Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Saturday 3rd October - Parc Naturel Regional des Monts d'Ardeche

Today has been one of those red-letter days right there amongst the top few days of my life so far! It wasn’t just the wildlife, but everything about the day that has made it so special, but here are a few of the amazing wildlife highlights:

We had travelled north into the more mountainous area of the Ardeche. I had been inspired by a poster advertising a Birdlife Migration Event at Col du Pranlet near Lachamp Raphael. Because of the distance and the mountain roads, we arrived at 1pm, just as most of the birders were leaving. As we parked the car a Red Kite flew overhead. I reckoned that the Col must be a brilliant birding site but, when I talked to one of the birders, he informed me that they’d had a really bad morning and that the kite was the first raptor they’d had!!

We didn’t hang around but continued to drive into the mountains, past the strange hump of Mont Jerbier de Jonc (1551m), and on towards the highest peak, Mont Mezenc. On the way we were going up a steep incline when Carole suddenly pointed out a large bird just a little way out from us. Stopping the car, I found myself looking at a Bonelli’s Eagle, just a hundred metres or so away, and then flying right past the back of the car before trying to land in a conifer, failing and disappearing over the hill. A little while later we saw it again, even closer as we drove further up the hill! We stopped at the top of the area and looked back, spotting the Eagle flying in the distance. A Buzzard was also spotted on a telegraph pole, and then Carole spotted another bird just below us….a Peregrine Falcon! It was turning into a raptor-fest!!

To cut a long story short, we enjoyed a truly wonderful day in warm sunshine. On the way back down from Mont Mezenc (which I climbed to the summit while Carole relaxed in the car park) we stopped by a large field littered with boulders and with cows dotted around grazing on the long grass. A large female sparrowhawk took off from by the side of the road and we watched it as it boulder-hopped across the field. To the right I picked out another raptor flying low and quartering…a female Hen Harrier. Then a Buzzard was spotted in the far corner, perched characteristically on a fencepost. A Wheatear and a number of Black Redstarts were darting about on the boulders. After some time, and with dusk fast approaching, we decided to move on and, as we got to the far corner of the field, a large falcon took off and disappeared at high speed into the distance….an immature Peregrine Falcon!!

So, a brilliant day, including a wonderful list of raptors: Red Kite, Buzzard, Bonelli’s Eagle, Peregrine Falcon, Sparrowhawk, and Hen Harrier!

And the journey back was wonderful, too, with a massive moon…and even my first live mammal of the holiday….a Red Fox which leapt from the road onto the verge just in time as we sped past!!

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