France: Birds & Art in Provence Apr 22—30, 2018

Posted by Rick Wright

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Rick Wright

Rick Wright, a native of southeast Nebraska, studied French, German, philosophy, and life sciences at the University of Nebraska, where he worked in the bird collections of...

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The life of the birder is a life of superlatives: we are always rejoicing in first-evers, in bests, in closests, farthests, fastests. Emotionally and intellectually, we leap from high point to high point, measured against chronological scales ranging from a lifetime to a week’s excursion to since-you-got-back-from-grabbing-your-hat-out-of-the-vehicle.

Common Shelduck

Common Shelduck— Photo: Rick Wright

 

It seems like wherever we turned on this spring’s exploration of the natural and cultural history of Provence, we experienced yet another “-est.” European Rollers, Eurasian Hoopoes, and European Bee-eaters were among the most-wanted species for several in our congenial and enthusiastic group, and each one performed well—though it took us an unprecedented couple of days to find a hoopoe sufficiently exhibitionist for all of us to watch it together, thus another superlative, the longest-delayed ever for this tour. The last of the three rollers we saw was perched on the very wire where the leaders had seen their first two decades before, making it if not the longest-lived individual of its species then at least the most evocative. Common Nightingales, loud, ubiquitous, and devilishly shy, lived up to their reputation for elusiveness only too well—except for one in the Petite Camargue that sang out in the open (the real, true, genuine open, not the usual “nightingale open” of brief and partial shaded views), becoming by far the best- and longest-seen of any bird of that species ever on this tour. A splendid male Bearded Reedling on the Cacharel Road was not just the first of this reclusive species to be seen on the tour for years but a high finisher in the contest for best views ever; yes, it was a matter of two or three seconds at a time, but each time this long-tailed creature popped up in the phragmites was occasion to see at stunningly close range more of the beautifully varied plumage that makes this one of Europe’s most attractive birds.

Read Rick’s full report in his Field Report.