Our tour this year took place during a record breaking heat wave, but luckily for us, we were in one of the most famous white wine producing areas in the world, and we certainly used that in our favor to cool us down and give us a much needed break from the scorching heat that swept through France. Our days were easy with pleasant birding, cultural immersion and hefty dose of gastronomy and wine.
We kicked off the tour at the lovely town of Chinon, where every morning Rooks and Jackdaws called loudly as they left their rookery from the square right in front of our hotel and we watched the colors change on the Vienne river as the Black Redstarts sang from the rooftops. Unlike the vast majority of the Loire Valley, Chinon is famous for red wines produced from the Cabernet Franc variety, as its strategic position is more sheltered and slightly warmer than most of the valley, as Vincent eloquently explained to us while we visited the Pierre Bertrand & Couly winery, where his family has been producing wine for countless generations. The Chinon forest that protects the vineyards from the wind also produced great birds for us, with species such as Crested Tit, Western Bonelli’s Warbler, Common Cuckoo, Great Spotted Woodpecker and even an Osprey that Tyler spotted for us. We ventured a bit further to visit the amazing Fontevraud Abbey, but first birded the lovely village of Candes-Saint-Martin and enjoyed a lovely lunch in a petit Chateau. The birding around Chinon was also enhanced by our visit to the Meron Grasslands, where we found Little Bustards, Turtle Doves, Eurasian Hoopoe and many other birds, as well as our visit to Etang d’Assay, a new addition to our tour but certainly something we will repeat in the future as the abundance of waterfowl was a feast to the eyes.
We then transferred to Cour-cheverny via the lovely Chateau Gaudrelle, where we had a lesson in French cooking and learned about the famous sparkling wines from the Loire. It was here that we visited some of the most impressive Chateaux, with Chenonceau and Chambord taking the prize, and had some incredible birding moments in La Brenne as we explored its countless Etangs.
All in all, this was a fabulous tour, and as it is usually the case the highlight was the group I was fortunate to share it, with as even the best wines taste bitter in bad company. So I raise my glass and propose a toast to each one of you and hope that our paths cross again some day.
KEYS FOR THIS LIST
One of the following keys may be shown in brackets for individual species as appropriate: * = heard only, I = introduced, E = endemic, N = nesting, a = austral migrant, b = boreal migrant
CANADA GOOSE (Branta canadensis) [I]
MUTE SWAN (Cygnus olor)
A common species that was seen on most days of the tour, but it was particularly nice to see two pairs of birds disputing territory at Etang D'assay.
NORTHERN SHOVELER (Spatula clypeata)
Seen both around La Brenne and at Etang de L'arche.
GADWALL (Mareca strepera)
Small numbers on a couple of days, with especially nice views at the Cherine Nature Reserve in La Brenne.
MALLARD (Anas platyrhynchos)
A common species seen on several days of the tour.
RED-CRESTED POCHARD (Netta rufina)
We had great looks at these handsome ducks both at La Brene and Etang Beaumont.
COMMON POCHARD (Aythya ferina)
Seen early on our trip when we visited Etang D'assay and later on in the Brenne region.
TUFTED DUCK (Aythya fuligula)
Seen nicely around La Brenne. Their bright golden eye is particularly distinctive.
RING-NECKED PHEASANT (Phasianus colchicus) [I]
This species was introduced to France as a game bird and has become somewhat common in the countryside.
COMMON QUAIL (Coturnix coturnix) [*]
LITTLE GREBE (Tachybaptus ruficollis)
As its name suggests, this is Europe's smallest grebe and we found some of them on a couple of days during our visit to the Brenne Region.
GREAT CRESTED GREBE (Podiceps cristatus)
Great looks at a pair of displaying birds at Etang de L'arche.
EARED GREBE (Podiceps nigricollis)
ROCK PIGEON (Columba livia)
STOCK DOVE (Columba oenas)
Seen right around Chinon on a pre-breakfast walk.
COMMON WOOD-PIGEON (Columba palumbus)
The standard large pigeon on this tour. We saw copious numbers of them every day, with their diagnostic white stripe on the wing.
EUROPEAN TURTLE-DOVE (Streptopelia turtur)
This species has been steadily declining in numbers in Europe over the years but we found it on several days of the tour. It was particularly nice to get scope views of one perched on the power lines at the Meron grasslands.
EURASIAN COLLARED-DOVE (Streptopelia decaocto)
Small numbers on most days, typically around towns. It was certainly far less common than the wood-pigeon!
LITTLE BUSTARD (Tetrax tetrax)
This species is in decline all across Europe, being squeezed into smaller and smaller areas of suitable habitat, and it took us quite a bit of time to find them but our efforts eventually paid off and we had good looks at this charismatic species.
COMMON CUCKOO (Cuculus canorus)
As usual, heard far more frequently than seen but we managed to get some pretty good looks at these birds while birding around Chinon.
COMMON SWIFT (Apus apus)
Daily, always in flight.
EURASIAN MOORHEN (Gallinula chloropus)
This species was recently split from America's Common Gallinule.
EURASIAN COOT (Fulica atra)
Very common in wetlands throughout, but particularly abundant on the etangs of the Sologne and Brenne.
EURASIAN THICK-KNEE (Burhinus oedicnemus)
We had stopped to watch a Little Owl that was perched along the road when we spotted 5 Thick-knees walking around the field near it.
BLACK-WINGED STILT (Himantopus himantopus)
Not a common species on this tour, but we managed to get good looks at some at La Brenne.
NORTHERN LAPWING (Vanellus vanellus)
This handsome species is resident across much of France and we saw them on multiple occasions on our tour.
COMMON RINGED PLOVER (Charadrius hiaticula)
Great views at Etang Foucault during our visit to the Brenne region.
LITTLE RINGED PLOVER (Charadrius dubius)
Seen nicely at La Brenne, sporting the diagnostic bold yellow eye rings that help to identify them.
BLACK-HEADED GULL (Chroicocephalus ridibundus)
Regular across much of the tour. This is the common smaller gull in the Loire Valley.
YELLOW-LEGGED GULL (Larus michahellis)
This species is closely related to the Great Black-backed Gull but was treated as a subspecies of the Herring Gull for a long time. We had multiple views of them along rivers and recently plowed fields.
LITTLE TERN (Sternula albifrons)
Seen along the Loire River, where we found a little group nesting on a sandbar with some larger Common Terns on the day that we transferred to Cour-cheverny.
WHISKERED TERN (Chlidonias hybrida)
We had great looks at these handsome terns at Etang de L'arch and at Etang Beaumont.
COMMON TERN (Sterna hirundo)
Several sightings along the Loire River where they nest on sand bars.
GREAT CORMORANT (Phalacrocorax carbo)
GRAY HERON (Ardea cinerea)
Seen every day on our tour.
PURPLE HERON (Ardea purpurea)
Belinda spotted this handsome heron for us at Etang de L'arch and we later found more individuals for repeated views.
GREAT EGRET (EURASIAN) (Ardea alba alba)
This species is a fairly recent arrival from further east, slowly expanding its range across Europe. We first fond them at Etang D'assay and later on at La Brenne.
LITTLE EGRET (Egretta garzetta)
This close relative of the Snowy Egret was seen on several days of our tour.
CATTLE EGRET (WESTERN) (Bubulcus ibis ibis)
BLACK-CROWNED NIGHT-HERON (EURASIAN) (Nycticorax nycticorax nycticorax)
Seen well around the many Etangs of La Brenne.
OSPREY (Pandion haliaetus)
Tyler spotted this relatively scarce species for us.
EUROPEAN HONEY-BUZZARD (Pernis apivorus)
Several individuals flew over Etang D'assay on the second day of our tour.
SHORT-TOED SNAKE-EAGLE (Circaetus gallicus)
Multiple sightings of this large raptor, specialized in eating snakes as its name suggests.
EURASIAN MARSH-HARRIER (Circus aeruginosus)
We found one individual flying low over one of the Etang du Blizon. This is the largest of the European Harriers.
HEN HARRIER (Circus cyaneus)
We found this species flying over the Meron grasslands.
MONTAGU'S HARRIER (Circus pygargus)
This species resembles the broader-winged Hen Harrier but it is a much slimmer and longer-tailed bird. We found one while visiting La Brenne.
EURASIAN SPARROWHAWK (Accipiter nisus)
One bird flew over Etang D'assay allowing us some brief but good looks at this minute hawk.
RED KITE (Milvus milvus)
Also seen at Etang D'assay. This species is usually gone from the area at the time of our tour so it was a bit of a surprise to find one this late in the season.
BLACK KITE (Milvus migrans)
A couple of sightings around la Brenne.
COMMON BUZZARD (Buteo buteo)
Common indeed and we saw it on most days of the tour.
LITTLE OWL (Athene noctua)
This was a double bonus bird. We spotted a Little Owl perched on a fence post by the road and stopped to look at it, and ended up getting great looks at some Eurasian Thick-knees.
EURASIAN HOOPOE (Upupa epops)
This is one of Europe's most striking birds in my opinion. We first found one at the Meron Grasslands and later had a couple more sightings around La Brenne.
COMMON KINGFISHER (Alcedo atthis)
MIDDLE SPOTTED WOODPECKER (Dendrocoptes medius)
Smaller and less abundant than the Great Spotted Woodpecker but we managed to find a couple of different individuals on our tour.
GREAT SPOTTED WOODPECKER (Dendrocopos major)
Easily the most common woodpecker of the tour and we saw it and heard it on several occasions. As its name suggests, this species is larger than the previous one. It has a darker red vent, heavier markings on the face and unstreaked underparts.
EURASIAN GREEN WOODPECKER (Picus viridis)
This species occupies the niche of the American Flickers in Europe, spending much of its time on the ground eating ants. We found three birds from the old mill above Candes-Saint-Martin.
EURASIAN KESTREL (Falco tinnunculus)
Seen on every day of the tour.
EURASIAN GOLDEN ORIOLE (Oriolus oriolus)
Despite being incredibly vocal and colorful this species can be quite hard to see well. We managed to see one briefly near Savigny-en-veron and later found another near Etang de la Sous.
RED-BACKED SHRIKE (Lanius collurio)
EURASIAN JAY (Garrulus glandarius)
A common species that was seen many times flying, across the road but we managed to get great views from the van near Candes-Saint-Martin.
EURASIAN MAGPIE (Pica pica)
Seen on most days of the tour.
EURASIAN JACKDAW (Corvus monedula)
Common around Chinon where we saw them regularly on the roofs of the buildings in town.
ROOK (Corvus frugilegus)
Also found in good numbers around Chinon.
CARRION CROW (Corvus corone)
Seen every day on our tour.
CRESTED TIT (Lophophanes cristatus)
We found this highly distinctive tit while birding at Chinon Forest.
MARSH TIT (Poecile palustris)
We had a very obliging bird at the parking lot of the Maison du Parc at la Brenne.
EURASIAN BLUE TIT (Cyanistes caeruleus)
A common species throughout the tour.
GREAT TIT (Parus major)
The most common of the tour's tits.
EURASIAN SKYLARK (Alauda arvensis)
Excellent looks at one bird performing its characteristic flight display.
ZITTING CISTICOLA (Cisticola juncidis)
We had close up views of one individual at La Brenne.
MELODIOUS WARBLER (Hippolais polyglotta)
One of the many birds that Brenda spotted for us on this tour. This species may look drab but more than makes up for it with its song.
SEDGE WARBLER (Acrocephalus schoenobaenus)
Always a tricky bird to see well but we managed to connect with one at Etang du Blizon at La Brenne.
EURASIAN REED WARBLER (Acrocephalus scirpaceus)
This species is often hard to find but we managed to see one early on at Etang d'Assay where we had multiple birds singing.
BARN SWALLOW (Hirundo rustica)
Common Throughout the tour and as Richard quickly noticed, the subspecies found in Europe (rustica) is far paler underneath than North America's "erythrogaster" is.
COMMON HOUSE-MARTIN (Delichon urbicum)
Even more common than Barn Swallows and always nesting at any building they could get onto.
WOOD WARBLER (Phylloscopus sibilatrix)
A tricky bird to find but we pulled one up at a forest track near Etang de Beaumont.
WESTERN BONELLI'S WARBLER (Phylloscopus bonelli)
The Chinon Forest is our Go To spot for this bird on our tour and it did not disappoint us this time.
WILLOW WARBLER (Phylloscopus trochilus)
Another last minute save from our visit to Etang Beaumont late on the tour.
COMMON CHIFFCHAFF (Phylloscopus collybita)
This is one of the most common and recognizable songs on this tour, and after getting a good look at one individual we heard them on several days.
CETTI'S WARBLER (Cettia cetti) [*]
LONG-TAILED TIT (Aegithalos caudatus)
We had multiple good looks at these charismatic little birds. Despite their English name, these tits are part of an entirely different family from the other tits we saw on the tour.
EURASIAN BLACKCAP (Sylvia atricapilla)
GARDEN WARBLER (Sylvia borin)
This species is drab even by European Warblers standards, so much so that its lack of distinctive field marks is one of its diagnostic traits. We found one at the Outlook above Candes-Saint-Martin.
GREATER WHITETHROAT (Curruca communis)
Brenda found one for us at Etang Benisme resulting in great looks at it.
COMMON FIRECREST (Regulus ignicapilla)
We had incredible looks at a Fired-up (pun intended) individual on the forest track along Etang D'assay.
EURASIAN NUTHATCH (Sitta europaea)
We had multiple good views, but our best ones were at Camping Fritillaire near Savigny-en-veron
SHORT-TOED TREECREEPER (Certhia brachydactyla)
Particularly nice views of this species at the confluence of the Loire and the Vienne Rivers.
EURASIAN WREN (Troglodytes troglodytes)
We had a particularly cooperative bird at Camping Fritillaire early on the tour.
EUROPEAN STARLING (Sturnus vulgaris)
MISTLE THRUSH (Turdus viscivorus) [*]
SONG THRUSH (Turdus philomelos)
We had multiple looks at this powerful songster.
EURASIAN BLACKBIRD (Turdus merula)
Very common throughout the tour.
EUROPEAN ROBIN (Erithacus rubecula)
Seen and heard on most days of the tour.
COMMON NIGHTINGALE (Luscinia megarhynchos) [*]
COMMON REDSTART (Phoenicurus phoenicurus)
A very spiffy looking male seen nicely at Camping Fritillaire in Savigny-en-véron.
BLACK REDSTART (Phoenicurus ochruros)
A common species that is often seen perched on rooftops and walls in towns.
EUROPEAN STONECHAT (Saxicola rubicola rubicola)
Seen in small numbers on several days of the tour.
DUNNOCK (Prunella modularis)
A single bird seen along Etang du Blizzon towards the end of our tour.
HOUSE SPARROW (Passer domesticus)
A common and abundant species throughout the tour despite the fact that the species is declining rapidly across much of Europe.
WESTERN YELLOW WAGTAIL (FLAVA) (Motacilla flava flava)
We saw this species at Etang d'Assay early on the tour.
WHITE WAGTAIL (Motacilla alba)
Far more common than the previous species and we saw them on most days of the tour.
TREE PIPIT (Anthus trivialis)
After a brief and frustrating look at one, Sue found another bird for us at La Brenne.
COMMON CHAFFINCH (Fringilla coelebs)
A common species indeed. I particularly remember some conspicuous males on the grounds of the Fontevraud Abbey.
HAWFINCH (Coccothraustes coccothraustes) [*]
EUROPEAN GREENFINCH (Chloris chloris)
Seen at Etang d'Assay early on the tour and heard on many other days.
EURASIAN LINNET (Linaria cannabina)
Seen nicely from the Outlook at Candes-Saint Martin.
EUROPEAN GOLDFINCH (Carduelis carduelis)
Common and widespread.
EUROPEAN SERIN (Serinus serinus)
Common throughout the tour with its characteristic song that resembles shards of glass.
CORN BUNTING (Emberiza calandra)
Present in good numbers this year both on the road to Assay and around the Meron Grasslands.
CIRL BUNTING (Emberiza cirlus)
YELLOWHAMMER (Emberiza citrinella)
Nothing could be more french than a bird that sings "Just a little bit of butter with CHEESE".
EUROPEAN BROWN HARE (Lepus europaeus)
EUROPEAN RED SQUIRREL (Sciurus vulgaris)
NUTRIA (Myocastor coypus) [I]
WILD BOAR (Sus scrofa)
A huge Boar ran across the road right in front of our van near Cour-Cheverny.
ROE DEER (Capreolus capreolus)
EUROPEAN POND TURTLE (Emys orbicularis)
EDIBLE FROG (Pelophylax kl. esculentus)
WESTERN GREEN LIZARD (Lacerta bilineata)
Winery, Wine name, Appellation, Wine type, Vintage
Couly-Dutheil, Brut de Franc, No appellation, Sparkling, No Vintage
Gratien & Meyer, Cuvée Flamme, Crémant de Loire, Sparkling, No Vintage
Jo Landron, Amphibiolite, Muscadet Sèvre e Maine, White, 2017
Bernard Baudry, Les Grézeaux, Chinon, Red, 2019
Clothilde Pain, Clo’, Chinon, Rose, 2020
Baudry-Dutour, Chateau de La Grille, Chinon, Red, 2015
Domaine de la Fontainere, Le “C”, Vouvray, White, 2014
Frédéric Movileau, Eclipse nº 12, Saint -Nicolas de Bourgueil, Red, 2015
Pierre & Bertrand Couly, Rosé, Chinon, Rose, 2020
Pierre & Bertrand Couly, Les Blancs Closeaux , Chinon, White, 2020
Pierre & Bertrand Couly, “C” , Chinon, Red, 2020
Pierre & Bertrand Couly, “V” , Chinon, Red, 2015
Pierre & Bertrand Couly, Saint Louans , Chinon, Red, 2018
Pierre & Bertrand Couly, La Haute Olive, Chinon, Red, 2017
Benjajin Serer, Sec, Vouvray, White, 2019
La Trochoire, Elizabeth, Vin de France, White, 2019
Clement Baraut, Les Sables, Vin de France, Rose, 2020
Chateau Gaudrele, Notre Methode, Vouvray, Sparkling, 2018
Chateau Gaudrele, Tin Tem Arre, Vouvray, Sparkling, No Vintage
Chateau Gaudrele, Clos Le Vigneau, Vouvray, White, 2019
Chateau Gaudrele, Les Gués D’Amand, Vouvray, White, 2019
Chateau Gaudrele, Sur un Fil, Vouvray, White, 2019
Domaine de la Désoucherie, Quartet de la Désoucherie, Cheverny, Red, 2018
Pere Auguste, Chenonceau, Touraine, Rose, 2021
Henry Marionnet, Vinifera, Touraine, White, 2018
Bertrand Galbrun, Tempérance, Bourgueil, 2016
Hervé Baudry, Domaine de Rome, Sancerre, White, 2020
Andre Dezat &Fils, Poully Fumé, Poully Fumé, White 2020
Domaine Du Raifault, Les Allets, Chinon
Chateau de la Presle, Albane, Cremant de Loire, Sparkling Rose, 2011
Joseph Mellot, Le Troncsec, Poully-fumé, White, 2020
Domaine Tariquet, Premières Grives, Cote de Gascogne, White 2021
Totals for the tour: 111 bird taxa and 5 mammal taxa