Summer visit to La Brenne July 6th - 13th 2017

A group of 15 of us spent 5 days/6 nights in La Brenne, just south of the Loire river, and during this time visited many of the sites we have worked on over the years and many others in the area where we know the butterflies and wild flowers are stunning. There are well over 3000 fishponds and lakes in La Brenne, with associated wet pastures, reedbeds, heath and woodland, and on the western side where the rivers Creuse and Anglin cut through the limestone gorges, there are wonderful flower-rich calcareous grasslands with many species of butterflies not found in the UK.

We travelled over in a minibus from Portsmouth with Brittany Ferries on the night of Thursday July 6th, staying 6 nights in the very comfortable municipal gîte in Mézières-en-Brenne, (with two of the group in the local hotel the ‘Au Boeuf Couronné’)  then returned from Caen  on the ferry back to Portsmouth on the evening of Thursday 13th. On the first and last evenings we ate in the local hotel, on the other evenings we shared the kitchen duties and ate communally in the gîte.

View of the municipal gite in Mézières-en-Brenne, formerly the town mill.

View of the municipal gite in Mézières-en-Brenne, formerly the town mill.

We visited many of the different areas of the Chérine reserve and saw a wonderful variety of birds including all the possible herons, the largest collection of Black-winged Stilts we have seen there, great views of Whiskered Terns on their nests with young, Marsh Harriers and a Short-toed Eagle and the first Black Stork to be nesting in La Brenne (in the Forêt de Lancosme east of Chérine).

Tim was our moth maestro. On the two nights we moth-trapped, we recorded 174 species. Photo: Diana Hall.

Tim was our moth maestro. On the two nights we moth-trapped, we recorded 174 species.
Photo: Diana Hall.

We put out the moth trap on two nights, once in Tony’s garden at Rosnay and once in the garden belonging to Frans and Anneke the goat farmers (from whom we bought lots of delicious cheese to take home). The species total was 174 including many which are rare, extinct or unknown in the UK; this high number is due partly to the wonderful diversity of life and habitats in La Brenne, partly due to having favourable weather on the nights we trapped, but also huge thanks must go to our moth wizard Tim Norriss for his patience and identification skills. The moth list is here

The Latin

Tawny Prominent

.The Latin, Calopistria juventina (above) and Tawny Prominent, Harpya milhauseri.

A selection of photos of the wildlife, people and places we saw is now on our Flickr site – click  here. Tim Norris has a Dropbox folder with some of his pictures on it, including a great selection of moths. Click this link.

Broad-bordered Bee Hawk-moth, Hemaris fuciformis. Photo: Tim Norriss.

Broad-bordered Bee Hawk-moth, Hemaris fuciformis.
Photo: Tim Norriss.

We visited some of the limestone sites in the west of the Brenne including the beautiful village of Angles sur l’Anglin. Sadly the orchids were over but we saw some wonderful things there including an Asian Hornet, a dead Garden Dormouse, a Yellow Loosestrife Flower-oil Bee and a superb Red Underwing roosting under the road bridge.

on the castle at L'Angles sur l'Anglin. Photo: Diana Hall

on the castle at L’Angles sur l’Anglin.
Photo: Diana Hall

Our species lists are available here: Mammals; Amphibians and Reptiles; Butterflies (44 species including the Tufted Marbled Skipper which is uncommon in La Brenne); Dragonflies and Damselflies; other insects, crustaceans etc; birds; plant list.

Tufted Marbled Skipper Carcharodus flocciferus. Photo: Tim Norriss.

Tufted Marbled Skipper Carcharodus flocciferus.
Photo: Tim Norriss.

One of our best butterfly moments was when we found five Camberwell Beauties feasting on fallen plums – most of us had never seen more than one at a time before!

Camberwell Beauty, Nymphalis antiopa, one of the 5 feasting on the plums Photo: Diana Hall

Camberwell Beauty, Nymphalis antiopa, one of the 5 feasting on the plums
Photo: Diana Hall

For a comparison we have a number of species lists that we have put together from previous summer visits – Bird-lists-Brenne 2007 – 2016 , site records La Brenne France July 2009 , Butterfly record list for EuCAN visits Brenne July 2009Brenne moth lists for July visit 2009

We are hoping to take a group to carry out practical conservation work in La Brenne in November this year and to organise another wildlife trip there next summer.