Friday 11th - Monday 14th May 2018SPRING DELIGHTS OF THE CAMARGUE, FRANCE
The Camargue is famous as one of the best birding areas in Western Europe and home to a diverse range of birds including 15,000 pairs of Greater Flamingo, Gull-billed, Whiskered and Caspian Terns, Slender-billed Gulls, Western Swamphen, Black-crowned Night Heron, Little Bittern, European Roller, Pin-tailed Sandgrouse, Short-toed Snake Eagle and many more.
Tour Leader: Steve Grimwade
Maximum Group Size: 8
We take a lunchtime flight from London Gatwick to Montpellier on the Mediterranean coast, our flight taking us over lagoons close to the airport where it is likely that we will add Greater Flamingo to our lists before getting off the plane!
With a short drive to our first birding stop in the Petit Camargue we have the chance to see exciting species such as Western Swamphen, Squacco Heron, Glossy Ibis, Eurasian Spoonbill, Little Bittern, Great Reed Warbler, Common Nightingale and Purple Heron.
Dragonflies abound and we expect to see Southern Emerald, Scarlet Darter, Norfolk Hawker, Lesser Emperor and Scarce Blue-tailed Damselflies.
We will arrive at our comfortable hotel in the early evening, which has a pool and is ideally suited to explore the many birding spots of the Camargue, Le Crau and Les Alpilles.
Overnight: Near Arles
After a good breakfast we explore the marshes of the Eastern Camargue. European Turtle Dove purr from the power lines and Black Kite and Short-toed Snake Eagle hunt the dry fields looking for reptiles and amphibians.
Roller can be found in the area and European Bee-eater nest in the sandy riverbanks offering good views, whilst the song of Common Nightingale reverberate around.
Moving on to the many saltpans close to the town of Salin de Giraud we will spend time looking for the exquisite Slender-billed Gull and the huge Caspian Tern. Kentish Plover nest on the beaches and Little Stint, Curlew Sandpiper and the occasional Red-necked Phalarope pass through the area on their way to their northerly breeding grounds.
One of the highlights of this tour is the massive number of Greater Flamingo which breed on a large lake. The colony can number up to 15,000 pairs - a real spectacle!
Although numbers have declined in recent years we hope to see the elegant Collared Pratincole as they hawk for insects over the fields.
Overnight: Near Arles
Today we head to Le Crau, a stony plain situated to the east of the Camargue. This unique habitat is home to Little Bustard and Pin-tailed Sandgrouse, both of which are quite rare. For the latter species it is the only place in France it occurs. Iberian Grey Shrike, European Roller, European Honey Buzzard, Black Kite, Montagu's Harrier, Lesser Kestrel and migrant Red-footed Falcon occur here and Tawny Pipit, Greater Short-toed Lark and Eurasian Stone-curlew breed.
A small stream running through the area has the accolade of holding the record for the most species of dragonfly and damselfly at one site. Around 50 species have been recorded which include Copper Demoiselle and White-tailed Skimmer amongst others.
After lunch we will head up into the cooler hills of Les Alpilles, a range of limestone mountains that are home to Bonelli's Eagle, Blue Rock Thrush, Eagle Owl, Cirl Bunting, Crested Tit, Alpine Swift and Crag Martin whilst on the scrub-covered slopes, Sardinian, Dartford and Subalpine Warblers may be seen.
Les Alpilles are excellent for orchids and butterflies and offer fantastic photographic opportunities!
Overnight: Near Arles
We say goodbye to our hosts and head back into the Camargue to a small wetland reserve. Here we look for Booted Eagle and Eurasian Hobby plus the numerous Western Marsh Harrier and Common Buzzard. Lesser Spotted Woodpeckers nest in the riverside willows and we have found Eurasian Wryneck during past tours to this area. Coypu are common in the channels and dykes and European Tree Frogs call from dense vegetation.
We return to Montpellier late afternoon for our flight back to the UK.
Flights from London Gatwick to Montpellier
Full board accommodation for 3 nights
All ground transport in France
Full guiding services
Drinks and items of a personal nature
Lunch on day one
Relaxed, one to two miles walking per day
Expect between 120 and 140 species
Ground Price: £700
*Air Price: £150
Total Tour Price: £850
Single Supplement: £90
*Please see our tours page regarding flight costs