Saturday, 13 May 2017

The Camargue 8th - 12th May

Flew out from Stansted to Nimes on Monday morning, picking up a small hire car at the airport and heading to our hotel in Saintes Maries de la Mer for 4 nights, returning midday Friday.
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.
Cattle egret

Black winged stilt

Greater flamingoes

Flamingo portrait

Nightingale

distant greenshank

even more distant spotted redshank

Little egret

Yellow legged gull
Day 2 began with a wander east from the town, along The Digue footpath to visit a few smaller lakes and to give Gary an idea of the terrain. A turnstone on the beach was good and 2 melodious warblers in a bush at the same time as we watched yellow wagtails, ssp iberiae. A serin was heard but not seen and several crested larks were noted on the dry stoney/sandy track. More terns and flamingoes and the ubiquitous black kites. We returned to the car and headed off to La Capeliere Reserve on the east shores of Etang de Vaccares. A wander around the trail here gave up red crested pochard, white wagtail, red kite, reed and sedge warbler and a great crested grebe. Following this we headed along narrow lanes to Etang du Fangassier where we encountered the expected slender billed gulls and more yellow wagtails. From here, a drive over to Le Sambuc where a marvellous red footed falcon posed on wires and shortly afterwards, an overhead short toed eagle, the first of at least 3 we recorded. A couple of black terns flew in front of the car as we drove along lanes north of Etang de Vaccares near Mas Argon. Here we also scored with Mediterranean gulls, a first for me in this region. A small beer at the bar in Albaron, L'Agachon before another evening of a few lagers and a good meal.
Turnstone from Les Digue footpath

Red crested pochard at La Capeliere

Yet to be identified


Red footed falcon at Le Sambuc

same bird

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
Day three and a drive of an hour or so up to Les Baux de Provence where we hoped to see some birds more associated with the mountains as we were in Les Alpilles. We arrived before the many tourists to this stunning medieval village, paid our money to gain access to the chateau perched on the peak and began searching for alpine accentors. As we thought, a little too late in the year and they had probably moved higher up to breed. However, numerous black redstarts and serins kept us happy and whilst checking the crag martins that flew rapidly over our head we noted a couple of larger swifts, flying at amazing speeds, showing white underparts. Alpine swift, a great bird to see. A wheezing greenfinch got on to the list as did 2 redstarts.
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

Black redstart

Spectacular view

Les Baux village

One of many black kites

Superbly posing serin
Provencal Blue perhaps?


Small heath

Bee eater

Distant flyby roller

Another bee eating bee eater
Day 4 and we awoke to wet and very windy conditions. We set off for Le Paty de la Trinitie for a walk along a path I have used many times before, but the mud was deep and the wind meant no sensible bird was going to be showing, so off in the car, firstly for another coffee at L'Agachon and then a drive around fields in the area known as the Petite Camargue. The rice fields here were too full of water but a large pipit type bird was sitting in front of me on the road. At first, I thought Richard's pipit but having checked books, this was clearly a Calandra lark, a new bird for the trip.
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
And so, Friday and our final few hours before we had to return the car around 10am for a 12.35 flight home. We set off around lanes we had visited on the Monday, but the rain had increased the depth of water in the rice fields, so little noted apart from glossy ibis and gull billed terns. We then parked the car near the airport to spend time checking a scrubby heath area near the runway. Gary noted cirl bunting and 3 turtle doves were seen along with singing whitethroats, nightingales and a few more black redstarts.
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.

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This is me

This is me
At the end of another Norfolk Coastal footpath walk. 47 miles, 3 days 99 species of bird

Caley Wood view

Caley Wood view
sunshine through the canopy 29.05.08

A walk along the Warta Valley, Poznan, Poland. Feb 2007

A walk along the Warta Valley, Poznan, Poland. Feb 2007
Best birds on this walk: black and middle spotted woodpecker and short toed treecreeper

About Me

My photo
A primary school teacher for 30 years, I retired from teaching in July 2009 to set up my own science enhancement and communication company. The Primary Works offers science clubs, workshops and staged science shows nationwide. I have always been interested in bird watching since my early years. Apparently my first tick was after inquiring about a chaffinch and then receiving the Observer book of birds. By the age of 9 I had moved on to Tory Peterson's collins guide and was now involved on YOC birding holidays to Northumbria, Essex coast, Slimbridge and Yorkshire. My twitching rule is that I will willingly travel 1km for each gram the bird weighs. However, I have had many rarities just by being in the right place. I have travelled widely throughout Europe and also visited Australia and Sri Lanka. Further European destinations are planned and a bigger trip to The Crimea was planned for 2014 but now not possible. so 2014: Sri Lanka in January, Poland in April, Madeira in June and The Camargue in July. So far 2015 has been Sri Lanka in Jan, Poland in Feb, Sri Lanka in April and The Camargue coming up in 1st week of September.

Grey heron

Grey heron
Over the allotment 28.09.08

Southern Hawker

Southern Hawker
Ridge footpath 27.08.08

Juvenile green woodpecker (17.08.08)

Juvenile green woodpecker (17.08.08)
Note the stripes, denoting a bird fledged this year.

common blue

common blue
Ash Valley G.C. 15.08.08

Indian balsam (impatiens glandulifera)

Indian balsam (impatiens glandulifera)
River Ash

azure damselfly

azure damselfly
River Ash 28.07.08

marbled white

marbled white
Discovered at Westland Green 22.07.08

ruddy darter

ruddy darter
Bush Wood 21.07.08

honeysuckle 19.07.08

honeysuckle 19.07.08
growing in hedgerow in Chapel Lane

cinnabar moth caterpillar

cinnabar moth caterpillar
Photographed on ragwort 19.07.08

Bittersweet

Bittersweet
Study of petals 11.06.08

male yellowhammer

male yellowhammer
08.06.08

common blue butterfly

common blue butterfly
06.06.08

River Ash

River Ash
looking south from the bridge at Hadham Ford

Common poppy (papaver rhoeas)

Common poppy (papaver rhoeas)
in rape field 29.05.08

Caley Wood sunshine

Caley Wood sunshine
29.05.08

Millenium Wood fox

Millenium Wood fox
24.05.08

common comfrey (symphytum officinale)

common comfrey (symphytum officinale)
06.05.08 banks of the River Ash

Garlic Mustard or Jack by the Hedge,(Alliara petiolata)

Garlic Mustard or Jack by the Hedge,(Alliara petiolata)
flowers, leaves and fruit edible . Good in salad and pesto

April showers

April showers
Double rainbow 30.04.08

Caley Wood bluebells

Caley Wood bluebells
22.04.08

Yellow Archangel

Yellow Archangel
Chapel Lane (20.04.08)

sunlight 16.04.08

sunlight 16.04.08
looking south west from Bush Wood

snowy buds

snowy buds
06.04.08 in Bush Wood

Looking north west

Looking north west
05.04.08 evening shower approaching

Back Garden

Back Garden
Easter Sunday (23.03.08)

Brick Kiln Hill

Brick Kiln Hill
Looking east (23.03.08)

No play today

No play today
The 2nd hole at Ash Valley golf course

Teasel head

Teasel head
Bush Wood (21.03.08)

Reflections

Reflections
daffodils at Bush Wood pond (21.03.08)

Swollen River Ash

Swollen River Ash
The river at the bottom of Winding Hill 16.03.08

Daybreak over the chapel

Daybreak over the chapel
Thursday 13th March

Wild daffodils (narcissus pseudonarcissus)

Wild daffodils (narcissus pseudonarcissus)
growing in Bush Wood

January snowdrops

January snowdrops
Banks of River Ash, north of Much Hadham

Good Moon

Good Moon
From garden 24.01.08

Village Green

Village Green
Looking east towards Acremore Street

Looking south before Hadham Ford

Looking south before Hadham Ford
rare January blue sky

Useful sites

The following are some useful websites that may interest readers of this blog.
Firstly, Bishop's Stortford Natural History Society http://bsnhs.webplus.net/

Fellow birder, Gary Whelan's blog. Gives reports from our trips out together plus reports from his trips abroad. http://hairybirders.blogspot.co.uk
http://www.hertsbirdclub.org.uk/ The official herts bird club website. Frequently updated, listing bird sightings around the county. Offers links to many other websites. Both of these sites also offer links to yahoo discussion groups.
http://www.birdforum.net/ An international site. You can enter as a guest but become a member( free) to post comments, bird sightings and just about anything to do with wild birds. Good news updates, classified section for binoculars, cameras etc.
http://www.guidedbirdwatching.com/ A new site set up where you can contact people worldwide who will help you find good birds in their country. UK section being set up presently.
http://www.britainsbirder.co.uk/
Fellow birders blog. Strtford resident, Graeme Smith regulary birds the area south of Stortford as well as around Spellbrook and the River Stort from Spellbrook to Twyford Locks. Some superb bird photography: Graeme uses a digital camera attached to his powerful telescope to get detailled images of the birds he sees. Well worth a browse.
Two local sites that may be of interest can be found at
http://www.thehadhams.com/ www.thepelhams.net/content/section/12/139/

South Easterly walk

South Easterly walk
black, normal, red extended walk

South Westerly route.

South Westerly route.
Black usual, red extended

North Easterly walk

North Easterly walk
black short, walk. Red, extended

North West Patch

North West Patch
black route regular. Red route the extended wander