Plenty of species to see… and protect!
The Bird Protection League (LPO) is an association working on a daily basis to preserve natural areas, protect species and raise public awareness about environmental issues. In a wide range of outstanding natural landscapes all over Touraine, LPO nature guides are on hand for visits with a chance to spot birds including Arctic terns, ospreys and swallows. And so we can all carry on enjoying the spectacle for years to come, individual visitors, as well as tourism sites, are joining in to protect biodiversity with the “LPO Refuge” label.
The Loire châteaux supporting the Bird Protection League
Since 2016, the famous royal château of Amboise, looking out over the River Loire, has been working alongside the Bird Protection League, aiming to become a model for protecting our feathered friends. The Château d’Amboise gardens are listed as “Remarkable Gardens”, and the LPO Refuge label is part of an aim to protect biodiversity and to introduce visitors to some of the best practices. There are now around 20 nesting boxes in the gardens, and no phytosanitary products are used.
During your visit to the gardens, you can see up to 82 bird species, including 35 nesting species: blue tits, kestrels, robins, tawny owls, swifts and house martins playing hide and seek in the château ramparts.
In 2012, after the visit of the Touraine delegation of the Bird Protection League (LPO) to the exceptional Château de Villandry and its magnificent gardens, the LPO was delighted to give the château the “LPO Refuge” label. Almost 90 species of birds have been listed, including tawny owls, European sparrowhawks, golden plovers, Eurasian nuthatches, lesser spotted woodpeckers, Eurasian bullfinches, tree pipits, little egrets, dunnocks, western jackdaws, marsh tits, sand martins, Eurasian stone-curlews, cattle egrets and redwings sail through the air above 9 hectares of forest, 6 hectares of gardens and 9 hectares of meadows alongside the River Cher.
We might also mention another château, which is also a wine estate and an accomodation: the Château de Minière in Coteaux-sur-Loire. Since 2013, the estate has moved towards organic farming methods. It was listed as an LPO bird refuge in 2017. As well as wine, beehives have naturally found a home on the farm, and the bees happily coexist with birds whose song serenades visitors to the wine cellar.
Activities linked to birds
The Loire Anjou Touraine Natural Park, the Maison de la Loire, but also the Val de Loire Ecotourisme and Touraine Terre d’Histoire: the guided outings proposed by these structures regularly provide an opportunity to observe (without disturbing!) the bird populations.
The bird miniature golf course at Lac de Rillé is open from April to November. As well as enjoying yourself with your family, this is your chance to get back to nature. The 18-hole miniature golf course features sculptures of the region’s birds. It combines sport with an educational trail developed in partnership with the Regional Nature Park, and set up by the Permanent Centre for Environmental Initiatives in collaboration with the LPO.
Further south, not far from the Saché forest, is Christine Vincent’s workshop. This is a real temple of wellness for all birds. Christine’s workshop is teeming with adorable wicker bird tables and nesting boxes. A bird table costs between €12 and €50, and a nesting box between €40 and €80. You can also find bird food certified by the LPO.*
At Plume et Brin D’Osier there is also a wide range of activities on offer, including wickerwork for beginners (open to all, ages 3 and over, from 12 euros each, reservation required) plus a fun, educational visit to the wickerwork workshop (reservation also required).
*The Bird Protection League (LPO) recommends feeding birds from October to March. A wide range of varied food is available (from €5.40 to €35) for your bird tables. You can buy mixed fat balls (€2.80 each) with insects, sunflower seeds and red fruits. Bags of organic sunflower seeds (€14.5 for 5 kg) are the most recommended. You can also find buckets of seed balls made without palm oil (€19 for 60 balls) or the “I Love Robins” mix for robins and blackbirds (€24 for 2 kg).
Where can you fall asleep to the sound of birds singing?
With the Loire-Anjou-Touraine Regional Nature Park’s “Nature and Heritage Accommodation” listing, the Varenne guest house is located near Richelieu. The 17th century manor house is surrounded by 500 hectares of forests and fields, and has a heated swimming pool in season, plus bike rentals. On site, Joelle will give you a warm welcome, providing plenty of tips for hikes in the area, as well as access to bikes.
Near Amboise, the Gîte de la Touche is a 17th century family house at the heart of nature! The family is committed to protecting biodiversity and has succeeded in preserving a number of natural habitats as well as centuries-old trees. The property has been given the LPO “Garden Bird Refuge” label. It also plays host to a group of squirrels hiding in an old cedar tree and leaping overhead above the deer. Sheets, towels and table linen are provided at the gîte, as well as bikes.
Lastly, the Manoir de la Baillardière is also an LPO bird refuge. From this 15th and 17th century gîte, with the chapel and main staircase listed as Historic Monuments, the Villandry gardens are easily accessible (just 7 km away) as well as the Loire à Vélo cycling trail. The owners love their building and will be delighted to tell you more about a historic manor bought long ago by their ancestors and which they have conserved.