Camargue & Pyrenees

25th May to 3rd June 2002

Mike Read
Keith Grant


Saturday 25th May

The group arrived at Montpellier airport just a little early and saw a flock of Flamingos as they came in to land. Soon we were on the road heading east and then paused for a light, late lunch. Three Kestrels were the first birds of interest to be seen and a Black Kite circled over Nîmes. Off the péage were heading south and a Hobby was glimpsed and a little later there was a Honey Buzzard circling in the distance.

After briefly settling into the Hotel Robinson, we went for a walk beside the River Rhone. As many as seven Black Kites could be seen together and another Hobby was identified but it gave an even briefer glimpse than the previous one. A pair of Common Buzzards were much more co-operative as they flew around for some time and once were giving display flights. A Cirl Bunting was heard but not seen, as was a Nightingale. Down on the riverbank, a Little Egret searched for fish and a few species of butterflies added to the return walk. A short distance further north, a Little Ringed Plover seemed on territory at a gravely area. This completed our watching for the day and we returned to the hotel to get ready for the fine evening meal that followed.

Sunday 26th May

The pre breakfast walk up the hill behind the hotel began with a male Common Redstart singing from the television aerial of one of the dwellings. A Red Squirrel scampered up one pine tree and crossed into another before disappearing. Further on, a Cirl Bunting was singing, as was a Bonelli's Warbler though this latter bird was only seen as it dashed out of one bush and away down the hill. Occasional Sardinian Warblers could be heard but typically at this location they only gave the briefest of glimpses.

After breakfast we headed south of Beaucaire and began with good views of a male Red-backed Shrike, which perched on roadside wires and gave every opportunity to be admired. A little further on we also saw a few Black Kites & Kestrels plus a pair of Honey Buzzards.

To the west of Arles many of the smaller 'herons' were in evidence with three or four Squacco Herons, a couple of fly-past Night Herons plus numerous Cattle and Little Egrets. There were also a few Grey and Purple Herons around but surprisingly there were no Pratincoles to be found at their usual spot.

A little further along the road, three Red-footed Falcons (two males and a female) were a fine substitute.

We went for a walk at the Museé Camarguais and saw another Black-crowned Night-Heron, Crested & Skylarks, Tree Sparrows and caught a glimpse of a Cetti's Warbler. Out at the hide, a Great White Egret disappeared behind some reeds but Purple & Grey Herons were much more obliging. There was a good flock of Greater Flamingos feeding at the end of the étang while Black & Whiskered Terns fed with their usual dipping flight. Best of all, a Great Bittern strolled into the open and gave us excellent views while at least seven Collared Pratincoles flew around in great, elegant arcs low over lake and reeds and at times passed really close to the hide.

After a slightly late lunch, we headed for the eastern étangs of the Camargue proper. A few Lapwings were seen by those in the second minibus as was a White Stork, which landed on the road! (Yeah, right!) It had moved before the 'lead' bus could reverse back to see it though this did lead us to find a nest with at least two young 'storklets' in it. Beside the road at this point were masses of Lizard Orchids in full bloom. Further on, we took a brief look over the étang of the Marais de Grenouillet where we found many Shelducks, Gull-billed Terns and Black-winged Stilts plus six Spoonbills.

From there we drove to the Étang du Fangassier where a fair sized 'arrangement' of waders included, Ringed & Kentish Plovers, Dunlins, Knots, Little Stints, Curlew Sandpipers and Avocets. There were also at least nine Slender-billed Gulls at some distance (though 3 flew past at close range) while the distant nesting colony held perhaps 5000 Greater Flamingos.

As we began the journey back towards Beaucaire, a Short-toed Eagle gave close views and two Rollers perched on roadside trees.

After dinner, those inclined to take a little fresh air heard a Tawny Owl out the front of the hotel and a Nightjar was calling up the hill out the back.

Monday 27th May

Our pre breakfast walk up the hill enable us to hear Green Woodpecker and Sardinian Warbler and we did see the male Common Redstart again and a Willow Warbler.

After breakfast we drove to Remoulins where a look over the river had us looking at two Kingfishers, two Grey Herons and at least two Little Egrets. From the edge of the car park we cold view a rough field and the edge of town and from here Serin and Black Redstart gave distant views. A White Wagtail fed in the field and was joined by a fine Hoopoe while a male Golden Oriole was singing from nearby trees. This latter bird eventually perched in full view and began preening and allowed everyone to get telescope views.

At the Pont du Gard, the first of the Alpine Swifts were seen from the car park but there were many more to be seen from the 'Pont' itself. A few Crag Martins also flitted around the ancient construction and a couple of Black Kites rose from the woodlands. From the pathway along beneath the bridge, we could see perhaps six Rock Sparrows. A Firecrest put in a very brief appearance and a Blackcap sang constantly from the overhanging trees.

Lunch was enjoyed in the Chaine des Alpilles where we had good views to the ancient, hill-top town of Les Baux. Birds were less co-operative here (or were we just to involved with the fabulous food and wine?!!) though a Kestrel did fly past and a Sardinian Warbler called from the depths of the maquis.

A walk nearby added Provence Chalkhill Blue butterfly to the growing list of that group and three raptor species, Short-toed Eagle, Kestrel and Sparrowhawk, all were seen as were more Crag Martins and Alpine Swifts.

In another part of Les Alpilles, a view towards La Caume had us looking at Chaffinch amongst the coniferous woods while six Black Kites and two Buzzards were flying high over the distant ridge.

This completed another days' watching and we returned to the Hotel. After dinner the breeze was too cool to check for owls and nightjars though Nightjars were heard by some of the group.

Tuesday 28th May

The pre-breakfast walk was near where the River Gardon joins the Rhone. Nightingale and Short-toed Treecreeper sang from the depths of the vegetation but a Melodious Warbler (briefly) and a Cirl Bunting proved more obliging. A Kingfisher was seen very briefly and a Little Egret flew on to one of the islands.

During the journey to La Crau, two White Storks were feeding in widely separated fields. Close to Saint Martin, a pair of Stone Curlews were well seen before we took the road towards the Peau de Meau reserve. At the Étang des Aulnes, a male Red-crested Pochard flew across the lake and was lost to view almost as soon as we arrived and a Purple Heron dropped into one of the reed beds.

Our walk out towards Peau de Meau was punctuated at first by stops to observe and identify things like Lesser Emperor dragonfly, Beautiful Demoiselle damselfly and Western Marbled White butterfly amongst other things. Further along we found a pair of Rollers along the woodland edge. Out across the Crau itself, four Pin-tailed Sandgrouse were found in the distance and a couple of Short-toed Larks moved around feeding before embarking on song flights. Just as we turned on the final 'leg' of the walk, we found a male Little Bustard. Unfortunately, the distance involved and the increasing heat haze made viewing exceptionally difficult but at least everyone saw the bird before we moved on. Another Stone Curlew was seen in flight and 3 or 4 more were heard calling before we made our way back to the minibus.

Brief pauses at the Étang produced nothing new so we headed for the Chaine des Alpilles for lunch in a lay-by sheltered from the wind.

We drove over to the Luberon National Park to a regular Eagle Owls site but unfortunately the birds are not evident. We returned to the hotel seeing numerous raptors such as Kestrels and Black Kites during the journey and after time to relax, we enjoyed the usual super dinner. We then tried successfully for Nightjars and unsuccessfully for owls in the gathering dusk of yet another superb Provençal day.

Wednesday 29th May

The day began with almost totally clear skies and much less breeze than previously. The heat began soon after we went out and consequently birds were even more elusive than usual. However, we did manage to see Common Redstart, Cirl Bunting, Sardinian Warbler (a mere glimpse!), Bee-Eaters and lots of Spanish Gatekeeper Butterflies.

The drive to the western side of the Camargue region was completed without too much wildlife to slow us down! However, to the south of Vauvert, the birds started to take centre stage. Beyond the marsh, White Storks nested in their usual tree. Purple Herons vied with Black-crowned Night-Herons for our main attention but then we nearly all missed another Red-footed Falcon that swept by at high speed. A female Marsh Harrier and a Black Kite both perched in full view, though at some distance, and other species added to the interest.

Further south there were fine views out over a new area. Tree Sparrows were obviously feeding young in a nest beneath the bridge and a Cetti's Warbler sang from nearby tamarisk bushes. Purple and Grey Herons stalked various areas searching for fish or frogs, while Little and Cattle Egrets were numerous, there was just one lone Great White Egret on view and that kept hiding behind a bank of reeds. Little Grebe was added to the list and a pair of Red-crested Pochards gave fair views along an open ditch. Most distant of all were a couple of Glossy Ibis, which everyone managed to see.

South of Gallician were more herons including perhaps our 4th Black-crowned Night-Heron of the day so far. But now it was time to head for the Centre d'Information du Parc for our picnic lunch where we were once again treated to another fine Hotel Robinson 'banquet'.

From the centre we checked the étang for birds. A few Flamingos were feeding sedately, Mallards were resting and a pair of Hoopoes were busily feeding young in a nest in the roof of the building itself. A female Pied Flycatcher was also seen briefly.

At Saintes Maries, we drove the eastern beach and saw lots of Terns including a few Sandwich and Common, a fair number of Gull-billed, and many delightful Little Terns which hovered and dived for fish in the channel alongside the track. Three or four Slender-billed Gulls were amongst the other birds seen here before we began the drive back past Saintes Maries and north along the edge of the Reserve des Imperiaux. Here, a further half a dozen Slender-billed Gulls gave really close views and there were many more Flamingos to view out on the Étang while the reed beds held a couple of Great Reed Warblers. Another Tawny Pipit, this time well seen for some time, completed our watching for the day.

Thursday 30th May

There was no pre-breakfast walk to allow everyone plenty of time for packing though one or two people did manage a walk and added Lesser-Spotted Woodpecker to the list.

We began our journey to the Pyrenees just after 9 a.m. and were soon on the péage heading westwards. Birds were few and far between, certainly before Toulouse, though we did see a few Common Kestrels and Black Kites.

After a rest and coffee break, the scenery became more interesting ........... but the birds did not! Lunch just before Toulouse had us hearing Nightingale and Blackcap and seeing a Honey Buzzard.

Soon we were heading in a more southerly direction and the quantity of raptors began to increase with Black Kites appearing in flocks including one group of nearly 30! As we approached the Pyrenees, the quantity of Red Kites increased and to the south of Lourdes, we paused for a few minutes and saw four Griffon Vultures.

On completion of the journey to the hotel, we relaxed for a while before yet another superb evening meal.

Friday 31st May

Our pre breakfast walk this morning took us up to the castle which overlooks the hotel. There were numerous Blackcaps and Robins singing in the wood and in the trees by the castle itself, were four or five Green Woodpeckers. Further on a family of Nuthatches fed in scattered trees. Back down at the hotel, a White Wagtail and a Black Redstart put in appearances.

On the way to the Col du Tourmalet we spent some time admiring a group of Pyrenean Snake's Head and a well-marked male Whinchat. As we approached the Col itself, our first Snow Finch flew off from the roadside.

We began a walk from the car park and were soon seeing Alpine and Red-billed Choughs as well as many more Snow Finches. Pyrenean Buttercups were plentiful on some grassy areas and during our unsuccessful search for Alpine Accentors, we did find a fine male Rock Thrush which did a few song flights and also perched in full view for some time. Also in the rocky areas were more Northern Wheatears to add to those we had seen from the mini bus earlier. A few Griffon Vultures drifted past high overhead.

Lunch nearby was interspersed with more sightings of both Choughs and perhaps a dozen or more Griffon Vultures. Ravens also passed frequently and with their ability to take on numerous flight shapes, they were briefly misidentified sometimes.

Via a brief stop at the hotel, we drove to the Ossoue Valley near Gavarnie. We stopped to see Rush-leaved Narcissus when an adult Lammergeier flew into view and then, after collecting some long-dead prey item from one side of the valley, it took it to a nest in a cave high above us. We returned our attention to the roadside flowers until the Lammergeier reappeared and as it drifted past us, it was joined by a second individual and together, these two chased off a third; a flock of Lammergeiers! Further up the valley we saw first one, then two more raptors and these turned out to be Golden Eagles which were collecting vegetation and adding it to a nest.

Later as we rounded a bend we saw an Isard running up the slope ahead of us. We spent some time watching the animal scale steep slopes and cliffs before turning our attention to the Broad-leaved Marsh Orchids growing in the 'meadows' beside us.

We returned to the hotel and during the call over just before dinner, a Peregrine was circling high up the valley while a Firecrest fed in the pines across the road. Later, a Hobby flew over to complete the day's viewing.

Saturday 1st June

As it was raining, there was no pre breakfast walk. However, this soon stopped and we set off for the Cirque de Troumouse. Just as we began the final climb to the Cirque round tight hairpin bends we spotted 17 Isards feeding on the grassy slopes below us. Black Redstarts, Wheatears and Water Pipits were numerous as we walked into the 'bowl' of the Cirque but despite searches (hampered by large amounts of lying snow!) no Alpine Accentors could be found.

Clouds filled in a little as we watched many spawning frogs and we found many flowers including Oxlips, Gentians, Alpine Snowbells, Primula hirsuta, Pyrenean Catchfly, Garland Flower and another Daphne, Daphne mezereon

We made our way back down below the Cirque and paused for lunch beside a tumbling waterfall. Again we saw the group of Isards and began musing over what might be the collective noun for a quantity of these animals. The general consensus was that as they often shelter in the leeward side of rocks or rock faces where they are mostly sheltered from the strong winds, the most appropriate would be an Eddy!!! Typically for the middle of the day, a few were cooling off by resting on areas of snow.

After a pause for coffee, we descended to the Heas Valley where flowers were even more abundant with whole fields full of blooms including Horned Pansy and Globe Flower while Alpine Figwort was growing right on the road side.

Up at the Barrage des Gloriettes, many more flowers were found including Early Purple and Elder Flowered Orchids, a form of Aconite-leaved Buttercup and more Garland Flowers. Four Griffon Vultures drifted past high overhead and two Ravens obviously strayed too close to where a Kestrel was nesting as they were instantly 'buzzed' by the male falcon.

Back in the main valley towards Luz St Sauveur we stopped to look at more flowers which included Sword-leaved Helleborine, Pyrenean Saxifrage and Ramonda. As so often happened, a pause for flowers also produced a good bird sighting when a Lammergeier drifted along the ridge above us. During the return to the hotel, the people in the second mini bus saw two eagles. These caused much interesting discussion as to what species they were. Were they Short-toed or Bonelli's? Outcome? A compromise and a new species to science! Shortelli's Eagle.

Before dinner some of the group saw a Red Kite and a Buzzard pass over the town and later a Hobby flew over the hotel.

Sunday 2nd June

Before breakfast, we walked up the road behind the hotel where the sightings included a Red Kite circling over the village, good views of a couple of male Cirl Buntings, a somewhat distant Black Redstart and a Meadow Fritillary perched on a roadside scabious flower.

After breakfast we drove to Gavarnie to walk to the Cirque. Before we had gone far, we had the first of three or four sightings of Lammergeier. In fabulous weather, butterflies were abundant and the day included Small Blue, Swallowtail, Camberwell Beauty, Piedmont Ringlet, Clouded Yellow and many more besides.

The coniferous woods held Crested Tit, Coal Tit and Goldcrest while high over the ridges were Alpine Choughs, Common Buzzards and a Short-toed Eagle. Needless to say, flowers were abundant so it is difficult to pick out any highlights. In effect, the carpets of flowers themselves were the highlight, not just here but throughout our stay in the Pyrenees.

We found that the Hotel du Cirque was not open for any (liquid) refreshment and that the bridge was out and so we could not reach the base of the Cirque to have our lunch. We picnicked looking to the great 'walls' of the Cirque and were given great views of a couple of Alpine Choughs that were obviously hoping to be offered some scraps of food.

Soon we began the walk back towards Gavarnie and saw quite a number of the same birds in the pine woods. At one point, we heard a thunder-like sound and for a moment feared a severe worsening of the weather. However, as we turned our gaze back towards the Cirque, a huge avalanche descended from the top snowfields, gathered momentum and volumes of snow and then plunged into the Cirque where earlier we had seen people walking. We just hoped that no one was in the way as the avalanche continued for four or five minutes. It was an incredible experience to witness, even from a considerable distance, and a stern reminder just how dangerous mountains can be.

By now the weather as quite hot and so we drove up to the higher ground where we obtained our best views of Red-billed Chough and another pair of Ravens patrolled in the hope of an easy meal. As usual, the Alpine Marmots were vociferous whenever they thought that there was any danger nearby.

We returned to Gavarnie and headed down the valley towards Luz. As we went, we remembered the previous days' unidentified raptors and hoped to see them again but despite careful searching, we only found a couple of Common Buzzards.

Monday 3rd June

There was no pre-breakfast walk to allow plenty of time for any last-minute packing as we were heading for Toulouse today. We left the Hotel Montaigu at 9 a.m. and headed north towards Hautacam. We left in mist and low cloud and hoped for better conditions on the high ground. At times, the drive up through cloud was a little difficult but we emerged near the top into bright sunshine. The first birds we saw were a pair of Red-backed Shrikes, which soon moved away. A little further on a fine male Ring Ouzel was feeding by the roadside and as he flew off into dead ground, he was accompanied by a probable female. The 'sea' of cloud below us looked superb with the high peaks of the Pyrenees rising up all around. A few Griffon Vultures circled around and a couple landed not too far away as the sun shone warmly upon us.

As the cloud rose even higher, fewer raptors seemed to be flying and we were soon leaving and heading for the valley below. Close to Argelés-Gazost, a few Black Kites and a speedy Hobby added to the days sightings and while we paused at the supermarket, a new species of raptor appeared beneath the low cloud when an adult Egyptian Vulture drifted past and was soon lost to view.

During lunch, few of the expected species were seen due, no doubt, to the weather conditions though a couple of Common Buzzards drifted past and four Ravens 'gronked' at us from not far away.

Soon we were on our way towards Toulouse with frequent raptors adding some interest to the journey. There were more Common Buzzards on roadside fence posts than during the outward journey and there seemed to be a few more Red Kites. But as usual, Black Kites were by far the most numerous of the raptors to be seen between Lourdes and the airport. We checked in and just to prove the point, another Black Kite drifted past the departure lounge.



Little Grebe / Dabchick: Noted only on 29th.

Great Crested Grebe: Noted on 5 days with 1 R Gardon on 25th, 1 Remoulin on 27th, 2 R Gardon & 1 Étang des Aulnes on 28th, several on 29th, 1 en route on 30th.

Great Cormorant: Noted on 2 days with 1 R Gardon on 25th & 28th.

Grey Heron: Noted each day in the Camargue.

Purple Heron: Noted on 3 days with 6 on 26th, 1 on 28th, many good views on 29th.

Cattle Egret: Noted most days in the Camargue.

Great [White] Egret: Noted on 2 days with single birds on 26th & 29th.

Little Egret: Noted on 6 days, 25th - 29th, and 1 just outside Toulouse on 3rd.

Squacco Heron: Noted on 2 days with at least 3 on 26th, 1 on 29th.

Black-crowned Night-Heron: Noted on 2 days with at least 4 on 26th, 7 on 29th.

Great Bittern: Noted on 2 days with 1 on 26th, 1 seen & another 'booming' on 29th.

Eurasian Spoonbill: Noted only on 1 day, 6 at Marais de Grenouillet on 26th.

Greater Flamingo: Noted on 3 days with c.100 on lagoon alongside runway on 25th, thence many on 26th & 29th.

White Stork: Noted on 3 days with a pair plus young in nest on 26th, 2 on 28th, several nests with young on 29th.

Glossy Ibis: Noted only on 1 day, 2 near le Marais du Charnier on 29th.

Mute Swan: Noted only on 1 day, 2 on 29th.

Common Shelduck: Noted on 2 days, at least 10 on 26th, and again on 29th.

Mallard: Noted each day in the Camargue and again on 3rd.

Red-crested Pochard: Noted on 2 days with a male Étang des Aulnes on 28th, a pair Marais du Charnier on 29th.

Osprey: Noted only on 1 day, 1 carrying a fish on 26th.

European Honey-Buzzard: Noted on 4 days with 1 near Beaucaire on 25th, at least 6 on 26th, several en route on 30th, 1 Hautacam on 3rd.

Black Kite: Noted most days, max counted was 138 en route south of Toulouse on 30th.

Red Kite: Noted most days in the Pyrenees, with 5 en route south of Toulouse on 30th, 2 over Hotel Montaigu on 1st, 1 Montaigu on 2nd, many on 3rd.

[Eurasian] Griffon Vulture: Noted each day in the Pyrenees with 8 en route on 30th, at least 20 Tourmalet & d'Ossoue on 31st, 7 on 1st, 2 Gavarnie on 2nd, 7 Hautacam on 3rd.

Egyptian Vulture: Noted only on 1 day, 1 Argelés-Gazost on 3rd.

Lammergeier / Bearded Vulture: Noted on 3 days with a 'flock' of 3 together at d'Ossoue on 31st, then single birds on 1st & several times on 2nd.

Short-toed Eagle: Noted on 5 days with 2 on 26th, 1 Les Baux on 27th, 1 d'Ossoue on 31st, 2 on 1st, 1 Gavarnie on 2nd.

Montagu's Harrier: Noted only on 1 day, a ringtail (female or young male) on 26th.

[Eurasian] Marsh Harrier: Noted on 3 days with c.15 on 26th, 2 on 28th, several on 29th.

Eurasian Sparrowhawk: Noted on 2 days with 1 Les Baux on 27th, 1 Gavarnie on 2nd.

Common Buzzard: Noted each day, max counted 45 en route on 30th.

Golden Eagle: Noted on 3 days with 2 apparently near nest on 31st, 1 Gavarnie on 2nd, 1 Hautacam on 3rd.

Common/Eurasian Kestrel: Noted each day, including a pair feeding young in nest on 28th, and max counted 16 en route on 30th.

Eurasian Hobby: Noted on 7 days with 1 near Nîmes & another R Gardon on 25th, 2 on 26th, 1 R Gardon on 28th, 2 en route on 30th, 1 Montaigu on 31st & 1st, 1 Argelés-Gazost on 3rd.

Red-footed Falcon: Noted on 3 days with 2 males & a female on 26th, an immature male Étang des Aulnes on 28th, 1 briefly overhead on 29th.

Peregrine Falcon: Noted on 2 days with 1 over Montaigu on 30th & 31st.

Common Pheasant: Noted on 2 days with 2 on 26th, heard on 28th.

Common Moorhen: Noted on 2 days with 2 on 28th, several on 29th.

Eurasian/Common Coot: Noted on 5 days, on 26th, 28th - 30th, 3rd.

Little Bustard: Noted only on 1 day, a male distantly at La Crau on 28th.

Eurasian Oystercatcher: Noted on 2 days with 4 on 26th, a pair with chick on 29th.

Black-winged Stilt: Noted on 2 days, many on 26th & 29th, including pair on nest.

Pied Avocet: Noted on 2 days with at least 8 on 26th, many on 29th including pair with 3 downy chicks.

Stone-curlew: Noted only on 1 day, a pair very close plus a few others seen & heard on 28th.

Collared Pratincole: Noted only on 1 day, at least 7 around the hide at Maison du Parc on 26th.

Northern Lapwing: Noted on 2 days with at least 2 on 26th, 1 on 29th.

[Greater] Ringed Plover: Noted only on 1 day, at least 30 on 26th.

Little (Ringed) Plover: Noted only on 1 day, 1 in gravel pit near Comps on 25th.

Kentish Plover: Noted on 2 days with at least 3 on 26th, several on 29th.

Common Redshank: Noted only on 1 day, 2 on 29th.

Little Stint: Noted only on 1 day, c.12 on 26th.

Dunlin: Noted only on 1 day, 2 breeding-plumaged adults on 26th.

Curlew Sandpiper: Noted only on 1 day, at least 8 on 26th.

Red Knot: Noted only on 1 day, 3 on 26th.

Yellow-legged Gull: Noted each day in the Camargue and again on 3rd, many breeding around l'Étang du Fangassier on 26th.

Mediterranean Gull: Noted on 2 days with 18 on 26th, several others on 29th.

Black-headed Gull: Noted on 5 days in the Camargue & on 3rd.

Slender-billed Gull: Noted on 2 days with 3 close views plus others on 26th, several again seen well on 29th.

Whiskered Tern: Noted on 2 days with c.15 on 26th, and again on 29th.

Black Tern: Noted only on 1 day, 4 on 26th.

Gull-billed Tern: Noted on 3 days with at least 20 on 26th, 2 across road between buses on 28th, & on 29th.

Sandwich Tern: Noted only on 1 day, 5 at Stes-Maries-de-la-Mer on 29th.

Common Tern: Noted on 3 days with 1 R Gardon weir on 25th, 2 on 26th, several on 29th.

Little Tern: Noted on 2 days with 1 on 26th, many including the beginnings of a breeding colony on 29th.

Pin-tailed Sandgrouse: Noted only on 1 day, 4 at La Crau on 28th.

Rock Dove / Feral Pigeon: Noted each day.

[Common] Wood Pigeon: Noted most days.

[European] Turtle Dove: Noted on 6 days with 3 R Gardon on 25th, c.6 on 26th, 1 Remoulin on 27th, several then on 28th & 29th, 3 en route on 30th.

[Eurasian] Collared Dove: Noted each day.

Common Cuckoo: Noted only on 1 day, heard on 26th.

[Common] Barn Owl: Noted only on 1 day, 2 dead en route on 30th.

Eurasian Scops Owl: Noted on 2 days, one heard briefly near Hotel Robinson, 26th & 28th.

Tawny Owl: Noted on 2 days, heard near Hotel Robinson on 26th & early on 28th.

European Nightjar: Noted on 3 days near Hotel Robinson, 26th, 28th & 29th, including birds seen very close.

Alpine Swift: Noted only on 1 day, c.10 Pont du Gard plus 6+ elsewhere on 27th.

Common Swift: Noted each day.

Common Kingfisher: Noted on 4 days, with ones or twos on 26th - 29th.

European Bee-eater: Noted each day in the Camargue, including at least 17 near Hotel Robinson on 25th.

European Roller: Noted on 2 days with 2 on 26th, 2 La Crau on 28th.

Eurasian Hoopoe: Noted on 5 days with 2 on 26th, 1 Remoulin on 27th, 1 on 28th, a pair feeding young in nest just outside the visitor centre at Le Parc Ornithologique on 29th, 1 en route on 30th.

Lesser Spotted Woodpecker: Noted only on 1 day, 1 Hotel Robinson on 30th.

Great Spotted Woodpecker: Noted on 2 days with one heard Montaigu on 31st, 1 Argelés-Gazost on 3rd.

Green Woodpecker: Noted most days.

[Greater] Short-toed Lark: Noted only on 1 day, 2 La Crau on 28th.

Crested Lark: Noted on 3 days with several on 26th, 29th & 30th.

[Eurasian/Common] Sky Lark: Noted on 4 days with several on 26th, heard singing on 28th, singing again at Tourmalet on 31st, and Hautacam on 3rd.

[European] Sand Martin: Noted only on 1 day, 2 in front of first bus on 28th.

[Eurasian] Crag Martin: Noted on 5 days with several Pont du Gard & Les Baux on 27th, 3 en route on 30th, several Barèges & d'Ossoue on 31st, several again on 1st & 2nd.

Barn Swallow: Noted each day.

[Common] House Martin: Noted each day.

Yellow Wagtail: Noted on 2 days with several on 26th & 29th.

White Wagtail: Noted on 7 days, on 27th - 28th, & 30th - 3rd.

Grey Wagtail: Noted on 5 days, 1 first at Luz St Sauveur on 30th, then several on 31st - 3rd.

Tawny Pipit: Noted only on 1 day, at least 4 north of Stes-Maries-de-la-Mer on 29th.

Tree Pipit: Noted only on 1 day, many seen singing at Gavarnie on 2nd.

Water Pipit: Noted on 4 days in the Pyrenees with good numbers in breeding plumage on 31st - 3rd.

Red-backed Shrike: Noted on 5 days with 2 males on 26th, a male en route on 30th, a male in front of 1st bus on 31st, 2 males on 2nd, 5 Hautacam on 3rd.

[White-throated] Dipper: Noted on 4 days with a pair feeding young in the nest at Luz St Sauveur on 30th, several including dependent juveniles on 31st, 3 on 1st, 2 on 2nd.

[Winter] Wren: Noted most days.

Dunnock / Hedge Accentor: Noted on 3 days, 31st - 2nd.

[Rufous-tailed] Rock Thrush: Noted only on 1 day, 2 males Col de Tourmalet on 31st.

Ring Ouzel: Noted only on 1 day, a pair Hautacam on 3rd.

Common Blackbird: Noted most days.

Song Thrush: Noted on 3 days with 1 en route on 30th, then heard on 2nd, seen on 3rd.

Mistle Thrush: Noted on 2 days with 1 Gavarnie on 2nd, several on 3rd.

European Robin: Noted most days.

Common/Rufous Nightingale: Noted on 6 days, several heard singing on 25th - 30th.

Black Redstart: Noted on 5 days with 1 at airport on 25th, Pont du Gard feeding young & Remoulin on 27th, Montaigue on 31st, 1st, & 3rd.

Common Redstart: Noted on 6 days with a male regularly on territory near Hotel Robinson on 26th - 30th, another at Pont du Gard on 27th, a female Gavarnie on 2nd, and a male heard singing at Vitalos on 3rd.

Whinchat: Noted on 2 days with 2 on 26th, a male Tourmalet on 31st.

Common Stonechat: Noted on 3 days with a pair on 26th, heard Les Baux on 27th, several en route on 30th.

Northern Wheatear: Noted on 4 days with many on 31st - 3rd.

Zitting Cisticola / Fan-tailed Wbr: Noted on 4 days with several on 26th, 1 near Hotel Robinson on 27th - 29th.

Cetti's Warbler: Noted on 6 days, usually heard though some brief views, 25th - 30th.

[Eurasian] Reed Warbler: Noted on 2 days with several on 26th, & 29th.

Great Reed Warbler: Noted only on 1 day, one seen well plus others on 29th.

Melodious Warbler: Noted on 3 days with 3 on 26th, several R Gardon on 28th, one seen well, singing, on 29th.

Willow Warbler: Noted only on 1 day, heard singing on 27th.

Common/Eurasian Chiffchaff: Noted on 3 days with heard singing on 1st & 2nd, and at Vitalos on 3rd.

Western Bonelli's Warbler: Noted only on 1 day, 1 near Hotel Robinson on 26th.

Blackcap: Noted most days.

Garden Warbler: Noted only on 1 day, several at Gavarnie on 2nd.

Sardinian Warbler: Noted on 5 days, usually heard singing though some brief views, 25th - 27th, & 29th - 30th.

Firecrest: Noted on 2 days, single birds Pont du Gard on 27th, & Montaigu on 31st.

Goldcrest: Noted only on 1 day, Gavarnie on 2nd.

Spotted Flycatcher: Noted on 2 days with single birds Luz St Sauveur on 30th & 1st.

[European] Pied Flycatcher: Noted only on 1 day, a female just outside the visitor centre at Parc Ornithologique on 29th.

Long-tailed Tit: Noted only on 1 day, at least 10 near le Maison du Parc on 26th.

Coal Tit: Noted only on 1 day, near Cirque de Gavarnie, feeding young in nest on 2nd.

Crested Tit: Noted only on 1 day, Gavarnie on 2nd.

Great Tit: Noted each day.

Blue Tit: Noted on 5 days.

Eurasian Nuthatch: Noted only on 1 day, at least 4 Montaigu on 31st.

Short-toed Treecreeper: Noted on 2 days with 2 Pont du Gard on 27th, heard on 28th.

Eurasian Jay: Noted each day.

Black-billed/Eurasian Magpie: Noted each day.

Red-billed Chough: Noted on 3 days with at least 6 on 31st, then again on 1st & 2nd.

Alpine Chough: Noted on 3 days with at least 10 on 31st, then again on 1st & 2nd.

Western/Eurasian Jackdaw: Noted on 6 days.

Carrion Crow: Noted each day.

Common Raven: Noted on 5 days with 1 en route on 30th, 4 on 31st, 2 Gloriette on 1st, at least 4 on 2nd, 4 Vitalos on 3rd.

[Eurasian] Golden Oriole: Noted on 2 days with heard briefly on 26th, a male seen well near the river bridge at Remoulin on 27th.

Common Starling: Noted most days.

Yellowhammer: Noted on 4 days with 1 d'Ossoue on 31st, 2 on 1st, 2 Gavarnie on 2nd, Hautacam on 3rd.

Cirl Bunting: Noted most days.

Common/European Chaffinch: Noted most days.

European Serin: Noted on 7 days with good views on 27th, then 28th, 30th - 3rd.

European Greenfinch: Noted on 7 days, 25th - 31st.

European Goldfinch: Noted each day.

Common Linnet: Noted on 4 days with 1 on 29th, 3 on 1st, several Gavarnie on 2nd & Hautacam on 3rd.

Common/Eurasian Bullfinch: Noted on 2 days with 1 briefly on 1st, then several including juveniles being fed on 2nd.

House Sparrow: Noted each day.

[Eurasian] Tree Sparrow: Noted on 3 days with several seen well on 26th, a pair nesting in a box at Musée La Crau on 27th, several on 29th.

Rock Sparrow / Rock Petronia: Noted only on 1 day, c.6 Pont du Gard on 27th.

[White-winged] Snowfinch: Noted only on 1 day, at least 10 Tourmalet on 31st.


Western Hedgehog: Noted only on 2 days, dead on road on 30th & 3rd.

Red Fox: Noted only on 1 day, dead on road on 3rd.

Roe Deer: Noted only on 1 day, 1 at Gavarnie on 2nd.

Apennine Chamois / Isard: Noted on 3 days with 1 d'Ossoue on 31st, 17 Troumouse on 1st, 21 Gavarnie on 2nd.

Red Squirrel: Noted on 4 days, usually near Hotel Robinson 26th, 28th & 29th, 2 Gavarnie on 2nd.

Alpine Marmot: Noted on 4 days with at least 10 on 31st, then regularly seen on 1st - 3rd.

Coypu: Noted only on 1 day, many on 29th.

Rabbit: Noted on 3 days with 2 on 26th, several on 28th & 30th.


Common Frog: Noted on 3 days, on 29th, many spawning at Troumouse on 1st, 'froglets' at Gavarnie on 2nd.

Marsh Frog: Noted on 5 days though usually only heard, 25th - 29th.

European Pond Terrapin: Noted only on 1 day, 2 on 28th.

Green Lizard: Noted only on 29th.

Wall Lizard species: Noted on 3 days, 26th, Pont du Gard on 27th, Hotel Robinson on 28th, this last one thought to be Iberian Wall Lizard.

Slow Worm: Noted only on 1 day, 1 dead on road near Gèdre on 31st.

Western Whip Snake: Noted only on 1 day, 1 (c.1 metre long) freshly dead on road near Pont Napoleon on 2nd.

Asp Viper: Noted only on 1 day, a small individual (c.7") at Gavarnie on 2nd.


Swallowtail: Noted on 5 days; 26th, 28th, 29th, 1st, & 2nd.

Scarce Swallowtail: Noted only on 27th.

Large White: Noted most days.

Small White: Noted on 6 days; 25th - 29th, & 1st.

Green-veined White: Noted only on 26th.

Orange-tip: Noted on 4 days; 31st - 3rd.

Clouded Yellow: Noted on 6 days; 28th, & 30th - 3rd.

Brimstone: Noted on 2 days; 1st & 2nd.

Cleopatra: Noted only on 1st.

Green Hairstreak: Noted on 2 days; 1st & 2nd.

Small Copper: Noted on 2 days; 26th & 28th.

Small Blue / Little Blue: Noted only at Gavarnie on 2nd.

Provence Chalkhill Blue: Noted only at Les Baux on 27th.

Common Blue: Noted on 3 days; 25th, 28th & 1st.

Lesser Purple Emperor: Noted only at R Gardon on 25th.

Camberwell Beauty: Noted only at Gavarnie on 2nd.

Red Admiral: Noted on 3 days; 25th, 31st & 2nd.

Painted Lady: Noted on 7 days; 25th - 28th, 30th, 1st & 2nd.

Small Tortoiseshell: Noted on 4 days; 31st - 3rd.

Pearl-bordered Fritillary: Noted only at Gavarnie on 2nd.

Meadow Fritillary: Noted only at Esquieze-Sère on 2nd.

Western Marbled White: Noted only at La Crau on 28th.

Piedmont Ringlet: Noted on the peaks on 3 days; 31st - 2nd.

Meadow Brown: Noted only on 28th.

Spanish Gatekeeper: Noted on 4 days at Hotel Robinson & elsewhere; 26th, & 28th - 30th.

Small Heath: Noted only on 30th.

Speckled Wood: Noted on 3 days; 27th - 28th, & 2nd.

Wall Brown: Noted only at Gavarnie on 2nd.

Grizzled Skipper: Noted on 2 days; 1st & 2nd.

Dingy Skipper: Noted only at Gavarnie on 2nd.

Large Skipper: Noted on 4 days; 26th, & 28th - 30th.


Beautiful Demoiselle: Noted only on 28th.

Onychogomphus uncatus: Noted only on 28th.

Norfolk Hawker: Noted only on 27th.

Lesser Emperor: Noted on 2 days; 28th & 29th.

Black-tailed Skimmer: Noted only on 29th.

Keeled Skimmer: Noted only on 28th.

Scarlet Dragonfly: Noted on 2 days; 28th & 29th.


CAMARGUE (& lowlands): (nos. refer to Blamey & Grey-Wilson,

Mediterranean Wild Flowers)

Kermes Oak Quercus coccifera 24

Birthwort Aristolochia rotunda 63

Birthwort Aristolochia clematitis 67

Lesser Sand-spurrey Spergularia marina 147

Kohlrauschia Kohlrauschia velutina 187

White Stonecrop Sedum album 386

Spanish Broom Spartium junceum 481

Pitch Trefoil Psoralea bituminosa 508

Fodder Vetch Vicia villosa 510

Star Clover Trifolium stellatum 662

Purple Clover Trifolium purpureum 669

Dove's-foot Cranesbill Geranium molle 741

Stemless Storksbill Erodium acaule 763

Beautiful Flax Linum narbonense 775

Cypress Spurge Euphorbia cyparissias 816

Large Mediterranean Spurge Euphorbia characias 818

Fringed Rue Ruta chalepensis 827

Grey-leaved Cistus Cistus albidus 961

Narrow-leaved Cistus Cistus monspeliensis 966

Thyme-leaved Fumana Fumana thymifolia 1014

Giant Fennel Ferula communis 1141

Orlaya Orlaya grandiflora 1166

Scarlet Pimpernel Anagallis arvensis 1198

European Olive Olea europaea 1248

Pink Convolvulus Convolvulus cantabrica 1329

Field Bindweed Convolvulus arvensis 1334

Blue Hound's Tongue Cynoglossum creticum 1402

Phlomis lychnitis 1460

Thymus capitatus 1514

Rosemary Rosmarinus officinalis 1526

Whorled Clary Salvia verticillata 1540

White Mullein (yellow form) Verbascum lychnitis 1599

Wavy-leaved Mullein Verbascum sinuatum 1601

Etruscan Honeysuckle Lonicera etrusca 1712

Wild Teasel Dipsacus fullonum 1732

Purple Knautia Knautia purpurea 1734

Knautia integrifolia 1736

Rampion Bellflower Campanula rapunculus 1759

Woolly Thistle Cirsium eriophorum 1956

Galactites Galactites tormentosa 1971

Milk Thistle Silybum marianum 1982

Urospermum Urospermum dalechampii 2039

Aphyllanthes Aphyllanthes monspeliensis 2096

Dipcadi Dipcadi serotinum 2178

Round-headed Leek Allium sphaerocephalon 2241

Yellow Flag Iris pseudacorus 2290

Field Gladiolus Gladiolus italicus 2307

Large Cuckoo-pint Arum italicum 2361

Violet Bird's Nest Orchid Limodorum abortivum 2386

Bee Orchid Ophrys apifera 2443

Lizard Orchid Himantoglossum hircinum 2445

Pyramidal Orchid Anacamptis pyramidalis 2447

Long-lipped Tongue-orchid Serapias vomeracea 2450

PYRENEES: (nos. refer to Grey-Wilson & Blamey,

Collins Pocket Guide, Alpine Flowers of Britain and Europe, new edition)

Bistort Polygonum bistorta 34.03

Ragged Robin Lychnis flos-cuculi 34.08

Nottingham Catchfly Silene nutans 36.02

Bladder Campion Silene vulgaris 36.06

Pyrenean Catchfly Silene borderei 36.10

Moss Campion Silene acaulis 36.11

Spoon-leaved Soapwort Saponaria bellidifolia 38.02

Greater Stitchwort Stellaria holostea 44.03

Stinking Hellebore Helleborus foetidus 54.01

Green Hellebore Helleborus viridis 54.02

Globeflower Trollius europaeus 54.07

Marsh Marigold Caltha palustris 56.03

Aconite-leaved Buttercup Ranunculus aconitifolius 66.07

Lesser Spearwort Ranunculus flammula 68.02

Pyrenean Buttercup Ranunculus pyrenaeus 68.04

Pyrenean Columbine Aquilegia pyrenaica 70.08

Solid-tubered Corydalis Corydalis solida 72.06

Common Fumitory Fumaria officinalis 72.08

Greater Celandine Chelidonium majus 54.07

Welsh Poppy Meconopsis cambrica 74.08

Yellow Whitlow-grass Draba azoides 88.01

Pyrenean Whitlow-grass Petrocallis pyrenaica 90.02

Purple Saxifrage Saxifraga oppositifolia subsp.paradoxa 110.05c

Pyrenean Saxifrage Saxifraga longifolia 116.03

Great Burnet Sanguisorba officinalis 124.03

Salad Burnet Sanguisorba minor 124.03a

Herb Bennet Geum urbanum 124.09

Golden Cinquefoil Potentilla aurea 128.05

Wild Strawberry Fragaria vesca 130.06

False Vetch Astragalus monspessulanus 144.01

Pyrenean Vetch Vicia pyrenaica 146.07

Round-leaved Restharrow Ononis rotundifolia 150.01

Crimson Clover Trifolium incarnatum 152.07

False Senna Coronilla emerus 154.06

Knotted Cranesbill Geranium nodosum 158.07

Dusky Cranesbill Geranium phaeum 158.08

Pyrenean Cranesbill Geranium pyrenaicum 160.01

Herb Robert Geranium robertianum 160.03

Cypress Spurge Euphorbia cyparissias 162.07

Mezereon Daphne mezereum 174.01

Garland Flower Daphne cneorum 174.04

Common Rockrose Helianthemum nummularium 174.06

Pyrenean Violet Viola pyrenaica 178.05

Horned Pansy Viola cornuta 180.07

Heartsease Viola tricolor 180.10

Bilberry / Whortleberry Vaccinum myrtillus 198.09

Alpenrose Rhododendron ferrugineum 200.01

Bearberry Arctostaphylos uva-ursi 200.03

Oxlip Primula elatior 202.02

Birdseye Primrose Primula farinosa 202.04

Hairy Primrose Primula hirsuta 204.07a

Vitaliana Vitaliana primuliflora 204.09

Alpine Snowbell Soldanella alpina 210.07

Mountain Thrift Armeria maritima subsp.alpina 212.08a

Southern Gentian Gentiana alpina 216.09

Spring Gentian Geniana verna 218.01

Viper's Bugloss Echium vulgare 224.04

Common Bugle Ajuga reptans 230.02

Whorled Clary Salvia verticillata 232.05

Pyrenean Toadflax Linaria supina (= L.pyrenaica) 242.06b

Alpine Toadflax Linaria alpina 242.07

Fairy Foxglove Erinus alpinus 242.10

Alpine Figwort Scrophularia canina 244.05

Pyrenean Speedwell Veronica nummularia 248.07

Narrow-leaved Rattle Rhinanthus angustifolius 260.06

Ramonda Ramonda myconi 260.09

Leafless-stemmed Globularia Globularia nudicaulis 264.04

Hoary Plantain Plantago media 266.06

Hedge Bedstraw Galium mollugo 270.05

Alpine/Red-berried Elder Sambucus racemosa 274.02

Common Elder Sambucus nigra 274.02a

Pyrenean Scabious Scabiosa cinerea 286.04

Ox-eye/Moon Daisy Leucanthemum vulgare 292.01

White Asphodel Asphodelus albus 326.02

Pyrenean Snakeshead Fritillaria pyrenaica 326.03

Martagon Lily Lilium martagon 328.01

Pyrenean Squill Scilla liliohyacinthus 330.03

Pyrenean Hyacinth Brimeura (=Hyacinthus) amethystinus 330.07

Rush-leaved Narcissus Narcissus requienii 334.05

Wild Daffodil Narcissus pseudonarcissus 334.06

Early Purple Orchid Orchis mascula 338.05

Elder-flowered Orchid Dactylorhiza sambucina 340.05

Broad-leaved Marsh Orchid Dactylorhiza majalis 340.07

Narrow-leaved Helleborine Cephalanthera longifolia 344.01a

The grand total of 155 species of birds included three that were new for a Travelling Naturalist tour to these fabulous locations. But then of course you have to add in the mammals, butterflies, dragonflies and damselflies, amphibians, reptiles and all of those lovely plants, which are listed in the preceding pages. In wildlife terms, this was a truly memorable tour.

Then when you add in the spectacular scenery of the Pyrenees and the fabulous and sumptuous picnics presented to us by the Hotel Robinson and you know this has been much more than just worthwhile.

And as for you, our esteemed clients, you too played your part by keeping Keith and myself up to speed and by keeping the humour going when mine failed to register. But those of you in the second bus did go on a bit with that joke about a White Stork landing on the road................ Actually, I do believe you, ........ honest!

Keith and I hope we will have the pleasure of your company on future Travelling Naturalist tours.

Mike Read,


© The Travelling Naturalist 2002