Thursday, 19 April 2018

Looking for spring in Provence

We went looking for spring in Provence - and found it briefly. Just a bit early, just a bit windy, and certainly too wet - the locals complained in January that there had been no rain for six months and it has made up for it since then, so it was very lush.

But we had some good sunny warm days, and bizarrely saw alpine swifts before martins or swallows, and heard nightingales before chiffchaffs or blackcaps. There was much history to see
 and there were early spider orchids (ssp passionis) by the pool.

The drive down through France revealed many joys: the towns of Troyes and Tournus were delightful in different ways, the former a university city that came alive on Friday evening, while the latter is quiet and peaceful - both had water and history, as well as fascinating nature reserves:

Outside Troyes the Foret d'Orient had masses of spring flowers as we know them, including many many oxlips. It also has a salamander trail!
Near Tournus is the Truchere nature reserve, a marvellous collection of woods, etangs and heaths which shows what a healthy ecosystem looks like - middle-spotted woodpecker and wood warblers gave me my best views ever, and the chateau that we stayed in had nightingales and a cuckoo at the bottom of the garden.

Back to Provence, the number and variety of birds in the countryside were disappointing, and again we were too early for rollers or bee-eaters. We staying the Alpilles hills (pronounced "Alpeeees" according to our strict guide and interpreter) and there is an impressive project to encourage rollers by the LIFE group.

The limestone flora was beautifully full, prior to burning off in the summer sun.

I just love limestone, leaping from rock to rock, my best girl by my side....

The Alpilles are part of a so-called Golden Triange which also includes the Crau desert, which apparently has little bustards, sand-grouse and stone curlew but which is about the most difficult birding terrain I've seen (think Dungeness on a windy day, and then some), and the Camargue which needs no introduction.
 Yes you can see greater flamingoes from the road, and yes there's lots else to see including terrapins crossing.
 There is also the marvellous Capilliere reserve where you can see wild nature up close, including white storks, glossy ibis, wood sandpiper, tree pipits, nightingales (and more flamingoes) - all for 3 euros.
There's so much to see.... best go back again sometime (preferably in later-April/May).

No comments: