Thanks to a very generous leaving present from my French colleagues, I spent the Easter weekend in the Aquitaine region, with a wine-tasting and overnight stay in a chateau overlooking the Dordogne.
Through the alcoholic haze I heard my first Hoopoe (Huppe fasciee) of the year, while Black Kites (Milan noir) soared overhead.
After the wine-tasting, our next stop was the Bassin d’Arcachon, via scenery reminiscent of the Brecks. No time for birding here, but I did enjoy the rare sighting of a 2CV rally!
The dunes de Pilat offer exceptional views out towards the Banc d’Arguin (notable for a returning Elegant Tern in the Sandwich Tern colony)…
… and over the forest. In spite of trying, I couldn’t rustle up a Goshawk.
The Black Redstarts (Rougequeue noir) were tame and approachable here.
The afternoon was spent walking the trail in Le Teich bird park, home to oodles of nesting White Storks (Cigogne blanche).
This one was in the process of sprucing up its nest…
… while these two got a bit fruity after a bout of bill-clapping.
The park offers great views of many of the nesting species, such as Great Cormorant (Grand Cormoran). Note the displaying bird in the first picture.
The herons were in prime breeding condition too, judging by the contrasting pink and yellow bills on the Grey Herons (Heron cendre)…
… and the green lores on this Great White Egret (Grande Aigrette).
Several Spoonbills (Spatule blanche) showed well in flight overhead, though typically those on the ground spent the whole time snoozing.
Good numbers of winter wildfowl were still around, including Pintail (Canard Pilet)…
… and Common Teal (Sarcelle d’hiver, the answer to the last entry’s quizbutt) almost too close to the hide to photograph.
Signs of spring included 2 singing Willow Warblers (Pouillot fitis), large numbers of Barn Swallows (Hirondelle rustique) and 2 Little Ringed Plovers (Petit Gravelot). The wintering Black-tailed Godwits (Barge a queue noire) were also acquiring their rusty breeding plumage.
The reserve contains decent numbers of native terrapins (Cistude d’Europe).
After a day of glorious sunshine, Easter Monday dawned grey and rainy. At least this meant we had the magnificent sand dunes and beaches of the Cap Ferret to ourselves. I couldn’t find myself a wheatear, but Cirl Bunting (Bruant zizi) and Crested Lark (Cochevis huppe) were some consolation.
A couple more photogenic storks.