The Vaucluse is a small departement in the South East of France. The main town, Avignon, is at the Rhône-Durance confluence. These two valleys are very important for birdlife as are the Ventoux and Luberon mountains. This area is poorly known amongst foreign birders but there are numerous good sites to birdwatch.
For each site, we have prepared a list of the birds which can be seen in each season. The names of those which are not present every year are in brackets.
A - Plan de Dieu airfield, near Travaillan
In the North-West of the departement. Having left Orange head for Camaret on the D75 and then take the D23 towards Sablet. About 4.5 km after leaving Camaret, take the minor road on the left which is signposted "aeroclub". Park by the side of the road when you reach the entrance to this almost steppe-like area of grassland. This site is only of interest from May until September. Beware, it is a military site, don't leave the tracks.
Breeding birds: Stone Curlew, Little Bustard, Hoopoe, Short-toed Lark, Tawny Pipit, (Black-eared Wheatear), Serin, Cirl Bunting. On migration: Tawny Pipit, Black-eared Wheatear.
B - St-Estève-Janson Nature Reserve
On the left side of the Durance (Bouches-du-Rhone departement). Coming from Cadenet, cross the Durance and then turn left towards Meyrargues, on to the D561. Continue along the road for about 1 km until you reach the entrance to the reserve which is on the left, just after the bridge which crosses the "Electricite de France" canal. Leave your car here. Groups who wish to vivit the reserve should contact the Mairie (Mayor's Office) in St Esteve-Janson. A path allows visitors to walk right round the reservoir without disturbing the birds. Another path, to the Nord-West of the reservoir, leads into the woodland at the water's edge (a habitat known as la ripisylve) which is among the most beautiful in the valley.
Breeding birds: Little Bittern (4 pairs), Little Egret, (Booted Eagle), Black Kite, Short-toed Eagle, Yellow-legged Gull, Scops Owl, Bee-eater, Crested Lark, Fan-tailed, Cetti's, Great Reed, (Moustached), Melodious and Sardinian Warblers, Short-toed Treecreeper, Golden Oriole, Serin, Cirl Bunting.
On migration: White Stork, Purple Heron, Night Heron, Ferrugineus Duck, Bluethroat, Moustached Warbler, Penduline Tit. Winter birds: Penduline Tit.
C - The reservoir at Mérindol - Mallemort.
In the South of the departement, right side of the Durance. Having left Cavaillon on the D973, turn right, as you reach the viallge of Merindol, at a crossroads marked by a roundabout. Follow the signs to Observatoire ornithologique. We advise you to visit this site early in the morning when the sun is behind you. In the afternoon, it is better to stop at the far bank on the Mallemort side of the reservoir.
Breeding birds: Little Egret, (Squacco Heron), Bonelli's Eagle, Egyptian Vulture, Black Kite, Short-toed Eagle, Little Ringed Plover, Yellow-legged Gull, Eagle Owl, Cetti's, Fan-tailed, Great Reed, Melodious and Sardinian Warblers, Short-toed Treecreeper, Golden Oriole, Serin, Cirl Bunting. On migration: Night and Purple Herons, Great White Egret, Mediterranean Gull, Alpine Swift, Crag Martin, Moustached Warbler, Penduline Tit.
Winter birds: numerous Cormorants, Great White Egret, Ferrugineous Duck, Bonelli's Eagle, Eagle Owl, Penduline Tit.
D - Luberon at Mérindol.
In the South of the departement. From the highest point of the village, follow the path which leads to the summit of the Vallon Bernard and La Ferme de Sadaillan. After walking through sparse vegetation for about 2.5 km you will find the footpath which leads back down and you should follow it for 1 km until you reach a junction. Here, you can either turn left and go back to the village, or, right, along the path which leads you to the Font de l'Orme Forest Lodge and on to the St Phales Crau and which allow excellent views of the cliffs of Roque Maliere. For the courageous, the track continues for around 10 km, finally reching the scenic mountain road.
Breeding birds: Egyptian Vulture, Short-toed Eagle, Bonelli's Eagle, (Great spotted Cuckoo) Eagle Owl, Scops Owl, Alpine Swift, Wood Lark, Crag Martin, Tawny Pipit, Black-eared Wheatear, Blue Rock Thrush, Dartford, Sardinian, Subalpine (Spectacled) and Bonelli's Warblers, Southern Great Grey Shrike, Serin, Cirl and Ortolan Buntings. Winter birds: Bonelli's Eagle, Eagle Owl, Alpine Accentor, Blue Rock Thrush, Dartford and Sardinian Warblers, Wallcreeper, Southern Great Grey Shrike, Rock Bunting.
E - The Rhône river at Donzère and Viviers.
In the North, in the Ardeche and Drome departements. From Donzère head towards Viviers on the D86j which crosses the old Robinet bridge. Having crossed the Rhône leave your car on the left, immediately after the bridge and follow the riverside bank on foot. About 750 m further on, there is an island which is home to a wide range of birds.
Breeding birds: Night Heron, Little and Cattle Egrets, Black Kite, Yellow-legged Gull, Bee-eater, Cetti's and Great Reed Warblers, Short-toed Treecreeper, Golden Oriole, Serin, Cirl Bunting. In winter and migration: Penduline Tit and numerous ducks.
On the cliffs on the left bank of the Rhone: Breeding birds: Short-toed Eagle, Eagle Owl, Alpine Swift, Crag Martin, Blue Rock Thrush, Subalpine Warbler.
F - Marais de l'Ile Vieille near Mondragon.
In the North of the departement, along the Rhone. At the traffic lights on the RN7 at Mondragon, take the Lamotte du Rhone and Pt St esprit Road which is on the right as you come from the North. Cross the motorway and the canal. Straight after the canal turn left onto the little road running alongside the fields. After 2 km, you pass the TGV bridge, then you will see an old farm on the right. Follow the road and, in a left turn, take the large track on your right. Leave your car here and make your way to the lakeside bank. You can also view the lake further East at la ferme de la Miat. To get there, take the first minor road on the left as you return to Mondragon, and follow it until you reach the track which takes you to the top of the bank. You can also explore the fields around.
Breeding birds: Little Bittern, Night and Purple Herons, Little Egret, Black Kite, Little Ringed Plover, Yellow-legged Gull, Scops Owl, Bee-eater, Crested Lark, Cetti's, Fan-tailed, Great Reed, Melodious and Sardinian Warblers, Short-toed Treecreeper, Serin, Cirl Bunting. On migration: White Stork, Alpine Swift, Penduline Tit. In Winter: (Divers), Great White Egret, Penduline Tit, Short-toed Treecreeper.
G - Rocher de Mornas.
Just North of Orange. During the breeding season, this rock which fists out over the village is home to Alpine Swift, Blue Rock Thrush and Black Redstart, while Dartford and Sardinian Warblers, Serin and Cirl Bunting breed in the scrub near the summit.
H - Etang de Suze la Rousse.
In the Drome departement, North-East of Orange, East of Bollene. Take the D59 from Suze in the direction of St Paul Trois Chateaux. 2.750 km after the Château La Borie, the road turns left. Here, take the track on the right which leads into the woods and follow it for around 750 m until you reach a reedbed on the righthand side.
This site is also noteworthy for its diversity of amphibians and reptiles.
I - The Pierrelatte airfield.
Sout-West of the Drôme département. Near the Rhône. Follow the N7 and the sign to aerodrome on your right, north of the town. This site is near the site E (Donzère-Viviers).
Breeding birds: Common Quail, Little Bustard, Bee-eater, Hoopoe, Tawny Pipit, Fan-tailed Warbler.
J - Fontaine de Vaucluse.
East of Avignon , near Isle-sur-la-Sorgue. Follow the River Sorgue from the village up to its source. Grey Wagtails and a pair of Dippers nest here and, during the breeding season, Alpine Swift, Crag Martin, Black Redstart and Blue Rock Thrush can all be seen on the cliffs above. In winter: Wallcreeper. Visiting this site is better early morning and not on Saturday and Sunday !
K - Dentelles de Montmirail.
North of Carpentras. There are two sites in this range which are particularly worth visiting.
a) Le Grand Montmirail. Take the D90 from Beaumes de Venise towards Lafare and Malaucene. After about 1.5 km, the road crosses the stream "la Salette". 0.5 km further on, take the minor road on the left (take great care as the road is very narrow and is often in a poor state of repair). Stop in one of the parking spots at the base of the cliffs.
Breeding birds: (Booted Eagle), Egyptian Vulture, Short-toed Eagle, Eagle Owl, Scops Owl, Alpine Swift, Bee-eater, Hoopoe, Crag Martin, Tawny Pipit, Black Redstart, Blue Rock Thrush, Melodious, Subalpine, Dartford, Sardinian and Bonelli's Warblers, Firecrest, Southern Great Grey Shrike, Cirl and Ortolan Buntings.
In winter: Eagle Owl, Alpine Accentor, Blue Rock Thrush, Dartford and Sardinian Warblers, Wallcreeper, Rock Bunting.
b) Col du Cayron. At Gigondas, take the road to Les Florets, right up to the Cayron pass where there is a car park.
We suggest that you visit the following sites which are among the richest.
a) From Mont Serein (reached from Malaucene) to Contrat.
b) From the Chalet Reynard (reached from Bédoin) to the mountain peaks which you can reach by following the ski-lifts.
Breeding birds: Short-toed Eagle, Northern Goshawk, Black Woodpecker, Wood Lark, Crag Martin, Tawny Pipit, Rock Thrush, Black Redstart, Short-toed Treecreeper, Serin, Citril Finch, Crossbill and Rock, Cirl and Ortolan Buntings. Winter birds: Snowfinch, Citril Finch, Cirl Bunting.
c) The Perrache wood (reached from Bedoin). At around 1 000 m, a track leads off the right and here you can leave your car in the park. You can walk a circuit of about 5 km through the wood if you follow the forest track and keep turning left.
d) The Col du Comte road (The Count's pass). This is on your right as you come down from Mont Serein, after about 3 km, and there is a large car park at the site. By following this road you will reach Brantes in the Toulourenc Valley.
Breeding birds: Short-toed Eagle, Northern Goshawk, Eagle Owl, Alpine Swift, Black Woodpecker, Crag Martin, Bonelli's Warbler, Firecrest, Short-toed Treecreeper, Rock and Cirl Bunting.
M - Plateau d'Albion (Sault region).
a) Gorges de la Nesque. Take the road which leaves Monieux and stop at the viewpoint overlooking Le Rocher du Cire.
Breeding birds: Egyptian Vulture, Short-toed Eagle, Peregrine Falcon, Eagle Owl, Alpine Swift, Crag Martin, Black Redstart, Blue Rock and Rock Thrushes, Subalpine and Bonelli's Warblers, Cirl and Rock Buntings.
Winter birds: (Crag Martin), Alpine Accentor, Blue Rock Thrush, Wallcreeper.
b) From Monieux to Sault. In spring and summer, stop at the pond near Monieux and look for birds in the fields between here and Sault (having keft Monieux, take the second road on the right and then turn left.)
Breeding birds: Little Bittern, Short-toed Eagle, (Booted Eagle), Montagu's Harrier, Common Quail, Little Bustard, Stone Curlew, Scops Owl, Eagle Owl, Hoopoe, (Roller), Wryneck, Wood Lark, Crag Martin, Tawny Pipit, Blue Rock Thrush, Great Reed and Subalpine Warblers, Firecrest, Short-toed Treecreeper, Southern Great Grey, Red-backed, Woodchat and (Lesser Grey) Shrikes, Rock Sparrow, Serin, Cirl, Ortolan and Rock Buntings. On migration: Black Stork, Red-footed Falcon, Penduline Tit.
N - Lagarde d'Apt.
North of Apt. As you come from Apt, take the little road on the right just before the very small village of Lagarde d'Apt, which leads to Le Château de Bois. After about 0.8 km, a little road leads off to the left and from here you can explore the beechwoods and the surrounding fields.
Breeding birds: Short-toed Eagle, Northern Goshawk, Montagu's Harrier, Common Quail, Scops Owl, Hoopoe, Wryneck, Black Woodpecker, Wood Lark, Tawny Pipit, Subalpine and Bonelli's Warblers, Firecrest, Short-toed Treecreeper, Southern Great Grey and Red-backed Shrikes, Rock Sparrow and Rock and Cirl Buntings.
In winter: Southern Great Grey Shrike, Rock Sparrow, Citril Finch., Rock Bunting.
O - Avignon, Durance.
At the Allees de l'Oule, take the road which leads beside the Rhone in the direction of Arles and Marseille. After a set of traffic lights, the road passes under two railway bridges. A few dozen metres further on, turn right. This road follow a canal which you should cross after about 4 km by turning onto a small road on the right. Go up onto the bank along which you should walk upstream for about 2 km to reach the marais de Courtine.
Breeding birds: Little Egret, Black Kite, Yellow-legged Gull, Bee-eater, Short-toed and Crested Lark, Tawny Pipit, Cetti's, Fan-tailed, Great Reed, Melodious and Sardinian Warblers, Serin, Cirl Bunting.
Winter and migrating birds: Night Heron, Little Egret, Red-crested Pochard, Black-winged Stilt, Black-headed Gull, Black-eared Wheatear, Moustached Warbler, Penduline Tit, Serin, Cirl and Rock Buntings (Snow Bunting).