Saturday, 22 June 2013

Launching pads

Grumpy and his miserable friends go south to France.  Why?  Vin, fromage et saucisson?  Non. To gain a better understanding of the breeding habitat requirements of birds which have the potential to colonise the UK.... and also to look at the functioning of wetlands to the south of us which have a similar climate to that projected to occur in southern England.  We've looked at the essential 'landing pads' in the UK for colonising species, now its time to understand the places they came from: the 'launching pads' on the continent.

First stop, down to the Baie de Somme with our host Benjamin Blondel.  Just one hour south of Calais and what a difference to the UK.  Bluethroats in every bush, reedbeds full of Savi's Warblers, Icterine Warblers in the Alder-dominated mixed woodland and Black-winged Stilts on the muddy pools.  The first pool we looked at had more breeding Black-necked Grebes on it than the entire UK population - 60 pairs. Why don't we dry out pools completely each autumn as they do over there?  While Great White Egrets and Spoonbills are increasing, the small populations of Kentish Plover are struggling against human disturbance on the beaches and also from predation by Beech (!) Martens. But on the protected areas, great to see Kentish, Ringed and LRPs all together with chicks.

Scruffy, scrubby areas hold Melodious Warblers, Nightingales and Turtle Dove, the latter only having declined by about 20% in France.  We need more of this.  Dunes full of Lizard Orchids.  A dusk visit to botanically rich wet marshes with Spotted Crakes, long-legged Agile Frogs leaping and mechanically droning Mole-crickets.  With some useful ideas to bring back home, time to move on south....
Above: Stilt, KP, Lizard O.
Below: Black-veined White, Black-necked Grebes, Melodious Warbler.

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