Autumn birdwatching in the Eastern Pyrenees & Narbonnaise
Thursday 7th to Thursday 14th September 2023
Tour code: BLABPN-23
This trip is developed in partnership with the Narbonnaise and Catalan Pyrenees regional parks.
A week of early autumn birdwatching combining the mountains of the Eastern Pyrenees and the coastal lagoons of the Narbonnaise.
- 8 days / 7 nights
- From €1,750 per person
- 50€ Discount for train travel
- Local expert birding guides
- Bilingual locally resident tour leader
- Group size = 7 – 10
Discount available for 8 or more participants booking together.
Our Partners for this trip
This twin-based trip combines the interesting species of the mountain plateaux, pine forests and high-altitude lakes of the Eastern Pyrenees with the species of the coastal lagoons in the Narbonnaise.
Autumn migration will be in full swing and if the wind conditions are favourable we will be able to see very different migration in both areas.
We are lucky to have found wonderful guest houses in each location where the hosts provide delicious meals made with local produce.
Sunny banks and
As we head down the Têt valley, we will visit the sunny south facing hillsides, where we will be looking for Spectacled warbler, Ortolan bunting, Rock bunting, Chough and Alpine chough as well as Blue rock thrush and, if we are lucky, the elusive Ocellated lizard!
There is a vulture feeding station nearby, so if a carcass is put out we could see a feeding frenzy of mostly Griffon, but just possibly Black vulture too.
In the afternoon we will explore various valleys around Villefranche, where we will be looking for Lammergeier, Griffon vulture, Black woodpecker, Crested tit and hopefully another chance to spot the beautiful Ocellated lizard: Europe’s largest, which can reach an overall length of up to 90cm!
Open dry pasture / steppe
Today we will keep an eye out for the usual suspects amongst the large raptors and corvids but should be able to add to our list: Iberian grey shrike, Woodchat shrike, Rock thrush, and Lesser kestrel & Crag martin while we have coffee.
Then a quick stop at a spot that’s good for Rock thrush, Wryneck and Orphean warbler before we have our picnic and head off up a forestry track to an altitude of 2300 metres to look for Dotterel, Chough and Alpine chough and see if we can spot Snowfinch, Lesser kestrel and maybe even Black vulture…with Golden eagle and Lammergeier other possibles.
On the way back to our accommodation, we might call in at the Eyne migration spot which is on the main route for birds, sometimes in large numbers (esp. Honey buzzard and Short-toed eagle) as they come up the valley and head south into Spain.
Forest and mountains
Today we will be concentrating on forest and mountain species, starting with Black woodpecker, Crested tit and Citril finch as we make our way in turn to two different valleys where we will also be looking for Lammergeier, Griffon vulture, Golden, Booted and Short-toed eagle, Alpine chough, Rock bunting, Crossbill, and Ring ouzel. As we head back at the end of the day we will also have a look for Capercaillie.
Today we transfer to the Narbonnaise regional park
A short trip on the Little Yellow train takes us down to Villefranche de Conflent,
At Villefranche we will be looking for Blue rock thrush on the roofs and Egyptian vulture on the outskirts of the town.
After lunch we will bird as we drive north, keeping an eye out for groups of Bee-eater and various migrating raptors.
Arrival at our 2nd hostelry
Welcome and early dinner
Possible evening outing to try and see Eagle owl.
Flooded fields, migration + coastal lagoons
These attract a whole host of birds including White and Black storks on migration & some vagrants (Temminck’s stint & Pectoral sandpiper in 2017).
Then to the Roc de Conilhac migration spot, with its 360° view of birds heading south.
A well known spot for the passage of large groups of White stork (300-400) and Honey buzzard, plus a variety of raptors, some of which pass very close – including Osprey, Short-toed eagle, Hobby, Booted eagle + possibly Eleonora’s falcon. Bonelli’s eagle can also be seen hunting here.
After eating our picnic lunch we will have a look at the coastal lagoons up the coast for Flamingo, Black-winged stilt, Slender-billed gull + various terns and check out two spots for Pallid swift.
Rocky gorges, escarpments
Our first stop today is at a rocky gorge where we may see Golden eagle, Raven, Chough, Crag martin and Blue rock thrush. Then after a coffee stop we will look for Rock bunting, Bonelli’s eagle, Tawny pipit, Dartford and Subalpine warblers, Short-toed eagle, Montagu’s harrier, Hen harrier, Bee-eater and Roller.
After our picnic lunch we will move on down to the coast to the salt-pans that have been put back in production and where we are likely to find Flamingo (possibly in large numbers) and Kentish plover, Slender billed-gull + other waders, terns and gulls.
Departure after breakfast
We travel across country birding on the way and stopping for lunch probably in Lagrasse before heading to Carcassonne airport or Narbonne train station for departure.
Catalan Pyrenees regional park: Lammergeier, Griffon & Egyptian vultures, Golden & Booted eagle, Chough, Citril finch, Crossbill, Rock bunting, Iberian grey shrike, Lesser kestrel, Black woodpecker and possibly Dotterel, Ring ouzel, Capercaillie, Snowfinch (at a pinch!) and Tengmalm’s owl… if we’re lucky!
Narbonnaise regional park: Eagle owl, Bonelli’s eagle, Flamingo, Slender-billed gull… plus migrating White and Black stork, Honey buzzard and other raptors. Flooded rice-paddies can throw up all sorts of interesting species on migratory stopover, including Pectoral sandpiper, Temink’s stint and Spotted crake! Eagle owl is also a distinct possibility.
There are no available trip reports for this trip.
The trip was a great success in September 2018 and a copy of the trip report will soon be available here.
Joining a Birding Languedoc tour by train is the perfect, relaxing #lowcarbonbirding option! It’s really quite easy and you get to see more of the beautiful French countryside.Before you throw your hands up in horror, thinking that getting to the south of France by train might be just too hard… please check out this most useful website about traveling by train to Paris on the Eurostar The man in seat 61. The site is full of very practical tips and advice! There is even a section about traveling through to Narbonne! If you travel by train to join one of our tours we will give you a 50€ discount on the tour cost!
A comfortable and surprisingly fast way of getting to the Languedoc, more and more people are choosing to come by train.
There are various routes and one client travelled south via Paris and Bordeaux, returning north via Narbonne and Lille.
See the Getting here page in our DIY birding section, and do get in touch if you need any help!
See the links below for train times and bookings all the way through from London St Pancras to Perpignan.
We do recommend however, in order to avoid the stress of potential missed connections, that it is better to take the Eurostar to Paris the day before and then catch the TGV down to Perpignan the day the trip starts. We will pick you up at Perpignan train station (trains are often going on through to Barcelona). Timetables and tickets are available 3 months in advance. Or you can talk to your local travel agent to book your tickets through them!
Transfers are included for flights arriving/departing Perpignan mentioned below.
Click on the links below for flight details and pricing (you can track the price to see if it goes up or down!).
Other options may be available, please contact us with your preferred departure airport in the UK.
We recommend that you do NOT book your travel until the trip is confirmed!
This twin-based trip explores the Catalan Pyrenees & Narbonnaise regional parks
The team for this trip combines the local knowledge of professional ornithologists and a resident British tour leader for the logistics!
David Thibault - Independent Guide
Local bird and butterfly guide - French & English
David started birdwatching in Paris 30 years ago working for a local bird organisation (CORIF). He moved to the Pyrenees-Orientales 20 years ago and spends most of his time looking for butterflies and birds in the area. Currently working for the local biodiversity protection society the Groupe Ornithologique du Roussillon (G.O.R), David has been training along side Aurélien Gaunet - the top butterfly specialist in the Eastern Pyrenees - for the past five years.
Philippa Benson - Birding Languedoc
Founder/Tour Leader - English, French & Spanish
Like many Brits, Philippa has a keen interest in nature and is always curious to learn more about the amazing birds and wildlife of the Languedoc. Resident in this unspoilt area for over 15 years, she has a good working knowledge of where the best spots are for birds, flowers and other species and enjoys sharing these with interested visitors.
Her background in project management and hospitality combined with being fully bilingual are useful skills for organising and hosting tours, and Philippa has a particular focus on customer service!