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Col de Baracuchet - Lérigneux, Loire (42)
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The surroundings and natural setting

Col du Baracuchet is situated in the mountains of Forez, at the northeastern limit of the Central Massif, close to the city of Montbrison, approximately 40 km northwest of Saint-Etienne. Wood Pigeons and thrushes are hunted on the col in October. The col is situated at 1263 m above sea level, whereas the watch point proper is slightly lower down at 1100 m. The mountain range rises to 1634 m at Pierre-sur-Haute and is dominating the plains of Forez, where the migrants are coming from. The natural environment consists of high, rugged mountains. Sombre and cool beech and spruce forests are covering the valley slopes. The summits are bare and covert with hautes-chaumes (high altitude heather with a pastoral activity). Some scattered peat bogs mark the landscape.

In the early 1980s some pioneering visits have been made. From that period onward, several birders have followed. In the footsteps of Raymond Faure, young birders became interested in the col. With Bernard Daurat and André Ulmer as volunteers, Joël Bec and Guillaume Allemand as observers, the place gained its letters of nobility. Twenty three years later, Bernard is still the most assiduous volunteer. The official start of the watch point was in 1984, with October surveys ever since. A survey has been done during 3 months (August, September and October) during 5 years, from 1990 to 1994. Birds of prey (Osprey, Red Kite), finches (Citril Finch, Linnet, Siskin, Goldfinch), thrushes and Black Storks are the most typical species of the site.


Here, like on the other cols, there is a succession of species from season to season. At the end of July and early August, Swifts and Black Kites are migrating. At the end of August, it's Honey Buzzard season. Early September is a good time of the year for Ospreys and Black Storks. During October, migration is at its peak, with a marked passage of finches, thrushes, pigeons and Red Kites. The most numerous passerines are Chaffinches, followed by Skylarks and Starlings, Siskins and Hawfinches. Among the thrushes, Mistle Thrushes and Song Thrushes are most numerous, but one may also observe Redwings and Fieldfares from the first cold. In spite of the decline of Red Kite as a breeding bird and winter visitor in our region, migration is still very noticeable, with often over 500 individuals a season. The decline of migrating Wood Pigeons is not creating any concern among hunters, and when lacking pigeons, they will hunt thrushes. For the visiting birder, Baruchet is an interesting place for passerines. One can study their silhouettes, their jizz in flight, the shape of flocks and most importantly, their flight calls.


There is a permanence during October and groups and individuals can be received at the site. Essential to any form of raising public awareness are regular school visits over 15 years. From time to time, in August and September, birdwatching week-ends are organized on the col. Since 2001,  small wooden house, designed and realized by the pupils of forest classes of Saint-Jean-Soleymieux, is allowing the reception of visitors and of pupils. Also, it is facilitating the observation of migrants. This building, integrated particularly well in the landscape, could be constructed with funding by Conseil Général de la Loire, Conseil régional Rhône-Alpes and the European Union. 


From the A72, take exit 7, towards Montbrison. At Montbrison, follow Lérigneux, col de Baracuchet. Pass the village of Lérigneux and head on towards the col on the D113. The watch point is in a road bent, a short distance beyond the hamlet of Dovezy.


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