Day Three of my First French Trip of 2020

Another cold morning and another pre-dawn start. A Barn Owl on the drive to get our croissants was the first bird of the day. The Kite had been seen again on the previous afternoon, possibly going to roost so we were on site as it started to get light. Conditions were far from ideal being heavily overcast and misty. Soon after we arrived three Marsh Harriers come out from the roost followed by a Hen Harrier. All ringtails incidentally. Cetti’s and Water Rail called from deep inside the reedbeds as it got lighter but after an hour with no sign of the Kite we decided to head off but planned to return in the afternoon. Driving out along the extremely bad track the car almost got stuck in deep mud but fortunately my sister managed to extricate it. A look in at the Lakes at La Basse found nothing of interest but on the large lake across the road which is still being worked we found a Great Northern Diver. The Marquenterre reserve closes during January and early February but there is a path that runs out to the Baie de Somme along the back of the reserve. Here we hoped to find Crossbill and Crested Tits in the Pines. We managed to get the Crossbills with a handful flying into into nearbt trees calling loudly. The poor light seemed to suck the colour from them but we could  just about make out the green and red of the males and females. Not much was seen on the reserve but a couple each of White Stork and Whooper Swans were the best. Four Spoonbills flew out towards the bay and a scan of the waters edge found hundreds of Curlew, Oystercatchers and Shelduck. Back near the Pines an unusual call turned out to be a displaying Mistle Thrush.

From here we headed to the sluice gates at Le Crotoy from where there is a nice view of the lovely town. We had our lunch here while watching Avocet, Redshank, Curlew and Shelduck. In the water was a lone Little Grebe and several Seals. A Kingfisher appeared and posed nicely for a photo.

Then it was back to Les Renclotures where despite spending a couple of hours searching there was no sign of the Black Winged White Kite. This part of the reserve is bordered by the narrow gauge chemin de fer de la baie de somme railway (https://www.chemindefer-baiedesomme.fr/fr/bienvenue-sur-le-reseau-des-bains-de-mer). There was still plenty to see with the Harriers showing well, many egrets along with Kestrels and a Sparrowhawk. We also saw our only Wagtails of the trip, a group of four Whites. With the light starting to fade we started the long trudge back to car the feeling pretty disappointed about the Kite but happy with the overall experience.

This was the end of the birding which had given us a fairly low species count of eighty-nine over the three days. I managed to add one more this morning (Saturday) with a roadside Tawny Owl on the way to get my pastries before heading back to the Tunnel Sous la Manche for the journey home which was completed in a very respectable five hours and twenty minutes overall.

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