We spend all six nights at a converted rural farmhouse hotel set in countryside a few miles outside Arles. The hotel has a reputation for serving delicious Provençale food using locally sourced ingredient and its location is perfect for easy access to all the best birdwatching spots, including our favourite cliffs for Eagle Owl.
Situated at the heart of the immense Rhône delta, the Camargue is one of Western Europe’s largest and most important wetland sites. In addition to its beautiful flamingos, Provence boasts an impressive list of birds in winter, including a number that can be difficult to see elsewhere in Europe. Glossy Ibis, Great Egret, Little Bustard, Pin-tailed Sandgrouse, Slender-billed Gull, Eagle Owl, Alpine Accentor, Penduline Tit and Citril Finch are all possible on our visit. This is also an excellent trip for anyone wishing to see Wallcreeper, which has a penchant in winter for the limestone hills that lie inland from the coast.
Though rightly famous for its spectacular colony of Greater Flamingos in summer, the fact that this wonderful corner of France has been ignored by birdwatchers during the winter months is surprising. For not only do large numbers of flamingos remain but the marshes are an important refuge for a host of wintering birds. When the nearby stony flats of La Crau, picturesque limestone hills of Les Alpilles and the alpine habitats of Mont Ventoux are added too, the birdlife of this quiet corner of France assumes even greater appeal.
Common Cranes winter in the cereal fields of the Camargue offering us a good opportunity to see these majestic birds. We will also check one or two favoured spots for the elusive Western Swamphen and keep watch for the first spring migrants such as Garganey, Black Kite and White Stork; indeed, by early March, some of the latter may already be back at their nests. The Iberian form of Southern Grey Shrike is resident and on one day, we will head North to explore Mont Ventoux (1912m), where upland forests of beech and pine offer chances of Black Woodpecker, Firecrest, Common Crossbill and Citril Finch.
Our March 2022 departure will be guide David Fairhurst’s twelfth visit to the Camargue and Provence in winter.
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