|What was a pan-tropical booby doing in Provence? And would it stay just a little longer?|
This trip started out as an idea to twitch vagrant seaduck in Aberdeenshire, but somehow got lost in translation. Five species of scoter on the same stretch of Scottish coast had become three by the time I was able to go, and then a rival attraction appeared on the scene – about the same flying time from London, but in the opposite direction.
News of a Red-footed Booby on an inland lake in southern France broke early last week, and it surely constituted one of the most bizarre records of vagrant seabirds in the Western Palearctic. I don't think anyone expected this lost soul to stay, but it did, and by Friday I’d decided to break for the border, mainly courtesy of some British Airways air miles. Nothing ventured …
|The spectacular Gorges du Verdon, looking south-west across the vast expanse of the Lac de Sainte Croix.|
By this time it was 7 pm, but beautiful Lac de Sainte Croix seemed essentially birdless. My spirits started to fall until, about an hour later, i saw another birder approaching from the bay to the south. It was Lee Gregory, bearing the happy news that the bird had just appeared a short distance away – result! Within minutes we’d joined a small but appreciative crowd watching and photographing the booby just metres away. Confiding is not the word, but apparently it's not an unusual character trait for the species. The bird has been caught and ringed since its arrival and feathers taken for isotope analysis, so it will be interesting to see what can be ascertained about its origin. For now at least it seems like a good record.
|The nearest breeding population of Red-footed Booby is in the Caribbean, where there are some 14,000 pairs.|
|Extralimital Red-footed Boobies in Spain and the UAE proved very tame, a trait also showed by the French bird.|
Next morning, still on a high, I decided to forego the long mileage that twitching Fischer’s Lovebird entailed. Here I was, marvelling at dawn breaking over the spectacular Gorges du Verdon – how could a cage-hopping psittacid compete? Instead, I made the most of local resources, with Black Kite, Alpine Swift, Crag Martin, Tawny Pipit, more singing Western Bonelli’s, Red-backed Shrike, Cirl Bunting and a group of Alpine Chamois among the numerous highlights.
|This female Alpine Chamois was one of a herd of 16, all females or young animals.|
|Glanville Fritillary? I've only seen the species once previously, over 20 years ago, but it seems to fit this butterfly, which I photographed at Vinon-sur-Verdon - comments or other suggestions welcome.|