The beautiful region of Provence in the south of France is a superb destination for a mid-winter birdwatching holiday. Wintering Wallcreepers, Alpine Accentors, Eagle Owls and Citril Finches in Les Alpillles, raptors and wildfowl in their thousands in The Camargue and Little Bustards and Pin-tailed Sandgrouse on the Crau Plain. 2018 will be our 17th consecutive trip to the region. A superb short-winter break, just a couple of hours from home and we know it better than any other UK operator!



Wallcreeper

Alpine Accentor

Penduline Tit

Eagle Owl

Citril Finch

Black Woodpecker

Wallcreeper

Click here to see a slide show of images taken on recent trips to southern France.

Please read our trip reports from February 2011, February 2012, February 2013, February 2014, February 2015, February 2016 and February 2017.

Day 1 Friday 16 February 2018

We take a scheduled flight from London Gatwick to Marseille. It is a 60-minute drive to our hotel set in the foothills of the beautiful Les Alpilles region and we stay here for six nights.

Day 2 Saturday 17 February 2018

With its crimson wings and subtle dove-grey back the Wallcreeper has to be one of Europe’s most handsome and sought after birds. Breeding in remote rocky canyons in the mountains from the Spanish Picos de Europa to the European Alps, this high-altitude denizen can be extremely elusive on its summer quarters. However, during the non-breeding season Wallcreepers move to more birder-friendly lower elevations and the beautiful citadel of Les Baux de Provence is one such place. The limestone cliffs on which the citadel and extensive Roman ruins sit are home to several Wallcreepers between November and April and we’ll spend first day searching for the ‘Hoopoe of the rock-face’. Les Baux is also the winter home of another high altitude species – Alpine Accentor. Small parties of these gregarious ‘giant Dunnocks’ frequent the cobbled streets in and around the town and they are often extremely confiding once found. Other species likely to be encountered here are Blue Rock Thrush, Black Redstart, Crag Martin, Sardinian Warbler, Crested Tit, Serin, Firecrest and Cirl Bunting. At dusk we will check one of several sites for the mighty Eagle Owl, which is usually very vocal at this time of year in order to establish its territory.

Day 3 Sunday 18 February 2018

We spend the full day exploring the wetlands of the Camargue. Thousands of waterfowl spend the winter here and among the masses of Shelduck, Teal, Gadwall, Shoveler, Pintail, Pochard and Tufted Duck we’ll look for smaller numbers of Black-necked Grebes, Red-crested Pochard and Scaup. It goes without saying that such large numbers of waterfowl attract predators and every year a few eagles come to winter in the region. Very small numbers of Spotted Eagles can usually be found, as can White-tailed Eagles. Marsh and Hen Harriers, Merlin and Peregrine are also present in good numbers. The reed beds are home to small numbers of delightful Penduline Tits, Bearded Tits and noisy Cetti’s Warbler and with patience, we should also see Moustached Warbler and Bittern. The industrial saltpans hold large numbers of one of the more famous Camargue denizens - Greater Flamingo. Amongst the gulls we’ll try and find one or two Slender-billed and Mediterranean Gulls and small flocks of waders such as Avocet, Dunlin, Grey Plover and Little Stint will all be present. Other marsh birds we’ll be seeking out include Little Egret, Night Heron and maybe one or two White and Black Storks.

Day 4 Monday 19 February 2018

We spend the morning in the unique habitat of La Crau. The region is actually an ancient delta of the Durance River and now shelters a community of steppe birds that are pretty much unique in France. As this is the only site in France where Pin-tailed Sandgrouse occur, this will be our main target bird but other specialities of the region include Little Bustards and Stone Curlews. The former will still be in flocks prior to pairing up for the breeding season and flock sizes in excess of five hundred birds are not unknown! Southern Grey Shrikes, Dartford Warblers and Stonechats will occupy the sparse bushes and the surrounding scrub is attractive to wintering finches and buntings, especially Cirl and Rock Buntings. With a little luck we may also encounter small numbers of wintering Calandra Larks. In the afternoon we head to the more cultivated areas of the eastern Camargue. Here we should find large numbers of Red Kites and smaller numbers of Egyptian Vultures. The lowland fields here have recently found notoriety for hosting small numbers of Richard’s Pipit – a Siberian breeder that is normally a passage migrant in autumn to Western Europe. Once again at dusk, we’ll visit another site for Eagle Owl.

Day 5 Tuesday 20 February 2018

Today we head north to explore the Mont Ventoux region. At 1900 metres above sea-level, the mountain sits between the Alpine massif to the north and the Mediterranean massifs to the south. During the time of our visit the mountain is likely to be snow-capped with concentrations of birds occurring around the Chalet Reynard area. Here we’ll be on the lookout for piebald Snow Finches, which may have moved to lower elevations from their true alpine breeding grounds, plus a delightful European endemic – Citril Finch. The Beech, Juniper and Scots Pine forests are home to hundreds of wintering Chaffinches, Bramblings and Greenfinches plus smaller numbers of Great Spotted Woodpeckers, Common Crossbills, both Marsh and Crested Tits, Firecrests, Nuthatches and Short-toed Treecreepers. Overhead we may encounter Golden Eagles and stealthy Goshawks and we’ll search the forest fringes for the enormous Black Woodpecker. Lower down, the extensive network of vineyards should reward us with Woodlark and Cirl Buntings.

Day 6 Wednesday 21 February 2018

This morning we’ll head back to Les Baux for some more views of the Wallcreepers and Alpine Accentors before heading to La Caume. The viewpoint at La Caume is an excellent site for the rare Bonelli’s Eagles and we may also see Booted Eagle and Egyptian Vulture here. The gentle walk to the viewpoint should also reward us with Crag Martin, Dartford and Sardinian Warblers, Short-toed Treecreeper, Firecrest, Crested Tit and maybe even Citril Finch. Wallcreepers have also been seen here in recent years. In the afternoon we’ll visit a site near Eyguieres to witness pre-roost flights of Little Bustards and if we have time, we’ll search for even more Eagle Owls!

Day 7 Thursday 22 February 2018

After some early morning birding around the hotel we drive back to Marseille to catch our flight back to London Gatwick.

 

Holiday Information 2018 Operating Dates

Fri 16th Feb

-

Thur 22nd Feb

 

COST

£1495

 

Single Supplement

£135

 

DEPOSIT

£300

Group Size - maximum 14 travellers with two guides


Need more Information?

No problem! We'd be delighted to discuss this holiday with you. Please call us on 01950 460939 or drop us an e mail.

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