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Flamingos and bird-filled marshes in southern France

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This title might sound like some eco-fantasy since the French are historically known for making delicacies out of various wild bird species but it’s as true as baguettes in a Parisian bakery. The bird-rich marshes of the Camargue in the southern part of the country amply demonstrate that conservation of wildlife has come a long way in France. The “Camargue” is the name given to the large and unique delta of the Rhone River. Wetlands, stony plains, and open, Mediterranean scrub provide a rich mix of habitats for several animal and plant species that don’t occur anywhere else in France.

Flamingos are common and easy to watch as they quickly stomp their feet in shallow, brackish waters of this national preserve. Hundreds and hundreds of gulls, terns, plovers, ducks, egrets, herons, and Marsh Harriers also thrive in the extensive reedbeds and shallow pools. Colorful Bee-eaters, Eurasian Rollers (a strange, open country bird dressed in different shades of blue), and Hoopoes (an even more strange pink and black bird with a thin, downcurved bill) are frequently seen in the area of the reserve, and semi-wild, black Bulls plow their way through the marshy landscape.

Other aquatic birds such as White Storks and stilts also hang out at the visitor center located just outside of the small, seaside village of Saint Marie de la Mer. This is also an excellent stop for learning more about the history and importance of this reserve. Other benefits of visiting France on an eco-vacation can also be enjoyed in the village in the form of fantastic Provencal cuisine but don’t expect to find wild birds on any of the menus; that practice was outlawed some years ago.

Further afield, the old Roman town and Van Gogh hangout of Arles appeals to the artistically oriented eco-traveler, whereas scrubby, fragrant hills around the old fortress town of Les Baux are a great place to go hiking and birdwatching.

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