Friday morning saw me heading for St Pancras to catch the Eurostar to Calais where I was to be met by my sister. After meeting up it was off to the car and the start of three days of birding. We started at Wissant Marshes where a combination of strong winds and mid afternoon kept most birds out of sight. Highlights were Marsh Harrier, Sandwich Tern and Common Scoter on the sea. We then moved on to Ambleteuse where we managed Nightingale and Common Sandpiper. Saturday morning dawned cold and bright and seven o’clock saw us at the local Boulangerie stocking up on Croissants and Pain au Chocolat. We then headed off to the marshes near to the coast at Noyelles. It wasn’t long before we were into the birds with a field full of gulls having some Meds amongst the Black-headed. Next was a White Stork on the nest and five Cattle Egrets feeding amongst cows. On arriving at the marshes we were greeted by the sound of a Cuckoo and a multitude of Warblers. Chiffchaff, Sedge, Willow and Cetti’s seemed to be everywhere and a Savi’s was heard in the reeds. Despite looking for fifteen minutes or so it didn’t show. While we were hanging around a Bittern boomed and both Marsh and Hen Harrier flew over the reedbed. Moving on we to the nearby lake we found a pair of Garganey happily swimming around in front of a shooting hide. It is a strange situation that certainly in this part of France many of the bird reserves are created and maintained by hunters.
Great White Egret was the next new bird seen along with more White Storks. On the way back to the car the Savi’s was still singing but again wasn’t see. A couple more Cuckoos were heard and seen. Next we had a walk out onto the salt marsh in an area that is apparently good for Bearded Tit. Despite there being extensive reed beds along the path we weren’t in luck with Beardies but another Savi’s was heard. Fortunately along this walk you are on a raised bank looking down onto the reeds which makes birds easier to find. After around five minutes of watching the Savi’s obligingly climbed up a reed into full view where we were able to watch it for a good couple of minutes. This was my only lifer of the trip. We then headed for the Hable D’Ault. This is a fabulous area of lakes, reed beds, stony areas and scrub that stretches for around eight kilometres.
Again it is a hunting reserve but also a nature reserve Stopping at one of the main lakes the first bird noted were nine Black Terns along with a couple of hundred Common and Sandwich. From here we did a walk of around four kilometres. Birds seen included Wheatear, Stonechat, Tree Pipit and ten species of wader which included Black-winged Stilt, Avocet and Grey Plover.
From here we headed back home to Miannay. There are a pair of Black Redstarts nesting in the roof of the house and we had good views of the male as it was searching for food along the path to the front door. So the first day ended with a total of seventy-five species.