Thursday, 28 February 2013

Southern France 22-28 Feb 2013

An excellent trip to southern France with Shetland wildlife - sunny weather throughout, very cold and windy the first couple of days. We visited very varied habitats, with the mountains of Ventoux and Les Alpilles as well as the Crau plain - and of course the wetlands of the Camargue. The Camargue contains the etangs, or lakes, as well as extensive reed beds - birds on the first day included a vagrant Lesser Flamingo with the Greater Flamingoes, as well as a flyover Spoonbill - Black-necked Grebes, Cetti's Warblers, Penduline Tits and numerous Marsh Harriers and Buzzards - and later in the day, flocks of Glossy Ibis and a superb summer plumaged Slender-billed Gull. Two visits to Les Baux gave us excellent prolonged views of Wallcreeper on the cliffs, seen very well in the scope but a little distant for the camera. Our second visit here also obliged with a flock of 9 Alpine Accentors, and the cliffs here also hold Blue Rock Thrush. The nearby gorge holds a pair of Eagle Owls and we had good views at dusk. The Crau plain was very windy the first day, calmer when revisited, and we saw at least 50 Little Bustards there along with Stone Curlews, Southern Grey Shrikes, Woodlarks and Calandra Larks - Dartford Warblers were also present. Pont du Gard aqueduct was very impressive and also held good birds, with Crag Martin and Firecrest seen well and a roost of Rock Sparrows. Unexpected bonuses included a Long-eared Owl sunning itself, and flocks of Common Cranes flying out to feed from their reedbed roost. and on the last afternoon, a superb Spotted Eagle soaring over the Camargue where we also saw several Booted Eagles. The grounds of the hotel itself held a wintering Black Redstart, and a male Hen Harrier flew over nightly to roost. Altogether a very varied itinerary, and an enjoyable short break.

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