Finding Birds in Southern France - the Online Update

Buy the book   Based on contributions by:

Stuart and Sue Burnet (April 1995)
Louise and Michael Field (July 1995)
Mark Lynton (December 1995)
Richard Attenborow (June 1996)
George Clark (June 1996)
Graham Megson (June/July 1997)
Julian Lawson (198398)
Ken Ross (May 1998)
Ian Osterfield (May 1998)
Ron Jarvis (June 1998)
Mischa Indeherberg (June 1998)
Howard Orridge, Dave Gamble et al. (June 1998)
Edward Powell-Jackson (July 1998)
Dave Gosney (July 1998 and June 1999)
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Page 4

Site 9

Julian Lawson had Wallcreeper here on 24th May, proving it isn't just a late-summer bird.

Page 8

Site 1

Julian Lawson had Great Spotted Cuckoos here in 1994 and 1998. He has also had Squacco Heron near Espeyran, Little Bittern by the Canal du Rhone near Gallician and Rollers and Bee-eaters near Aigues Mortes the latter in a colony beside the Canal du Rhone, 3 miles west of the town. Stuart and Sue Burnet had a Caspian Tern here.

Site 2

The first lagoons along this track had 24 Slender-billed Gulls, 1 Caspian Tern, 1 Gull-billed Tern, 50 Little Egret, 2 Mediterranean Gulls and hundreds of other terns. The saltmarsh had at least 5 Spectacled Warblers (G Megson).

Site 3

The lagoon here had 8 Med Gulls (G Megson) and a few Glossy Ibis in 1995 and 96 (Louise and Michael Field; Richard Attenborrow).

Page 10

Site 7

Seventeen Collared Pratincoles here again in 1997 (G Megson) and 4 in 1998 (H Orridge). Richard Attenborrow had both Long-eared Owl and Night Heron by the road here.

Site 8

In 1995, the observation platform was worth using to get views of Gull-billed Terns and Pratincoles (Louise and Michael Field). The terns were also breeding there in 1998 and Pratincoles bred here in 1990 (Mischa Indeherberg).

Site 9

High water levels in 1995 attracted lots of terns including Black Tern, Gull-billed Tern and over 20 Whiskered Terns (Louise and Michael Field). Orridge et al. had a Red-footed Falcon here plus over 60 Mediterranean Gulls and a Caspian Tern.

Page 12

Site 10

The visitor centre is closed on Sundays and at lunchtime (Ron Jarvis).

Site 12

The nature trail is only open from 4pm until nightfall, Monday to Saturday (Ron Jarvis).

Page 14

Site 13

Apparently it is no longer possible to take 4-wheel drive vehicles beyond the first car park (R Jarvis).

Site 16

Apart from Slender-billed Gulls, this was also a good spot for Collared Pratincole and Gull-billed Tern (R Attenborrow).

Page 16

Site 2

Part of this area is now open to the public. Stuart and Sue Burnet had a Pallid Swift over the lake.

Site 3

One, perhaps two, singing Calandra Larks here in 1998 (Orridge et al.). Mischa Indeherberg tried an area of heath just north of the Vergiere turn-off and had 4 Southern Grey Shrikes, a Stone Curlew and a female Red-footed Falcon .

Site 4

You now need a permit (15 francs) to visit this site. To get hold of one, you first have to stop at the Ecomusee in St Martin de Crau (easily recognised by the large Hoopoe on the side of the building). Louise and Michael Field saw Pin-tailed Sandgrouse and Little Bustard here in 1995 and reported that 'up to 8 pairs of Lesser Kestrels are now breeding'. Stuart and Sue Burnet had lots of birds here including a Lesser Kestrel and 3 Calandra Larks.

Page 18

Site 6

Richard Attenborrow had a Great Spotted Cuckoo by the road at the north end of the marsh. Stuart Burnet visited here in April and had lots of Moustached and Savi's Warblers, over 10 Marsh Harriers, 12 Night Herons, Bearded Tits and a pair of Montagu's Harriers, amongst others.

Site 7

Stuart and Sue Burnet had Little Bustard, Stone Curlew, Short-toed Lark and 18 Pin-tailed Sandgrouse here in 1995. Graham Megson couldn't find this site and wonders whether it has disappeared under the roadworks for the new autoroute.

Site 8

If you don't fancy the smelly rubbish tip, you could also try for Egyptian Vultures at the West end of the Petite Luberon hills (K Ross). At the tip you should at least get lots of Yellow-legged Gulls (over 10,000 in June 1998). However, Ron Jarvis warns that the tip is apparently due to be closed down. Stuart and Sue Burnet had a Pallid Swift over the lake in April 1995.

Site 10

Once again this proved to be the best site on La Crau, with up to 15 Little Bustard, 4 Pin-tailed Sandgrouse, 3 Great (Southern!) Grey Shrike, plus Egyptian Vulture, Short-toed lark and Tawny Pipit (G Megson).

Site 11

25 Little Bustards at this site again (G Megson) Graham Megson reports that several birders, including himself, failed to find Calandra Lark, Lesser Kestrel and Lesser Grey Shrike on La Crau indicating how rare these have now become. He did however find lots of Rollers, including more than 10 in one day.

Page 20

Site 1

Subalpine Warblers also here (G Megson).

Site 2

There is no longer an observation hut and, although the Bonelli's Eagles were seen in 1995 and 1996, they haven't bred here since 1994. Graham Megson didn't see them in 1997. Howard Orridge's team had 2 Egyptian Vultures though this species is also unreliable here now. The area is closed to the public in July and August due to the risk of fire.

Site 3

Several observers have commented that the wine barrel has gone, but they still managed to find the site and the Eagle Owls (April 1995, July 1995, Dec 1995, June 1997, June 1998). However, the lane is now marked by various 'no entry' signs. Howard Orridge and his team identified at least 2 Pallid Swifts at Maussane-les Alpilles. In the next village, Paradou, the lines of poplars just south of the D17 are good for Golden Oriole (Ian Osterfield).

Page 22

Site 4

The viewing point is called the Belvedere des Vautours. Edward Powell-Jackson reckons that this tourist trap isn't worth visiting since the views you get are no better than elsewhere. However, it was here that he discovered that there are also Black Vultures being introduced to the valley (see below).

Site 5

Other birds on the plateaux included Red-backed Shrike and Tawny Pipit (R Attenborrow) and Edward Powell-Jackson added Stone Curlew, Rock Bunting and Cirl Bunting. He also tried the plateaux between Boyne and le Massegos, to the west of the main gorge, and found a carcass being attended by 2 Egyptian Vultures, 15 Griffons and 2 Black Vultures.

Page 24

Stuart and Sue Burnet had a Bonelli's Eagle here as well as singing Citril Finches.

Page 28

Stuart and Sue Burnet had a Bonelli's Eagle here as well as singing Citril Finches.

Sites 7 & 9

Yes, these are probably the best two sites in France for Rock Partridge but I still haven't seen them myself. They are found particularly on south-facing slopes, offering a combination of grassy slopes, rocky patches and, often, a few scattered trees. Walk for long enough in this habitat and you should find them. They tend to have vertical territories, one pair occupying a particular slope or gully from about 1800 metres upwards. However, in the summer months they are more likely to spend their time in the upper reaches of their territories so you must expect to climb above 2000 metres to find them. It might be easier to locate them by their calls but they seem to be mostly silent except at dawn or dusk in the second half of May. One research team had only 4 sightings on one visit, but 18 sightings in the same place a week later when the birds were singing. Of the 5 Rock Partridge sites I've visited, I would say Maljasset looks the most promising, even though I failed here in July 1998. I recommend that you stay at the hostel in Maljasset itself, then you can be up at dawn and in the right habitat straight away. Take the well-marked path from the settlement, heading north towards the next valley, zig-zagging up the south-facing slope. Another really good-looking spot is at Les Fraches, in a valley a few km east of Cervieres near Briancon.

Extra sites

Pont du Gard

The Roman bridge at Pont du Gard is a well-known site for Rock Sparrow. Graham Megson found them easily in June. Louise and Michael Field had Alpine Swift, Crag Martin, Cirl Bunting and over 8 Golden Orioles there.


Howard Orridge and his team camped at the Haven campsite at Lac des Reves, a few miles SE of Montpellier, where they saw several Great Spotted Cuckoos, a family of Long-eared Owls and lots of waterbirds including over 1000 Flamingoes, a Gull-billed Tern and several species of herons.

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