Monday, 30 September 2013

Nice Day But Migration Almost Absent

Lovely morning so I took a walk.  Apart from a few Swallows and House Martins no migrants at all.  I did find a Fan-tailed Warbler/Zitting Cisticola which is quite an uncommon sight up here.  Resident Woodlarks and Black Redstarts were singing and Sardinian Warblers rattling away in scrub bushes.

Preying Mantis

Insects were still about and I found a particularly large Preying Mantis.

Sunday, 29 September 2013

A Bit Of Local Culture But Few Birds

Church at Boisset

There were quite a few House Martins going over today and a lone Sparrowhawk but little else.  We decided to go to Boisset which is a favourite birding place especially for Golden Eagles but today we would attend their annual fete by the beautiful little church.

Medieval weapons
There were demonstrations of medieval weapons and music all delivered in full costumes.  Add to this lots of nice food and drink but still no birds.

Medieval music
Sitting on our terrace in the dusk a buzzard size bird flew towards the pinewoods.  By the time I got my binoculars it had disappeared. I  would hazard a guess that might have been an Eagle Owl.

Friday, 27 September 2013

Signs of Autumn

A dull but warm day. Plenty of Blackcaps, Black Redstarts and Pied Flycatchers still around the garden.  Also today Chiffchaffs, 3 Cirl Buntings, c50 Starlings, Common Buzzard and Sparrowhawk.


We do not often see Jays up here is summer but now they are obvious every day flying from woodland to woodland.  They are probably looking for acorns and are a certain sign of autumn.

Wednesday, 25 September 2013

A Calm and Humid Day

Short-toed Eagle

We awoke to a cloudy sky but quite humid.  Later the sun came through and it was very hot.  Noticeably more passserine migrants with lots of Blackcaps, Black Redstarts and Pied Flycatchers around the garden.  I also added Willow Warbler and Chiffchaff as well as 2 Garden Warblers, Wheatear and Subalpine Warbler.

Spotted Fritillary

Too a walk around the hill but only added a couple of Short-toed Eagles and 3 Ravens.  Butterflies were good with  few Chalkhill Blues, Brown Argus and a few superb Spotted Fritillaries.

Tuesday, 24 September 2013


Autumn Crocus or Meadow Saffron

We went to Olonzac Market first thing and on our return were just in time to see a Black Woodpecker fly low across our garden and then east towards the only trees of any size.  This an extraordinary record as the nearest breeding population is thought to be some distance from our community.

Golden Eagle

Plenty of migrants near the garden but much the same as previous days.  I took a drive out north of Minerve and stopped to admire the show of Autumn Crocus or Meadow Saffron at Boisset.  I took a drive up a stony track high in the hills and was rewarded with a splendid Golden Eagle and a Griffon Vulture.

Monday, 23 September 2013

Perfect Weather and Mobile Again

A day.  Not a cloud in the sky or a breath of wind and 26 degrees.  I took a walk around our hill and did not find much new.  I located a Stonechat, Whinchat, Willow Warbler and several Blackcaps and Black Redstarts.  Near pine woods I found 3 Cirl Buntings and heard a Crested Tit too.  Butterflies were very noticeable with Grizzled Skippers and Adonis Blues showing well.  I also found one Two-tailed Pasha and a couple of Clouded Yellows.

Grizzled Skipper

This afternoon we had to be taken to Gruissan to pick up our Land Rover - only six days to have a new fan belt fitted.  Just at the end of our road a Honey Buzzard was sitting on a telephone pole. After getting the vehicle we took a quick look at Le Petit Tournabelle where there were 3 Glossy Ibis, 7 Cattle Egrets, 6 Black-winged Stilts and a Sparrowhawk with prey.  Heading for Narbonne 3 White Storks flew south.  Returning home we stopped to look at a Southern Grey Shrike sitting on a dead tree.

Sunday, 22 September 2013

A Trickle of Migrants

First thing I checked out the garden and apart from the usual 3 or 4 Black Redstarts found a juvenile Subalpine Warbler and 3 Red-rumped Swallows overhead.  We spent most of the day at a Vide de Grenier (Car Boot Sale) so apart from a flock of 50 Barn Swallows saw little.

Spotted Flycatcher

This evening there were 2 Spotted Flycatchers in the garden and 60 Bee-eaters flew south.

Saturday, 21 September 2013

Cricket nailed

Saddle-backed Bush Cricket

Thanks to my good friend Barry Stewart back in Wales I now know that my mystery cricket is a Saddle-backed or Rough-backed Bush Cricket Uromenus rugosicollis.

The Wind Drops and Birds Appear

Stepping outside first thing it was obvious the wind was lighter and I could immediately see the effects with lots of passerines in the garden.  Suddenly a slightly larger bird flew up to a bare branch and there was a splendid Wryneck sitting preening.  As soon as I got my camera off it went.  There were plenty of Blackcaps and a couple of Pied Flycatchers and a Common Redstart. A Raven flew over calling.


Just before lunch friends Paul and Jan Williams arrived and Paul and I went for a walk.  This proved to be productive with a total of 12 Woodlarks, 5 flava Wagtails, Stonechat, 2 Whitethroats and 2 Whinchats.  By late afternoon we had added 3 Black Redstarts, 50 Rock Sparrows, 2 Short-toed Eagles and 3 Honey Buzzards.  Tomorrow's forecast is much better so maybe more to come.

Friday, 20 September 2013

Another Windy and Quiet Day

Warmer but still very windy.  I found an incredible looking cricket  which I photographed but I have no idea what species it is. Anyone know?

Beautiful green cricket!
Very quiet on the bird front.  Just 2 Pied Flycatchers, Blackcap and a few Black Redstarts.  First signs of winter with flock of Starlings and 2 Blue Tits.

Thursday, 19 September 2013

Feeding Birds in France

As and avid feeder of the birds in my garden in Wales I have tried to get the same results from putting out food in the garden here in France.  I have to say the results have been disappointing.  I have been trying for about three years.  Fatballs are popular with local Great Tits and Blue Tits in winter.  Once a Blackcap also fed with them.  Mixed seed attracts House Sparrows, Chaffinches and the occasional Greenfinch.  Wintering Robins also hang around with opportunistic Collared Doves but that is it.

Goldfinches on niger seed in UK

This year  I have introduced a feeder containing niger seed.  There are hordes of Goldfinches visiting the garden but since the Spring nothing whatsoever has visited that feeder.  A friend Janet tells me she has had the same negative results.  I have to ask why when this species is so regular on this food in the UK does it ignore it in France?  Something to ponder.

Gale force winds here today.  I noted 2 Pied Flycatchers and a stunning Hobby overhead.

Wednesday, 18 September 2013

A Good Beginning Ends in Disaster

Curlew Sandpipers at Pissevache.

I had promised a birding friend Janet that I would introduce her to the main birding sites east of Narbonne.  We started well finding Janet her lifer Red-backed Shrike which was a juvenile sitting on wires at Lespignan.  We moved on to Pissevache and immediately came across a wonderful group of 15 juvenile Curlew Sandpipers.  There were a lot of Sand Martins moving south and we also noted a Pochard on the ponds.

Curlew Sandpipers at Pissevache
Curlew Sandpipers at Pissevache

We then took the track out to the beach at Gruissan.  We found a few Kentish and Ringed Plovers, 3 Dunlin and a Sanderling but it was too windy for much more.  Driving past the Salt Shop we stopped to note 5 Honey Buzzards flying overhead and then it happened.  My poor old Land Rover which has been so reliable of late packed up.  We spent the rest of the day waiting for a breakdown lorry to take us to a garage and then for a lift home.  The problem is only a broken fan belt but I must wait until Monday to get the vehicle back.

Sunday, 15 September 2013

Butterfly Extraordinaire

Today has been very windy with not many birds obvious.  I had to go up into the hills this afternoon to St.Jean de Minervois and on the way a Sparrowhawk flew past battling the gale.  Walking around  a garden festooned with fig trees containing ripe and over ripe fruit I enjoyed the sight of a couple of Two-tailed Pashas flying around and occasionally settling in the sun.  This species is extremely spectacular and feeds on rotting figs at this time of year.

Two-tailed Pasha

This evening our pre-roost flock of Rock Sparrows had reached 80.

Saturday, 14 September 2013


We decided to have a look at the Leucate area.  En route we noted a couple of Sparrowhawks before looking at the muddy edges of the Etang by Port Leucate.  There were about 20 Ringed Plovers and 8 Kentish Plovers and a single Common Sandpiper.

Ringed Plover

We moved on to Cap Leucate which was very crowded given the fine weather and could only find 5 Wheatears, 3 Tawny Pipits and 2 Sardinian Warblers.  Le Franqui only produced 5 Little Egrets but there were small groups of Greater Flamingos at La Palme and Port Nouvelle.  At Bages a flock of 50 Great Flamingos were all juveniles.

Juvenile Greater Flamingo

Back home I watched a male Common Redstart, 40 Rock Sparrows and 20 Goldfinches drinking and bathing and 2 Red-rumped Swallows sat on overhead wires.

Friday, 13 September 2013

Spreading The Net

With a cloudy night I was optimistic this morning of finding more migrants in our area.  I walked further than in previous days and in different places.  The weather was lovely but with a strongish breeze from the west.

Male Common Redstart

Female Common Redstart

It was obvious right away that there were Common Redstarts and Pied Flycatchers everywhere as well as lots of Willow Warblers and Blackcaps.  I managed to find one Garden Warbler and a Whinchat.

Residents were also noted and included 4 Woodlarks and up to 60 Rock Sparrows.  One of the latter posed nicely on wires in our garden.

Rock Sparrow
At lunch time I looked around for insects again and found Grayling, Cleopatras, Clouded Yellow and what I am sure is a Chapman's Blue on our buddleia.

Chapman's Blue
After lunch I walked down below our house to pick some blackberries for a dinner time pie.  Bee-eaters were passing over all the time and I found a juvenile Woodchat Shrike and a juvenile Red-backed Shrike.  A Short-toed Eagle also passed over.

Juvenile Woodchat Shrike
It is hard but enjoyable work but with effort migrants can be found.

Thursday, 12 September 2013

Checking Out Our Area

One of several Black Redstarts around today

We took a morning walk around our area of garrigue, pine woods, gardens and vineyards.  There were still noticeable numbers of Common Redstarts, Black Redstarts and Pied Flycatchers and we also found a Common Whitethroat.  The highlight though was a Wryneck which perched on overhead wires but dropped as soon as I raised my camera. A single Red-rumped Swallow was still around.

Chalk Hill Blue

Insects were also notable today.  Lots of butterflies including Wall, Clouded Yellow, Pale Clouded Yellow, Great Banded Grayling and Chalk Hill Blue dominated.  There were also a lot of Hummingbird Hawk Moths and one which settled on the ground almost disappeared from view.  I have never see one doing that before.

Hummingbird Hawk Moth at rest
I took another walk this evening a found a Short-toed eagle and a Sparrowhawk passing high overhead.

Wednesday, 11 September 2013

Another Day In The Garden


Again at home today and not much new.  There are still a couple of Redstarts and a Pied Flycatcher around and this evening a Wheatear on a neighbour's roof.

Tuesday, 10 September 2013

Close To Home Again

A young Cirl Bunting at the water bowl in aprevious year

Apart from a morning visit to the market in Olonzac we stayed at home in the garden.  Some Bee-eaters passed over high again but little other notable migration.  I spent some time watching a drinking place I provide under an umbrella pine.  I noted three Black Redstarts, 2 Common Redstarts, 2 Pied Flycatchers, Sardinian Warbler and Cirl Bunting all coming to bathe.

Monday, 9 September 2013

Along The Coast Again

With the rain behind us we headed for the coast and stopped first at Etang de Vendres.  There were masses of Little Egrets and at least 6 Great White Egrets.  A flock of 60 Greater Flamingos was mostly young ones which is encouraging.  We could hear lots of Bee-eaters passing overhead and 2 Swifts went battling south.  A couple of Marsh Harriers flew over the marsh and a Tree Pipit landed in a bush in front of us.  As we left a Squacco Heron got up and flew across the reed bed.

Little Egret
We moved on to Pissevache but were generally disappointed.  We only recorded a Great Reed Warbler, Common Sandpiper and a couple more Great White Egrets.  I did see a lifer though.  My first ever topless female birder.  I was staggered but like a true Englishman I averted my gaze and got out of their quick before she could engage me in conversation. Weird!

Whinchat - the black spots on the picture are flies in a cobweb

We made our way down to Gruissan finding s splendid Slender-billed Gull on the saltings and then moved on to Le Petit Tournabelle.  Still amazing conditions for waders but none on the meadows.  There were 60 White Storks loafing around in a field with the black cattle and 5 Curlews and a juvenile Purple Heron.  Checking out the saline lagoons nearby we did find 19 Grey Plovers and a Greenshank.

Young Osprey fishing on the salt marsh

We ended up at Mandirac and I made my way into the reeds to check out the waders.  I counted a hundred Snipe and 10 Little Ringed Plovers.  There was also a Ruff, 3 Wood Sandpipers, 2 Greenshanks and 4 Lapwings.  Heading back we encountered 2 juvenile Ospreys hunting in the small salt marsh pools. Later a Whinchat perched up by the side of the road.

Pied Flycatcher
Back home in the garden I found 2 Pied Flycatchers, Common Redstart, Lesser Whitethroat and a Subalpine Warbler.

Sunday, 8 September 2013

After The Rain

It felt much fresher this morning and I hoped for more migrants.  Nothing much really lots of hirundines with at least one Red-rumped Swallow in their midst.  A Common Redstart and 2 Pied Flycatchers are still about and a male Woodchat Shrike was one overhead wires this evening with the pre-roost flock of Rock Sparrows which numbered 66.

Iberian Wall Lizard

The highlight was that whilst gardening I discovered a really large Iberian Wall Lizard who posed nicely for a picture.

Saturday, 7 September 2013

And Then The Heavens Opened

Part of a flock of 20 Red-rumped Swallows

Another very cloudy morning and Red-rumped Swallows everywhere.  I counted 20 0n wires at the bottom of our garden and managed a couple of shots.

Red-rumped Swallows

Juvenile Red-rumped Swallow close-up

The we set off to have lunch with Phillipa a new friend I met at BirdFair.  About a dozen White Storks were soaring above the road just south of Narbonne and once with our host a wonderful Short-toed Eagle performed a flypast calling loudly.  Then it started raining heavily and as I write this it still has not stopped.

Friday, 6 September 2013

Signs of Migration

It was cloudy this morning so I was not too surprised to find migrants around the garden.  In all I counted 4 Common Redstarts, 5 Black Redstarts, Spotted Flycatcher, 2 Pied Flycatchers, 3 Subalpine Warblers and a Blackcap.  There were also a few Red-rumped Swallows overhead and a solitary Swift.  Most Obvious were about 200 House Martins sitting on local wires.

Gathering of House Martins

House Martin.
As it got warmers 2 Short-toed Eagles soared overhead calling and I started to turn attention to insects on the ice plants.  The plants were covered in what I assume to be Honey Bees and a single Brown Argus.

Honey Bee
Brown Argus
This evening I took a drive out Saint Julieneres and immediately found a Tawny Pipit, Whinchat and a Wheatear busily feeding on grubs.

Wheatear with a nice fat grub
I returned home across the garrigue finding two more Tawny Pipits and two families of Red-legged Partridges. 

Juvenile Montagu's Harrier
The highlight was finding 2 juvenile Montagu's Harriers feeding on insects on the ground one of which was very approachable.

Thursday, 5 September 2013

Birding The Gruissan Area

We needed to go to Narbonne for some shopping so decided to check out the Gruissan area first.  As we headed for Olonzac a Short-toed Eagle lumbered over the vineyards and close to Fontareche a Roller and 2 Woodchats sat on roadside wires.


We began in Gruissan by checking out the salt pans.  We soon discovered about 30 Little Stints, 20 Kentish Plovers, 2 Ringed Plovers, 2 Common Sandpipers and a solitary Dunlin.  Several Sandwich Terns were overhead and c200 Greater Flamingos including good numbers of juveniles.  A superb Kingfisher also flew by before we left. 

Male Kentish Plover

Moving on to Le Petit Tournabelle we looked over the wet meadows which looked in splendid condition for lots of waders.  Sadly we only found 10 Wood Sandpipers and 4 juvenile Black-winged Stilts.  There were also plenty of Little Egrets, 3 Great White Egrets and a White Stork.  The meadows were also full of Blue-headed Wagtails.

Juvenile Black-winged Stilts

Next stop was at Mandirac where I wandered into the reeds to check out the lagoons.  There were a couple more Wood Sandpipers, 2 Lapwings, a solitary Black-tailed Godwit and c30 Snipe.  Nine White Storks passed by overhead and whilst my back was turned Beryl enjoyed an over flying Osprey.

One of 9 White Storks passing overhead

Back home in the garden this evening there were 4 Black Redstarts, Common Redstart and a Spotted Flycatcher.