Saturday, 19 January 2013

Norfolk Boys in the Carmargue

The Carmargue complete with bulls.
Despite visiting many of the best birding spots in the World up until yesterday I had never been to the Camargue,  I had been told by many others that it is difficult to to see birds because so much is private land. So early yesterday morning the 8 Norfolk Boys, Paul Williams, Ron Bennett, Alan McBride and myself  set off for this mythical place.  First stop was at the top of the canal by the D779 in the Petite Carmargue.  Walking along a wall of reeds Alan McBride's squeaking produced about a dozen Penduline Tits, 2 Bearded Tits, Cetti's Warbler and plenty of Reed Buntings.

Penduline Tit photographed elsewhere in Languedoc
Moving on down the same road we started to see and hear Common Cranes and soon we could see up to 3,000 feeding in roadside fields.  They were quite nervous and kept their distance.
Common Cranes in roadside fields
Our next plan was to drive down the eastern side of the Etang de Vaccares and stop at the visitor centre at La Capeliere. Enroute we soon realised that most of the open areas of water were totally frozen and therefore duck were scarce.  The Etang Vaccares was unfrozen but we only initially came across rafts of Mallards and Coots.  Eventually we came across significant numbers of Great Crested Grebes with smaller numbers of Black-necked Grebes,

Black-necked Grebe.
There were also a few Shelduck and Shoveler and a single Pochard.  Arriving at La Capeliere we walked the trails but found little except Great White Egrets, Long-tailed Tits , Meadow Pipits and a few Water Rails desperately looking for food along the frozen ditches.

Water Rail on the ice.
Further exploration of this area added Kingfisher and Hen Harrier.  We headed north and then drove the western side of the Etang.  Here birds were difficult to find but we located a few Curlews, Dunlin, Grey Plovers, Avocets, Snipe and one each of Redshank,Spotted Redshank and Green Sandpiper.  We did stop and admire the special Camargue horses and the impressive black fighting bulls.

Carmargue Fighting Bull.
We headed back to have a last look at the Cranes before leaving for home.  We also added another Hen Harrier and a Lesser Spotted Woodpecker.  We looked carefully at dozens of Common Buzzards but failed to find a Spotted Eagle.  I think I need to visit this area again in Spring before I am convinced it is worthwhile making the effort.

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