TRAVELLING NATURALIST TRIP REPORT
20th 29th September 2003
Saturday 20th September Arrival
Warm, sunny & cloudless.
Both the Montpellier and Marseilles flights landed on time, in fact a little ahead of time. Most of us flew into Montpellier and, having retrieved luggage and organised the hired minibus, we made good time to the hotel just outside Beaucaire. Leaving everyone to settle in and to enjoy lunch, I drove on to Marseilles to pick up the rest of the group. Those arriving earlier had the chance to explore the hotel environs, and we all duly met up at 7pm for the checklist and apéritifs before dinner.
Sunday 21st September Northern & Central Camargue
Warm, sunny and cloudless.
The insomniacs amongst us met outside at 7am for our pre-breakfast walk. It was surprisingly dark, with first light only just beginning to show and the local Robins just beginning to 'tic'. A Little Owl called briefly in the distance as we walked up the hill behind the hotel, listening to the various birds waking up. The usual Collared Doves, Robins and Chaffinches were obvious, though Sardinian Warblers proved particularly frustrating. Several Green Woodpeckers called, and a flock of Long-tailed Tits moved by. We watched the sunrise from the top of the hill and walked down, again finding the flock of Long-tailed Tits with several Great & Blue Tits around the hotel, and also the first of many Black Redstarts for the trip.
After breakfast, we loaded the bus with the fabled Hotel Robinson picnic boxes, and set off to explore the Camargue. The minor road through Gimeaux got us off to a good start with Cattle Egrets, Crested Larks, Camargue Black Cattle, Wheatears and Whinchats. A Wryneck was spotted on a roadside fence post, but flew into a nearby tamarisk as we slowed down. Overhead, we saw a Honey-buzzard and Marsh Harrier, then a dark-plumaged Common Buzzard was spotted on an electricity pole. A Fan-tailed Warbler (or Zitting Cisticola to give its proper name) showed really well in the telescopes. We arrived at the Musée Carmargais and walked out along the trail. Common Redstarts, Pied Flycatchers, Cetti's Warblers, Chiffchaffs and an Icterine Warbler were all added to the list. Marsh Harriers circled overhead, then a Short-toed Eagle appeared. A Kingfisher frustrated us with brief glimpses along the channel where Lesser Emperors, Common Darters and Scarlet Dragonflies were all on the wing. We eventually had to turn back without reaching the hide overlooking the lagoon. A dead snake in the recently-cut long grass appeared very like a Dice Snake but the range of this eastern species apparently stops at the Italian border and does not occur in France, where it is replaced by the Viperine Snake. Maybe it was just a poorly marked specimen of the latter.
The excellent lunch was followed by a drive, 'without stopping', I said, direct to the Flamingos at the Étang du Fangassier. Two minutes later we stopped(!) to overlook a shallowly flooded lagoon with a large flock of gulls and shore-birds. Included here were Lapwings, a Golden Plover still in almost full breeding plumage, Ruff, Wood Sandpipers and Little Ringed Plovers. The Étang held about a thousand Greater Flamingos with good numbers of brown young birds. We also found a Kentish Plover, a flock of Shelduck amongst the flamingos and a single Slender-billed Gull which flew off as soon the scopes got on to it! We headed back, stopping at the Marais de Grenouillet, to search through the masses of Little Egrets feeding near the main sluice. There were two White Storks amongst the many Grey Herons and Great White Egrets in the background. Six Mute Swans flew off and a Kingfisher at last showed itself for everyone, albeit with several fly-passes. We had to head homewards as time was moving on, but our final bird was probably the bird of the day - a Roller sitting quietly on a roadside wire. Having driven right past it, we found a turning spot and returned to view from quite close, before it took wing and flew off.
Back to the hotel in time for checklist and dinner.
Monday 22nd September Pont du Gard & Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer
Overcast up to mid-am, thunderstorms & torrential rain thereafter.
We delayed our pre-breakfast walk until 7.30 am, and walked just a short distance along the cycle way. The SardinianWarblers were again very vocal but very elusive, and a Green Woodpecker called and then flew across behind us. Other than these, and a flock of Long-tailed Tits, it was very quiet.
After breakfast, we loaded up the bus and headed for Remoulins, where we stopped briefly to overlook the River Gardon. Two Little Egrets and a couple of Kingfishers were seen, together with distant White Wagtails. We moved on to the Pont du Gard and walked out to the roman aqueduct. Cirl Buntings were singing loudly but flew off as soon as the telescopes were lined up. A lot of engineering work was being carried out to the riverbanks below the Pont, presumably in response to the previous winter's floods. This rather disrupted our visit, though we did manage to see a few Crag Martins and a large flock of House Martins. The Black Redstarts were wonderfully confiding and allowed excellent close views, and a Grey Wagtail was found on the far riverbank. We had coffee and a spot of retail therapy in the gift shops just as the thunder began to rumble and things obviously started to brew. The rain started and as things were definitely not pleasant, we decided to stop by the hotel to collect wet weather gear on our way south-west to Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer where at least we could overlook the Étangs from the vehicle if necessary. This attempt to avoid getting wet was largely successful though again, engineering work was being carried out, this time to the sea defences and the main sluice draining the marshes. A strong on-shore wind also made it unsuitable for lunch.
We stopped briefly to overlook the main lagoon, finding an adult Slender-billed Gull, several Flamingos, a good flock of Avocets and Sandwich Terns and several Common Terns. Time was getting on so we returned to the Parc Ornithologique and the Maison du Parc to have a rather late lunch where, with no rain, we could watch the thunderstorms sweeping across to the north. After lunch, we looked around the Maison du Parc, and with scopes found Common Snipe, Black-tailed Godwit and Shoveler on the lagoon and had a brief view of a Hoopoe just outside the big window. A Coypu was completely unconcerned as we all watched it feeding in the channel and ultimately swam right underneath the bridge we were standing on. Some really close Flamingos were excellent and a small flock catching the sun and flying across in front of dark grey thunderclouds must be one of the lasting memories of the trip. We stopped to photograph some white horses in a semi-natural environment and then headed for the hotel, through quite a bit of flooding and thunder and rain which lasted right into the night.
Tuesday 23rd September at La Crau & Les Baux-de-Provence
Misty early morning, then clear, sunny & warm.
No early morning walk this morning so we all met up for breakfast at 8am. Our first stop was at St-Martin-de-Crau where we looked around the small museum and bought our permit for entry on to the Peau-de-Meau reserve. The Étang des Aulnes was completely devoid of life except for a lone Coot! On our way on to La Crau, we stopped to look at several Kestrels and found a male Stonechat. Walking out across the Peau de Meau, we saw Tree Pipit and very brief views of a Lesser Spotted Woodpecker along the woodland edge across the river. When we reached the barn complex with its first floor hide overlooking the steppe, we had really close views of two Red Kites, which landed to peck over a dead Brown Hare. Lesser Kestrels were seen on the various rock piles, and as we left, a 'bush stop' behind the barn found a young Western Whip Snake hiding under a wooden beam. Two Tawny Pipits appeared as we walked back to the vehicle for our picnic lunch. A Green Woodpecker was flushed from the roadside as we drove back towards St Martin.
We then headed up to and through Les Baux, stopping at various points for photographs. A short walk along a trail on the ridge provided us with superb views of a Firecrest as several Buzzards circled overhead. We headed back, stopping briefly back in Maussane before heading north again over Les Alpilles ridge to St-Remy-de-Provence, then through the centre of the twin towns of Tarascon and Beaucaire to the hotel.
Wednesday 24th September Western Camargue
Sunny & cloudless, strong northerly wind.
It was very quiet on our pre-breakfast walk, with just a Green Woodpecker flying off from near the tennis court, as the strong wind made birding very difficult. After breakfast, we headed south-west but immediately got tied up in traffic chaos in the middle of St Gilles, the town centre of which was still closed as they mopped up from the storm floods from two days ago. We eventually found our way round the various 'routes barrées' and got through Gallician to check out the étangs to the south. Much water and the strong wind meant rather few birds apart from Grey Herons and Little Egrets, though a Common Snipe was flushed from the roadside by a Marsh Harrier and landed briefly nearby before flying on. A Red Kite was quartering the ground near Montcalm, then we headed for Aigues-Mortes, where we found further numbers of Flamingos, two Great Crested Grebes and an Osprey. We explored to the south towards Peccais, but found nothing of interest so headed back to have lunch to the south-west of Gallician. On the way, three Black Storks flew over the road, followed by another, for which we managed to stop and watch as it flew directly overhead. Finally we headed back to the Parc Ornithologique at the Pont de Gau. Building work in the Maison du Parc encouraged us to enter the Parc itself where there were captive examples of the fauna to be found in the Camargue. We walked out to the hide to overlook the Étang de Gines, watching good numbers of Teal and Mallard with a few Shoveler. There were many Coypus in the pens with the captive Flamingos and waterfowl, and having looked briefly at the captive owls, we headed homewards for dinner.
Thursday 25th September Travel to the Pyrenees
Sunny, cloudless and warm.
We bade farewell to the Hotel Robinson just before 9am and headed westwards. A coffee stop at around 11 o'clock and a brief photo-stop overlooking Carcassonne, and we managed to be just beyond Toulouse for lunch. Another stop just south of Lourdes mid-afternoon, and we were looking skywards watching Red Kites, Ravens and Griffon Vultures patrolling the ridge. We arrived at Luz St.Sauveur at around 4 o'clock and were made very welcome. An hour's walk up the hill to the ruined castle once we were settled in, and we at last had good views of Green Woodpecker, and added a new species of butterfly, Large Wall Brown. On our way down, we suddenly realised that a flock of Griffon Vultures were thermalling above a nearby peak. Then a lone raptor appeared an adult Lammergeier. This was really lucky to find this species within a couple of hours of arrival!
Friday 26th September Cirque de Gavarnie & Pic de Tentes
Sunny & warm, clouding over the peaks during pm.
A 7.30 pre-breakfast walk just up the road started in the half-light with the usual Robins and Blackbirds calling from the bushes. Jays showed very well, as did a lovely male Black Redstart, which perched obligingly on a nearby wall, and Chiffchaffs, which were flitting around the roadside trees.
After breakfast, we headed to Gavarnie where we parked and walked up into the Cirque. We had frustratingly brief glimpses of Crested Tits and Bullfinches, though the Coal Tits always managed to show well! Grey and White Wagtails were around Gavarnie itself and the Jays were exceptionally tame, waiting for picnic scraps and taking nuts from the trees. A male Yellowhammer showed well. Near the Hotel du Cirque, several Alpine Choughs flew past and a pair of Ravens circled the peaks. We headed back for a late picnic, though we had all taken water and a snack with us to keep us going. We had time to browse the tourist shops in Gavarnie, then drove up the Vallée des Espécières to park near the Pic de Tentes. Here the road is blocked to traffic, though walkers can continue to the Spanish border about a kilometre distant. Alpine Marmots were excellent on the way up, whistling as a Golden Eagle soared over. At the top, several Alpine Choughs cruised back and forth in front of us and a flock of Red-billed Choughs called as they circled high above the Pic. A flock of goats caused much merriment as they searched our pockets for goodies, just as a Sparrowhawk flew south through the valley. Time had again flown by so we then headed back to the hotel.
Saturday 27th September Cirque de Troumouse & Gave d'Ossoue
Mostly overcast & drizzle all day.
Our early morning walk at 7.30 was in mist and was even darker than normal! We did manage to just about make out half a dozen Cirl Buntings in the gloom as they foraged on the road in front of us. We could make out the male's head markings in the telescope - just!
After breakfast we headed to the Cirque de Troumouse. On the way as we climbed, a small group of buntings around some ruins where the cattle were resting included Rock Buntings and a single Yellowhammer. Up at the Cirque itself, there were lots of Water Pipits and a few Black Redstarts, but not a lot else. A coffee stop below the Cirque and we headed back downhill, stopping along the river to search for Dippers. We only had one or two brief views, until we got to Gèdre where we had our picnic lunches. Here, on the bridge overlooking a deep chasm, the group successfully watched a Dipper - I say 'the group', because I actually never got on to this bird though I had seen the others before it! A good flock of Crag Martins were hawking insects above us throughout lunch. We then climbed up to Gavarnie and explored the Gave d'Ossoue, a lovely valley running westwards from the village. A pair of Rock Buntings, including a male, were sitting up on a tree, just where the road was very narrow and under a scree slope (i.e. where we couldn't stop!). We did, very briefly, but only a few of the group got on to the birds before they flew. Further up the valley, again several Water Pipits and lots more Black Redstarts. The Marmots were good value, and called an alarm as several Griffon Vultures flew overhead. We eventually headed back, stopping briefly in Gavarnie itself before headed on downhill. The Annual Fair at Luz was in full swing, so several of us walked back into town to explore before dinner. The town was set to party into the night!
Sunday 28th September Col de Tourmalet, Vallée de Gripp,
Up in the clouds! Forêt du Lienz & Luz St Sauveur
Partying until 4am meant various sleepy looking people appeared at breakfast - not that we were doing the partying, but it sounded like the rest of the town was! The cloud appeared to be breaking up though the showers continued. We headed up through Barèges in good visibility, until just below the Col de Tourmalet where the cloud base seemed to be just 100 feet or so below the summit. It failed to lift the whole time we were there! We explored beyond, into the Vallée de Gripp, before returning for coffee at the Col, still heavily shrouded in low cloud. We headed back downhill towards Barèges, turning off into the Forêt du Lienz. Here we were largely below the cloud level, allowing good views of Mistle Thrushes and Serins feeding on the grassy slopes. Lunch here was accompanied by brief views of Goldcrests and another tantalising Crested Tit. We walked on into the forest, finding ourselves amongst a mixed flock of birds. Unfortunately the cloud had descended again and we struggled to actually see the various tits, Nuthatches, Goldcrests and Treecreepers which we could hear calling. The cloud cleared briefly and several Griffons floated low over the trees. As it started to rain again, we decided to return to the hotel in Luz for a short break before heading up the Gavarnie valley in search of Dippers. The first stop, at the Pont Napoléon, was to watch several bungie-jumpers performing from the bridge. Rock-climbers were also scaling the sheer cliff alongside the bridge. Further up-river, where the road crossed the river, we stopped again. No Dippers but two Lammergeiers were circling a nearby peak and both headed off in opposite directions after about 15 minutes in the telescopes. We stopped again where the river widens and had excellent views of a Dipper preening itself before flying out of sight.
We returned to the hotel and were just unloading when a raptor flew very low right over the hotel, closely pursued by two crows - a light plumaged Booted Eagle! It dropped out of sight behind the nearby houses so this encouraged us to walk up the road. Two Green Woodpeckers seen in the telescopes and a Kestrel, but no sign of the eagle. But, two lucky people again had the Booted Eagle flying past their hotel window!
Monday 29th September Departure
Thick mist am, clearing as we headed out of the mountains.
We packed and set off after breakfast, heading down the valley. As the clouds were still very low, we ignored the Hautecam, and instead, detoured along a minor road above Argelès-Gazost. Several Buzzards perched on roadside posts, then a stop on the edge of a village produced a pair of Stonechats, a Whinchat, Black Redstart and several Goldfinches. Many Swallows were heading south, no doubt to be held up later by the low cloud in the mountains. We stretched our legs above Vidalos, where there were many Carrion Crows and Ravens in the quarry. We heard Great Spotted Woodpecker and saw Spotted Flycatcher and Nuthatch well in the telescope.
Back on to the main road, we immediately saw Griffon Vultures circling a nearby hill top and several Red Kites over the road. Then on through Lourdes and on to the autoroute, where we had our picnic lunch, and a coffee and restrooms, at the Aires du Pic du Midi (not that we could see the Pic). We headed on for Toulouse Blagnac airport, arriving in good time for our flight home.
The various species lists below use the following references:
Birds: We use the suggested world-wide English names and systematic order as found in World Bird Species Checklist: with alternate English & scientific names (Wells, M.G., 1998).
Mammals: Collins Field Guide, Mammals of Britain & Europe (Macdonald, D. & Barrett, P., 1995).
Amphibians & Reptiles: Collins Field Guide, Reptiles & Amphibians, Britain & Europe, 2nd edition, (Arnold, N. & Ovenden, D., 2002).
Butterflies: Collins Field Guide, Butterflies of Britain & Europe (Tolman, T. & Lewington, R., 1997).
Dragonflies & Damselflies: The Dragonflies of Europe (Askew, R. R., 1988).
Notations used as follows:
C - Camargue
HM - Hótel Le Montaigu, Esquièze-Sère (P)
HR - Hótel Robinson, Beaucaire (C)
P - Pyrenees
Little Grebe / Dabchick: (C) Six on 22nd.
Great Crested Grebe: (C) Two on 24th.
Great Cormorant: (C) Noted on 3 days.
Grey Heron: (C) Noted on 4 days.
Cattle Egret: (C) Noted on 4 days on 21st, 22nd, 24th, & several in roadside fields on 29th.
Great [White] Egret: (C) Noted on 4 days.
Little Egret: (C) Noted on 3 days.
Greater Flamingo: (C) Noted on 3 days with c.1,000 on 21st & 22nd, c.200 on 24th.
Black Stork: (C) Four circling overhead on 24th.
White Stork: (C) Noted on 2 days with a pair on 21st and another on 22nd.
Mute Swan: (C) Noted on 2 days with c.8 on 21st, c.20 on 24th.
Common Shelduck: (C) c.40 on 21st.
Eurasian/Common Teal: (C) Noted on 2 days with 3 on 21st, c.30 on 24th.
Mallard: (C) Noted on 2 days.
Northern Shoveler: (C) Noted on 2 days with 2 on 22nd, 3 on 24th.
Tufted Duck: Several en route from Marseilles to Beaucaire on 20th was the only sighting.
Osprey: (C) One over Aigues-Mortes on 24th.
European Honey-Buzzard: (C) One near Gimeaux on 21st.
Red Kite: (C, P) Noted on 4 days with 2 at La Crau on 23rd, 1 near Montcalm on 24th, 4 near Lourdes on 25th, and several again near Lourdes and on the autoroute to Toulouse on 29th.
[Eurasian] Griffon Vulture: (P) Noted on 5 days with 7 near Lourdes plus 14 over HM on 25th, c.6 on 26th, 3 Gave dOssoue on 27th, 6 just over treetops on 28th, c.15 circling a peak near Lourdes on 29th.
Lammergeier / Bearded Vulture: (P) Noted on 2 days with an adult over a nearby peak (HM) on 25th, 2 more above Luz on 28th.
Short-toed Eagle: (C) Noted only on 1 day, one near the Musée Camargais on 21st.
[Eurasian] Marsh Harrier: (C) Noted on 4 days with up to 8 daily, 21st - 24th.
Eurasian Sparrowhawk: (P) One heading south towards Spain under the Pic de Tentes on 26th was surprisingly the only sighting.
Common Buzzard: (C, P) Noted most days with generally up to 6 daily. Very few alongside the autoroute south of Toulouse, with only c.10 en route on 25th & 29th.
Golden Eagle: (P) Noted only on 26th.
Booted Eagle: (P) A light-plumaged bird low over HM on 28th.
Lesser Kestrel: (C) At least two at La Crau on 23rd.
Common/Eurasian Kestrel: (C, P) Noted on 7 days.
Eurasian Hobby: (C) Two on 24th.
Red-legged Partridge: (C) Four at La Crau on 23rd.
Common Pheasant: (P) 2 sightings en route on 29th.
Water Rail: (C) One called from track-side ditch on 24th.
Common Moorhen: (C) Noted on 3 days.
Eurasian/Common Coot: (C) Noted on 3 days with maximum numbers c.200 on 22nd.
Pied Avocet: (C) Noted only on 1 day when c.60 found at Stes-Maries-de-la-Mer on 22nd.
Northern Lapwing: (C) Noted on 2 days with c.30 on 21st, c.20 on 24th.
Grey Plover: (C) One at Stes-Maries-de-la-Mer on 22nd.
European Golden Plover: (C) One still in almost full breeding plumage on 21st.
[Greater] Ringed Plover: (C) One at Stes-Maries-de-la-Mer on 22nd.
Little [Ringed] Plover: (C) Noted on 2 days with 4 on 21st, 2 on 22nd.
Kentish Plover: (C) One at the Étang du Fangassier on 21st.
Black-tailed Godwit: (C) One at Stes-Maries-de-la-Mer on 22nd.
Spotted Redshank: (C) Six near Gallician on 24th.
Common Greenshank: (C) Three near Gallician on 24th.
Wood Sandpiper: (C) Noted on 2 days with 8 on 21st, and heard on 22nd.
Common Sandpiper: (C) Two on the R Gardin at Remoulins on 22nd.
Common Snipe: (C) Noted on 2 days with 2 on 22nd, 1 on 24th.
Ruff: (C) One, amongst other shorebirds, on 21st.
Yellow-legged Gull: (C) Noted on 4 days.
Black-headed Gull: (C) Noted on 5 days.
Slender-billed Gull: (C) Noted on 2 days with an immature at the Étang du Fangassier on 21st, and an adult at Stes-Maries-de-la-Mer on 22nd.
Sandwich Tern: (C) c.30 at Stes-Maries-de-la-Mer on 22nd.
Common Tern: (C) Two at Stes-Maries-de-la-Mer on 22nd.
Rock Dove / Feral Pigeon: (C, P) Noted most days.
Stock Dove: (P) One (HM) on 25th.
[Common] Wood Pigeon: (C, P) Noted on 6 days.
Eurasian Collared Dove: (C, P) Noted most days.
[Common] Barn Owl: (C) One dead on road on 21st.
Tawny Owl: (C) Heard calling overnight (HR) on 22nd.
Little Owl: (C) Heard calling at first light (HR) on 21st.
Common Kingfisher: (C) Noted on 3 days with several at Musée Camargais on 21st, several at Remoulins on 22nd, several brief views on 24th.
European Roller: (C) One on 21st.
Eurasian Hoopoe: (C) One at le Maison du Parc, Pont de Gau, on 22nd.
Eurasian Wryneck: (C) One at the roadside near Gimeaux on 21st.
Lesser Spotted Woodpecker: (C) One briefly, along the tree-line, at La Crau on 23rd.
Great Spotted Woodpecker: (P) Noted only on 1 day with a bird heard briefly near Vidales on 29th.
Green Woodpecker: (C, P) Noted on 7 days, mostly heard calling, though eventually several individuals seen well.
Crested Lark: (C) Several near Gimeaux on 21st.
[European] Sand Martin: (C) Noted only on 21st.
[Eurasian] Crag Martin: (C, P) Noted on 3 days with 5 at Pont du Gard on 22nd, c.40 at Gèdre on 27th, c.50 overhead (HM) on 28th.
Barn Swallow: (C, P) Noted most days, though relatively few during the beginning of the week. Many were overhead (HM) on 27th, and many heading south near Argelès on 29th.
[Common] House Martin: (C, P) Noted on 6 days with many at Pont du Gard on 22nd, and overhead (HM) on 27th.
Grey Wagtail: (C. P) Noted on 5 days, single birds along rivers.
White Wagtail: (C, P) Noted on 5 days.
Tawny Pipit: (C) Two at La Crau on 23rd.
Tree Pipit: (C) One at La Crau on 23rd.
Water Pipit: (P) Many birds noted on 3 days, 26th - 28th.
White-throated Dipper: (P) Noted on 3 days with 1 (leader only) on 26th, 3 on 27th, 1 on 28th.
[Winter] Wren: (P) Heard calling on 3 days (HM).
Dunnock / Hedge Accentor: (P) Several noted on 2 days, here a montane species rather than the common lowland garden bird were used to in the UK.
Common Blackbird: (C, P) Noted most days.
Mistle Thrush: (P) c.15 at the Forêt du Lienz on 28th.
European Robin: (C, P) Noted most days.
Black Redstart: (C, P) Noted on 7 days, including very close views at Pont du Gard on 22nd.
Common Redstart: (C) Three at Musée Camargais on 21st.
Whinchat: (C, P) Noted on 4 days with several at Musée Camargais on 21st, several at La Crau on 23rd, 1 on 24th, 1 near Argelès on 29th.
Common Stonechat: (C, P) Noted on 3 days with a male at La Crau on 23rd, another male at Cirque de Troumouse on 27th, a pair near Argelès on 29th.
Northern Wheatear: (C, P) Noted on 3 days with several on 21st, several at La Crau on 23rd, several on 28th.
Zitting Cisticola / Fan-tailed Wbr: (C) Good views of one near Gimeaux on 21st.
Cetti's Warbler: (C) Noted on 5 days, usually heard but with several seen.
Icterine Warbler: (C) One seen well at Musée Camargais on 21st.
Common/Eurasian Chiffchaff: (C, P) Noted on 6 days.
Blackcap: (P) Noted on 2 days, near (HM) on 25th, and c.20 at Cirque de Gavarnie on 26th.
Sardinian Warbler: (C) Noted on 4 days, particularly (HR), usually heard though some seen.
Firecrest: (C, P) Noted on 2 days with excellent views of two near Les Baux on 23rd, and another at Forêt du Lienz on 28th.
Goldcrest: (P) Noted on 2 days.
Spotted Flycatcher: (P) One near Argelès on 29th.
[European] Pied Flycatcher: (C) Noted on 3 days with 2 at Musé Camargais on 21st, 1 (HR) on 22nd,& 24th.
Long-tailed Tit: (C) Noted on 5 days with parties up to 9 (HR).
Coal Tit: (P) Noted on 2 days.
Crested Tit: (P) Noted on 2 days, 26th & 28th.
Great Tit: (C, P) Noted each day.
Blue Tit: (C, P) Noted on 7 days.
Eurasian Nuthatch: (P) Noted on 2 days with several on 28th, 1 seen well near Argelès on 29th.
Eurasian Treecreeper: (P) Noted only on 1 day, 1 seen well plus others on 28th.
Eurasian Jay: (C, P) Noted on 7 days.
Black-billed/Eurasian Magpie: (C, P) Noted each day.
Red-billed Chough: (P) Noted on 3 days with c.20 Pic de Tentes on 26th, c.30 flying very high along the peaks at Gave dOssoue on 27th were probably this species, and several on ground at Col de Tourmalet on 28th.
Yellow-billed/Alpine Chough: (P) Noted on 2 days with six at Cirque de Gavarnie and Pic de Tentes on 26th, and several flying around on 28th.
Western/Eurasian Jackdaw: (C, P) Noted most days.
Carrion Crow: (C, P) Noted each day.
Common Raven: (P) Noted on 4 days with 2 south of Lourdes on 25th, 2 Gavarnie on 26th, 2 on 28th, several in quarry near Argelès on 29th.
Common Starling: (C, P) Noted on 6 days.
Corn Bunting: (C) c.10 near Gallician on 24th.
Yellowhammer: (P) Noted on 2 days with a male at Gavarnie on 26th, and another at Cirque de Troumouse on 27th.
Rock Bunting: (P) Five below the Cirque de Troumouse and another pair in the Gave dOssoue on 27th.
Cirl Bunting: (C, P) Noted on 3 days with a male heard singing and several seen briefly at Pont du Gard on 22nd, six near (HM) on 27th, and another heard singing near Argelès on 29th.
Common/European Chaffinch: (C, P) Noted on 6 days.
European Serin: (P) Noted on 2 days with a male heard singing on 26th, several seen well on a grassy slope at Forêt du Lienz on 28th.
European Goldfinch: (C, P) Noted on 4 days with several at La Crau on 23rd, and again on 24th, Gavarnie on 26th, and near Argelès on 29th.
Common Linnet: (P) Three at Cirque de Troumouse on 27th were the only birds noted.
Common/Eurasian Bullfinch: (P) About 5 below the Cirque de Gavarnie on 26th.
House Sparrow: (C, P) Noted each day.
[Eurasian] Tree Sparrow: (C, P) Noted on 2 days at Musée Camargais on 21st, and (HM) on 26th.
BUTTERFLIES & other insects:
Swallowtail: (C) Noted only on 21st.
Large White: (C, P) Noted on 6 days.
Small White: (C, P) Noted on 6 days.
Bath White: (C) Noted only at La Crau on 23rd.
Clouded Yellow: (C, P) Noted on 5 days.
Cleopatra: (C) Noted only at La Crau on 23rd.
Common Blue: (C, P) Noted on 3 days.
Red Admiral: (C) Noted only at La Crau on 23rd.
Comma: (P) Noted only at Gavarnie on 26th.
Painted Lady: (C, P) Noted on 4 days.
Small Tortoiseshell: (C) Noted on 2 days.
Meadow Brown: (C, P) Noted on 3 days.
Wall Brown: (C, P) Noted on 3 days.
Large Wall Brown: (P) Noted only near (HM) on 25th.
Large Skipper: (C) Noted only at Musée Camargais on 21st.
Hummingbird Hawkmoth: (C, P) Noted on 6 days, inspecting Buddleia and Fuchsia..
Beautiful Demoiselle: (C) Noted only at La Crau on 23rd.
Emperor Dragonfly: (C) Noted on 2 days with 1 around (HR) on 21st, and another at the picnic table at Aire du Pic de Midi on 29th.
Lesser Emperor: (C) Noted on 2 days.
Scarlet Dragonfly: (C) Noted only on 21st.
Common Darter: (C) Noted only on 21st.
AMPHIBIANS & REPTILES:
Stripeless Tree Frog: (C) Heard on 21st.
Common Frog: (C) Noted only on 21st.
Iberian Water Frog: (C) Noted on 2 days.
Common Wall Lizard: (C) Noted on 2 days.
Western Whip Snake: (C) Noted on 2 days with a small individual at La Crau on 23rd, and another struggling with a Wall Lizard at the Parc Ornithologique on 24th.
Viperine Snake: (C) One, found dead in some cut grass at Musée Camargais on 21st, was presumably this species, though it looked very like a Dice Snake.
Western Hedgehog: (C) Noted on 2 days (several dead on roadside).
Eurasian Badger: (P) One dead on roadside near Lourdes on 25th.
Red Fox: (C) One dead on roadside on 21st.
Red Squirrel: (C, P) Noted on 4 days with red individuals around (HR), a dark brown individual at Forêt du Lienz on 28th, and one dead on roadside south of Lourdes on 29th.
Alpine Marmot: (P) Noted on 2 days.
Coypu: (C) Noted on 2 days.
Brown Hare: (C) Noted only at La Crau where several were seen on 23rd.
Rabbit: (C, P) Noted on 4 days.
The highlight in the Camargue for me was the Black Stork circling just over the vehicle. Though the flock of Flamingos catching the sun and flying across in front of dark grey thunder-clouds must have left an impression with everyone.
In the Pyrenees, the Lammergeier which appeared right over the hotel on the first evening, and then the views by everyone of the two on the final afternoon, with the Booted Eagle low over the hotel just as we returned were all extremely lucky. By now, we all really know Water Pipit and Black Redstart, in all their plumages! The Marmots were great, well they are just great big guinea pigs really, and who was it that broke into our uneaten bread when the flock of goats were around near the Pic de Tentes?
All things considered, a good trip which I hope you all enjoyed. Well done to all of you who made this trip the success it was, despite the vagaries of the weather.
I hope that I see you all on another trip, sometime in the not-too-distant future.
Keith Grant, October 2003
© The Travelling Naturalist 2003