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France & Spain


 Camping in the Emporda marshes, Camping Nautic Almata Red-backed Shrike

4-19 Jul 1998


Observers: F. Simpson




In the spring of 1998 my brother had the idea of driving from home in Scotland to Barcelona in Spain. I decided to tag along in the hope of seeing some birds. What follows is a brief account of the highlights from the journey down through western France to the Catalan capital and back, via Andorra in the Pyrenees. We camped most nights, drove on the left, then the right, visited the famous tourist attractions and I recorded many good birds in the transition from Northern Temperate to Mediterranean and back.





Little Egret, Serin, Honey Buzzard, Montagu's Harrier, Black Kite, Short-toed Treecreeper, Bonelli's Warbler, Black Redstart, Nightjar, Lesser Spotted Woodpecker, Melodious Warbler, White Stork, Cetti's Warbler, Great Reed Warbler, Cattle Egret, Spotted Crake, Yellow Wagtails (flava, iberiae & flavissima), Garganey, Yellow-legged Gull, Hobby, Chough, Crag Martin, Pallid Swift, Rock Sparrow, Subapline Warbler, Firecrest, Citril Finch, Ring Ouzel, Bonelli's Eagle, Hoopoe, Alpine Swift, Bee-eater, Black-winged Stilt, Purple Gallinule, Purple Heron, Fan-tailed Warbler, Moustached Warbler, Whiskered Tern, Crested Lark, Tawny Pipit, Great Spotted Cuckoo, Kentish Plover, Spotted Crake, Nightingale, Savi's Warbler, Little Bittern, Night Heron, Golden Oriole, Middle Spotted Woodpecker, Red Kite, Booted Eagle, Ortolan Bunting, Red-backed Shrike, Great Grey Shrike, Short-toed Eagle.



Travel & Accommodation

We drove the whole way from Scotland and camped each night.





Day 01          04/07/98       Kilmarnock, Ayrshire, Scotland > Plymouth, Devon, England.

Day 02          05/07/98       Plymouth > Roscoff > Benodet, Brittany, France.

Day 03          06/07/98       Benodet, Brittany >Bordeaux area, Aquitaine.

Day 04          07/07/98       Bassin D'arcachon, Aquitaine.

Day 05          08/07/98       Arcachon to Foix, Mid-Pyrenees.

Day 06          09/07/98       Foix - Sant Julia, Andorra.

Day 07          10/07/98       Andorra > Barcelona, Catalunya, Spain.

Day 08          11/07/98       Barcelona.

Day 09          12/07/98       Barcelona.

Day 10          13/07/98       Barcelona > Parc Natural dels Aiguamolls de l'EmpordÓ, Castellˇ d'Emp˙ries, Girona.

Day 11          14/07/98       Parc Natural dels Aiguamolls de l'EmpordÓ, Girona > St. Lambert, Millau, France.

Day 12          15/07/98       Central Massif area > Clermont.

Day 13          16/07/98       Clermont > Paris.

Day 14          17/07/98       Paris > Calais.

Day 15          18/07/98       Dover, Kent > York, Yorkshire, England.

Day 16          19/07/98       York > Kilmarnock, Ayrshire, Scotland.



Day 1                                                                                                                              
Saturday 4 July 1998
Kilmarnock, Ayrshire to Plymouth, Devon
Cool, dull , increasing temperature and sunshine south of Birmingham.

Stopped at services at Blackburn, Lancashire, 1050h, then at Keele Services, Staffordshire, 1215h - too dull for Skippers and other butterflies at the Wildflower Conservation Area, and again at Michael Wood Services, Somerset.

Wood Pigeon, Magpie, Carrion Crow, Chaffinch, Starling, Lapwing, Swallow, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Herring Gull, Collared Dove, House Sparrow, Jackdaw, Kestrel, Buzzard, Black-headed Gull, Mute Swan, Rook, Stock Dove, Mallard, Sparrowhawk, Coot, Swift, Grey Heron, Skylark, Sand Martin, Great Tit, Goldfinch, Oystercatcher, Tufted Duck, Robin, Blackcap, Feral Pigeon, Common Gull, House Martin, Linnet, Turtle Dove.

Buzzard count in Somerset and Devon: 19s.



Day 2                                                                                                                              
Sunday 5 July 1998
Plymouth > Roscoff > Benodet, Brittany
Overcast until 3/4 across channel, then clear sky, 20║C.

ENGLISH CHANNEL 0810-1400h (1500h local time)
Very little bird life observed on the six hour crossing to France. Cormorants, Shags, gulls in the harbour at Plymouth. A few terns off the English and French coastlines. Gannet and Kittiwake the most evident species. Two Feral Pigeons roosting on the ferry for the entire crossing.

ROSCOFF 1435-1625h
Noticeably warmer with several butterflies active in the town. Southern Hawker (Aeshna cyanea) along the shore. House Martin and Swift nesting in the town. Two Little Egrets observed feeding along open shore and in rock pools in a large coastal lagoon.

Magpies common. Turtle Doves fairly common on farmland and Collared Doves numerous particularly in small towns and villages.

Campsite set in wooded parkland on the coast. Serin heard and seen singing from a roof in the town. Several Humming Bird Hawkmoths (
Macroglossum stellatarum) active just before dusk.



Day 3                                                                                                                              
Monday 6 July 1998
Benodet, Brittany south to Bordeaux area, Aquitaine
Overcast with showers in the north, blue sky, 30║C in the south

HABITAT: farmland similar to Devon in the north, becoming more intensive southwards with many massive cereal fields, vineyards, maize and sunflower fields.

Species heard from the tent: Serin, Green Woodpecker, Jay, Collared Dove, Wood Pigeon, Blackcap, Chiffchaff, Wren, Robin, Blackbird, Swift, Swallow and House Martin. Comma (Polygonum c-album) butterflies common.

Rocky foreshore, sandy beach, large lagoon enclosed by dunes. Roseate Tern - Several fishing in the lagoon. Long tail streamers and slim build apparent. Call distinctive "ark ark". Common and Little Terns fishing. Little Egret watched fishing for over 30 minutes in the rock pools. Linnet, Greenfinch and Goldfinch common along cliff top. Sand Martins nesting in the softer soil in the upper parts of the cliff. Serin (m) observed in a pine copse on the edge of the town. Also noted: Dunnock, Wren, Song Thrush, Robin, Carrion Crow, Black-headed Gull, Lesser Black-backed Gull and Herring Gull.

Kestrels and Common Buzzards numerous. Honey Buzzard - adult passing slowly over woodland.        

Aire de Brouzils (services), A83 Nantes to Bordeaux 1540h
Recreational grassland and picnic area with a small pond surrounded by reedmace. Common Blue and Red Admiral (Vanessa atalanta). Southern Hawker and several Ruddy Darters buzzing around the pond. White Wagtail, Goldfinch, Linnet and House Sparrow with juveniles. Buzzard and Kestrel common along the autoroute. Several large flocks of hirundines and Swifts feeding along the autoroutes particularly over pools. Montagu's Harrier- female observed flying low, presumably hunting, over a massive wheat field right beside the autoroute. Lightly-built harrier with narrow white rump. Close enough to pick out pale face with obvious mark on the cheek. A pair of Montagu's Harriers observed shortly afterwards in similar habitat near Terre Neuve. Black wing bar seen on the male bird. Black Kite (7) in the air at one time, several mobbed by crows. Fingered primary feathers and forked tail obvious - pale wing coverts observed on low flying birds. Another single bird observed a few miles on. Turtle Dove (5) perched on telegraph wires on farmland outside Benet (1715h, 30║C). Peacocks (Inachis io) and whites in the town of Niort.

Services near Saintes 1840h
Butterflies noted: Black Hairstreak (Satyrium pruni), White-letter Hairstreak (Satyrium w-album),  Silver-studded Blue (Plebejus argua), Small Heath (Coenonympha pamphilus), and Small Tortoiseshell (Aglais urticae). Several Black Kites on the city outskirts of Bordeaux. 2140h: Arrived at campsite at Arcachon - Camping D'Arcachon, 30 miles west of Bordeaux. Bats numerous - mostly small but a few very large - possibly Greater Horseshoe or Noctule Bats. Cicadas calling.



Day 4                                                                                                                              
Tuesday 7 July 1998
Camping D'arcachon, Bassin D'arcachon, Aquitaine.
Drizzle 'till noon, followed by clearing to blue sky, 19║C

HABITAT: vast forested area of maritime pines on inland dunes with reeds and broom with massive coastal lagoon.

Campsite set in maritime pine forest with sandy floor and understory of oaks and evergreens. A lot of bird activity before the campsite awoke. Short-toed Treecreeper - several feeding with young on the main trunks of the pines. Adult Nuthatch with juveniles birds just outside the tent. Bonelli's Warbler fairly common in the deciduous understory of the woodland. A featureless warbler in appearance, almost like a Chiffchaff. Song - rattling trill. Lesser Spotted Woodpecker heard calling out with the campsite in neighboring woodland. Call - high pitched "kee kee kee kee". Several Blackcaps and Garden Warblers singing, especially from areas of oak. Jays common - several birds with broods of young. Redstarts (pr) feeding juveniles in a more open, sunlit area of woodland. Crested Tits feeding on sandy tracks through the woodland. Blue, Great, Coal and Long-tailed Tits also common. Several Green and Great Spotted Woodpeckers calling. Also noted: Song Thrush, Blackbird, Dunnock, Carrion Crow, Robin, Wren, Wood Pigeon, Collared Dove, Greenfinch, Chaffinch, Willow Warbler, Chiffchaff.

Walked along coast and old part of town. A female Black Redstart observed down a small alleyway to the beach. Several more, including fledglings, seen in parkland habitat and along the shore. Jays with juveniles. Several terns feeding along the shoreline.

Largest dune system in Europe. Dimensions - 3 km long, 115 metres high and 500 metres wide. Panoramic views of Landes Forest. Green Woodpeckers calling from the vast extent of forestry. Large colonies of Sandwich, Common and Arctic Terns breeding on islets off the dunes. Oystercatchers feeding in the shallow lagoons. Nightjar - at least three birds heard churring over a heathy area of overgrown felled forestry. Several watched passing low over head at 2225h. Little Owl calling from the same area. Cicadas numerous - singing creating a fair volume along the roadside.



Day 5                                                                                                                        
Wednesday 8 July 1998
Camping D'arcachon, Arcachon to Foix, Mid-Pyrenees.
Partly cloudy, dry, 24║C

Melodious Warblers common in scrubby oak woodland out with the campsite. From a high vantage point above a valley many birds could be heard singing with a density similar to Willow Warblers in scrub back home. Song an extended melodic warble. A group of three to four were observed calling harsh notes together from one scrubby oak. Singing Chiffchaffs also numerous and a few Willow Warbler observed. Crested, Blue, Great, and Long-tailed Tits common along the border of pine and oak woodland. Numerous trees with signs of woodpeckers. Several Green and Great Spotted Woodpeckers calling with several fledglings. Flocks of family parties of Greenfinch common. A pair of Lesser Spotted Woodpeckers watched at close range along border of oak an pine woodland. Calling regularly and drumming heard briefly. Red Squirr
els (Sciurus vulgaris) numerous - dark continental form.

Male Black Redstart in parkland habitat at the entrance to the reserve reception. On entering the reserve we found the sky full of circling White Storks and Black Kites. Large breeding colony of White Storks with many pairs with huge nests on artificial platforms over the reserve. Twelve pairs at one main site with eight or nine Black Kites in attendance. Tree Sparrows observed carring food into nest at the base of one of the large nests. Cetti's and Great Reed Warblers heard singing just metres from the hides in addition to large Reed Warbler colonies. One Great Reed Warbler observed singing from the top of a stalk of reedmace - a very large warbler with a heavy beak and head - almost the size of a Starling!  Sedge Warblers also noted. Sedge Warblers also noted. White Wagtails numerous. Cattle Egret in full breeding plumage close to the large colonies of Herons and Little Egrets. Long buff plumes visible on back. Excellent close views of Water Rail and Spotted Crake from the hides. Yellow Wagtail (flava). Several hundred Coot on the reserve with large proportion of juveniles. However, only a few Moorhens seen. Yellow-legged Gulls common on the reserve with Lesser Black-backed Gulls. Speckled Woods (Pararge aegeria) numerous. Easily the most common species. Several Clouded Yellows and Holly Blues. Colony of Cormorants with many well grown juvenile birds. Little Egrets numerous in small pools over the reserve - many birds still in full breeding plumage with white plumes. Garden Warbler, Chiffchaff and Blackcap common in scrubby areas. House Sparrows numerous with many pairs nesting at the base of Storks' nests. Several Tree Sparrows noted in an area of meadow. Several Mute Swan pairs with large broods. Tufted Duck, Pochard, Mallard and Little Grebe noted. At least three Garganey observed. Also: Short-toed Treecreeper, Jay, Green Woodpecker, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Magpie, Collared Dove, Carrion Crow, Swallow, Dunnock, Robin, Jackdaw, Rook, Wren.

AIRE DE PYRENEES (Service Station) 1625h
Agricultural land surrounding the service station. Farmer cutting an area of meadow for silage. Very hot with many insects around. Swallows following behind the tractor, joined by five Black Kites quartering the area. Watched from a elevated viewpoint (view of distant peaks of the Pyrenees) over the meadow with birds just 30 metres away - superb close views. A single White Stork flew in and began hunting rodents or large insects in the cut grass. Driving on, numerous raptors were observed between Orthex and Foix. At least 36 Black Kites and 19 Kestrels counted. Several buzzards noted and a Short-toed Eagle. An adult Hobby perched at the top of a large bush at the side of the autoroute near Toulouse in the foothills of the Pyrenees.

Arrived after eight. Swallows and House Martins feeding over valley.



Day 6                                                                                                                              
Thursday 9 July 1998
Foix - Sant Julia, Andorra
Cool and cloudy in France, blue sky, 31║C in Andorra

HABITAT: damp green valley, pre-Pyrenean foothills on the French side. Alpine, mountain, cliffs and ravine, pine forest.

Campsite an open area of short grassland set in oak and sweet chestnut woodland in a small valley. Large concentration on singing Blackcaps in the area - 12 singing mm along a 500 metre stretch of road through woodland. A few Garden Warblers and Chiffchaffs. Great Spotted Woodpeckers and Jays calling. Small Heath roosting on a flower, waiting for the sun. Bullfinch (pr) heard calling.

Flock of 22 Chough flying just outside the village.

Raven (3) soaring over the rocky outcrop above the village.

Swifts (100+) above the town.

Walked up the hillside for c200m on the road south of the town.
Grassy slopes full of mountain butterflies.  Species identified: Gavarnie Ringlet (Erebia gorgone), Mountain Clouded Yellow (Colias phicmone), Piedmont Ringlet (Erebia meolans), False Dewey Ringlet (Erebia sthennyo), Gavarnie Blue (Agriades pyrenaicus) Several unidentified peirids and lycaenids - not enough time. Wheatear, Meadow Pipit, Kestrel.

SOLNEU, ANDORRA  1300-1500h
Meadow on the edge of the village: Apollo (Parnassius apollo). Moroccan Orange Tip (Anthocharis belia), Clouded Yellow (Colias crocea), Brimstone (Goneptryx rhamni), Small Skipper (Thymelicus sylvestris), Common Blue (Polyommatus icarus), Wall Brown (Lasiommata megera) and several other unidentified species. Amazing increase in temperature on this side of the Pyrenees. Crag Martin -  many pairs nesting under the eaves of a tall roadside building with smaller numbers of House Martins. Hawking insects over lush meadows. A colony of Pallid Swifts breeding in a ruined building. Several Rock Sparrows around the town with House Sparrows. Black Redstarts (pr) nesting in the roof of a small villa in the town.

Small shaded campsite in parkland by the river. Black Redstart (pr with 3 juvs) feeding in the campsite, perched just feet away from the tent, even on the car. Grey and White Wagtails with young on the river. Crag Martins numerous over the town - nesting in the higher buildings and feeding along the river. House Martins, Swifts and Pallid Swifts also overhead. Good range of butterflies including: Peacock, Great Banded Grayling (Kanetisa circe), Spanish Purple Hairstreak (Laeosopis roboris), Purple Hairstreak (Quercusia quercus), Ilex Hairstreak (Satyrium ilicus), Speckled Wood, Holly Blue (Celastrina argiolus), Bath White (Pontia daplidice) and several other pierid species. Backbird, Blue Tit, Great Tit, Treecreeper, House Sparrow, Blackcap, Wood Pigeon.



Day 7                                                                                                                              
Friday 10 July 1998
Andorra > Barcelona, Spain

First of several Hoopoes seen today as we arrived in Spain. Short-toed Eagle, Booted Eagle, Common Buzzard, Hobby, and Kestrel observed on the drive



Day 8                                                                                                                              
Saturday 11 July 1998

Alpine Swift, Common Swift, Black Redstart noted on the city.



Day 9                                                                                                                             
Sunday 12 July 1998

No observations of note.



Day 10                                                                                                                              
Monday 13 July 1998
Parc Natural dels Aiguamolls de l'EmpordÓ, Castellˇ d'Emp˙ries, Girona
Blue sky / 31║C

Marshland reserve covering nearly 19 square miles and incorporating the following habitats: large expanses of reedbed and reedmace marshy grassland, rice fields, sizeable, areas of yellow flag and incipient tamarisk thickets, prolific patches of spike rush, stretches of deep and shallow freshwater and brackish pools, saltmarsh, tidal lagoons, dunes, sandy shoreline, pastureland, dry grassy meadows, and areas if willow, poplar, white poplar, elm, ash and oak.

Bee-eater first observed from the car as we drove towards the campsite (Camping Nautic Almata) on the edge of the reserve. On leaving the village of Castello d'Empuries a streak of colour was seen as a bird hawked insects over a recently harvested cereal field. A few Hoopoes passed overhead as we pitched the tent on the edge of the Nautic Almata site adjacent to the reserve. Drove out of the campsite and round to the visitor centre at El Cortalet. A mass of activity from waterbirds and breeding Bee-eaters at the first hide. Black-winged Stilts (c30) breeding on the pool. Large proportion of juveniles birds feeding in the mud. Very strange looking waders with extremely long and unstable looking legs. Flock of 12 as well as many single birds passing overhead - shrill calls. Purple Gallinule - a former breeder but lost to extinction in Catalonia - now reintroduced and breeding very successfully. Like a giant Moorhen - bigger than a Coot. Blue plumage, large red conical bill, legs and feet. Common over all wetland areas of the reserve with many well grown juveniles and newly hatched chicks evident. Marsh Harriers (2mm, 1f) hunting with slow flapping flight over an extensive reedbed. Grey tail and inner wings vi sable with the naked eye. Bee-eaters passing overhead all the time with four birds perched in a dead tree about 30 metres from the hide. Flight very acrobatic looking as they dropped down low over the water. Purple Heron - several passing over the course of 30 minutes or so. Noticeably darker at a distance than Grey Heron and certainly much more common.

Spanish race Yellow Wagtails (iberiae) very common on the muddy shores of the pools. Many birds feeding young. A few pairs of White Storks breeding around the information centre building, particularly high in pylons and in dead trees. Fan-tailed Warblers (Zitting Cisticolas) - tiny wren-sized birds appeared from reeds and grassland along the paths as we walked between hides. Numerous birds song-flighting over damp, scrubby fields and reedbeds. Savi's Warblers 'reeling' - slower and lower-pitched than the Grasshopper Warbler. Particular areas of the reserve very rich in marshland warblers: Reed Warblers, Cetti's Warblers and Great Reed Warblers. Moustached Warbler observed at close range. First impression, similar to Sedge Warbler. Much more distinctive dark eye stripe and black crown. Streaking on back contrasting black and buff. Strong white supercillium. Bee-eater colony found in a large sandy bank with at least a dozen nest holes. Up to 15 birds active at in the area immediately around the colony. Little Egrets numerous especially around the breeding colony. One pool holding 22 feeding birds. Good close views of Water Rail and Spotted Crake.

Also: Garganey, Mallard, Teal, Gadwall, Coot, Moorhen, Little Grebe, Great Crested Grebe and Great Crested Grebe. Little Ringed Plovers in the sandy dried-up pools with juveniles. Many more on muddy margins feeding with Green Sandpipers. Walked along 2 km stretch of dry grassland along the Can Comes trail. Crested Lark - several in the more open expanses. Simple call of three notes repeated; "twee, twee, ooo". Single Tawny Pipit seen. Several Hoopoes flying by, both pairs and singles. Stonechats and Wheatears common. Great Spotted Cuckoo - first detected by loud and distinctive three note call from thick scrubland, then observed flying low over grassland.  Long tail and wings, contrasting pale head and underparts with dark upperparts. Turtle Dove in hedgerow. Walked along a 3 km stretch of sandy shoreline and dunes: Many Kentish Plovers on the beach. Injury distraction display on approach. Post-breeding flock of 44 birds with many juveniles. Whiskered Tern - several juvenile birds and one or two adult birds along the shoreline side of a the saltmarsh. Good selection of passerines in the scrub and hedgerow: Nightingale, Chiffchaff, Blackcap, Black Redstart, Robin, Linnet, Goldfinch, Jay, Green Woodpecker, Tit species, Wren, Dunnock, Greenfinch, Blackbird, Song Thrush, and Tree Sparrow.



Day 11                                                                                                                              
Tuesday 14 July 1998
Camping Nautic Almata, Parc Natural dels Aiguamolls de l'EmpordÓ, Castellˇ d'Emp˙ries, Girona
Cool, 15║C at noon, cloudy and light rain later


Woke up at 0410h to an amazing dawn chorus from the reedbeds on the edge of the campsite. Mass volume created by chorus of warblers, tree frogs, stridulating insects, herons and other waterbirds. Birds heard included Reed Warbler, Great Reed Warbler, Fan-tailed Warbler, Savi's Warbler, Nightingale, Blackbird, Goldfinch, Coot, Moorhen, Grey Heron, Purple Gallinule, Wren and Collared Dove.

Walk to the reserve from the campsite
0700h. Warblers singing everywhere. Fan-tailed Warblers flitting across the path. Hoopoe overhead. Several Savi's Warblers reeling. Accidentally disturbed a feeding Little Bittern from a reedy ditch on the edge of the campsite. Took off with an unhurried, flapping flight.
Aguait Bruel
Marsh Harrier (pr) hunting in front of the hide. Purple Gallinules feeding young. Numerous male Mallards in eclipse plumage and several females with broods. Spotted Redshank (2) overhead. Yellow-legged Gulls bathing. Several more Night Herons and Purple Herons passing by. Yellow Wagtail, Great Reed Warbler and Coot also noted.

Aguait Del Gall Mari
Several pairs of Black-winged Stilts with broods of two and three chicks. Very defensive of their offspring, chasing off any passing species from wagtails to Mallards. Three Spotted Crakes feeding out in the open dried mud. Also 8+ juveniles Purple Gallinules in the same area. Water Rail (ad+juv) observed in shallow water. Little Ringed Plover (20+) and Kentish Plover (4) feeding in the mud with juvenile birds and a single Green Sandpiper. Coot (2), Moorhen (1), and Little Egret (1) also in attendance. Tree Sparrows common in the surrounding ash trees. Blackcap singing. Cuckoo (m) passed by. Two male Garganeys in eclipse plumage. Great Crested Grebe (ad+juv). Magpies common.

Observatori Pallaja
Nightingale (2) flitting about in scrub in front of the hide. Close views of Moustached Warblers in the juncus rushes. A pair of Hoopoes flew in and landed on a dry sandy area. Watched feeding for two to three minutes before flying off. Reed, Great Reed and Fan-tailed Warblers buzzing about everywhere. Mallard, Teal, Grey Heron and Little Egret also present. Swallows and House Martins feeding over the pool. Tree Sparrows numerous. Many butterflies active after 1000h. Berger's Clouded Yellow (Colias alfacariensis) and several unidentified fritillaries. Adult male Marsh Harrier watched through the 'scope from c100m away - perched on a dead tree. Another great view of a Little Bittern as it flew across in front of me and landed in full view in a path-side tree. Several more Hoopoes seen.



Day 12                                                                                                                             
Wednesday 15 July 1998
Central Massif area, France
Blue sky, 25║C

0700h. Heard a Golden Oriole singing from the parkland and woodland area of the campsite just as I woke up. After a search outside the male was glimpsed flying amongst tall poplar trees. A second male was also heard nearby. Several species of warbler singing; Melodious, Bonelli's, Blackcap and Chiffchaff. Heard a Middle-spotted Woodpecker calling but was difficult to locate. Calling five or six notes like a Lesser-Spotted but deeper and stronger. Green and Lesser-Spotted Woodpeckers also present around the campsite. Short-toed Treecreeper and various tits noted. A juvenile Green Woodpecker feeding in a recently mown meadow next to the campsite. Serins and Goldfinches numerous, singing from trees, wires and roofs. Kingfishers nesting on the far bank of the river here, less than 100 metres from the tent. Entrance hole located about half up a three metres bank. Firecrest watched for several minutes feeding in oak woodland - frequently hovering below branches and picking aphids off the undersides of the leaves. Alpine Swift, Common Swift, House Martin and Swallow overhead. Grey Wagtails (4 ads+7 juvs) and White Wagtails with young along a stony shore of the river. Also several broods of Mallards. Wren, Blackbird, Chaffinch, House Sparrow and Wood Pigeon also noted. Turtle Dove purring from the poplar trees on the edge of the meadow. Jays with noisy youngsters. Good views of Short-toed Treecreepers on the poplar trunks and oaks - calling regularly. Pheasant heard calling. An impressive Great Banded Grayling landed on the dried grass on the cut meadow, arriving on a very fast and direct flight path. As the temperature climbed, several Dryad (Minois dryas) butterflies became active, flying up and down the course of the river.

DRIVE NORTH: MILLAU > CLERMONT (mainly along the A75)
Red Kite soaring along the wooded valley north of Millau. Good numbers of raptors along the stretch of road. Species identified from the car: Red Kite (14), Black Kite (4), Short-toed Eagle (2), Common Buzzard (3), Honey Buzzard (2), Hobby (1), Kestrel (6), and Sparrowhawk (1). Many more unconfirmed due to distance and briefness of views.

Stopped for a break here. Red Kite (4) soaring together on the edge of a wooded hillside. Watched from c200 metres away through the 'scope. A Hobby then passed overhead mobbed by Swallows and martins. An Ortolan Bunting singing from a scrubby area on the edge of a meadow. Good area for butterflies: Silver-studded Blue, Spotted Fritillary (Melitaea didyma), Great Banded Grayling, Grayling (Hipparchia semele), Speckled Wood, Essex Skipper (Thymelicus lineola), Small Skipper, Marbled White (Melanargia galathea) and Small Tortoiseshell.

Black Redstart (adult + juv) in the city centre. Black Kite overhead. A group of 17 Black Kites circling around an area on the outskirts of the city.

Several Booted Eagles perched on roadside posts north of Clermont Ferrand.
Raptor count between Aire des Volcans D'Auvergne > Aire de La Brigan deries: Montagu's Harrier (3), Kestrel (3), Black Kite (3), Red Kite (1), Hobby (1), Common Buzzard (10) and Booted Eagle (5). Great Grey and Red-backed Shrikes also noted along the roadside, perched on wires and fences. Jay, Magpie, Stonechat, Whinchat, Skylark, Meadow Pipit, Rook, Starling and Grey Heron also noted.

Area of oak and hornbeam woodland with areas of heather and birch scrub. Marsh Tit chipping away on a bare oak branch and calling "pitoo, pitoo, pitoo". Nuthatch climbing up an down trunk of a dead birch tree. Redstart, Jay, Blackcap, Blue Tit and Great Tit also noted. Grasshopper Warbler reeling. Chaffinches very tame around the picnic - just like touristy spots in the British Isles.



Day 13                                                                                                                              
Thursday 16 July 1998

No notes taken in the city - sight-seeing.



Day 14                                                                                                                              
Friday 17 July 1998
Paris > Calais

No notes taken in the city - sight-seeing.



Day 15                                                                                                                              
Saturday 18 July 1998
Dover, Kent > York, Yorkshire, England
Partly cloudy, dry, 22║C.

HABITAT: Mixed farmland, open countryside and motorway verges.

Kestrel and Fulmars along the cliff top. Marbled White and Meadow Brown becoming active as the sun broke through later.

Wood Pigeon, Collared Dove, Rook, Kestrel, Yellowhammer, Grey Heron, Jay, Pied Wagtail, Feral Pigeon, Magpie, Turtle Dove, Green Woodpecker, Starling, Carrion Crow, Black-headed Gull, Herring Gull, Lesser Black-backed Gull, House Sparrow, Mallard, Jackdaw, Lapwing, Chaffinch, Pheasant and Blue Tit.

Stopped for a quick break at a country park area - didn't know where the nature reserve was. Yellow Wagtail (flavissima) (5). Pair observed taking insects off the surface of algal mats and feeding nestlings in a tractor groove in a field of barley. Several Common Terns feeding near the sailing club. Yellowhammer, Reed Bunting and Sedge Warbler singing from scrub. Great Crested Grebes with a brood of four and a female Tufted Duck with a brood of 10. Spotted Flycatchers and Goldfinches fairly common.

Female Sparrowhawk.

Juvenile Coot on the road outside the village. Wood Pigeons numerous in the area. Yellowhammers on telegraph wires.

Greenfinch and Goldfinch singing. House Martins and Swallows hawking insects in the surrounding fields. House Sparrows with juveniles on the roof of the Abbey Inn. Pied Wagtail nesting in the wall of the abbey.

Linnets and Tree Pipits in the scrub around the chalk carving. Blackcap singing from hillside oaks. Kestrel overhead.



Day 16                                                                                                                              
Sunday 19 July 1998
York > Kilmarnock, Ayrshire, Scotland

Usual motorway birds including Buzzard and Kestrel.




All photographs ę F. S. Simpson

Fraser's Birding Website Ě


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