2016 Spring Birdwatching in southern France

Trip developed in partnership with the Narbonnaise Regional Park

8 days / 7 nights

 

Timed to catch the end of spring migration and the start of the nesting season for our colourful Mediterranean summer visitors, the trip has been designed to maximise your chances of seeing the widest possible variety of birds. With its coastal lagoons, former saltpans, agricultural plains, scrubby upland Mediterranean vegetation known as “garrigue”, limestone cliffs and rocky outcrops, the Narbonnaise Regional Nature Park encompasses an internationally renowned diversity of habitats that are home to one of France’s richest ranges of birdlife (please refer to daily itinerary for target species).

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PROGRAM: 

 

 

En partenariat avec

 

            

 

 

Based at the charming guesthouse the “Abri du Vent” in Fitou, this trip offers an exclusive opportunity to discover an exciting new birding destination with highly knowledgeable local guides and accompanied by a fully bilingual driver/interpreter. This trip was first run in spring 2014 and was a great success, with all participants getting a “lifer” and  136 species observed, including many of southern France’s specialities.

 

Overview

 

Day 1 - Arrival Béziers airport 16h30 and transfer to accommodation at “L’Abri du Vent” in Fitou for dinner

 

Day 2 - Balade des 5 Sens (gourmet food & wine walk) and birdwatching between Peyriac-de-Mer and Bages

 

Day 3 - Narbonnaise regional park – Leucate migration & nesting summer visitors, La Palme salt-pans & plain

 

Day 4 - Narbonnaise regional park – Upland Corbières – warblers, buntings, larks and raptors

 

Day 5 - Bugarach – Vulture observation platform, a Cathar castle and the Galamus gorge

 

Day 6 - Narbonnaise regional park – Reedbeds & heronry, Ayrolles migration and Gruissan salt pans

 

Day 7 - Narbonnaise regional park – Coastal lagoons, Aude river bank and plain – migration and summer visitors

 

Day 8 - Free day. Transfer to Béziers airport for 15h (departure at 16h55)

 

 

Detailed programme

 

 

Day 1 : Sat 30th April. Arrival at Béziers airport 16h30 and transfer to the Abri du Vent in Fitou

 

Day 2 : Sun 1st May. Balade des 5 Sens Peyriac de Mer (Narbonnaise regional park). This fun event is an easy walk in seven stages around the Doul
lagoon, with gourmet food and wine tasting at each stage! An opportunity to taste some of the delicious local wines and plenty of good birding too,
with Flamingo and other waders and water birds such as Avocet, Shelduck and Black-winged stilt in the lagoons. Although it will be nearing the end
of the main migration period, there may well still be birds flying north such as Bee-eater, White stork and Honey buzzard. We can continue on in the
afternoon to the nearby lagoon between Peyriac and Bages where we should be able to spot Common tern, Kentish plover, Common sandpiper, Little
egret, Great egret and hopefully a few Flamingo that have not yet moved on to their only French nesting site in the Camargue.

 

Day 3 : Mon 2nd May. Accompanied by an experienced local bird guide. Observation of late spring migration, summer
visitors nesting and coastal birds between Leucate and Port la Nouvelle (Narbonnaise regional park).

 

Morning : First let’s head off to watch the south facing migration lookout spot above Leucate-Plage. Migratory: Roller, Honey buzzard, Osprey, and
possibly still some Common and Alpine swift, Common house martin, Sand martin, Crag martin, Barn and Red-rumped swallow, together with
numerous small passerines: Serin, Yellow wagtail, Pipit, Warbler, Flycatcher, etc.... Then we can explore the Leucate plateau with its mixed
environments of scrubby “garrigue”, vineyards and chalky cliffs. Nesting: Tawny pipit, Black-eared wheatear, Hoopoe, Spotless starling, Sardinian
warbler, Orphean warbler, Great spotted cuckoo, Woodchat shrike, Corn bunting, Cirl bunting, Serin, Crested lark.

Picnic lunch at La Franqui where we may see Slender billed gulls and Little tern.

 

Afternoon: We will visit the coastal lagoons of Leucate and La Palme where we should see the following combination of nesting, overwintering and
migratory birds: Little tern, Common tern, Avocet, Black-winged stilt, Pied oyster catcher, Kentish plover, Common sandpiper, Purple heron, Cattle
egret, Little and Great egrest, Greater flamingo, Slender-billed gull… If the weather conditions are right, we will perhaps go and meet the fishing
boats coming back in to port at Port La Nouvelle and see the accompanying pelagic birds, which may include: Northern gannet, Cory’s shearwater,
Yelkouan shearwater, Sandwich tern, with a small chance of Parasitic skua or Great skua, and if they are still around perhaps Black-throated loon.
Return to Fitou via the La Palme plain where the following birds should be nesting: Short-toed lark, Stone curlew.

 

 

Day 4 : Tue 3rd May. Accompanied by an experienced local bird guide. The upland hills of the Corbières Maritimes
(Narbonnaise regional park) A variety of habitats include dry grasslands of brachypodium retusum (one of the bunch grasses for which the
Crau/Camargue is well known) and Kermes oak (a type of Scrub oak); rocky escarpments. Birds typical of the garrigue include many passerines as
well as several raptors. Nesting and overwintering: As per the Leucate plateau, plus: Dartford and Subalpine warbler, Ortolan bunting, Thekla lark,
Rock sparrow, Rock bunting, Crag martin, Short-toed eagle, Montagu’s harrier, Hen harrier, Bonelli’s eagle, Golden eagle, Short toed eagle, Rock
thrush, Blue rock thrush. Possible evening outing to see Eagle owl.

 

 

Day 5 : Wed 4th May. Accompanied by an experienced local bird guide. Bugarach – vulture observation platform and
a Cathar Castle. Today will take us up into the higher Corbières hills to Bugarach where the LPO Aude has recently set up a vulture observation
platform and a feeding station. On our way however, we will have a brief stop at one of the spectacular Cathar castles (either Peyrepertuse or
Quéribus) perched on top of craggy limestone outcrops, and where various raptors including Golden eagle, Short toed eagle, Hen harrier, be seen.
Then we’ll move on to Bugarach where the observation platform looks across to the Falconnière cliffs home to a group of Griffon vultures. The site is
also visited by: Egyptian vulture, Black vulture and possibly even Bearded vulture and we may see Red-backed shrike, Booted eagle. On our way back
we will drive down the spectacular Galamus Gorge where we will look for Alpine Swifts, Crag martins and Blue rock thrushes, Peregrine falcon.

 

 

Day 6 : Thu 5th May. Accompanied by an experienced local bird guide. The coastal lagoons, old salt pans
reedbeds (Narbonnaise regional park) After a walk around the Grand Castelou domaine and a peek at the White stork nest and the heronry, we will
then move on, if the prevailing north westerly wind, known locally as the “Cers” is blowing, to follow the spring migration on the edge of the Ayrolle
lagoon (near Gruissan), which is a spectacular spot for seeing migratory birds as they skim the low over the water. Birds to spot include: Montagu’s
harrier, Bee-eater, White and Black stork and occasional rarities such as Pallid harrier. If the wind is not favourable, we can have a look around the Ile
St Martin to spot Hoopoe, Orphean warbler, Black-eared wheatear, Dartford warbler and Sardinian warbler and explore the salt-pans near Gruissan
for waders and other seabirds. Towards the end of the afternoon we can also have a look around the St Louis marsh/reedbeds to spot Bearded
reedling, Purple heron, Moustached warbler and Bittern.

 

 

Day 7 : Fri 6th May. Accompanied by an experienced local bird guide. Coastal lagoons and the Aude river plain
(Narbonnaise regional park). We start today with the the Pissevache lagoon for waders and reed-based passerines resting on migration, then move
on to the Vendres lagoon for Purple swamphen, Cattle egret, Purple and Squacco heron, Glossy ibis, Redcrested pochard, Osprey, Whiskered and
Black tern and Fan-tailed warbler may all be seen. On the banks of the River Aude, and in the surrounding meadows and vineyards we should find
Hoopoe, Lesser kestrel, European bee-eater, Woodchat shrike, Ortolan bunting and the rare Lesser grey shrike and if they are back, European roller. A
little bit further inland, wet meadows and steppes can provide sightings of Little bustard, Great spotted cuckoo, Woodchat shrike and possibly. If
there is a storm at sea, we can go and watch sea birds from Cabanes de Fleury.

 

 

Day 8 : Sat 7th May. Free day and transfer to Béziers airport.

 


 

PERIODS

 

From Sat 30th April to Sat 7th May 2016

 

 

 

Birdwatching in Narbonnaise Regional Nature Park 

 

8 days/ 7 nights

 

From 1270 € / pers

 

 

ACCOMMODATION AND MEALS: 

 

L’Abri du Vent is a charming manor house in the lovely old village of Fitou that has been tastefully renovated by Susan and Christian Cantau-Thompson. During the renovation Susan and Christian paid attention to many of the original features of the house, such as the delightfully decorated tiled floors, high windows and ceiling moldings, and filled the house with warm with Mediterranean colours. All the modern amenities required to make the property comfortable and welcoming have been installed (including en-suite bathrooms), with the added interest of the owners’ flair for art in every room. A former restaurant chef, Christian is keen to ensure that the meals will be
memorable – so watch out for your waistlines !

 

The closed garden and terrace areas at the rear of the property allow for sheltered outdoor relaxation whilst discussing the daily bird list and enjoying an aperitif before dinner. Early risers will find plenty of opportunity for spotting birds before breakfast, as the narrow road in front of the property leads out into the countryside, just a few metres away.

 

 

 

TYPE OF TRIP: 

 

Birdwatching stay accompanied by an experienced local bird guide.

The rate includes

- Ensuite rooms in comfortable guesthouse with English speaking hosts

- All meals (only breakfast on day 8)

- Participation in the “Balade des 5 Sens” 

- Professional birdwatching guides (days 2-7 incl.)

- All transfers and transport

- Bilingual driver/interpreter

The rate doesn't include

- Flights

- Cancellation insurance

- Drinks outside the B&B

- Personal expenses