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La Brenne and Vienne are situated inan area of central France, south ofthe Loire, and the capital of theVienne département is Poitiers, which lies80 kilometres to the west of La Brenne.The latter is known locally as 'The Land ofa Thousand Lakes' because of thenumerous pools, known locally as 'étangs',which dot its landscapes. Mostly man-made, these have been managed over the centuries for fishing and a rich tapestryof habitats has developed includingmarshes, deciduous woods, dry heathland and farmland.In the quiet, gently rolling mixed farmlandof Vienne there are many small étangs,much marginal land, unimproved meadowsand pasture, and extensive woodland. Theolder, more established étangs are primehabitat for dragonflies and damselflies ofwhich numerous species can be foundwithin a few kilometres of our first base atMoulismes. Indeed, up to 20 species canbe seen at a single étang in June includingsuch non-British species as OrangeFeatherleg, Dainty Bluet, Blue-eye,Common Winter Damsel, Western WillowSpreadwing, Orange-spotted Emerald,White-tailed Skimmer, Scarlet Darter, Yellowand Western Clubtails and Small Pincertail.Even for a non-specialist, the variety ofform and colour provided by these falconsof the insect world is an absorbingdiversion from the soporific warmth of asummer afternoon in central France.Our search for dragonflies will naturallylead us to find interesting butterflies,orchids and birds. Around Moulismes,butterflies such as Red-underwing andMallow Skippers, Scarce Swallowtail,Black-veined White, Southern WhiteAdmiral, Map Butterfly, Marbled, Weaver's,Knapweed, Spotted, Heath and MeadowFritillaries, Great Banded Grayling, BlackHairstreak, Sooty Copper and Short-tailedProvençal and Mazarine Blues may all beseen. Orchids in the area includePyramidal, Bee and Lizard, each addingtheir delicate colours to enrich the summerflora and, not to be outdone, the avianworld is represented by arguably the most beautiful of all European birds - the Bee-eater, which can be observed in all its gorgeous splendour at a colonyclose to Moulismes.Pinail reserve, lying 20 kilometres north-east of Poitiers, is a peat-bog where oldmillstone quarries have left more than3,000 small, deep, water-filled holesscattered among the heathland. Manydragonflies have been recorded here, butthree rare species we will be looking for inparticular are Robust Spreadwing, andLilypad and Yellow-spotted Whitefaces.With over 2,000 lakes, the 160,000-hectareRegional Nature Park of La Brenne isfamed for its wetland birds, but what isless well known is that it is also amagnificent place for dragonflies andbutterflies. Among the many dragonflies tobe seen in La Brenne we should be able toadd Variable Bluet, Small Bluetail, MigrantSpreadwing, Small Redeye, Green-eyedand Hairy Hawkers, and Common Clubtailto our growing holiday list.To date, 97 butterfly species have beenrecorded in La Brenne, nearly twice thenumber occurring in the whole of Britain!These include several species which arerare or rapidly declining in other parts ofEurope. Examples should include LargeChequered Skipper, Ilex Hairstreak,Camberwell Beauty, Marsh Fritillary,Woodland Grayling and Pearly Heath. In addition, no fewer than 36 species of orchid occur in the park. Species thatshould be in flower at the time of our visit include: Brenne, Fragrant, Loose-flowered, Bee, Pyramidal, Lesser Butterfly,Greater Butterfly, Lizard, Lady, Man andTongue Orchids, as well as Red, Broad-leaved, Mueller's and Small-leavedHelleborines, and Violet Limodore. Thissuperb proliferation of orchids is one of the botanical highlights of the summermonths and it is an interesting exercise of imagination to match the various bizarre flower shapes with the namesborne by the plants!Among the breeding birds we should see in both the Vienne and La Brenne are Purple Heron, Cattle Egret, NightHeron, Black-necked Grebe, Garganey and Whiskered Tern - the last morenumerous here than anywhere else inFrance. Warblers to be found include Fan-tailed, Melodious and Bonelli's, whileother species include Black Kite, Short-toed Eagle, Honey Buzzard, harriers,Hobby, Red-backed Shrike, Black Redstart,Short-toed Treecreeper, Serin and CirlBunting. The calls of Hoopoes and GoldenOrioles and the powerful songs ofNightingales complete this classiccollection of European birds. We will use two hotel bases in order toreduce daily travel and to maximise ourtime spent in the field. This will be an idealholiday for those with a particular interestin dragonflies or the all-round naturalistwho prefers unhurried outings. There willbe opportunities to linger and takephotographs, or to simply becomeimmersed in the sights and sounds of midsummer in this very special, yet rarely publicised, region of France.Dragonflies of La Brenne & VienneAn 8-day holiday in search of dragonflies, butterflies, birds and plants in two lesser-known areas of France, both outstandingly rich in natural history.Wednesday 19th June - Wednesday 26th June Cost: £1,295Outline itineraryDay 1 Eurostar to Poitiers.Day 2/3Moulismes.Day 4Pinail/La Brenne.Day 5/7 La Brenne.Day 8 Eurostar to London.AccommodationSmall, comfortable hotels with ensuite facilities.FoodAll included in the price, except enroute to/from Poitiers.GradingA. Easy walks only.FocusDragonflies, butterflies, birds andflowers (especially orchids).LeaderDave Smallshire or Nick Ransdale.Single room supplement£150.Web quick search: FRA2164Call now or visit your free Trip ItinerarySPAIN ITALY SWITZERLAND GERMANY BELGIUM LA BRENNE MOULISMESCALAIS LILLE PARIS POITIERS TOULOUSE BORDEAUX FRENCH ALPS STRASBOURG (FROM LONDON ST. PANCRAS)ENGLISH CHANNEL ATLANTIC OCEAN MEDITERRANEANSEAFRANCEEtang de Biai, MoulismesSmall PincertailYellow-spottedEmerald

Located in central France, La Brenneis a vast, yet intimate, low-lyinglandscape of fish ponds, marshes,flowery meadows, slow-flowing streams,small arable fields, rambling hedgerows,heaths, scrubland and deciduous forests.Indeed, it offers a medieval landscape thatremains remarkably intact - stillpredominantly used to this day by fishfarmers and smallholders who havefavoured traditional rather than modernmethods on account of the region's boggyterrain, poor soils and complex pattern ofland ownership. As such, it remains ahaven for wildlife and a wonderful place inwhich visiting naturalists may enjoy awealth of natural history amongst tranquilsurroundings. With over 2,000 lakes, the 160,000-hectareRegional Nature Park of La Brenne is bothinternationally important and famed for itswetland birds. What is less well known isthat it is also a magnificent place forbutterflies due to its rich tapestry ofhabitats and the continued employment oftraditional farming and forestry practices.To date, 97 butterfly species have beenrecorded in La Brenne (nearly twice thenumber occurring in the whole of Britain!),including a number of special specieswhich are rare or rapidly declining in otherparts of Europe.Our aim on this tour will be to fully explorethe butterfly fauna of La Brenne throughvisits to some exceptional meadow andforest habitats that have rarely, if ever,been visited by Britsh entomologistsbefore. Amongst the species we will hopeto encounter are a number of rare orthreatened European species, includingCamberwell Beauty, Large Copper andLarge Blue, whilst amongst the commonspecies found in La Brenne at this time ofyear, yet absent from the British Isles, areLarge Chequered Skipper, Lesser PurpleEmperor, Large Tortoiseshell, SouthernWhite Admiral, Map, Pearly Heath, SootyCopper, Alcon Blue, Provençal Short-tailedBlue, Great Banded Grayling, IlexHairstreak, Scarce Swallowtail and manyspecies of fritillary, amongst them Spotted,Knapweed, Marbled and Lesser Marbled.We will also hope to see a number ofbutterflies that are rare in England butcommon in La Brenne, including LulworthSkipper, Berger's Clouded Yellow, Short-tailed Blue, Heath Fritillary, GlanvilleFritillary, Swallowtail, Wood White andBlack Hairstreak. Weather permitting, wehope to see up to 50 species during theholiday, a variety which you would be hardpressed to see during an entire year ofextensive travelling within the UK! Inaddition, we expect to encounter a wealth of other wildlife, in particular birds, dragonflies and orchids.To find these species we will be in thehighly capable hands of renowned localnaturalist Tony Williams, who has worked innature conservation in La Brenne for over25 years. Needless to say, Tony'sknowledge of this area and its many bird,plant and insect species is unsurpassed,and this, together with the access he hasto private estates, makes our tour to theregion very special. Our base will be asmall and traditional hotel in Mézières-en-Brenne, which has an excellent reputationlocally for fine cuisine. Mézières-en-Brenneis a charming small country town located inthe north of la Brenne and at the heart ofthe butterfly action. All of our excursionsare within a short drive of here, enabling usto maximise time spent watching butterfliesin the field. The pace will be gentle, toallow time for photography and to marvel atthe fabulous diversity of butterflies present.Each day we will focus on a differenthabitat type, to ensure that we are able toenjoy a varied range of butterfly speciesand experiences over the course of theholiday. As time and conditions allow, wewill also run a moth-trapping session or twoin the evening. This should attract a wealthof wetland species such as Gold Spot,Reed Dagger, Water Ermine, ReedLeopard, Pinion-streaked Snout, ReedTussock, Brown-veined Wainscot, Blair'sWainscot, Bulrush Wainscot, Fisher'sEstuarine Moth and Flame Wainscot, andsome spectacular species such asWillowherb Hawk-moth, Clifden and other nonpareils, as well as the GreatPeacock, Europe's largest moth. This will be a pioneering investigation, as very little is known about the moths of La Brenne!To reach La Brenne in as environmentallysound a manner as possible we will travelby train from London to Poitiers, then takean hour-long minibus ride to our hotel. Wewill return home at the end of our holiday inthe same manner, concluding a remarkablyvaried six days in a corner of France famedfor its birdlife, but equally important forbutterflies which, in a small way, this tourand its participants will help to promote.France - Butterflies of La BrenneA 6-day holiday, travelling to and from Poitiers by train, to enjoy the exceptionally rich wildlife of La Brenne, focusing in particular on its remarkable variety of butterflies.Thursday 27th June - Tuesday 2nd July Cost: £995Book direct on 01962 733051or see page 284 for Booking InformationSPAIN ITALY SWITZERLAND GERMANY BELGIUM LA BRENNE CALAIS LILLE PARIS POITIERS TOULOUSE BORDEAUX FRENCH ALPS STRASBOURG (FROM ST. PANCRAS)ENGLISH CHANNEL ATLANTIC OCEAN MEDITERRANEAN SEA FRANCE Outline itineraryDay 1Eurostar train fromLondon St. Pancras toPoitiers; transferMézières-en-Brenne.Day 2/5Butterfly and wildlifeexcursions throughoutLa Brenne.Day 6Eurostar train fromPoitiers to London St. Pancras.AccommodationA comfortable hotel with en suiterooms. FoodAll included in the price, except formeals taken in transit. Allow £30. GradingA. Day walks only. FocusButterflies, and other wildlife.LeaderTony Williams.Single room supplement£115. Web quick search: FRA0665Pearl-bordered FritillaryLarge Blue10% DONATIONTO