Winter Wallcreeper Break 2023

Tour dates: Sunday 5th to Friday 10th March 2023

Tour code: BLWWB-23

This trip is now a confirmed departure.

There are just 4 places available…

Winter birding break looking for Wallcreeper and other overwintering & resident species in the Minervois

This trip has been extended to include a wider range of habitats (high heathland and coastal lagoons) – which should increase the bird list!

  • 5 nights / 6 days
  • From 1,200€
  • Charming accommodation at a former wine estate
  • Local expert guides
  • English speaking tour leader
  • Group size = 7 to 10

Discount available for 7 or more participants booking together. 

 

This trip has been extended! Still centred around the spectacular sites in the Minervois hills favoured by both Wallcreeper and Alpine accentor as overwintering grounds, our research with resident local birders has enouraged us to add two extra days birding so that we can show you a number of additional spots and widen the range of species to be seen.
So in addition to scanning craggy rock faces we will cover a wide range of habitats from open agricultural land, to upland heath, steep sided gorges and coastal lagoons and reed beds!

Such a variety of habitats combined with our local knowledge as residents, offers participants the possibility of seeing not only our main target species of Wallcreeper, Alpine accentor, Great spotted cuckoo and Iberian grey shrike, but also an outside chance of White-winged snowfinch and Citril finch, with a Griffon vulture and a few Greater flamingo thrown in for good measure!
Please see the Target species tab for a more complete list of species we will be aiming to see on this trip.

Sunday

Transfer from Carcassonne airport to accommodation

Welcome drinks & dinner

Monday

This morning we will be looking for Wallcreeper
at two main sites including
amongst the spectacular dolomitic chimneys at the
Cirque de Mourèze.
Other species that we will
keep an eye out for include:
Bonelli’s eagle, Blue rock thrush, European serin, Sardinian warbler…

After a picnic lunch we will move on to a birdwatching spot with very different open agricultural habitat where we will be looking for Great spotted cuckoo, Iberian shrike, Little bustard, Little owl…

Back to our accommodation for a rest before evening drinks, the bird list and a delicious dinner.

 

Tuesday

First we will head for the impressive village of Minerve, which sits on a rocky platform at the confluence of the Cesse and Briant rivers where we will be looking for WallcreeperAlpine accentorBlue rock thrush, Crag martin and Golden eagle amongst others.

We will enjoy our picnic  lunch  along the Cesse river gorge on our way to Caunes Minervois where we will visit a number of sites with gorges and cliff faces to look for Wallcreeper and a range of other species.
Black vulture are occasionally  seen in the area!

If we have time, we might call in at the GSC site on the way back to our accommodation.
Evening drinks while we run through the bird list before dinner.

 

 

Wednesday

Today we will drive up into the Caroux hills (weather permitting) and start by walking up a longish track to a high viewpoint to look for some of the resident species such as Golden eagle, Black vulture, Raven, Woodlark, Crested tit, Firecrest and possibly spot some Moufflon! Migrating species at our first spot may well include Black kite, Short-toed eagle and possibly Booted eagle. Overwintering rareties that we just might see here include Alpine accentor, Citril finch, Crossbill and White-winged snowfinch and just possibly Wallcreeper!

We will then have our picnic with a spectacular view! From here we will be looking for Peregrine falcon,  (not on a church spire!) Goshawk, Rock bunting,
We will use the afternoon to check a couple of other local spots on our way back down from the mountain.

 

Thursday

 And today we will have a complete change! We will visit some of the coastal lagoons looking for waders but also reed bed birds. We may well also catch some early migration. Target species include: Flamingo, Glossy ibis, Kentish plover, Slender billed gull, Penduline tit, Purple swamphen, Moustached warbler and on migration Black kite, Short-toed eagle, White stork, …

After our picnic lunch we may continue at the coast or we may head back for another look for Iberian grey shrike, Great spotted cuckoo, Little bustard at Monday afternoon’s site.

Friday

Departure after breakfast

We will birdwatch in the morning before heading back to the airport for departure (depending on flight times).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We will mainly be looking for overwintering species such as Wallcreeper and Alpine accentor, but also early spring arrivals…

Wallcreeper and Alpine accentor abandon their high mountain breeding sites to overwinter at lower altitudes. It’s a bit like looking for a needle in a haystack… and there is no guarantee of seeing these species, but we will be visiting a number of spectacular sites where they are seen on a regular basis. And there are plenty of other interesting species to see too, such as recently returned Great spotted cuckoo and resident Iberian grey shrike and Blue rock thrush. The trip has now been extended to include other habitats (open heathland and coastal lagoons), increasing the bird list to a wider range of species!

Species we will be looking for on this trip:

Wallcreeper, Alpine accentor, Blue rock thrush, Bonelli’s eagle, Crag martin,  Sardinian warbler, Great spotted cuckoo, Iberian grey shrike, Little bustard, Stone curlew, Griffon and Black vulture, White stork,  Black kite and Short-toed eagle on migration;  Purple swamphen and Reed bunting in the reed beds, but also coastal species such as Greater flamingo, Spoonbill, Glossy ibis and many more!

Please refer to the Trip reports and bird lists to get a more complete overview of the species actually seen on this trip!

2022

“The trip was great and exceeded all my expectations.” SM March 2022

“What a marvelous introduction to not only the birds but the scenery, culture and life in Languedoc. It was very impressive and very well organised… We also saw the birds!” MB March 2022

“Very well organised. Carefully planned with thought to the species likely to be found and suitable accessible locations”. KH March 2022

Well organised, friendly people, fantastic birds.” DG March 2022


2020

“Very well organised and very successful. Sites were well picked and interesting.” PM 03 March 2020

“Well planned, well researched, great food and accommodation – lucky with weather and birds.” GE 04 March 2020

“A good crowd/fun/well planned and executed/good food and accommodation/really lucky with the Wallcreepers, over and above that ‘luck’ which attends good planning.” AB 04 March 2020

“Well organised, wonderful diverse locations to visit, good guiding.” JG 05 March 2020

“Most enjoyable, well organised.” SG 05 March 2020

By train!
Come by train and choose the #lowcarbonbirding option! It’s really quite easy and you get to see more of the beautiful French countryside.
A participant on this trip in 2020 came by train, travelling south via Paris and Bordeaux and 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!

SNCF French trains in English

Eurostar website in English

By plane
Transfers to/from flights mentioned below are included in the price of the tour.
Other options may be available, with a surcharge, please contact us with your preferred departure airport in the UK.

Click on the links below for flight details and pricing (track the price to get the best deal!)

Manchester –  Carcassonne

London-Stansted – Carcassonne

We recommend that you do NOT book your travel arrangements until the trip is confirmed!

 

INCLUDED

  • Transfers from / to Carcassonne airport or a local train station
  • All local transport
  • High quality ensuite accommodation
  • All meals from dinner Friday to breakfast Monday
  • Pre-dinner drinks and wine with dinner
  • Expert local guides
  • English speaking tour leader

NOT INCLUDED

  • Flights / train travel
  • Cancellation insurance
  • Personal medical and repatriation insurance
  • Drinks other than with meals
  • Personal expenses
  • Lunch on the first and last days

This short break explores several spectacular sites in the Minervois hills on the southern edge of the Haut Languedoc regional park.

The team for this trip combines the local knowledge of a local ornithologist and a resident British tour leader for the logistics

Sébastien Roques - Independant Guide

Sébastien Roques - Independant Guide

Local ornithologist and bird guide - French & English

Sébastien is an excellent birder who knows the area well. Passionate about nature since childhood thanks to numerous stays in the Pyrenees, he then continued his studies in ecology with a degree in population biology  a master's degree in biostatistics and ecological modelling. Having done a lot of fieldwork, especially in his beloved Mediterranean region but also when travelling abroad, Sébastien completed his PhD thesis on the behaviour of passerines during migratory stopover. Through non-profit organisation Med Migration, he organised bird migration monitoring on the Leucate headland from 2020 to 2022.

Philippa Benson - Birding Languedoc

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!

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