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Wildlife in and around the city of Bristol

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February

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Bristol and Avon Bird

Sightings

Camargue 2014

We had to leave early to get to Gatwick Airport to catch the Easyjet flight to Montpellier in Provance, South of France. After arrival at Montpellier we met up with the Naturetrek group. Minibuses loaded, we then headed to the hotel at Arles. On the way we had our first glimpse of Greater Flamingos, as well as  Glossy Ibis, Black-winged Stilts and a brief view of a Hoopoe. At the Hotel there were Nightingales singing everywhere. While Mum was unpacking I walked around the garden and saw a European Swallowtail Butterfly briefly nectoring on the flowers.


8th May 2014

The first full day in the Camargue began at Mas D' Agon which was a good place to see all sorts of birds. We stopped by a farm building where Stone Curlews have been seen. We did see one right at the back of the field and also Tree Sparrows. There was a frog on the road so I went down to see what that one was. It was a Marsh Frog which is brighter coloured than our Common Frog. We made sure it got safely off the road. We saw some Glossy Ibis in the field as well.
The reedbeds were full of the sounds of Common & Great Reed Warblers. There were lots of birds flying over the road including Purple Herons and Little Egrets and a good number of Whiskered Tern flying around. We saw a Marsh Harrier quartering over the reeds. Another Bird of Prey appeared but in the form of a Short - toed Eagle.  We also saw a Bittern, Black - crowned Night Heron & European Roller fly over the road. In a small reedy pond was another Marsh Frog. They seem common in the Mediterranean region. There were a few Black - winged Stilts and two Wood Sandpipers. We stopped by a fence and watched a few Purple Herons feeding in the water. Flying over the lake were some Black Terns and also White - winged Black Terns.

9th May 2014

We went for an early morning walk from the hotel. We saw a Nightingale and Cetti's Warbler briefly in the bush. 3 European Rollers [2 on the wire and another flew past].  Shame I didn’t take my camera! Melodius Warbler was singing and showed well in the bush and a Redstart perched on the fence.Then we made our way back to the hotel for breakfast.
After we headed to Etang De Vaccares, where we saw a Short - toed Eagle and a Black Kite at Gageron. There was also an unexpected appearance of a Pied Flycatcher. It landed on the ground briefly and flew to the tree. Nearby another Marsh Frog by  a pond. Further down the road was a good sighting of a Turtle Dove up in a tree. It's a pity that this now a declining species in much of Europe. On another tree was a Fan - tailed Warbler but it also known by another name of ‘Zitting Cisticola’. There was another Turtle Dove more distant and a White Stork on its nest. A Four Spotted Chaser was perched by the water. There were Common Terns & Cormorants on the lake. We went to La Capeliere next, where we saw Crested Lark, Tawny Pipit, Great White Egret, Black Kite, Fan - tailed Warbler  Corn Bunting and some more Bee-eaters which we spotted from the minibus.

10th May 2014

We had early start to head to La Crau before the sun creates too much heat haze. We stop along the way to watch up to a dozen Birds of prey soaring, most of which were Honey Buzzards. We saw a Short - toed Eagle perched in the tree on the way. At La Crau 2 Black Kites passed over head. In the Camargue, the Black Kites are commoner than Red  and during our time there we saw only two Red Kites. Suddenly a Short - toed Eagle passed over head quite low and soared round. It also did a bit of hovering. A flock of Sheep were being moved into the hills after the Winter grazing and we had been watching the Short - toed Eagle for so long that we missed the Pin - tailed Sandgrouse that flew over us after being flushed by the livestock.   An Adult Purple Heron flew over with the sun shinining on the purply grey wings. Another Black Kite flew over.  On the bridge we saw a Male Banded Demoiselle. On the other side we saw a Beautiful Demoiselle and the very special Copper Demoiselle. Both of these were also Males. We were going to have a walk across the area, but it seems that you needed a permit now, so there was a change of plan and we went to Marais de Vigueirat instead. On our way we saw another Turtle Dove by the side of the road until it was flushed by a speedy car.  

On the approach road to Marias De Vigueirat we saw quite a few European Bee - eaters on  fence and flying around with their distinctive call. One other thing you can't go to the Camargue without seeing is the majestic herd of Camargue Wild Horses. The Adults are pure white and the Foals are brown. At the reserve, we had an unexpected bonus of a White Pelican flying high above the area.  It was soon followed by a White Stork. We made our way along the boardwalk. At the very back of the pond was a Squacco Heron and a Cattle Egret was foraging nearby. There were also some Pond Terrapins. In the bushes behind was another Fan-tailed Warbler. A White Stork was bringing in some nesting material.

Camargue 7th to 11th May

Getting of the Plane

Hotel

Wall Lizard

Marsh Frog

Great Reed Warbler

Marsh Harrier

Whiskered Tern

Purple Heron [Adult]

Marsh Frog

Whiskered and Black Terns

White Stork

Our next stop was a reserve called Parc Ornithologique where we had lunch. A Black Kite flew over with prey in it's talons.  Nearby a White Stork was on a nest with at least 3 chicks.  

In the afternoon we explored the area and the first was the heronry. There were a few Little Egrets and Grey Herons nesting. The star bird was the stunning Breeding Plumage of  Cattle Egrets. Further up the path was a colony of Greater Flamingos. This is what the Camargue is famous for. The flock were feeding and preening in the water. In flight they have a pinky upper wing that gives it the name of the "Flying Sunset".

Black Kite with fish

Cattle Egret [Summer]

Cattle Egret [Summer]

Little Egret

Greater Flamingo [Adults]

Greater Flamingos

 A few Black - winged Stilts were present but commoner in other parts of the Camargue.  A Red - crested Pochard was resting in the water. There were also several Dragonflies and Damselflies such as Scarlet Darter. There were lots of Yellow - legged Gulls about and a few Avocets on the lake and were briefly joined by four Black - winged Stilts. In a scrubby bush was a Male Sardinian Warbler which unfortunately didn't hang about long. I heard a Hoopoe calling, but couldn’t see it. Nightingales were singing all around and I had a glimpse of one singing at the back of the bush. Butterflies we saw included Green - veined White and Wall Brown and a very orangey Speckled Wood.  Back in the hotel garden we caught up with a Scarce Swallowtail. That’s a new butterfly for me. The European Swallowtail was still about, but it wasn't cooperating and just kept flying around the roof of the hotel. The Wall Lizard was still foraging in our room and Dad managed to see it this time round. As it was a lovely evening we went  to Les Alpilles to look for the European Eagle Owl that nests in the crags.  We saw one bird flying out over the scrubland and then a couple of mintues later it flew back and perched silhouted agianst the dark sky. We heard Nightjar, lots of Nightingales & Sardinian Warbler. When we got back to the hotel later that night we found 2 Stripeless Tree Frogs climbing up the wall.

Greater Flamingo [Adult]

Black - winged Stilt [Female]

Scarlet Darter [Male]

Scarce Swallowtail

Cattle Egret [Summer]

Greater Flamingos

Not many waders about so we headed for Piemanson. We could see a ribbon of pink in the distance, these were hundreds of Flamingos. We continued on past the Salt workings where a dozen Slender - billed Gulls were gathered on the water.

Grey Heron, Cattle & Little Egrets

Black Kite

Turtle Dove

Pied Flycatcher [Male]

Fan - tailed Warbler [Zitting Cisitcola]

White Stork

White Stork

Tawny Pipit

Kentish Plover [Male]

Greater Flamingos and salt workings

We went down to the coast to see if there were any waders. We saw 2 Kentish Plovers on the shore. A Yellow - legged Gull walked along the shingle. There was a possible Spectacled Warbler that flew past but we couldn't relocate it.

A Common Sandpiper was on the mud flats.  More Avocets were feeding in the water sweeping their bill from side to side in search for small food items. A few Little Terns flying and perched on the mud.  A few Ringed Plovers were there, as well as a Kentish Plover.  A flock of Greater Falmingos flew around the beach. A stunning Breeding Plumage Curlew Sandpiper was a couple of yards from the roadside. This brick red pattern is also shared with the Red Knot but the bill is curved like a Curlew & Glossy Ibis. There were loads of Sandwich Terns on the island. A couple of Common Terns were also noted.  A Little Gull was walking on the water's surface to the left of the Tern Colony. Further along some Turnstone in Summer Plumage and a Little Stint were foraging along the beach. There was quite a good number of Sanderling and a few a Dunlin at the end of the road.

Slender - billed Gulls

Little Terns

Curlew Sandpiper [Summer]

Avocet

Sanderling

Black Kites

Short - toed Eagle

 Flock of Sheep on road at La Crau  

Banded  Demoiselle

Purple Heron

Banded & Copper Demoiselles

European Bee - eaters

Camargue Wild Horses

White Pelican

Italian Wall Lizard?

Common Wall Lizard

Moroccan Orange Tip [Male]

Megarian Banded Centiepede

Painted Lady

Beautiful Demosielle [Female]

Marsh Frog

White Stork

In the tree by the water's edge was a Viperine Snake, which is a water snake. This snake had round pupils, unlike our Adders which have slit-like pupils. (A bit like the eye of Sauron from Lord of the Rings).  We saw more Speckled Woods and another Four Spotter Chaser was perched within the reeds. A couple of Lizards were on the boardwalk as we were walking back. I looked them up in my Reptiles of Europe book. The first had a bit of green on it's body and rings on the tail so I think it was an Italian Wall Lizard, which has small population in Southern France but commoner in Italy and Scilliy.  The 2nd Lizard  was browner and a plain tail which is typical form of a Common Wall Lizard, is normally found on the Altantic coast of France. Back at the picnic site, a Fox was sitting in the sunshine and got up walked into the vegetation. On leaving we saw some Bee - eaters sat on the ground, but unfortunately I had the camera set on the wrong exposure in my haste. There were still some birds perched on the fences and I managed to get some pics at least, but not so good. There were also a few Cattle Egrets in the field with the Black Bulls, hence the name.  

Viperine Snake

Four Spotted Chaser

Mediterranean Speckled Wood

We headed to Les Alpilles to look for Crested Tit and Cirl Bunting. We first saw Provençal Chalk - hill Blue which is not very different to our Chalk - hill Blue except a different flight period. In the grass we saw a Praying Mantis Empusa Pennata which is the strangest creature I’v seen. There was a Moroccan Orange Tip briefly on a yellow flower before flying off and a yellow Cleopatra butterfly. We were studying the Praying Mantis so long we missed the Subalpine Warbler. We only heard the call. Ah well! Just have to come back again one day.  On the way back to the car park a Megarian Banded Centipede crossed the path in front of us. It must have been about 6 inches long! We heard a Cirl Bunting singing in the woods but didn't see it. We did manage to see a Crested Tit after hearing its call but it was very active and it didn't hang around. On the last evening, Dad and I went for a walk down the track from the hotel. We saw a Painted Lady resting on the path. It was nice to see one on this side of the Channel. Let's hope it makes it to Britian. At the end of the lane there was a bridge over a stream where a Beautiful & Copper Demoiselle were resting on the reeds. In contrast to the La Crau pair, these two were Females. There were also a few Marsh Frogs in the area. And finally something a little strange, a Fish jumped out of the water and on to the Lily Pad. It finally jumped back in. Odd!


Fox

Provençal Chalk-hill Blue

Praying Mantis (Empusa Pennata)

Cattle Egret on a Horse

Squacco Heron & Glossy Ibis

Red - back Shrike [Male]

11th May 2014

On the last morning we went to Arles to drop some people off to look around the town.  We continued on to Mas D'Agon for a last bit of bird watching. We stopped the minibuses when we saw a snake in the road. It was a Montpellier Snake, but it had got ran over unfortunately. We stopped by the Stone Curlew field where we saw 2 Great Spotted Cuckoos flying over, shortly followed by a normal Cuckoo. In a another field three Glossy Ibis were joined by four Sqaucco Herons along the fence line. We to the viewing tower where a Cattle Egret was riding on the back of a Camargue Wild Horse. Also a Black - winged Stilt was wading in the pools behind. We started on our way back to Arles, but stopped at Mas D'Agon for one last time. Mum spotted a stunning Male Red - backed Shrike flitting along the fence line and on the post. I had a walk along the reed bed and found a Male Bearded Tit that had been killed by a car. Such a shame!  We then headed back to Arles to pick the rest of our group from the town. After a picnic lunch back at the hotel we loaded up the minibuses and started to make our way to Montpellier Airport. On our way having last glimpses of Flamingos and Stilts. Mum saw a Black Redstart while we were stopped at some lights. We then caught 17:20 Easyjet flight back to Gatwick. After a trouble-free flight, we got back to Britain and made our way through customs and back to the car. What a great few days it had been. I can’t wait for the next visit!



The English coast and Dungeness

Montpellier Snake

Kentish Plover [Male]

Mum had found a Lizard in our hotel room. It was a Wall Lizard which eats all the flies.

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Grey Heron [Adult]

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 In total I saw 107 birds (including 21 lifers) plus some new butterflies, and of course insects, mammals and reptiles.

Many thanks to the Naturetrek leaders Ian Nicholson and Dave Smith.

Distant Night Heron