Camargue

Wonderful early spring birding in the south of France

Dates
  • 07 Mar - 14 Mar 2020
Guides Ian will lead the tour, joined by Bernie with seven or more clients.
Max Group Size6 per guide
Duration8 Days
Prices
£1895 pp, £130 single supplement.
Deposit £300

pre-flight airport hotel and lounge are inc.

Where can you enjoy great winter birding just as spring migration begins? Join Heatherlea in the Camargue, one of Europe’s premier birding destinations in late winter. Wallcreeper is one of our top targets, and we visit known hotspots to look for this unique and beautiful bird. In similar terrain, we also look for Alpine Accentor, Blue Rock Thrush, Eagle Owl, Citril Finch, Black Woodpecker and (white-spotted) Bluethroat - all specialist birds to this region in winter. Raptors including Bonelli’s Eagle may be seen, and out on the plains Little Bustard and Pin-tailed Sandgrouse gather in winter flocks. Habitats are varied, from the sweeping marshes of the Camargue reserve where Greater Flamingo may be measured in their thousands, to the surrounding plains of La Crau. The limestone cliffs of Les Alpilles hold many of the special birds too and weather permitting we will plan to explore the snow-clad mountain slopes of Mont Ventoux.

As migration begins, the prevailing weather and conditions will dictate exactly which birds are wintering and passing through at this time. Possibilities include Black-necked Grebe, Little, Cattle and Great White Egret, Spotted Redshank, Long-Legged Buzzard (scarce), Golden Eagle, Red Kite, Yellow-legged Gull, Slender-billed Gull, Little Owl, Alpine Swift, Crag Martin, Water Pipit, Kingfisher, Southern Grey Shrike, Crested Tit, Sardinian Warbler, Penduline Tit, Bearded Tit, Firecrest, Serin, Hawfinch, Brambling, Common Crossbill, Cirl Bunting and Rock Bunting. A tremendous start to the overseas birding year! There is mammal interest too, watching out for Coypu in ditches or blundering Wild Boar crashing through vegetation as we birdwatch.

Enjoy your complimentary pre-flight overnight hotel before your holiday begins. Full details here!

Day 1: Saturday 7 March - Arrival in Marseille
After relaxing in our airport lounge, we fly Gatwick to Marseille on a morning flight. On arrival we transfer to our hotel to relax before dinner. Our hotel is in a rural location, and offers comfortable en-suite rooms, Provencal-style dishes and local wines. Cheese is a local favourite, and Heatherlea aficionados will feel right at home as we take charge of the small, cosy dining room!

Day 2 - Day 7: Sunday 8 March - Friday 13 March - Camargue National Nature Reserve and beyond
Over the week we will thoroughly explore different parts of the wonderful Camargue Reserve. Working to a flexible itinerary, activities will be varied and with its vast lagoons, wetlands, and roads which criss-cross the landscape there is much to see. We use viewing platforms and our transport to search the fence posts, scrub, lakes, lagoons and of course the skies for birds. On water-bodies Black-necked, Great Crested and Little Grebe might be found and there may be Scaup amongst wintering flocks of commoner ducks. Waders often include Little Stint, Kentish Plover, Avocet and Spotted Redshank, and we watch out for wintering Water Pipit and Yellow-legged Gull by the water’s edge. Little, Cattle and Great White Egret, White Stork, Spoonbill and Glossy Ibis are also found in wet areas of the reserve and we may be lucky to glimpse a Kingfisher flash by. Marsh Harrier hunt the reedbeds, which hide Penduline and Bearded Tit as well as wintering (white-spotted) Bluethroat. Stonechat, Corn Bunting and other common passerines should be found in the surrounding scrub. Red Kite should be seen often, and we may be lucky enough to identify a Long-Legged Buzzard, another regular wintering vagrant but difficult to separate from plentiful Common Buzzard.

On another day we make a short drive to the magical limestone cliffs of Les Alpilles and the hill top Roman village of Les Baux. Wallcreeper, a rare species of the region and firm favourite with birders the world over, winter regularly on the extensive cliff-faces here. Perseverance is key, and we will make every effort to see this fabulous bird, though please be aware that in mild winters or if spring comes early they may return to higher altitudes earlier in the season. Small flocks of Alpine Accentor gather around the village in winter and Black Redstart may also be seen. Resident Blue Rock Thrush add a splash of colour to the rocky surroundings and small flocks of Crag Martin swirl around the cliffs.

We spend time around La Caume, where on foot we explore tracks and paths through pine woodland which grows on the dry slopes. Crested Tit, Common Crossbill, Short-toed Treecreeper and Firecrest may all be found here, and the scrubby habitat is home to skulking Dartford and Sardinian Warbler. We look for Citril Finch and Woodlark which occur in this area some years. Later, at dusk we wait at a secluded location for views of magnificent Eagle Owl.

A complete contrast is in store as we drive to the open plains of La Crau. Here, Little Bustard gather in winter flocks and we look out for ‘black and white socks’ poking up out of the arid landscape, so often the way the birds give away their presence. Pin-tailed Sandgrouse can also be seen, and we scan the plains from various vantage points hoping to catch sight of this tricky-to-see bird. Raptors hunt the plains in winter, with Hen Harrier, Black and Red Kite, Booted Eagle and Merlin among the possibilities. In this habitat, we might also enjoy sightings of Southern Grey Shrike, Little Owl, mixed finch flocks containing Serin and Cirl Bunting, and the area can often harbour a wintering Richard’s Pipit.

Another change of habitat comes as we drive north to Mont Ventoux, taking the road to the small ski resort. We pass through forest where elusive Black Woodpecker are our target, before searching the higher slopes and treeline for Citril Finch. We may also see Brambling, Common Crossbill and tits and perhaps Sparrowhawk, Golden Eagle and Raven soaring over the high tops. Mont Ventoux or “Windy Mountain” is well named, so we spend time in the ‘Alpine’ cafe for a warm cup of hot chocolate between birdwatching.

Time towards the end of the week will be spent searching the areas surrounding the Etang du Vaccares and Tour du Valat within the Camargue National Nature Reserve, for species we might have missed. Rock Bunting and Hawfinch occur here and there is always the chance of discovering early spring migrants or wintering rarities in this less visited area.

Day 8: Saturday 14 March - Departure
Our return flight departs Marseille mid-morning, and we arrive in London mid-afternoon.

Please note: all itineraries are given as a guide only. Actual holiday content may vary according to the judgement of your guide, and elements beyond our control (eg weather).

What's included in your holiday price:

  • return flight from London – Marseille, baggage up to airline included limit.
  • ground transportation, accommodation and meals as specified.
  • the services of Heatherlea leaders.
  • The Heatherlea Pre-Flight Service offers everything you need at the airport, including hotels, car parking, airport lounges, regional flights and upgrades. Let Heatherlea take the strain! Pre-flight airport hotel and lounge included subject to terms and conditions. Read more...

What's not included in your holiday price:

  • travel to and from departure airport before and after holiday
  • incidental tips, expenses of a personal nature including drinks and personal insurance.

More holiday information

Accommodation is a small, family-run hotel in a quiet location on the outskirts of Arles. Rooms are spacious and comfortable with en-suite facilities. Rooms are equipped with direct dial telephones, television and Wi-Fi
Food Our hotel is noted for its hospitality and its excellent French food and wine complementing superb birdwatching. Breakfast is a continental buffet. Fruit juice and tea or coffees are also available. Picnic lunches are provided, and will include a variety of local produce plus soft drinks. Evening meals are generally local dishes. Vegetarian and other diets are welcome.
Walking is generally light/moderate. There may be some track and road walking, occasionally over rough terrain, though generally an average level of fitness is required.
Weather Typically, temperatures in February will be around 10°C. The area is prone to the “Mistral” wind however, which in winter can create considerable wind chill – be prepared for cold weather.
Insects are not expected
Group size is restricted to 12 clients maximum.
Flights Morning departure from London Gatwick
If you wish to add an extension either before or after your holiday, please contact us and we will be happy to arrange this for you. 

Your Leaders:

Ian Ford: Ian joined Heatherlea in 1999, and joins us again this year as a Senior Guide. Ever popular with guests and fellow guides alike, Ian is a highly experienced Heatherlea leader, and very much looking forward to your company in the South of France.

Bernie Forbes: Bernie is a highly experienced tour leader in many European destinations. Popular and in great demand, Bernie leads field trips around his native Sussex when not working for Heatherlea!

 

   

Ian Ford and Bernie Forbes

Why choose Heatherlea for your birding and wildlife holiday in Europe?

Our overseas holidays are planned with care to offer great birding and wildlife, led by capable Leaders who really look after you. Every holiday is run the 'Heatherlea Way', and we hope our Overseas Adventures remind you of the quality and care so many of you enjoy in Scotland. That means rewarding and exciting days in the field, and good quality accommodation and meals, with a real flavour of the country we are visiting. Heatherlea always seek to include the personal touches that make all the difference.

Heatherlea holidays are not ‘dawn to dusk’ expeditions. Our less-intensive approach is ideal for those who want to relax whilst experiencing the best wildlife watching, and wherever possible we organise early or late activity on an optional basis. We also take sensible breaks when in very hot places and regular comfort breaks on every holiday whenever possible. All itineraries are planned carefully around the best wildlife opportunities, and you won’t miss out on memorable wildlife, whilst enjoying relaxed, informal days that are great fun.

The really important part of any wildlife holiday is the experience for you, our valued customer. Heatherlea invest in many things to offer you the best possible service;

  • We have been organising birding and wildlife holidays for over 30 seasons, and have a highly experienced and capable office team. We also offer a telephone and email service outside normal office hours.
  • Heatherlea overseas holidays have a maximum of 12 clients per trip, putting the emphasis on personal service, and helping you get the best possible experience.
  • Our holidays often include things which others might invite you to pay yourself, for instance Departure Taxes and tips to hotels.
  • All elements of our holidays are sold under our own licence, ATOL 6113. Under ‘Flight-Plus’ legislation it is a legal requirement of any tour operator to hold an ATOL licence for the supply of any overseas holiday where a flight is involved, if that holiday includes either overseas accommodation and/or car hire. It can be a criminal offence for an operator to book flights as part of a package without an ATOL licence. Heatherlea also hold full Tour Operator Insurance for your added protection.
  • Heatherlea is your complete wildlife holiday provider. Our ‘Back Office’ team can organise all your pre-flight and other travel needs. Our specialists will help you book the right services, at the best price. Book holiday extensions through us, and your ATOL protection is extended further. We don’t charge extra for this service.
  • Heatherlea is a limited company, registered in Scotland, and registered to pay VAT (applies to all holidays within the European Union).

About Heatherlea Holidays

Contact Information

The Mountview Hotel, Nethybridge,
PH25 3EB Scotland

T: 01479 821248

E: