CAP GRIS NEZ
Search for passage migrants on a French headland
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.
Short-toed Tree Creaper