La vie du Marais

Malgré la sécheresse et la baisse du niveau d’eau dans le marais du Crotoy, quelques observations ornithologiques étaient quand même possibles cette année. Voici donc quelques images de la vie du marais, au printemps et en début d’été. Les scènes de nourrissage des foulques macroules étaient vraiment intéressantes à observer, les parents travaillant d’arrache-pied pour trouver et remonter la nourriture pour leur nombreuse progéniture.

Chez les spatules, à cette époque les jeunes étaient déjà bien émancipés, même s’ils continuaient à harceler les adultes pour quémander de la nourriture. Les autres se toilettent mutuellement ou vont à la pêche avec une efficacité redoutable !

Parfois la vie des oiseaux est perturbée par le passage d’une vache Higland ou de quelques Henson, accompagnés de hérons garde-bœufs…

Nourrissage des jeunes spatules en baie de Somme

Si vous voulez savoir ce que c’est que le harcèlement, je vous conseille d’aller observer les jeunes spatules qui réclament à manger aux adultes au marais du Crotoy. Dans ce marais de la baie de Somme, on peut les voir poursuivre leur victime en hochant la tête frénétiquement et en poussant de nombreux cris. Le pauvre parent (ou pas d’ailleurs) essaie de s’éloigner de ce gêneur, à pied ou en volant plus loin, mais rien n’y fait. Le juvénile le poursuit, le presse, le prend sous son aile, tapote son bec avec le sien. Au final, l’adulte finit par le laisser enfourner son bec dans son propre gosier pour lui régurgiter de la nourriture et satisfaire sa faim.

Naissances au marais du Crotoy

Le printemps a été compliqué pour les oiseaux au marais du Crotoy avec la sécheresse et le niveau d’eau qui a fortement baissé. Les premiers écologistes de France ont fini par se décider à remettre de l’eau, mais en noyant les nids qui s’étaient installés entre temps. Pas de jeunes échasses cette année, donc… Les cygnes et les canards s’en sortent pourtant bien, une cane a même été aperçue avec 32 petits autour d’elle. Non pas qu’elle ait couvé 32 oeufs, mais les canards savent organiser des nurseries et c’est toujours un plaisir de voir ainsi la marmaille entourer la maman… Quant-aux cygnons, ces petites peluches sont toujours aussi attendrissantes. Tout ce petit monde passe son temps à manger et à dormir, comme tous les bébés du monde…

A spring at the Hâble d'Ault

This year, the weather offered us two beautiful weeks of good weather in spring while I was on vacation and I was able to take advantage of it to go and do some wildlife photography at the Hâble d'Ault.

First of all, there was this beautiful Barn Owl, sitting on his post, and letting me get within a few feet. I can't imagine how the mouse feels when he meets the yellow and piercing eyes of this bird... I could see him a second time a few days later, but he was less cooperative...

I also came across the gray cuckoo, who had come to look for a large caterpillar in a bush near which I had posted my blind. The whinchat I was watching at the time got the fright of its life.

There was also the white-fronted redstart, which I had never encountered before. This little bird really has a beautiful, colorful livery.

I also learned to recognize the Lark, which I must have often confused with the Meadow Pipit in the past. The beak is actually more conical, there is sometimes a small crest erected on the head and the spots on the belly do not go down as low as in the pipit... I was able to observe them feeding their young by bringing them in turn (both adults participate) full spoonfuls of mosquitoes, larvae and other insects. The nest is a simple cavity at the foot of a grass clump, and the parents are very careful not to feel observed before going there. The brood is at the mercy of the first dog not held on a leash that passes there, or of the first vehicle that drives off the path... Notice to the hunters of the area who do not have much consideration for all this biodiversity.

And then there were the usual melodious linnets, whose male with those red colors is so photogenic. I was able to witness the nest building in a bush, which seems to be the responsibility of the female, with the male merely accompanying her. I could also see a very brief mating scene. The linnets seem to enjoy the lichens and other fatty plants that they find on the gravelly lawns of the hâble, sometimes merging with the vegetation in an astonishing mimicry.

The brush warblers are also well represented at this site. At this time, the males sing at the top of the branches of the bushes to attract females. The variety of trills they emit is incredibly rich! What a repertoire they have! And then as soon as they have found a mate, it is radio silence and they return to their discreet life...

In the images below, you will also find the following species, some of which are emblematic of the Bay of the Somme: Elegant Avocet, White Stilt, Melanocephalus Gull, Meadow Pipit, Spring Wagtail, Grey Wagtail, Northern Accentor and Little Gravelot. Enjoy your visit!

Stork nesting in the Bay of the Somme

Nidification des cigognes en baie de Somme

Here are the pictures taken during a few stalking sessions near a nest of white storks (Ciconia ciconia) well accessible on the roadside, in the lower valley of the Somme, close to the Somme bay. A nice little spot because the small country road is not very busy and you are alone with the chirping of the birds most of the time. There is a lot of waiting to be done because the birds can be absent for a long time or remain almost motionless, dozing on the nest for a long time... Fortunately, there are other nests further away, too far for photos, but which still allow observation.

Seeing a stork come back with enough to add a floor to the nest is the reward for the wait! The construction of the nests continues from year to year and they can weigh 200 to 300 kg (or even much more and end up collapsing). The lady (?) shows her contentment by snapping her beak, head back, and each one goes to work to arrange the branches or the balls of mud thus brought back.

There is a bit of competition, so I could see another individual, either in search of a nest, or a supernumerary male in search of a female, trying to land on the nest occupied by "my" pair and being violently chased away!

With a bit of luck, storks can be found in the neighbouring fields and pastures. I observed 6 of them in a potato field, exploring the freshly dug furrows, sometimes with only their heads visible...

When I was last here, the brooding had begun, so I preferred not to risk disturbing them. See you in a few weeks to see if the young are present!

Cold wave in the Bay of the Somme

Vague de froid en Baie de Somme, la glace se forme au pied de la digue, le long des quais de la Somme à Saint-Valery-sur-Somme

Near Saint-Valery-sur-Somme

In February 2021, a cold spell hit the Baie de Somme region and last more than a week. This is the opportunity to take some pictures! After several days of dreariness the light finally arrives with the good weather. And as happiness never comes alone, the low tide takes place in the middle of the night. Therefore, in the early morning, the bay is empty and the ice has settled a little bit everywhere along the chanels and on the sandbanks. Around Saint-Valery-sur-Somme, the usual landscapes are transformed, and each relief is underlined with white. The meanders of the chanels take on a whole new dimension, and each rib in the sandbanks becomes visible from the sky thanks to the drone. Cape Hornu in particular offers magnificent views with its immense sandbanks, while the sky becomes colored thanks to the sunrise. On the other hand, by -8°C, and with the headwind, the batteries are exhausted very quickly and getting back the drone proves to be perilous... After one or two frights, I nevertheless manage to repatriate it and get back in the car, completely refrigerated!

On Le Crotoy beach

The next day, it is in Le Crotoy, on the other side of the Baie de Somme, that my steps guide me. At dawn, the polders are superb under the glowing red sky.

France, Somme (80), Baie de Somme, Noyelles-sur-mer, Aube sur les renclôtures (polders)

On the beach of Le Crotoy also the rising sun tints the sky with pink and I take advantage of this moment to make images with the drone. The temptation is strong to send it far away to explore these landscapes dressed in white... This time the drone lands 300 meters away from me in emergency, battery flat because of the cold. Fortunately, I had time to bring it back above the dry land and I could locate its landing point, I get out of it without breaking...

On the beach, the tide deposited a thick layer of ice over a few meters wide ... It is our "ice pack" to us! This time it is with the camera that I capture the scene, while a beautiful golden light floods the landscape. In the tufts of Townsend's Spartine, the piled up blocks of ice offer pretty compositions for the images. A little further on the beach, a few joggers are arrive, but they are not numerous in this cold!

At the Crotoy marsh

I continue my road towards the Crotoy marsh where the ponds are covered with ice. The ducks, coots and swans crowd on the few stretches still in water. The gait of the swans on the ice is cautious, one can see that it is not their element. On the other hand they are not shy to take a nap on the ice... The beautiful morning light highlights them well on the photos...

With the birds in the nature reserve

At the Plages de la Maye, in the Baie de Somme Nature Reserve, I observe in the distance the big bird gatherings! The Tadornes de Belon, emblematic birds of the Baie de Somme, perform their usual aerial ballets despite the cold. To my great surprise, they are accompanied by a multitude of ducks. I would later learn that heavy snowfalls in Scandinavia forced them to retreat to our home, further south, to our great pleasure!