way. The reserve at Grand Lavier was a mistake but we did get Black Redstart there as we drove around waiting for the place to open, (Why do the French reserves not open up until 10.00am) Still, you win some and you lose some and it all gets forgotten when you have a male Bluethroat sitting up in front of the camera and Storks and Spoonbills flying low over your head. As always, great company and thanks to Martyn, Alan, Tim and Steve for making it another great day out in France.