The Tarn region of the Midi-Pyrénées in South West France is able to provide a truly rewarding holiday for those with an interest in birds. From the tower of the cathedral in central Albi, home to peregrine falcons, to the surrounding fields, vineyards, mountains, forests, rivers and lakes, almost 290 species of birds have been recorded.

The bird life immediately around the gite provides interest throughout the seasons. Looking down over a wide fertile valley it gives a superb, almost eye-level, view of kestrels as they hover over the fields below. In late spring the valley begins to fill with the rasping cry of corncrake as well as the more fluid tones of golden oriole and hoopoe. Then as hay making begins buzzards congregate in great flocks, swallows skim off the insects, cattle egrets wander the pastures and vineyards, and pheasant chicks enjoy a dust bath in the garden. The warm nights of May saturated with the song of nightingales. Pure delight !

For days out exploring there are, within a 30 minute drive from the gite, some wonderful habitats to discover. For example

The forest of Gresigne, covering over 8000 acres, and the forest of Sivens, 1500 acres, are home to a number of birds of prey including booted eagle, goshawk, honey buzzard and sparrowhawk.

The upper valley of the Tarn river where you may see osprey, black and red kite, hobby, short-toed eagle, raven, sandpiper, lesser spotted woodpecker, wood nuthatch and wryneck. Perhaps even a wallcreeper in winter.

The Parc naturel régional du Haut-Languedoc , which covers almost 650,000 acres. The nearest part of this Parc to the gite is known as Le Sidobre, an enormous granite plateau of about 100 square kilometers. This massif is cut by deep gorges and covered in heathland, lakes and woods of oak, chestnut, birch and alder. Birds here include the black woodpecker, long-eared owl, hen harrier and short-toed eagle.

A good source of information about the birds of the Tarn can be found at "La Ligue pour la Protection des Oiseaux", and the site of Oiseaux.net is also worth exploring.

We are certainly not expert in bird identification, but the birds listed in the table below are those that we have seen around the gite and have been able to identify to our satisfaction. However, there are a number that we have either seen or heard that we just do not recognise; so if you were to stay with us your advice really would be appreciated.

English name French name
Barn owl Effrai des clochers
Black redstart Rougequeue noir
Blackbird Merle noir
Blackcap Fauvette à tête noire
Blue tit Mesange bleue
Buzzard Buse variable
Cattle egret Héron garde-boeufs
Chaffinch Pinson des arbres
Chiffchaff Pouillot véloce
Cirl bunting Bruant zizi
Corn bunting Bruant proyer
Corncrake Râle des genêts
Cuckoo Coucou
Garden warbler Fauvette des jardins
Goldcrest Roitelet huppé
Golden oriole Loriot
Goldfinch Chardonneret élégant
Great egret Grande aigrette
Great spotted woodpecker Pic épeiche
Great tit Mésange charbonnière
Greenfinch Verdier d'Europe
Hen harrier Busard Saint-Martin
Hoopoe Huppe fasciée
Kestrel Faucon crécerelle
Little owl Chevêche d'Athéna
Nightingale Rossignol philomèle
Nuthatch Sittelle torchepot
Pied wagtail Bergeronnette de Yarrell
Quail Caille des blés
Red-legged partridge Perdix rouge
Robin Rougegorge
Swallow Hirondelle rustique
Tawny owl Chouette hulotte
Treecreeper Grimpereau des bois
Tree sparrow Moineau friquet
Turtle dove Tourterelle des bois