Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Provence, Feb / Mar 2012 (1)


 Cirl Buntings

With apologies for another interruption to the round-the-world trip journal (of which, only the last few weeks now remain to edit and upload). We're presently about halfway through a month's getaway in the small village of Caumont-sur-Durance, near Avignon, ostensibly to kill time while we wait for the cards to fall on our next move. As a place to hole up for a while, it could be a great deal worse.

male Black Redstart in the garden

Very little birding so far - although there's been some pleasing collateral while out and about locally - and although I'll be getting out more over the next fortnight, the intention is to stay focused on various writing projects while the opportunity remains, and before real life eventually kicks back in.

female Black Redstart

Of birds? Well, as I write, a male Sardinian Warbler is rattling in the hedge, a pair of Black Redstarts are darting in and out of neighbouring gardens, Serins are singing cheerfully in nearby conifers, and Blackcaps and Chaffinches are, of course, everywhere (see next post); a reasonable distillation of what's around in the immediate area, although there's more to be found a little further afield.

 male Serin

On the rocky, largely undisturbed hillsides and ridges just beyond the edge of the village, the habitat varies from dwarf scrub and low herb growth to scattered oak and pine stands, all on the sandy soils typical of the area; the views are stunning, and the natural aromas (including wild sage and rosemary) intoxicating.

there's a (?) on the wall of a 12th century chateau in this picture - good luck (click to enlarge)

Birds here include Firecrests (with the odd Goldcrest tagging along - a nice role reversal from the usual back home), Dartford Warblers, and occasional Short-toed Treecreepers; add to the overall cast a scattering of Cirl Buntings, Chiffchaffs, Common Buzzards, Ravens, more Black Redstarts, Sardinian Warblers & Serins, and occasional flocks of Redwings in the hedges, and that's pretty much the works thus far.

The weather is generally beautiful - sunshine and clear, deep blue skies by day, and clear, star-and-planet-studded skies by night. The latter are generally pretty cold, and the fireplace is still getting a lot of use; but daytime temperatures are climbing all the time, with several pushing twenty degrees (including today). As usual, conditions are ruled entirely by the Mistral, which ebbs and flows as it pleases. This usually results in a cycle of several days with wild, battering winds, fading steadily into several with abating and ultimately still conditions.

Leps so far have included a scattering of Red Admirals, a Wall, several unID'ed whites, and most surprisingly a Hummingbird Hawk-moth (above, on the 25th Feb). How long before the first Wheatear or hirundine? Fingers are crossed, at least when not incessently tapping this machine....