Wednesday, 6 April 2016

The Camargue

The Camargue was rather spoilt by the weather, it was blowing a gale,overcast and cool when I arrived and the following day it rained until mid-afternoon. I met a Belgian couple who were leaving for Spain having had 10 days of poor weather. They have spent a month in the Camargue at this time for the past 10 years and this is the worst weather they had experienced.
Consequently it didn't feel much like Spring and it looks like the weather has held the birds back. There were no marsh terns in sight and although I had my first Nightingale, Willow Warbler and Pied Flycatcher at the lovely La Capeliere Reserve migrants were hard to find. I did manage a nice portrait of Fan-tailed Warbler there, along with Cetti's these are the two most conspicuous passerines in the area.
Fan-tailed Warbler

I stayed 2 nights at Saintes Maries-de-la-Mer on the Med coast but visited most of the recommended sites on the Camargue.
There were plenty of Greater Flamingos and much more confiding than in Spain allowing me to get some nice close up shots of this remarkable bird.
Greater Flamingo preening

Marsh Harriers and Black Kites were on show for much of the time but I didn't see any other birds of prey.
Highlight for me was a party of about 25 Slender-billed Gulls sat together preening on one of the lakes. The breeding adults looked superb with the pink cast to their breasts.
Slender-billed Gulls
When it was very windy there was a large movement of Sandwich Terns along the Med coast and also on the Camargue itself, several thousand birds must have been involved and I only saw a handful the following day when the wind had reduced a bit.
I did see Coypu which is an animal I have not encountered before, I don't know where the original animals came from but they are apparently well establish, the Carmargue obviously providing similar habitat to their native South America.
I left the Camargue this morning and paid a visit to La Crau, it's an area of flat grassland that holds Frances only Little Bustard and Pin-tailed Sandgrouse. It was still very windy so I didn't venture on to the plains but checked the canal which borders the Peau De Meau Reserve but without success, looks like I've had it for Melodious Warbler.
I'm heading for the Alps next and will have a look for the birds I missed by not going to the Pyrenees.

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