Camargue & Pyrenees

15 - 24 September 2001

Mike Read


Saturday 15th September

The flight from Gatwick was delayed by over one and a half hours but once in the air, we were soon 'enjoying' the delights of B A's All Day Deli sandwiches. It almost makes a Big Mac taste good .......... almost!

The expected minibus had been involved in an accident so we ended up with a slightly smaller vehicle than anticipated. Though a good vehicle to drive, the Renault Espace was a tight squeeze complete with our entire luggage. If only I could find out how to turn the radio off!

During the journey, we saw a couple of rabbits to add to the flight of flamingos that were seen in a glorious sunset as we landed. Despite our late arrival, we were made welcome at the Hotel Robinson and were soon enjoying a typical local meal to complete the day.

Sunday 16th September

Due to the late arrival last evening, we decided to go without an early walk but during breakfast we managed to see a group of Long-tailed Tits, a Pied Flycatcher and we heard a Short-toed Treecreeper. Across the northern side of the Camargue, a quiet, winding road enabled us to do some birding as we went. There were many Cattle Egrets as we went with a few Little Egrets also to be seen. In the distance, 4 Honey Buzzards drifted west on the increasing breeze and then later on, a further 5 drifted past. A wet field held a good number of Little Ringed Plovers and a couple of Greater Ringed Plovers as well as 3 Wood & 1 Green Sandpipers. A Kingfisher flew past at quite close quarters but most of us were scanning distant fences and fields through binoculars so only one member of the group actually saw it! A few Yellow Wagtails were feeding close to moving horses while some Crested Larks were seen on the drier parts of the fields. A Common Buzzard and a Marsh Harrier were also seen.

We then took a walk at the Musée Camarguais where we were lucky to see about a dozen European Bee-eaters, which should be well on their way to Africa by now. There were numerous Cattle Egrets in the area and a Sparrowhawk drifted past in typical flap-and-glide style. At the étang, 3 Great White Egrets seemed to be discontent with each other's company while Marsh Harriers could be seen over many of the surrounding reed beds. A group of Lapwings flew past and a tiny Tree Frog clung to a reed stem.

After lunch we drove to the Étang du Fangassier where there were still plenty of Greater Flamingos present. A Caspian Tern flew past while some way out on the mud a variety of waders tested our identification skills. Species present included Kentish and Ringed Plovers, Dunlin, a couple of Curlew Sandpipers and many Little Stints. Most of these took flight when a Hobby dashed low across the area obviously in hunting mode. Further out, a Ruff and a second Hobby were the only species worthy of note.

This completed our biding for the day so we returned to the Hotel Robinson.

Monday 17th September

The pre breakfast walk produced little except frustration! We frequently heard Sardinian Warblers calling but we could get nothing but the briefest of glimpses.

After breakfast, we drove to Remoulins where we paused to look at the River Gardon. This proved worthwhile with 2 Kingfishers and a Common Sandpiper being the highlights but with Grey Herons and a Little Egret also present.

Later at the Pont du Gard Alpine Swifts and Crag Martins were still present in good numbers. We searched for Rock Sparrows for some time but the only species in their usual spot was Jackdaw.

By now, a true northerly mistral wind was blowing (about force 6) and so we headed for the Chaine des Alpilles where we hoped to find a sheltered spot for lunch. The view to Les Baux from our 'picnic table' was glorious as usual and a couple of Pied Flycatchers proved quite confiding. We then took a walk nearby and heard a number of Sardinian Warblers calling but they remained as elusive as they had been earlier. A male Kestrel held station without much effort, due to the wind, before disappearing over the hill. We drove to Saint Martin to purchase permits for our planned visit to Peau de Meau the following morning and spent some time looking at the various exhibitions in the Ecomusée before driving back to Les Alpilles. We stopped at La Caume but the strong wind ensured the birds were keeping their heads down. We saw little except a couple of Chaffinches and so we returned to the hotel.

Tuesday 18th September

The walk before breakfast proved fairly cool and there were the usual Sardinian Warblers calling from the scrub. Two Tree Pipits and a Yellow Wagtail flew over calling. Returning via the road seemed quite profitable with numerous Tits and Pied Flycatchers in the trees along with a lone Blackcap. As we walked up the drive to the Hotel, we had good views of our second Red Squirrel of the morning.

On our way to La Crau, 11 Little Bustards were in a field as we left the major road to head for Saint-Martin. At the Étang des Aulnes were many Great Crested Grebes and a couple of Caspian Terns flew around occasionally diving for fish. Overhead were two Honey Buzzards and our first Black Kite of the tour.

As we approached Peau de Meau, 8 Red-legged Partridges scattered from the roadside and a Southern Grey Shrike perched on some distant stalks of vegetation. Birding during our walk out to the hide was made more difficult by the mistral but it was an obvious help to the numerous Kestrels which hovered without much effort. A group of 8 Pin-tailed Sandgrouse flew in the distance and a couple of Tawny Pipits were well seen when the first of two Sparrowhawks flew past. A few calls alerted us to the presence of Short-toed Larks and at least two, possibly about seven, flew up from just in front of us. During the walk back to the vehicle, another 9 Pin-tailed Sandgrouse flew up from not far away. Perhaps the main feature of the walk was the dozens of Northern Wheatears which seemed to be everywhere across this stony plain.

During lunch by the Étang des Aulnes there were a few Pied and a couple of Spotted Flycatchers present and a quick look over the water before we departed produced 3 Gadwall and 2 Kingfishers.

Entressen rubbish tip proved disappointing with just 2 or 3 Black Kites present but there were thousands of Yellow-legged Gulls feeding and resting in the area.

As the strong wind had now decreased considerably, we decided that another visit to La Caume might prove worthwhile. It proved to be a good decision as soon after we arrived, 4 Buzzards came drifting past; on closer inspection we realised that there were 2 Honeys and 2 Commons. At least 2 Common Kestrels hovered over a distant ridge and occasionally dropped to the ground to presumably catch insects. A little later 2 Short-toed Eagles drifted westwards high above the more northerly ridge. As we strolled back through the pine woods there was little of interest until we neared the minibus when we found a party of tits heading through the tree tops and these included 2 Crested Tits. This completed our days birding and we returned to the hotel in plenty of time to prepare for dinner.

Wednesday 19th September

For our pre-breakfast walk today we drove to the River Rhone just a couple of kilometres north of the hotel. The first bird to greet us was a Cirl Bunting singing from a tree close to where we parked. Despite careful searching, we never did see the bird though. Groups of Cattle Egrets flew from a presumed roosting site to head off out for the days' feeding and an occasional Grey Heron followed the same route. Just before we descended the bank to check for birds from the dam, an Osprey flew over heading steadily and purposefully westwards. From the dam we found a few more Grey Herons, a Common Tern and at least 3 Kingfishers. Just before we left, a second Osprey flew over heading in the same general direction as the first one.

After breakfast, we set off for the western Camargue but a detour delayed our progress a little though it did lead us to obtaining excellent views of another Short-toed Eagle. South of Vauvert we paused to overlook a marsh where there were lots of Cattle & Little Egrets, Grey Herons and Marsh Harriers to be seen. Further along the ridge 2 Rollers were most obliging and allowed everyone to obtain excellent 'scope views.

Down by the Canal du Rhone, many more Marsh Harriers could be seen and a Hobby drifted around overhead catching insects with ease. From the bridge we could see 3 or 4 Squacco Herons and a Great White Egret plus other more commonly noted members of the heron family.

Other stops en route produced nothing new and so we were soon arriving at the Centre d' Information du Parc for lunch. Our picnic was up to the expected high standards already set by the Hotel Robinson and this became even more obvious when a very tame Cattle Egret arrived and was intent on joining us. It definitely preferred meat to veg! As we walked to the Centre to view the birds nearby, a White Stork flew effortlessly overhead and descended towards the pool. From inside the Centre we could see that this individual had landed close to another of its kind. Also on view were a couple of Northern Shovelers and dozens of Teal.

Along the beach east of Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer there were about 100 Sandwich Terns and further on we could see good numbers of Greater Flamingos and Avocets but there was no sign of the hoped for smaller waders. From here we drove up the western side of the Réserve des Impériaux where the first species worthy of note was Caspian Tern, there were at least 8 flying around feeding. Along the bumpy track to the Domaine des Méjanes we saw plenty more Avocets, about 4 - 5000 Greater Flamingos, large flocks of Northern Shovelers and a grassy pool held about 25 feeding Greenshanks.

Thursday 20th September

We bade our farewells at the Hotel Robinson at 9 o'clock to commence the drive to the Pyrenees. Heading westwards on the AutoRoute, we see occasional Common Buzzards and Kestrels. Minor running repairs are necessary as a plastic strip around the front windscreen begins to flap in the breeze. It's amazing what you can repair with electrician's tape! After a further stop for coffee' we continued the journey and were beyond Toulouse for lunch. As usual, raptors are much more in evidence from Toulouse onwards. Here we see at least 30 Common Buzzards, 8 Red Kites and 10 Kestrels.

As we made good time for the AutoRoute driving, we decide to drive up on to Hautacam. In excellent weather, we see 2 more Red Kites at close quarters while over distant ridges, especially towards the Pic du Midi, there are 36 Griffon Vultures and an adult Lammergeier gliding effortlessly along.

After this unexpected detour from the direct route, we return to the valley and complete journey to the Hotel Montaigu in Luz-St-Sauveur with time to relax and unpack before dinner.

Friday 21st September

Due to the mountains shielding the light from the valleys and the fact that we are now further west than we were in the Camargue, the first part of the pre breakfast walk is in darker conditions than expected. The track up to the ruined castle is negotiated in good time with an occasional pause to hear the first bird calls of the day. Nuthatch and Wren are both identified and we get excellent views as a Red Fox spends some time moving across an open field. As it slowly made its way towards the nearby woodland, it frequently paused to feed perhaps on worms and insects.

As the weather was good, we decided to walk to that most spectacular of locations, the Cirque de Gavarnie. On the way to Gavarnie, we paused to overlook the Toy River. Here, we all had good views of a nearby Dipper. A little further on, 2 Lammergeiers, an adult and a juvenile, plus a few Griffon Vultures, were flying along a ridge.

Soon after we began the walk, a Hobby flew along in the distance and 2 juvenile Red-backed Shrikes gave good, close views as they perched in a short juniper bush. A couple of Yellowhammers seemed to be less bold as they flew off across the river then skulked in some bushes.

Further on we found our first 2 Isards (the Pyrenean equivalent of Chamois) though they were high on a ridge and very distant. A few Griffon Vultures soared over the ridges while the pine woodland held such delightful species as Crested Tits, Goldcrests and Firecrests. During lunch near the Hotel du Cirque, we managed to find another 12 Isards and saw Alpine Choughs circling near them. As we walked back we saw most of the same species of birds and also noted Autumn Crocus and Merendera though by this time it had begun to rain a little and we heard distant thunder.

As conditions improved a little, we drove up into the Ossoue Valley. Griffon Vultures still patrolled the ridges despite considerable low cloud cover. As they drifted in and out of the clouds, an adult Lammergeier appeared close to them and we spent some time watching this. Then 2 Golden Eagles (an adult and a juvenile) also flew in to view. We saw one of them land high on a ridge above us but despite prolonged searching, we could not locate it for telescope views. In the jumble of rocks close to where we had stopped, a number of Black Redstarts and Northern Wheatears entertained us at closer range.

We wound our way back towards Luz and as there were no volunteers to bungee-jump off of Napoleon's Bridge, we completed the drive back to the hotel.

Saturday 22nd September

The overnight rain had stopped in plenty of time for the pre-breakfast walk which began in near darkness due to the cloud cover. Some distance up the road, a Little Owl was calling then later a couple of Common Buzzards could be heard mewing. One was eventually seen in flight. During the return walk, we saw a Cirl Bunting and 4 Serins.

The cloud cover increased as we drove to the Col du Tourmalet and the first notable bird was a Sparrowhawk, which promptly disappeared over the skyline. As birds were scarce at the car parking area, we walked up to a ridge and disturbed an adult Golden Eagle that we were able to study from above a rare privilege. Many Alpine Marmots called in alarm as it flew off. As the weather worsened a little, 2 Marsh Harriers flew high above us and later a Black Kite followed on a similar path. This was during our return to the car park where some clients felt in need of some minor 'retail therapy'. This eventually led us to 12 Snowfinches, one of the species we had been seeking on the higher ridge; yet here they were close to the Hotel and shop! As we walked past the 'Geant du Tourmalet', a Merlin put in a very brief appearance as it rapidly sped off over a hillock in hunting mode. Other birds worthy of note at this location included Wheatear, Water Pipit and both species of Chough (Alpine and Red-billed).

During lunch the rain increased in intensity and so we descended to a lower level in the hope of continuing our birding. By the River Grave at Argeles Gazost, 2 Dippers displayed at each other to claim 'territorial rights' over the good feeding to be had on the dam. Above this, 10 Little Grebes were resting in the slack water and 9 Cormorants flew over. A juvenile Red Kite perched in the dead upper branches of a tree when 3 White Storks flew in to view and two of them perched on parts of an electricity pylon to await an improvement in the weather. As we walked further up river, 2 Common Sandpipers added to those we had already seen. Perhaps the main feature of this walk though was the large quantity of tiny Common Toads we saw and had to constantly avoid stepping on!

This concluded what turned out to be a good day's birding despite the weather and we returned to the Hotel.

Sunday 23rd September

The pre breakfast walk produced nothing new and later we set out for the Pont d Espagne. Nearing Cauterets, an adult Lammergeier flew around over some high peaks before eventually landing. At the same time, a fine Golden Eagle began circling in the same area before finally disappearing over the ridge.

Just after we began our walk at the Pont d'Espagne we paused to admire and photograph the waterfalls. A little further on, a Dipper flew off along the river while some Crested Tits, Coal Tits and a Goldcrest fed in nearby Scots pines. On more open countryside, Black Redstarts seemed to occupy almost every rock with the occasional Dunnock thrown in to confuse things! A couple of Griffon Vultures briefly appeared over the ridge just before we settled to our riverside lunch.

During lunch 2 Lammergeiers, one much higher than the other, could be seen against the magnificent mountainous backdrop at the end of the valley where rain clouds seemed to be gathering. As light rain began to fall, we set off back towards the car park and picked up a Common Redstart and some more Firecrests. The rain soon stopped and so we decided to take the chair lift up to the Lac de Gaube. As we walked towards the restaurant beside the lake, 2 Black Storks circled high over the ridge above us as they attempted to gain height to continue their southward migration. From the restaurant area, we managed to find 11 Isards (with the help of a knowledgeable waiter!) after which we began the decent to the car park. The footpath wound its way through coniferous woodland where we saw many more Crested Tits, Goldcrests and Firecrests.

We were pleasantly surprised that we were able to continue enjoying the scenery and wildlife throughout the day despite the poor weather forecast.

Monday 24th September

We left the Hotel Montaigu at 9 a.m. as usual and headed for Hautacam in rather poor weather. Driving up on to the mountain, we hoped to rise above the clouds but it was a forlorn hope. However, we did gain a very brief glimpse of our first Great Spotted Woodpecker as we went through a wooded area. We paid a visit to the supermarket in Argeles-Gazost and from the car park we saw 11 Griffon Vultures high above the ridge. Near Ayzac-Ost we saw a couple more Griffon Vultures, 2 or 3 Red Kites and a Peregrine. A Nuthatch called from the trees behind us as we watched 2 Common Kestrels patrolling along the cliffs and 2 Serins also flew past. As we began the drive with one last look back towards the mountains, there were about 6 Red Kites and 2 Black Kites flying over the hillside close to the start of the dual carriageway towards Lourdes.

Throughout the journey to Toulouse we added a few more Red Kites to the list as well as 8 Common Kestrels and 35 Common Buzzards. Perhaps the feature of the journey was the thousands of Barn Swallows that we saw. Wherever there was water (rivers, lakes etc.), hundreds of birds were feeding. In areas where there was no water we saw groups of ten or more. Presumably these were all birds that were being held up by the poor, cloudy weather and were catching up on some feeding.

We reached the airport in good time for our uneventful flight back to Gatwick.



Little Grebe: A single bird on the River Gardon at Remoulins then nothing until 10 together on the river near Argeles Gazost on 22nd.

Great Crested Grebe: A few were on the Étang de Vaccares on 16th, at least 10 on the Étang des Aulnes on 18th and a couple were glimpsed on the River Garonne during the journey to Toulouse on 24th.

Great Cormorant: Seven in the western Camargue on 16th, at least 25 roosting on an island in the Étang des Imperiaux and, surprisingly, a 'V' of 9 flying south along the River Pau on 22nd.

Grey Heron: Seen every day except 15th, 21st and 23rd.

Purple Heron: Just a single bird seen in the eastern Camargue on 16th.

Cattle Egret: Seen every day from 16th until 20th in varying quantities in the Camargue region. Most were in the company of cattle or horses where they were feeding on insects disturbed by the animals' movement but on enterprising individual had learned that humans can provide food too. We had this particular bird visit us during lunch at the Ornithological Centre on 19th.

Great White Egret: Three at the étang during the Musée Camarguais walk on 16th were a good showing. We then saw another south of Vauvert on 19th.

Little Egret: Good numbers seen from 16th to 19th and then a single individual on the River Garonne on 24th.

Squacco Heron: Three seen south of Vauvert on 19th.

Greater Flamingo: A small group seen in flight against the sunset as we landed at Montpellier on 15th then many down the eastern Camargue the following day. However, the large quantity seen on 19th (probably in excess of 5000 birds) really had to be the highlight for this species.

White Stork: Two seen at the Centre d'Information on 19th then a further 3 arriving close to the River Gave, close to Argeles Gazost on 22nd. These latter birds were on migration but were held up by the bad weather over the Pyrenees; 2 of them landed on an electricity pylon before presumably dropping to the fields below to feed.

Black Stork: Two high over the Lac du Gaube on 23rd were obviously on migration despite the cloudy conditions.

Mute Swan: About 10 seen on 19th; 2 south of Vauvert and a further 8 or so close to Saintes Maries de la Mer.

Gadwall: At least a couple on the étang during the Musée Camarguais walk on 16th and 3 or more on the Étang des Aulnes on 18th.

Common Teal: Many seen at the Centre d'information on 19th.

Mallard: Seen from16th to 20th in the Camargue area and then just a single bird on the River Grave on 22nd.

Northern Shoveler: First seen at the Centre d'information du Park, north of Saintes-Maries, on 19th where we saw 3. During the return drive up the western side of the Réserve des Impériaux later that afternoon, we saw a couple of flocks of over 100 birds.

Osprey: Two flew purposefully west, about 15 minutes apart, over the River Rhone during the pre breakfast walk on 19th.

European Honey Buzzard: First 4, then a further 5 were seen on 16th flying west, near Saliers, presumably on migration. Two days later, we saw 4 more over La Crau and La Caume and on 19th we saw some more down the western side of the Camargue. Our final sighting was of a single bird being mobbed by Alpine Choughs high over the Ossoue Valley on 21st.

Black Kite: Just 3 at Entressen on 18th perhaps reflected the fact that this tour was a week or so later than previous autumn trips. Presumably most had already migrated. 1 on 22nd over the Col du Tourmalet was obviously moving south and our final sightings were of 4 or 5 seen during the journey to Toulouse on 24th.

Red Kite: About 8 during the journey to the Pyrenees on 20th and also 2 over Hautacam that same day. We then encountered 2 (or was it 1 twice?) near Argeles Gazost on 22nd and during the journey to Toulouse on 24th we saw at least 10.

Eurasian Griffon Vulture: 36 from Hautacam on 20th were followed by at least 20 the following day at Gavarnie and in the Ossoue Valley. We also glimpsed a couple high over a ridge at the Pont d'Espagne on 23rd and finally, we saw 11 at Argeles Gazost on 24th.

Lammergeier: Our first was a distant bird from Hautacam on 20th and the next day we saw a single bird near Gavarnie and 2 in the Ossoue Valley. On 23rd we saw 1 near Cauterets and 2 more during lunch in the Vallée de Marcadau above Pont d'Espagne.

Short-toed Eagle: Two over La Caume on 18th were rather distant but the following morning near Saliers, we had excellent views of one circling fairly low over some fields.

Montagu's Harrier: Just a single juvenile on 16th at the Musée Camarguais.

Eurasian Marsh Harrier: At least 7 on 16th in the north and east of the Camargue, one near Les Baux the following day then many on 19th on the western side of the Camargue. Finally, 2 moving south together over the Col du Tourmalet on 22nd had not chosen the best of weather in which to migrate!

Eurasian Sparrowhawk: Three sightings on 16th included 2 at the Musée Camarguais, 2 seen on 18th, 1 on 22nd and finally one during the journey to Toulouse on 24th.

Common Buzzard: Seen every day except 15th and 17th with the highest totals being on 20th and 24th during the journeys to and from the Pyrenees.

Golden Eagle: One during the walk to the Cirque de Gavarnie and then 2 in the Ossoue Valley on 21st, one seen from above at the Col du Tourmalet on 22nd and finally, 1 near Cauterets on 23rd.

Common Kestrel: Seen every day except 15th,

Eurasian Hobby: A total of 5 sightings:- 2 at Fangassier on 16th, 2 in the western Camargue on 19th and a single bird during the Gavarnie walk on 21st.

Merlin: A single very brief sighting of one dashing over a ridge at the Cirque de Gavarnie on 22nd.

Peregrine: One seen flying along a ridge close to Argeles Gazost on our final morning.

Red-legged Partridge: At least 8 seen from the vehicle as we approached La Crau on 18th.

Common Pheasant: Just a single brief sighting (more of a glimpse really!) as one flew from the roadside on 16th.

Common Moorhen: Seen on 16th and 19th in the Camargue.

Common Coot: Seen on 16th. 18th and 19th in the Camargue area and also on 20th during the drive to the Pyrenees.

Little Bustard: 11 seen in a field close to St Martin on 18th. At first we saw 3 or 4 in flight and as they landed, we were able to pull off into a side road from where we watched them for a good while.

Black-winged Stilt: Just a single sighting on the eastern side of the Camargue on 16th.

Pied Avocet: Not seen until 19th when we encountered 2-300 at the Réserve des Impériaux close to Stes-Maries-de-la-Mer.

Lapwing: A group of 10 or more flew up from the étang during the Musée Camarguais walk on 16th and a single bird seen in the western Camargue on 19th.

Greater Ringed Plover: At least 10 seen at the Étang du Fangassier on 16th.

Little Ringed Plover: About 15 seen in a wet field close to Saliers on 16th.

Kentish Plover: At least 10 seen at the Étang du Fangassier on 16th.

Common Snipe: A group of 4 flew around over a marsh south of Vauvert on 19th.

Eurasian Curlew: Just a single bird seen close to Stes-Maries on 19th.

Common Redshank: Just a single bird seen close to Stes-Maries on 19th.

Common Greenshank: A group of at least 25 were seen near the Mas de Cacharel on 19th.

Wood Sandpiper: Three in a wet field close to Saliers on 16th.

Green Sandpiper: At least 1 seen near Saliers in the same field as the Little Ringed Plovers on 16th.

Common Sandpiper: One at Remoulins on17th, 2 before breakfast at the River Rhone and 2 later on 19th then at least 4 beside the River Pau at Argelès-Gazost on 22nd.

Little Stint: At least 40 at the Étang du Fangassier on 16th.

Dunlin: At least 1 at Fangassier on 16th in the company of all the other small waders.

Curlew Sandpiper: At least 2 at Fangassier on 16th.

Ruff: Just a single bird in the Camargue on 16th.

Lesser Black-backed Gull: Only a single bird just east of Stes Maries on 19th.

Yellow-legged Gull: Seen every day from 16th to 20th with the largest concentration being thousands on the rubbish tip at Entressen on 18th.

Black-headed Gull: Seen for 4 consecutive days in the Camargue area from 16th.

Whiskered Tern: At least 25 close to Pont de Sylvéreal on 19th.

Caspian Tern: One briefly at Fangassier on 16th, 2 at the Étang des Aulnes on 18th and at least 8 at the Réserve des Impériaux on 19th.

Sandwich Tern: Approximately 100 resting on a small island in the Réserve des Impériaux just east of Stes. Maries on 19th.

Common Tern: Just a single bird near Stes. Maries on 19th.

Pin-tailed Sandgrouse: A distant group of 8 flew south at Peau de Meau as we walked out beside the stream then as we returned from the hide, a flock of at least 9 flew up from near the track (all on 18th).

Rock Dove (Feral Pigeon): Seen every day except 15th.

Wood Pigeon: Seen on 4 consecutive days from 16th often during the pre breakfast walks.

Eurasian Collared Dove: Seen every day except15th.

Tawny Owl: Heard in the darkness at the Hotel Robinson after sunset on 17th and before sunrise on19th.

Little Owl: One heard calling in the half-light during the pre breakfast walk close to the Hotel Montaigu on 22nd.

Alpine Swift: At least 15 of these fabulous birds were still speeding around the Pont du Gard on 17th.

Common Kingfisher: A really good batch of sightings in the Camargue region with 2 on 16th, 3 on 17th, 2 on 18th and 6 on 19th (including 4 at the River Rhone during the pre breakfast walk). Our sightings were completed with 3 or 4 at the River Pau near Argelès Gazost on 22nd.

European Bee-eater: About a dozen seen during the Musée Camarguais walk on 16th were rather late staying visitors and most unexpected.

European Roller: Two south of Vauvert on 19th were a very pleasant surprise as most would have moved off southwards by this time.

Great Spotted Woodpecker: Just a single brief sighting of a bird flying across the road as we drove up Hautacam on our final morning and another gave a couple of alarm calls amongst trees near Ayzac-Ost a little later.

Green Woodpecker: Heard or seen every day from 17th.

Greater Short-toed Lark: At least 2, possibly 6 or 7 close to Peau de Meau on 18th.

Crested Lark: Six or more seen near Saliers and during the Musée walk on 16th and another was near Stes Maries on 19th.

European Sand Martin: Noted on 3 days (16th, 18th &19th) in the Camargue region in small numbers.

Eurasian Crag Martin: At least 20 at the Pont du Gard on 17th then seen on3 days from 21st in various parts of the Pyrenees.

Barn Swallow: Seen every day from 16th with the most being reserved for the journey to Toulouse on 24th when we saw thousands which were presumably migrants held up by the poor weather.

Common House Martin: At least 50 on 17th near Remoulins and in Les Alpilles and also noted the following day.

Yellow Wagtail: Seen on 16th, 18th & 19th in various parts of the Camargue region.

White Wagtail: Seen on 17th and then every day from 19th.

Grey Wagtail: Two on 17th at Remoulins, heard on 19th by the River Rhone and then seen every day from 21st in the Pyrenees.

Tawny Pipit: Two seen on 18th close to Peau de Meau on 18th.

Tree Pipit: 'Fly over' birds seen on 18th and heard on 19th.

Meadow Pipit: Just a single bird seen and heard flying over us close to Ayzac-Ost on 24th.

Water Pipit: Commonly seen on high 'pastures' in the Pyrenees for 4 days from 21st.

Southern Grey Shrike: A single, somewhat distant bird seen on La Crau on 18th.

Red-backed Shrike: Two juveniles well seen close to Gavarnie on 21st.

White-throated Dipper: As expected, only seen in the Pyrenees. 2 on 21st, at least 3 on 22nd and 2 or 3 on 23rd.

Winter Wren: Seen or heard on 4 consecutive days from 21st.

Hedge Accentor (Dunnock): Only noted on 21st and 23rd in the Pyrenees.

Common Blackbird: One on 18th close to the Hotel Robinson and then seen every day from 21st onwards in the Pyrenees.

European Robin: Noted every day from 17th onwards.

Black Redstart: Two at Remoulins and 2 in Les Alpilles on 17th and then seen every day in the Pyrenees from 21st.

Common Redstart: One during lunch on 19th and 1 at the Pont d'Espagne on 23rd were obviously birds passing through on migration.

Whinchat: Two during the Musée Camarguais walk on 16th, 2 at Peau de Meau on 18th and 1 in the Ossoue Valley on 21st.

Common Stonechat: One on Hautacam on 20th and then seen during the journey to Toulouse on 24th.

Northern Wheatear: The first was during the Musée walk on 16th then at Peau de Meau a couple of days later there were lots to be seen everywhere. The species was noted every day from then onwards.

Fan-tailed Warbler: One briefly near Saliers on 16th and another on 18th near Peau de Meau.

Cetti's Warbler: Heard or seen on 4 consecutive days

Melodious Warbler: Just a single sighting during the walk at the Musée Camarguais on 16th.

Willow Warbler: A couple of birds, most likely of this species, were seen in sparse bushes along the east beach at Stes Maries on 19th.

Common Chiffchaff: Noted on 21st and 23rd near Gavarnie and Pont d'Espagne respectively.

Blackcap: One on 18th during the pre breakfast walk then noted for 3 successive days from 21st in the Pyrenees.

Sardinian Warbler: Heard during the pre breakfast walks on 17th and 18th then eventually glimpsed on 19th.

Firecrest: One on 17th at the Pont du Gard then seen on 3 days in the Pyrenees.

Goldcrest: Well-seen on 21st during the walk to the Cirque de Gavarnie and also seen a couple of days later at the Pont d'Espagne.

Spotted Flycatcher: Two seen briefly during lunch at the Étang des Aulnes on 18th.

European Pied Flycatcher: Seen most days in varying numbers.

Long-tailed Tit: Seen for 7 consecutive days from 16th.

Coal Tit: Just seen on 21st during the walk to the Cirque de Gavarnie and on 23rd at the Pont d'Espagne.

Crested Tit: Two in the woods at the car park for La Caume on 18th then noted on 2 more days as per the previous species.

Great Tit: Seen on 7 days.

Blue Tit: Seen on 6 days.

Eurasian Nuthatch: Two heard during the pre breakfast walk on 21st then heard the following morning and on 24th.

Short-toed Treecreeper: Seen or heard on 4 consecutive days from 16th in the Camargue region.

Eurasian Treecreeper: Seen during the Gavarnie walk on 21st and at the Pont d'Espagne 2 days later.

Eurasian Jay: Seen every day from 20th onwards.

Black-billed Magpie: Seen every day except 15th.

Red-billed Chough: Two at the Cirque de Gavarnie on 21st were our first then we noted them at the Col du Tourmalet and at Pont d'Espagne the following 2 days.

Alpine Chough: Only identified with certainty at the Col du Tourmalet on 22nd but other distant birds may well have been of this species.

Eurasian Jackdaw: Noted on 4 days in the Camargue and 1 day in the Pyrenees.

Carrion Crow: Seen every day except 15th.

Common Raven: Four over Hautacam on 20th were our first and we then saw this species on the following 4 days.

Common Starling: Noted on 5 days.

Yellowhammer: Just seen on 21st during the Gavarnie walk.

Cirl Bunting: Heard during the pre breakfast walk on 19th then seen later that day. Another was seen on 22nd and this was again before breakfast.

Common Chaffinch: Noted on 7 days.

European Serin: Not seen until 22nd when we saw 4 during the pre breakfast walk and a further 6 by the River Pau. We also saw a few at Ayzac-Ost on 24th.

European Goldfinch: Seen on 6 days.

House Sparrow: Seen every day except 15th.

Eurasian Snowfinch: About a dozen seen at the hotel and shop at the Col du Tourmalet on 22nd.


Red Fox: One was watched for some time as it 'hunted' for worms etc. close to the castle above the Montaigu Hotel on 21st.

Roe Deer: A female seen during the journey to the Pyrenees on 20th was the only sighting.

Isard: At least 14 at the Cirque de Gavarnie on 21st and we found a further 11 around the Lac de Gaube (with some help from the waiter!) on 23rd.

Red Squirrel: One at the Hotel Robinson and 1 in Les Alpilles both on 17th then 2 during the pre breakfast walk on 18th.

Alpine Marmot: Fair numbers seen on 21st, 22nd and 23rd.

Coypu: One on 16th and at least 3 on 19th in the Camargue.

Brown Hare: One seen on 18th at Peau de Meau.

Rabbit: Noted on 5 days out of the first 6.

Bat species: Unidentified bats were seen on 20th 21st and 22nd close to the Hotel Montaigu.


Common Tree Frog: One sighting on 16th.

Marsh Frog: Only seen on 19th.

Common Toad: Dozens and dozens of 'toadlets' seen as we walked along the River Pau on 22nd.


Green Lizard: Only seen on 19th.



Large White

Clouded Yellow

Red Admiral

Painted Lady

Meadow Brown

Speckled Wood

Mountain Grayling

Camberwell Beauty

© The Travelling Naturalist 2001