My Birding Sites





I don't mean websites but places where I often go birdwatching, either because they are not far off or just because they are places where birds abound.  This page presents a list of my favourite haunts, in the Nice area when I need a few days in the sun or in Lorraine, where I was born, where the sun doesn't shine so often but where birdwatching is so much easier. 

The Var Mouth 

It may be surprising but this place is an ornithological hot spot of the Côte d'Azur, squeezed between the Nice airport and a huge supermarket. Numerous bird species visit this place or nest here.

How to get there

If you want to get there from Nice, it is best to remain on the Promenade des Anglais and head for Antibes until you see the sign "Cap 3000" at Saint-Laurent-du-Var where you will leave the main road.  In the small tunnel under this road, make a right turn to the south car park (Parking Sud). This car park is free provided you don't stay there for more than two hours.  Walk to the sailing-school and watch the birds from the  platform.  You will be annoyed to see that fishermen, windsurfers and other adepts of water activities  often make them fly away.  Once the works under way are finished, it will again be possible to walk on the levee along the river Var as far as the bridge Napoléon III where the birds enjoy some peace.  They have become accustomed to the noise made by planes taking off or landing and in spite of all these disturbances, it is still a good spot.

Best periods

At spring and autumn migration periods, i.e. from March to May and from August to October.  There are far too many people in summer.

Bird Species

Above the river, on the pebble beaches, the mud banks or the shore line, you will  find mainly common waders, gulls and herons but also a few rarities: Terek and Pectoral SandpiperCollared Pratincole or Little Crake.  You will also find Purple and Squacco Heron, Little Bittern and Terns, including the White-winged Tern. The Common Tern nests in the middle of the river and access to the riverbed is, of course, strictly forbidden.

All sorts of small passerines are visible in the reeds, bushes and trees among which Indian Silverbills.

Sardinian Warbler


Male Sardinian Warbler ( Photo Michel Belaud)

Fort de la Revère (Migrating birds)

This fort was built around 1870 at an altitude of approximately 700 m in the garrigue and limestone of the Parc Naturel Départemental de la Grande Corniche.  The view on the coast and the mountains is breathtaking.

How to get there

To reach the Fort de la Revère you must first get to the picturesque village of Èze by the Moyenne Corniche.  In the village, coming from Nice, you have to take a small road on the left to drive up to the Col d'Èze.  You can also reach this pass if you take the Grande Corniche.  Once at the summit of the pass, follow the sign  "Parc Départemental de la Grande Corniche" and drive to the highest spot where you will find a car park.  Make the most of the view and walk eastwards for about 300m passing the fort on your way.  On your left, you will find a small wooden observation cabin that is very convenient when the weather is hot, which is often the case, or when it is cold, which is not uncommon when the wind blows in from the sea.  Check if the site is not closed in summer because of fire risks and read the warning about closing times at the barrier.  Stay on the trails, especially during the hunting season.

Best periods 

The best migrating periods are between March and May on the one hand, and from September to mid-November on the other hand. Michel Belaud,  who works for the "Ligue pour la Protection des Oiseaux" is always there to welcome you.  Not only is he a keen ornithologist but he is also a gifted artist.  Please have a look at some of his works on his site Fauneart

Bird Species

This spot is especially good for European Bee-Eaters, common raptors but also rarer ones like the Booted Eagle, Short-toed Snake-Eagle and even Eleonora's Falcon or Pallid Harrier.  You may also see a Black Stork or a Wallcreeper but the  commonest species is undoubtedly the Common Wood Pigeon which migrates in large numbers in autumn. More about this place on the site of migraction

Booted Eagle

Booted Eagle (Photo Michel Belaud)



Pallid Harrier

Male Pallid Harrier (Photo Michel Belaud)


Black Stork

Black Stork (Photo Michel Belaud)

The heights of Nice

I also often go somewhere on the heights of Nice but as this spot is on a private property I will give no further details as to its exact location.  Suffice it to say that it is located in the Bellet Vineyards.  I will only mention it because you can see the same species if you get anywhere north of Nice or near St Jeannet.  More about it on the site of migraction

Watching migrating birds both before and after the breeding season can be a very rewarding activity from this area.  You might see numerous raptors, some of which are very rare like Eleonora's Falcon, observed regularly, or the Lesser Spotted Eagle.  The Booted Eagle is a common visitor too, migrating eastwards in autumn contrary to what most birds do, but the flagship is undoubtedly the Short-toed Snake-Eagle which is very frequent.  There are also large numbers of Common Wood Pigeons.




Short-toed Snake-Eagle

Short-toed Snake-Eagle (Photo Guy Georges)



Seawatching

The best spots are the Cap d'Antibes and Saint-Jean Cap Ferrat.

How to get there

To go to the Cap d'Antibes, coming from Nice, drive into the town of Antibes, take the street on the ramparts, drive west past the harbour as far as  "la Garoupe".  On your left, you will find a small pine bush from which you have a good view to the sea.  You can also driver farther and park your car on the roadside, near a small stone wall.  To do this, you'll have to drive back a little so be careful because of the road traffic. 

To go to Saint-Jean Cap Ferrat, drive as far as the lighthouse and take the small road leading to the sea, walk down the steps and wait near the blockhouse or a little below it.

Best periods

Autumn and winter above all.  However, these spots may provide surprising observations even in summer (large numbers of Yelkouan and Cory's Shearwaters) especially at around 5 a.m. but you must be aware that swarms of mosquitoes will be waiting for you.

Bird Species

Apart from the widespread Yellow-legged Gull and the Sandwich Tern, you might see Yelkouan Shearwater, Northern Gannet, Razorbill, Mediterranean Shag and perhaps even Divers or Skuas. Early in the morning, with a little bit of luck you could spot Striped Dolphins and some friends of mine were lucky enough to see an Ocean Sunfish or a Sperm Whale


Mediterranean Shag

Mediterranean Shag (Photo Patrick Kern)


Ocean Sunfish

Ocean Sunfish (Photo Patrick Kern)


In Saint-Jean Cap Ferrat itself try and look for Fischer's  and Yellow-collared Lovebirds near the local bowling green, which, actually, is not green at all.

Fischer's Lovebird

Fischer's Lovebird

Yellow-Collared Lovebird

Yellow-Collared Lovebird 
Forbach

I sometimes watch migrating birds from the limestone plateau above Forbach.  The view is open in all directions because there are very few trees in the middle of the fields. 

Migrating Site

Above Forbach 

How to get there

From Gaubiving take the road to Folkling and just before the village, on the right, take the gravelled road leading to the summit of the plateau.  Park you car where it suits you.

Best periods

The best months are March and April, then from September to November.

Bird Species

Many small common passerines, among which the Northern Wheatear, but also raptors: Red Kite, Hen Harrier and from time to time Peregrine Falcon or Merlin.  I still hope to find Eurasian Dotterel because the area should be attractive for this migrating species. This can sometimes also be a very good spot to see the Common Crane.

Kestrel

Kestrel 

L'étang du Bischwald

This 210 ha fish farming lake is in the Grostenquin area, near the village of Bistroff.

How to get there

 In the morning, the best observation places are on the dyke road, just opposite the fishing farm, or a little further east, under the silos.  You can also have a different view to the lake from the fields.  You must drive to Bistroff and leave your car near a calvary in the middle of the village because all the roads are reserved to the people who live in the village or to those who have special authorizations. Not a very welcoming village indeed. 

Bischwald

The étang du Bischwald 

Best periods

This is a good spot all the year round but especially in winter or during migrations.

Bird Species

All sorts of ducks, including some rarities like that Long-tailed Duck observed in 2009.  There are also many waders, especially Northern Lapwing or Common snipe.  As far as raptors are concerned, the White-tailed Eagle has been observed several times, the Greater Spotted Eagle once and the Marsh-Harrier is a regular winterer. It is also quite frequent to observe the Common Crane there.

White-tailed Eagle

White-tailed Eagle
(Photo Jacques Kuntzler)


Hoste

The small lakes near Hoste were part of the Ligne Maginot but are now used only for leisure fishing.  The étang de Hoste-Haut is the best place to watch birds and the LPO has had a hide built on its southern bank.  It is very convenient when it rains and from there you will see a small floating platform a local birdwatchers' group has built for terns to nest on.  

How to get there

Take the RN 56 and drive into the village of Hoste (rue du Bourg), pass by the dyke and turn right into the rue des Grillons.  There is a car park at the end of the small road going down on your right.  From there, walk westwards to reach the hide.

Best periods

You can see birds all around the year but only in small numbers as the lake is not very large.


Hoste

Étang de Hoste-Haut


Bird Species

The Little Bittern nests there, the Great Bittern has been seen several times and the Great White Egret is common outside the nesting season. A Squacco Heron was found there once but this observation is indeed exceptional four our region.  


Mute Swan

Mute Swan


Lindre

The étang du Lindre (970 ha) is a hotspot for birdwatchers in the Moselle département.  It is a fish farming lake but, thanks to well thought common interests, fish farmers and ornithologists have managed to make it attractive for birds.


Lindre

The étang du Lindre, half dried-out


How to get there

First go to Lindre-Basse as far as the car park in the middle of the village.  From there, you'll have to walk it to the dyke where birdwatching is easy. Then take your car again to go to Tarquimpol, right in front of the dyke. Once in the village, take the road on your left to reach the car park. Please do not enter private properties. 

Best periods

All the year round is good.

Bird Species

All the common waders and ducks, including rarities like Pectoral SandpiperGreater Spotted Eagle or White-tailed Eagle and even a White-billed Diver once! Of course I don't visit this place only hoping to see such birds. Greylag Geese and Great White Egrets are particularly numerous when the lake is dried out for fishing.  In Lindre-Basse, you'll find many White Storks flying round above the village.


White Stork

White Stork






Vallerange

This fish farming lake has unfortunately also been used for jet-skiing recently.

How to get there

Drive past the village club-house and take the road going up into the fields as far as the dyke.  This is a private lake so please do not wander just anywhere and keep to the path.

Best periods

All the year round but sunny week-ends will attract many jet-skiers.

Bird Species

In spite of the noisy jet-skis, Red-crested Pochard and Black-necked Grebe still nest here.  You'll find numerous waders and ducks at migration times.  The Common Crane is easy to find.



Common Cranes

Common Cranes




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