Monday, 25 November 2013

One of those moments of magic

We were sat at lunch today, fortunately my trusty camera was within reach without moving too much. Suddenly this Sparrowhawk appeared beside the bird feeders, stayed for about 30 seconds. This was the only in focus picture of four as the wretched camera insisted on focussing on the far hedge, doh!
Enjoy, we did

Sunday, 17 November 2013

Lac du Der - Chantecoq

I've just got back from a short trip to this area of France in Champagne-Ardennes, between Troyes and Saint-Dizier. There are a series of very large lakes there which are well-known both for the coarse fishing (for huge Carp and Catfish) and for Birdwatching. It is the latter which has drawn me there several times over the years, this being my tenth visit
I went in company with two very good photographers, Steve Ray and Phil Smith, and I commend their pictures to you, just follow these links -
and special thanks to Steve for doing all the driving
I may well be in trouble with Google Earth, but I have made screen copies to give you an idea where we went, about  3.5 hours from Calais

Oops, my screen grab missed out a bit of the placemark name, it's at the bottom right-hand corner!

My first visits from the early 1990's are summed up in my old website at
Some of these pics are pinched from that webpage, but they're here to give you an idea of the scale of the place. This first pic is of the "eagle tree" which could generally be relied on to have a White-tailed Eagle sat therein during winter visits. Sadly the tree collapsed a couple years ago, and although one eagle was said to be present last week we didn't see it. The lake is surrounded by a substantial concrete and clay wall with a smooth road atop, perfect for viewing the spectacular views, and for birding 

The purpose of this lake, and the three a little to the South (Lacs Amance, du Temple, and Foret d'Orient) is to take in and store water from the Seine and Marne rivers during the autumn and winter, so as to avoid flooding downstream, and release it over the summer to maintain navigation and provide for irrigation. Apparently there is difficulty this year because of exceptional autumn rain, the  lake is already so full that there will not be room to store further rainfall through to February, so there is now a controlled release going on - hence the flooded agricultural land we saw on the way there. We saw whole fields of Silage Maize standing unharvested in inches of water, another problem as the Cranes which make a stopover there en route from Germany and Scandinavia to Spain each year use the harvested fields for feeding. Assemblies of up to 100,000 cranes are common through the autumn, there being some 30,000 present during our visit. Who knows, some of the Cranes we saw in Brandenburg may have been here for us to see again!

It's not all Cranes and Eagles down there, Ospreys in numbers pass through each Autumn
These photos from last week show that for the proper photographer there can be some super "atmospheric" photo opportunities too, and a prime location for this is the church which served the now submerged village of Chantecoq. From here I once watched 2 White-tailed eagles hunting Wigeon out over the lake, stunning stuff


There follow several pics of the Cranes afternoon flight, always a wonderful sight, and the sound - wow!

Steve and Phil have published superb photos of the Great Egrets, one was most obliging and came close enough even for me to get a decent shot. On Thursday we were at one of the inflow streams, flowing very strongly under the road, and populated by 42 of these birds busily feeding at the edges, together with over an hundred Cormorants frantically feeding in the torrent, goodness knows what they were feeding on

When we stopped in Eclaron village on Thursday to buy a filled baguette for lunch, this White Stork surprised us by still being present at it's nest in the gloom before a solid day's rainfall - honestly, it was stair-rods all day long unfortunately

There are a couple of short video clips from our visit, somewhere in this computer. Hopefully I might find them in a day or two and manage to publish them to add to this blog, fingers crossed

Monday, 28 October 2013

Catch-up Time

I hadn't realised so long has passed since last blogging, but that don't mean yours truly hasn't been fully occupied. For a start this thing appeared in the kitchen window on the 9th October. I thought it was an assassin bug, but down at Sandwich Bay Bird Observatory that evening, on Ian's money gathering table was a print of a photo of one, and labelled as a Western Conifer Seed Bug, an import from the New World in timber apparently. A relatively large insect, (about an inch and a half long overall) completely harmless unless you are a Western Conifer!

Monday 14th, and reports from round about of arrivals of winter migrants.While brewing the early morning tea, I noticed this Brambling poking about in the yard outside. It was very flighty and when I reached to open the window for a better shot, it promptly and rapidly disappeared with a brief flash of small white rump

Later that morning, walking home from Deal (still "grounded" after that shoulder op), there was another poking about in the Kingsdown Road cycle track under the golf course, accompanied by a Lapland Bunting. Unfortunately I wasn't accompanied by my camera
Ther has been much activity on my model railway, including the construction of this lovely little South Eastern Railway wooden wayside station building - it's now in the process of being "weathered" and blended in, as well as interior lighting installation so the porter can see to brew his tea

We managed at last to get all 5 grandchildren together at last, too, including little baby Gill, a sister to Nève

This arrival has led to us entertaining young Nève while Mum and baby rest, and a favourite pastime is to set up a shop - well Nève settles in and Grandad fetches and carries the stuff with which the shop is stocked (her description not mine) And if you want to purchase anything at all, each item is £40 !!

Another enormous pleasure was to entertain the next newest member of the family (after Gil) when she visited with Mike and Shelley last weekend. Little Tabitha is very fond of her food as you may see

Sunday morning after the overnight winds I thought it a good idea to seawatch at the bay for an hour or so, but contrary to my years of birding experience telling me there would be goodies to see, there wasn't, just this atmospheric sky

Next day (today) after a disturbed night, fortunately without any damage, I wandered down there again to enjoy the spectacularly rough sea, goodness me there were some huge lumps of water out there

Look carefully just below the centre of this next photo

the things people will do for their photos! In fact this didn't appear to be as dangerous as first sight may have suggested, but I don't think I'd have stood there!

and a final pretty pic as I made my way home for a coffee and some chores

Wednesday, 25 September 2013

2013 East Kent Ploughing Match

Before we go off to Upper Hardres to the ploughing match, there were the 124 moths in the trap to check over. In among the Large Yellow Underwings and Setaceous Hebrew Characters, which together totalled 91, there were these two. It seems the Dusky Thorn which got away a couple of days ago before being photographed (and properly identified) was most likely of the same species, only one of which has ever turned up in my trap. They are Canary Shouldered Thorns, just as well they were less shy than their predecessor

just look at those antennae

and so to the ploughing match, and first to the horse ploughing, smashers aren't they

this is Sam and Sid having a quiet word at the end of their furrow

and here are a handsome pair who's name we didn't see
and these two are Arthur and Elsie


superb animals, always draw an admiring crowd
and so to the next major advance in ploughing technology, steam

then there came the early motor tractors - remember Mc Cormick International?

no? Well you must recall the good old Fergie (no, not him! And wouldn't his hairdryer have been busy after the Manchester derby last weekend? Well done City)

I could watch and listen to these for ages, 'specially the single cylinder one nearer to me

nice to see schoolchildren being educated, too

the foxhounds made an appearance as well

 and finally, this comparison to bring ploughing up to date