Switzerland, Germany and France 2009
Total # of species: 106
Species denoted with * are lifers
Part 1: 11/22-11/23: Burgdorf and Soerenberg, Switzerland, and the area around Konstanz
11/22: We met the generous Bernhard Herren at 8am at the Fluehe in Burgdorf and quickly the wintering Wallcreeper was found. A brief stop at an area above the cemetery yielded several Hawfinches.
The remainder of the day we spent up on the Soerenberg at around 1300m in search of Eurasian Pygmy-Owl and Eurasian Three-toed Woodpecker. There was no snow yet. We finally succeeded with the Pymgy-Owl and got excellent looks, whereas the Three-toed Woodpecker eluded us. Also seen were many 100s of Brambling, Bullfinches, Siskins, Crossbills, Coal and Creasted Tits and a single Fieldfare.
We stayed overnight at Hotel Edelweiss in Neuhausen right at the Rheinfall where the double room was E65.
11/23: Early at the Rheinfall near Schaffhausen we had 2 White-throated Dippers playing around. A Goldeneye, a Little Grebe and a Gray Wagtail were also there.
The Strandbad Triboltingen just SW of Konstanz on the Swiss side was hopping with birds even though it was hard to stand up straight in the gale-force winds. There were many ducks, 7 Ruddy Shelduck and 2 Black-tailed Godwit.
The Wollmatinger Ried on the German side just NW of Konstanz had scores of Rooks feeding in the fields and finally the Mindelsee near Radolfszell again proved great for Ferruginous Duck as we had 4.
Cumulative List of Species (66):
Great Crested Grebe
Great Spotted Woodpecker
Eurasian Tree Sparrow
Part 2: 11/27-11/29: The Provence
Note: I used the Michelin “Provence-Alpes-Cote dAzur” map (this is 527) and this is the map to get. Even Mas de Chauvet was on there!
11/26: Flight into Marseilles-Provence, in the evening. Rental car with National at MRS. Drive to Arles. Overnight all nights at Maeva resort on the west side of Arles (exit 7 of N113). This is the exit that the Etap Arles is off of.
11/27: Early in the morning I hauled my sick behind up La Caume (take the paved road to the left), but there were very few birds, in particular no Bonelli’s Eagle. Crested Tit and Firecrest were in the pines at the bottom, up on top were only Sardinian Warbler and Great Gray Shrike.
At around noon I stopped by the chateau at Les Baux De Provence. The E7.70 entrance fee was well worth the price. 4 Alpine Accentors were present immediately when you come in, in grassy, fenced-off area around the catapult. I did not specifically look for Wallcreeper, but had 2 single birds (maybe the same bird) fly across the chateau grounds. Black Redstart, Crag Martin and 1 Blue Rock Thrush were all easy to see.
In the afternoon I visited Mas de Chauvet and got killer looks of 3 Richard’s Pipits. The call of the Richard’s Pipit was all around, I suspect there were up to 10 birds in the area. Start looking from the first sod field as you approach the farm. My first bird was seen about 1/2mi before the road turns to gravel near a large dirt mound on the south side, the other 2 came into a puddle just past the turnoff to the actual farm. Watching the puddle from the car, a Sparrowhawk grabbed a skylark (at least I think that’s what it was) right in front of my eyes; thankfully he spared the 2 Richard’s Pipits. Red-legged Partridge, Southern Gray Shrike, many Zitting Cisticola and a Corn Bunting were also in the area.
For the remainder of the day I proceeded to drive into the Crau from Mas de Chauvet. Lots of good habitat for the sandgrouse, but I was not successful in finding one.
11/28: For a complete break from the day before, I decided to spent the whole day in the Camargue. It turned out to be a disappointing day, with few ducks and shorebirds.
The only highlight of the day was a Greater Spotted Eagle briefly perched up along the D36 about 1km south of Salin de Badon. I was able to view the bird in flight for quite a while before it retreated east.
I searched the reeds at/near La Capeliere hard for Penduline Tit, but didn’t find any. Several Green Sandpipers were seen off the hides and Cetti’s Warblers were everywhere. Moustached Warblers also did not show.
At the Marais de Grenouillet about 30 European Golden-Plovers were seen in the distance, but the previously reported American eluded me. It is also beyond me how this bird could be properly identified at a distance of 250yds.
A quick trip out to the beach at Piemanson yielded zip.
11/29: The weather had changed overnight, with thunder/lightning and heavy rains at times. Winds had kicked up as well. I went back the Crau, this time starting early at Peau de Meau. The place hadn’t been visited for a while as the windows of the observatoire were coated with cobwebs and thick layers of dust and grime. Hunters were patrolling the area just outside. Needless to say, I did not see anything except for a lone male Hen Harrier. The spot along the access road to Vergieres with the defunct railroad car (see earlier reports) looked promising, but also yielded nothing.
Two quick stops on the south side of the Eygieres airfield (now a paved road towards the go-kart operation) and La Jasse (approach from the south via D113) did not produce any bustards, but there was an immature female Northern Wheatear near the go-kart track.
4 Crested Larks and several Red Kites were at the Entressen garbage dump.
The final stop of the trip was the Pond du Gard for Rock Sparrow. I arrived way too early and spent about 2 hours sightseeing with only a Kingfisher and a Meadow Pipit to show for, but at around 3:30pm the first Rock Sparrow flew in and briefly perched on top of the viaduct. Within the next hour plus until dark up to 20 birds came flying in high seemingly out of nowhere, perching on the top and finally settling into their roost spots in the cracks around the top row of arcs. My scope views of the actively calling birds were most satisfying.
A last word: The Provence leg was maybe overly ambitious and it was the wrong time of the year. I would probably not do this trip in this shape and form again to avoid another sub-par experience.
Cumulative list of species (72):
Great Crested Grebe
*Greater Spotted Eagle
Common Ringed Plover
Eurasian Collared Dove
Southern Gray Shrike
Blue Rock Thrush