News archive

October 2011

Tuesday, 11 October 2011

The Camargue - home to Flamingos

The Camargue - home to Flamingos

Jonathan Forgham came to talk to us about the Camargue, western Europe's largest river delta and home to more than 400 species of birds. It is a vast plain comprising large brine lagoons (famous for its flamingos), cut off from the sea by sandbars and encircled by reed-covered marshes. These are in turn surrounded by a large cultivated area.

Jonathan's local patch is around the Bishop's Stortford area and he has been interested in bird watching since his early years - apparently his first tick was after inquiring about a chaffinch and then receiving the Observer book of birds.

We enjoyed a leisurely stroll around this part of Southern France and Jonathan conveyed a real feel for the countryside.

We soon discovered that Jonathan isn't afraid of a long walk! He loves this part of the world and escapes to it on his own at least once or twice a year. He manages this (without upsetting the family) by keeping costs very low - budget airline, then train and bus to get to a little rural hideaway. They are used to this strange Englishman who leaves at 6am in the morning, not returning until very late. There isn't a convenient bus to get to the main birding lakes etc. but he is quite happy to walk the 25 miles there!

Jonathan was the first to admit that he is not a dedicated photographer - he's a birder who takes photos while out and about.
His photos gave us a real feel of his journey during the day - the flat, sunny road that stretched out in front of him, the hedgerows that hid a variety of birds, the lack of any buildings and amenities! He's quite happy to sleep out in a field under the open skies, well, unless the local insect life (and may be a snake) get a little too interested.

Walking quietly on his own, he may have some interesting encounters - such as the two agitated black-winged stilts out of place standing on the road. We then saw the photo of the very well camouflaged tiny chick who had decided to rest in the middle of the road.

Jonathan has a very natural and engaging speaking style and it was a very entertaining evening. Not surprisingly, he received quite a few questions on how he coped with travelling so light. He obviously had to carry bins, scope, tripod and camera - there wasn't much room for anything else in his small rucksack! It certainly gave food for thought for those of us who have the 'kitchen sink' philosophy.

If you click on the 'Download file' link, then you will see the striking poster that David (our Publicity officer) produced to advertise this talk.

Download file