Birds, butterflies, dragonflies, flowers… and the odd Cathar castle!

In late May a group of British birdwatchers, naturalists and photographers came to stay in Feuilla on a birding and wildlife holiday in the Languedoc. And whilst they were keen to get as much information as possible about what they might see and where –  I was just as keen to take the opportunity to tag along!

Located on the southern edge of the Narbonnaise regional park, their base in Feuilla allowed them to travel to good birding spots in all directions. The countryside around the village is great for early morning walks to enjoy Nightingales and Corn bunting galore as well as Cirl bunting, Firecrest, Golden oriole, Zitting cisticola and Orphean, Sardinian and Supalpine warblers to name but a few of the great variety of small birds. Evenings saw them on their terrace watching the Short-toed eagles hunting the hillside opposite, in the hope that they might see one of the local Bonelli’s eagles too. Black-eared wheatear, Tawny pipit and Ortolan bunting were also spotted near the village. One evening we took a walk down the valley to see if we could hear or see the resident Eagle owls, but sadly they didn’t show up, although there are a number of nesting pairs close by (and I have since discovered a much better site for spotting them…)!

Vultures and orchids at Bugarach

One day trip took the group inland to Rennes le Chateau (of Da Vinci Code fame) via Bugarach and the vulture observation platform – (where you can always see Griffon vultures and if a carcass has been put out, you may see Black and Egyptian vultures too, with the occasional Lammergeier hanging around for the bones!).
Just opposite, there is a wonderful field with numerous species of orchids (Military, Man, Woodcock, Pyramidal, Lutea, Vasconica, Sulcata, and more!). Return via the spectacular Galamus gorge added Alpine swift and Blue rock thrush to the list. One day they walked up to the Queribus chateau, where they were thrilled to see a Ladybird spider on the path and enjoyed the great views from the top!

Towards the end of their trip we took a whole day to pootle up the coast from La Palme to the Vendres lagoon. Our first stop was to watch Kentish plover, Avocet, Black winged stilt and Yellow wagtails along the edges of the old salt pans, followed by a stop at a river bridge where we spotted Hoopoe, a Kingfisher, Black kite, a Golden oriole and some large frogs in the river. Then after a wonderfully reviving cup of great coffee accompanied by croissants at the café in Peyriac de Mer much debate was generated by a rather late in the season Black necked grebe, and the group were then thrilled to see 100 or so Greater flamingo along the edge of the lagoon between Peyriac and Bages.

Stork’s nest and Banded demoiselles at the Grand Castélou

On to the Grand Castélou to see a White stork’s nest with young, the Grey heronry, Purple heron, Black tailed darters and Banded demoiselles, with a slightly curious flyover by a pair of Pink backed pelicans (on flyabout from the African Reserve at Sigean) followed by watching Mauritanian geckos on the wall while we picnicked.

Banded demoiselles ©PBenson

On through Gruissan and up the coast through Narbonne Plage where later in the season you can see a colony of Pallid swift and up to the Lesser kestrel colony (which these lovely birds have now abandoned preferring to take up residence in the nearby village of Fleury d’Aude!). We had a lovely time watching 4 European roller and a few Bee-eaters before crossing the river Aude and making our way around to the northern edge of the Vendres lagoon (nearly driving over a Crested lark on the way!). Black swan seemed incongruous on the Vendres lagoon, but we enjoyed watching Great white and Little egret, and various terns and gulls, whilst a Red-veined darter made a heroic attempt to hang on to a twig despite the strong wind! There are Purple swamphen on the lagoon, but we didn’t see them on this trip.

Bonelli’s eagles and Dali!

During their stay the group also got good views of Bonelli’s eagles, Honey buzzard and they clearly found the local wildlife worth the visit! The non-naturalists were kept happy with trips to Lagrasse, Rennes-le-Château and the Salvador Dàli museum in Figueres (just an hour from here), barely scratching the surface of the equally rich cultural heritage this area has to offer. A wine tasting and light supper in a converted stable in the village together with dancing and games at one of the village fêtes introduced them to the wonderful wine and food the area boasts, and all in all, they seemed to have had a really good trip.

The final number of bird species seen during their 12 day stay came to a very honorable 106! It was great fun having the group next door and I almost felt like I was on holiday too 🙂 The group had a copy of the “Where to watch birds in the Narbonnaise regional park” which I know they found useful.

If you would like to arrange your own birding and wildlife holiday in the Languedoc, do get in touch with us via the Contact form. We can help you with a tailor-made trip either fully or semi-guided for a group of 8 to 16 people. Alternatively, you can check out our Tours page and see if one of our standard trips might appeal! And if you want to set up your own DIY birding and wildlife holiday in the Languedoc, have a look at our accommodation page to find out about birder-friendly accommodation!

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