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Nouvelle-Aquitaine

Kingfisher
Common Kingfisher Alcedo atthis ©Ashley Beolens Website

Nouvelle-Aquitaine is the largest administrative region in France, located in the southwest of the country. The region was created by the merger of three regions: Aquitaine, Limousin and Poitou-Charentes. It covers 84,061 km2 (32,456 sq mi) – or  1⁄8 of the country – and has approximately 5,800,000 inhabitants. The new region was established on 1 January 2016, following the regional elections in December 2015.

It is the largest region in France by area, with a territory slightly larger than that of Austria; even French Guiana is smaller. Its largest city, Bordeaux, together with its suburbs and satellite cities, forms the 7th-largest metropolitan area of France, with 850,000 inhabitants. The region has 25 major urban areas, among which the most important after Bordeaux are Bayonne (288,000 inhabitants), Limoges (283,000), Poitiers (255,000), Pau (241,000), and La Rochelle (206,000), as well as 11 major clusters. It is delimited by the Pays de la Loire to the north-west, the Centre-Val de Loire to the north, Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes to the east, Occitanie to the south-east, and Spain (Aragon, Basque Country, and Navarre) to the south.

The region covers a large part of the Aquitaine Basin and a small portion of the Paris Basin (the border between the two being located at the "Seuil du Poitou") and the Limousin plate (part of the Massif Central) and the western part of the Pyrenees. It is part of five watersheds facing the Atlantic Ocean: Loire, Charente, Garonne and Dordogne (and their extension, the Gironde estuary) and Adour, giving rivers bordering land dedicated mostly to viticulture and to agriculture.

Nouvelle-Aquitaine also relies on the presence of a large open coastline on the Atlantic Ocean, from the National Nature Reserve Aiguillon Bay and the estuary of the Sèvre (north Charron) than Bidasoa (south of Hendaye) and including the islands of the Charentais Archipelago (islands of Ré, Oléron, Aix and Madame) and the wide notch from Arcachon. This diverse area is the area of the oyster (Marennes-Oléron and the Bassin d’Arcachon), mussel (mussels from Baie de l’Aiguillon), and Tourism, evidenced by the presence of famous resorts such Arcachon (Côte d’Argent), Biarritz (Côte Basque) and Royan (Côte de Beauté).

Renowned for its strong hunting tradition This area of France has a lot to offer to the daring birder, if you can stay well clear of the hunters and manage not to drink to much Bordeaux.

From the mouth of the Gironde to the foothills of the Pyrenees, coastal dune systems, ancient woodland, pine plantations patched with heathland and large-scale cereal production, give way close to the river systems to vineyards & low cliffs. This rich and varied birding region is marred only by the militant hunters in the autumn, who are prepared to blast even protected species out of the sky.

The key birding spots are:

The Gironde Estuary & Coast - Pointe de Grave:
star spring migration spot at the north tip of the Gironde. From mid March to the end of May, the LPO maintains a counting camp (usually mornings only). Hirundines in their thousands head north, accompanied by hobbies. Kites, ospreys, harriers, honey buzzards, peregrines, storks, spoonbills, hoopoes, golden orioles, waders, too many species to list.

The Gironde Estuary - the Marais de Conseiller:
a local nature reserve at le Verdon covering former saltpans and marshland, is good for black-winged stilts, lapwings & waders, as well as all three harrier species. Montague’s harriers are especially frequent in the North Medoc area.

The Gironde Estuary - North Medoc marshes:
LPO’s L’Oiseau magazine calls this “the other jewel of the estuary”. Mainly grazed wetlands to the northern end & polders to the south. A network of hedges & ditches offer a varied habitat for a broad range of species. Cycle tracks & lanes allow good observation access The hedges are home in spring & summer to skylarks, nightingales, bluethroats, shrikes, fan-tailed warblers. White storks & heron species are attracted to the area by the numerous amphibian species. Short-toed eagles are occasionally seen as they stray from their coastal woodland breeding sites.

The Gironde Estuary - Jau-Dignac:
former island now surrounded by marshland –home to bee-eaters, hoopoes & yellowhammers.

The Gironde Coast - Pine Forests:
Short-toed Eagles nest in the region - nesting sites are monitored in the south of the Medoc . Also rare white-shouldered kites.

The Gironde Coast - Pointe de Cap Ferret:
Autumn equivalent of Point de Grave.

Arcachon Basin - La Teich:
SW France’s Minsmere -large organised bird-reserve with varies habitats & English version of website [listed below]

Landes - Arjuxanx:
lakes formed on the site of former lignite mines. Major winter (November to February) home to more than 20,000 common cranes, plus thousands more passing through on migration, feeding on grain fields during the day & returning to roost on the lakes. Nightjars, shrikes & bee-eaters nest here. 177 species observed so far.

Landes - Marais D’Orx:
the Conservatoir du Littoral is returning former drained areas to natural wetland. One observatory, no hides but lakeside paths. Good for nesting spoonbills, kites, marsh harriers, kingfishers, Cettis warblers. Occasional ospreys on migration, as well as ducks & geese in winter. Has several gites for rent.

Landes - Adour River ‘Les Barthes’:
Flood plain wetlands provide rich habitat. St Martin de Seignanx Bergusté & Lesgaux reserves managed by local hunters! Several pairs of black-shouldered kites breed in the Adour river area – population is increasing but nest locations are a closely kept secret.

Pyrenees Atlantique - Organbidexxka:
Autumn migration count centre high up in the Pyrenees – spectacular in good weather. Chalets & camping available nearby. Two other count centres at lower altitude at Lindux & Lizarrieta.

The Poitou-Charente part of the region is somewhat over-shadowed by the Vendee to the north and the Bassin d’Arcachon, Aquitaine to the south, this region has some good coastal sites, with the islands Ile d’Oleron and Ile de Re being the best. Though heavily populated, Ile de Re has good Atlantic sea-watching, a nice LPO reserve, Lilleau des Niges, and the most accessible wader roosts along this coast.

Inland, in departement Deux-Sevre, there are the vast Poitevin marshes [orchids, butterflies and odonata], and in the Vienne one of Europe’s most northerly breeding populations of Little Bustard, near Poitiers, where the rare Ortolan also breeds.

Although the region itself has much to offer the naturalist, combining a trip to the Brenne, region Centre, three hours drive east from the coast , provides a diverse trip-list of birds, orchids and insects, particularly in spring.

Limousin is also an underwatched and underrated area. I cannot pretend to know the region well having only had one brief visit to the Creuse area, but I can thoroughly recommend it for species which are absent or scarce in the UK. For the most part the Creuse area is heavily wooded with many lakes and fast rivers making it terrific territory for arboreal species and the many open areas of farmland, mostly producing cattle, are farmed sympathetically so abound with butterflies and game such as hares, deer and wild boar.

Woodpeckers are particularly evident with Black, Grey-headed and Middle-spotted all present as well as Green, Lesser-spotted & Greater-spotted, and Short-toed Treecreeper & Nuthatch. Warblers seem to be everywhere with Melodious perhaps the most common but Western Bonnelli's and Icterine quite easily found among the Blackcaps, Chiffchaffs and more familiar species. Finches are equally common with Serin most evident and plenty of Hawfinches in the woods giving UK birders a chance to familiarise themselves with the unfamiliar. I saw juveniles for the first time. What is more Golden Orioles are numerous and their fluting calls delight everywhere.

Top Sites

Artix Reserve

Satellite View

The small riverside reserve at Artix 10km NW of Pau, near to Mourenx, on a river called the Gave de Pau is well worth finding if you're passing through, or visiting Lourdes. It has all sorts of surprises, with breeding Little and Cattle Egret, Little Bittern, Night, Purple and Grey Heron and so on

Bassin d'Arcacho

Satellite View

Although best known for its Oyster production this is a very good birding area outside June-September (To many Tourists at that time).

Dordogne - Dordogne Valley

Satellite View

The main river valley. Although the valley bottom is fairly intensive agriculture, the riverside, forest and meadows amongst the side valleys, hillsides and hilltops can be very interesting. Nesting little ringed plover, black kite, honey buzzard, peregrine, hobby, short-toed eagle, raven, alpine swift, crag martin, wryneck, black and middle spotted woodpeckers, dipper, Dartford, fan-tailed and Cetti’s warbler. During passage osprey and red kite are frequent, plus egrets, herons, storks, crane. Small bird passage includes many pied flycatchers in autumn and occasional parties of bee-eater. In winter wallcreeper and alpine accentor can sometimes be found and Great White Egret and various duck species are regular.

Dordogne - Faux Plateau, south east of Bergerac

Satellite View

An arable farmland area with woods and scrubby grasslands. Nesting stone curlew, red-backed and woodchat shrike, quail, Scop’s and long-eared owl, rock sparrow, corn bunting, crested lark, tawny pipit, hen and Montagu’s harrier. In migration periods wagtails, chats and warblers pass through and dotterel has been recorded. Wader passage can be interesting at two reservoirs in the south of the area. Occasional terns and gulls appear on passage with duck in winter.

Dordogne - General

Satellite View

In summer, in suitable habitat, all the area is good for hoopoe, golden oriole, cirl bunting, short-toed treecreeper, turtle dove, cuckoo, little and barn owl, kingfisher, tree pipit, woodlark, nightjar, lesser spotted woodpecker, firecrest, black and common redstart, stonechat, nightingale, melodious and Bonelli’s warbler, marsh and crested tit, linnet, serin and tree sparrow. Hawfinch and brambling are common in winter. Rock bunting has been recorded. There is a very large passage of common crane in spring and autumn. Meadow pipit is a common winter visitor but does not breed. Immediately south in the Lot and Lot et Garonne there are sites for nesting Subalpine Warbler and Ortolan Bunting.

Ile de Re

Satellite View

This island provides an LPO reserve [see below], wader roosts, and sea-watching and winter seabirds at the Phare des Baleines lighthouse on the extreme western tip of the island. The lighthouse stands on a low rocky headland offering some elevation for sea-watching, also nice rock pools with waders, terns, gulls and egrets on the ebbing tide. Divers, grebes, Purple Sandpipers and Mediterranean Gulls are the specialities here; in October even Yellow-browed Warbler are occasionally found. Nearby there’s a reliable wader roost at Loix, and a Sacred Ibis roost with up to 140 birds in summer.

Landes Forest

Satellite View

The maize crops in the clearings of the Landes forest harbour the largest population of wintering Cranes in Europe.

Pointe De Grave

Satellite View

One of the best spots for spring visible migration in France. There is a visible migration survey taking place every spring organised by the LPO which is trying to protest against the slaughter of Turtle Doves.

Reserve du Teich

Website

Satellite View

The Reserve has a good breeding population of Bluethroats and a very good high tide roost and Le Banc d'Arguin has a huge colony of Terns.

Reserve Naturelle de Lilleau de Niges

http://ile-de-re.lpo.fr/

Satellite View

Situated near the western tip of the island, about four kilometres east of the lighthouse, the reserve has a good information centre, the Maison du Fier, signposted off the main road through Les Portes. Best from three hours before high tide, there’s a good circular trail taking in saltmarsh, lagoons and protected mudflats. Birds here include all three harriers, many wader species [up to 3000 Black-tailed Godwits in September], also Stilts, Curlew Sandpipers, Little Stints and Avocets; 40+ Spoonbills in September, in winter large numbers of wildfowl including Brent Geese, also Short-eared Owls; and it’s a great place to watch the breeding Bluethroats. Reserve area 195 hectares.

The Bayonne area

Satellite View

The Bare de l'Adour is an excellent, under watched, sea watching spot and the reserve des Marais d'Orx has always something to offer.

Contributor

Peter Wells

Other Top Sites

peter@forewood.co.uk

David Simpson - Dordogne Birding Guide

Dordogne Top Sites

0033 5 53 27 34 47

audave2505@yahoo.fr

Useful Reading

Birding Dordogne

by David Simpson | BirdGuides Ltd | July 2010 | 32 page Paperback with maps
See Fatbirder Review

ISBN: 9781898110521

Buy this book from NHBS.com

Forums & Mailing Lists

Obsvpc - Obs-Vendée-Poitou-Charentes

To post to list: obsvpc@yahoogroupes.fr

List contact: obsvpc-owner@yahoogroupes.fr

To subscribe to list: obsvpc-subscribe@yahoogroupes.fr

Obs-Vendée-Poitou-Charentes is the free discussion list of all lovers of birds and nature, on the four departments of Poitou-Charentes and the Vendée.

Guides & Tour Operators

Click on WAND for tours, guides, lodges and more…

Birding Pal

Information

Local birders willing to show visiting birders around their area.

Honeyguide Wildlife Holidays

Tour Operator

If you are looking for a quality natural history holiday, this is a great place to start. The Honeyguide programme offers a mix of the very best of wildlife in fascinating parts of Europe..

Wild Dordogne - David Simpson

Tour Operator

David Simpson - Cabant et St Meyme de Rozens, 24150 Mauzac et Grand Castang, FRANCE - 0033 5 53 27 34 47 audave2505@yahoo.fr - Welcome to Wild Dordogne (Dordogne Butterfly and Bird Watching). This is the website for our wildlife guiding service and La Cabane du Pommier which is our luxury holiday cottage in southern Dordogne, SW France, situated adjacent to our own private residence. In this site you will also find much information on butterflies, birds and other wildlife in the region…

Trip Reports

Click on WAND for tours, guides, lodges and more…

CloudBirders

Trip Report Repository

CloudBirders was created by a group of Belgian world birding enthusiasts and went live on 21st of March 2013. They provide a large and growing database of birding trip reports, complemented with extensive search, voting and statistical features.

2007 [05 May] - Honeyguide

PDF Report

Disturbed ground plants like bugloss and poppies are expected: a patch of cornflowers was an unexpected bonus. A sparrowhawk dashed through, disturbing starlings and white wagtails.

2006 [05 May] - John Durdin

PDF Report

Honeyguides tour

2008 [05 May] - Honeyguide

PDF Report

2009 [05 May] - Honeyguide

PDF Report

2009 [08 August] - Geoff Dicker

Report

Driving on to our destination we didn’t get to see much until we were over the St Nazaire bridge over the Loire. Once into the marshes around Beauvoir–Sur–Mer we saw a couple of Black Kites, Cattle & Little Egrets, Marsh & Montagu’s Harrier and a Short-Toed Eagle from the D51 road. Cattle Egrets have obviously spread into this area significantly since our last visit in 1997 when we didn’t see one…

2010 [05 May] - Chris Durdin

PDF Report

Fiona found a raptor, the first of many honey buzzards today, and John pointed out a big patch of the parasitic purple toothwort round the base of a poplar, presumably its host.

2011 [05 May] - Honeyguide - Dordogne

PDF Report

…golden orioles’ fluty song in the oak woods, the persistent calls of hoopoes…

2012 [05 May] - Chris Durdin

PDF Report

...there was a concentration of birds that struck me as wonderfully French: a cirl bunting and a melodious warbler on one bush, two black redstarts on a roof and a TV aerial, a serin atop the short belt of cypresses and a nightingale singing…

2013 [05 May] - Chris Durdin

PDF Report

On the hill above Le Bugue, we were treated to close views of a singing Bonelli's warbler and, further down, even better views of a firecrest, its crest glowing like a hot ember.

2015 [05 May] - Mark Galliott

PDF Report

The birds were somewhat quiet, although Turtle Dove and Nightingale could be heard singing well within the dense scrub, while glimpses were had of Blackcap and Western Bonelli’s Warbler. Butterflies and other insects were plentiful though, with Berger’s Clouded Yellow, Common Swallowtail, Cleopatra, Adonis and Little Blue, Brown Argus, Speckled Wood, Wood White, Red-underwing Skipper, Wall Brown, and Glanville, Spotted & Meadow Fritillaries all observed.

2016 [05 May] - Chris Durdin - Dordogne

PDF Report

Peering over the bank from our position in the sunken lane revealed a remarkable sight: hundreds of tongue orchids in a garden. Along the road there was another melodious warbler, a cirl bunting and a hoopoe in an oak tree.

2017 [07 July] - Ken Hall - Birding at the Manoir de Gurson, Dordogne

Report

This guesthouse is situated about halfway between Libourne and Bergerac, in the west of the département of the Dordogne. I stayed here for a couple of nights in early July 2017, and although a bit late in the season for birdsong, there was still plenty to keep me occupied. As an adjunct to the sites mentioned in David Simpson's guide (Birding Dordogne), some of which are not too far away, the following is a note of what could be seen in even just a short visit...

Places to Stay

Click on WAND for tours, guides, lodges and more…

Castang

Accommodation

Castang is a family run holiday property, where you come to take a break and relax in calm and peaceful surroundings while enjoying traditional French cooking in sociable company. The house is run by Cathy, assisted by her husband, Keith, daughter Olivia, and a team of helpers all of whom are dedicated to making your stay at Castang a memorable experience. We have individual and groups of naturalists that come and stay using Castang as their base

Chateau de Senescau - Termes d'Armagnac, Gers, Gascony

Accommodation

We offer three gites for 2, 4 and 8-10 people at our historic house in the heart of Gascony, SW France, with memorable views and T-shaped pool. Our 25 acres of garden and meadow, are within easy reach of many different habitats (and therefore wildlife watching opportunities). The Pyrenees are an hour or so to the south across the Riviere-Basse region with its rivers and streams. The pine forests and lakes of Les Landes stretch westward to the Atlantic coast and the softly rolling farmland and vineyards of the Gers lie to the north and east. France at its relaxed best.

La Cabane du Pommier - Saint Meyme de Rozens, Dordogne (30 mins E of Bergerac)

Accommodation

This holiday cottage is run by David Simpson, Dordogne birding guide, who lives next door. The terrace garden area has grasslands with olive and fig trees and a large gravelled area edged with a butterfly / flower garden. There are views across the meadow and a small valley. Car parking. Extensive forest and meadowland with an orchard (10 acres). Large covered terrace including wooden table and chairs, recliners and sun loungers. Charcoal Weber BBQ. The terrain is managed as a nature reserve. Roe Deer regularly visit the meadow and orchard. Footpaths lead from the house to the hamlet, main road, open grassy hilltop and forest. There are a number of bird nest boxes near the buildings. Footpaths within and from the property include a nature trail and access to a natural spring and an old hamlet. Nesting birds around the property include Honey Buzzard, Golden Oriole, Turtle Dove, Short-toed Treecreeper, Bonelli's Warbler, Firecrest and Woodlark. Butterflies include Large and Reverdin's Blue, Dryad and Duke of Burgundy. Orchids include Lady, Violet Limodore and Red Helleborine.

Le Petit Manoir du Tartre - St Thomas de Conac

Accommodation

Le Petit Manoir du Tartre is a beautiful Charentaise house which has been professionally restored by French craftsmen. In a tiny hamlet, near the Gironde Estuary with its fantastic array of flora and fauna, Le Petit Manoir is situated in a protected nature area and has glorious views towards the Gironde, with its own wooded land and huge barn detached from the house

Le Studio Wildlife Photography Holidays in France

Website

Le Studio' is situated in central France in a region noted for Natural Beauty and ideal for photographic holidays, Wildlife, Historical Architecture, and Great Food and Wine. These varied areas of beauty and interest perfectly complement the study of Photography.

Les Haute Voiles Blanches - Mortagne sur Gironde, Charente Maritime

Accommodation

Situated in a small building with lift access and brand new for 2010, this modern, duplex apartment forms part of an old mill conversion and enjoys stunning views across the Gironde Estuary and Mortagne harbour. It offers the perfect holiday rental for couples in the Charente Maritime, France.

Manoir de Gurson - Beaulieu, Dordogne

Accommodation

Awaken your senses at Le Manoir de Gurson, set within a private 98 acre estate. This holiday home is in an idyllic location situated amongst the vineyards of the Dordogne. Enjoy 5 en-suite bedrooms for up to 10 people and a private pool with spectacular views over our hidden valley, woods, fields and 3 fishing lakes. ..

Moulin de la Geneste

Website

Moulin de la Geneste is located in the Correze region of the Limousin, affectionately known as the "Lake District" of France (fantastic for fishing) and is situated in almost 10 acres of undulating land with a lake and a small trout river. Part of the land and small wood have been "left to nature" and is home to an abundance of birds, butterflies and lizards etc.

Soulac Beachhouse

Accommodation

A great base for birding in the Gironde area.

Organisations

L'Observatoire de L'Environnement de Poitou-charentes

Website

Every year for 4 years, the CPIE Gâtine Poitevine organizes an event on the garden, entitled "Welcome to my garden natural" . Amateur gardeners, who garden in the natural, open their garden over a weekend to their neighbors, visitors to transmit their practice of gardening without pesticides and chemical fertilizers. This year's event will take place on Saturday 10th and Sunday 11th June.

Le Groupe Ornithologique des Deux-Sèvres

Website

The Ornithological Group of the Deux-Sèvres is a non-profit association whose objectives are the study and protection of birds and their environments. The association is affiliated at the regional level in Poitou-Charentes Nature and at the national level at France Nature Environnement.

LPO (Ligue pour la Protection des Oiseaux) - Aquitaine

Website

LPO Aquitaine aims knowledge and the protection of birds and biodiversity in Aquitaine. The contact details of the head office of the LPO Aquitaine: 433, chemin de Leysotte, 33140 Villenave d'Ornon, Tel: 05 56 91 33 81 - Mail: aquitaine@lpo.fr

Societe pour l'Etude et la Protection des Oiseaux en Limousin

Website

Reserves

Lilleau des Niges

Webpage

Satellite View

Nature Reserve Lilleau of Niges, located north of the island of Ré, is inside a large almost closed bay, Fier d'Ars. It is relatively sheltered from the swell and offshore winds. The complex nature reserve / Fier d'Ars faces the Aiguillon Bay and is close to other protected natural areas of Charente-Maritime...

Port Vitrezay

Information

Satellite View

Port Vitrezay is located in Pays de Haute Saintonge, on the southern limit of the department of Charente-Maritime. It is the last port of the estuary located in Charente-Maritime before the department of Gironde

Teich Bird Reserve

Webpage

Satellite View

On the shore of the Bassin d'Arcachon, Le Teich Bird Reserve, recognized as being of international importance, is a natural and unique space, built to accommodate wild birds and enable their observation.

Blogs

Charente Birding

BLOG

Englishman now mostly living in Charente blogs about the birds of the region...

Roadrunners Mike and Linda

BLOG

The tales of our travels and adventures

Other Links

Bird-watching in Dordogne

Article

The rural terrain of the Dordogne departement in Western France lends itself to superb bird watching. Find out here where to go and what to look out for when you get there.

Birdwatching on the Ile de Re

Article

Faune Aquitaine

Website

Bienvenue sur faune-aquitaine.org, le site collaboratif qui permet de rassembler des données naturalistes et d'en restituer la substantifique moelle auprès de tout un chacun