Trip to Chamonix, France, 19 Aug - 27 Aug 2022

Nick Rossiter


Birds -- 46 species from 95 records, 7 complete lists, 12 places in Chamonix, France, area from 19 Aug - 27 Aug 2022. Raptors were of 11 types: Common Buzzard 11, Griffon Vulture 10, Honey-buzzard 4, Bearded Vulture 3, Short-toed Eagle 2, Golden Eagle 2, Egyptian Vulture 1, Black Kite 1, Tawny Owl 1, Kestrel 1, Peregrine 1. total 37 birds. Full bird records.

Butterflies15 species, 49 insects, 10 trips, 8 localities, 580-2134m asl: Small White 20, Shepherd’s Fritillary 4, Silver-washed Fritillary 4, Painted Lady 3, Speckled Wood 3, Green-veined White 2, Clouded Yellow 2, Common Blue 2, Geranium Bronze 2, Marbled Ringlet 2, Swallowtail 1, High Brown Fritillary 1, Small Tortoiseshell 1, Small Heath 1, Large White 1. Full butterfly records.

Honey-buzzard were noted at 2 localities: 1) at Argentière at 1252m with adult alarm call on 21/8 as walked towards mature spruce plantation and on 22/8 with a family group of 3 in the air above the tree line close together over the village; 2) at Les Gaillands at 1020m on 23/8 where an adult female left to forage from a dense spruce plantation, in contention with an adult Common Buzzard.


August 27th: maximum 22C, minimum 12C, light E, bright sunshine, fresh. Taxi took us to Gervais Fayet from 10:30-11:10, where had a Common Buzzard hunting on edge of town as drove in, a Swallow, plus 2 Geranium Bronze (on pot plants 1), 2 Small White, 1 Painted Lady, and a Hornet. Then caught 13:00-18:13 Gervais to Paris Gare de Lyon (single Kestrel at Meximieux at 16:00 and Black Kite at Moulins-en-Tonnerrois at 17:30 en route), taxi Gare de Lyon to Gare du Nord €19, €* Paris to St Pancras 20:13-21:45; taxi St Pancras to Ealing, back at 22:40. What a day! Everything went smoothly – 2moro afternoon sees final leg of journey by UG, LNER and NR.

Here’s some piccies taken around Chamonix by nephew John and posted on our WhatsApp group page Les Tines: 22/8 Mont Blanc (4807m asl) highest mountain in the Alps and Western Europe, Aiguille du Midi, the highest cable car in France, 3842m 1 with Clair, Emily, Ben 2 and Alpine Chough 3; 26/8 Pool champ NR/Matt 4; group photo front views 5, back views 6, chicken emulation 7. Front views from l-to-r show me, nephew John, daughter Emily, his wife Clair, son Ben, niece’s husband Matt, niece Julie, big sis Gill.

August 26th: maximum 22C, minimum 12C, light E, cloudy, few sunny intervals, light rain showers, much fresher, little snow fallen today on high ledges on jagged pinnacle 1 above us to E, little below 4,000m asl, autumn approaches! A take it easy day before travel back in one go to London 2moro with taxi taking us to Gervais for €85. Had a local walk for total of 14 bird species, adding 2 Blue Tit, 2 Great Tit, 1 White Wagtail juv 1, 1 Bullfinch calling, to list. Best of all was a Griffon Vulture flying below skyline to W at 14:10 before being lost to sight, no piccies. Took some piccies of the Honey-buzzard nesting area at Argentière 1  2  3  4. Matt and I crowned as pool champions of the holiday; I potted the black but shot of the tournament was M’s control of cue ball to keep a break going when snookering ourselves might have set up a loss!

August 25th: maximum 26C, minimum 15C, light and variable, sunny all day, dry, hot sunshine. Did have more migrant activity today at Les Tines with a Song Thrush at 10:00, a Tree Pipit and Spotted Flycatcher at 18:00, 2 Common Swift and 7 House Martin S at 19:00 and 2 Chiffchaff calling anxiously at 19:30. At Les Tines had a Red Admiral. 7 Raven were over Argentière at 17:50. Weather is due to change with heavy thunderstorms forecast for tomorrow afternoon as a cold front goes through, reducing temperature to 22C max. Should be fun! Midday (until 15:00) went up the railway from Chamonix Mont Blanc station to Montenvers at 1913m asl, close to a number of mountains and glaciers 1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9  10  11  12  13  14  15, just below the tree line so some interesting ground vegetation in nearby walks 16  17  18  19  20  21  22  23  24. The station is a popular base for walks 25. Was very busy but enjoyed the lunch up there in the open air, the great views and the meadows. Not many birds up there: 1 Crow, 6 Chaffinch 1, 1 House Sparrow, 2 Crag Martin, and a Common Buzzard on the way up. Had 3 types of butterfly: a Marbled Ringlet 1  2  3, a Small White and a large fritillary (presumed Shepherd’s Fritillary) at height.

August 24th: maximum 25C, minimum 14C, light SE breeze, sunny all day, dry, hot sunshine. We (big sis and I) went on chair-lift from Argentière to mountain above tree line 1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8 to E at 2134m asl from 12:30-15:00 with walks to glaciers. We walked a little to S and watched the Raven, some 19 seen, flying around the ridges and flattish areas. They were quite tame but didn’t get too close. The Raven rear up from their perches on the boulders for short periods before diving down again; here’s plenty of piccies 1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9  10  11  12 . Also had a single Crow, pretty much confirming the count made from our chalet, way below in the valley to S. Had a Tawny Owl calling at 05:10 from W of the chalet on a comfort trip! Also a Collared Dove calling at Les Tines at 10:00 and a Common Buzzard adult calling from the station at 12:30. In Argentière village at 1252m asl had 1 Serin, 1 Crag Martin, 7 House Sparrow, plus butterflies single Small Tortoiseshell, Green-veined White, Small White, Swallowtail 1  2, High Brown Fritillary 3  4 (with Swallowtail 5  6  7  8), Silver-washed Fritillary (with High Brown 9). While watching Argentière from Les Tines from 11:50-12:30 had a Griffon Vulture 1  2  3  4  5 and a Short-toed Eagle 1  2 soaring high over the hillside 13. A black Red Squirrel was at Les Tines station.

August 23rd: maximum 24C, minimum 13C, light and variable, sunny all day, dry, hot sunshine. Made Les Gaillands rocks from 12:30-18:00 lying 2km south of Chamonix, a rocky area with extensive ropes and instructors to help novices gain experience. Niece and nephew were there all afternoon, doing marvellously on the climbs, which are challenging. We went down by train, had lunch there and went back to Chamonix by bus for supper at a piazza place; quite reasonable at €16 a head with 4 glace later costing €16 in all. Everywhere was very busy, full of tanned athletic looking types, mostly in their 30s and 40s. Had 5 Mallard and 3 Coot on a local lake plus 4 Chaffinch, 3 House Sparrow, 2 Crow. Raptors comprised a Honey-buzzard female and Common Buzzard adult in brief but vigorous combat at 17:28 (both together, blurred 1; Common Buzzard adult 2, Honey-buzzard female 3) as the Honey-buzzard left to forage from a dense spruce plantation with scattered birch at the base of a forested hillside near Les Gaillands at 1020m asl (12152); here’s shots of habitat taken this day 4  5  6  7  8  9  10  11  12. Total was just 7 bird-types here with butterflies: 1 Speckled Wood, 3 Small White, 1 Silver-washed Fritillary, plus moths: 1 Humming-bird Hawk-moth, 1 Oak Eggar larva 1. Had some good views of Mont Blanc peaks 1  2  3, including at sunset 4 and the glacier 5  6. At dusk at Chamonix Aiguille Du Midi town 1  2  3 (from where you can connect to chair-lift to summit) had 17 Crag Martin overhead, a Feral Pigeon, a Black Woodpecker in flight. Much earlier at 09:00 added a Blackbird to the list in Les Tines, with a Chaffinch and single Speckled Wood also seen. WiFi at chalet is slow and jerky!

August 22nd: maximum 22C, minimum 11C, light and variable, sunny all morning, cloudier afternoon, hot sunshine. Good views of Mont Blanc 1a early on from the ranch. Made the chair lift (schemes 1b  1c) with big sis and niece and partner to La Flégère from 12:40-14:30, up above the tree line 1  2  3  4  5 and with abundant ski slopes and views up to mountains above 6  7  8, across the valley towards Mont Blanc 9  10  11  12  13, glacier 14 and Chamonix below 15. Views were breathtaking from the top. This is at 1900m asl. Nephew and family took lift to near Mont Blanc, 3842m asl up in the snow 1. We walked almost to Chamonix to get the lift by the side of the river seeing a Robin 16, a Humming-bird Hawk-moth 17, a Clouded Yellow, a Painted Lady and 5 Small White. Cost was €34 for two on the lift. Must say descent by lift at start was exciting: rapid pick up in speed on level and then like going over the crest of a waterfall, directly down. Not many birds around; nephew had 2 Alpine Chough right at the top 3; at 3842m and more (c15) at the base immediately below. We had a Water Pipit 18, 5 nesting Crag Martin 19  20 and a brood of Ptarmigan in a copse 21  22  23 above the tree line at 1930m asl, plus some butterflies: 3 Shepherd’s Fritillary 24  25, 1 Marbled Ringlet 26, 1 Common Blue. No raptors. Later back at the chalet from 17:20-19:00 noticed many Raven in family groups 1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9  10 and with Honey-buzzard 11 practising high up over Argentière to NE. Looked like c18 in total with raptors up including a family group of Honey-buzzard together (male, female, juvenile) up above the tree-line (12151 group 1 2), 2 Griffon Vulture 1  2, 1 male Peregrine Falcon 1 . A lot of activity! Had a Grey Heron at Les Tines in evening (up to 20:00) plus during the day a Mistle Thrush, a Serin, a Chiffchaff, a Jay, 4 Magpie, 4 Crow, 2 Green Woodpecker and 6 Crag Martin.

August 21st: maximum 22C, minimum 11C, light and variable, sunny all day with hot sunshine. Here’s piccies (21/8) of spectacular mountains around Mont Blanc 1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9, valley at Les Tines 10  11  12  13 and chalet 601 14  15  16  17 at 1080m asl. Went for walk in afternoon around Les Tines, along the ‘white’ stream which runs through it, ice melt from the glaciers towering above. Had 6 Griffon Vulture (as 4+2 1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9  10) over the tops of the valley sides 2000m asl, along with a family group of 2 Golden Eagle (ad 1, juv), 1 Egyptian Vulture adult 1  2, 3 Bearded Vulture (1  2 ad, 2 juv), plus in the valley below, altitude 1080m asl, 2 Common Buzzard adult calling and an adult Honey-buzzard alarm call as we walked in well-managed mature spruce woodland to NE of Tines (towards Argentière). Also had 3 Green Woodpecker, 2 Crag Martin, 2 Serin, plus a Nuthatch, a Chiffchaff calling, a female/juv Blackcap, 6 Chaffinch, 7 House Sparrow, 1 Robin, 4 Magpie and 6 Carrion Crow. Butterflies comprised single Small Heath 1, Clouded Yellow, Speckled Wood 1, Common Blue, Large White, Green-veined White, Painted Lady, 2 Silver-washed Fritillary, 8 Small White (9 types), plus a Humming-bird Hawk-moth. So well underway, have placed a large grocery order with a store in Chamonix for delivery tomorrow. We stopped at a restaurant in N of Les Tines, cost €10 for a beer! C’est la vie! 2moro it’s a chair-lift to get up high (1900m asl) and maybe trip to Chamonix.

August 20th: maximum 23C, minimum 16C, light and variable, sunny spells with hot sunshine, shower as arrived in Les Tines, where we are staying. Had fantastic views of Mont Blanc and its glaciers as passed through Chamonix on train. Scenery of Jura Mountains was spectacular as approached St Gervais Fayet from Paris Gare de Lyon, which left at 10:29, arriving at Gervais at 15:30 :where changed to smaller train for Chamonix and Les Tines at 16:29. Chalet is good sized, holding 8 people: me, elder sis, niece and partner, nephew and partner and 2 kids aged 10-12. Had 2 Common Buzzard in Jura at Annemasse, near Swiss border, at 14:20, plus 3 at Gervais (family group of 1 ad, 2 juv 1) with a juvenile Short-toed Eagle gliding along the ridge above 1  2  3, around 16:00.

August 19th: maximum 24C, minimum 16C, light W breeze, dull, few spots of rain. Had 4 bird species in Camden from 06:00-09:00: Feral Pigeon 7, Ring-necked Parakeet 4, Magpie, 2, Herring Gull 2 ad, most in Cartwright Square where stayed. Arrived in style in Paris on €* in premium class, getting a good lunch with rw on the train. See you can also go to Disneyland, Brussels and Amsterdam. Got taxi from Gare du Nord to Hotel Parisianer near Gare du Lyon (€20). Checked into hotel, paying €370 for 2 rooms overnight and breakfast: well equipped hotel, very close to the station for tomorrow’s trek to Tines and Chamonix. Had 5 bird-species at Gare de Lyon 2 Herring Gull adult, 4 Carrion Crow, 12 Feral Pigeon, 2 Magpie, 2 House Sparrow. Had supper in a bar near the station.

Nick Rossiter 2022