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Col du Plafond - Anould, Vosges (88)
Watchpoint
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This is a translation from the French edition of La France à tire-d'aile (2005) by Philippe J. DUBOIS and Elise ROUSSEAU, published by Delachaux & Niestlé, reproduced here with the kind authorization of the publisher and the authors.

Natural surroundings of the watchpoint 

Col du Plafond (620 m - 2,034 ft) dominates the Meurthe valley near Saint-Dié. The mountain pass is composed of three parishes: Anould, Gerbépal and Corcieux. To the east, forests alternate with valleys bisected by streams (haute and petite Meurthe). The Vosges Mountains, over 1000 m (3,280 ft) high, are located at merely 10 km (6.2 mi) from here. Situated in the background, however, the rounded summits of the mountain range are hidden from view. They are concealed by a 750 m (2,460 ft) high forested ridge in the foreground, running north-south and extending to the southwest of the pass. To the west, the undulating hills are complemented by woodland and valleys. The watchpoint is situated on a northeast/southwest axis along the valley of the Bruche. Col de Saales, in Bas-Rhin, is located along the same valley some 20 km (12.4 mi) to the northeast.
 
Col du Plafond offers a 270° degree panorama. In good visibility, the summits of Mont Donon and Champ-du-feu can be seen in the northeast, as well as mountain ridges bordering the valley of the Plaine to the north. The view to the west, however, is limited to the immediate surroundings of the mountain pass whereas the view to the east is blocked by a ridge oriented north/south at slightly over 2 km (1.2 mi) from the col. The low mountain pass attracts large numbers of migrants flying from northeast to southwest along the valleys of the Bruche, Fave and Meurthe (upstream from Saint-Dié).
 
History of the survey
A partial migration survey has been conducted from 1998 to 2001. With 231,600 and 310,076 migratory birds counted respectively, the results of the most detailed surveys in 2000 and 2001 indicate a migration route of regional importance, with good species diversity (103 species noted over a five-year period).  
 
Ornithological interest, emblematic species
The species composition is similar, in some respects, to that of les Conches at Ceyzériat in Ain (cfr. www.migraction.net/index.php). Several species totals also show similarities between the two sites. As in Ain, there are some alpine affinities including some rare migrants such as Citril Finch, Nutcracker or Rock Bunting.
 
Migration calendar
 
Late September to early November is the best period to watch a wide variety of species in good numbers. Raptors seem to follow the northeast/southwest ridges to the west of the mountain pass. They also appear over the small ridges oriented from east to west to the north of the col. Some raptors avoid the col and follow the ridges on either side of it. Common Buzzard is the commonest raptor on autumn migration with up to 1,600 inds. Honey Buzzard comes next, with 500-900 inds. Among the passerines, the commonest migrants are Chaffinch (up to 175,000 inds.) and Brambling (max. of nearly 17,000 inds.), Skylark, Barn Swallow, Siskin, Redwing, Mistle Thrush, Fieldfare, Hawfinch, Tree Pipit and Woodlark. Woodpigeons reach 41,000 inds in some autumns, whereas only a few hundred Stock Doves are noted. Swifts are regular migrants with up to 9,440 inds. Lesser Black-backed Gulls are also regularly seen in small numbers (max. 37 inds.). They probably include breeding birds from the North Sea area en route to the Mediterranean wintering grounds. Local breeding birds include: Raven, Hobby, Peregrine, Goshawk, Black Woodpecker, Treecreeper, Nutcracker (mainly in September) and Crossbill. If you want to see these species, the GR path is a good option. Passerine migration is most obvious with low clouds and moderate western to southern (i.e. opposite) winds.Depending on the time of the day, weather conditions and the time of the year, migrants will fly at different heights. Raptors soaring on thermals (e.g. kites and Honey Buzzards) are most likely to be seen during hot summer days. Birds of prey will gain height and sometimes disappear out of view after 10:00 a.m. and will descend when it cools down (at 15:00 – 16:00). In October and November, raptor migration is lower down in the absence of rising thermals. During summer, Yellow Wagtails and pipits mainly migrate before 09:00- 10:00 a.m. Later in the season, they only migrate at a lower altitude with contrary winds. Migration may be quite obvious during the first hours of daylight. Thrushes are particularly common at first light and most of them migrate during the night. On windless October days with a steel blue sky, migrants are more easily heard than seen.
 
Visitors
There is no regular survey at Col du Plafond.
 
How to get there?
 
Two roads cross the mountain pass : D8 and D60, between Saint-Dié and Gérardmer on the one hand and Corcieux on the other hand. The watchpoint is 500 m east of the col, at about 660 m, on a forest road (along the GR 533 path) giving access to the communal forest of Anould from Col du Plafond. From this viewpoint, however, the visibility may be insufficient in eastern direction. For that reason, observers move closer to the col when there is strong passerine migration (between mid September and mid November). The latter watchpoint is situated near ploughed land, 200 m west of the col. This time, the view is blocked to the west!
 
Where to stay and where to eat?
 
There is a wide choice of restaurants and accommodation in the region. Please contact the tourist offfice for more information:  
Office de tourisme
9, rue Henry
88430 Corcieux
Tel. 03 29 50 73 29
 
Contact
 
Please contact Vincent Palomares vincent_palomares@yahoo.fr
Sightings can send to
Centre Ornithologique Lorrain (COL)
5, rue de Nancy
54690 Lay-Saint-Christophe
or
LPO Alsace
8, rue Adèle-Riton
67000 Strasbourg
Phone 03 88 22 07 35
Fax 03 88 22 91 28
e-mail : alsace@lpo.fr
Website : alsace.lpo.fr/
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