Tips wanted for a trip to Europe

Hi all

It looks like my summer trip is going to be a joint wildlife watching/walking trip, in Europe, with my family. The vague plan at the moment is to go across to the French/Swiss Alps, down to NW Italy, across to Nice then Corsica and then drive back to the UK, stopping somewhere convenient on the way.

I have done several European trips before, and have asked for gen on this forum. I’m hoping to see some of the mammals I failed to see before and I’m after tips for good spots generally for mammals and herp.s. In particular can anyone recommend somewhere where there’s actually a reasonable chance of beech martin? In the past I’ve stayed in a B & B which fed pine martins, in Scotland, is there a similar place in Europe for stone martin? Also does anyone have any good sites for Alpine ibex and southern water vole? I know garden dormouse is widespread but I seem to remember someone recommending a site near Nice, which I never managed to visit, where they managed to spot light them fairly easily.

Any tips much appreciated.




  • Jon Hall

    Steve, Arvicola sapiduis is easy at Thorenc, inland from Grasse near Nice. Alpine Ibex was easy to see – 10 years ago – at St Martin de la Porte, a few km south east of St Jean de Maurienne (about 60km east north east of Grenoble). See my French page for more details

    I don’t know any reliable spots for Beech Martens. They are probably easier to see around houses than in a forest, and I have seen them several times around St Germain en Laye (next to Paris) but that was a function of my living there more than their reliability.


  • Stefanie

    Hello Steve,

    I’m pretty sure there are people who feed beech martens in Belgium. Although I’ve seen nice pictures coming by on the website, I’m not sure where they’ve been taken. Maybe Mark Hows can help you out, as I think he visited people who have/had a reliable beech marten. We regularly come across them during spotlighting but only in 1 out of 4 trips or so and my parents in law have them in their garden (but we’ve only managed to capture them on trailcam). Maybe I should convince them to start feeding their martens 🙂

    Last year I joined a biology field course in the Swiss Alps in Arolla and we had several sightings of alpine ibex during the field work (albeit from far…) and even more alpine chamois (also mostly from far though). Marmots were the easiest mammal to see, they were pretty much everywhere and very approachable. We also had several sightings of Vipera aspis (

    If you plan to cross Belgium on your trip, I know reliable places for badger (almost 100%), wildcat (25-50%, depending on luck and effort), beaver (almost 100% – reintroduced) and some more common species such as wild boar, red deer, …
    There are garden dormice around as well. I’ve looked for them twice now, but failed twice. I do know of someone who studies them and hazel dormouse as well. He can easily find both species within a couple of hours but I’ve never asked for that favour.
    What herps are you looking for? We don’t have that much in Belgium, but there are a couple of nice species. The beginning of the summer is ok for tree frogs (which I usually manage to find), I know where to find Vipera berus and Coronella austriaca but early spring is best to see both species. I have friends who studied Epidalea calamita and Alytes obstetricans so if you need help with these, let me know.
    If you’re into stag and rhinoceros beetles, those are not common in Belgium, but pretty easy to find if you know where to look during the end of June/beginning of July, as are fireflies (Lamprohiza splendidula).

    Good luck with planning your trip!

    • Jamie Lamb

      Hi Stefanie

      I know this is a very old comment. But could you share some of the wildlife spots in Belgium with me through DM?


  • mauricetijm

    Hi Steve, it was me that recommended the campsite near nice, see below. My visit was in 2012. Have a great trip!

    “I had very successful evening spotlighting at camping Ararat in the Alps-maritimes just above Nice. I saw a Garden Dormouse, a few Edible Dormouse and Yellow-necked Mouse. The bark of some of the trees around the campsite was stripped off by the Edible Dormouse. Very nice place for a night. Bring a red filter to get a better view of the noisy Edible Dormouse. There was quite some mammal activity in the trees, it only is a bit hard not to frustrate the other guests and neighbours while you unpurposely set their tent or garden in full light. (Dutch)”

  • stevebabbs

    Thanks for your responses. I’ll book into that campsite. Spotlighting in a campsite can be rather tricky! I’m still at the early planning stage but certainly wouldn’t rule out going through Belgium especially as, rather bizarrely, it would be a country ‘tick’ for me. I’ve never managed to see European tree frog.

  • Francine

    Hello Steve,
    I’ve lived in the Nice area for more than 10 years, I can only encourage you to come to this incredibly diverse place!
    If you stay at Ararat camping close to Contes village, then you might consider a few days in the Mercantour National Park, a couple of hours driving from the place. I’ve also crisscrossed the Alps and Mercantour is definitely the best place for chamois and also very good for the Alpine Ibex. From Saint Martin Vésubie, you can try “Col de Fenestre” which is usually a good spot for Ibex. In the Roya Valley (from Saint Dalmas de Tende / Castérino), the hike to Lac de l’Agnel will almost certainly be rewarded by a close Ibex sighting (they are usually around the dam).
    Mercantour is also where the gray wolf made his come back in France 20 years ago…
    Thorenc (recommended by Jon) is not that far and can be combined with the 2 other suggestions above. I have spotted beech marten quite often at night along the roads, in this area called “préalpes de Grasse”, though I haven’t a specific site to recommend. Good luck for your trip, do not hesitate to ask for more details if needed. Francine

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