A Travellerspoint blog

France

“C’est fini!”

Périgord, France

all seasons in one day 105 °F

The last week of my program in France contained five performances meaning that birding opportunities were, for the most part, limited.

On June 16, I was trying to track down a calling GREAT SPOTTED WOODPECKER when one flew right on overhead:
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This GREAT TIT was nearby too:
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Happy singers after a successful concert! It was hot — 105F to be precise — and without AC, our nights were a little brutal trying our best to be well-rested for these concerts.
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The beautiful village of Montpaisier.
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Later that evening, some girls complained there was a bug in the bathroom and what do I find in there but a beautiful moth! How could you be scared of this?
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Another day and another concert, this time at a beautiful, 15th-century Abbey!
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Here we are posing at the Abbey with the sweet director, Glenn Morton.
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Rain on sunday broke the insanely hot weather.
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Another RED KITE made a beautiful pass over the pool:
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And an EURASIAN KESTREL hovered nearby, on the hunt:
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This EURASIAN COLLARED-DOVE would always perch on this railing by the pool as its nest was nearby.
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COMMON WOODPIGEON flyover:
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Monday brought a beautiful sunset.
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On tuesday we all had an excursion to the town of Bergerac in the afternoon. I had had my fill of shopping last week so I ventured off by myself, birding the riverfront. I started off with this BANK SWALLOW at its nesting site on a bridge over the river:
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The river itself!
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A few BLACK KITES in aerial combat:
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COMMON WOODPIGEON:
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Juvenile EUROPEAN SERIN, my bird-of-the-day:
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A very cooperative GREAT TIT:
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And an EURASIAN WREN, nearly identical in song and appearance to our Winter & Pacific Wrens. Eurasians seem more adaptable in habitat, though.
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I was stoked to see this LONG-TAILED TIT, a bird I had only seen once before at the London Wetlands with my dad in 2014.
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Male COMMON BLACKBIRD:
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I had to swap out my camera battery in order to get a photo of this EURASIAN MAGPIE and I just barely accomplished it before it flew off:
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BLUE TIT:
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EURASIAN TREE SPARROW:
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Of course I had to reward myself with Gelato after the two-hour walk in the afternoon heat:
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Another walk closer to home in the evening made for cool photo ops of the local graveyard.
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Bird-of-the-day for sure to the European Serin!

Our final concert of the week, right at our Château, was a wonderful way to wrap up an enjoyable 2+ weeks of studying French operatic repertoire.
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We were treated to a most stunning sunset afterward during “aperitifs.”
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And a multi-course dinner featuring lobster, duck, and fruit tart with chocolate and infused Sichuan pepper. Absolutely incredible.
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On thursday, I was up bright and early for Glenn to drive me to the train station so I had to snap one last pool pic.
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And after a long travel day involving a van, train, bus, and 3 flights, I was back in Chicago! I ended up coming 1 species short of my goal of 1140 on my life list by the end of my France trip.
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And back home to the elderly 14.5 y.o. Daisy!
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More to come! My next adventure has already started as of the posting of this — I will reprise my annual 7-week opera residency at the Chautauqua Institution in western New York. I will be singing the role of the Forester in Janacek’s opera “The Cunning Little Vixen” with orchestra which I am stoked about because this role perfectly fits my voice. This period of the summer never features frequent birding, though I will still write from time to time. Then, it is off to Idaho in mid-August!

Good birding,
Henry
World Life List: 1139 Species

Lifers on my trip to France: Eurasian Hoopoe, Willow, Melodious, & Cetti’s Warblers, Cirl Bunting, Eurasian Green Woodpecker, Red & Black-winged Kites, Short-toed Treecreeper

Posted by skwclar 15:29 Archived in France Comments (3)

June 11-14: more lifers!

Villereal, France

sunny 98 °F

JUNE 11-14 — still very behind in posting due to a crazy performance/music preparation schedule.

With the vocal program, Classic Lyric Arts, in full swing, I was birding a bit less yet of course still having some sightings. Unfortunately, manual focus also was accidentally jammed into place so it took a few days before I could properly troubleshoot a solution, so my photos will momentarily be even crappier for the time being. Here is a far-off EURASIAN MAGPIE in flight. This is also the only bird on my list for China as I remember seeing one at the Capital Airport on a layover in 2014, interestingly enough.
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Despite my “busted” camera, I was able to net a lifer in the form of a very vocal CETTI’S WARBLER! Warblers here (technically a different taxonomic family) are, for the most part, drabber than New World Warblers.
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A few RED KITES circled above:
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And I found my life bird SHORT-TOED TREECREEPER, a wonderful species of deciduous trees here in southwestern Europe that greatly resembles America’s native Brown Creeper. Manual focus was acting up being 180mm of zoom so hence the horrible photo.
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EURASIAN COLLARED-DOVE:
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And a EURASIAN HOOPOE had fledged! Amazing! What an ungainly creature.
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I realized one of its siblings was still in the nest above, mustering up the courage to fledge:
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And courage it needed due to an archnemesis, the farm cat Minette (French for pussy cat), roaming around the property. If it were up to me, Minette would stay inside, but alas she spent her days hunting fledgling Hoopoes — I’m not sure if any ended up surviving…
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The point is keep your cats inside no matter how cute they are! Domesticated cats do not belong in the wild.
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The next day we all had a lovely excursion to the nearby medieval town Ici-Jacque which featured a market.
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Dessert after lunch was so incredibly delicious once again. A fruit tart with a scoop of raspberry ice cream!
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Beautiful view of a storm that brought hail to nearby locations apparently:
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The dinner of short ribs on June 13 did not disappoint.
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And the European Toad was back!
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Thankfully, a few days later I figured out the Camera issue and all was back to normal. GREY HERON, Europe’s Great Blue Heron look-alike:
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I spished up this MELODIOUS WARBLER from the shrubbery! Wonderful! Note the eyeline and rather large orange bill.
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Another absolutely fantastic lifer right in the neighborhood was this BLACK-WINGED KITE! Such a cool, smartly-plumaged raptor.
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They look great in flight, too:
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Flyover CATTLE EGRETS — note the yellow bills.
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Horses!
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COMMON WOODPIGEON:
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A distant EURASIAN JAY:
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EURASIAN KESTREL:
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A great trip so far!

Good birding,
Henry
World Life List: 1138 Species
3 life birds: Short-toed Treecreeper, Cetti’s Warbler, Black-winged Kite

Posted by skwclar 13:02 Archived in France Comments (1)

June 9-10 in France: settling in!

Villereal, France

sunny 93 °F

JUNE 9-10

My fourth and fifth days in France brought lots of music study but still a bit of birding, with satisfying views of WHITE WAGTAILS as per usual:
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BLUE TIT:
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EURASIAN MAGPIE:
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EURASIAN COLLARED-DOVE:
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A beautiful sunset at our Château:
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Lots of tiny toads were crossing the road on an evening walk the group took. Unfortunately, one fell victim to a soprano (though this one survived).
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A couple far-off Nutria (thanks for the spot on the second one Poo!) were spotted at the edge of an agricultural pond:
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Goats!
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The next day, this EURASIAN GREENFINCH caught my attention during French class with its buzzy song so afterward I of course had to venture outside and investigate. What a beautiful bird!
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BLACK REDSTART:
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EURASIAN BLACKBIRD:
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The day ended with my second-favorite dessert of the trip: an absolutely scrumptious blueberry tart. Did I mention our resident chef, Vincent, is a Michelin-star rated chef?
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No lifers for these two days but a decent variety of countryside birds seen, with bird-of-the-day going to the Eurasian Greenfinch.

Good birding,
Henry
World Life List: 1135 Species

Posted by skwclar 00:12 Archived in France Comments (3)

Day 3: Another lifer dans Les Jouandis

Villarreal, France

sunny 92 °F

JUNE 8:

My third day at the beautiful Château Jouandis near Bergerac, France brought me more birds including WHITE WAGTAIL:
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COMMON CHAFFINCH:
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COMMON SWIFT:
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A highly-cooperative young BLACK REDSTART:
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And one posing in front of the Château:
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Male EURASIAN BLACKBIRD:
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EURASIAN HOOPOES were nesting in a tree cavity near the pool! So cool to observe this species up close.
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Nice to see a HOUSE SPARROW in its native range — this might be my first photo of this species on here a they are trash birds back home.
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My one life bird was a RED KITE which used to be an endangered species in Europe — super cool as like the Bald Eagle in America, this is a species that has made a resounding comeback due to concerted conservation efforts. This species was even still uncommon when I visited Europe in 2014, and this time around I soon realized they were fairly abundant!
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I was even able to do a little herping as European Toads emerged at night with their resonant calls:
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All of this not even to mention all the wonderful French music making that was going on! Bird-of-the-day to my lifer Red Kite with runner-up to the Eurasian Hoopoe!

Good birding,
Henry
World Life List: 1135 Species (1 life bird: Red Kite)

Posted by skwclar 13:43 Archived in France Comments (1)

🇫🇷🇫🇷🇫🇷

Jouandis, France

all seasons in one day 70 °F

TUESDAY, JUNE 7:

A lot has happened since my last posting! I had my role debut of Il Conte Almaviva in Le Nozze di Figaro in Alexandria, Virginia which was a great success and a wonderful program. Here is the cast in costume:
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After the last Figaro performance, I headed straight to Dulles Airport for an absolutely dreadful 24-hour, 2-layover journey to Jouandis, France. Lufthansa even lost my bag. Incredibly annoying.

Anyway, after a day of as much rest I could afford to get without a change of clothes, I was able to get out to take some photos and to look for birds on tuesday. Here at this vocal program, CLA France, we are lucky enough to stay at a Château in the middle of the beautifully pastoral countryside.
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The food isn’t bad either (Michelin-star chef!) :)
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EURASIAN COLLARED-DOVES abound:
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As do EUROPEAN GOLDFINCHES:
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And cows!
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This beautiful pair of CIRL BUNTINGS was a fantastic life bird for me!
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And another life bird, a WILLOW WARBLER, soon joined the male!
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Who wasn’t particularly enthused:
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BLACK REDSTART, reminiscent of my 2018 trip to Italy where these birds abounded:
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Another awesome lifer was this EUROPEAN GREEN WOODPECKER!
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And my final lifer that day was a fun one, a EURASIAN HOOPOE which I had been hoping to see for a long time due to this bird’s uniqueness! They have a nesting hole right by our pool!
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Amazing to get so many lifers in one day, it had been quite a while!

Good birding,
Henry
World Life List: 1134 Species (4 life birds: Cirl Bunting, Willow Warbler, European Green Woodpecker, Eurasian Hoopoe)

Posted by skwclar 15:08 Archived in France Comments (3)

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