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Ouessant October 2018 (1 Viewer)

Mark Lew1s

My real name is Mark Lewis
Sunday October 14th

As if following on straight from my Sanday trip, Sunday morning started with a walk to the ferry terminal in Brest through quite a bit of wind and rain. The ferry over to Ouessant has loads of potential though, and I wasn’t going to let a bit of weather stop me - a total lack of daylight was already doing a grand job of that. It got ‘birding light’ at some point between Brest and Le Conquet, and one of the first birds I saw was a fine drake common scoter, which are probably not very common in these parts. It was an otherwise quiet crossing though. A common tern was noteworthy, small numbers of guillemots and razorbills grabbed the attention of the French birders on board, and I made the most of the numerous opportunities to enjoy Mediterranean gulls and the odd Balearic shearwater that went past.

On arriving onto Ouessant we fell into the old routine of shopping for food and then ignoring it all and going out for lunch. Grabbed moments around the house revealed the expected chiffchaffs and robins, but the three black redstarts and the hooded crow and its hybrid offspring were more pleasantly surprising.

One hearty feed later and I was finally set free. Well - sort of. There is now an excellent WhatsApp group for birders on Ouessant, and although I’m intent on finding my own stuff, some messages are hard to ignore. I had picked up goldcrest, firecrest and bullfinches from among the many chiffchaffs around Ker’here when I got a message about an olive-backed pipit about 50 yards from the house! So, I ambled back that way, stumbling into a fine yellow-browed warbler en route, and joined the small group of twitchers waiting for it to come out. The pipit didn’t show, but the small group of trees it was supposed to be hiding in supported a constant flow of chiffchaffs, robins, 4 firecrest, a blackcap, a spotted flycatcher, and rather ominously, a sparrowhawk.

One failed twitch later, and I decided to have a wonder past the reservoirs and around Lampaul. It was late and gloomy, but the presence of the inlaws might account for the poor return! A moorhen and two coot on the reservoirs, several marsh harriers, three more black redstarts, and nice views of all three crows that were hooded to some degree.

A nice start to the trip, although if I’d been more inclined to twitch I could have added 2 red-breasted flycatchers, a rosy starling, a short-toed lark and a pallid harrier to the list.

Here's the Ebird list: https://ebird.org/view/checklist/S49190451
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I can see how the Whatsapp group is a two-edged sword. It must be nice to know that quality birds are out there to be found ... but definitely requiring discipline to tread the lonely path of finding your own.

Looking forward to seeing how you get on.

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Monday October 15th

A calm, dry and still a little dark morning when I set off at about 08:15. I was heading west, as I fancied a little look around some of the stangs (marshy, wooded areas) at the west end, that seem to do so well for good birds. My first port of call was Niou, and it was clear that there had been a small arrival of birds onto the island. Redwings and a couple of fieldfares passed overhead, and groups of song thrushes ‘tsip’ed from the bushes. Niou seemed to be dripping with birds, from the amount of noise coming from the cover, but then I noticed a mist net and I realised that the yellow-browed warblers and all of the other good stuff I could hear was on a tape! They did catch two yellow-brows so who knows whether I heard a real one or not!
From Niou I moved towards Kun, stopping to check a large open area favoured by pipits. As i moved along a bramble hedge a fairly large, long tailed passerine flushed and did the decent thing by landing out in the open - A wryneck. Not as noteworthy as one in the UK, but still a good bird for Ouessant and still a wryneck, so I enjoyed spending a couple of minutes watching this bird rely on its camouflage before disappearing over the hedge.

Kun was full of chiffchaffs, along with the odd blackcap, and thrushes continued to pass over. A Dartford warbler announced it’s presence from the depths of a patch of brambles, but little did I know I was moving towards a more surprising Sylvia. I’m not sure what made me stop at the bank of bracken at Careas on my way to Cost ar Reun, but I’m glad I did. A small, long tailed bird darted into a patch of ferns and I took it to be another Dartford warbler. However when it popped out it revealed a paler grey head, quite an eyering, and a nice whitish pink throat - a female type subalpine warbler. I quickly put a message out on the WhatsApp group and soon, as if out of the marshes, emerged 10 or 15 birders to admire it. No chance of getting detail on the tail to ID it, but it was calling from time to time and apparently the call was better for Western. A yellow-browed warbler called in a bush behind us as we watched, probably wondering why it wasn’t getting any attention. A second breakfast beckoned so I walked back towards Lampaul for a long await coffee. While dithering in Lampaul there were various bits on offer, with Mediterranean gull and little egret on the shore, siskin and grey wagtail over the village, and the three black redstarts back at the house.

After lunch we had a team bike outing to Pern, and the Pyramid at Runiou. Apparently this is some sort of navigational aid, but I wasn’t really listening as I was watching a couple of whinchats foraging with the many wheatears and meadow pipits present. Choughs were also ever present here. With our newfound mobility we decided to head over to the lighthouse at Creac’h. Well, while the rest of the gang went that way, I headed over to (and actually made it to, this time) Cost ar Reun. It was pretty quiet, but there were still chiffchaffs everywhere, stonechats on the fences, blackcaps in the heart of the bushes, and a yellow-browed warbler called away. A quiet afternoon but an excellent day.

Here's the Ebird list: https://ebird.org/view/checklist/S49215112
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Some good birds so far Mark....the comment about the in laws made me chuckle...hopefully they are not on bird forum !


If they're anything like mine then Mark should be fine. Halloween tends to be their busy time of year3:)


(Actually I'll have to whisper this but my mother in law is really nice:eek!:)
Ha - my in-laws are really nice too, but they're still a pain in the arse when you're trying to get a lot of birding done!
Tuesday October 16th

Another excellent day, with calm and sunny skies for the most part. In the morning I headed out on foot and tried a few spots around Lampaul. In the dark of pre-dawn I picked up one of the three house black redstarts, and there was a little grebe looking self-conscious in amongst the group of mallards in the pretty little port of Lampaul.

My morning route, once it was light enough, took in various stangs. At Kerhuel, there were two yellow-browed warblers, firecrest and fieldfare, and Stang Korz had a single yellow-brow and two goldcrests (usually these wouldn’t get a mention but crests were thin on the ground this year). Over the road at Stang Porz Gwenn there was a firecrest and siskins overhead, but it didn’t feel like the small stuff was really getting up and going until I got to Prad Meur, at about 10:30. Here, there were two each of goldcrest, firecrest and yellow-browed warbler, and a Cetti’s warbler sang sporadically from the brambles. Perhaps the best of it though was a great spotted woodpecker - a species I’ve only seen once on the island, and one that wasn’t recorded at all in either 2014 or 2015.

It was a little samey but still, terrific fun, made all the more so by the fact that a strong finch passage had kicked off. Groups of siskins and chaffinches moved westward overhead, with the calls of reed bunting and brambling occasionally among them. I went home for lunch thinking I’d already had a good day.

After a typically protracted lunch, I headed out on the bike towards Plage Yusin. My first stop was at Pennorz, and as I made my over there, the finch passage continued. It felt quiet at Pennorz, and I was about to move on with only a whinchat under my belt when suddenly a small bird landed on a patch of brambles up the path from me. Bins up at the speed of light, and I was looking at a red-breasted flycatcher! It promptly vanished before popping up again further along the path where it sat out in the open for a few minutes, flycatching frequently and showing off its white tail sides very nicely. It was so calm you could even hear the snap of its bill every time it made a grab for something. I put the news out (getting the place name correct at the second attempt…) and left as the group of admirers gathered.

The family were ready to head out so I began again towards Plage Yusin. Here, pipits, wagtails and buntings often feed among the waders on the seaweedy stretch of the tiny little beach. This time it was really quiet, but a 1cy common tern feeding in the bay was a very pleasant surprise - another species I’ve only seen once before here. As we waited for the rest to arrive, I became aware of a familiar call approaching from the east. A Richard’s pipit! it flew over calling, circled the beach allowing me to get some passable record shots, and then cleared off towards the Creac’h - which is exactly what we did once we’d gathered together at Yusin. En route, a dartford warbler ‘chuzzed’ and a yellow-browed warbler called near Niou.

There are few more scenic parts of the world to enjoy the evening sun, and as a couple of chough circled round, and a sparrowhawk zipped through, I reflected on an excellent day. With rain forecast through the rest of the week, it was good to get one in!

Here's the Ebird list: https://ebird.org/view/checklist/S49236315
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Ha - my in-laws are really nice too, but they're still a pain in the arse when you're trying to get a lot of birding done!

Some birdwatchers can be a pain in the arse when you're trying to birdwatch too....

I always enjoy these reports as well. I keep threatening to add it to my autumn list of places to go!
Wednesday October 17th

What a difference a day makes. it rained pretty solidly all day, which made birding difficult and reduced the will to be outside somewhat! That said, I still went out. I went to explore the open Atlantic heath of Cadoran, but had half an eye on my phone, as the local WhatsApp group had been busy the night before. Apparently a small, strange looking house martin, potentially an Asian house martin had been seen briefly on Tuesday and there was going to be a concerted effort to relocate it this morning. I’d covered most of Cadoran without seeing anything more interesting than the resident choughs, and had just slipped into the stang there when I got the message that the mystery hirundine had been seen again. Off I wobbled on my bike and soon found myself at one of the biggest twitches I’ve ever seen on the island. About 30 birders stood below a roof, upon which a small, strange looking house martin had perched. We all waited patiently (in the rain) for it to take off so we could catch a glimpse of the all important underwing coverts, which seemed to take an eternity. And then it was off - swooshing between the houses, over rooftops and the admiring crowd, and generally being very difficult to take photos of. Still, some of us managed, revealing underwing coverts no darker than the rest of the bird. Other features were also inconsistent with Asian, such as the large rump, and the underpart colouration. I know this because I retired to a cafe to look at my pics, google some others, and also drink coffee - it was that sort of morning.

It was also that sort of afternoon, but I was buggered if I was going to stay indoors for the rest of the day. I went west, to look at Stang a Stiff and Vallon d’Arland, and the birding was pretty tough. I spent about an hour in Stang a Stiff, and eventually wheedled out a couple of firecrests and one, possibly two yellow-browed warblers. At Vallon d’Arland it was a similar scene, but this time there were definitely three yellow-brows, a handful of firecrests, and more chiffchaffs and blackcaps than you could shake a stick at. While there, I got a message about a Radde’s warbler that was just 170 metres away. I thought it would be rude not to go and have a look, but I am a dreadful twitcher, and after standing in more rain not looking at any birds for 15 minutes, I got bored and cleared off. Looking forward to a clearer day the next day, I called time on todays birding and went for a hot drink and some dry clothes…

Here's the eBird list: https://ebird.org/view/checklist/S49256131
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Thursday October 18th

After yesterday’s near wash-out it was a relief to wake up to clear and dry skies. I planned to go west, but got sidetracked (about turned?) by news of a Radde’s warbler in Lampaul. On arrival there were a few sheepish looking birders lingering - the Radde’s was actually a robin making, admitedly, some pretty Radde’s like noises.

With that out of the way, I resumed westward, noting a black redstart calling on the church, and as I left the town behind me it was clear there was a bit of movement happening. Thrushes, finches and pipits were passing over in decent numbers, so I made towards the open areas around Pern to enjoy the spectacle. As I passed through Caraes a yellow-browed warbler called, and a dartford warbler ghosted through the bracken. I set up around the ‘Maison de la Comtesse’ and listened to meadow pipits, song thrush, redwings, chaffinches, and siskin passing, with brambling, fieldfare, grey wagtail, and a snipe among them. There was a moment of excitement when either a tree or olive backed pipit passed with some chaffinches - it sounded ok for tree to me, but you can never be too sure, but analysis of my recording of it later on revealed that it was indeed a tree pipit.

After the movement began to die down, I headed slowly back towards Lampaul checking out a few of my favourite spots as I passed. Cost ar Reun had yellow-browed warbler, firecrest, and a peregrine circled, watching the stream of easy meals below it. At Kun, another yellow-browed called and I startled a water rail - you here them all over the island all of the time but it’s not often you get to see one out in the open.

During lunch, it all started to kick off. First one, and then two Blyth’s pipits were reported from Porz Doun, and news of a red-throated pipit and a little bunting nearby came through too. I fancied a bit of twitching so sped off to Porz Doun before the dessert menu made it’s way over to us. After a bit of kicking around, both Blyth’s pipits showed well and called quite a lot, as did a couple of Lapland buntings at the same spot. I then nearly stood on the little bunting which showed ridiculously well, and got flight views of the red-throated pipit as it flew past calling. All of this in bright sunshine and to a backdrop of great scenery and calling choughs.

It soon came to the time to meet up and do family stuff, which this time meant a trip back down to Vallon d’Arland. Here, yet another yellow-browed warbler called, and a ring ouzel chacked away in the sloe bushes. As we cycled back, a yellow-browed called as I passed the reservoirs, and we were soon back in Lampaul for a drink and the end of the day’s birding.

Here's the eBird list:https://ebird.org/view/checklist/S49274878
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I hadn't realised there was a time limit on editing posts. As such, I've only been able to 'edit in' eBird lists for the last two days described, so I'll put the rest of them here.

Sunday October 14th - https://ebird.org/view/checklist/S49190451
Monday October 15th - https://ebird.org/view/checklist/S49215112
Tuesday October 16th - https://ebird.org/view/checklist/S49236315

I've just added the links to the lists in the posts for the correct days (moderator power in action!).
Friday October 19th

Another fine, sunny morning, and for a change I decided to go out on foot, rather than taking the bike, so I ended up doing a route through some sites north of Lampaul. As I set out it was clear that there was another big movement on today, although this time it was basically all chaffinches, with the odd little bits of quality thrown in here and there. The first of these was a mistle thrush passing high, almost out of earshot - not too easy a bird to come by on Ouessant. At the ‘Maison du colour’ there were goldcrest, firecrest and at least 4 blackcaps in among the ubiquitous chiffchaffs. Just next door, at Keranchas, a weedy field fed hundreds of chaffinches, and the odd brambling and siskin passed overhead. Thousands of starlings passed, in small flocks, and a group of compact pigeons that whizzed through at distance over L’ile de Keller turned out to be the stock doves I expected - again, not a particularly common bird on the island.

After giving the fields at Keranchas a good kicking, I made my way towards Pennorz, stopping to listen to an unfamiliar call passing over. I suspected woodlark, a species I don't hear too much of in NE Scotland, and my recording confirmed this. Not massively rare here, but an ‘Island tick’ for me all the same, and one I was pretty pleased with.

At Pennorz, another stock dove went past with a group of woodpigeons, and from the bushes, Dartford warbler, bullfinch, and yellow-browed warbler were scattered by a sparrowhawk. Firecrests and goldcrests at Ker’here completed the picture and took me through to ‘family time’.

Today’s morning jaunt (basically a very short walk before lunch) took us through various parts of Lampaul. There were black redstarts all over the place - two at the port, two at the big house overlooking the bay, and one at the church. There were also yellow-browed warblers giving themselves away. One called from the bushes by the little port and another from Prad Meur as we walked past.

After lunch we walked from Lampaul all the way down to Pern, a route that took us through lots of open country, and the birdlife reflected that. Stonechats and wheatears fed among the meadow pipits, and in rockier areas, at least six more black redstarts were noted. Mediterranean gulls floated around in the bay, the the undisputed highlight was the two short-eared owls that we flushed as we walked. These are regular but rare on the island in the autumn - and were my first here. An excellent way to draw a close to my last full day on the island.

Here's the eBird list:https://ebird.org/view/checklist/S49299024
As Jonathon Williams has said, Mark, very interesting to compare with Scilly. Unfortunately I've only just got to your thread so haven't had the chance to compare day by day. I'm more gripped by the three Blyth's Pipits just missing us than by the Cornish Catbird.
Saturday October 20th

The last day, and one spent grabbing opportunities to look for birds in between packing, clearing the house, and spending a long time eating. I headed north from the house again, only to be called back 20 minutes later to pay the house owner. Before then I'd still had time to enjoy another period of strong passage, with plenty of chaffinches and siskins passing over, and a flock of 30 fieldfares. I also encountered a couple of firecrests in strange places, suggesting that they had arrived in some number too.

After handing over all of my cash, I nipped out to Stang Meur, in the middle of Lampaul. Thrushes continued to move, with more fieldfares going over and a couple of mistle thrushes too. In the bushes, a Cetti's warbler lurked, and in among the 7 firecrests, a couple of yellow-browed warblers called. At Ty Crenn, the hooded crow put on a great display. It felt really birdy and it was a great shame to be leaving!

As we pottered about Lampaul, even lunch, souvenir shopping and eating ice-cream couldn't get in the way of bumping into migrants. Black redstarts and a good old pied (yarelli) wagtail fed around the harbour, and a sparrowhawk scattered the starlings at the church. A ring ouzel came in off while I was having my picnic lunch, and near the cemetery, the last of the weeks firecrests and yellow-browed warblers announced their presence.

And that was the end of that. It had been a tremendous week. I found a few decent bits and pieces, and been wowed by the volume of visible migration some mornings. I twitched some big rares, ate a lot of nice food (an awful lot...!) and even came home with a tan.

I'm looking forward to next year already!

Here's the eBird list:https://ebird.org/view/checklist/S49387688
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