Camargue, France

April 4 to 8, 2001

Author : Ivan Steenkiste
all pictures © are originals, taken in the Camargue in full nature (no parcs)

GPS coordinates are using the WGS84 datum

 


Greater Flamingos

Introduction

My wife and I visited the Camargue (Regional Parc) located in the South of France at some 100 km west of the city of Marseille.

Apart from being known for their white (wild ?) horses, the Camargue is also a real bird paradise.


horse-back riding in the "etangs" (ponds)

 

We stayed in the small beach resort Saintes Maries-de-la-Mer in the Auberge Cavalière (hotel – restaurant ****) along the road D570, only 2 km north of the village.  If interested in reservation, please use phone number 00 33 4 90 97 88 88 or fax 00 33 4 90 97 84 07.  If you want to send an e-mail, use auberge.cavaliere@wanadoo.fr : for more information, visit http://www.aubergecavaliere.com, their site.
The weather was very sunny, with temperatures varying from 20 to 28 °C – there was Mistral the day we left.

For information on Saintes Maries, Capitale de la Camargue,  please see:

For information on the region (Parc Naturel) please see :

Saintes Maries-de-la-Mer


Saintes Maries-de-la-Mer - church

Hotel


Auberge Cavaliere - entrance
Marvelously situated on the banks of the ponds on a natural site of 2.5 hectares, the Auberge Cavalière offers 21 bungalows (cabanes) built in regional style with 21 comfortable rooms equipped with bathroom, wc, mini-bar, direct-dial telephone, TV and safety box.  You can park your car in front of your room.  The rooms are clean, and the food in the nice restaurant is very good.  The owner and personnel are very kind.  Amongst the ponds, you can admire Greater Flamingos, ducks, Coots, Herons, Harriers and many others (see report below).  For GPS users, the coordinates of the Auberge are 43°27.97' N and 004°25.13'E (WGS84)


Auberge Cavaliere

Cabanes

 


Restaurant at Auberge and their Swimming Pool and Rooms

Traveling
We took the Sabena flight from Brussels to Marseille (1 hour 30 min flight with a BAe 146 and return flight with a new Airbus 319).

At the airport Marignane, we hired a car with National and drove via the A7 direction Marseille in order to take immediately the A55 west direction Fos-sur-Mer and then the N568 and N113 to Arles (43°41 N – 004°38 E).  You leave the highway at exit 4 to take the Routes d’Arles, the D570, that goes down to Stes Maries-de-la-Mer, about 36 km south.  The drive from the airport to Stes Maries-de-la-Mer is about 120 km.

If you travel by car all the way through France and you want to plan your route, visit the Michelin website http://www.michelin-travel.com .

Another route planner website is www.shellgeostar.com .  Both websites give you detailed descriptions for your journey.

A good map to use locally is the yellow colored Michelin map nr. 83 (Carcassonne, Montpellier, Nîmes) – 1/200 000 – 1 cm : 2 km.

 

Information on bird observations can be asked with Mr Espuche at the Office du Tourisme at Stes Maries.

 

Descriptions / Observations

While driving to the Camargue, you are quickly aware that you are in the south of France through the many white spots in the fields, being the Cattle Egrets and Little EgretsBlack spots are Jackdaws (very frequent) and Carrion Crows.


Little Egret in breeding plumage

Hotel area: In a small pond in front of the Auberge Cavalière, there were about 12 Black-winged Stilts each day (see picture).  Around the Auberge, we saw Goldfinches, Barn swallow, House sparrow, Black redstart, Cetti's warbler, Moorhen, Grey Heron, Tree Sparrow, Greenfinch, Magpie, and Greater flamingo.

 


Mediterranian gull with a form of a river lamprey

On day one (arrival day), we drove from the Auberge some kms north to take the D85A (right) – this brings you along the Etang de l’Impérial where you can see, after Mas Cacharel, many Greater Flamingos at close distance.   There we saw several Oystercatchers, Yellow-legged Gulls, Black-headed Gulls, Little Egrets, Avocets, 2 Spotted Redshanks, Sky Larks, Great Crested Grebes, Common Coots, and Kestrel.

 


At the entrance of the Parc
On day two, we visited the Parc Ornithologique just north of Stes Maries (along the D 570) where we saw Yellow-legged Gulls, Mediterranian Gulls, Shellducks, Mute Swans, Starlings, Hoopoe, Shoveler, Mallard, Wood pigeon, Oystercatcher, Red-crested Pochard, Cattle Egret, Marbled Duck, Black-winged Stilts (40+), Ferruginous Duck, Tufted Duck, Pochard, Stone-curlew, Herring Gull, and Marsh Harrier.

At the entrance of the parc (ticket office), look up on the top of the lights and you will see these busy Barn swallows !

 



On day three, we decided to drive around Etang de Vaccarès, a natural reserve (see picture left).  From Stes Maries, take the D570 heading to Arles. Just after Paty de la Trinité, take the D37 right.

Around the etang, we saw an Osprey, and Little Grebes.



After a couple of kms, you will see at your right side an observation tower (see picture) at 43°34.30' N – 004°32.51' E.  From there, you have some good views on the area and on adjacent ponds.

There we saw 50+ Black-winged Stilts, Zitting Cisticola, Caspian Tern (1), and Cormorants.

Continue 500 meters and then take a small road to the left where you will see on your right the Marais de la Grand Mar (43°35.67'N - 004°32.69'E).  Lots of waders can be seen there. We saw 50+ Ruffs, Shellducks, Greenshanks (20+), and several Marsh Harriers. In nearby trees, we saw a Night Heron.


Parc de La Capelière

Also at La Capelière, Garganey, Teal, Great White Egret, Avocet and Black-winged Stilts, Black-necked Grebe, and some Snipes.

Continue on the D37 and turn at Villeneuve to the right heading for La Capelière (43°32’10 N – 004°38’63 E) where you can visit another (smaller) parc.  We saw there Black Kite, Collared Dove, Chiffchaff, Corn Bunting, and Fitis ( a dead "ragondin" below).  Nearby Villeneuve, we saw about 40+ Cattle Egrets following a farmer ploughing the fields.


 


Cattle Egret (left adult in breeding plumage, right juvenile) in the ploughed field looking for worms.

 

The Cattle Egrets were accompanied by Jackdaws, one of them showing black and white plumage !

 

We had a lunch outside in a typical French farm place, called Mas St Bertrand (43°26.94'N – 004°39.69' E).  Nothing sophisticated but pleasant as we could sit outside enjoying the songs of many finches and the parfum of flowers.  Cetti’s Warblers were abundant all over the region.

 

We continued to the Station Pompage (43°26.30' N – 004°36.86' E) from where we could see about 7000 Greater Flamingos.  There were lots of Yellow-legged gulls and some Slender-billed Gulls.

Greater Flamingos can be seen all over the southern part of the Camargue : on the right side is a juvenile Greater Flamingo, wearing a yellow ring on the right leg with the code DPJH (bird seen not far away from La Capelière on April 7th) - this ringing project is being managed by Dr Alan Johnson, Tour du Valat, Le Sambuc, 13200 ARLES, FRANCE, 00 33.4.90.97.20.13  johnson@tour-du-valat.com .

On the left picture below, you  see an illustration of the road towards the Station Pompage.  Gulls are sitting on the border of the road and can be easily photographed.

Among the gulls, were a group of 10 Slender-billed gulls


Slender-billed gulls (the left bird on the right picture is a Black-headed gull)

 

Around Palissade, we observed a Montagu's Harrier as well as several Slender-billed gulls, Grey Wagtail and Shellducks.

On day 4, we visited La Pallisade (43°22.40' N – 004°48.43' E), located south of the salt winning areas of Salin de Giraud.

At La Palissade, spectacular sights of Gulls are common

Gull Extravaganza

 

On day 5, we walked on the Digue de la Mer, connecting Stes Maries with the East side of the Camargue Regional Parc, a distance of about 11 km.  There we saw Yellow-legged Gulls, 3 Oystercatchers, 100+ Kentish Plovers, 60+ Sandwich Terns, 2 Slender-billed Gulls, 15 Sky Larks, and 2 Grey Wagtails.

The day we left, we visited again the area of La Capelière : at Fiélouse, turn left on a small road where you will find on the left side another wooden observation platform at Le Grenouillet (43°30.81'N - 004°39.45'E).  There we saw several Stronechats, Cetti's warblers, Orphean Warbler, Green Woodpecker, Black Kite and at least 5 Marsh Harriers.

Departure

We left in the evening of April 8th from a sunny Marseille Marignane located at 43°26.53' N – 005°13.29' E to Brussels (where it rained ... again).


view from the room on the reedbeds