Blog Site by Appointment to His Regal Majesty the Maalie King

He who would be a Leader, let him be a Bridge

Crown Copyright: The Royal Maalie Court

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Normandy Ringing Camp

On the north shore of the estuary of the River Seine in Normandy, just east of Le Havre, is a vast reed bed (Phragmites australis) of some 8500 hectares, bisected by the new Pont de Normandie. The area is a nature reserve, the Réserve Naturelle Nationale Estuaire de la Seine, and is enormously important as a stopover for birds migrating from central and eastern Europe on their way south to their wintering grounds in Africa. The reeds support a vast biomass of invertebrate life upon which the birds feed to fatten up in order to store enough "fuel" for their flight across the Sahara.

Among the many bird species which depend on this area during migration is our most globally threatened migratory song-bird, the Aquatic Warbler, that has a restricted breeding range in Poland, Belarus and the Ukraine.

Ringing friend Ken and I were invited by a team of French ornithologists to join a bird-ringing camp (August 4-12) in Normandy to assist in catching and ringing migratory birds in order to study their biology and migration.
The grandeur of our residence near Harfleur, the gite, somewhat belies the description of "ringing camp"

The modern Pont de Normandie bisects a vast reed bed of some 8500 hectares

You can see the line of mist net poles tracing out the 'ride' cut through the reed bed

Extracting birds caught in the mist nets
Ken and I were responsible for ringing and processing some 1200 birds of 15 species during our week at the camp, including over 500 Sedge Warblers, 350 Reed Warblers, 40 Marsh Warblers, 40 Savi's Warblers, 30 Bearded Tits, 20 Bluethroats and 20 Cetti's Warblers. Of course we were both able to see and handle several species for the first time.

It was not until the third day that we actually caught the bird-ringer's 'Holy Grail' of warbler species, namely the Aquatic Warbler, and the week provided a total of five for our team.

Bruno and Ken compare the similar Reed and Marsh Warblers

A colourful male Bluethroat, a close relative of the Robin

The Bearded Tit is known in French (perhaps more appropriately) as the "Moustached Tit"

The stripy, if rather drab, Aquatic Warbler, was the main target species of the research

The nearby port of Honfleur provided an opportunity for a glass of Calvados and a croque Monsieur
We both felt that participation in this international research project was immensely rewarding and gave us opportunities to exchange information, ideas and techniques. We recorded 84 bird species during the week (including those caught and ringed) the most notable of those seen but not ringed being Spoonbill, Fan-tailed Warbler, Little Gull, Green and Wood Sandpipers, Honey Buzzard and (on the ferry crossing) Storm Petrel and Great Skua.


Blogger simon said...

Fantastic! 1200 birds!

LOVED where you guys set up "camp"... looked luxurious!
Photos are great too!

I note that the bridge looks very similar to our ANZAC bridge too!

11:46 pm  
Blogger Kiwi Nomad 2006 said...

Sounds like a great time away.... I will have to acquire some skills like that one day and travel the world from ringing camp to ringing camp ;-)

5:47 am  
Blogger TCA said...

Nice photos, and looks like you had better weather than us too.

The ringing camp is a far cry from some ringing accomodation I have seen!


7:48 am  
Blogger lorenzothellama said...

What a lovely gite, and aren't those little birds pretty. I agree about the Bearded Tit. He has a real Hercule Poirot moustache on him.

I was a bit confused by your last paragraph. Did you ring spoonbill, bussard, skuas, petrel etc.?

8:45 am  
Blogger Tortoiseshell said...

Liked the bluethroat - v. pretty.

I don't thionk the aquatic warbler is "drab" at all! It's colours might even be described as "Tortoiseshell"!

More of this please and less of the Evolutionist v Creationist thing.

11:37 am  
Blogger lorenzothellama said...

Aw come on Tortoiseshell, how else are we going to get record comments on our site?

5:02 pm  
Blogger Tortoiseshell said...

Yes, good point Lorenzo!

On reflection, I may have been a bit harsh on Maalie in the latest evolution v creation skirmish.

Maalie is correct that fundamentalism (in whatever guise) needs to be challenged in the light of new discovery and reasoning.

It's just that "New Maalie" seems to be using the weaknesses of creationism as a means to take a blanket swipe at faith in general - apparently without exception.

This sits uncomfortably with my sentimental memories of "Old Maalie" sipping cherry & mince pies at the vicarage in "the good old days"....

I reckon it was the Pollok Nunsthat was the last straw for Mallie.

Delivering those blankets cost us a good couple of hours drinking time :-(

Nevertheless, I remain hopeful that the "strumpet" of a (scientifically enlightened) faith shall sound once again in Maalie Court.

10:45 pm  
Blogger lorenzothellama said...

Tortoiseshell: Too harsh on Maalie? Someone has to stand up to him with his Paxman hectoring style!
Do tell me about the blankets to the good Sisters. I've not heard that one.
I could also tell you sentimental stories of Christmas long ago, and not just Christmas either!
Yours in secrecy for the moment, Lorenzo.

8:52 am  
Blogger TCA said...

vraiment magnifique Maalie! The Pont de Normandie is a magnificent bridge I think.


8:56 am  
Blogger Maalie said...

Sherry and mince pies? I recall downing half a bottle of claret for elevenses at the Vicarage one Boxing Day!

10:01 am  
Blogger Tortoiseshell said...

"Ask and ye shall be given!!!"

12:43 pm  
Blogger Tortoiseshell said...

Lorenzo said: "Do tell me about the blankets to the good Sisters."

When I was at Uni, Pyongyang would send us up to Glasgow with a bundle of old blankets and stuff for a charity run by nuns on the south side of the city.

Maalie had to knock on the door and befriend a nun and hand over all this stuff before beating a hasty retreat to the car.

As we'd only get to Glasgow by evening, the whole laborious exercise eat into our valuable drinking time.

We never understood why we just didn't take the blankets down the road to Christian Aid in Aberystwyth?

12:50 pm  
Blogger lorenzothellama said...

Tortoiseshell: who is pyongyang? How did Maalie 'befriend' a nun? It is sounding a bit devious to me.

1:22 pm  
Blogger lorenzothellama said...

How did you get that cute little cluster map on the front of your blog? You may covet neighbours' asses but I just covet your map.


5:23 pm  
Blogger Tina said...

Welcome back! :):)

10:23 pm  
Blogger Merisi said...

You give "camping out" a whole new shine! :-)

8:22 am  
Blogger Maalie said...

To forestall misunderstanding about the hardship we had to endure during this camp, I must point out that the arm chairs and TV were used only in the afternoons and evenings and the maids didn't do everything for us. We had to take the tops off our own beer bottles.

8:28 am  
Blogger lorenzothellama said...

Did they sprinkle the sugar on your corn flakes for you?

11:15 am  
Blogger Merisi said...

"the arm chairs and TV were used only in the afternoons"

Only in the afternoons? *chuckle*
Oh, Maalie, this sounds like Paradise to me.

Give me your tired, your hungry ...

1:21 pm  
Blogger Maalie said...

No, we had to put our own sugar on. But they did iron our socks and flitted around the gite with a feather duster in those cute little outfits that French maids wear.

I should add that we were up at 4.45 am every day and didn't get back before about 2.00 - that is a nine-hour day, quite hard work tramping up and down the mist-net rides in the sunshine.

5:43 pm  
Blogger lorenzothellama said...

Well that's the sort of service you expect in France. Of course they iron your socks, but I'm a bit surprised about not helping you with your corn flakes.

Hope you didn't allow those French maids anywhere near you with their feather dusters.

8:23 am  
Blogger Merisi said...

Maalie, in short, you were "living like God in France" (a German expression *g*).
Next time I get up before 5am, I shall think of you at 2pm (time to quit!!! *grin*).

10:22 am  
Blogger Barbara said...

According to the RSPB the Turnstones roost in the Salt Marsh at Leigh.
How on earth do you get the birds to perch on your fingers. I am impressed.
Looked over your Essex trip posts as it is on my doorstep. In teresting to see it through anothers eyes. Not that I am an Essex girl, I was born in Liverpool.
I wonder if you got to Two Tree Island. RSPB have really taken it under their wing now. Hides looking out over Benfleet Creek. The consequence, one used to be totally isolated there, now there are people!!

6:13 pm  
Anonymous Plumpy said...

Maalie you lucky dog. All your fans are raving about your armchairs and maids. I HAVE an armchair. I HAVE a maid.

What I don't have is a way of catching 1200 birds.

I suppose you let them all go again?

10:10 am  
Anonymous Ellee said...

Lucky you, another great trip, and you never seem to be short of good company. I love Normandy and I love French bridges, the French are always so brave and innovative with their architecture.

10:24 pm  
Anonymous Scaredy said...

If we all get together, you, me, Elbi, Mahou and Beeps, maybe we could outdo Maalie's total of 1200 birds, and I expect lots of them would be 'lifers' too!
Love Scaredy.

8:26 am  
Anonymous Elbi said...


That sounds like a challenge to me. The girl you should be speaking to is Beeps. Mum says they should've named her Diana as she's such a good huntress. I'm not so good with my dodgy leg, I prefer voles, although they always get taken off me before I can have any real fun, bah.

8:43 am  
Blogger lorenzothellama said...

Elbi: do you mean Diana the Huntress or Princ.Diana the Huntress of Men and Media?

Maalie: there are a couple of comments on LtL's blog that you might like to join in on.

8:50 am  
Blogger simon said...

Jim:- can you encourage ken to update his blog with more bird photos?

8:57 am  
Anonymous Elbi said...

Just the huntress. Our little Beeps is too scared to go near most people. She wouldn't even come here to leave a message and made me come back again. Birds, however, are another matter - she could easily teach you how to get them to sit on your paw.

8:57 am  
Blogger lorenzothellama said...

Poor little Beeps. Scaredy was once like that once, then he became Slightlylessscaredy, then he became Nottooscaredy, then he became Notveryscaredyatall and lastly Positivelybold!

10:22 am  
Anonymous Ellee said...

Just want to say have a great weekend. My study project deadline is looming and then I will be able to enjoy weekends again.

10:01 pm  
Blogger Merisi said...

I was hoping to find a report about the outcome of today's omelet taste test. No survivors?
Worried in V.,

1:18 pm  
Blogger lorenzothellama said...

Lorenzo the LLAMA.

9:10 pm  
Blogger lorenzothellama said...

Right. It's lentils and tofu for you on Friday night.

9:44 pm  
Anonymous Ellee said...

Maalie, what can we do to save our dear little sparrows, would you like a guest post on my site to write about it? You are the greatest authority on this subect.

2:07 pm  
Blogger lorenzothellama said...

I didn't know you were the greatest authority on sparrows. Wow! Can I have your autograph?

5:11 pm  
Blogger Maalie said...

I supervised a PhD student (who was successful). But that accolade is too flattering ;-)

5:18 pm  
Blogger lorenzothellama said...


How can I visit wordimperfect with those indecent animals on my comments?

5:39 pm  
Blogger Ju's little sister said...

Lorenzo this is all your own fault for giving Maalie your logon and password!


11:18 pm  
Anonymous plumpy said...


Don't think that a few less teeth will hold me back! Mum is not staying at home tonight and I donm't think she asked Dean to feed me.

There are some lovely sounding native birds in the trees behind our house and I've a strong mind to go see what they taste like.

Of course, I might be persuaded to change my mind if a certain indecent llama and his girlfriend were to be removed from LtL's profile!

11:23 pm  
Blogger lorenzothellama said...

Well said Plumpy. How were the fantails? Ltl.

9:12 am  
Blogger Shrink Wrapped Scream said...

What a facinating life you must have. I so enjoyed those wonderful close-ups of of the birds, but all of your photography was remarkable. Thank you for taking us along with you!

9:49 am  
Blogger Kiwi Nomad 2006 said...

I have just seen a report into some 'earthquakes' near Manchester. 2.4 on the Richter scale. I didn't think ones that weak could be felt;-) We had a 5.1, centred near Foxton, jolt last week, but I only felt it as I was sitting in the lounge!

10:00 am  
Blogger lorenzothellama said...

No comments on confession yet? I'm sure Richard Dawkins would have done by now.

11:03 am  
Blogger The Lone Beader said...

What a beautiful little birdie:)

12:02 pm  
Blogger somepinkflowers said...

love coming here
and viewing your little birdy snaps.


your shots of rock candy ends
look rather smashing,
as well...

1:31 am  
Blogger Jeremy Jacobs said...

nt post and blog. Honfleur and the surrounding areas are wonderful.

10:09 pm  

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