Wednesday, 25 April 2018

Beauty in Brittany

Before our recent family holiday in Brittany I had high hopes that we might see some different butterflies and moths on the continent compared to the species we are familiar with at home in Dorset. Although I took a portable moth trap, we found ourselves a bit too closely packed into the campsite to use it without it being considered anti-social behaviour by the neighbours! So it became more a case of waiting for the sun to come out and seeing what we could see.
Camberwell Beauty
A very obliging individual
The more subtle but equally beautiful underside of the Camberwell Beauty
When it eventually warmed up, we were in the middle of Le Parc naturel régional de Brière, the second largest area of marshland in France after the Camargue (technically in the Pays de la Loire Region, so you will have to forgive the poetic licence in the title of this post). Reminiscent of the Avalon Marshes in Somerset, this too is a vast former peat digging and reed harvesting area now restored and protected as a wetland paradise for its natural interest.
Male Marsh Harrier - one of over a dozen in the air at the same time
Two of the largest birds of the region gave only the most distant of views - this Sacred Ibis was at Pont de Paille. A non-native species which established having escaped from a zoo, the population is now being controlled to reduce predation in local heronries
I had read that White Storks bred on the pylons in the Briere - this one was about 2 miles away!
At about noon we had climbed the steps of a tower hide at a fantastic looking reserve called the Pierre Constant Site. There were reedbeds and Marsh Harriers as far as the eye can see, and I could hear Bluethroats and Savi's Warbler singing in the reedbeds ahead of us. But for reasons we couldn't quite fathom, the rest of the reserve was closed to visitors until 1 July. I later read that public spending cuts had something to do with it, a shame as we would willingly have paid good money to get onto the rest of the reserve.
Blue-headed Wagtail was another highlight at Pont de Paille
This continental race of Yellow Wagtail occasionally appears in the UK
White Wagtail in the salt pans at Geurande
To add to the frustration, I could see the unmistakable white petticoat of a Camberwell Beauty around a flowering bush in the distance which I assumed would also be out of bounds. In retracing our steps, however, we found that a canal towpath took us to that very bush, which was being frequented not by one but by two Camberwell Beauties, sparring with a couple of much smaller Peacocks. An undoubted highlight of the trip, and the first I had seen since a migrant at Pulborough Brooks in Sussex over a decade ago.
My third Camberwell Beauty of the month was sighted on a South London wall this week during a business trip.

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