Leaving the coastline behind we headed to the spectacular Gorges Du Verdon where we hoped to find the long chased life bird of mine, the Cinereous Vulture. We spent the night near the bridge where the turquoise-green Verdon River enters the lake of Sainte-Croix-du-Verdon. We were about 20 minutes drive away from the vulture breeding area near the gorgeous little mountain village of Rougon.
While being prepared for the short drive through a spectacular Verdon River valley we had a stunning Short-toead Snake-Eagle over our car with a snake in its bill and we saw 4 Alpine Swifts and Eurasian Crag-Martin flying over the limestone cliffs.
Almost unreal water colour of a river. iPhone 7Plus © Gyorgy Szimuly
Tourists love kayaking under this breathtaking cliffs. iPhone 7Plus © Gyorgy Szimuly
Panorama photo of the Verdon River from the bridge. © Gyorgy Szimuly
By arriving to the Rougon area we were not 100% sure about the best observation spot to watch vultures but we found one spot along the breathtaking serpentine road. The map bellow shows where we looked for birds. I have to admit this place was one of the most beautiful I have ever birded or been. The view from the small parking lot to the river valley and the giant vertical cliffs is just jawdropping.
Egyptian Vultures provided excellent views through our perfectly performing Viking ED Pro 80 spotting scope. Sony Cyber-shot HX400V © Gyorgy Szimuly
Some of the Eurasian Griffons stayed on the roosting sites until midday. iPhone SE through Viking ED Pro 80 spotting scope (handheld) © Daniel Szimuly
It is rather painful not having prime photo gear with you as opportunities to photograph vultures, like this Eurasian Griffon, are endless. Sony Cyber-shot HX400V © Gyorgy Szimuly
Eurasian Griffon clearly is a majestic and ruling bird of Rougon. Sony Cyber-shot HX400V © Gyorgy Szimuly
Eurasian Griffon used the uplifing thermals close to the cliffs to elevate to incredible heights. Sony Cyber-shot HX400V © Gyorgy Szimuly
Spectacular view from the Rougon viewing point to the Gorges Du Verdon. iPhone 7Plus © Gyorgy Szimuly
One of the many Eurasian Griffons in a roosting (or nesting?) hole. iPhone SE + Viking ED pro 80 spotting scope © Daniel Szimuly
We soon started to feel the stuck heat between those massive cliffs and the comfi fleece soon landed in the back of the car. Euriasian Crag-Martins flew just over our car and Black Woodpecker flew over the river to the opposite slopes. Western Bonelli’s Warblers and Eurasian Treecreepers passed by next to our car. As heat picked up we had a Golden Eagle flying over the cliffs from the direction of Rougon village. Short-toed Snake-Eagle was looking for lizzards or snakes in lover elevations providing excellent views.
We got excited when the first Eurasian Griffons took flight. Dani spotted a beautiful adult Egyptian Vulture dropped from the cliffs of the northern side. My favourite Alpine Swifts flew over us with larger flock of Common Swifts and slowly moved towards northwest. As no Cinereous Vulture showed up we decided to go to Rougon village for finding a good spot for overlooking the entire valley.
What a charming and picturesque little mountain village Rougon is. Just a few houses on a top of a hill with a little shop kind residents and a yummy creperie. But more about it a bit later…
Lovely crest of Rougon on the wall of a small well. iPhone 7Plus © Gyorgy Szimuly
Cliffs over the the houses of Rougon provides an amazing 360° view to the wider region. iPhone 7Plus © Gyorgy Szimuly
Incoming Eurasian Griffon. Photo was taken from the creperie. Sony Cyber-shot HX400V © Gyorgy Szimuly
Topside view of Eurasian Griffon. Sony Cyber-shot HX400V © Gyorgy Szimuly
We saw great variety in plumages of Eurasian Griffons. Sony Cyber-shot HX400V © Gyorgy Szimuly
If we understood correctly these birds are marked in a special way. Some of the primaries or secondaries are clipped (cut) allowing identification of individuals. Sony Cyber-shot HX400V © Gyorgy Szimuly
Beautiful (probably undulatus asperatus) cloud formation over the Gorges du Verdon. iPhone 7Plus © Gyorgy Szimuly
Egyptian Vulture gliding over the valley. Sony Cyber-shot HX400V © Gyorgy Szimuly
A group of Eurasian Griffons climbing higher and higher in increasing temperatures. Sony Cyber-shot HX400V © Gyorgy Szimuly
Luckily a vulture viewing point just hehind the creperie was well signed and for obvious reasons we spent the rest of the afternoon there. Lots of Eurasian Griffons elevated by thermal spells using the eastern slopes of the village as heat peaked. A pair of Red-backed Shrike fed youngs under the viewing point, Black Redstart was hunting for insects in the garden of the houses behind us and a nice male Rock Bunting was singing on the top of the nearby buildings. Common Ravens attacked and mobbed another Egyptian Vulture very close to us.
The terrace of the family run La Creperie Le Mur d’Abeilles. Delicious food, quick service and breathtaking views to the valley and vultures gliding over. iPhone 7Plus © Gyorgy Szimuly
Oh yes, that creperie… having a tiny open terraced family run restaurant next to viewing point means you don’t have to stand on your feet all day. It came very handy sitting there and watching the soaring while eating the delicious crepes ala Provence. The staff was more than friendly what made the whole experience even more memorable. This is a highly recommended place to visit.
Egyptian Vulture (Neophron percnopterus) 3
Eurasian Griffon (Gyps fulvus) 32
Short-toed Snake-Eagle (Circaetus gallicus) 2
Golden Eagle (Aquila chrysaetos) 1
Common Wood-Pigeon (Columba palumbus) 2
Alpine Swift (Apus melba) 19
Common Swift (Apus apus) 78
Eurasian Wryneck (Jynx torquilla) 1
Great Spotted Woodpecker (Dendrocopos major) 1
Black Woodpecker (Dryocopus martius) 1
Eurasian Green Woodpecker (Picus viridis) 1
Eurasian Kestrel (Falco tinnunculus) 2
Red-backed Shrike (Lanius collurio) 3
Eurasian Jay (Garrulus glandarius) 1
Common Raven (Corvus corax) 10
Eurasian Crag-Martin (Ptyonoprogne rupestris) 33
Barn Swallow (White-bellied) (Hirundo rustica) 1
Common House-Martin (Delichon urbicum) 1
Great Tit (Parus major) 5
Eurasian Treecreeper (Certhia familiaris) 2
Eurasian Wren (Eurasian) (Troglodytes troglodytes) 1
Western Bonelli’s Warbler (Phylloscopus bonelli) 2
Eurasian Blackcap (Sylvia atricapilla) 8
Black Redstart (Phoenicurus ochruros) 1
Common Blackbird (Turdus merula) 1
White Wagtail (Motacilla alba) 1
Rock Bunting (Emberiza cia) 1
Common Chaffinch (Fringilla coelebs) 3
European Goldfinch (Carduelis carduelis) 5
House Sparrow (Passer domesticus) 2
After several hours of birdwatching we gave up looking for Cinereous Vulture as we had to follow our plan. We headed to another spectacular alpine reserve, the Refuge de la Madone de Fenestre what is part of the extensive Parc National du Mercantour.
Panoramic view of the Refuge de la Madone de Fenestre and its spectacular surroundings. iPhone 7Plus © Gyorgy Szimuly
Just had to take another pano photo at the ‘U’ turn. iPhone 7Plus © Gyorgy Szimuly
Dani is searching for perching Citril Finches. iPhone 7Plus © Gyorgy Szimuly
We had not much time left for birdwatching at the spot as roads were closed for a long time due to a traffic accident in the Gorges Du Verdon. The reason of our visit was to find the Citril Finch and Rock Partridge. We parked nearby the hotel at the elevation of 1,906 meters (6,253 ft). It was fantastic to listen to all the bird songs from the valley and the slopes. During my short walk towards the sharp ‘U’ turn I spotted two Citril Finches landed on the top of a small tree just above me. Sadly Dani was not around but I was very happy to see this species. I saw a Citril Finch in the Austrian Alps a few years back but the bird was flying away from me and had no chance to have proper views. Shortly after the two Ctril Finches flew off the tree we had two more birds calling and flying over us. It was already worth to have a trip here.
Perching Ctril Finches. © Fabrizio Moglia (This photo was legally embedded from Fabrizio Moglia‘s Flickr photostream. Please check out his work)
After dusk we tried for European Pygmy-Owls at lower elevations but we had no luck.
List of birds we saw around the hotel:
Eurasian Sparrowhawk (Accipiter nisus) 1
Eurasian Crag-Martin (Ptyonoprogne rupestris) 9
Coal Tit (Periparus ater) 2
Common Chiffchaff (Phylloscopus collybita) 1
Eurasian Blackcap (Sylvia atricapilla) 2
European Robin (Erithacus rubecula) 1
Whinchat (Saxicola rubetra) 3
Northern Wheatear (Oenanthe oenanthe) 2
Mistle Thrush (Turdus viscivorus) 2
Dunnock (Prunella modularis) 1
White Wagtail (Motacilla alba) 1
Water Pipit (Anthus spinoletta) 1
Rock Bunting (Emberiza cia) 2
Common Chaffinch (Fringilla coelebs) 3
European Goldfinch (Carduelis carduelis) 3
Citril Finch (Carduelis citrinella) 4
European Serin (Serinus serinus) 6
This trip was supported by Viking Optical.