Monday, 16 March 2015

Jeepers Creepers

Sat14th March 2015
A day trip to Dinant in Belgium with Paul F, Brendan G and Dave J.
An 05:00 meet at my house and we headed off for Folkestone and "le shuttle". We made it to the Dartford Crossing toll booths  just before 06:00, this meant they were still on "free vend". At Folkestone we managed to get an earlier shuttle to Calais. So with our destination of "Dinant near the police station" set in the twat-nav we travelled via several fairly quiet motorways until we reached the picturesque town of Dinant about 12:30 local time. The sat-nav had worked it's magic yet again and found us some free parking outside the Police Station and Palais de Justice. A quick scan of the rock face and Palais de Justice failed to produce the Wallcreeper. Oops did I not mention this overwintering bird was the reason for our visit? We wandered around to the entrance to the Citadel scanning the rock face as we went but no joy. Then we continued our search from the bridge. It was at this point we decided to split into two groups. After a team meeting we decided democratically that Dave and Brendan were the "People's Front" and myself and Paul were the "Popular Front".
After about 15 minutes the two factions were re-untied quite close to where we had parked and then soon after that the "People's Front" team leader Brendan located the Wallcreeper. A moment of blind panic as we tried to get on the bird but sure enough there it was flicking and picking it's way around the rock face. It was at this point 2 other English birders came into view so we shouted as quietly as possible to them that we had the Wallcreeper. We were soon joined by 2 Belgian birders and for the next couple of hours enjoyed some nice scope views of the Wallcreeper. There were closer and better parts of the rock face the Wallcreeper could have chosen but nice views through our scopes despite there being a few obstacles in the way. The Wallcreepers attention was often attracted by a pair of very vocal Kestrels that at one point were mating in the tree above our heads. As is often the case when I'm watching a good bird like this I forget that the hump on my back actually contains a camera. I did take a few photo's but they would be of more use to a geologist than an ornithologist. Still some time left in the day so we decided to head off to a woodland about 8 miles outside of Dinant. We were hoping to see Middle Spotted Woodpecker here, however, after about an hour and a quarter ambling around the wood we were unable to locate any Middle Spotted. We did manage a couple of Great Spotted but a pair of Short-toed Treecreeper of which the male frequently burst into to song was a new bird for both Paul and myself. Also of note in the wood were good numbers of Marsh Tit, Yellowhammer, Nuthatch and nice pair of Bullfinch. Our birding over for the day we headed back to Calais and "Le Shuttle" Our scheduled shuttle was cancelled but we still managed to get back to my house by 11:00 pm. Another good days birding!