Summer in winter

French word of the day: lac = lake

This is the last episode of my Christmas break adventures in France. On the first of January, my dad and I visited the Lac du Bourget. The largest natural lake in France, it gives shelter to many species during winter time. That day, though, was not a winter day, but we saw some interesting birds nonetheless.

See the map

We were welcome to the Site des Mottets by a pair of Reed buntings (Emberiza schoeniclus), some tits and wrens, and some Eurasian coots (Fulica atra). The big attraction was the huge group of diving ducks, mostly Tufted ducks (Aythya fuligula) and Common pochards (Aythya ferina), resting on the edge of the reedbed.

Diving ducks (Tufted duck and Common pochard)
Diving ducks (Tufted duck and Common pochard)

We couldn’t find any Ferruginous duck (Aythya nyroca), but a flight of Red-headed pochards (Netta rufina) was a worthy replacement. One of these birds had been spotted in Copenhagen in the previous weeks, which got birders there quite excited. I think it’s quite common on the Lac du Bourget, at least during winter. I’m sure I saw them there, when I was young…

Another exciting treat, for the Denmark-based birder I now am, was the Yellow-legged gull (Larus michahellis). Even though some venture up north, it’s essentially a bird from southern Europe, as opposed to the Herring gull (Larus argentatus), which is ubiquitous around Copenhagen.

Yellow-legged gull (Larus michahellis)
Yellow-legged gull (Larus michahellis)

They sat on posts above the water, but when another individual dared fly by, they would bow their head down, then up, shouting to the world their claim over the area (or at least their perch).

Yellow-legged gull
Yellow-legged gull
Yellow-legged gull
Yellow-legged gull

In a lake inlet, no less than eighteen Common snipes (Gallinago gallinago) slowly emerged from sleep, while a Robin (Erithacus rubecula) struck the pose on a fence.

European robin (Erithacus rubecula)
European robin (Erithacus rubecula)
European robin
European robin


The Castle of Thomas II didn’t yield any valuable sight, so we headed to the mountains.


The Lac de la Thuile is a small lake hidden in the Bauges mountain range. We had a picnic in this peaceful haven, then walked a bit, observing three Roe deers (Capreolus capreolus) and three Common buzzards (Buteo buteo). On our way down to the Isère valley, we had to pass through a thick layer of clouds. Above those, the mountains were desperately not-white.
Yes, summer in winter…



Bird inventory



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14 thoughts on “Summer in winter

  1. Your birds are as always very gusto and it’s a beautiful area. The little robin is my absolute favourite in the winter months. I always smile when I hear the little bird sing.
    Maybe we should accept an old invitation from some acquaintances in Grenoble 🙂 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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