France: Languedoc-Rousillon, Midi Pyrenees - May 2011

Published by Mike Nelson (madbirder AT

Participants: David Trently, Susan Schott, Gary and Alice Woody, Janet McKnight, Patty Harmon, Linda Fowler-Smith


In May of 2008 I visited a friend in the Langeudoc-Rousillon who owns a vineyard and is a keen birder. While there I had a great time with the birds around his home and in the vineyards of the region. In 2010 on the way back from Colorado I hatched a plan with a friend of mine to lead a tour there to see the region and its birds. I contacted Tim in France and he loved the idea and so the trip was born. We designed the itinerary around the region with cultural trips to Carcasonne, Mirepoix, the vineyards and the coast. We wanted to get most of the local birds and planned a trip to hit all the habitat choices around us from Pyrenees altitude to coastal marshes. My friend Tim has vineyards all around the area so this made for some good bird viewing in more open agricultural habitats and his home sits on 600 + acres of managed forest, mixed between pine and deciduous plus several open fields and brushy habitat. We also wanted to hit some of the vineyards and historical areas to make a well-rounded trip and it turned out to be just that.

May 8th,

After arriving in Toulouse we picked up our van and loaded up and began the hour drive south to the town of Sinsat where there is a huge massif with plenty of raptors. Tim and his birding friend Peter met us there with a nice picnic along the river. No sooner had we gotten out that we were looking up the huge rock face at a Lammergeier along with Eurasian Griffon, Red Kite and a lone Egyptian Vulture. Several Red-billed Choughs circled around at the top and we had several flyby’s of the Lammergier with another above it and one perched atop a rock way up the cliff face. The scope really helped here and we all had looks at the bird. In the trees around us we also had European Blackbird, Chaffinch and along the river we had a Grey Wagtail.
A short hike up slope to an open area didn’t yield the hoped for Rock Bunting but we had staggering close looks at several Red-billed Chough frolicking around in the grass. Common Swift and Crag Martins were seen here and on the walk back along the river we had Black Redstart and European Serin.

Still tired from the long flights we headed on another hour long journey to Tim’s house in Lignairolles where we settled in for the next couple of days.

Some relaxed afternoon birding around the house yielded Corn Bunting, Greater Whitethroat, Sky Lark, White Wagtail, Common Chaffinch, European Goldfinch and singing Western Bonelli’s Warbler. The weather was fantastic and we enjoyed just sitting around absorbing the first common European birds that most had never seen but only read about in books. We had a wonderful dinner before an early night.

May 9th,

Our first full day of birding started at 6:00am with a walk up the gravel driveway into the woods that surround Tim’s place. Common Chaffinch and European Blackbirds greeted us and farther in we could hear our first European Robins. We took a dirt path into the woods and could hear Song Thrush singing ahead of us and as we came out to the first clearing we could hear several Blackcaps. We stayed here a while trying to get some views of Blackcap and a singing Song Thrush issued forth from a dead snag allowing all a nice scope view. Several Wood Pigeons flew over and a distant Common Cuckoo did it’s metronomic clock call. We continued on into the woods where we entered some pine forest where we could hear Firecrest but didn’t find them.

The calls of several birds drew us to an area of logging that was quite open. Here we had looks at Blackcap and European Robin and a lone Long-tailed Tit flitted about the upper canopy of one of the remaining trees in the clearing. The repetitive “chiff,chiff,chaff…chiff,chiff,chaff” lead us to the onomatopoeic calls of this drab Phylloscopus warbler.

Next a European Wren began to sing back near the entrance to the clearing so we made our way back, but didn’t find it. The strong car alarm like song of a Great Tit led us to an intersection of the trail where it sang from the top of a pine in scope view.

Turning right at the intersection netted us the alarm calls of another European Wren this time moving about in the canopy. With some play back of the alarm the bird flew in close and soon we all had some nice scope views as it sang several times from a few perches before we moved on.

David found a European Nuthatch a bit farther on and we managed some nice looks as it flitted around us up and down tree trunks and limbs. At the end of the trail we came out into an open area where four trails converged. We went left along an old rail line that had long ago been pulled up. Along here we found a pair of Great Spotted Woodpeckers and a pair of Marsh Tits and several Western Bonelli’s Warblers were singing that we managed to get some nice looks at. Blackcaps and Common Nightingales sang from the row of bushes next to us but they never showed themselves.

Back at the intersection we paused while I located a singing Melodious Warbler. He performed very well singing his jumbled song from the top of a fruit tree overlooking the field next to us. While I was recording his song a Chiffchaff flew in which garnered some angry bill snapping and chasing off of the intruder. Once the Chiffchaff was gone he returned to his perch and belted out a long series of song notes with the Chiffchaff singing in the background.

We moved up the hill through the woods till we came to another four way junction where the area opened up around fields and an orchard. Another Melodious Warbler sang from up here and a rather noisy Common Nightingale sang from the brush behind the fruit trees. We managed to get close and I recorded a few phrases and played them back to him at which point he shot out on top of the bushes and belted out some more song. He moved back to an open tree where we managed to get some scope views before he moved to the edge of an open area out in the open and sang for a considerable time in the scope. Well satisfied with great looks at this notorious skulker we continued back towards the house for a late morning break before lunch.

We all sat out on the grassy lawn overlooking the cow pastures and enjoyed a singing Greater Whitethroat and regular flybys of European Goldfinch and a perched Corn Bunting and Greenfinch.

After lunch we drove to Camon and birded along the river where we found a Gray Wagtail and several Barn Swallows. A Blackcap moved across the river through the dense undergrowth and at that time Peter, who lives in Camon, walked up as he had spotted us from the road. He offered to show us where we could find White-throated Dipper so we loaded up and followed him to a small back road next to a river. We looked from the bridge down but could not find one so Peter came up with a plan to send his lovely retriever Athena into the water to flush one down towards us. We all waited on the bridge a few minutes then from down river we heard Peter should “One’s coming”. Sure enough a dark brown bird flew past and alighted on the bank just out of sight. We all scanned the bank to see if we could find it but the bird thankfully flew to the center of the river and onto an exposed rock for all to see. Great scope views were had by all as the bird waded into the water and proceeded to fish for some grubs returning to the rock a few times. Well satisfied we accepted Peter’s offer of a tea back at his gorgeous 10th century Chateau. Just as we were loading up a magnificent pair of Eurasian Hobbys flew over us calling.

Once at Peter’s we got the kettle on and everyone sat out on the porch enjoying the birds in his yard. European Serin, Great Tit, Common Blackbird, European Goldfinch and Blackcap all were seen well here. We enjoyed a relaxing tea before heading back through the quaint little town towards home.

When we arrived back at Tim’s he had the barbecue going and we all enjoyed sitting out and cooking and had the pleasure of a Eurasian Griffon Vulture fly over while we were waiting for dinner, a nice finish to a great first day.

May 10th,

We woke early and had breakfast then loaded up the van to make the long haul up to Etang de Sulcem. We stopped along the way up to admire a small village and stretch our legs but as there was little activity we continued up the road to the dam. We stopped here and were inundated by singing Dunnock which we managed to get a scope on and while enjoy a bird sitting and singing from a pine below us we also had great looks at a circling Lammergeier. A gentleman showed up a few minutes later and with my horrible French we managed to figure out he was looking for Chamoix and told us where he usually finds them. We then drove up past the dam and the barrage lake, which was quite low as several men were working on the dam. Just before we turned into the parking area we saw our first Water Pipit next to the van, it was missing its tail and looked a bit odd. Once parked we got our gear and began the walk up towards Andorra.

Along the way we were constantly serenaded by Dunnock and found several more Water Pipit. We also found our first Northern Wheatear and a Gray Wagtail but the hoped for Rufous-tailed Rock Thrush was nowhere to be found. Once it warmed up it actually got a bit hot and butterflies began to come out. We had almost reached the turnaround where the trail turns and continues uphill when Patty and Janet called from the back. We all looked skyward and along the huge cliff face in front of us were seven Yellow-billed Chough bouncing around and twisting and turning in the air currents. These acrobatic fliers kept us entertained for a while before they disappeared behind a rock face and over the other side. At the turn around several of us enjoyed looks at Andorra and Spain then we all headed back to the van for lunch.

We had lunch back at the parking lot at one of the picnic tables while two Red-billed Choughs meandered around on the back side of the rocks and a Common Raven did a flyby. In the gorge next to the picnic area several European Crag Martins whizzed to and fro across the face and at one point David found an Alpine Swift that no one else got onto.
After lunch we made our way back to Domaine du Rey for an afternoon rest and some of us went out to chase butterflies and Dragonflies while several sat out on the grassy lawn enjoying the lovely day.

At 4:30 we all headed over to the Chateau et Abbeye de Camon. Just as we were pulling out of Tim and Barbara’s we spotted a female Eurasian Stonechat flying down the road and out over to a bush. We all managed to get a good look before driving off then a few seconds later David spotted the male sitting up on a long stalk. Both male and female were a great find. Once at Camon we parked at Peter and Katie’s lovely Chateau du Camon and everybody split up to go enjoy the lovely little village or do some birding. David and I hit the back of the chateau to check for the Gray Wagtails that nest there and found them in the graveyard scolding a cat along with a Great Tit and a female Blackbird that had a fledged chick in the bushes next to it. A pair of European Serin sang from a cedar tree. A bit of movement caught my eye and I found a Spotted Flycatcher which promptly moved into the deeper part of the tree and was not located again.

At the back of the cemetery we could hear European Golden Oriole so David and I went round to the side where a long line of trees was attracting several birds. We had a few flybys of these bright yellow and black birds and could hear them singing in the trees. We enjoyed them for a while before heading to the chateau for dinner. We all gathered in the parking lot to go in when I saw a raptor circling out over the country side. I watched for a few seconds until it turned towards me and I could see the “landing lights” on each shoulder telling me it was a Booted Eagle. Those on the porch already, got to see it as well and we all enjoyed it for a bit as it was joined by a Common Buzzard.

Out on the back porch the view was stunning. Rolling countryside and a well wooded and bushy garden was attracting a host of birds. Blackcap and Blackbird both sang from the understory while a European Greenfinch and European Goldfinch put in an appearance. Common Swifts would scream by and Great Tit would call nosily from the bushes.

After drinks we settled in for a fantastic dinner regaling in stories of birding past and present.
When we arrived back at Tim and Barbara’s we were met by them with some terrible news. Their daughter had been in an accident and they were going to England the next day to be with her. Everyone scurried off to bed and I stayed up with Tim and Barbara for a while as we were all in shock at this terrible turn of events. Thankfully she is making a full recovery.

May 11th,

Most people slept in this morning but I was up at 6:00am and out walking the woods. It was nice to have a bit of peace to collect myself after last nights events. I walked the loop at the bottom of the house where I found the usual suspects but when I got to the pine forest I found a Carrion Crow dive bombing a bird and when I got close I could see a Golden Eagle sitting atop a tall pine frustratingly baring the annoying burden of having his morning ruined by this crow. Once he saw me though he was off.

The high pitched calls of several Firecrest got my attention but they never showed. Farther past the pine I could hear several birds but the lone cry of a bird got my attention. I recorded it along with Chaffinch and Robin and Great Tit but didn’t know what it was. Not till I was back in the U.S. did I manage to post it up on Xeno-canto and get a quick response telling me that it was a Black Woodpecker. I had feared that at the time but wasn’t sure. Just didn’t expect one here. I walked the rest of the loop and met a few people back at the house. Some were having breakfast while others were getting ready for the day. Greater Whitethroat and Skylark were singing along with the White Wagtail calling from the oak at the side of the house.

At 9:00am a small group of us walked to the other side of the property overlooking the fields facing Lignairolles. Here we had a rather noisy Nightingale who never showed very well but we did have the pair of Stonechats from the other night follow us along the wires. Our best find was a lovely Woodchat Shrike with its rusty crown sitting out on one of the bushes next to the field. It flew once showing us its white patched wings. A great find for here.

Back at the house we all loaded up and headed over to the winery. Just as we got there several European Bee-eaters where circling the winery. These fantastically colored birds nest the banks behind the winery and we could hear them call to each other as they circled above us and into the distance. We checked the grounds of the gites for Hoopoe but never found it. A roosting Wood Pigeon was consolation along with a Black Redstart singing from an antenna.

At the winery we were met by Vincent, the winemaker, who showed us round the facility and how wine is made there. We went to the tasting room and worked our way through several samples of some great wine before heading upstairs to the restaurant for a fantastic lunch.

After lunch we drove north to the Black Mountains to the town of La Liviniere where Tim has some vineyards of old Grenache and Syrah. Here we walked the vines checking for birds. The habitat up here is very different with chalky soils, dry scrub and interjected with pines and huge boulders.

I found a shady spot and parked the van and we all piled out. As we walked downhill towards a group of pines and small trees the bubbling song of a bird came to me and I set about recording it as it moved through the trees. Once a good recording was had I played it back and soon enough a fantastic Subalpine Warbler showed up. Just as I was luring in this bird the song of a Western Orphean Warbler rang out from behind me. While I was trying to get everyone looks at the Sub I was listening out for the Orphean. I hoped it would hang around. As it turned out I should not have worried. I used some playback of Orphean and soon had it singing in the copse of trees in front of us. Good views though were hard to obtain as it moved about a bit and in short order there were three in vocal range moving about the area. Satisfying looks were never had so we continued on as we didn’t want to waste all our time on this one bird.

Back at the vineyards we watched as a pair of Linnets moved about the vine poles but a larger bird caught my attention. Once the scope was on it I could see a dull gray head on a rufous body. “Ortolan Bunting” I called out and a line quickly formed in behind the scope. The bird didn’t last long and promptly dropped down into the vines not to be seen again.

We continued through the vineyards finding another Subalpine which we all got looks at and while enjoying these, a pair of Wood Larks drifted up and began their spiraling song for all to enjoy. The Linnets continued round the vines but never settled long enough for a good look. We all had a look at the Roman well before heading back to the van and a long drive home.

Several wrong turns and following a GPS that hadn’t been programed for home sent us in the wrong direction so we didn’t arrive home till late. During a late dinner we discussed sleeping in as it was a long day and skipping Plateau de Beille till Sunday morning and heading to the coast later. We all agreed and headed for bed.

May 12th,

While everyone slept in I rose at 6:00am and hit the trail round through the woods finding the usual suspects like Blackcap, Song Thrush, Common Chaffinch and Chiffchaff. I took a different turn and went downhill through some short pines back to some deciduous forest where several European Blackbirds were calling an alarm. A Roe deer barked twice before disappearing into the woods. I never did see what was causing the alarm so continued on back uphill and onto the main path. I walked through the woods with Long-tailed Tit, Firecrest, Eurasian Robin, Great Tit and Great Spotted Woodpecker. Once at the cow fields I walked uphill to the driveway and back to the house. A few people were up now but the house was still quiet.

Round the side of the house Corn Buntings were calling from the grass along with a White Wagtail and Western Bonelli’s Warbler from the trees. Around 8:00am all were up and enjoying breakfast before cleaning up and getting ready to leave. While loading up the van a pair of Short-toed Treecreepers moved about the in the oak next to us collecting nesting material and food. Once all of us were in we took off for the coast.

The long drive through the rolling countryside was interrupted by a roadside stop for restrooms and to stretch our legs. David spotted something odd fly over but never got onto the bird and as we milled around while we were waiting for the rest the bird flew back. This time I could see the bright blue in the wings as it alighted across the field in front of some pines. A European Roller. Quickly I ran back to the van to let everyone know who was standing there and assembled the scope and ran back up to find the bird. We didn’t have the best light but we could still see the bird before it dropped down and out of sight. We waited for a few minutes but when it didn’t show up again we decided to head on.

Our target this afternoon was Etang de Bagnes and when we arrived at the coast we found the spot and drove out onto the spit of land leading into the bassin de Thau. Here we found several Black-headed Gulls and Yellow-footed Gulls and a distant plover we couldn’t ID in the heat haze. Grey Herons stood out in the salt pans and a the constant call of a Zitting Cisticola could be heard but never seen.

Next we moved on to a narrow canal where we heard a Cetti’s Warbler but it never showed. We walked along here without much luck apart from several dozen Common Shelducks on the other side of the canal in a settling pond. On the other side of the road from the canal towards the sea we could see thirty plus Yellow-legged Gulls roosting in the grass. A Sardianian Warbler was heard and seen only by me before it flew off but attempts to draw it in failed.

From here we moved on to the etang proper and found a nice pull off with a thick reedbed in front of us. Once out we set up scopes and enjoyed the view here of Great Crested and Little Grebe along with the usual gulls and several Little Terns. In the grass a Cetti’s Warbler sang and this time we were able to get onto him with some playback. Out in the reeds several Eurasian Reed Warblers began to sing and several popped up on reed stalks for some short views. A Zitting Cisticola bobbed around in the sky but back over the road so it was missed again but we had to move on to meet a friend in Bessan.

After a few missed turns in the small town of Bessan we met up with Derek Moore who had agreed to show us round a few spots. We followed him out to a small airstrip and parked up. Once we were all out he introduced himself and gave us a talk about what we were looking for and after that we began to walk a freshly cut pathway into the knee high grass. We stopped and listened and about 100 meters away we heard our first “farting duck” as the French call it, a Little Bustard. We scanned for them but they were not seen. We continued along the path and heard a few more but again they went unseen. When we got to a tree line we stopped and listened out hearing another distant bird and while we were scanning the area David spotted a Red-legged Partridge. Quickly we set up the two scopes and found the bird as it would pop up from time to time for all to see. Derek came back to let us know there was one sat atop a mound of sticks and we turned to scopes on the bird for some nice unobstructed views. Derek got a kick out of all of us oohing and aahing over this somewhat common bird.

We turned back from here to check the fields again for bustard but when we could not find one I walked in a little ways wearing of a female on a nest so stepped gingerly. Once I found a calling male I moved in closer but once he saw me he took flight with short, quivering flaps it flew low across the grass before dropping in and out of sight again. Satisfied all had seen the bird we went back to the cars only to find a nice male sitting out on the edge of the airstrip calling away and we were all able to view him through the scope.

Derek knew of a place for some Lesser Kestrel so we drove to an open area where there was a huge roosting house built for the colony on a small, forested rise. We all had some looks at several birds gliding about before we set our sights on European Roller, finding one shortly after settled in a tree which we were able to scope. We continued on to some vineyards where he has often found Ortolan Bunting and sure enough we got onto some once we arrived. Part of the group walked from about 300 meters away as there was only room for one to park but this allowed us to find a Zitting Cisticola “zitting” above us and coming into land on a dead snag in front of us.

While we were all peering into the vines to try and find the several Ortolan Buntings we could hear on in the vines Derek spotted a Whinchat at the back of the vineyard which was a welcome addition. An Ortolan Bunting flew over into the vineyard behind us and we all managed to get onto it before it flew up into the tree next to us and called for a while before dropping back down to feed in amongst the vines. Derek had to leave us so we began the walk back spooking up a group of about 20 Bee-eaters. Before he left Derek gave us some tips on tomorrows birding before he left and we drove back towards the coast for dinner. We found a wonderful little pizza place where enjoyed some cold beer and warm pizza and discussed the days birding. After dinner we headed south to Gruisson for the night.

May 13th,

David and I went out a bit early to have a look round the hotel as breakfast wasn’t till 7:00am. Checking the brush next to the hotel we found a pair of Linnets. Overhead several Yellow-legged Gulls were moving about and out along the shore a Crested Lark was singing.

After breakfast we headed south to the Saline de Reprise and birded some of the little ponds next to the ocean. Our first good stop held a pond full of Black-backed Stilts and several Kentish Plovers. From here we continued all the way down to the Etang but found little here so turned back and took the left heading towards Chateau Bel Veque. A Tawny Pipit sang from a small building and just before the end of the road we stopped to check out a singing Red-legged Partridge.

We stopped at the trail head and began to walk the garrigue above the vineyards nestled next to a rocky hillside. Several pipits and Crested Lark were singing here but once past the line of vineyards came some more open and tree filled areas where we looked for some warblers. First up was a Subalpine Warbler that showed only briefly from a copse of pines then back at the trail an odd, jumbled song emerged from a freestanding bush. I recorded this for over a minute before it stopped then played it back and to our surprise a Woodchat Shrike popped out and flew to the next bush.

Behind us in the pines we heard a Western Orphean Warbler along with our main target a Sardinian Warbler. I chased this bird down and got some recordings and with those playing it came into some bushes close to us for some fleeting glimpses. It continued to sing while moving along a row of boulders and bushes and popped up a few times for us to get a look at. Once we had bagged this species we headed back to the van to continue our journey.

We headed back up the D232 and followed it round to where the LPO has a white building and pulled in there and followed the dirt road for about 300 meters and pulled off in a dirt pullout. From here we walked down to the Etang where we found three pelicans which I'm now told are Pink-backed Pelicans that escaped and have started a feral population and there were also several Great Cormorants. Yellow-legged Gulls were also seen here and on the way back we spotted several Western Great Egret and Gray Herons. It was getting hot now so we decided to head south to Cap Leucate to try from Thekla Lark by the light house.

Once there we moved into the rocky garrigue behind the two buildings and found several Crested Larks and at one point I thought I heard a Thekla but we never identified one. Several Linnets were seen and a flushed pair of Red-legged Partridge gave fleeting glimpses which at first we thought were Gray Partridges due to some brown patches on the neck but once they landed I located one with the scope hiding between two pines and it was a Red-legged.

A Sardinian Warbler sang from a stand of pines and showed briefly but as it was getting hotter we decided to head back for lunch. Once at the parking lot we found several of the group that had been seeing a Hoopoe so the rest of us tried for that and after moving about the area for a while with some playback we managed to lure one in with only flight views before it was gone.
We headed into town and got some lunch before we decided to head to La Franqui. This turned out to be a disappointing stop with little to see apart from a group of Little Terns and a lone Kentish Plover. Tired and hot we decided to head back to Lignairolles for the afternoon.

Once back at the house I had made arrangements for dinner with a neighbor but with my bad French had told them it was Saturday we were getting back but after a bit of conversation I managed to explain we had nothing for dinner and they came over and helped us whip up something. It all worked out fine and we sat out enjoying some dinner while the dusk chorus serenaded us before we all retired to bed.

May 14th,

It started out a bit cool this morning as we drove to meet Peter from Chateau de Camon, he was taking us to Le Domaines des Oiseaux in Mazeres. When we arrived we started at the first pond and walked the path checking for birds on the water which included a few Mallards and a Great Crested Grebe. On the far shore there was a pair of Barnacle Geese, not sure what they were doing down here at this time of year but a nice find. A Melodious Warbler sang from the bush row behind us as we walked along to the hide. We took the stairs up and just when we were heading inside a lovely Eurasian Jay flew in and landed in the tree opposite us for a nice look. On the inside we scanned the pond finding a Eurasian Wigeon and more Mallards. There were several Eurasian Coots and a Green Woodpecker was sat low on one of the willows.

On the opposite side of the highway we could see a large gaggle of Greylag Geese on the opposite pond so we decided to head over there. On the walk back to the car we found a Corn Bunting and a Cirl Bunting singing from the wires. Once parked at the main entrance we crossed the road and walked a grassy path next to a small creek. Just as we began to walk down the path a small heron flushed which turned out to be a Black-crowned Night Heron. Along the path there were a few small ponds but the action didn’t start till we had passed them when we found a European Greenfinch and a Common Nightingale singing. In the bush next to the creek the movement of a European Reed Warbler caught my eye and it approached quite close while it moved through the small bushes next to the creek. Peter had to leave us but it was nice of him to have shown us this place. We made our way slowly back to the van finding a Common Moorhen in one of the small ponds.

We walked down the road from the main entrance and checked the pond on that side of the road. A White Stork was nesting in a tall tree on a small island in the middle of the lake and more Mallards were seen. At the end of the pond in some mudflats we spooked up a Common Sandpiper which flew to the far side of the pond where it moved along the shoreline where all could scope it.

We moved over to the main buildings to enjoy the White Storks and David found a Yellow Wagtail out amongst the wheat field stalks that we managed to scope for all to see. A brief walk into the woods and down by the river netted little so we headed back as it was a bit cool.

A short drive back to Domaine du Rey for lunch and we had the afternoon free to explore the grounds. Some rested; some went looking for bugs or just sat out and enjoyed the Skylarks flying over or the White Wagtail and Western Bonelli’s Warblers that hung around in the oaks.
The weather closed in around us for the first time this trip and it got cold and windy so our plans for a Barbeque got washed out. We grilled inside and enjoyed a fantastic dinner before heading off to bed.

May 15th,

An early start saw some of us up and heading towards the Pyrenees, our stop today was at Plateau de Beille, a ski resort during the winter but nice open mountain heath and pine woods during the summer. It was cold when we got up and pulled off the side of the road to check for some birds we saw flying around. This turned out to be a great stop. There were plenty of birds singing up here and our first find was a Tree Pipit, turned out several were doing their parachute song flight here. A lovely Yellowhammer was sitting atop a lone bush singing to another across the grassy glade. We moved up a bit and when we saw a few birds moving about we pulled over again this time finding a wonderful male European Bullfinch and some more pipits and a Dunnock. The real star was a small group of Alpine Citril Finch that moved along the edge of the road. There was a group of about fifteen birds with some on the side of the road feeding and a few flying around in the bushes. A male sang from the opposite bank and Tree Pipits continued to do their parachute songs. Satisfied with these great birds we moved up to the parking lot and got out. Immediately we were surrounded by birds. Several Mistle Thrushes sang from the tops of pines and a lone Ring Ouzel joined them. We could hear Wood Larks doing their down spiraled song and decided to head in the direction of the closest pines.

Once on the path we were surrounded by pines on both sides and we could hear birds singing and calling. First up was the high pitched song of several Goldcrests that eventually showed well amongst the pine boughs. Several Coal Tits moved about as well but never showed well until the return trip. Mistle Thrushes could be heard singing and a ghostly figure emerged out of the mist over the pines in front of us joined by two others which turned out to be Eurasian Honey Buzzards.

After crossing a small stream we arrived at an open area where Dunnocks and a Eurasian Robin sang from the pines but rolling fog obscured much else. We turned back as we didn’t have a load of time but we found another of our targets back near the start of the trail with several Crested Tits mixed in with some Coal Tits. Both showed well and was a nice end to this walk.

We drove back to Lignairolles for lunch and after that the group went over to Carcasonne to enjoy the ancient city for the afternoon. David and I perused the countryside finding some spots to pull out but the best find was a Subalpine Warbler in some scrub next to the road. We also tried a local park next to a river finding many of the common species. We met the group back at the city entrance and drove back to the house. Our farewell dinner was at Domaine Gayda winery where we relived some of the best birds of the trip with some fantastic food and great wine.

May 16th,

Sadly we all left Domaine Gayda this morning on the drive to Toulouse and our flights home. The weather had been good to us with only one day of overcast. The birds had performed well and we had seen some great species, a few got away or didn’t show up that we were expecting but a few showed up we weren’t. Such is birding. The food was amazing and the company fantastic. This is a fantastic place to go birding with such diverse habitats and rich culture. Can’t recommend this place highly enough. Domaine Gayda does have gites to rent during the summer so contact them if you want to stay in the region, go to their website, Domaine Their wines are brilliant too.

Sounds from this tour can be heard in my France May 2011 Xeno-canto set

Species Lists

1 Graylag Goose Anser anser
2 Barnacle Goose Branta leucopsis
3 Common Shelduck Tadorna tadorna
4 Eurasian Wigeon Anas penelope
5 Mallard Anas platyrhynchos
6 Northern Shoveler Anas clypeata
7 Red-legged Partridge Alectoris rufa
8 Great Crested Grebe Podiceps cristatus
9 Gray Heron Ardea cinerea
10 Great Egret Ardea alba
11 Little Egret Egretta garzetta
12 Cattle Egret Bubulcus ibis
13 White Stork Ciconia ciconia
14 European Honey-buzzard Pernis apivorus
15 Red Kite Milvus milvus
16 Black Kite Milvus migrans
17 Lammergeier Gypaetus barbatus
18 Egyptian Vulture Neophron percnopterus
19 Eurasian Griffon Gyps fulvus
20 Short-toed Eagle Circaetus gallicus
21 Eurasian Marsh-Harrier Circus aeruginosus
22 Montagu's Harrier Circus pygargus
23 Common Buzzard Buteo buteo
24 Golden Eagle Aquila chrysaetos
25 Booted Eagle Hieraaetus pennatus
26 Eurasian Kestrel Falco tinnunculus
27 Eurasian Hobby Falco subbuteo
28 Common Moorhen Gallinula chloropus
29 Eurasian Coot Fulica atra
30 Little Bustard Tetrax tetrax
31 Northern Lapwing Vanellus vanellus
32 Snowy Plover Charadrius alexandrinus
33 Black-winged Stilt Himantopus himantopus
34 Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos
35 Eurasian Curlew Numenius torquata
36 Black-headed Gull Chroicocephalus ridibundus
37 Yellow-legged Gull Larus michahellis
38 Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus
39 Common Tern Sterna hirundo
40 Little Tern Sterna albifrons
41 Rock Pigeon Columba livia
42 Common Wood-Pigeon Columba palumbus
43 European Turtle-Dove Streptopelia turtur
44 Eurasian Collared-Dove Streptopelia decaocto
45 Common Cuckoo Cuculus canorus
46 Tawny Owl Strix aluco
47 Eurasian Nightjar Caprimulgus europaeus
48 Common Swift Apus apus
49 Alpine Swift Apus melba
50 European Bee-eater Merops apiaster
51 Eurasian Hoopoe Upupa epops
52 Great Spotted Woodpecker Dendrocopos major
53 Green Woodpecker Picus viridis
54 Woodchat Shrike Lanius senator
55 Eurasian Golden Oriole Oriolus oriolus
56 Eurasian Jay Garrulus glandarius
57 Eurasian Magpie Pica pica
58 Red-billed Chough Pyrrhocorax pyrrhocorax
59 Yellow-billed Chough Pyrrhocorax graculus
60 Eurasian Jackdaw Corvus monedula
61 Carrion Crow Corvus corone
62 Common Raven Corvus corax
63 Crested Lark Galerida cristata
64 Sky Lark Alauda arvensis
65 Wood Lark Lullula arborea
66 Eurasian Crag-Martin Ptyonoprogne rupestris
67 Barn Swallow Hirundo rustica
68 Common House-Martin Delichon urbicum
69 Marsh Tit Poecile palustris
70 Coal Tit Periparus ater
71 Crested Tit Lophophanes cristatus
72 Great Tit Parus major
73 Eurasian Blue Tit Cyanistes caeruleus
74 Cetti's Warbler Cettia cetti
75 Long-tailed Tit Aegithalos caudatus
76 Eurasian Nuthatch Sitta europaea
77 Short-toed Treecreeper Certhia brachydactyla
78 Winter Wren Troglodytes troglodytes
79 White-throated Dipper Cinclus cinclus
80 Goldcrest Regulus regulus
81 Firecrest Regulus ignicapilla
82 Common Chiffchaff Phylloscopus collybita
83 Western Bonelli's Warbler Phylloscopus bonelli
84 Melodious Warbler Hippolais polyglotta
85 Eurasian Reed-Warbler Acrocephalus scirpaceus
86 Blackcap Sylvia atricapilla
87 Western Orphean Warbler Sylvia hortensis
88 Greater Whitethroat Sylvia communis
89 Subalpine Warbler Sylvia cantillans
90 Sardinian Warbler Sylvia melanocephala
91 Spotted Flycatcher Muscicapa striata
92 European Robin Erithacus rubecula
93 Common Nightingale Luscinia megarhynchos
94 Black Redstart Phoenicurus ochruros
95 Common Redstart Phoenicurus phoenicurus
96 Northern Wheatear Oenanthe oenanthe
97 Whinchat Saxicola rubetra
98 Stonechat Saxicola torquatus
99 Ring Ouzel Turdus torquatus
100 Eurasian Blackbird Turdus merula
101 Song Thrush Turdus philomelos
102 Mistle Thrush Turdus viscivorus
103 European Starling Sturnus vulgaris
104 Dunnock Prunella modularis
105 Western Yellow Wagtail Motacilla flava
106 Gray Wagtail Motacilla cinerea
107 White Wagtail Motacilla alba
108 Tawny Pipit Anthus campestris
109 Tree Pipit Anthus trivialis
110 Water Pipit Anthus spinoletta
111 Yellowhammer Emberiza citrinella
112 Cirl Bunting Emberiza cirlus
113 Ortolan Bunting Emberiza hortulana
114 Corn Bunting Emberiza calandra
115 Common Chaffinch Fringilla coelebs
116 European Greenfinch Chloris chloris
117 European Goldfinch Carduelis carduelis
118 Eurasian Linnet Carduelis cannabina
119 Citril Finch Serinus citrinella
120 European Serin Serinus serinus
121 Eurasian Bullfinch Pyrrhula pyrrhula
122 House Sparrow Passer domesticus
123 Eurasian Tree Sparrow Passer montanus
124 Rock Petronia Petronia petronia