Birding/camping trip France 25 May - 10 June 2006
John van der Woude, Holland, www.jvanderw.nl
 
This was a combined trip for general 'nature leisure' and real birding, plus having a great time at wonderful and yet nearly empty campsites, all in sunny weather. We did a sort of Tour de France, going to the Doubs valley near Dijon first, then down to the Ardèche region, from where we traversed to the West and had a succesful try-out of the area north of the central Pyrenees, then spent some days at the Dordogne region, and had a stopover at the Sologne south of Orléans on our way back to Holland. After the Ardèche we wanted to visit the Camargue/Crau/Alpilles region, but the mistral (the feared very strong wind from the North) made us decide to try that unknown area north of the Pyrenees instead.
We are keeping a 'tent list', i.e. all bird species seen or heard from near our tent (near = us being positioned within about 20 m from the tent). This made us search for birdy campsites in all the regions mentioned above. We added great species to the tent list, like Montagu's Harrier and Bee-eater at the Doubs river, Lesser Spotted Woodpecker and Alpine Swift at the Ardèche river, Booted Eagle and Bonelli's Warbler north of the Pyrenees, Melodious Warbler in the Dordogne, and Kingfisher in the Sologne. After this trip, the tent list stood at 114 species.
The campsites were: 
1. Les Bords du Doubs, along the Doubs river at Petit-Noir (SE of Dijon).
2. Les Peupliers, along the Ardèche river at Vogüé (S of Aubenas).
3. Pré Fixe, at Cassagnabère, N of St. Gaudens, N of the central Pyrenees.
4. La Chataigneraie, at Alvignac, E of Rocamadour in the Dordogne.
5. Municipal de la Varenne, at Neung-sur-Beuvron in the Sologne (S of Orléans).
In terms of overall quality nr. 3 was the best one of these (and very good!) and nr. 4 the least one. For birding around the tent, all were good (nr. 4 the least).


Old branch of the Doubs river near Petit-Noir. Great Reed Warbler, Marsh Harrier.


Doubs river at Fretterans. Stone Curlew at the gravel bar.


Floodplain of the Doubs river near Petit-Noir (dike is left). Many flowers, Curlew.

 
Mediterranean vegetation near Lanas, Ardèche. Subalpine Warbler, Woodchat Shrike.

 
Tanargue hills between Ardèche and Massif Central (E of Aubenas). Crossbill, Coal Tit.

 
Ardèche river N of Vogüé (S of Aubenas). Crag Martin, Little Ringed Plover.

 
Beaver damage along Ardèche river. Next to this was a tree lying flat already.

 
Lovely scenery with very quiet roads at Cassagnabère, N of central Pyrenees.
Black Kite, Red Kite, Corn Bunting, Hoopoe.

 
Néouvielle nature reserve in central Pyrenees (S of Tarbes), about one hour drive from Cassagnabère. Water Pipit, Ring Ouzel, Citril Finch.

 
View on Pyrenees from Cassagnabère. Black Kite always in the air.

 
Causse de Gramat S of Dordogne river. Less birds than expected.

 
Dordogne river seen from Beynac castle (famous from Chrichton's thriller Timeline; the rival castle Castelnaud is just visible in the distance, above the river).

 
Marshy lake near Neung-sur-Beuvron in the Sologne (S of Orléans). 
Whiskered Tern visible on photo.

 
Species list
D = Doubs area; V = Ardèche (= from Vogüé); C = Cassagnabère plus nearby Pyrenees.
For Dordogne and Sologne no list was kept.
X = common everywhere.

D         Little Grebe
D         Great Crested Grebe
D         Cormorant
DV      Night Heron
D         Little Egret
D         Great White Egret
D         Grey Heron
D         Purple Heron
D         Mute Swan
D         Mallard
V         Honey-buzzard
DVC    Black Kite
C         Red Kite
C         Griffon Vulture
D         Marsh Harrier
DV      Montagu's Harrier
DVC    Buzzard
C         Booted Eagle
DVC    Kestrel
DVC    Hobby
V         Red-legged Partridge
D         Quail
D         Pheasant
D         Moorhen
D         Coot
D         Stone Curlew
DV      Little Ringed Plover
D         Curlew
D         Common Sandpiper
D         Black-headed Gull
DV      Mediterrean Yellow-legged Gull
D         Common Tern
           Whiskered Tern: Sologne
           Black Tern: Sologne
V         Stock dove
DVC    Wood Pigeon
DVC    Collared Dove
DVC    Turtle Dove
DVC    Cuckoo
V         Scops Owl
D         Long-eared Owl
DVC    Swift
V         Alpine Swift
DV      Kingfisher
DVC    Bee-eater
VC      Hoopoe
DVC    Green Woodpecker
DVC    Great Spotted Woodpecker
V         Lesser Spotted Woodpecker
DVC    Wood Lark
DVC    Sky Lark
D         Sand Martin
VC      Crag Martin
DVC    Barn Swallow
DVC    House Martin
C         Water Pipit
D         Yellow Wagtail
VC      Grey Wagtail
DVC    White Wagtail
X         Wren
X         Dunnock
X         Robin
DVC    Nightingale
D         Bluethroat
DVC    Black Redstart
D         Whinchat
DVC    Stonechat
C         Wheatear
C         Ring Ouzel
X         Blackbird
D         Song Thrush
C         Mistle Thrush
D         Reed Warbler
D         Great Reed Warbler
DV      Melodious Warbler
V         Dartford Warbler
V         Subalpine Warbler
V         Sardinian Warbler
D         Lesser Whitethroat
DVC    Whitethroat
D         Garden Warbler
X         Blackcap
C         Bonelli's Warbler
VC      Chiffchaff
VC      Goldcrest
C         Firecrest
V         Spotted Flycatcher
VC      Long-tailed Tit
C         Marsh Tit
VC      Crested Tit
VC      Coal Tit
X         Blue Tit
X         Great Tit
C         Nuthatch
DVC    Short-toed Treecreeper
DVC    Golden Oriole
DVC    Red-backed Shrike
DV      Woodchat Shrike
X         Jay
X         Magpie
C         Red-billed Chough
V         Jackdaw
D         Rook
X         Carrion Crow
DV      Starling
X         House Sparrow
X         Chaffinch
DVC    Serin
C         Citril Finch
DVC    Greenfinch
DVC    Goldfinch
DV      Linnet
C         Crossbill
V         Bullfinch
DVC    Yellowhammer
VC      Cirl Bunting
D         Reed Bunting
DVC    Corn Bunting