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|A Report from birdtours.co.uk
La Clusaz, French Alps – 23rd August – 1st September 2011,
La Clusaz is a village in the French Alps at around 1,000 metres and in summer operates as a walking/activity centre and in winter is a full blown ski resort. My wife (non birder) and I decided to take a different type of holiday than usual and travelled by coach with Shearings to the Hotel Alpen Roc which was fine. Our itinery was to have three days walking on our own and three days sightseeing, one day of which was spent in Chaminoux ascending Mount Blanc by cable car. Temperatures were in the mid twenties centigrade with rain only occurring one night/morning. La Clusaz has two mountain lift systems, one of which was a chairlift (Cret du Merle/Loup) which my wife did not fancy so we utilized the Beauregard gondola cable car which goes up to 1680 metres high. The cost was reasonable at around seven euros each for return trip and is open from 25th June – 4th September. Pre-reading for the trip consisted of the couple of dedicated birder trip reports covering a much larger area than our “patch”. At the end of this short wildlife report I nave included a couple of non-nature items which may be of interest to the reader.
In La Clusaz itself, House Martins, Black Redstart, White Wagtail, Greenfinch and Goldfinch were common, Crag Martins appeared to be nesting on the Church spire in the centre of the village. On the Beauregard Plateau a Nutcracker was seen on two occasions around a small religious statue (St Jaques) at the far end of the plateau. Citril Finch were also here, Green Woodpecker were common and Crested Tit were seen. In the distance (2 miles minimum) a Golden Eagle was seen, a Honey Buzzard passing through the local valley was identified through record pictures and Sparrow hawk and Kestrel were on the plateau. Two Lammereier Vultures were seen at very high level, to get closer views of these and Golden Eagles then a trip higher into the mountains is required, some of our party scored in this respect. Lake Geneva held Great Crested Grebes and a flock of juvenile Goosanders, Lake Annecy also had a flock as well as Cormorants. Previous trip reports indicated Black Kites were common around Lake Annecy but we saw none, perhaps different times of the year? If travelling by coach/car from Calais have a check on the scrubland just outside Calais as a pair of probable Montagu`s Harriers were seen here. Ascending Mont Blanc was one of the highlights of the holiday with truly fabulous views from the top. It is very busy however and we had to wait for an hour for our “timed” gondola. The journey back was also timed which meant we were unable to explore the mid-level café where others had seen Alpine Accentor.
Alpine Choughs, as expected were at the summit and I was hoping to get a flight shot of these masters of the air, pictured below is my pretty poor effort!
A reasonable number of butterflies were seen on the Beauregard Plateau but by far the best location was on a curved hillside meadow on the right hand side of the valley walking from La Clusaz to the Lac des Confins. Apart from those pictured below also seen were: - Small Tortoishell, Clouded Yellow, Marbled White, Red Admiral, Large White and a Swallowtail which was seen by other tour members.
High Brown Fritillary
Dark Green Fritillary
Small Pearl Bordered Fritillary
Silver Spotted Skipper
Large Grizzled Skipper
Mountain Small White
Provence Chalkhill Blue
One Squirrel was seen, an Ibex was spotted high in the mountains and Marmot were found in the same hillside meadow mentioned in the butterfly section.
Hot Air Balloon
This balloon was heard descending from our hotel room and in the picture below had landed from the left hand side of the frame into a tiny garden just yards from the hillside forest on the right, this could easily have been a tragedy.
The pics below were taken from the top of Mont Blanc, we were amazed at the number of climbers on the mountain and particularly this vertical climb.
A nice relaxing holiday, a few very goods birds, twenty three species of butterfly, fabulous scenery and pleasant company. A return visit is on the cards, perhaps for a longer visit.