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15 years in the Pyrenees (1 Viewer)


So now 15 years (1st May 2005) in the Pyrenees - Luz St Saveur

The birding area generally stretches as far as Pau to the west, Gavarnie to the South, Lannemezan to the East and Vic to the North - 1 hour in each direction. Although Lesser Scaup a little further.

Only really a handful of twitches - Lesser Scaup already mentioned, White Rumped and Pectoral Sandpipers, Sociable Plover - the rest are 'unremarkable' local birds, only kidding some are awesome!

220 Species
28 raptors (excluding Owls)! The 29th being a sub species Brookei

The list is in bird order.... No guarantees as to names (I still call Zitter a Fan-tailed Warbler and the vulture Black) or to the actual count - it doesn't count Muscovy I don't think - it was a different colour on the list.

Both Pallid Harriers, Eagle Owl chicks, Eleanoras Falcons, Lammergeier dropping bones and one first flight, Wallcreeper feeding chicks, White Backed Woody feeding chicks, first Red Foot, finding 13 Lesser Kestrels that long stayed, finding Scops Owl and nest (was easy as could see from the kitchen window) - OMG the memories are infinite, well too many to list bu the birds are>

220 Species observed

Graylag Goose
Canada Goose
Mute Swan
Common Shelduck
Muscovy Duck (Domestic type)
Mandarin Duck
Northern Shoveler
Eurasian Wigeon
Northern Pintail
Green-winged Teal (Eurasian)
Red-crested Pochard
Number observed: X Details: wintering bird argeles
Common Pochard
Ferruginous Duck
Number observed: X Details: ayguelongue
Tufted Duck
Greater Scaup
Lesser Scaup
Number observed: 1 Details: besingrand - over wintered

Common Quail

Red-legged Partridge
Ring-necked Pheasant
Gray Partridge
Western Capercaillie

Little Grebe
Great Crested Grebe

Rock Pigeon (Wild type)
Stock Dove
Common Wood-Pigeon (White-necked)
European Turtle-Dove
Eurasian Collared-Dove

Common Cuckoo

Eurasian Nightjar

Alpine Swift
Common Swift

Corn Crake
Eurasian Moorhen
Eurasian Coot

Common Crane

Eurasian Thick-knee
Black-winged Stilt
European Golden-Plover
Northern Lapwing
Sociable Lapwing
Number observed: 1 Details: Pau - accepted record
Common Ringed Plover
Little Ringed Plover
Eurasian Curlew
Ruddy Turnstone
Curlew Sandpiper
Temminck's Stint
Little Stint
White-rumped Sandpiper
Number observed: 1 Details: lac ayguelongue
Pectoral Sandpiper
Number observed: 1 Details: ayguelongue
Common Snipe
Common Sandpiper
Green Sandpiper
Common Greenshank
Wood Sandpiper
Common Redshank
Black-headed Gull
Yellow-legged Gull
Lesser Black-backed Gull

Black Tern
Whiskered Tern
Common Tern

Black Stork
White Stork
Great Cormorant (Eurasian)
Gray Heron
Purple Heron
Great Egret
Little Egret
Cattle Egret
Squacco Heron
Black-crowned Night-Heron

Black-winged Kite
Bearded Vulture
Egyptian Vulture
European Honey-buzzard
Cinereous Vulture
Eurasian Griffon
Short-toed Snake-Eagle
Lesser Spotted Eagle
Number observed: 2 Details: Seen twice migration - one pibeste (not accepted) one Soulor (accepted)
Booted Eagle
Golden Eagle
Bonelli's Eagle
Number observed: 1 Details: not accepted by local comittee but photos identified by experts on birdforum
Eurasian Marsh-Harrier
Hen Harrier
Pallid Harrier
Number observed: 2 Details: seen twice - one that stayed winter tarbes Pau and one adult on migration pibeste
Montagu's Harrier
Eurasian Sparrowhawk
Northern Goshawk
Red Kite
Black Kite
Common Buzzard

Eurasian Scops-Owl
Eurasian Eagle-Owl
Tawny Owl
Long-eared Owl
Short-eared Owl
Boreal Owl

Eurasian Hoopoe
Common Kingfisher (Common)
European Bee-eater
European Roller

Eurasian Wryneck
Middle Spotted Woodpecker
White-backed Woodpecker
Great Spotted Woodpecker
Lesser Spotted Woodpecker
Eurasian Green Woodpecker
Iberian Green Woodpecker
Black Woodpecker
Lesser Kestrel
Number observed: X Details: 13 argeles - 3 weeks, one found dead Luz
Eurasian Kestrel
Red-footed Falcon
Eleonora's Falcon
Number observed: X Details: one Luz, one soulor
Eurasian Hobby
Peregrine Falcon
Peregrine Falcon (Mediterranean)
Number observed: 1 Details: once argeles - brokei

Eurasian Golden Oriole
Red-backed Shrike
Great Gray Shrike
Woodchat Shrike
Eurasian Jay
Eurasian Magpie
Red-billed Chough
Yellow-billed Chough
Eurasian Jackdaw
Carrion Crow
Common Raven

Coal Tit
Crested Tit
Marsh Tit
Eurasian Blue Tit
Great Tit

Wood Lark
Eurasian Skylark
Crested Lark

Zitting Cisticola
Melodious Warbler
Sedge Warbler
Eurasian Reed Warbler
Common Grasshopper-Warbler

Eurasian Crag-Martin
Barn Swallow
Common House-Martin

Wood Warbler
Western Bonelli's Warbler
Willow Warbler
Common Chiffchaff
Cetti's Warbler

Long-tailed Tit

Eurasian Blackcap
Garden Warbler
Subalpine Warbler
Number observed: 2 Details: adult male holding territory Jer, one female Luz - in garden!
Sardinian Warbler
Greater Whitethroat
Dartford Warbler

Red-billed Leiothrix

Common Firecrest

Eurasian Nuthatch
Eurasian Treecreeper
Short-toed Treecreeper

Eurasian Wren
White-throated Dipper
European Starling
Mistle Thrush
Song Thrush
Eurasian Blackbird
Ring Ouzel

Spotted Flycatcher
European Robin
Common Nightingale
European Pied Flycatcher
Common Redstart
Black Redstart
Rufous-tailed Rock-Thrush
European Stonechat
Northern Wheatear

Alpine Accentor
House Sparrow
Eurasian Tree Sparrow
Rock Sparrow
White-winged Snowfinch

Gray Wagtail
Western Yellow Wagtail
Western Yellow Wagtail (thunbergi)
White Wagtail
White Wagtail (British)
Richard's Pipit
Tawny Pipit
Meadow Pipit
Tree Pipit
Water Pipit

Common Chaffinch
Eurasian Bullfinch
European Greenfinch
Eurasian Linnet
Red Crossbill
European Goldfinch
Citril Finch
European Serin
Eurasian Siskin
Corn Bunting
Rock Bunting
Cirl Bunting
Ortolan Bunting
Reed Bunting
Some Piccies

So most have been on before but may have not been seen...

Dragnil has promised to post up some phots from his time in the area too. Be warned his pictures are far better than mine.

The Wallcreeper - definitely one of the highlights of living here. We used to get them over winter in the village but that seems to have stopped but obviously still see them. A couple of years ago found our first nest. Firstly, we had all assumed they nested super high so didn't really look too hard, then discovered that they nest below 2000m so started to look in areas we had seen them during the nesting period and secondly, nesting period earlier than thought. Bingo. One nest was about an hour by foot (although could scope from nearer) but it was a fairly steep climb, it was c. 40m up.

The negative was finding the nest early July and only just before the chicks fledged. The bird is still found I the same area but didn't use the nest site in 2018 or 2019!

The first picture is a bird on the church that was heading back up the mountain. The second picture from another classic site and the second nest we found. Picture 3 is in front of the nest at lunch time (for them). Within a week they were gone so privileged to catch this.

One thing about the bird was that they appear and go sometimes, seemingly, out of mid air. Grab the shot and ask questions later because you might not get a second chance. One of the first I found here can to see us whilst having a picnic. It was too close and I mean less than 3m away! I didn't have a camera at the time.


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With patience and time and 15 years birds come closer than you can imagine. Snowfinch landing on the car door was one, Eagle owl nearly taking my ear off, birds in the garden, Alpine Accentor eating under the table etc.

Four local speciality birds and a wintering find...


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Finding the Eagle Owl nest site was massive. The time we had spent looking and a throwaway comment from a friend led to finding the nest.

After hearing the bird calling we narrowed the search. We went hi tech - walkie talkies, set up a video camera etc. lots of hard work. Then finding the bird hiding under a bush where the only thing you could see was part of its wing at 400m.

This had led to finding chicks and finding the birds on a fairly regular basis during the day as they catch the sun. Even feeding chicks during the daytime.

After the thrill of finding the chicks last winter the adult flew passed my head at maybe 5 metres distance. I could actually hear it. It swooped up and landed on a small pylon in front of me. Then sat for a while and then dropped on the floor. Unbelievable.

As with a lot of things on bird forum and birding in general it was a learning experience. Sharing of information, the breeding habits and timescales. Other members have helped with their advice and of course I have enjoyed sharing these moments and the pictures...

Looking forward to see breeding results this year.


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Black Shouldered Kites

One of the biggest success stories in the local area is the Black Shouldered Kite. From acorns first breeding in 1989 to in excess of 300 pairs, the nearest being near Lourdes.

Finding nests, watching mating, watching chicks, hunting, feeding are all highlights.

This year there are already chicks off the nest, near Pau, they bred over winter and fledged at the end of February! They can actually have 3 broods in a year.

Usually communal roosters in winter there are roost here with close to 100 birds, birds generally arrive as the light fades and continue to arrive well after dark. I have actually seen hunting behaviour during the night - well 5am as driving passed...

Their food, from pellet samples, consists of mainly voles and mice. That said I'm wondering whether the pair in Pau fed there young on over wintering finches and Buntings - which arrive in their millions over winter.


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The first time I visited the area the first bird I saw was a Griffon Vulture. It really helped me make my mind up to move here.

Since then vultures are almost a daily part of life here. The most common being the griffon, the most majestic the Lammergeier, the rare Black and the 'pretty' Egyptian Vulture.

I think it was 2013 but one Lammy nest was near a pylon that had been damaged by an avalanche. Because of the proximity of the nest the pylon repairs had to be postponed until the chick flew. It was estimated to cost EDF 20k euros per day from mid march through to mid June - a very expensive chick. We took turns to watch and ensure that the bird flew before the helicopters arrived. c.1.8 million.

We now have 4 pairs in our valley, some easier to see than others. Watching them mating was something. Sadly they have a high failure rate - our local pair failed on the 8th May last year - sad - 5 weeks off fledging!

My first Black Vulture was 2006 and second 2013 - now they seem to be annual including a bird over Luz twice last summer.

Egyptian Vulture is very pretty and arrives mid march. Again sometimes their nest are fairly visible. One nested next to the main route into the village. Two chicks got to fledging age - one flew and the second was eaten in the nest by a Golden Eagle - who had been waiting for it to be tasty enough I guess. Another feather was found in an Eagle Owl nest - a big bird for an Eagle let alone and Eagle Owl to take!


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The Pyrenees is a huge migration range for Europe.

Col Soulor c.45000 Black Kite
Col Organbidexka c.26000 Honey

to name but two. It has been interesting heading up to the Soulor to watch the migration. At times can be daunting with so many birds you don't know where to start counting. It has been 'manned' for about 6 years with the group that were usurped from Organbidexka - it's a long story and not for here. The counting starts mid July with the Black Kites and runs through to mid September. I prefer September as there is variety but its mainly the Eagles an harriers at this time. You can clock up 15 species of raptor in a morning.

In addition to the raptors there are storks, Alpine Swifts and hirundelles, bee eaters but for me its the raptors. I had a Lesser Spotted Eagle a few years back and they are almost annual now. Last year a first for France was the Tawny Eagle - identified from photos by the great man - DF. The thing with a migration watchpoint is the banter which you need on a quiet day and concentration when things start passing from three different sides!

Migration time means anything can turn up. Areas of little interest can hold all sorts of birds. Ortolans, Tawny Pipits, Rollers (37 last year for the area), shrikes, Warblers, a bluethroat, flycatchers, redstarts and most incredibly 13 Lesser Kestrels that hung around for 3 weeks.


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I'm not a twitching but sometimes get the urge - if its not too far.

I prefer things to come to me like this Subalpine Warbler that visited my garden a couple of years ago.

I did twitch a Sociable Plover - I got the call and headed off the next morning. Number of twitchers were 1 - me! The bird wasn't where it was so I spent the next couple of hours looking for Lapwing flocks and eventually found the bird at Pau about 10 km from the original site.

Thunbergi was a pretty bird.

The Pallid was amazing and a bird I had coveted for years. To find one - even if I didn't identify it from first viewing was amazing. In my defence I didn't get a shot first time but it was re found and I watched it over winter. I was even happier to get a male on migration in 2018.

I've twitched some ducks and some waders. Seemingly nearly all around Pau. Maybe I should move.


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Some other photos

I love the shots of the Egret and Osprey.

Finding a Bonellis Warbler feeding chicks in the nest was something. This wasn't it because that would have been too close...

My neighbour got very close to this Scops Owl. They have now bred in Luz for 7 years and I think at least 2 territories - it was the first proven breeding in the 64 65 areas. They are a bird that has definitely expanded into the area as they seem to be reported more often.

The bear was awesome and I have found tracks three times in the area. I would love to see one in the flesh although I would probably be very scared. One randoneur skier say one in February above the village and beat a hasty retreat.


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Enjoying your reports. We stayed just up the road in Bareges a couple of times about 20 years ago and loved the area. They were both July visits and,as well as great birds, we were bowled over by the flowers and butterflies that were fantastic in numbers and variety.
Enjoying your reports. We stayed just up the road in Bareges a couple of times about 20 years ago and loved the area. They were both July visits and,as well as great birds, we were bowled over by the flowers and butterflies that were fantastic in numbers and variety.

You may well have stayed with Peter and Jude who are now my near neighbours.

Had some Scare Swallowtails in the garden yesterday. Last week a Camberwell beauty. I can't name many butterflies but Jude is the 'area' expert...
I don't want to hi-jack this thread which gets better and better, but you did ask me to post a couple, so...

That's not poo behind the Booted, it's fragments of the prey in its talons. The Short-toed is, perhaps, our favourite raptor of the area, this one was above Gavarnie on the road to Bucharo - beautiful bird.


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Have both regularly over the house. Today maybe found the partner of the Booted Eagle as a dark phase spent a chunk of the day over the house.

Weather hasn't been great but did have a little outing to look for a common Redstart which has been around for a couple of days. Didn't see or hear that but did see a Dipper as it darted out of its nest... I have looked but this is the first lockdown sighting of it for me...
"Dragnil has promised to post up some phots from his time in the area too.

The Wallcreeper - definitely one of the highlights of living here. We used to get them over winter in the village but that seems to have stopped but obviously still see them. A couple of years ago found our first nest. Firstly, we had all assumed they nested super high so didn't really look too hard, then discovered that they nest below 2000m so started to look in areas we had seen them during the nesting period and secondly, nesting period earlier than thought. Bingo. One nest was about an hour by foot (although could scope from nearer) but it was a fairly steep climb, it was c. 40m up."

OK, my Wallcreeper story. It must have been about your 15 year point when a friend said that he'd been watching WCs while eating his sandwiches quite high in Val des Gloriettes. Well we set off, fit, keen and a good deal younger than we are now and repeated this year after year - nothing.

Then, in September 2008 we stopped for butties in the usual spot above a waterfall and saw two adventurous young things camping at the base of the waterfall and a large French family having a picnic at the top, so no chance of any birds with our lunch. Then an Egyptian Vulture flew close by and as I was trying to get pictures, Shirley wandered over to the waterfall, came back and casually announced that there were two WCs by the cascade.

I had a full forty minutes with the two of them and came withing an ace of getting a shot of them together, but when all was over and I'd thinned out the reject shots I was left with over 200 images and the experience of a lifetime - never to be forgotten


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You mean these weren't the rejects?

Hoping to get out in time to find a nest or two this summer!!! Bonus if you're here too...
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