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On this holiday we will be exploringthe Parc National des Pyrénées onfoot, using well-maintained mountaintrails for a series of gentle day walks which,in July, will enable us to enjoy the best ofthe great numbers and diversity ofbutterflies to be found in the hay meadows,woods and alpine pastures of this highcentral region of the French Pyrenees.These largely north-facing slopes, closer tothe Atlantic than the Mediterranean, arewetter, lusher, greener and more forestedthan the southern, Spanish slopes, and in atypical week's stay in this area duringmidsummer we may hope to see at least 70species of butterfly, with 100 being possiblein a good year, including local endemicsand many high-altitude specialists. Ourbase, throughout our stay, will be a pleasantcountry hotel in the quiet village of Gèdre.Situated at just over 1,000 metres, and justa short drive from the magnificent Cirque deGavarnie, it is an ideal base from which toexplore the full spectrum of Pyreneanhabitats during daily walking excursions ofvarying distances. We will explore at all altitudes between 500and 3,000 metres in order to enjoy as widea range of species as possible, but it is inthe high Pyrenees where we'll find most ofthe butterfly, plant, bird and mammalspecialities, not to mention the mostspectacular scenery! The area around theCirque de Gavarnie, with its high forests,alpine meadows and spectacular waterfalls,will be the focus of our attention on severaldays of our holiday. Its steep slopes, andsurrounding high peaks and passes, offerfine walking and the best of high Pyreneanbutterflies, birds and flowers. On the bleakand craggy Col de Boucharo, perched highon the Spanish border above the canyonsof the Ordessa National Park, we will lookfor Peak and Mountain Dappled Whites,Apollo and Clouded Apollo, and variousalpine Ringlets including Bright-eyed,Lefèbvre's, Yellow-spotted, Mountain andWestern Brassy. Snowfinches and AlpineAccentors are found feeding around themelting snow, whilst the tree-line is theplace to look for Citril Finches. BlackRedstarts, Water Pipits, Rock Buntings,Ravens, Choughs and Alpine Choughs arecommon, while overhead we'll see GoldenEagles, Lammergeiers, Griffon Vultures andother raptors. High cliffs will receiveparticular attention, for on these we willalways have a chance of finding that mostelusive of all Pyrenean birds, theWallcreeper. The tranquil and airy Cirque de Troumouse,high above the tree-line, is quite asbeautiful. Less well known than Gavarnie,its relative peace and quiet make it ahaven for mammals such as Marmots,Chamois and Foxes, with small pools andstreams being the home of the rare andelusive Pyrenean Brook Salamander. Theboulder-strewn slopes here and the alpinemeadows of the Heas Valley just below,are at this time of year a superb place tomarvel at the fabulous show of colourfulplants, including the beautiful blue EnglishIris, Alpenrose, Field, Spring and TrumpetGentians, a bewildering array of differentsaxifrages, various orchids and a wealth ofother interesting species. Of course, wherethe flora is rich it follows that the insectfauna is also very diverse, with Scarce,Purple-shot and Purple-edged Copper,numerous fritillaries, Camberwell Beauty,Large Tortoiseshell and many species ofblue being found. The star attraction,though, is the very rare and appropriatelynamed Gavarnie Blue, restricted to just afew sites in the central Pyrenees and theadjacent Cantabrian Mountains in Spain. At lower altitudes we will explore some ofthe many lakes and reservoirs, aroundwhich the waterside meadows are abotanist's paradise, with numerous speciesof butterfly proliferating in a pesticide-freeenvironment. Fritillaries are particularlyabundant in these habitats, with Niobe,High Brown, Shepherd's, False Heath,Marbled and Lesser Marbled amongstothers, while Blues are also numerous andinclude Amanda's, Turquoise, Escher's,Long-tailed, Osiris and Large Blue. Afurther challenge will be the identificationof the many species of fast-flying skippers.One day will also be set aside to visit theancient conifer forests, on granite rocks,that surround the beautiful Lac de Gaube,the change to acid conditions giving us awhole new range of different butterflies,plants and birds to enjoy. The formerinclude Mountain Clouded Yellow, Glandon,Baton, Osiris and Idas Blues, Apollo, Largeand Spanish Brassy Ringlet and Large WallBrown, while Water Saxifrage, Large YellowGentian, Alpine Sow-thistle and AlpineLeek are amongst the many plants to befound here. The pine woods also support awide range of birds, including BlackWoodpecker and Crested Tit, and theendearing Red Squirrel. This holiday, taking in the broad range ofPyrenean natural history, and offering awide variety and choice of walkingexcursions, should suit a broad range ofinterests and abilities. But it is thebutterflies that are the stars in July, andthey are what we place a special focus onduring this 'high summer' holiday.France - Butterflies of the Pyrenees An 8-day holiday in search of the profusion of butterflies, and other natural history, to be found on gentle day walks in the French Pyrenees.Thursday 4th July - Thursday 11th July Cost: £1,295Outline itineraryDay 1Fly Pau or Lourdes;transfer Gèdre.Day 2/7Walking excursions inthe Parc National desPyrénées in search ofbutterflies and othernatural history.Day 8Fly London.AccommodationA delightful family-run hotel, allrooms with private facilities.FoodAll included in the price.GradingGrade B. Day walks only. FocusButterflies, plus other naturalhistory.LeaderMark Galliott.Single room supplement£180.Web quick search: FRA0366Call now or visit www.naturetrek.co.ukfor your free Trip ItineraryJACAPYRENEESGAVARNIEGÈDREPAUTOULOUSEBORDEAUXANDORRABILBAOMADRIDFRANCESPAIN10% DONATIONTOCirque de GavarniePurple-edged CopperApolloEscher's Blue

The Camargue, that vast wetlandwhich lies within the arms of theRhône Delta, conjures up romanticimages of wild white horses and blackfighting bulls, gypsy festivals and the bestolives in the world. It is also France's(perhaps even Europe's) premier dragonflysite where, in July, we may hope to seeover 30 species, most of them not seen inBritain. If you seek to be inspired bydragonflies, this is the trip for you, bothwith the sheer numbers and brilliance ofthe species that we should see. However,the region is better known to naturalists for its birdlife, and we will not neglect thisaspect of the natural world during ourdragonfly-quest, enjoying the Camargue'slarge breeding population of GreaterFlamingoes, abundant herons, egrets and storks, and healthy population ofraptors such as kites, vultures and the rare Bonelli's Eagle. We will make shortexcursions to the limestone hills of LesAlpilles in search of Eagle Owls and alsoto the bizarre pebbly landscape of LaCrau, not only to watch sandgrouse andLesser Kestrels, but also to enjoy the topdragonfly river flowing through it. Indeed,we offer the opportunity to understand and enjoy at first hand the quintessentiallyMediterranean habitats of the garrigue andmaquis and their associated wildlife.We begin our holiday with an excitingexploration of Les Marais du Vigueirat, a large wetland nature reserve, in searchof Orange-spotted Emeralds, Green-eyedHawkers and Goblet Damselflies. Specialpermits will allow us to venture further intothe reserve than the general public, wherewe will spend the day wandering throughmarshes, woodland, open dry meadowsand along disused canals; as well aslooking for dragonflies, we will enjoy alarge colony of egrets and heronscomprising eight different species. Onanother day we will visit the saline lakeswhere the Greater Flamingoes breed,amongst them such other wetland speciesas Whiskered Tern, Slender-billed Gull and Kentish Plover before focusing on the canal in the Vallée des Baux where at least 15 species of dragonfly may be found in just a small area,including Southern Skimmers and WhiteFeatherleg. If conditions are right we willalso make a trip to watch swarms ofdragonflies coming in to roost in reedbeds before sunset, and to watchDusk Hawkers.Our fourth day will start early to ensurethat we see the best of the wildlife, initially focusing on the habitat of drygarrigue and olive groves where Short-toed Eagles, exquisite Rollers, and variousbutterflies and Ant Lions may be found.Later we will search a marshy area for thedelicate Banded Darter and then head intothe limestone hills to observe Alpine Swiftand Crag Martins, and to look for breedingEgyptian Vultures in Les Alpilles. Viewsfrom the easily accessible summit at LaCaume provide amazing sunsetpanoramas.On other days we will visit a Bee-eatercolony which feasts largely on dragonflies(most probably including Red-veinedDarters and Scarlet Dragonflies), enjoybreeding Collared Pratincoles, and checkout the rice fields for tree frogs, variousdarters, Lesser Emperor and Scarce Blue-tailed Damselfly. At Saintes Maries de-la-Mer we will hope for such summerimmigrants as Vagrant Emperor or largeswarms of more widespread species, whilst the coastal dunes provide yetanother contrasting habitat for both insectsand flowers. We will also visit the wetlandsof La Maison du Parc and the Mas d'AgonObservation Point and rice fields.Finally we will explore La Crau, a pebblydesert full of life! Here, strange insectssuch as the enormous bright green Sagapedo, fairy-like ascalapids, praying mantisand bush crickets may all be found, plusbird species such as Hoopoe, LesserKestrel, Calandra Lark and Great GreyShrike. The Peau de Meau River attractsan incredible number of dragonfly species;Blue-eyed Hooktails pose to bephotographed on rocks whilst Yellow-tailedand Copper Demoiselles engage incourtship displays and Southern BlueSkimmers compete for airspace.We will revisit La Crau on our last day,before returning to the airport, in search ofyet more dragonflies, and we will also visita nearby lake to look for OrangeFeatherlegs and other species. An action-packed end to a rich and varied holiday! Dragonflies & Birds of the CamargueAn exciting 8-day exploration of the wetlands of Provence (as well as the nearbystony desert of La Crau and the limestone hills of Les Alpilles), one of Europe'spremier dragonfly destinations, in search of both dragonflies and birds.Wednesday 10th July - Wednesday 17th July Cost: £1,295Book direct on 01962 733051or see page 284 for Booking InformationSPAIN ITALY SWITZERLAND GERMANY BELGIUM PARIS CAMARGUEARLESTOULOUSE MONTPELLIERBORDEAUX FRENCH ALPS STRASBOURG ENGLISH CHANNELATLANTIC OCEAN MEDITERRANEANSEAFRANCE Outline itineraryDay 1Fly Montpellier andtransfer to Arles.Day 2/7Dragonfly/birdingexcursions from Arles.Day 8Fly UK.Accommodation Comfortable hotel serving goodlocal food, all rooms with privatefacilities.Food All included in the price. GradingA. Day walks only.Focus Dragonflies, birds andMediterranean natural history.LeaderDave Smallshire.Single room supplement£150.Web quick search: FRA0567Onychogomphus forcipatusOrthetrum brunneumGreater FlamingoesLes Alpilles