BL Autumn social gathering 2023

The 2023 Birding Languedoc Autumn Social Gathering

Many thanks to all the lovely of people who attended our second annual gathering at the village hall in Saint Frichoux on Sunday November 5th, and sorry that some of you couldn’t make it! After coffee and biscuits, Philippa gave a presentation about Birding Languedoc / La Nature du Sud, with a quick recap of the highlights of 2023 and an overview of what is planned for 2024. The 2024 programme includes 12 birding day trips, (bookings are now open) and three (possibly four) residential trips. Also various Escapades (short trips away) and possible extras such as a Wildlife Photography course and a Pelagic trip. This was followed by a very interesting presentation  covering 20 years of results of an annual survey of common birds called the STOC (Suivi Temporel des Oiseaux Communs). Karline Martorell (our main BL guide) teased out some of the more surprising results – highlighting some of the species in decline and the ones on the rise. She also highlighted the difference between the results for France and the results for Occitanie. The results were a bit scary… but interesting nonetheless. You can download a copy of Karline’s presentation here.  We are also keen to share information about what the general public can do to help curb the decline in some species. More on this soon!

If you weren’t able to join us this year, we very much hope you can make it for our annual gathering in November 2024!

Wildlife Occitanie – a great success

At last year’s meeting we all agreed that it would be good to have somewhere to share what we have seen. This gave rise to the very successful Wildlife Occitanie Facebook group page, where those interested in all kinds of wildllife can share photos and ask for help with identifying what they have seen.

An unexpected range of habitats & species

After a delicious lunch washed down by some equally delicious wine from Les Fenals near Leucate (they have Hoopoe and Golden oriole around the property most years!) – Niall Corbet had the difficult* task of presenting a slideshow illustrating the surprising range of habitats and species he had not been expecting when coming to live in the south of France two and a half years ago! (*difficult because after lunch is always the hard spot with people nodding off!).

La Calade twin room

La Calade b&b, Montouliers, Hérault

La Calade offers B&B accommodation in Montouliers, Hérault – but you can also rent the whole house

At La Calade you will find 4 beautiful, sunny bedrooms. All of them have fabulous en-suite bathrooms. You can also enjoy the large bright lounge, dining room, kitchen and sunny garden. The rooms can be booked separately or all together to make the most of spending time with family and friends

You’ll be made to feel welcome as soon as you arrive at La Calade and you’ll be well looked after during your stay – enjoy a freshly prepared breakfast in the secluded garden, discover local wine during a wine-tasting in the bar area or spend an evening chatting over a sharing platter.

Enjoy some amazing birdwatching in the area!

From Montouliers you can easily get to Minerve where from mid November to March you have a chance of seeing Wallcreeper, Crag martin, Blue rock thrush, and depending on water levels Dipper, Grey wagtail and Kingfisher. In the spring and summer a whole range of birds return to breed in this area including Golden oriole, Roller, Bee eater and Great spotted cuckoo on the Aude River Plain. The reed beds at Portiragnes and the coastal lagoons of the Narbonnaise offer different habitats again. Here you might spot Great reed warbler and Penduline tit amongst others. Or check out the Flamingoes and other shorebirds and waders in Gruissan.

You will find plenty more resources for independant birdwatching in the DIY birding section of this website. And why not book yourselves in at La Calade and join us for a couple of day trips! You will find the day trip programme on the Calendar page.

Find out more and make a booking directly with La Calade B&B

La Calade twin room

Thekla’s lark

French name: Cochevis de Thékla

Scientific name: Galerida theklae

Interesting information

This species is very similar to the Crested lark. To distinguish them, the Thekla’s lark has a shorter beak with pectoral stripes that are more distinct than the Crested lark. In its strongholds, identification is simplified by knowing where one is found without the other!

Call and song

The song is very close to that of the Crested lark, but the Thekla’s song is more fluted and  with shorter sentences.

Distribution and habitat

If the Crested lark can be found in garrigue habitat as well as in agricultural plain, the Thekla’s lark will prefer more wild scrubland and dry steppes. It requires very open landscape with dry grassland where it will make its nest on the ground. The nest is well camouflaged in the Brachypodium retusum or bunch grass. This species is strictly Mediterranean with populations confined to the Aude and the Pyrénées-Orientales. The population strongholds are very localised in the limestone hills of the coastal Corbières, Villesèque-des-Corbières, Port-la-Nouvelle, Salses and Rivesaltes.

Distribution maps: region and county

Breeding birds Atlas – Languedoc Roussillon (2012-2021) – source: faune-lr.org

Breeding birds Atlas – Aude (2012) – source: LPO11

Conservation status and population trends

The French population is estimated at 270 to 430 pairs. But numbers are declining across the species’ distribution. For example, in the Corbieres hills, there was a 26% decrease in the number of pairs between 1996 and 2009. With this decline and low numbers, the Thekla’s lark is now considered to be in danger on both the national and regional red lists.

When to see this species in the Languedoc-Roussillon

The Thekla’s lark is visible all year round. Like most sedentary breeders, it is more demonstrative in spring. The graph below shows the average numbers of Thekla’s lark seen in the Languedoc by month.

Black-eared wheatear

French name: Traquet oreillard

Scientific name: Oenanthe hispanica

Interesting information

This species is easy to identify: its cream colour contrasting with black cheeks, throat and wings. The female is much less contrasted with the wings, cheek and throat tending be more brown rather than black. It therefore has a more overall brownish appearance.

Call and song

Distribution and habitat

The Black-eared wheatear prefers open arid environments. A patchwork of bare soil, rocky outcrops or dry stone walls, as well as clean vegetation is essential to its presence.
In France, 90 % of the population is in the  Languedoc-Roussillon region and mainly in the Aude and Pyrénées-Orientales departments.
In the Aude, the population is declining and is confined to the dry grassland and low scrubland of the coastal fringe.

Distribution maps: region and county

Breeding birds Atlas – Languedoc Roussillon (2012-2021) – source: faune-lr.org

Breeding birds Atlas – Aude (2012) – source: LPO11

Conservation status and population trends

With less than 500 breeding pairs in France, this species is considered rare. A decline of 40 to 70% of the population has been observed since 1999. That’s why the IUCN Red List considers this species as endangered in France and in the region. The main threats are related to the gradual closure of its habitats (abandonment of pastoralism and maintenance of garrigues, reduction of fires).

When to see this species in the Languedoc-Roussillon

The Black-eared wheatear can be seen in the Languedoc from mid-April. It leaves for its winter quarters at the end of August/September. The graph below shows the average numbers of Black-eared wheatear seen in the Languedoc by month.

Golden oriole

Golden oriole male –  © P.Gourdon

French name: Loriot d’Europe 

Scientific name: Oriolus oriolus

Interesting information

The male is bright yellow with black wings while the female is duller. The young look like the female with a duller yellow on the back and a white breast streaked with black. If its song is heard from afar, the Golden oriole remains very shy and is rarely well seen.

Call and song

The call is a screech like a jay, but the song is really melodious and sounds like a tropical bird.

Distribution and habitat

Aude river - © K.Martorell

This summer visitor appreciates deciduous trees. In the region, it is often associated with riparian forest and is therefore at the edge of wetlands. The nest is built at the top of a tree and looks like a kind of hammock. It feeds on insects and fruit.
Locally, the Golden oriole is present throughout the region and the Aude department but absent at altitude and in north Lozere.

Distribution maps: region and county

Breeding birds Atlas – Languedoc Roussillon (2012-2021) – source: faune-lr.org

Breeding birds Atlas – Aude (2012) – source: LPO11

Conservation status and population trends

The population trend in Europe appears to be stable. In France, despite significant inter-annual fluctuations related to weather conditions, the populations are stable or even increasing. The IUCN red list for the Languedoc-Roussillon considers the species as least concern (quite common in the region). Golden oriole does not seem threatened and is quite common at the moment.

When to see this species in the Languedoc-Roussillon

The Golden oriole can be seen in the Languedoc from mid-April but especially early May. It leaves for its winter quarters at the end of August. The graph below shows the average numbers of Golden oriole seen in the Languedoc by month.

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