The Camargue is an area in southern France on the Mediterranean coast, right next to Marseille. For years, it has been an area known for bird lovers because there is such a variety of birds. So it was about time we visited the Camargue!
When we told friends about our plans, they responded differently, but none got excited or strongly recommended our visit. Some remarks we received: boring, much of the same, lots of mosquito bite and that it would be hot.
Well, we went anyway, and the first day we found no truth in our friend’s advice. It was not dull, hot or mouldy. But a lot of other tourists were present, and it seemed as though the whole area was only furnished to support the beach fever. On the coast, we found large parking lots full of huge campers, hotels and mega campsites. The whole beach as far as you could see populated with umbrellas, the chance of seeing a bird looked very slim. We wondered why we were here!
We went inland, towards the lakes. In the distance, we saw the first flamingos already, and before we got there, we noticed several little reed singers as well as Goldfinches who fed on Thistle seeds. The particular white horses and black cows of the Camargue and several different seagulls, terns, butterflies and flies. In the evening, one of our friend’s advice came right; we fled into our van to escape the mosquitoes!
The Camargue is famous for its black cows and white horses, rice fields, olive groves and salt mining.
The next day it was time for the bird park. The first thing we saw inside was a sick stork in a cage; this is not what we wanted to see! But luckily, this was an exception, the rest of the animals were outside, they were only lured with food to stay in the park. By lunch, we left because some school classes arrived and tranquillity for animal observation is difficult with the enthusiasm of children that watch them as well.
We decided to drive around the largest lake, the Etang de Vaccares, to visit the information centre. Passing rice fields on the way we discovered it was closed for the day leaving us with a walking path. Here we saw a beaver, a Scarlet dragonfly, Glossy ibis, Black-winged stilt and many herons. Strangely with all those big birds, you tend to forget the smaller birds. You can hear them in the trees, but they are difficult to spot between the leaves. While the herons just can not be missed on the ground or in the sky. We went back to the bird park for a second walk around. But in the heat of the day at 37 degrees with our photo gear, it was a bit much, considering we also had a lot of drinking water as well! This evening also ended in the car with mosquitoes trying to get to us.
1) Rice. 2) Translation: It is a fact that mosquitoes are more useful than pink flamingos and other strange birds, 2) Red-veined darter on guard in its territory, usually returning to the same spot. 4) Black-winged stilt checking her eggs.
On the third day, we decided to visit the west side; this part is less touristic. This also means a lack of parking spots, where you can stop for a while to look around, so often we stopped at roadsides of house entries. But we saw lots of animals, the Night heron, Yellow wagtail, Sanderling, flying flamingos, eagles, falcons, butterflies and dragonflies. We became more and more impressed with the diversity of the Camargue, so not boring at all. But the evening approached, and the mosquitoes became active again, so we decided to grab our belongings and come back in another season. Because for birdwatchers the Camargue is a perfect place.