2012 France

 22 and 23  July

A long drive across country, stopping at Laon, before finally arriving at Meaudre.  The journey was livened up by my daughter copiously throwing up.

24 - 27 July 

Vercours

A truly beautiful area, and a very pleasant campsite.

I spent a lot of time looking at butterflies.  Previous trips had shown me quite how hard identifying butterflies in Europe is.  If anything it was harder than I remembered and many species were identified, from photographs, when I got home - often with assistance.  I have photos that remain unidentified because I failed to get a photo of the butterfly's underwing.

Titania's fritillary

false heath fritillary
turquoise blue

silver-washed fritillary


blue-spot hairstreak

swallowtail

marbled white

black-veined white

Apollo


Both high-brown and dark-green fritillaries were seen; this is the former.


A few hummingbird hawkmoths were seen.

A number of Orthoptera species were seen.

Alpine bush-cricket; this one drew blood eventually.

brown mountain grasshopper


large mountain grasshopper


I'd love to know for sure what this is.  I think it's bog-bush cricket.  If anyone can tell me please use my contact form.


I'm not the world's keenest botanist, but we did identify dark red helloborine


and yellow bird's-nest.


The only dragonflies seen were small pincertails.


28 July - 3 August

Ecrins



It was then off to the even more spectacular Ecrins National Park. This did have a big overlap of species with the Vercours.

The bird highlight was a superb wallcreeper.  We also managed to see a snowfinch, but sadly only from a moving car!


Marmots were frequently heard, but more rarely seen.


I managed to add a few more butterflies.  Sadly a purple emperor stuck to the tree tops, after I disturbed it on the ground. Many butterflies remained unnamed - even after looking at photos at home -but species I did identify included:

spotted fritillary
pearly heath

common brassy ringlet


scarce swallowtail
scarce copper

The only dragonfly seen was this common hawker.


Also of interest was this ant-lion.  Unfortunately, I have no idea what species it is.

We then had a long drive to The Camargue.  A journey that stopped us going on about how the roads in France were relatively empty: a high percentage of the cars in France appeared to be on the roads on which we were travelling today.

4 August - 11 August

The Camargue

This was mainly a beach break: not really my thing but not without its attractions.  It also was a welcome break from camping, as we had an apartment. 

Obviously a famous birding area, although really not at its best at this time of year.  I had a stinking cold so the beach was a better place to recover than tramping round in the heat!

The Camargue's most famous bird:

And one of my favourite: roller.


Lesser emperors


and scarlet darters were very common.


Le Crau

We visited this unique area a couple of times: once on a rainy day - so obviously not a great time for insects - and we made a short visit - in the sun - on the way to The Cevennes.

A good spot for dragonflies.

white-tailed skimmer


copper demoiselles were common


large pincertail


keeled skimmer


female red-veined darter



It wasn't a great spot for butterflies, but bath whites were common on our second visit in the sun.


I also saw this praying mantis, again I don't know what species it is.


Birds included:
lesser kestrels, sadly I didn't get a picture of a male,

2 black kites, a female red-footed falcon (something of a surprise), Montagu's harrier, stone curlew, hoopoes, bee-eaters and lesser grey shrike.

We then headed northwards to The Cevennes. The temperatures in the Camargue had been getting into the high thirties, we were very relieved to have lower temperatures here.  This proved to be a short break.

12 - 16 August 

The Cevennes

The highlight here was to be found very near the end of our campsite, near Florac.  Up to four beavers - one adult, two well grown young and one smaller young - were seen every evening.  Sadly the river was in shadow by the time they came out, making photography rather tricky.



Birds were remarkably thin on the ground but included Montagu's harrier


short-toed eagle and red-backed shrike.

Both green


and common wall lizard were present.


I've seen a few Camberwell beauties, and got a poor photograph of one, but it was very pleasing to actually get a half decent photograph.


Another favourite butterfly of mine is southern white admiral.


Other butterflies included:
black satyr

fritillary either heath or Provencal


high brown fritillary


This giant peacock moth caterpillar was very impressive.


On the Orthoptera front I'm pretty sure that this is a saddle-backed bush-cricket.


Despite looking rather different, I presume this is too.


wartbiter



Odonata included this white featherleg.


golden-ringed dragonfly


scarce emerald


yellow-winged darter


black darter


We had a day out from wildlife watching to visit the very impressive Grotte De L'Aven Armand.  A huge cave full of very impressive stalactites and stalagmites. 


A griffon vulture landed in the grounds.


It was then a long drive north to La Brenne.  The car thermometer was rising alarmingly as we headed north.

17 - 19 August

La Brenne

This become something of an exercise in survival as the temperatures reached horrible heights.  In fact I suspect I was birding in higher temperatures than I'd ever experienced before, and I've spent a lot of time in the tropics!  We spent most of the second day on a lakeside 'beach' trying not to fry.  The highest temperature recorded in the car was 44C and it was still 40C at 1945! 

Probably due to the mixture of extreme heat and relatively little time in the field, not much was seen on the bird front.  Indeed the best birds was a black woodpecker, seen from the car as we entered the area.  We did see night heron, hobby, purple heron, whiskered tern, turtle dove and spotted flycatcher.

A coypu was the only mammal seen.

The marsh/edible/pool fog complex completely confuses me but which whatever they were they were very common.


We saw one, very distant, European pond terrapin.


Having spent ages failing to see brown hairstreak in the UK, I was very please to finally see one here.


Other butterflies included Weaver's fritillary.


Odonata included small emerald damselfy.


Then it was time for a couple of days doing the traditional tourist thing in Paris and Versaille and then home.

I would like to say a big thank you to members of http://www.ukbutterflies.co.uk for the identification advice I have received.  Cheers guys; it's very much appreciated!
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