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Friday, November 15, 2013

Bomb through France, Le Teiche, Cap Ferret and the Navarre Pyrenees ... stunningly beautiful Autumn colurs and Cranes a plenty!

Ok so here's the first of several updates during my road trip to Spain.

Thought my first bird on the trip was bound to be some kind of gull at Le Havre but no .... 6.00 am and by the lights of the ferry I spotted a flock of about 15 Meadow Pipits gainfully following the boat in the wind and the rain ... they looked buoyant enough so good look to em, and good luck to me too as I point Southwards for a spell!

Feels great to be on the road again and with 5 weeks of travelling, birding and photography to come. I expect these 'bulletins' from Spain to be brief due to limited internet access way am I gonna get stung with using my iphone!

So, Le Havre and the usual beat down through France - nothing much to report apart from biggish flocks of Lapwing. I drove on all day, determined to get somewhere half decent and arrived in the Gironde area by 9.00pm. Next day I explored Cap Ferret and the Le Teiche reserve and had a good day. Plenty of waders about, including c450 Black Tailed Godwits, c330 Avocet, 12 Spotted Redshank, 6 Greenshank, 3 Spoonbill & 3 Glossy Ibis, plus good numbers of Dunlin, Sanderling, Ringed Plover, Turnstone, Grey Plover and Curlew.

Unexpected birds here included a single Audouins and Little Gull and a Great Skua harrying gulls across the sand dunes at Cap Ferret.

Good selection of wildfowl at Le Teiche too ...including Pintail (unexpected), Wigeon and 1 Black Necked Grebe.

Pintail, Le Teiche
Black Necked Grebe, Le Teiche

Black Tailed Godwits, Le Teiche

I should have expected Common Cranes of course but wasn't ready for maybe 2000 overhead in the day!
Common Cranes over Le Teiche.

Wee birds in short supply but 1 Chiff Chaff at Cap Ferret and several others at Le Teiche were welcome, as were 5 Marsh Harriers at the same place.

Drove all evening on the 13th, across the border and into Spain, arriving somewhere in the Navarre Pyrenees by 10.00pm .... knackered by then!

Spent all next day (14th) exploring the Navarre Pyrenees around the Selva d'Irati area. Not the best of weather or light to be honest but I made the best of it and witnessed some super Common Crane migration ... maybe 3000 overhead during the day. Good to hear their evocative calls in the air again, often above the clouds and more often than not accompanied by equally humungus flocks of Wood Pigeons.

Stunningly beautiful part of the Pyrenees this and with the abundance of Beech trees around here the Autumn colours are absolutely gorgeous!

One less attractive aspect is the sound of many guns going off in the woods and the presence of more khaki clad huntsman than I'm comfortable with! At one point, as I was driving up a forested mountain slope, every time I stopped to admire the scenery and marvel at the almost continuous Common Crane passage, I was descended upon by the same group of gun touting, cigar smokin 'Elma Fuds' in their beat up vans! .... its to be hoped they were after the many thousands of Wood Pigeons that also pass through here every Oct / Nov but they did seem to have eyes for the Cranes and Red Kites too!

Griffon Vulture, Navarre
Raptors in the air were indeed mainly Red Kites with maybe 50 seen in total, also a few Griffon Vultures (20 ish) but no sign of no 1 target bird Lammergeir today!

I've seen many groups of dark thrushes flying over too but can't identify in the poor light .... ? Blackbirds ? Mistle Thrushes ? Ring Ouzel? ... a mystery but as ever, its always fun when there's stuff about you can't identify!

Star birds for me today were a small flock of Crested Tits in amongst Coal, Great & Blue's Tits and my first Crag Martins for ages just across the border early this morning. Stacks of Robins about and lots of Black Redstarts too, in fact there are plenty of birds about and I've already got past 80 species for the trip!

Another post soon .... it snowed the day after the above post so got some mega snow shots!


  1. Hi there Tim, I discovered your blog by chance and have read your 2015 trip to Spain and now settling down to read this one. I've been to some of the places you mention but always pleased to learn about more.... in the hope of getting back down here one day. I live in Brittany.

    We've passed Arachaon several times and I knew there was a reserve there but not yet found the time to visit! We spent 8 days in Espelette in the French Basque country in early October some years back and the hunting up in the mountain passes was dreadful. We spent some time with the LPO who were doing migration surveys in the same place as these ghastly hunters who have their horrible little shooting hides. Apparently they are indiscriminate about what they shoot and it's not like they are shooting a few pigeons for dinner. Some idiot shot a blackbird in the car park whilst we were there. Thankfully we were there on a weekday as on Saturday the guns could be heard down in Espelette and it was unrelenting and heartbreaking. The LPO said the hunters were mainly townies. Anyway just wanted to say hello and I will comment on your recent trip eventually as I have the ID of a plant you were asking about!

    Loving your blog and photography. Hubby and I are avid bird watchers but have only started photographing them in recent years so not up to your standard (don't have a big lens - just a superzoom bridge for birds) - my passion is more macro and bugs, particularly butterflies and odonata. Best wishes, Mandy.

    1. Arcachon! Knew I didn't spell it right.... :-)