This might be birding in the south of France but it was definitely a chilly start to our second birdwatching day trip for English speakers in the Languedoc this Wednesday 19th April!
Lagoons at Saint Pierre la Mer
The day started well with a fantastic view of a Yellow wagtail (subsp. Iberiae). We then identified a good selection of different terns on a well known roost in the Etang de Pissevaches (Little and Common but mostly Sandwich terns and the odd Whiskered tern too!) and alternated between seeing what was on the sewerage filtration ponds to the north of the track (Red-crested Pochard – aka the punk pochard! – Common sandpiper, Gadwall together with large numbers of Shelduck and gulls, including Yellow-legged, Black-headed and the less common Little gull, as well as Grey heron and Little egret, but also several rather enormous Coypu…).
On the lagoon side we also managed to get excellent views of the rather elegant Slender-billed gull both on the water and in flight (a smallish quite slender gull with a very slender black bill, black feet). Black-winged stilt (including a young one looking nervous) and a pair of Avocet were nice touches to the morning too.
Then we headed into Fleury d’Aude where the Lesser kestrel have decided to nest in the village and ungratefully abandon their purpose built home on the outskirts! A fleeting glimps of one left us with a slight doubt about whether it was a Common or Lesser kestrel – but there’s a good chance it was a Lesser! The benches around the base of the church provided a sunny spot sheltered from the wind for our picnic followed by coffee and use of the interesting WC at the bar on the square.
Then we headed across the river and under the motorway to spend the afternoon on the Aude river plain (where the grass was considerably more lush than usual for this time of year thanks to the exceptional spring rains). We had just parked when a flock of 20 migrating Bee-eaters flew over. Then we were enjoying a very noisy Corn bunting on a nearby bush when the inimitable sound of a Great spotted cuckoo drew our attention!
This individual then flew across the field in front of us and joined a noisy mob of 4 or 5 others – and between them they regaled us on and off all afternoon 🙂 Alan then spotted a Tawny pipit and a Whinchat posed nicely near a dead log.
A Short toed eagle hovered above us, clearly hunting, and was shortly followed by our only Little bustard of the day despite us hearing their very odd clicking sound repeatedly (the long grass was just too good for camouflage!), but on our way back to our starting point, the trellising wires of a vineyard provided superb views of a Woodchat shrike and a Crested lark to round off a lovely day’s birdwatching in the south of France.
Alan Cranston: Just to say many thanks for yesterday’s trip. We enjoyed it very much, both the company and the birding. It was great to get to some new-to-us places and see some excellent birds, a fair few of which we would have missed but for Maurice’s skills in picking them up. I suppose the noisy and obliging great-spotted cuckoos were the highlight but it was good to see woodchat shrike back for the summer, and many others.
Thank you to all those who joined us and we look forward to seeing you one of our next day-trips!
You can see what birds (and other flora and fauna) have been spotted in the area on the Recently spotted and Recently spotted Hérault pages of our website, and you can find out more about our Day trips too.
We also have a few places available on our fully guided residential “Mediterranean spring birding and wine” trip from Monday May 8th to 15th and on our “Spring birding weekend” Friday 28th April to Monday 1st May. Do get in touch if you are interested!
The “Short birding and wildlife” trip from Friday 19th to Monday 22nd May offers a great introduction to the birds, reptiles, amphibians and flowers of the coastal Corbières and is available for any group or family of 4 people. This trip has a self-drive option for 450€ pp all meals and guiding included, or a fully inclusive option (with transport provided) for 550€pp.
If you just want to do your own thing, don’t foget to have a look at our DIY birding in the Languedoc page!
See you soon for some of the best birding in the south of France 🙂
The team at Birding Languedoc