As we arrived at my brother’s home in Gaillac after a 45 minute drive from Toulouse, we were greeted by several Pied Flycatchers enjoying a meal in the tree right next to his deck.
A fine start we thought. However birding in the area around the sterile vineyards proved more testing. The time of year did not help. It was nice to see Black and Common Redstarts in a nearby field. Great Spotted and Green Woodpeckers were calling nearby along with Nuthatches pecking away like woodpeckers. Blue, Great and Long-tailed Tits were everywhere. Here are some photos of local birds.
Anyway we did have several pleasant experiences. The first was close-by. As we drove to the top of the local hills we noticed birds in migration. They came over in batches of 20 or more. Predominantly Black Kites. There were also a few Short-toed Eagles.
Another exciting experience was a bit further afield. We left early in the SLK that my brother lent me and arrived some 180 kms away.
We went to Le Rozier where the rivers Le Tarn and La Jonte meet. The rivers are at the bottom of very steep gorges. Gorge de La Jonte was our goal. Here we were told there are many Vultures.
There is an excellent Vulture Viewing Point. The viewing point has an impressive multimedia exhibition, including live video transmission from the nesting sites of what must be the world’s most heavily researched vultures.
Seen in the gorge are a few Egyptian and Black Vultures as well as Lammergeier. However the most abundant Vultures are the Griffin Vultures – and there were plenty to be seen.
On the way back we were lucky to see a Red Kite quartering next to the road.
Click here to find out what species we saw on the trip.
This is not the best time of year to see birds in England – breeding waders are changing from their summer plumage and migrants have yet to arrive. We were here for a wedding so took our chances anyway. Unfortunately the weather was rather wet and gloomy and photography suffered too as a consequence.
Some birds around the wedding venue near Whitney:
We headed for Norfolk and visited Minsmere, Cley, Titchwell Marshes and Lakenheath over three days. Wet and overcast weather greeted us at each place. Of these our 2 favourites were Minsmere and Titchwell Marshes. They have excellent hides and the waders were varied and plentiful. Minsmere also had woodland/forest habitat.
Here are some pictures of some of the birds seen.
Although the birds are plentiful in these areas, they are very distant and a scope is essential. And because the areas are quite vast, cycling from one location/hide to the next is a good option. You get there quicker and it saves your poor old knees.
From Norfolk we headed back to Chew Magna – south of Bristol. On the way back our timing coincided with the Rutland Birdwatching Fair. We visited the spectacle. It is amazing the number of birding people who were present. There must have been well over 1000 cars in each of the 3 car parks and another field full of campervans etc for overnighters and exhibitors. The Fair had 8 huge marquees – each at least 50 metres long; 3 venues for talks plus an enormous event marquee. Then there were the tents for food and drink as well as other displays for optics and cameras. This is all nestled among the numerous birding tracks and hides – well over 20 hides – so lots of walking. If you ever want to find out about birding in any country then this is the place to visit. Every country and in some cases different regions in a country seems to be represented by at least one tour operator. Very impressive occasion.
The following days we explored reserves around Bristol going as far afield as Exeter on the south coast. Each day was dogged by rain unfortunately so variety of birds seen was poor. We went to Chew Lake, Exeter (and the RSPB reserves close by), Ham Wall/Shapworth Heath (twice) and Swell Wood.
Some birds in and around Chew Magna and Chew Lake – just south of Bristol;
At Ham Wall and Shapworth Heath:
And at Exeter on a very wet day:
Finally on our second last day we had sunshine and spent the day in the Forest of Dean with a fellow birder – Nigel Milbourne. It was excellent having someone so locally knowledgeable. Nigel took us round all the potential areas in the Forest of Dean and then spent the next morning showing us around Blagdon Lake – an area to which we look forward to return one day.
Here are some of the birds photographed in the Forest of Dean:
And some birds around Blagdon Lake (just south of Bristol):
Finally, midday on our last day in the UK we met up with Nigel to recover the scope which we left in the back of his vehicle. He suggested we have a go at finding a Dipper in the Pensford area. Off we went to the first bridge, then the second, then the third and finally another – but without luck. We searched up and down along the banks of each of the fast running areas without luck. They like fast running water and not too deep.
However we did bump into a Little Owl.
Then on the way back we crossed back over a bridge we had not stopped at since the water was barely flowing and deep and there were repairs being made to it with workmen on it. Fortunately we were travelling quite slow through the repairs and I spotted our Dipper. The British Dipper is unique in that it has a chestnut band below the white bib. This can be seen in the photos below.
A lovely way to end our birding in the UK.
Paul and Sally Bartho
Next – France for 10 days with family and some birding.