says French ornithologist Frédéric Lamouroux, who runs one of the most beautiful bird watching destinations in the south of France: Pont de Gau ornithological park. We talked to him about his best birding experience, his favorite birding spots, and what his family’s heritage means to him.
My greatest inspiration was my dad, who got me into bird watching when he established the Pont de Gau ornithological park in the 1970s. Then there is Alan Johnson, the man who saved the Mediterranean Greater Flamingo (Phoenicopterus roseus) population and who I had the chance to meet and work with some time ago. And last but not least, I was very inspired by Canadian ornithologist Real Bisson, who I met while working in Quebec to raise awareness of the protection of Snow Geese (Anser caerulescens).
Nature means everything to me. I live in Arles, which is a 30-minute drive from my work. I cross the Camargue on my commute, and I love to see the morning and evening light and how it changes with the seasons. Spotting birds from the road never gets old.
There are so many, but one that sticks out is my trip to Northern California, where I experienced so many firsts, like seeing my first hummingbird. During that trip, I got closer to the birds than ever before. One day, someone told me that I could see a group of cranes at a certain place. I went there and saw pelicans, ducks, geese, herons, but no cranes. I was disappointed and was driving back to Sacramento when I suddenly saw a White-tailed Kite (Elanus leucurus) in a tree. I parked my car, but didn’t dare to move, so I waited. The bird seemed unphased by my presence and after a while, I rolled down my window. Still no reaction. Eventually, I got out of my car and went toward it. There were only four or five meters between us. It was incredible. I had one of the biggest smiles on my face for days.
For me, nothing beats home, the Camargue. I know the land so well, yet never get tired of it. Its beauty still moves me every day. At my “office” at Pont de Gau, there are two spots I truly love. One is an observation tower in front of a small canal, where I watch the flamingos arrive at sunrise. The other one is a lookout in front of a big marsh where migratory birds pass over in spring and fall.
Frédéric Lamouroux is director of the Pont de Gau ornithological park in the south of France, where he calls 60 hectares of open marshland his office. After he finished his ornithological training, he worked as educational manager at Pont de Gau before leaving for Quebec to work for the Cap Tourmente National Wildlife Area. In 2000, he took over Pont de Gau from his father. Besides birds, Frédéric loves nature, the ocean, and traveling – and his SWAROVSKI OPTIK binoculars and spotting scope, which he describes as “simply the best products I’ve ever tried.” Frédéric mostly uses an NL Pure (10x32 and 8x42) and an ATX 85 when he is out counting bird populations.
Photos: Pont de Gau ornithological park and Jérôme Rey