In times past, at this season, all red-blooded Frenchmen who owned a shotgun would have been found atop tall trees, in their Palombieres
awaiting the passage of these Wood Pigeons.
This annual practice now seems to have all but ended.
Yesterday morning I witnessed a sight that would have made many a French chasseur
weep. On my early morning dog walk, I witnessed tens (maybe hundreds) of thousands of Palombes
passing overhead on their way towards the South West. Some were in huge groups of thousands, others were simply dozens; all were heading in the same direction, at the same speed, and at the same height. It was a scene the size of which I'd never before witnessed; the passage lasted for about an hour. Hunters would have been in heaven.
Most of them passed directly overhead, and I was quite expecting to be splattered with excrement; luckily none came my way.
We always see a certain amount of birds in groups flying off for winter, but I've never seen as many as yesterday. It was quite spectacular.
I did hear a few very distant shots. Some of my chasseur
friends used to speak of shooting hundreds every day. I believe they were preserved by being put into the freezer whole, including their feathers. Later they would only eat the breasts, which I considered rather a waste.
I've always rather enjoyed eating Pigeon; Lady M doesn't.
I expect they'll meet the firing squad somewhere along the route, perhaps in Malta.ReplyDelete
I'm not sure where they go. I think I've read about the Maltese netting tiny birds!Delete
I have never eaten pigeon. The native ones here are protected.ReplyDelete
They are quite dark/gamey tasting. I rather like them, but I'm not allowed.Delete
Over the past few days we have also observed some large birds of prey circling around and heading off in the same direction as the 'palombes'. A very different type of migration, and only a few birds at a time. Originally I thought they were Buzzards, but with the help of my binoculars and a bird book, I now see that they are Red Kites. I've just been watching a few more.ReplyDelete
Wish the bird hunters would stop shooting around here. Their prey is much smaller than pigeons. The bigger birds, pheasants etc disappeared a few years ago. Hunters or wild cats , or both.ReplyDelete
Amazing to watch flocks of birds. We watch the magpies now
They used to shoot Blackbirds and Sparrows here, but this has now all stopped. The only current prey is either Wild Boar or Roe Deer. There are far too many of both around so no problem with hunting them. Having said that, everything is now highly controlled.Delete
They were probably heading for our oilseed rape fields. We had a bad dose of them a few years ago when they came over from the Continent.ReplyDelete
They were heading south, maybe to the Spanish rape fields. A bit late though.Delete
They like to eat the young rape seed coming up from the Autumn drilling. They graze here through the winter. It was known that the last big crop devastation we had was from pigeons from Continental Europe.Delete
Very strange... Wood Pigeons are meant to be non-migratory/short distance migrators:ReplyDelete
This is from the BTO site...
"The Woodpigeon is one of the most widespread bird species found in Britain and Ireland. Recorded on more than 90% of squares surveyed during the most recent Atlas, the breeding population is estimated to be around 5.3 million pairs.
In mid November 2018, there were eye-catching counts of 50,000 to 150,000 Woodpigeons moving in the Severn area and along the south coast as can be seen in this video. Similar numbers have been seen in previous years. The origin and destination of these birds is something of a mystery. Are these birds local breeders dispersing? Ringing data so far shows only very local movements of birds breeding in Britain and similarly there is little evidence for birds arriving en-masse from Scandinavia. Your counts in BirdTrack can help in understanding this mystery."
So this is a mystery worth solving.
There was a lovely photograph on a mammal site I use of one of these shooting seats.... felled!ReplyDelete
It was in Canada... and beavers had chewed the main trunk and the shooting platform was on its side at ground level....mwahahaha!
I tried to find out where they were heading, but no luck. I think they may be off to Les Landes, but I can't think why. What do they have that we don't!Delete
I have found this:Delete
The species is partial migratory (diurnal migrant). Birds from the temperate and southern regions of Europe do not undertake migration, while northern and continental birds migrate to spend the “bad season” on the Atlantic coast of Europe, in the Iberian Peninsula , northern Mediterranean shores, Turkey and the Middle East.
In our country, sedentary birds are joined at the end of September by many migrants (Yeatman, Berthelot & Jarry, 1994). These converge towards the western end of the Pyrenees. Crossing the passes of the Basque Country, to the Iberian winter quarters, gives rise to sometimes spectacular local concentrations. CRAMP (1985) locates the peak of passage of postnuptial migration in France between 10 and 20 October. He locates the return migration to Europe between March and April.
For the past ten years, the cultivation of maize, which now extends throughout the South-West, has radically changed the ancestral habits of the birds that are settling more and more numerous at the foot of the Pyrenees which they give up cross the passes. The development of this wintering seems to concern populations of Medio-European origin."
From the Observatoire Européen...
very good site as it has English data and language...
This comment has been removed by the author.ReplyDelete
Because it was the link that is now part of the previous comment.Delete
That sounds much like what I'd imagined, either Les Landes or further down into Spain. They certainly seemed very determined.Delete
Have you read Margaret's, Camino Confidential, post today? (She is on my sidebar. Nothing to do with pigeons.ReplyDelete
Interesting. MM is currently on a book signing tour, my daughter met up with her in Brisbane. You may remember my page about her husband David when he died. He was in the film business.Delete
Just in case you didn't see it, look for David Hannay.Delete
Too many small bones in pigeon for my liking.ReplyDelete
I spit 'em out. Nice flavour though.Delete
Never had pigeon and I am not going to try. I wonder if a future weather event lead to such a massive number on the move at once.ReplyDelete
It was almost as if it had been written in The Pigeon Times, "We all leave on Saturday". I saw no flocks leaving before, and I've seen none since. Very organised!Delete