Tour Dates: Friday 13th – Saturday 21st October 2023 (Brest to Brest)
Tour Price: £1,750pp
Deposit: £400 per person
Conservation Donation from Wise Birding: £150 – £200
Minimum Number: 4 people
Maximum Group Size: 6 people
Birds: Dotterel, American Golden Plover, Red-billed Chough, Red-breasted Flycatcher, Yellow-browed Warbler, Dartford Warbler, Greater Short-toed Lark, Richard’s Pipit, Little Bunting, Lapland Bunting. Plus the potential of finding much rarer species!
Ouessant, situated off the coast of Brittany, has long been known as the premiere French site for rarities. Perhaps not too surprising as it sits on the other side of the mouth of the English channel to the Isles of Scilly. It certainly has far fewer birders visit than the Scillies and therefore there is a great opportunity to find your own birds and that is what this holiday is all about!
Ouessant has an enviable list of rarities that include species from America such as Upland Sandpiper, Rose-breasted Grosbeak, Scarlet Tanager and Northen Parula. Plus an equally impressive list of rarities from the east which include Siberian Thrush, Eye-browed Thrush, Pechora Pipit and Lanceolated Warbler! Of course we would be exceptionally lucky to find something quite so rare, but the potential is certainly there! More expected scarce birds include Yellow-browed Warbler, Lapland Bunting, Richard’s Pipit, Rose-coloured Starling and Red-breasted Flycatcher.
Ouessant is a small island, with quite a good road system and very few cars.
Ouessant is also a pretty flat island, apart for one or two steep pinches, so it is perfect for cycling or walking to get around the island. The birding hotspots are scattered throughout the island and there is certainly plenty of cover to check for migrants. Our guide is well connected with the local bird news, so we will always be updated on any exciting news.
So if you fancy something different to the Isles of Scilly this autumn, then come and join us on Ouessant and let’s get out there and find our own birds!
A great place for a non-birding partner to relax and enjoy the scenery along with the mandatory Cider and Crepes!
ACCOMMODATION: 8 nights in France
1 night in Brest and 7 nights in a comfortable town hotel close to birding sites
Inclusive Meals: Full board
DAY 1: Arrival
After arriving in Brest you will be met by our Wise Birding leader before transferring to a nearby hotel. Overnight Brest
DAY 2: Ferry to Ouessant
We board the ferry just a short stroll from our accommodation and the crossing takes around 2.5 hours, we should arrive at about 11am. During the ferry crossing to Ouessant, we will be on deck looking for any interesting seabirds. Skuas and shearwaters are likely and bottlenose dolphins are also possible.
Once on the island we will take a taxi to Lampaul and check into our very well located accommodation which overlooks Lampaul Bay on the west coast of the island. After lunch we will head out birding around Lampaul for the rest of the day looking for migrants and rarities. We are certainly well placed at our accommodation for rarity hunting as Cliff Swallow, Chestnut Bunting, Rose-breasted Grosbeak, Spotted sandpiper and a plethora of scarce birds have been seen in and around the town in the past few years!
DAY 3: Runiou – Penn ar Land
During the morning we will explore the area around Runiou. It has a great track record for rare pipits and buntings (there were three Blyth’s pipits together here in 2017), and the beaches nearby often hold waders and feeding pipits and wagtails. Choughs feed on the short cropped turf and marsh harriers drift overhead. After birding around Runiou, we’ll make our way back towards Lampaul taking in various migrant hotspots with the hope of finding something rare.
After lunch we will head to Penn ar Land. The site is a long wooded valley is a magnet for flycatchers, warblers, crests and other goodies. The berry bushes that line the road hold thrushes and finches, and the nearby headland of Cromlech has Dartford warblers and can attract interesting open country species such as wheatears and Short-toed larks.
DAY 4: Molène Island
We’ll take the ferry over to Molène for the day. This island has attracted ovenbird and red-eyed vireo in recent autumns, and we’ll have the place to ourselves as we search for rarities. We’ll just have to keep our fingers crossed that nothing mega tuns up on Ouessant while we’re there!
DAY 5: Phare du Creac’h – Cadoran
This morning we will visit the Phare du Creac’h, Europe’s brightest lighthouse and as a result it attracts many migrants by night. The open country round here can be great for pipits and buntings, and the patches of cover are among the best spots for rare warblers, chats and flycatchers. If the weather is suitable, seawatching from the lighthouse can be very rewarding and we’ll keep an ear out for finch and thrush passage overhead. Pechora pipit and yellowthroat are among the more glamorous rarities to have been seen around here recently.
After lunch, we will visit the Atlantic heath on the headland of Cadoran which is excellent for open country species, with a great track record for dotterel, lapland bunting and rare pipits. The wooded areas nearby are as good as anywhere else for migrants and we’ll check the sea for Sabine’s gull, skuas and shearwaters.
DAY 6: Cromlech
Out to the Cromlech at first light, where visible migration of finches and thrushes arriving from the mainland can be spectacular, and of course when passage is strong, there’s every chance of a red-throated or Richards pipit, or a rustic bunting passing through. Once the ‘vismig’ has dried up we’ll head back taking in places such as Penn Ar Land to see what has made its way into the flocks of crests and chiffchaffs, and will take in the reservoirs in search of waders.
We will leave the afternoon flexible dependent on local bird news and weather conditions.
DAY 7: Plage Yusin and the North
The tiny beach at Yusin can be covered in feeding passerines and the open country around has larks, pipits and buntings. As we head east across the north end, we can take in the ringing station where we may see species such as yellow-browed warbler or little bunting in the hand, and we’ll take in the patchwork of heaths, gardens and wooded areas in search of rarities.
DAY 8 : Flexible
We have a full day to choose where we wish to concentrate our birding for our last time on the island. We will probably use this day to try and see any rarities that we may have missed and try and find something new ourselves! We will then take a late afternoon ferry back to Brest where the tour concludes.
Please note this is a flexible itinerary which may need to be adjusted slightly dependent on arrival / departure times, weather conditions and the most recent information from our local guides
Leaders: Mark Lewis
Included in cost: All accommodation in twin en suite rooms, all meals, ferry to Ouessant, transfer to and from hotel on Ouessant, bikes if required and services of leader
Not included in cost: Travel to and from Brest, travel insurance and any alcoholic drinks.
Single Supplement: £150
Transport: A mix of cycling, walking and taxis on Ouessant
Difficulty: Easy – Moderate
We will take gentle walks / cycle rides of 4 – 8 miles a day over mainly easy flat terrain. A reasonable level of fitness is required.
Climate: Unpredictable! Be prepared for a mix of sunshine, wind and rain and a typically mild maritime climate.
Tour Start Point: Brest Rail Station, France
Tour End Point: Port du Stiff, Ouessant