Trip Report: Carmargue (France), April 29 - May 4, 1997

Ulli Höger, Dipl. Biol., Zoologisches Institut, Neuroethology, J.W. Goethe Universität, Frankfurt am Main, Germany;

From April 29th to May 4th I spent 6 days of birdwatching in southern France. The Carmargue and vicinity was the destination of my trip. The Carmargue is part of the Rhone-delta, and therefore rich in freshwater swamps in its center and salt marshes and dunes in its south. Partly a national park, the other part is used for extensive cattle farming (famous white horses and black bulls of the Carmargue) and rice culture.

Only a few kilometers away from the swamps of the Carmargue the ancient bed of the Rhone river formed a rock-desert, once only good for sheep and goats, today almost destroyed for fruit cultures and other business. Only a small rest is left in the old shape, partly private property and partly a small nature reserve, home of Stone Curlew, Large Pintail Sandgrouse and Little Bustard (information and visiting permission in the Ecomuseum at St. Martin de Crau). North of the Carmargue the Alpilles form a mountainous landscape, breeding place for Bonneli's Eagle, Alpine Swift and Egyptian Vulture.

The weather conditions during my stay were almost perfect. All the days it was warm (20-25°C) and a bright blue sky. The first 2 days the Mistral was very strong and smaller birds were not visible.

Below I list the visited points, followed by the species list (numbers behind the species refer to the observation places. The date of observation is not mentioned, if you like more details don't hesitate to mail me directly.


  1. Méjanes; a small road leads south from road D37 and bifurcates (right) to the Étang de Vaccarès or (straight) a bull fight arena.
  2. Mas d'Agon; a small road leads north from road D37. 2 kms from the crossroads, after passing the farm buildings is probably one of the best places for spotting terns and herons. One of the hot-spots in the area (my personal opinion).
  3. Observation tower on the D37 between 1. and 2. A must for all tourist-buses and families, so better visit this place in the morning or later in the afternoon.
  4. La Capellière; a small information center and nature reserve on road D36b (southern from Villeneuve) with an informal exhibition and a 2 km trail with 3 hides offering a good view to smaller étangs and marshes.
  5. Road D36c; more marshes and saltflats, leading towards Salin de Giraud. Don't miss the small road to Peaudure, passing Petit Badon.
  6. Dunes; turn right from D36b to the Phare de la Gacholle, the lighthouse on the Digue to Saintes-Maries-de la Mer
  7. Étang de Fangassier; with a observation and information point offering a view to the breeding colony of the Flamingo at Martelières du Fangassier.
  8. Mas de Cacharel; turn left from D570 to D85a at Pioch Badet (10 kms north of S-Maries de la Mer).


  1. Peau de Meau; nature reserve, visiting permission (15 FF) and information at the Écomusée in St.Martin de Crau, located ca. 10 km south-east of St.Martin de Crau.
  2. Road west of the Crau, coming from Mas Thibert make a turn to the right from D24 at Mazet, small road is leading to Capeau and Beauchamp.


  1. Nearby the touristic hot-spot Les Baux, a hill with a radio tower, to be reached in a 5 km hiking trip, offers a spectacular view to the Alpilles and the plains.

Spotted Species

(only species 100% surely identified by eye)

Podiceps cristatus         Great Crested Grebe  1,2
Ardea cinerea              Heron                1-8,10
Ardea purpurea             Purple Heron         2
Casmerodius albus          Great White Heron    2,9,10
Egretta garzetta           Little Egret         1-8,10
Bubulcus ibis              Cattle Egret         2,3,5,10
Ardeola ralloides          Squacco Heron        2,3
Phoenicopterus ruber       Flamingo             1-8
Tadorna tadorna            Sheld Duck           1
Milvus migrans             Black Kite           1-5,8,9,10
Circaetus gallicus         Short-toed Eagle     5
Accipiter nisus            Sparrow Hawk         3
Hieraetus fasiatus         Bonnelli's Eagle     11
Neophron percnopterus      Egyptian Vulture     11
Circus aeruginosus         Marsh Harrier        1-5,8,10
Falco peregrinus           Peregrine Falcon     6
Falco tinnunculus          Kestrel              4,9,13
Falco naumanni             Lesser Kestrel       4,9
Alcetoris rufa             Red-legged Partridge 9,10
Phasianus colchicus        Pheasant             1,2,3,10
Gallinula chloropus        Moorhen              1-4,8
Fulica atra                Coot                 1-4,8
Haematropus ostralegus     Oystercatcher        1,7
Himantopus himantopus      Black-winged Stilt   1-4,8
Recurvirostra avosetta     Avocet               3,8
Charadrius hiaticula       Ringed Plover        1,8
Charadrius dubius          Little ringed Plover 1,8
Charadrius alexandrinus    Kentish Plover       1,8
Vanellus vanellus          Lapwing              3
Calidris minuta            Little Stint         6,7
Tringa totanus             Redshank             3,6,8
Tringa erytropus           Spotted Redshank     8
Tringa hypoleucos          Common Sandpiper     8
Philomachus pugnax         Ruff                 8
Numenius arquata           Curlew               3
Burhinus oedicnemus        Stone Curlew         9
Larus ridibundus           Black-headed Gull    1-8,10
Larus genei                Slender-billed Gull  7
Larus argentatus           Herring Gull         1-8,10
Larus melanocephalus       Mediterranean Gull   7
Gelochelidon nilotica      Gull-billed Tern     1,2,3
Sterna hirundo             Common Tern          2,3
Sterna albifrons           Little Tern          2,3,4
Chlidonias hybrida         Whiskered Tern       1,2,3,4
Chlidonias niger           Black Tern           2
Cuculus canorus            Cuckoo               4,10
Apus apus                  Swift                2,3,4,8
Apus melba                 Alpine Swift         11
Merops apiaster            European Bee-eater   2
Coracias garrulus          European Roller      10
Upupa epops                Hoopoe               8
Alauda arvensis            Sky Lark             9
Galerida cristata          Crested Lark         9
Hirundo rustica            Swallow              2,8
Delichon urbica            House Martin         2,8
Hirundo rupestris          Crag Martin          11
Motacilla flava            Yellow Wagtail       2,3,7,8
Lanius excubitor           Great grey Shrike    1
Lanius collurio            Red-backed Shrike    9
Acrocephalus arundinaceus  Great Reet Warbler   4
Acrocephalus scirpaceus    Reed Warbler         4
Acrocephalus palustris     Marsh Warbler        4
Sylvia atricapilla         Blackcap             4
Sylvia conspicillata       Spectacled Warbler   7
Ficedula hypoleuca         Pied Flycatcher      4
Saxicola rubetra           Whinchat             9
Saxicola torquata          Stonechat            9
Oenanthe oenanthe          Wheatear             8,9,10
Oenanthe hispanica         Black-eared Wheatear 8
Luscinia megarhynchos      Nightingale          1,2,4,10
Pica pica                  Magpie               1-11
Corvus monedula            Jackdaw              1-4,7,8,10,11
Corvus corone              Carrion Crow         3,9,10
not to forget all the common tits, doves, sparrows etc. etc.

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This page served by Urs Geiser;; May 23, 1997