Tuesday, 2 March 2010

Teich support

Time for another post from the past - last June this time. I have a sister, and she had the good sense to settle in a very nice part of southern France. There are Hoopoes, Melodious Warblers and Hen Harriers on show in her village, not that she or her family care about that... to be fair, it is a beautiful place to live even if you're not a birder. Last time we visited, Rob and I saw many nice things, especially when we took our hire-car off to the Atlantic coast and a nature reserve there called Le Teich.

We picked a bad day to go there. It was a bad time of year (midsummer). It was a bad time of day (tide was out, meaning waders were way out of view on the shore rather than on the reserve lagoons). It was a bad time of week (a school day morning - lots and lots of school parties around). And it was horrible weather - murky grey skies almost all the time we were there. All that notwithstanding, we had a brilliant day and Rob still declares it his favourite place (so far) for bird photography. Here are some of the results.

Most of the visitors here come to see the many White Storks that nest on the purpose-built platforms provided for them. White Storks aren't all that common in western France. Here you're almost falling over them. Many nests, like this one, contained fast-growing chicks.

This place has dozens of hides. One of them overlooked a busy Cormorant colony, and while we were looking at this, one of the Black Kites that were wheeling about had a rest nearby.

Entering another hide, we had one of those oh-my-god-don't-move moments - a Kingfisher was perched RIGHT THERE in front of the viewing windows. The best views I've had of one for ages. The lousy light conditions actually worked in our favour - bright sunlight on bright plumage can often be just too much. It was even sitting on a really photogenic bit of wood. It definitely heard us arrive - it was twitchy and flew off quite soon but not before a few pics were taken.

The reserve trail begins in woodland and you gradually emerge into more open surroundings as you get close to the coast. Walking along this section of the trail, we found a Whiskered Tern feeding above a large lake. Here it is.

A gorgeous bird - neat and compact with a lovely smoky colour scheme and a hectic red bill (which doesn't really show up very well in this photo, sorry about that). It was a joy to watch, light as air on the wing and tipping, dipping and turning with great agility.

When we got close to the coast, we found our one and only Bluethroat of the day, and it was an un-blue-throated female, which did not really want to be photographed. Such is life. Here is a record shot, anyway.

It was about now that we started seeing some sunshine and some decent patches of blue sky. This male Blue-headed Wagtail thoughtfully opted to sit right in front of one such patch of blue, in one of the small pines that patchily lined the trail.

Heading back away from the coast, we found what was perhaps the best hide of the lot, affording views of feeding Black-tailed Godwits, another Whiskered Tern, also a Black and a Little Tern, and a fine Black-winged Stilt.

Nearly back at the start now. We heard wings rushing overhead - Spoonies! We'd already seen Spoonbills from a hide, in a big and uninteresting sleepy huddle on a distant island. Much better when they are awake.

Besides this lot, we also saw Golden Orioles, Water Rail, various wildfowl and waders, Wall Lizards, assorted dragonflies and more. We ended the day with pics of a Sandwich Tern and a charming Swallow family on the river.