Thursday, 31 March 2011

Calais Riviera

Considering that we live within sight of France, and that there is good bird- (and other nature-) watching over there, we constantly regret that we don't visit more often. Gradually, however, we are getting to know more of the sites with the help of local blogs like North France Birder and Skua-Over, and are getting better at scheduling our days.

A visit to Le Clipon in search of Kentish plovers and anything that might fly past was mainly fruitless, as all the plovers that we saw had orange (not black) legs and there was precious little on the sea, but there were enough waders and Sandwich terns to keep us occupied, with eiders and mergansers as a welcome surprise. Also (having a broad interest in my surroundings) I was able to enjoy a variety of plants in the harsh moon-like landscape.

The lowlying landes between Calais and Dunkirk are protected from the sea by the dunes, and are dotted with lakes that attract a wide range of birdlife. Part of the the area has been designated a nature reserve but as this surrounded by hunters' guns the birds' arrival and departure must be tricky. One shooting club has a lake with signs asking for a cease-fire between mid-March and mid-May to allow gulls (including Meds) to breed. For future reference, the site is marked with an "x" on the south-west corner of this map:
The Platier d'Oye reserve held spoonbill, avocets, pintail and other duck, as well as overflying buzzard, marsh harrier and swallows, and three hides provided shelter from the worsening weather.
The desperate search for crested larks on the roundabouts and verges near the old hoverport has become a tradition, but we have clearly been trying too hard, as this time we found five of them on Calais seafront leading to photo-opportunities in the kiddies' playground. Have we no shame?

A blog with more detail and much better pics can be found here.

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