Bristol Ornithological Club trip to La Brenne
29 May–7 June 2003


This was a private trip organised by Ken Hall for the Bristol Ornithological Club, of which he is a long-standing member. We hired a minivan in Bristol, travelled via Brittany Ferries, and stayed at the Domaine de l'Etape hotel, just outside Le Blanc. The following list outlines the route and gives a selection of the birds we saw each day, compiled from notes made by Ken Hall and Robin Prytherch. The full communal checklist, day-by-day, exists as a PDF document.


Ken Hall (leader), Robin Prytherch (co-driver & navigator), Nick Ayers, Judy Copeland, Roy Curber, Phyl Dykes, Lys Hall, Geoff Harris, Colin Morris, Andrew Payne, Susan Sayers, Margaret Searle, Charles Stapleton, David Wilson

29.5.03 (Thurs) Left Bristol Temple Meads at 3.45pm to drive via Bath to Portsmouth, to catch 8.30pm crossing on the Bretagne for St Malo.

30.5.03 (Fri) Smooth crossing to St Malo, and off the boat at 8.30am French time. Warm and sunny all day.

Drove to Rennes, then towards Angers, stopping at village of Bel Air for drinks and to buy sandwiches.

Off main road at Lion d'Angers and took minor roads to Briollay, on River Loir, arriving by midday. Lunch here then walked into floodmeadows just to the south of village.

Skirted Angers, then stopped in Champagne de Méron area just beyond Montreuil-Bellay for short walk through arable/set-aside fields.

Comfort stop at Aire de la Briande, south of Loudun.

Arrived at Domaine de l'Etape at 7pm. Message that Charles Stapleton's father had died while we were travelling, but Charles decided to stay for the night.

Domaine de l'Etape (Photo by David Wilson)

31.5.03 (Sat) Warm and sunny all day. Ken & Lys took Charles to Poitiers station, while RJP led rest of group round etangs and fields near hotel. Warm and sunny all day.

Had picnic lunch at the hotel.

In afternoon drove to visitor centre (Maison du Parc) at le Bouchet via bridge at Ruffec, stopping by roadside in a few places.

On to Etang at le Temple.

Stopped by Etang de la Gabrière.

Back to hotel, where Tawny Owl flew past terrace while we were having evening meal.

1.6.03 (Sun) Very hot and sunny all day.

Dropped group off at Le Blanc's old station while provisions being bought.

Drove via Douadic to west end of Etang de Beauregard (les Grands Etangs), and walked east to the etang, past bushy fields before reaching etang itself.

Purple Heron at Etang de Beauregard (Photo David Wilson)

On to Mézières-en-Brenne for a drink, then to Maison de la Nature (Etang Cistude) near Chérine. Watching from carpark was more comfortable than from rather airless centre, although staff were helpful and displays interesting.

Drove to carpark near Chérine farm, stopping to remove a terrapin from the middle of the road. Walked to the two hides which overlooked shallow lakes (one dry) here.

Stopped to scan Etang de l'Ardouine, but looking into sun made viewing difficult.

Back to hotel via Ruffec.

2.6.03 (Mon) Overcast and cool at first, but warmer later, though mostly cloudy. Again dropped group off at railway station first thing while daily provisions bought.

Cirl Bunting in La Brenne (Photo David Wilson)

Drove to Rosnay, then went for short walk to unnamed etangs west of Etang Capitaine.

Stopped by Etang de Montiacre, just to north, and met Tony Williams here.

Then to Etang Massé, to watch from the tiny hide, but later got better views from path that runs along part of north side of etang. Large colony of herons at far end of etang.

Group at Etang Massé (Photo David Wilson)

On to Forêt de Lancosme, for lunch at Chapelle St-Sulpice (and ‘magic fountain') and a walk in the woodland afterwards. Tony Williams showed us Woodland Brown butterflies and played woodpecker calls on tape recorder.

Looked at etangs around Grand Luc.

Then back past Etang du Coudreau (brief view of Marsh Harrier here), Rosnay and Ruffec to hotel.

3.6.03 (Tues) Raining overnight but dry by morning. Most of group dropped by riverside in Le Blanc while provisions bought in town.

Took Poitiers road, seeing a Hen Harrier male hunting over the fields west of St Savin (seen at same spot earlier in week by Ken & Lys when returning from Poitiers). Also Crested Lark, Black Redstart, Kestrel, Buzzard, Yellowhammer en route to Forêt de la Moulière. Stopped at le Grand Recoin and walked in woodland just to southwest. Nice mix of deciduous and coniferous trees, woodland edge and clearings, but mostly fairly quiet.

Had lunch at le Grand Recoin, luckily under cover while a thunderstorm with torrential rain passed over.

Then on to Réserve Naturelle du Pinail, an area of open heathland north of the forest. Sun came out again after another light burst of rain.

Back to hotel along River Vienne via Chauvigny.

4.6.03 (Weds) More overnight rain, but sunny by morning, and remained fine for the rest of the day. Again dropped group at riverside in Le Blanc while provisions were bought, then to the Maison de la Nature at Chérine.

Then to the tower hide at Etang Ricot.

Walked down the road to Etangs Monmélier and Miclos, and also scanned Etang Ricot from roadside.

Lunch at Etang de la Gabrière.

Back to visitor centre at Chérine, where we saw Gadwall and heard Melodious and Fan-tailed Warblers. Then to Le Châtelier area, near Azay-le-Ferron.

Then via Tournon-St-Martin to Néons-sur-Creuse.

On to Vicq-sur-Gartempe, where two more Bee-eaters seen, then to Angles-sur-l'Anglin, where a rare but fortuitous navigation mix-up in the narrow streets ensured that we saw this extremely pretty village from all angles (b-boom). We also saw a male Montagu's Harrier en route. Then to Fontgombault, seeing a male Hen Harrier, more Red-legged Partridges and a Buzzard in the fields on the way. Back to hotel following the valley of the River Creuse.

5.6.03 (Thurs) More overnight rain, but dry by the morning, and remained a nice mixture of sunshine and cloud all day, not too hot.

Stopped at railway sidings once again while getting the shopping done.

Melodious Warbler in La Brenne (photo David Wilson)

Drove towards Rosnay, but stopped near km 18 on the D27 to view the Etang la Cosse.

On to etangs at Foucault, with their excellent hides, and we watched from the main one for some time.

To Maison du Parc at le Bouchet for lunch.

Large group of children at Etang du Blizon, so continued to Etang des Vigneaux, which was very pretty but without many birds to be seen.

South to Etang du Sault, where we walked along the west shore.

In late afternoon spent an hour scanning from roadside over Etangs de Ricot and Monmélier.

Back to hotel for final evening meal.

6.6.03 (Fri) Clear sunny morning and remained hot and sunny all day. Left the hotel at 9.15, then to garage at Chauvigny to fill up with fuel.

On round Poitiers to Neuville-de-Poitou area.

Stopped at Champagne de Méron for picnic lunch, and a walk through the fields here.

3 Stock Doves seen as we were heading off towards Fontevraud, where we failed to locate the Rock Sparrows, probably because it was by now too hot. Crossed River Loire at Monsoreau, and stopped on far side to scan the large sandbank just upstream from the bridge.

Back to Ouistreham via Mayenne where we stopped for a snack at pizzeria. Arrived at Ouistreham at 10.20pm, but not onto Normandie until after midnight.

7.6.03 (Sat) Uneventful drive back to Bristol via Bath.