30-06-2005

The boat arrived on time in Marseille, after another good night in a cabin. It took only 15 minutes to get us out of Marseille and within 1.5 hours later we arrived in the Camarque. We visited a spot for Moustached Warbler: La Capelière where we tried for about 2 hours to find one. But it turned out to be energy ill spent. However, the usual suspects were present: Black-winged StiltPied AvocetGreater Flamingo and more. We drove to a pratincole spot (Mas d’Agon) where we found a feeding flock of Collared Pratincoles, a few Squacco Herons and our sole Purple Heron. Also present were Little Emperor and Mallow Skipper (our first skipper of the trip!).
We drove to the small village of St. Martin de Crau where we were just in time to visit the Ecocentre to buy a two day entrance ticket to Peau de Meau.

Peau de Meau

What to expect: stony desert vegetation (called Coussous), not much fun walking in midday heat
Getting there: to visit Peau de Meau you need to obtain an entrance ticket at the visitors centre in St. Martin the Crau (signposted from the main road). The ticket comes with a flyer containing a route description.
Targets: Lesser Kestrel, Little Bustard, Eurasian Thick-knee, Greater Short-toed Lark, Roller

On our way to Peau de Meau we found the first two Rollers, which is apparently not a difficult bird to find in the Crau area. We came across quite a few at several places including 4 birds feeding over a field just before entering Peau de Meau. The desert was hot and deserted. The only active birds were Tawny Pipit and Greater Short-toed Lark and numerous birds of prey including a Short-toed Eagle. The vegetation along a canalised stream held a family of Melodious Warblersand a Golden Oriole was calling from the forest opposite the stream. The stream was also nice for dragonflies. Copper Demoiselle was abundant, and there were also substantial numbers of Southern Damselfly (Coenagrion caerulescens),White-legged DamselflyOrange Damselfly (Platycnemis acutipennis), Norfolk HawkerOnychogomphus uncatusKeeled Skimmer and Southern Darter (Sympetrum meridionale). Some interesting butterflies were also present:Marbled SkipperBath White and Gatekeeper.
In the afternoon we drove to the airport near Eyguieres . This is known to be one of the best spots for Little Bustard. Since it was still pretty hot all activity was low, except for the Rollers that were also present here. It took us over three hours before we finally found two displaying males Little Bustard close to the hangars. With another 3 hours of light we decided to go back to Peau de Meau to have a bit to eat and maybe another chance for Lesser Kestrel, which we failed to locate during our first visit. While scanning the area we found three Eurasian Thick-knees and also heard a few calling. There were quite some kestrels present this time, mostly perched on and hunting from the rock piles but it took until nearly dark before we found a beautiful male Lesser Kestrel. Another one was seen very far away with not much blue on its wings. Most probably all the pile sitting kestrels were Lesser but we didn’t try to identify the female types from that far away. There were also Common Kestrels present but they appeared to hover a lot more often. Sun was setting already and with the images of that splendid male Lesser Kestrel in our memories we decided to skip the last day and drive home during the night. With a small stop for a quick sleep it took us about 14 hours to drive back home.