France 2011, Autumn – La Brenne

It’s a bit difficult writing what was supposed to be a travel blog when you can’t do it “live” due to insurance risks. It has to be done after the fact. Isn’t modern life a wonderful thing? Together with this little modern difficulty, the company that acted as registrar for my domain name has ceased trading, I can see a few changes coming this winter. Well, it gives me something constructive to do on dull days and evenings. Anyway, here’s the beginnings of a retrospective look at our second, largely Odo-chasing French trip of the year.

After our first trip and having hidden at home while Satan’s Little Disciples were abroad, our second trip ran from August 28th to October 9th, and what a trip it was! This was the kind of trip I live for and one of the absolute classics IMHO. Firstly, the weather was terrific; we had almost five weeks of glorious sunny weather, mostly unbroken. Secondly,  the sites we tried worked out well, our friends Mike and Linda travelled down to southern France to give us a break from each other’s company for a week. To cap it off, just when we thought Odo-chasing was largely at an end – we were wrong, by the way – we rounded off with a stunningly blue six days in the magnificent picturesque Pyrenees. We love the mountains but you really do need good weather for our kind of entertainment and, given the unpredictability of mountain weather, planning ahead is rarely a good idea. You have to react when the conditions present thamselves and react we did.

IMG_1477_Southern_Darter_male A couple of our sites were chosen deliberately with Odo-chasing in mind and they did not disappoint. We began in La Brenne staying at the Étang de Bellebouche. La Brenne claims to have 2,000 lakes, mostly small. The lakes resulted from mediæval fish farming but now make a great habitat for birds, particularly water fowl, and dragonflies. Whilst the area seems to be quite well known to wildlife enthusiasts, it is otherwise not generally on the main tourist trail, I think. Shunning crowds, that suits us perfectly. Odo-wise, our good fortune began on day one when we spotted quite a few Southern Darters (Sympetrum meridionale) on patches of heather. I’d seen female Southern Darters before, typically infested with little red mites, but never a male so I called this half a new species. 😀

IMG_1557_Small_Emerald_Damselfly A day or so later we were snapping away at some Emerald Damselflies and only later, back at base with a computer screen, did I suspect that these were something new to us. We actually spotted them first at another étang, the Étang de Cistude, but they were also around a smaller fishing lake at our home base, in Bellebouche. Sure enough, they were noticeably smaller than the usual suspects though, staring through a camera’s viewfinder, size is rarely obvious. These delightful metallic green and bronze creatures were Small Emerald Damselflies (Lestes virens ssp vestalis). This one is a female. New species #2.

IMG_1559_Winter_Damselfly_maleOn the same day we nabbed a another character that initially appeared to be female, given its brown colouration. Close inspection, though, revealed what appeared to be very much male appendages. Skimming through the book produced but one candidate; this was quite clearly a Winter Damselfly (Sympecma Fusca) My third new catalogue entry.

What a great four days at La Brenne; generally decent weather and three new additions to the catalogue. I was already a happy camper.

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