My OH loves to remind me of the time we drove a 300km round trip to a lake which one of my 'where to watch birds in France' books recommended as a fantastic place full of interesting overwintering and migratory water birds. I think we saw such rarities as a lone coot and a mallard, and the locals walking their dogs looked pitifully at us with our binoculars and told us that the birds had disappeared some years previously. It was my OH's birthday that day too and it was supposed to be a special day out for him! It was certainly memorable.....
Sunday afternoon at the Marais reminded me of that day.
Seagulls!!! Oh yes, and crows too. Harumph.
The Marais thankfully is only about 25 minutes drive from home, and is the only place I know of within driving distance of here that actually has a hide. The bird watching round these parts is not good, and whilst there are plenty of nature reserves they are not really geared towards bird watching. I also find it rather laughable that whilst this is a nature reserve, it is still hunting season so there were many hunters and their dogs walking around and lots of gun shots - so any ducks would have been scared off anyway. I have no idea if the hunters are actually allowed to shoot birds on the lake (I would imagine not) but in the areas around the perimeter there are obviously no rules against this.
The Marais is basically a water meadow in a low lying area near the Couesnon river that has a small lake in the middle which is there all year round, but for several months from winter to early spring each year the meadow is purposefully flooded. Amongst other things such as a breeding ground for pike, it is an important stopping off place for migratory water fowl and we have in the past seen all sorts of interesting ducks, although they are quite distant to view, even with binoculars. You really need a serious telescope to get good views of them.
So the main reason for going at this time of year was to test out my new superzoom camera, the Canon Powershot SX50HS, against my reasonably good binoculars, Minox 10x42 field glasses. (By 'reasonably good', I mean that to me they are excellent, and cost about €200 which is not cheap, but you can go up to the €thousands for really serious binoculars!).
Not much in the way of bird shots but there is a 'posh house' across the lake from the hide.
A couple of Grey Herons and a Coot, thoughfully posing in front of someone's garage door! Both very common birds but I could see the herons better through the camera lens than through my binocs - although I hardly needed it for ID purposes. The other side of the water meadow is a very long way away so I'm quite impressed.
I was very annoyed that I missed this Grey Wagtail which I noticed out of the hide window just beside us, but only got one not in focus or zoomed in shot, before it disappeared out of view below the hide!
Afterwards we moved on to another spot where you can park up with views of the water meadows/lake, but there is no hide at this place and it was getting a bit chilly!
There were a few Lapwings, but we see them regularly in winter in the fields round and about in great flocks, often mingling in with seagulls on recently ploughed land.
So I turned my attention to the trees as there wasn't much else to try to photograph here! It's quite a scenic place, except from where the 3 places are that you can park up. It's not always so easy to just stop the car and start taking photos as there is nowhere to pull off the road except in the designated parking spots.
The above is a good photo to show you the power of the zoom of this camera. Look at the tiny white blob in the water in the middle right of the pic, just to the right of the last tree. It's not hard to know that it is a swan, but the image below will show just how much I can zoom in with the 2x digital zoom as well as the x35 optical zoom! Not bad, eh?!! It's never going to be a good photo from that distance, but for ID purposes I am sure this camera is going to be invaluable.
A few more trees - the image below shows a tree full of mistletoe which is very common around these parts and makes the winter landscape far more interesting, as well as being a good source of food for various thrushes.
One last shot, this time of a Breton horse! Well, I was getting desperate. :-)
If you can read French there is far more explanation about the importance of the marais and the reasons for the flooding of it on this website. We'll be going back again about March which is when we hope to see some interesting ducks and hopefully a few waders or even the White Storks which sometimes visit and even nest here.
Today we have had snow so I have taken many photos of my garden birds as they have, not surprisingly, been in a feeding frenzy, and have allowed me to get closer to them than they normally would. Will post a few snowy photos in due course. Don't expect much as I just can't cope with cameras and cold hands, much as I would have loved to attempt macros of ice crystals etc!!!