Nature's way: up close with the flora and fauna


Birdwatching in Hautes-Pyrénées


The Pyrénées are home to hundreds of different types of bird. You can spot at least 22 species in the Pibeste Natural Reserve which has a dry microclimate, making it very attractive for nesting. The highlights are the birds of prey. The reserve is home to royal eagles, peregrine falcons, griffon vultures, Egyptian vultures and the golden eagle. However, the star of the bird-watching scene is the bearded vulture. There are just 29 pairs of these birds in the French Pyrénées and they are very difficult to spot.

Amongst other rare sights are the capercaillie, a grouse-like bird known for its dawn courtship displays in mid-May to early June, and the ptarmigan, whose feathers turn white in the winter to camouflage them in the snow.

Other ornithological treats are the dipper, a small, portly bird that dips in and out of natural water sources while looking for food on the riverbed. You can't escape the calls of several different kinds of woodpecker. Plus, if you are lucky, you might catch a glimpse of a wallcreeper. It's tricky to spot against the rock face, but keep your eyes peeled for a flash of crimson as it takes off.

Pibeste regional nature reserve (00 33 562 97 14 55; rnr-pibeste-saintpe.com); Borderline Holidays ( borderlinehols.com)

Transhumance in Aveyron, Ariège and Hautes-Pyrénées

In the summer months, the wild animals of the Midi-Pyrénées region have to make room for thousands of domesticated animals that ascend to the mountain pastures. The ancient custom of Transhumance is practised across the region. At the end of May, the process begins in the Aveyron, where herds of red cows are the first to be driven up onto the high plateau of Aubrac. Next, the goats of the Couserans area in Ariège make the climb into the mountains over three days at the beginning of June, accompanied by Mérens horses, which depart from all the valleys in Hautes-Pyrénées, Ariège and Haute-Garonne.

The process of moving to higher altitudes is celebrated at the Fête de La Transhumance. Farmers herding their animals up into the mountains are followed by locals dressed in traditional costume, as well as just about anyone else who wants to join in. There is often traditional music and local arts, and craftsmen give demonstrations. Festivities culminate in a communal meal of fresh local produce. Lamb cutlets, Bigourdan salads, local goat cheeses and blueberry tarts are among delicacies of the region that you can expect to sample.

Truffle hunting in the Lot

One of the most exciting culinary attractions of the Lot department of the Midi-Pyrénées region is the black truffle. These "black diamonds" are harvested in orchards across the department each year between mid-November and mid-March. The truffles typically grow beneath oak or hazel trees. Traditionally, the harvesters use sows to detect truffles beneath the soil. This is because the scent of a ripe truffle is similar to the sexual odour of the wild boar. The downside is that this scent drives the pigs into a sexual frenzy, and it can be as much work stopping them from eating the truffle as it is finding it in the first place.

At the weekly markets there are truffle-hunting demonstrations and the chance to view the array of truffles on sale. One of the biggest markets in the Lot department is at Lalbenque. Here, trading begins at 2.30pm, when the rope dividing the sellers and buyers comes down. Trading is very secretive, with bids scribbled on paper to avoid eavesdropping by other buyers. If you do not fancy forking out €300 a kilo, you can content yourself with being a spectator, and enjoy a truffle omelette while you watch.

A weekend (three days/two nights) looking for truffles costs from €145 per person (half-board). For more information, contact Midi-Pyrénées Vacances Loisirs (00 33 5 34 25 05 05)

The Independent travel offers: Discover a world of inspiring destinations

Suggested Topics
News
people Emma Watson addresses celebrity nude photo leak
News
Katie Hopkins appearing on 'This Morning' after she purposefully put on 4 stone.
peopleKatie Hopkins breaks down in tears over weight gain challenge
News
Boris Johnson may be manoeuvring to succeed David Cameron
i100
News
Band was due to resume touring this month
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
people'It can last and it's terrifying'
News
In this photo illustration a school student eats a hamburger as part of his lunch which was brought from a fast food shop near his school, on October 5, 2005 in London, England. The British government has announced plans to remove junk food from school lunches. From September 2006, food that is high in fat, sugar or salt will be banned from meals and removed from vending machines in schools across England. The move comes in response to a campaign by celebrity TV chef Jamie Oliver to improve school meals.
science
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Life and Style
fashionModel of the moment shoots for first time with catwalk veteran
Life and Style
fashionAngelina Jolie's wedding dressed revealed
News
i100
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Sport
Tom Cleverley
Loan move comes 17 hours after close of transfer window
Sport
Alexis Sanchez, Radamel Falcao, Diego Costa and Mario Balotelli
footballRadamel Falcao and Diego Costa head record £835m influx
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Madame Vastra and Jenny Flint kiss in Doctor Who episode 'Deep Breath'
tv
Extras
indybest 9 best steam generator irons
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Marketing Executive / Member Services Exec

    £20 - 26k + Benefits: Guru Careers: A Marketing Executive / Member Services Ex...

    Sales Account Manager

    £15,000 - £25,000: Recruitment Genius: A fantastic opportunity has arisen for ...

    VB.NET and C# developer (VB.NET,C#,ASP.NET)

    £30000 - £45000 per annum + Bonus+Benefits+Package: Harrington Starr: VB.NET a...

    Business Development Manager / Sales Pro

    £30 - 35k + Uncapped Comission (£70k Y1 OTE): Guru Careers: A Business Develop...

    Day In a Page

    'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes': US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food served at diplomatic dinners

    'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes'

    US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food
    Radio Times female powerlist: A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

    A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

    Inside the Radio Times female powerlist
    Endgame: James Frey's literary treasure hunt

    James Frey's literary treasure hunt

    Riddling trilogy could net you $3m
    Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

    Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

    What David Sedaris learnt about the world from his fitness tracker
    Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

    Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

    Second-holiest site in Islam attracts millions of pilgrims each year
    Alexander Fury: The designer names to look for at fashion week this season

    The big names to look for this fashion week

    This week, designers begin to show their spring 2015 collections in New York
    Will Self: 'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

    'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

    Will Self takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
    Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

    Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

    Toy guns proving a popular diversion in a country flooded with the real thing
    Al Pacino wows Venice

    Al Pacino wows Venice

    Ham among the brilliance as actor premieres two films at festival
    Neil Lawson Baker interview: ‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.

    Neil Lawson Baker interview

    ‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.
    The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

    The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

    Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband
    The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

    The model for a gadget launch

    Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
    Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

    She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

    Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
    Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

    Get well soon, Joan Rivers

    She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
    Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

    A fresh take on an old foe

    Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering