Search for pas­sage mi­grants on a French head­land

Bird Watching (UK) - - Go Birding - PAUL TRODD

AN EARLY START for a bird­ing walk in north­ern France is well worth the ef­fort at this time of year when mi­gra­tion is in full swing. A short drive along the coast from the Chan­nel Tun­nel ter­mi­nal at Calais brings the bird­watcher to the lovely chalk head­land of Cap Griz Nez, over­look­ing La Manche and the White Cliffs of Dover, only 21 miles across the wa­ter. The Cap is one of Europe`s pre­mier sea­watch­ing lo­ca­tions, and if the wind is in the north-west at any time dur­ing the au­tumn, you’ll have to ar­rive early to get the best seat in the house, although views from the look­out point can be just as good, if a lit­tle ex­posed. Among the stream of reg­u­lar gulls, terns, skuas, auks, divers, shear­wa­ters and ducks head­ing south into the At­lantic, are much sought-af­ter seabird gems such as Grey Phalarope, Sabine’s Gull, Long-tailed Skua, and, as the sea­son pro­gresses, Leach’s Petrel and Lit­tle Auk, so scan the area well! Over­head mi­gra­tion can also be spec­tac­u­lar with large num­bers of pip­its, wag­tails, larks and hirundines stream­ing along the coast­line, plus birds of prey from mid-morn­ing. Over­cast weather con­di­tions can ground pas­sage mi­grants, and over the years I’ve con­nected with the likes of Com­mon Rosefinch, Bluethroat, Richard Pipit, Cirl Bunting, Great Grey Shrike and Dot­terel in the small scrub-lined fields. The walk also takes in the old Sec­ond World War gun em­place­ments where wood­land has re­claimed the con­crete sen­tinels of death and de­struc­tion. Look for Yel­low-browed War­bler among the nu­mer­ous Chif­fchaffs in the low canopy, and check sur­round­ing fields for gulls and finch flocks. A su­perb bird­ing walk on the near con­ti­nent that nearly al­ways throws up one or two sur­prises.

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