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It's also ideal stopping-off territory for one of France's most charming little birds.

The ortolan bunting is a greenish-grey bird about the size of a sparrow - the males with a handsome pale yellow throat.

Chances are, it's coming from a bird trapped in a cage called a 'matola', used as a lure to attract other ortolans.

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Last weekend, the president of France's League for Protection of Birds, Allain Bougrain-Dubourg, set free 80 birds round here, the heart of ortolan-hunting territory.

In a heightened campaign against the poachers, the league has turned to using helicopters and light aircraft to find the bird traps.

Once the ortolan has been fattened to bursting point, it is drowned in Armagnac, the brandy that is another speciality of the region.

The bird is then roasted for eight minutes and served sizzling in its pale yellow fat.

Up to 50,000 ortolans are thought to be killed each year by 1,500 poachers.