Saturday, 9 February 2008

Wallcreeper twitch in Northern France 7th Feb 2008.

On Thurday 7th February, myself, John Hague and Bob Duckhouse twitched the Wallcreeper which had been on the cliffs between Boulogne and Wimeraux for almost two weeks.
We caught the 6.35am ferry from Dover(which actually left at 7.30am!), and treated our selves to the typical British Breakfast, which was not too bad for processed food.
After the breakfast we did a bit of seawatching, and had good numbers of Razorbills, Guillemots, Gannets, Fulmars and Kittewakes passing the ship. The only other highlight we had before we docked was an Eider duck flying past the ship mid channel.
After docking at Calais we went straight to Boulogne to see if we could get onto the beach, but found that the tide was coming in very quickly, so we decided to check out the forests south of Boulogne for Black Woodpecker and other species which are scarce in the UK.
Arriving at the Forest de Hardelot, just south of Hardelot le Plage, we checked out the forest for the next couple of hours. Sightings in the forest included most of the common bird species, Bob then find a Crested Tit in conifers not far down the main track from the car. This was a WP(Western Palearctic) tick for me, so I enjoyed watching this bird for a good few minutes.
Other birds seen included good numbers of Willow and Marsh Tits, a few Bramblings, and slightly strange for us a large flock of Yellowhammers in the middle of the forest.
Walking back to the car, John heard a Black Woodpecker calling next to the road, so we had look for this bird.
Over the next ten minutes we heard the Black Woodpecker call a number of times, but it did not show itself, so we had to put it down as a near miss on the sighting front.
After a brief chat by the car with another birding crew from Sussex of the sightings we had seen, we drive back to Boulogne via a petrol station and a few local french villages.
We parked not far from the cliffs, and walked down the steep steps to the beach, which in fact were WWII German fortifications.
Meeting up with the Sussex crew again and couple of french birders from Lille, we started to check the cliffs for the Wallcreeper.
After what seemed an age scanning the cliffs (which in fact was probably only 15minutes)one of the Sussex crew shouted that he had the bird, and it was feeding on one of broken concrete fortifications on the beach.
The bird then flew up onto the cliffs, and we watched the bird feed for a good twenty minutes.
Although Wallcreepers are small birds, I will never forgot the colour of its wings, as it flicked over the cliff face, a beautiful crimson colour, with spots of white, which reminded me of a large butterfly.
We decided to try and get closer to the bird for photographic purposes,but lost sight of bird on the cliff.
Half an hour later and no sign of the Wallcreeper, we decided to cut our losses and go back to Calais to catch the ferry.
Other birds we saw around the cliffs included a female type Black Redstart and up to three different Mediterranean Gulls.
I must admit seeing the Wallcreeper on the cliffs will go down as one of my favourite birding experiences and finally seeing one of the mythical birds of European birding and a WP tick too boot!
Arriving back at Calais, it seem a bit of anti-climax at the end of the day, as we were delayed
for two hours waiting for the ferry, and the only birds of note in Calais harbour was a group of Yellow legged Gulls and couple of Kittewakes.
After the delayed ferry finally arrived, we got back home to Leicester just before 10.30pm.
I would like to thank John and Bob for keeping me company during this excellent trip and helping me with directions on how to drive in France for the first time!

Thanks to Sean Cole for supplying the photos of the Wallcreeper!
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