VISIT 20TH – 28TH JUNE 2012


A chance reading of a couple of blogs with reports of visits to LA BRENNE National Park a decision was made to change an attempted visit to Scotland to LA BRENNE France. Living on 17 miles from Plymouth with the very comfortable Armorique of Brittany Ferries making the crossing in around 6 hours meant only one long drive on the mostly much quieter French roads.


Next problem – accommodation – having never visited the area before the report by Martin Smith from Wantage mentioned staying at a Chambre d’hote at Champ d’oeuf run by an English couple Sue and Chris Mooney.   A visit to their web site provided further background information, an e.mail to Sue resulted in a telephone call 30 minutes later and I booked for 4 nights with all meals (and wine) included at a very competitive price of 125 euros per night for Anne and myself.


The welcome we received from Sue and Chris (not very often you get to talk football in central France between fans of Newcastle United (Chris) and Middlesbrough (me) was fantastic – Chris is an ex-Army Chef who has also cooked in some very upmarket establishments – dinner was never less than 5 courses and lots of conversation, our evenings were started at 7pm, and rarely finished before 11p.m


When you are out birding in the area the last thing you want to do is finding somewhere for lunch Sue has solved this with her cool-box packed lunch and if you take a flask she will fill it with some great coffee daily.


It is probably over 20 years since we have taken a relaxing holiday in rural France – enjoyed it so much we stayed on extra night and before leaving we booked a week for June 2013 – I have never booked a return visit so far in advance it was that good.


Having arrived in Roscoff at 21.30 we stayed overnight at comfortable Hotel La Residence, breakfasted and on our way by 9.00a.m. on 21st June.   The journey to LA BRENNE took just over 7 hours – 360 miles, and by 16.00 we were in our first hide salivating at the birds around the lake.   Chris provided us with local maps and pointed out the main Birdwatching sites, there are over 1000 lakes within the national park.

Our first visit next morning was to the main Birdwatching centre at Maison de la Nature where we were fortunate to meet local resident (for more than 20 years)Tony Williams.

His current project is a colour ringing scheme for the 800+ pairs of WHISKERED TERN that nest in the park.   A sightings board indicates what has been seen recently and at which lakes (Etangs in France).


Whilst my wife Anne is not an obsessed birder (her definition of me) the fact that most of the major sites had comfortable hides and she did not have any cooking to do meant we had 4 days birding and a little sightseeing.


We did’nt make any attempt to actively seek any list of species – during the trip we achieved a total of 114 with a fair number of commoner species not seen.


Our return journey took us along the Loire with the first overnight stop in SAUMUR (Hotel Mercure) with a room overlooking the river – both LITTLE AND COMMON TERN flying through. On 27th June we decided to take the tourist route along the banks of the Loire to Angers before driving to North Brittany and our overnight destination of Perius Gouric.


We stopped a 3 locations along the Liore to look at birds on sandbanks in the middle of the river – another good idea.   Scoping these sandbanks produced over 150 LITTLE TERN 100+ COMMON TERN, a pair of STONE CURLEW, 11 LITTLE RINGED PLOVER plus lots of YELLOW-LEGGED GULL, LESSER BLACK-BACKED GULL and around 20 LAPWING.


Our final day was a journey of around 40 miles to reach our port of departure ROSCOFF – via the coastal road to MORLAIX.


We have many visitors to Devon most of whom drive here and then find extortionate charges to park your car – up to £6 for a day. I was not changed any parking fees at all throughout our holiday.   Using the Autoroute to reach le Champ d’oeuf as quickly as possible cost just under 20 Euros.   My car is a Honda CRV which on a full tank will do 400+ miles.   Our total distance travelled was 1009 miles.   Diesel fuel was very competitively priced – at the supermarkets I was paying 1.26 Euros per litre less than £1.05 in Sterling.


Our total of 114 species included the following:-


  1. MUTE SWAN – On quite a few of the lakes with over 300 on Etang de la Gabrierre.
  2. GADWALL      - Found on at least 3 Etangs – but no more than 2/3 per site.
  3. MALLARD – Common throughout.
  4. SHOVELER – 2 males on Etang Essarts.
  5. POCHARD – Common on many Etang.
  6. TUFTED DUCK – Common on many Etang.
  7. RED CRESTED POCHARD – Found on several Etang – female with 6 young on Etang Essart.
  8. SHELDUCK – One on the North Brittany Coast.
  9. PHEASANT – Only recorded twice but probably overlooked.
  10. CORMORANT – Common throughout. Many breeding pairs at Etang Blazon.
  11. SHAG – Seen from Ferry Crossing and at Perros Gouric.
  12. NIGHT HERON – Both adults and Juvs observed. Main breeding site at E. Blazon.
  13. GANNET – Many from Ferry Crossing, 100+ on N.Brittany coast.
  14. MANX SHEARWATER – 5 seen from return Ferry Crossing.
  15. CATTLE EGRET – 3 at E. Essarts.
  16. LITTLE EGRET – Seen on many of the Etang.
  17. GREAT WHITE EGRET – Singles at E des Foucault and lakes near Les Bergereaux (D18 out of Martizay).
  18. GREY HERON – Very common throughout the region.
  19. PURPLE HERON – Over 40 logged, seen at all Etang – best views (down to 15 feet) at Etang de Sous.
  20. LITTLE GREBE – Common.
  21. GREAT CRESTED GREBE – Very common up to 20 on some Etang..
  22. BLACK- NECKED GREBE – Breeding on at least 3 Etang.   Best views at Etang Sous.
  23. HONEY BUZZARD – Several seen particularly around Foret de Lanacome.
  24. BLACK KITE – Common – where grass being cut up to 8 birds looking for food.
  25. SHORT-TOED EAGLE – Seen at Maison du Park and whilst driving in the area.
  26. MARSH HARRIER – Only females and juv found - seen daily.
  27. HEN HARRIER – A male seen quartering the fields near Champ d’oeuf.
  28. MONTAGUES HARRIER – Several seen whilst driving around La Brenne.
  29. BUZZARD – Very common.
  30. KESTREL – Common.
  31. HOBBY – A single bird over E. Essarts.
  32. MOORHEN – Common.
  33. COOT – Very common.
  34. STONE CURLEW – 3 with Lapwing at Les Bergeraux and a pair breeding on one of the Loire sandbanks.
  35. LITTLE RINGED PLOVER – One at Les Bergeraux and 11 on Loire sandbanks.
  36. GREEN SANDPIPER – Two on flooded field at Les Bergeraux.
  37. LAPWING – Flock of 100+ at Les Bergeraux and 20+ on Loire sandbanks.
  38. OYSTERCATCHER – Small numbers of up to 10 on N.Brittany rocky inlets.
  39. CURLEW – 2 at St Michel en Grave on N.Brittany Coast.
  40. BLACK HEADED GULL – Common breeder on the Brenne, large numbers on N.Brittany Coast.
  41. MEDITERRANEAN GULL – An adult on the beach at St. Michel en Grave.
  42. GREATER BLACK-BACKED GULL – Several seen on crossing to/from Roscoff.
  43. HERRING GULL – Many on Coasts and from Ferry.
  44. YELLOW-LEGGED GULL – Common on sandbanks on Loire.
  45. LESSER BLACK-BACKED GULL – Many on sandbanks.
  46. LITTLE TERN – 150+ from 3 locations along the Loire plus up to 20 at Saumur and Montsureaux on Loire.
  47. COMMON TERN – Only 1 at E. Essarts, 100+ along the Loire.
  48. WHISKERED TERN – Very common throughout the Brenne where over 800 pairs breed.
  49. BLACK TERN – 4 at E. Essarts.
  50. SANDWICH TERN – Up to 20 along N.Brittany Coast.
  51. ROCK DOVE/FERAL PIGEON – Common in villages around La Brenne.
  52. WOOD PIGEON –Common throughout.
  53. COLLARD DOVE – Very Common throughout.
  54. TURTLE DOVE – Mostly singles usually on telephone/electric wires driving around La Brenne.   Garden tick at Champ d’oeuf.
  55. SWIFT – Common in most Brenne villages.
  56. KINGFISHER – Seen at E Sous and several by River Creuse.
  57. BEE-EATER – 2 on wires at a new site in Tournan St. Martin.
  58. HOOPOE – Seen daily – Adult feeding Juv in garden Champ d’oeuf
  59. GREEN WOODPECKER – Common wherever woodland trees.
  60. BLACK WOODPECKER – Had finished breeding by the time we arrived. Several sites noted for future visits. One flew over car en route to Angers.
  61. GREAT SPOTTED WOODPECKER – Found at 3 locations.
  62. MIDDLE SPOTTED WOODPECKER – A garden tick at Champ d’oeuf and also in extensive garden at Chateau at Azay Le Ferron
  63. GOLDEN ORIOLE – Garden tick at Champ d’oeuf and very vocal at several suitable habitats.
  64. RED-BACKED SHRIKE – Over 20 seen whilst driving/walking around Brenne.
  65. MAGPIE – Common throughout.
  66. JAY – Common throughout.
  67. JACKDAW – ROOK – CARRION CROW – Common throughout.
  68. GOLDCREST – In gardens at Azay le Ferron.
  69. BLUE TIT – Common in suitable habitat.
  70. GREAT TIT – Common in suitable habitat.
  71. LONG-TAILED TIT – Max 6 in Azay le Ferron Gardens.
  72. CRESTED LARK – Only found when stopped for lunch in Northern area of France
  73. SKYLARK – Common throughout.
  74. SAND MARTIN – Up to 15 at 2 locations – by Rivers and at Les Berearaux.
  75. SWALLOW – Very common throughout.
  76. HOUSE MARTIN – Very common in most villages.
  77. CETTIS WARBLER – Heard at E. Blazon and E. Sous.
  78. WESTERN BONNELLI WARBLER – Recorded along river at Rives and Bellebouche.
  79. WOOD WARBLER – Several seen/heard in suitable habitat.
  80. CHIFFCHAFF – Very common throughout.
  81. BLACKCAP – Only a few in the thickets.
  82. WHITETHROAT – One at E. Purais and family party of 4 at E. de Louroux.
  83. MELODIUS WARBLER – Very common and vocal in suitable habitat.
  84. SEDGE WARBLER – E. Sous and E. Ricot.
  85. REED WARBLER – Common at many of the Etang.
  86. GREAT REED WARBLER – Watched at less than 20 feet a E.Sous.
  87. NUTHATCH – In Chateau gardens at Azay le Ferron.
  88. SHORT-TOED TREE CREEPER – Garden tick at Champ d’oeuf and found in several woodland areas.
  89. WREN – Common in suitable habitat.
  90. STARLING – Common around villages of La Brenne.
  91. BLACKBIRD – Very common throughout.
  92. SONG THRUSH – Overlooked – one at E de la Gabriere.
  93. MISTLE THRUSH – Common in suitable habitat.
  94. ROBIN – One in gardens at Azay le Ferron and on N.Brittany coast.
  95. BLACK REDSTART – Garden tick and at many locations where buildings.
  96. STONECHAT – Very common when driving around.
  97. WHINCHAT – A male on roadside fence near St. Michel-en-Brenne.
  98. DUNNOCK – Common in suitable habitat.
  99. HOUSE SPARROW -            Common in villages.

100 BLUE HEADED WAGTAIL – 2 adults plus Juv at Louroux (Nr. Manthelan)

101 YELLOW WAGTAIL – One flying over E. Essarts.

102 WHITE WAGTAIL – Very common.

103 GREY WAGTAIL – One pair feeding young by river at Martizay.

104 TREE PIPiT – Only one found in open ground in Foret de Lancosne.

105 MEADOW PIPIT – Overlooked – a few around Champ d’oeuf.

106 CHAFFINCH – Common throughout.

107 GOLDFINCH – Common throughout.

108 GREENFINCH – Common throughout.

109 SERIN – Seen solely in villages, most at Lurais on R. Creuse.

110 LINNET – Common around farmland.

111 CIRL BUNTING – Recorded in several areas including Maison du Nature.

112 CORN BUNTING – Common around farm land particularly sitting on wires.

113 BULLFINCH – Pair flew across toad near Martizay.

114 LITTLE BITTERN – A male seen at E. Ricot flying across the water landing amongst  

       Reeds. Only Etang in Brenne where they breed.


Talking to Tony Williams confirmed there are birds to be seen in all seasons, winters can be very cold with over 25,000 duck, some Geese and up to 4000 Common Crane.

Early Autumn sees some of the Etangs drained to catch the farmed fish which provides suitable habitat for passage waders.

Over 300 species have been recorded in the region.

Can’t wait to go back – roll on 2013.


Mike Passman

2nd July 2012

01548 560076



Sue and Chris Mooney

7 Champ d’oeuf

36290 Azay Le Ferron

Tel 0033254280796