On the 29th Feb I left Herts for Cornwall to help out Dan on his small holding and fit in the occasional birding break. A few visits to the old patch produced Peregrine, Black Redstarts, Stonechats, Bullfinches, Great Northern Divers and a distant indication of seabird passage with Kittiwakes, auks and Fulmars. A brief excursion to Boat Cove for the Hudsonian Whimbrel resulted in a dip. As it happens, its long stay in the cove ended the morning we went to visit, dammit! 2 Whimbrel and a Red-throated Diver were the only consolation. The regular wintering Slavonian Grebe was back at Stithians Res and it was nice to see the feeders at the southern cutoff hosting Reed Buntings alongside the commoner garden birds as well as the showy Water Rail and a very tame Muscovy Duck. Red Admiral and Small Tortoiseshell were also on the wing on nearby farmland.
Dan and I then headed down to Vianne in the south of France 16th-27th March to help out his parents with gardening. Much of our time was spent working in the back garden but we kept a regular eye on the sky. Raptor passage was impressive with hundreds of Black Kites moving north, regular Buzzards and Red Kites as well as Marsh Harriers, several Osprey, Goshawk and even a Short-toed Eagle. A few excursions across the local farmland produced Water Pipit, Green Sandpiper, Snipe, White Wagtails, Grey Wagtail, Stonechat, Black Redstarts and a male White-spotted Bluethroat all feeding together around a small muddy puddle. We also inadvertently flushed a Stone-curlew from the ploughed fields on our first day. Common local residents included Cirl Buntings, Black Redstarts, Hawfinches, Serin singing from many gardens and a walk to the local town for a food shop led to the surprise find of a male Wallcreeper scaling the gatehouse of Vianne!
Speckled Wood (ssp. aegeria)