Tuesday, September 25, 2012

French Trip Summary

Wheatear In Beautiful Autumnal Colours
The best way to see France is definitely by car, major cities apart there is far less traffic than in most European countries and you can literally drive for hours around the back roads without seeing a soul. We've never come birding in September before but I'm glad we did. Yes a good few species have now moved further south such as Terns and many Warblers but the countryside was just awash with so many young birds such as Buzzard, Wheatear and Pied Flycatcher.

Major Reserve's Visited

Réserve naturelle du Pinail -The result of millstone quarrying has given way to a mosaic of 3,000 ponds which are surrounded by moor and heathland rich in rare fauna and flora. Amongst the many bird species you can find here such as Montague, Hen Harrier and Dartford Warbler are 48 species of Dragonflies. - MAP LOCATION

Wonderful La Brenne
Parc naturel régional de la Brenne - Covering some 10,000 hectares and with over 1200 ‘etangs’, man-made lakes. Bird species number over 280, and at least 98 butterfly species and 60+ odonata species have been recorded here. Amongst the birds, 150+ Common Cranes winter here, Whiskered Terns [c1000 pairs] and Black-necked Grebes [150+ pairs] nest, as do Purple Heron, Cattle Egret, Night Heron, Black-winged Stilt, a few pairs of Short-toed Eagle, and 30+ nesting pairs of Bee-eater; unfortunately Little Bustards are a thing of the past here. MAP LOCATION

Firecrests & Crested Tit Abound!
Reserve Naturelle Courant D'Huchet - This amazing site connects Lake Leon with the Atlantic Ocean, it's a site rich in history for flora and fauna and is around 618 hectares in size containing some fantastic outcrops of heath, marsh and sand dunes. It is the only river of Biscay who's mouth was not stabilised by diking. Species of note during our visit: Firecrest, Crested Tit and Wheatear were abundant! MAP LOCATION

Réserve Naturelle du Marais d'Orx -Located some 30 miles south of Leon not far from the Spanish border. This is a protected natural area mainly consisting of lakes, ponds, marshlands, wet meadows and surrounded by a network of canals. One of France's few major nesting sites for Spoonbill. During our visit Waders were prolific see my earlier report HERE for details. MAP LOCATION

20 Hides At This Brilliant Reserve!
Parc Ornithologique du Teich - The Bassin d'Arcachon is ornithologically one of the most important areas of France and the Parc Ornithologique du Teich, a 120ha reserve within this area, is one of the best birding localities in western France with 20 hides to choose. The reserve consists of large expanses of shallow, brackish water many of which are managed specifically for birds. Common Crane winter here and regulars include Bluethroat and Night Heron. During our visit we encountered over 100 Spoonbill with excellent wader counts which included Temmick's Stint. Check the tides, naturally high-tide is a great time to visit. MAP LOCATION

'Gite' La Ristou
Finally, staying at a 'Gite' (French Holiday Cottage). We stayed just outside Leon and our accommodation was rustic but with all amenities, the cottage was set over 2kms from any road and within a forest, we absolutely loved it! However, the Gîtes de France system isn't for everyone. People who like to be guided along every step of the journey, like to call room service, like the familiarity of chain hotels, like an urban setting, and want to be surrounded by fellow tourists will not necessarily appreciate the allure of the Gîtes de France organisation. Those who like to experience French culture close-up and personal, and who like to live more like a local, will adore this type of stay. Those who enjoy seeing rural life will also enjoy an escape to a Gites de France accommodation, we definitely recommend it to all you nature lovers.