TRAVELLING NATURALIST TRIP REPORT

La Brenne

5th - 11th May 2001


Leaders:
Mike Read

Daily diary

Saturday 5th May 2001

The group left Ringwood for the hours drive to Portsmouth ferry terminal in bright sunny weather. Once on board the 'Pride of Hampshire' and outside the actual harbour (to coincide with the style of previous years recording), birding actually began. At first the sea was very quiet with just a few gulls and a couple of Common Terns but as we moved closer to mid Channel, birds began to increase. Northern Gannets were fairly frequent; there were a few Northern Fulmars plus a Common Guillemot (still in winter plumage) and a couple of Razorbills. Two Manx Shearwaters were seen in fairly quick succession. As we entered Cherbourg Harbour, a fair number of Great Cormorants lined the breakwaters and about 3 European Shags were with them.

Our drive to Bayeux encountered a few birds including a couple of Common Shelducks, 3 Common Kestrels and 4 Common Buzzards. Many Swallows hawked over a shallow pool or flew across as we drove along.

We then ate a somewhat late dinner (French time!) before heading off to bed.

Sunday 6th May 2001

Miserable weather greeted the day as we assembled for breakfast after which we set off for la Brenne. As we drove around the Caen 'ring road' we were diverted off one junction before our scheduled exit but this did not seem too much of a problem; just head south, take a minor road east then head south when we reached the N158 as intended. However, we had reckoned without a detour on our detour!!

That safely negotiated, we headed to Falaise to purchase our lunch things but the usual entrance to town was closed; there was another 'deviation' which meant we had to find another way in to town. Shopping successfully completed; we headed down to Argentan and Alencon. As we entered Le Mans with visions of racing around part of the '24 hours' course, we met up with yet another detour which took us miles out of our way. Eventually we made it to our usual lunch spot in the Foret Bércé.

During the sumptuous lunch, Chiffchaffs sang constantly and Cuckoos were obviously nearby though we did not see any. Obviously, birds with a boring song are too embarrassed to show themselves! Another elusive species here is the Black Woodpecker. Throughout much of our stay, we could hear this species calling yet during lunch and the subsequent one-hour walk we did not even glimpse one. However, our walk did add species like Crested Tit, Marsh Tit, Wood Warbler (heard) and Short-toed Treecreeper to the list.

The remainder of the journey to le Blanc was somewhat uneventful except for 2 male Hen Harriers and 1 male Montagu's Harrier, a few Buzzards and Kestrels and a brief stop in Fléré la Riviere where we saw a pair of Black Redstarts and a singing male Serin.

At the Domaine de l'Étape, the day ended with a fine meal and some good wine shared amongst friends. As we got back to our 'farm annex' accommodation, a Barn Owl called in the darkness nearby.

Monday 7th May 2001

The pre breakfast walk took us down towards the Etang near our hotel. The first bird to catch our attention (and how could you miss such a noisy bird?) was a Nightingale in full song in some bushes just beside the track. A Golden Oriole's wonderfully fluty notes began from the wood and a Short-toed Treecreeper sang from the trees in the hedgerow. Warblers sang to greet the day with Blackcap, Chiffchaff and Garden Warbler in fine voice. Yellowhammer and Tree Pipit sang from the tops of trees and the latter species also indulged in its usual parachuting flight.

After a typically Continental breakfast and a quick stop at Leclerc's (of 'it is I, Leclerc' fame?) to purchase lunch, we sat off for the northern part of la Brenne to seek some special farmland birds. Unfortunately, the obvious wet weather they had been enduring, encouraged lush growth of the crops and consequently, any birds about the height of a Little Bustard would be too well hidden to see. We were therefore exceptionally fortunate to see one in flight just after we had turned the minibus around. We had already seen a pair of Montagu's Harriers and a couple of Red-legged Partridges and when we began searching the area where the Bustard had landed, a Stone Curlew flew up almost from the roadside. Mission accomplished, we set off for other sites but on the way, saw two more of the latter species. Mike got out to set up a scope on the birds but without running or flying off, they had totally disappeared! They must have still been there but squatted down so low as to hide between the lumps of soil in the ploughed field.

A walk at the Etang Beauregard produced a very brief sighting of a Bittern which, typically, immediately dropped down into the reed beds before everyone could get to see it. Common Whitethroats occupied much of the scrub but at one point, a Melodious Warbler gave its scratchy song from a willow bush. Whiskered Terns hawked for insects and small fish over the Etang and many Great-crested and Black-necked Grebes frequently dived for food items.

During lunch, Golden Oriole and Bonelli's Warbler sang from the woodland across the road yet despite prolonged attempts by some of the group, these elusive birds were not actually seen. More obvious were the two Black Kites, which flapped lazily past some distance away.

As we passed the Etang de Gabriau, Black-necked Grebes were diving very close to the roadside. We stayed within the bus and this gave us the opportunity to get some really close views, photos and video footage as they picked off insects from the surface of the water or sometimes jumped almost clear of the water to reach one that was flying past. Further out on the Etang, more Whiskered Terns could be seen as they wheeled around, dipped and dived presumably feeding on the same things as the grebes. A visit to La Cherine reserve proved disappointing. There were none of the usual birds to be seen; in fact there was virtually nothing to be seen. A little way back down the road, a stop in a lay-by produced a singing Savi's Warbler somewhere out in the reeds but despite prolonged searches, it could not be seen. Much more obvious here was a male Marsh Harrier which indulged in a spectacular display flight high above a reed bed where his mate may already be incubating eggs. However, this species often has more than one mate and so he could have been trying to attract a new mate. Whichever the case, he certainly was very energetic as he swooped and rose repeatedly each time almost looping the loop at the top of the flight and giving a high pitched call at the bottom of each dive; it was fabulous to watch.

On our way back to the hotel, we stopped at a flooded field where a few Black-headed Gulls were feeding. This proved worthwhile when we also found 4 Little Egrets, 7 Common Sandpipers, 2 Redshanks and 21 Greenshanks.

Tuesday 8th May 2001

The early walk at the hotel again produced plenty of warblers, Nightingales and a distant view of a hunting male Marsh Harrier. On the Etang itself were a few Common Pochards and Great Crested Grebes while Reed and Sedge Warblers sang from the scrubby red bed.

After breakfast, the aim was to get to La Cherine fairly early on in the hope of some of the usual species there. The reality was very different! On the way, a brief stop at an industrial site added Crested Lark and a fine male Cirl Bunting while the flooded field produced similar numbers of waders as yesterday afternoon. After a couple of stops to view wild flowers including some fine Lady Orchids we were 'en route' for the reserve when excited calls of "woah! Stop, stop! Reverse up a bit." brought us grinding to another halt. A fine pair of Red-backed Shrikes had been the cause of the excitement but it was the start of a few minutes of quality birding. As we watched the shrikes from the bus, a Hoopoe flew in and landed not far from us. Most had excellent views of that bird too but then a monotonous song from not far away had us all scanning for the Wryneck from which it was emanating. Only one of us gained the briefest of glimpses as it flew off. Another flypast from a probable second Hoopoe and a Golden Oriole's song nearby completed the birds for this stop.

Further northwards we paused at the Etang de l'Hardouine where a couple of Black Kites circled and then our first Short-toed Eagle flapped past. It returned later and was joined by a second individual. A Water Rail dashed across a drainage ditch and again, a singing Savi's Warbler remained elusive. Grebes, Tufted Ducks, Pochard and a Purple Heron were also present and a Little Owl called in annoyance from an oak but was not seen. The next Etang held a number of Little Grebes.

Out at the 'back' of la Cherine, we walked a straight track out to a new hide. On the way we saw more Red-backed Shrikes and Corn Buntings and amongst the birds on the lake by the hide were 4 Shovelers and an Avocet.

Our lunch was accompanied by a constantly singing Golden Oriole and the lake to the west held 8 Canada Geese.

As we left to head for a new location, we had not travelled far before a stop was made to look at and photograph more orchids including Serapias or Tongue Orchid. The Etang de Bernadoux held about 8 Black-winged Stilts and lots of Whiskered Terns and the drained down area held some feeding waders including Common and Wood Sandpipers, Redshanks and more Stilts.

More Etangs were scanned but nothing new was found though we also made a few botanical stops before heading back to the hotel. After dinner we made an unsuccessful search for some of the local owls before heading for bed.

Wednesday 9th May 2001

Just as we were loading up the minibus to head out for the day, a male Red-footed Falcon made a very unexpected appearance. Unfortunately, it just headed past in a straight line and was lost from view before everyone could see it.

East of Le Blanc we made a brief stop at a Sand Martin colony where well over a hundred birds could be seen. There was also a couple of species singing nearby namely Melodious Warbler and Serin.

A bird disappearing over a hedgerow encouraged a stop and it turned out to be a Whiskered Tern. Flowers and insects proved of interest here too and another Melodious Warbler sang as 2 Black Kites flew past

Red-backed Shrikes almost lined one particular hedgerow with perhaps 5 pairs present in just a kilometre or so. Later, a Grasshopper Warbler reeled its typical song from a patch of scrub and it was well seen (though somewhat backlit) by everyone.

Unfortunately, the heronry we usually visit was inaccessible due to flooding and bushes blocked our view. They have certainly grown since last year. From the road we could just make out Grey Herons along with Cattle and Little Egrets.

As we headed in to the edge of the Foret Bércé, masses of Orchids lined the road banks. Marsh Orchids grew in a flat, wet area; a good group of possible Late Spider Orchids were in short-grass while pride of place went, at first, to the masses of Monkey Orchids, which grew for many roadside miles. The most spectacular we saw that day was the Lady Orchid which grew to about 18 inches, oops, sorry, that should of course now be about 50 centimetres tall! It seemed as though someone else agreed that this species was best as they had dug up a few and even left one, complete with its roots, lying on the ground. This was swiftly re-planted but we did not hold too many hopes for its survival.

The sun shone strongly and warmly during lunch in the forest clearing and it became essential to ensure the pate and cheeses were kept in the shade and the wine in the cool box! A Great Spotted Woodpecker chipped its disapproval at our presence and a Goshawk was glimpsed flying just above the treetops. During a short walk we heard lots of Wood and Bonelli's Warblers with good views obtained of the latter species. It was here that we saw the only Nuthatch of the tour and Burnt Orchids were quite numerous in the grassland.

As we drove back through la Brenne, we made numerous stops to search for new species. The Etang de Bernadoux held a couple of extra waders compared to our visit the previous day namely Curlew and 2 Little Ringed Plovers. Also of interest were the Black and Whiskered Terns and the Black-winged Stilts.

Thursday 10th May 2001

We left hotel at 09.00 and after a brief stop at Leclerc in Le Blanc we drove to Azay Le Feron. There were no Little Bustards or Stone Curlews to be seen but the Harriers were spectacular with 4 male and 2 female Montagu's in view at once and as we left, a pair of Hen Harriers drifted past very unhurriedly and at close range.

We saw little during journey northwards except the occasional Buzzard and Kestrel. Wood and Bonelli's Warblers sang to greet us at the Foret Bércé and a Bullfinch gave a few mournful 'pipes' during lunch. Deep in the woods, a Stock Dove must have found a suitable nest hole as it was calling quite frequently. Black Woodpecker was not seen or heard during our time in the Fort, which was a disappointment.

Just a few kilometres along the road, 2 Black Woodpeckers seemed to want to make up for their woodland absence when they flew across the road just in front of the minibus. Those in the front seats made sure that everyone in the bus knew that they were there!! There were a few more Buzzards and Common Kestrels during the journey to Bayeux and another male Hen Harrier was seen but it would have been missed had it not been for the slightly 'scenic route' that we took as we neared our destination.

Friday 11th May 2001

After breakfast, some of the group visited a local supermarket while most visited the famous tapestry and parts of Bayeux close to the hotel. There was another brief stop in Carentan before we headed out to Carentan marshes. Meadow Pipit, Yellow Wagtail, White Stork, Northern Wheatear and Whinchat were added to the list and other species seen included a somewhat distant Marsh Harrier.

We drove to Le Grande Vey (just south of the Normandy landing's Utah beach) for lunch. A rather high tide reduces the quantity of birds to be seen but we do add Red-breasted Merganser, Whimbrel, Grey Plover, Song Thrush, Bar-tailed Godwit, Sandwich Tern and Dunlin before driving to Cherbourg to catch the ferry back to Portsmouth.

The very warm, calm conditions produce quite a lot of mist in the Channel so the birding is not as easy or good as hoped. However, early on we do see numerous Gannets and 4 Razorbills which were obviously keeping close to the coast in such conditions. Little else was seen during the flat-calm crossing and the return to Ringwood was uneventful.

BIRDS

To maintain the style of the previous reports, we only recorded the species seen outside of the British harbour.

Little Grebe: Heard on 7th on Etang de Gabriau then at least 6 seen on the Etang de Rochefort the following day.

Great Crested Grebe: Noted on various Etangs on each of the 3 full days in la Brenne.

Black-necked Grebe: At least 50 seen on 7th with really close views on the Etang de Gabriau and also seen the following day.

Northern Fulmar: A few seen on the outward ferry crossing on 5th.

Manx Shearwater: 2 seen on the outward ferry crossing on 5th.

Northern Gannet: At least 40 on the outward ferry crossing on 5th and perhaps 20 on the return crossing on 11th.

Great Cormorant: Seen on each ferry crossing and on the 3 full days in la Brenne.

European Shag: Up to 3 seen on each ferry crossing.

Grey Heron: Seen every day.

Purple Heron: Seen on each full day in la Brenne.

Cattle Egret: Seen on each full day in la Brenne.

Little Egret: Seen on each full day in la Brenne and also seen at le Grande Vey on 11th.

Black crowned Night- Heron: Just a single bird at the Etang de Beauregard on 7th.

Great Bittern: A single bird seen briefly at the Etang de Beauregard on 7th and heard calling at the Etang de Puichevraux the following day.

White Stork: A single bird on the nest on the Carentan Marshes on 11th. This bird was probably brooding small young.

Mute Swan: Seen on each full day in la Brenne.

Canada Goose: Worryingly on the increase with at least 15 at Puichevraux on 8th and further birds seen in other areas the following day.

Common Shelduck: 2 on the way to Bayeux on 5th, 4 the following day near t the north coast and also seen at Grande Vey on 11th.

Gadwall: Seen on each full day in la Brenne.

Mallard: Seen every day.

Northern Shoveler: 5 near La Cherine on 8th and one in the eastern part of la Brenne the following day.

Common Pochard: Seen on each full day in la Brenne.

Red-breasted Merganser: One male and one female at le Grande Vey on 11th.

Honey Buzzard: 2 seen on 9th (when the weather warmed up considerably) with the second one giving exceptionally good views.

Black Kite: Up to 5 seen on each of the 3 full days in la Brenne with a couple seen on 10th as we left the area.

Short-toed Eagle: 4 sightings in widely separated areas on 8th and a single bird the following day.

Hen Harrier: 2 during the southward journey on 6th and 3 heading north on 10th plus one or 2 in la Brenne on the 3 days there.

Montagu's Harrier: A good year for this species with at least 11 sightings overall including 2 females and 4 males together on 10th near Azay le Feron.

Marsh Harrier: Frequently seen on each of the 3 full days in la Brenne plus a single bird on Carentan Marshes on 11th.

Northern Goshawk: A single bird over the Foret Lancosme on 9th was the only brief sighting.

Common Buzzard: Seen every day.

Eurasian Kestrel: Seen every day.

Eurasian Hobby: Single birds seen on 6th, 8th, & 9th.

Red-footed Falcon: Just a brief but good view at the Domaine de lsÉtape of a male flying northwards on 9th.

Red-legged Partridge: 4 on 7th, 1 on 9th and 3 on 10th.

Common Pheasant: Seen on 4 consecutive days from 7th.

Water Rail: Heard on 7th & 8th at Etang de Gabrière and Etang de B Blizon respectively and very briefly seen at Etang de Rochefort also on 8th.

Common Moorhen: Seen every day up to 9th.

Eurasian Coot: Seen on 4 consecutive days in la Brenne area from 7th.

Little Bustard: Just a single male seen in flight at the usual location. The taller crops brought about by a milder, wetter winter meant the bustards could remain hidden.

Eurasian Oystercatcher: 2 seen as we entered Cherbourg Harbour on 5th and one at le Grande Vey on 11th

Black-winged Stilt: At least a dozen at the Etang de Bernadoux on 8th but fewer there the next day.

Avocet : One on a pool at the back of La Cherine on 8th. A first record for The Travelling Naturalist in La Brenne.

Stone Curlew: 3 near Azay le Feron on 7th.

Northern Lapwing: Seen every day from 7th.

Grey Plover: At least 8 at le Grande Vey on 11th with some in fine 'black-bellied' summer plumage, though this was difficult to seen in the misty conditions.

Greater Ringed Plover: One at Cherbourg on 5th and one heard at le Grande Vey on 11th.

Little Ringed Plover: 2 at the Etang de Bernadoux on 8th.

Bar-tailed Godwit: At least 4 at le Grande Vey on 11th

Eurasian Curlew: One on 7th and 2 on 9th in la Brenne and heard calling at le Grande Vey on 11th.

Whimbrel: At least 10 at le Grande Vey on 11th were migrants pausing during their northward journey to their breeding grounds.

Common Redshank: Seen on each of the 3 full days in la Brenne with at least 7 at Etang de Bernadoux on 8th. Also seen at the coast on 11th.

Common Greenshank: A small flooded field just north of Le Blanc held a surprising 21 on 7th with this reduced by 2 the following morning. Also seen at the Etang de Bernadoux on 8th & 9th.

Wood Sandpiper: 3 at the Etang de Bernadoux on 8th.

Common Sandpiper: Up to 7 on the filed with the Greenshank on 7th & 8th. Also 4 seen at Bernadoux on 8th & 9th and finally a single bird at le Grande Vey on 11th.

Dunlin: A group of about 12 flew past us at le Grande Vey on 11th.

Herring Gull: Seen on 5th, 6th, 10th & 11th on the Cherbourg peninsula and on the ferry crossings.

Lesser Black-backed Gull: Seen on 5th and during the ferry crossings.

Greater Black backed Gull: Seen on 5th, 6th and 11th near or at the coast.

Mediterranean Gull: 2 seen flying over our lunch picnic spot at the Etang de Beauregard on 7th.

Black-headed Gull: Seen every day.

Whiskered Tern: Seen during the 3 full days in la Brenne. Plenty of birds present but none breeding yet, perhaps due to the high water levels.

Black Tern: Seen in much smaller numbers than the previous species but also during the 3 full days in la Brenne.

Sandwich Tern: One perched on a post in the sea at le Grande Vey on 11th was the only sighting.

Common Tern: 2 seen during the ferry crossing on 5th then 2 or 3 were on the flooded River Loire as we crossed on the 6th.

Guillemot: One still in winter plumage just off the Isle of Wight on 5th.

Razorbill: 2 just ¹ further out than the previous species on 5th, then 4 in mist close to the French coast on 11th.

Rock Dove/Feral Pigeon: Seen every day.

Stock Dove: Heard calling in the Foret Bércé on 10th only.

Wood Pigeon: Seen every day.

European Turtle Dove: Seen on 4 consecutive days in la Brenne from 7th.

Eurasian Collared Dove: Seen every day.

Common Cuckoo: Seen or, more normally, heard every day except 5th.

Barn Owl: Just a single call heard on 6th as we returned to our Étape rooms after dinner.

Tawny Owl: One seen carrying prey at about midday as we drove towards la Brenne on 6th. Also heard calling at Étape later the same day and also for the next 4 days.

Little Owl: One heard giving alarm calls at the Etang de lsHardouine on 8th.

Common Swift: Noted every day from 6th.

Hoopoe: One near the Etang de Bernadoux on 7th, 2 north east of Douadic on 8th and one seen during the northward journey on 10th.

Wryneck: One heard calling for some time and then very briefly seen by one member of the group northeast of Douadic on 8th.

Great Spotted Woodpecker: Seen or heard on 4 consecutive days from 7th.

Black Woodpecker: Frequently heard calling in the Foret Bércé on 6th but sadly the bird was not seen despite its movement and closeness at times. All was quiet at this location during the return visit on 10th so we gave up hope of seeing one, but as we began to drive north towards le Mans, not one but 2 individuals flew across just in front of the minibus causing some degree of excitement!

Green Woodpecker: Seen or heard every day from 6th.

Crested Lark: 1 at Le Blanc on 8th was followed by another later the same day and 2 near Azay-le-Feron on 10th.

Eurasian Skylark: Seen or heard every day from 6th.

European Sand Martin: Large quantities seen at an extensive colony east of Le Blanc on 9th.

Barn Swallow: Seen every day.

Common House Martin: Seen every day except 5th & 11th.

Yellow Wagtail: About half a dozen seen at the Carentan Marshes on 11th.

White Wagtail: Seen every day except 5th.

Meadow Pipit: 3 on Carentan Marshes on 11th.

Tree Pipit: First seen during the pre-breakfast walk on 7th and also seen in various places on the 3 following days.

Red-backed Shrike: A pair north east of Douadic on 8th were our first and we saw 3 more later the same day. The following day there were at least 10 in good hedgerows along a quiet road in the east of la Brenne.

Winter Wren: Seen or heard every day from 6th.

Dunnock: Noted on 4 consecutive days from 7th.

Common Blackbird: Seen every day.

Song Thrush: Surprisingly not seen until lunchtime at le Grande Vey on 11th. Shortly afterwards we saw a second individual.

Mistle Thrush: Seen every day from 7th.

European Robin: Seen every day.

Common Nightingale: Glimpsed on one or two occasions but mostly heard for 5 days from 6th. Especially vocal at Domaine de lsÉtape.

Black Redstart: A pair were feeding young at Fléré la Riviere on 6th. The male that began singing at 05.45 every morning at the Domaine de lsÉtape was surprisingly difficult to see (unless you actually got out of bed!!) until our final morning there. Also seen during the northward journey on 10th and in Bayeux on 11th.

Common Redstart: Missing/not noted in their usual haunts in the Foret Bércé but on was seen from the Leclerc car park in Le Blanc on 10th.

Whinchat: A pair on the Carentan Marshes on 11th was the only sighting.

Common Stonechat: Seen every day from 6th.

Northern Wheatear: 2 on the Carentan Marshes on 11th.

Fan-tailed Warbler: 1 on 8th and 2 on 9th in various parts of la Brenne and also heard at le Grande Vey on 11th.

Cettiss Warbler: Heard in 2 or 3 locations on 7th & 8th.

Grasshopper Warbler: Just a single singing bird was well seen near the Etang de Pisseloup on 9th.

Saviss Warbler: Heard near La Cherine on 7th and at the Etang de Rochefort the following day.

Sedge Warbler: Heard or seen on each of the 3 full days in la Brenne and also heard at Carentan Marshes on 11th.

Eurasian Reed Warbler: Heard or seen on each of the 3 full days in la Brenne.

Melodious Warbler: Seen or heard on 3 consecutive days from 7th.

Blackcap: Noted every day.

Garden Warbler: Mostly noted on the 4 mornings at the Domaine de lsÉtape from 7th.

Common Whitethroat: Seen on each of the final 5 days.

Eurasian Chiffchaff: Noted every day except 5th.

Bonelliss Warbler: Heard near the Etang de Beauregard on 7th then at least 10 in the Foret Lancosme (on passage?) on 9th and also 2 or 3 in the Foret Bércé the following day.

Wood Warbler: Heard in the Foret Bércé on 6th then at least 5 in the Foret Lancosme (on passage?) on 9th then finally 2 or 3 in Berce on 10th.

Goldcrest: Heard in the Foret Bércé on 6th.

Spotted Flycatcher: One seen briefly at Étape on 8th.

Long-tailed Tit: Only noted at Beauregard on 7th.

Marsh Tit: One in the Foret Bércé on 6th.

Crested Tit: 2 in the Foret Bércé on 6th where at least one was heard again on 10th.

Great Tit: Seen every day from 6th until 10th.

Blue Tit: Seen every day from 6th.

Eurasian Nuthatch: Just a single bird seen in the Fort Lancosme on 9th.

Short-toed Treecreeper: 2 in the Foret Bércé on 6th then heard, but sadly not seen, for the 4 days at the Domaine de lsÉtape.

Eurasian Jay: Seen on 5 days from 6th.

Black-billed Magpie: Seen every day.

Eurasian Jackdaw: Seen every day.

Rook: Seen every day.

Carrion Crow: Seen every day.

Golden Oriole: This elusive species was heard on 4 days in la Brenne (from 7th) especially at the Domaine de lsÉtape.

European Starling: Seen every day.

Yellowhammer: Seen every day from 6th.

Cirl Bunting: The first was in the Railway yards at Le Blanc on 8th but the species was then noted on the following 2 days.

Reed Bunting: Heard at La Cherine on 7th then 2 seen on the Carentan Marshes on 11th.

Corn Bunting: We had numerous sightings on each of the 5 consecutive days. Thankfully still much more frequently encountered in France than it is in Britain but for how long?

European Chaffinch: Seen on 6 days from 6th.

European Serin: The first was at Fléré la Riviere on 6th and then also seen or heard on 9th, 10th & 11th.

European Greenfinch: Seen every day from 6th.

European Goldfinch: Seen every day from 6th.

Eurasian Linnet: Noted on 3 days in la Brenne and also at the coast on the final day.

Eurasian Bullfinch: Calls heard in the Foret Bércé on 10th was the only record.

House Sparrow: Seen every day.

Eurasian Tree Sparrow: Seen in Le Blanc town centre on 3 days from 7th with 3 on 8th.

MAMMALS

Red Squirrel: 2 seen close to the Domaine de lsÉtape by one extra-early riser member of the group on 9th.

Coypu: Many seen throughout la Brenne from 7th.

Brown Hare: 2 seen during the southwards journey on 6th and then just a couple more seen during the rest of the tour.

Rabbit: Only seen on 3 occasions.

Hedgehog: One seen as we returned from the late Owl Prowl on 8th.

REPTILES

Common Wall Lizard

Green Lizard

European Pond Terrapin

Slow worm

BUTTERFLIES

Orange Tip

Brimstone

Wood White

Green Hairstreak

Holly Blue

Duke of Burgundy Fritillary

Painted Lady

Speckled Wood

DRAGONFLIES & DAMSELFLIES

Beautiful Demoiselle

Four-spotted Chaser

OTHER TAXA

An insect half an inch long crawly thing that was reddy-brown, Patrick put his finger on it ... answers on a postcard please!

This tour specially organised for Ringwood Natural History Society members took the usual la Brenne format. As normal, the picnics were sumptuous and excellent, the evening meals were fabulous; oh, and we saw quite a lot of wildlife too!!

Water levels throughout much of northern and central France were high. Obviously, the winter rain has not just been confined to England! Crops were higher than normal on the fields in the north of la Brenne where we usually see Little Bustards. Those birds present were generally hidden, but we did see one male in flight. The Îpurple patchs had to be when we stopped to look at our first Red-backed Shrike and then saw a couple of Hoopoes and could also hear Wryneck and Golden Oriole singing nearby.

With water levels high in most of the étangs Black-necked Grebes and Whiskered Terns were not yet breeding but they were present in good numbers. Fan-tailed Warblers are now present in la Brenne. Perhaps THE bird of this area was the male Red-footed Falcon, which flew northwards as we were loading up the minibus one morning. Sadly not everyone saw this bird but driver and front seat passenger made sure that everyone saw the Black Woodpeckers which flew in front of us on the edge of the Foret Bércé. We ended up with a grand total of 146 bird species recorded, by far outstripping our previous best of 137, and including Avocet, a new species for our groups here. Will we make the 150 on our next visit?

Mike Read


© The Travelling Naturalist 2001