Friday 9 September 2011

Hiboux for Les Hiboux

Yesterday we were awoken by urgent pukpukpucking from the resident moorhens swimming in the millstream outside our bedroom window. The reason for such an alarm? Perched on a post overlooking the stream was a long-eared owl asio otus (hibou moyen-duc). The owl's gaze was directed into the clump of flag iris where the moorhens live, but when it heard us at the window, it turned that thousand mile stare on us.... lookin' at??! Eh!!?

It stayed several minutes perched on the post in the drizzle, being clucked at by the moorhens and buzzed by the kingfisher#, before it took off and flew downstream. Another moorhen then took up the alarm, suggesting that it only flew a little way, to the next moorhen territory.

Hey you! Yes, you in the blue smoking jacket!!
Hi! Come here often? Don't mind me... just doin' a spot of fishin.
You're not a Brown Fish Owl are you?
 Appropriate that an owl should visit us on the same day as two members of the Leeds 2CV club (Les Hiboux)!

# Missed a super shot though.... couldn't get to the camera in time.... the kingfisher came back to the perch, landed, immediately took off and hovered in front of the owl... and then shot back under the bridge just as I reached the camera!

Tuesday 6 September 2011

A swarm of bee-eaters

Many times in the past weeks we have heard the unmistakeable "woorple-woorple" call of European bee-eaters (guépiers de europe, merops apiaster) here at la Forge. Morning and evening, numbers of these busy birds have taken to flying up and down the banks of the Aigronne. Last year we saw them further downstream towards the village, feeding over a field of lucerne. This year a lucerne crop is flowering just upstream of us, and we think they are roosting in trees just beside the weir that diverts water from the Aigronne into our millstream. In one photo, Tim counted 94 bee-eaters, and that wasn't the entire flock! Bee-eaters nest communally in holes in sandy cliffs (e.g. river banks). Presumably they nested somewhere not too far away, but as to where, we have no idea.
Birds on a wire [Bezuard in the background]
And off the wire

Last night [5th Sept] they came in to roost and there was a great sunset light to show off their spectacular colours.
They gave a ten minute show before retiring into the Poplars. At 7:30am they were still there discussing when to get up... after all, on a coldish morning there is no point in flying around after nothing! Wait until the big insects get going...

Caught it! [both me and the bee-eater!]

They fly fast... but don't leave vapour trails.

The bill is often raised like this... as if they sight along it?

They can be seen in an 'arrow' flight shape quite often... as here!