For our tour description, itinerary, past triplists, dates, fees, and more, please VISIT OUR TOUR PAGE.
See this triplist in printable PDF format with media only on page 1.
Rufous-tailed Rock Thrush was one of the target birds we sought in the Pyrenees. We caught a glimpse of one on the Port de Boucharo trail, but had great looks at several others in the Vallee D'Ossoue, including this beauty that posed for guide Jay VanderGaast.
Six years ago, when I co-led my first France trip with Megan, I thought it was just going to be a one-off situation. But this was my 7th France tour in as many years, and I've got to say, it hasn't gotten any less enjoyable to lead this one. In fact, this year may have been one of the most enjoyable ones, thanks in part to a stellar, small group that all got along well and made for a truly pleasurable 10 days of travel. Of course, all the great French cuisine, delectable croissants, deliciously drinkable wines, etc didn't hurt either. Oh, and there were the birds, too, of course! They weren't too bad either.
While running this tour in reverse, starting in the mountains and finishing in the Camargue, wasn't my preference, in retrospect it worked out pretty well. We saw most of the species we expected, and the one cold, rainy day hit us in the Camargue region, where it was less of an issue than the same weather would have been in the mountains. And it certainly didn't hurt to overlap with Megan and Marcelo in the mountains, leading the first FG group. In fact, it helped us out with a couple of species, especially Egyptian Vulture; I finally know where that partially hidden roost is located!
The fine weather in the Pyrenees meant that we didn't encounter any big fallouts of migrants pushed down by the weather, but it certainly made for some wonderful birding conditions, and there were still a few migrants to be found. Among these, a beautiful juvenile Montagu's Harrier in the Vallee D'Ossoue was notable, as was my first ever Ortolan Bunting, found on a spontaneous exploration of a ravine we usually never enter. But residents and local breeders made up the bulk of the most memorable sightings here: Bearded Vultures riding the thermals with large numbers of hulking Eurasian Griffons; Short-toed Snake-Eagles hanging over the boulder-strewn hillsides of the Vallee D'Ossoue, one plunging to the ground and coming up with a snake in its beak; a pair of Red-backed Shrikes pouncing into the grass again and again to provide grasshoppers for their impatient fledglings; an Alpine Accentor landing on the track less than 10 feet from our position, allowing us to study every detail of its lovely plumage. All fun, memorable encounters, though by no means the only ones during our time here.
Continuing into the Camargue region, more rewards awaited us. While our first day there was very nearly a washout (though we did score point-blank looks at a pair of Red-legged Partridge!), we made up for it over the next few days, scoring most of the prime targets this region holds for us. A rare cool, calm morning free of heat shimmer allowed us exceptional studies of Lesser Kestrel, Iberian Gray Shrike, and Eurasian Thick-knee on the stony Crau steppe. Our delightful picnic dinner in the shadow of Les Baux-de-Provence was capped off beautifully by the appearance of a fierce-looking Eurasian Eagle Owl, hooting loudly from his perch on a rocky ledge overlooking the valley below. And the main birding area of the Camargue came through with plenty of excellent waterbirds. Among these, a totally unexpected trio of Great White Pelicans were the biggest surprise of the trip, though a nearby flock of about 75 Eurasian Spoonbills were a close second. A Red-necked Phalarope spinning circles in one of the salt pans was one of the shorebird highlights, as were a group of Ruffs that superbly illustrated the size difference between males and females. In the tern and gull department, a vagrant Elegant Tern (my 2nd on this tour!) was the most unexpected, but a lone Slender-billed Gull was arguably the better find, given that I'd inadvertently photographed one on our first visit, only discovered upon our return to the hotel! Both Black and White Storks came through for us at nearly the last possible moment at Mas D'Agon. And a trio of skulking warblers all showed beautifully that same day, with Sardinian and Spectacled cavorting in the open at Mejanes, and the usually reticent Cetti's Warbler posing for scope views at Mas D'Agon. Crazy!
Thanks to all of you for helping to make this such a fun trip. Heck, thanks for making it run at all, as it looked pretty dicey there for a while. I'm sure glad it did go, as I had a truly great time showing you all around this little corner of France. Let's do it again sometime!
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
It just wouldn't be right to visit the Camargue and not see Flamingos! Participant Linda Mack got this image of a few of the many Greater Flamingos we saw.
Anatidae (Ducks, Geese, and Waterfowl)
MUTE SWAN (Cygnus olor)
COMMON SHELDUCK (Tadorna tadorna)
GARGANEY (Spatula querquedula)
NORTHERN SHOVELER (Spatula clypeata)
MALLARD (Anas platyrhynchos)
GREEN-WINGED TEAL (EURASIAN) (Anas crecca crecca)
Phasianidae (Pheasants, Grouse, and Allies)
RED-LEGGED PARTRIDGE (Alectoris rufa)
GREATER FLAMINGO (Phoenicopterus roseus)
Eurasian Griffons were a common sight in the Pyrenees. This impressive bird was David Blue’s favourite of the trip, and he caught a great shot of this one in flight.
LITTLE GREBE (Tachybaptus ruficollis)
GREAT CRESTED GREBE (Podiceps cristatus) [N]
Columbidae (Pigeons and Doves)
ROCK PIGEON (Columba livia)
COMMON WOOD-PIGEON (Columba palumbus)
EURASIAN COLLARED-DOVE (Streptopelia decaocto)
LITTLE BUSTARD (Tetrax tetrax)
Rallidae (Rails, Gallinules, and Coots)
WATER RAIL (Rallus aquaticus)
EURASIAN MOORHEN (Gallinula chloropus chloropus)
The Cirque de Gavarnie is one of the highlight locations of this tour. We had a wonderful day there, and found a number of special birds. Photo by participant Linda Mack.
EURASIAN COOT (Fulica atra)
WESTERN SWAMPHEN (Porphyrio porphyrio)
EURASIAN THICK-KNEE (Burhinus oedicnemus)
Recurvirostridae (Stilts and Avocets)
BLACK-WINGED STILT (Himantopus himantopus)
PIED AVOCET (Recurvirostra avosetta)
Charadriidae (Plovers and Lapwings)
BLACK-BELLIED PLOVER (Pluvialis squatarola)
NORTHERN LAPWING (Vanellus vanellus)
KENTISH PLOVER (KENTISH) (Charadrius alexandrinus alexandrinus)
Initially seen through a screen of shrubbery, these Great White Pelicans were nearly passed off as just more swans, but when they came out into full view, it was pretty clear that they weren’t! This species is a rarity in France, and this was our first record of them on the tour. Photo by guide Jay VanderGaast.
COMMON RINGED PLOVER (Charadrius hiaticula)
LITTLE RINGED PLOVER (Charadrius dubius)
Scolopacidae (Sandpipers and Allies)
EURASIAN CURLEW (Numenius arquata)
BAR-TAILED GODWIT (Limosa lapponica)
RUFF (Calidris pugnax)
CURLEW SANDPIPER (Calidris ferruginea)
DUNLIN (Calidris alpina)
LITTLE STINT (Calidris minuta)
Participant David Blue got this lovely image of an elegant Pied Avocet at the Salin de Giraud.
COMMON SNIPE (Gallinago gallinago)
RED-NECKED PHALAROPE (Phalaropus lobatus)
COMMON SANDPIPER (Actitis hypoleucos)
GREEN SANDPIPER (Tringa ochropus)
COMMON GREENSHANK (Tringa nebularia)
WOOD SANDPIPER (Tringa glareola)
COMMON REDSHANK (Tringa totanus)
Laridae (Gulls, Terns, and Skimmers)
SLENDER-BILLED GULL (Chroicocephalus genei)
This little family group of Red-backed Shrikes entertained us in the Vallee D'Ossoue. Photo by participant Linda Mack.
BLACK-HEADED GULL (Chroicocephalus ridibundus)
LITTLE GULL (Hydrocoloeus minutus)
MEDITERRANEAN GULL (Ichthyaetus melanocephalus)
YELLOW-LEGGED GULL (Larus michahellis)
LITTLE TERN (Sternula albifrons)
CASPIAN TERN (Hydroprogne caspia)
WHISKERED TERN (Chlidonias hybrida)
COMMON TERN (Sterna hirundo)
SANDWICH TERN (Thalasseus sandvicensis)
ELEGANT TERN (Thalasseus elegans)
BLACK STORK (Ciconia nigra)
WHITE STORK (Ciconia ciconia)
Phalacrocoracidae (Cormorants and Shags)
GREAT CORMORANT (Phalacrocorax carbo)
Though it seemed a bit too chilly for snakes to be out and about, it evidently was not, as this Short-toed Snake-Eagle proved when it dropped to the hillside and came up with one dangling from its beak. Kudos to David Blue for being quick enough to catch this picture of the bird with its snack!
GREAT WHITE PELICAN (Pelecanus onocrotalus)
Ardeidae (Herons, Egrets, and Bitterns)
GRAY HERON (Ardea cinerea)
PURPLE HERON (Ardea purpurea)
GREAT EGRET (Ardea alba)
LITTLE EGRET (Egretta garzetta)
CATTLE EGRET (Bubulcus ibis)
SQUACCO HERON (Ardeola ralloides)
Threskiornithidae (Ibises and Spoonbills)
GLOSSY IBIS (Plegadis falcinellus)
We had to work to find a Citril Finch, but were rewarded with great views of this male that landed near us. Photo by guide Jay VanderGaast.
EURASIAN SPOONBILL (Platalea leucorodia)
OSPREY (Pandion haliaetus)
Accipitridae (Hawks, Eagles, and Kites)
BEARDED VULTURE (Gypaetus barbatus)
EGYPTIAN VULTURE (Neophron percnopterus)
EUROPEAN HONEY-BUZZARD (Pernis apivorus)
EURASIAN GRIFFON (Gyps fulvus)
SHORT-TOED SNAKE-EAGLE (Circaetus gallicus)
BOOTED EAGLE (Hieraaetus pennatus)
GOLDEN EAGLE (Aquila chrysaetos)
Alpine Accentors were hard to come by this trip, and we were close to giving up when this bold bird flew upslope and landed on the trail just a few yards from where we were standing! It’s good to be lucky! Photo by participant David Blue.
EURASIAN MARSH-HARRIER (Circus aeruginosus)
MONTAGU'S HARRIER (Circus pygargus)
EURASIAN SPARROWHAWK (Accipiter nisus)
RED KITE (Milvus milvus)
COMMON BUZZARD (Buteo buteo)
EURASIAN EAGLE-OWL (Bubo bubo)
TAWNY OWL (Strix aluco)
EURASIAN HOOPOE (Upupa epops)
There weren’t many Common Shelducks present this year, but Linda Mack snapped one of the few as it strolled across one of the impoundments at the Salin de Giraud.
COMMON KINGFISHER (Alcedo atthis)
EUROPEAN BEE-EATER (Merops apiaster)
EUROPEAN ROLLER (Coracias garrulus)
MIDDLE SPOTTED WOODPECKER (Dendrocoptes medius)
GREAT SPOTTED WOODPECKER (Dendrocopos major)
LESSER SPOTTED WOODPECKER (Dryobates minor)
EURASIAN GREEN WOODPECKER (Picus viridis)
BLACK WOODPECKER (Dryocopus martius)
Zitting Cisticolas didn't sit still for long, but participant David Blue managed to get a nice shot of this one.
Falconidae (Falcons and Caracaras)
LESSER KESTREL (Falco naumanni)
EURASIAN KESTREL (Falco tinnunculus)
EURASIAN HOBBY (Falco subbuteo)
RED-BACKED SHRIKE (Lanius collurio) [N]
IBERIAN GRAY SHRIKE (Lanius meridionalis)
Corvidae (Crows, Jays, and Magpies)
EURASIAN JAY (Garrulus glandarius)
EURASIAN MAGPIE (Pica pica)
RED-BILLED CHOUGH (Pyrrhocorax pyrrhocorax)
We happened upon a field of thistles after our hike to the Cirque du Gavarnie, and got wonderful looks at some European Goldfinchs feeding. Photo by guide Jay VanderGaast.
YELLOW-BILLED CHOUGH (Pyrrhocorax graculus)
EURASIAN JACKDAW (Corvus monedula)
ROOK (Corvus frugilegus)
CARRION CROW (Corvus corone)
COMMON RAVEN (Corvus corax)
EURASIAN SKYLARK (Alauda arvensis)
CRESTED LARK (Galerida cristata)
BANK SWALLOW (Riparia riparia)
Participant Linda Blue got this shot of several of us climbing up to get a better view of Chateau des Baux, which can be seen in the distance.
EURASIAN CRAG-MARTIN (Ptyonoprogne rupestris)
BARN SWALLOW (Hirundo rustica)
COMMON HOUSE-MARTIN (Delichon urbicum)
Paridae (Tits, Chickadees, and Titmice)
COAL TIT (Periparus ater)
CRESTED TIT (Lophophanes cristatus)
MARSH TIT (Poecile palustris)
EURASIAN BLUE TIT (Cyanistes caeruleus)
GREAT TIT (Parus major)
Red-legged Partridges were very cooperative for our group when we visited the Camargue. A cloudy, wet day on the Crau had us cruising the local roads, when we found this pair feeding. Photo by participant David Blue.
Aegithalidae (Long-tailed Tits)
LONG-TAILED TIT (Aegithalos caudatus)
EURASIAN NUTHATCH (Sitta europaea)
EURASIAN TREECREEPER (Certhia familiaris)
SHORT-TOED TREECREEPER (Certhia brachydactyla)
EURASIAN WREN (Troglodytes troglodytes)
WHITE-THROATED DIPPER (Cinclus cinclus)
GOLDCREST (Regulus regulus)
COMMON FIRECREST (Regulus ignicapilla)
This handsome male Common Chaffinch gave us great close views as it fed almost at our feet in the Cirque de Gavarnie. Photo by participant Linda Mack.
Scotocercidae (Bush Warblers and Allies)
CETTI'S WARBLER (Cettia cetti)
Phylloscopidae (Leaf Warblers)
WILLOW WARBLER (Phylloscopus trochilus)
COMMON CHIFFCHAFF (Phylloscopus collybita)
Acrocephalidae (Reed Warblers and Allies)
EURASIAN REED WARBLER (Acrocephalus scirpaceus)
Cisticolidae (Cisticolas and Allies)
ZITTING CISTICOLA (Cisticola juncidis)
Sylviidae (Sylviid Warblers)
EURASIAN BLACKCAP (Sylvia atricapilla)
SARDINIAN WARBLER (Sylvia melanocephala)
SPECTACLED WARBLER (Sylvia conspicillata)
Muscicapidae (Old World Flycatchers)
SPOTTED FLYCATCHER (Muscicapa striata)
We found about 30 Black-winged Stilts in the salt pans at Salin de Giraud, including this pensive-looking youngster. Photo by participant David Blue.
EUROPEAN ROBIN (Erithacus rubecula)
EUROPEAN PIED FLYCATCHER (Ficedula hypoleuca)
COMMON REDSTART (Phoenicurus phoenicurus)
BLACK REDSTART (Phoenicurus ochruros)
RUFOUS-TAILED ROCK-THRUSH (Monticola saxatilis)
BLUE ROCK-THRUSH (Monticola solitarius)
WHINCHAT (Saxicola rubetra)
EUROPEAN STONECHAT (Saxicola rubicola rubicola)
NORTHERN WHEATEAR (Oenanthe oenanthe)
Turdidae (Thrushes and Allies)
EURASIAN BLACKBIRD (Turdus merula)
Participant David Blue got this photo of the rest of the group in the Pyrenees as we hiked the Port de Boucharo track.
EUROPEAN STARLING (Sturnus vulgaris)
ALPINE ACCENTOR (Prunella collaris)
DUNNOCK (Prunella modularis)
Motacillidae (Wagtails and Pipits)
GRAY WAGTAIL (Motacilla cinerea)
WESTERN YELLOW WAGTAIL (Motacilla flava)
WHITE WAGTAIL (Motacilla alba)
TAWNY PIPIT (Anthus campestris)
WATER PIPIT (Anthus spinoletta)
Fringillidae (Finches, Euphonias, and Allies)
COMMON CHAFFINCH (Fringilla coelebs)
EURASIAN BULLFINCH (Pyrrhula pyrrhula)
We saw so many wonderful places on this tour, including the ruins of Les Baux. We had a great picnic dinner near here, and had fabulous views (and sounds!) of Eurasian Eagle-Owl, one of the highlights of a great tour! Photo by participant David Blue.
EURASIAN LINNET (Linaria cannabina)
EUROPEAN GOLDFINCH (Carduelis carduelis)
CITRIL FINCH (Carduelis citrinella)
EUROPEAN SERIN (Serinus serinus)
Emberizidae (Old World Buntings)
CORN BUNTING (Emberiza calandra)
ROCK BUNTING (Emberiza cia)
YELLOWHAMMER (Emberiza citrinella)
ORTOLAN BUNTING (Emberiza hortulana)
Passeridae (Old World Sparrows)
HOUSE SPARROW (Passer domesticus)
OLD WORLD RABBIT (Oryctolagus cuniculus)
ALPINE MARMOT (Marmota marmota)
NUTRIA (Myocastor coypus)
PYRENEAN CHAMOIS (ISARD) (Rupicapra pyrenaica)
Totals for the tour: 156 bird taxa and 4 mammal taxa