On the journey to the hotel we stopped off to check the local rice fields, flooded in May and consequently, some having the correct depth of water to attract the waders.
Near St Gilles we recorded many glossy ibis, gull billed tern, a solitary lapwing, the first of numerous black kites along with black winged stilt, but no small waders.
After dropping off our packs at the hotel, Gary and I headed to the Parc Ornithologique at Pont du Gau. This is a place I have visited on many occasions and once past the lagoons of flamingoes and mallards there is a fine 4 mile trail where several hides and viewing screen have been placed. Again, not too many waders but we did score with greenshank and several spotted redshanks. Nightingales were everywhere as were swifts and swallows, a single sardinian warbler, several great reed warblers and little, common and whiskered terns, mainly on the exposed sandbank opposite the main hide. Bee eaters were noted along wires, a couple of sacred ibis were in with the little and cattle egrets and the numerous grey herons. Fan tailed warblers (zitting cisticolas) and cetti's warblers made the list.
We returned to the hotel before heading out for drinks and a meal. Overhead, the first of many pallid swifts made the list, totalling 45 for the afternoon, a good start.
|Black winged stilt|
|even more distant spotted redshank|
|Yellow legged gull|
|Turnstone from Les Digue footpath|
|Red crested pochard at La Capeliere|
|Yet to be identified|
|Red footed falcon at Le Sambuc|
|Gull billed tern|
|Short toed eagle at some distance|
|Overhead short toed eagle|
|Slender billed gulls at Etang de Fangassier|
|Glossy ibis on the Mas Argon road|
|Mediterranean gulls at Mas Argon|
We then headed off to St Martin le Crau where the four main target birds were little bustard, stone curlew, roller and pin tailed sandgrouse. We failed to see any of these in a habitat that looked perfect for all species. We noted plenty of butterfly species, particularly small heath and what is provisionally thought to be Provencal Blue. After an hour of searching and hearing many great reed warblers and nightingales, we headed off south where we got lucky with numerous bee eaters and a pair of stunning rollers. The latter failed to reappear for a proper photo, so the following flyby shot is all I managed. The bee eaters posed well, though. In all, we had added another 15 species to the list, taking the total to a pleasing 86 species.
|Serin at Les Baux|
|Les Baux village|
|One of many black kites|
|Superbly posing serin|
|Provencal Blue perhaps?|
|Distant flyby roller|
|Another bee eating bee eater|
We returned to the hotel to await better conditions and consequently, set off in the late afternoon to drive around again. In the Etang to the west of Saintes Maries de la Mer, a few waders were spotted in one corner: redshank, spotted redshank, ruff and several curlew sandpiper. This was the best bit of wader watching for the whole trip. Later, a marsh harrier rose majestically over reedbeds.
|Black winged stilt on eggs|
|More black winged stilt|
We returned the car, full of petrol and relatively clean so didn't incur extra rip off charges (60 euros if the car was deemed too dirty!!) and the flight was on time, returning us to Stansted by 1.30pm
All in all an excellent 4 days birding, with a few lifers for Gary and several new birds for my Camargue list: red footed falcon, Mediterranean gull, crag martin, cuckoo and pied flycatcher.
In total, we saw 94 species of birds, with nightingale, glossy ibis, gull billed tern, black redstart and black kite being numerous along with good numbers (100's) of greater flamingo and black winged stilt. I am now planning a return visit sometime next year, perhpas in winter to find new birds of prey such as Spotted eagle that are known to overwinter in this fantastic habitat.