Tuesday, 17 April 2018

Black Storks and Greenshank

The fields are drying up rapidly and I expect there will be no water left after this week’s expected sunny weather. So it was perhaps the last few wetland migrants of the Spring that were visible this week. The black storks which I failed to see on my last visit to the Tardoire happily turned up the next day along with a few white storks together with a single greenshank  while on the Bandiat there have been several little grebes on view all week. Overall, it has been rather disappointing for waders this spring though a few other species such as ruff and ringed plover have been reported from elsewhere.
Gulls have not been plentiful either but a flock of ten black-headed were near the Bandiat a couple of days back and a Mediterranean gull turned up on the Tardoire.
Away fromwetlad birds, whitethroat s and nightingales are now plentiful.

Thursday, 12 April 2018

Shelduck and Rock Sparrows

The rain stopped more or less around 11am so I ventured out on my bike to the Tardoire. A pair of shelduck were there to greet me although they soon flew off further down the valley. The species is classed as a rarity in Charente and is essentially a passage migrant. Two stilts were also present, probably the same couple that I saw two days back.
I weakened and took the car to scan the Bandiat where the red crested pochards were still present but there was precious little else on the water other than a crested grebe. More than one nightingale was singing as were several blackcaps which seeem to have arrived in force. My first whitethroat of the year was also present in his fresh breeding finery.
The trip home took me over the plains where a pair of stone curlew landed in a field and disturbed the 28 rock sparrows which I had just counted. A female hen harrier flew by slowly, my second of the species today as I saw a male earlier.
Two black storks and two white were reported from the Tardoire after I had left the scene. You can’t win them all.

Tuesday, 10 April 2018

Red Crested Pochards and Stilts

The Spring floods are turning up some interesting migrants. An unexpected discovery this morning was a pair of red-crested pochard lurking at the edge of the flooded Bandiat near Vielles Vaures. This is the first time I have seen this species in France, never mind Charente. Also present there was a pair of migrating little grebes, a coot and two moorhen which were probably also on the move.

A few minutes earlier I had a look at the Tardoire and watched two black-winged stilts feeding close to a great white egret. The latter are now a relatively common sight in our department but I have not seen stilts here since the last flooded Spring a few years back. It’s a fascinating conjecture as to where these unusual birds are travelling to and from.

There was not much else at either site except for lots of swallows, a few house martins, four green sandpipers and four white storks which had been flushed by a gyrocopter. I note that another observer reported yellow wagtails at The Tardoire but I didn’t see any.

Yesterday evening as I returned from a walk, I heard my first stone curlew (thick knee) of the year calling from the field opposite my house.

Monday, 9 April 2018

Back from Texas

A three week break in Texas took me away to warmer climes and (mainly) different birds but now I’m swopping cardinals and mockingbirds for black redstarts and nightingales.
I’m still getting over the jet-lag but I managed a trip to the Tardoire valley yesterday. It’s still partly flooded yet the only passage birds were a single great white egret, a lonely lapwing, lots of swallows and a sand martin. A quick look at the Bandiat revealed more swallows, the call of a little grebe and a singing nightingale.
Back at chez nous a cuckoo was calling and I was happy to see that the regular black redstart had moved back in while I was away.
It’s curious that although Houston is much further south than Charente (on the latitude of, say, north Morocco) Spring migration seems more advanced here. Far more song birds are singing for instance.

Thursday, 15 March 2018

Great White Egret

There have been some pleasant warm spells over the last few days but showers have helped the flooded fields to retain an attraction for a few early Spring migrants.
There is still not a great deal to report from my part of Charente but a great while egret and around a hundred black headed gulls were present in the Tardoire valley this week.
Because of the very wet winter and early Spring this is probably the best March for Charente birding for several years but unfortunately I am going to miss the next three weeks as I’m visiting my family in Texas.
Anybody who is reading this blog might wish to make their own comments about what is happening.

Thursday, 8 March 2018

Flooded Fields

Showers seem to be the order of virtually everyday for the next week or more and this offers hope of sightings of waders and wildfowl in the fields which are still partly under water. The Tardoire revealed only 21 black headed gulls and about 100 lapwings today but there are reports from further west of redshanks, ringed plover and even little gull (which remarkably is not classed as a rarity in Charente).
Green woodpeckers seem to be calling everywhere and early evenings now feature the songs of several competing blackbirds.

Sunday, 4 March 2018


There’s not a great deal to report at present but the last couple of days of warm sunshine have been welcome and have raised expectations. We all know that spring migration doesn’t really get underway until later in March but there is always the chance that something might turn up. A brief visit to the Tardoire today revealed that most of the lapwings have moved on and there is not a single goldenplover remaining. The most interesting sight was of three black headed gulls floating in the middle of a flooded field, not a great deal to get excited about but indicating that some birds are moving.
I have visited the Bandiat river at Vielles Vaure but sadly the site has been degraded from a birding point of view because of scrub clearance. More of the flooded area has been revealed but migrating water birds have less concealment. Not surprisingly, nothing was there other than four mallards.
There have been reports of shoveler and garganey from other Charente sites and the blackbird’s song is brightening up the early evenings so we’ll see what the next few days bring (other than showers that is).