I’m in France – at my patch in the Corbieres in the South.
I realised – despite having been here almost a couple of weeks that I hadn’t seen any Stonechat yet. They breed here and normally just pop up on a bush in front of me. So, I decided one morning to go to a distant part of the patch where they are reliable: a large sometimes-sheep-grazed area of very scrubby garrigue.
As I walked along a dusty track just as the sun was hitting me in the horizontal – soon after dawn, I saw a bird perched up nicely in the distance.
When I raised my bins I could instantly see it was a bird I have hoped to find on the Patch for years; Woodchat Shrike. An adult female. It is honestly one of my favourite birds.
As I have never seen one here in 12 years of looking I kind of assumed it was a wandering loner or maybe a passage migrant. But then I saw a juvenile, another, and eventually three juveniles still occasionally being fed by the mother. My favourite bird is breeding on my patch. Delighted doesn’t cover it.
I eventually also picked up the adult male on a telegraph pole in the distance.
I just stood there for a bit watching them and feeling very happy. While I did so, a distant Hoopoe perched up on a wire as well.
Tawny Pipits and Woodlark occasionally popped up on bushes or flew around me. And then up-wind of me, a buck Roe Deer wandered right past me, only noticing me when it was very close before running off. Magical!
I walked back to the house feeling very happy. And there, right near the house was a family of Stonechat I had gone looking for.