The Portland Naturalist

The Portland Naturalist

Wednesday, 28 May 2014

Provence Trip - Day 2


I managed a bit more of a lie-in this morning, but there was no rest for the wicked, and we were soon out, heading for the intimidating presence of Mont Ventoux.

On the way however, we stopped off at a bit of open farmland near the village, where we had no trouble seeing the hoped –for Rock Sparrow, as a pair prospected holes in the top-structure of a telegraph pole.  Lifer number eight of the trip!


Also in this area were plenty of Corn Bunting and a Red-backed Shrike.  We watched the holes in a nearby dead trunk in the hope a Wryneck was nesting there, but no luck.

Onto Ventoux itself, and the view was wonderful.


The same couldn’t be said for the weather, as although it was dry, it was blowing an absolute gale! You could barely stand up!  We wondered whether this walk along the road at the base of the ski-lifts was all going to be a bit hopeless. 

Luckily though, the birds did start to slowly appear, and it wasn’t long before Andrew had spotted the special bird of the area, the Citril Finch.  I missed them though. 

We then made our way down into a sheltered area of pine forest, where it was more comfortable for us, and seemingly, more comfortable for the birds, as they seemed to be everywhere!   Not only did I see the Citril Finch well, but there were Crossbill all over the place, and a number of Short-toed Treecreeper called, and were eventually seen.  Also things like Redstart and Nuthatch around, plus my only Dunnock and Wren of the week!

As we ascended back to the road, we were visited by a pair of Crested Tit.


We continued along the road towards a viewpoint, and were rewarded with a load more sightings of the Citril Finch, though whenever they showed in the open, they were distant.


There were a number of interesting flowers about, such as this Hepatica.


We soon decided it was sensible to turn back, as the path we were on was getting more and more exposed to the wind!

A number of Firecrest were heard on the way back, but only one was briefly seen.

We were all thankful to get back into the shelter of the bus!

We drove higher up, and got right to the summit and the ski-centre.  No wildlife to see up here of course, but on the way driving slowly back down the other side, we were hoping for Rock Thrush, but the wind was a great hindrance, and it soon became clear it was not going to happen. 

We stopped for lunch at yet another impressive rock-face.


Here, a pair of Peregrine was nesting, and one of the birds was flying around, on our arrival.

All week, our lunch was a fantastic buffet of salads, with bread and cheese.  Plus, the very best locations were picked to have it!

We moved on to another Golden Eagle nest nearby.  Once again, we were treated to a great spectacle, as the female bird flew over to our side of the valley, only to be mobbed by a Kestrel.  It then retreated slowly and drifted up high.


The male was then seen attending the nest, though we were unable to see its contents.

On the short drive to some more farmland habitat, we had a Hoopoe fly along beside the van!  Oddly, the only one seen all week.

We drove slowly along the narrow roads with the windows open to see what we could find.  A Quail called from a cereal field, and we were treated to another Montagu’s Harrier flypast.

We eventually found the main target of this excursion, as a Southern Grey Shrike sat on some wires, showing off its pinkish chest.  After it had flown off, we drove further on, and found a pair hunting in a Lavender field.


We had almost reached home, when I suddenly spotted two birds of prey hunting over a field, as we whizzed past at speed.  I judged their size as fairly large, one greyer than the other, holding their pointed wings in a high V, and interpreted this as being a male and female Montagu’s Harrier, and called it.  I was totally wrong, but I was at least right to bring it to people’s attention!  They were a pair of Red-footed Falcon, a scarce passage migrant in the area, usually as a fly-over. 

They both went on to give us quite a show of tandem hovering, and perching on nearby trees and wires.  Andrew was chuffed!  He put the sighting on the local rare bird news network, and I understand a number of people were rather jealous!  They weren’t around the next day.    


In the evening, I was doing my bird list out on the veranda, when two Bee-eater flew over.  Not bad this.  Plus, we had The Camargue to look forward to the next day!

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