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Yann Kolbeinsson

In April 2000, I travelled to Southern France, an area I visit annually. I was joined by three other Icelandic birders, Gaukur Hjartarson, Gunnar Thór Hallgrímsson and Gunnlaugur Thráinsson.


20th April: We arrived the previous evening in Cannes and used the 20th to check out all the small wetlands that are found in the Alpes-Maritimes county (between Cannes and Monaco). These were Etang de Fontmerle/Mougins, Vaugrenier and the Var estuary west of Nice Airport. At the Var estuary we were lucky enough to track down three Glossy Ibis as well as three 'late returning' Common Eider. We also visited the cliffs at La Tête de Chien/La Turbie and Col d'Eze which give a good view over the Riviera and Monaco/Monte Carlo and are good migration watch points. Alpine Swift, a single Pallid Swift and two Red-rumped Swallows passed over, as did a Hooded Crow! The day list score was 81 species.

21st April: we travelled up into the mountains inland of Cannes (the southernmost part of the French Alps). Areas visited were Caussols (with up to four singing Wrynecks) , Calerne (up to three Rufous-tailed Rock Thrushes and a pair of Red-billed Chough), Gourdon (where a Golden Eagle was observed), Cavillore, Plan-du-Peyron (four Rock Sparrows) and Col de Vence (with a male Blue Rock Thrush). At the latter site we also photographed a pair of Black-eared Wheatear. We ended the day at the Var estuary with a nice flock of fourteen Kentish Plover. The day list score improved to 100 species.

22nd April: as the weather was good we decided to go up in the Alps at two places, Le Boréon (>1800metres) and La Madone de Fenêstres (1900metres). This took all day. The day list score was a poorer 49 species but included Alpine Chough, Rock Bunting and Crested Tit.

23rd April: we drove west towards the Camargue, visiting the steppe at La Crau where we made an attempt for the Bonelli's Eagle in the Alpilles mountains but due to heavy rain we had to turn back. We did however see two female Little Bustards, ten Stone Curlew and both Calandra and Greater Short-toed Larks before travelling on to find a place to stay in the western part of the Camargue, at Montcalm. The day list score was 68 species.

The Camargue

24th April: from Montcalm we went through Les Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer to the ornithological reserve at Pont-de-Gau where we observed two drake Garganey, up to 39 Slender-billed Gulls and a Marsh Warbler amongst all the other goodies. We then drove north and south-east around the lake Vaccarés with stops at Marais du Mas de Julian, where we found our only Red-footed Falcon of the trip, Mas d'Agon and La Capelière (where there are observatories). We stayed overnight at Salin-de-Giraud. The day list score improved to 88 species.

25th April: Camargue; We started early at La Capelière, finding our only Moustached Warbler of the trip, before going to Beauduc on the shoreline where we looked for migrant passerines and chanced upon a summer plumaged Black-throated Diver and a single Black-necked Grebe. After that we were fortunate enough to get access to the Salins de Giraud (only people with access cards can go into that area of the Camargue, not to be confused with the town Salin-de-Giraud!) where we went to two lighthouses (Phare de Faraman & Phare de Beauduc). We also checked out Grau de la Dent on the shoreline. In the evening we went towards the Plage de Piémanson (south of Salin-de-Giraud). The day list score was 96 species including 2 Caspian Terns.

26th April: our last day in the Camargue. We started at the ponds near Plage de Piémanson before going slowly north and visiting Etang de Grenouillet, Phare de la Gacholle, for our only Spectacled Warbler of the trip, La Capelière and Mas d'Agon. At Mas d'Agon we watched four Squacco Heron together and our only White-winged Black Tern of the trip, whilst at Etang de Grenouillet we counted 7 Great White Egrets. After these stops we went again into the steppe at La Crau (where this time we saw Lesser Kestrel, Egyptian Vulture, Montagu's Harrier as well as 9 Little Bustards). The day list score was 94 species.

See more photos, including some stunning in-hand shots of Subalpine Warbler and Collared Flycather from Yann's trip on The Next Page of this article

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