Continuing our unusually slow trek back north during our 2012 spring trip to France, we called in at another favourite haunt of ours: the Marais Poitevin. A marais is a marsh and, rather like the Somerset levels, this French marsh is criss-crossed by a series of drainage canals of various sizes, all eventually emptying into the Sèvre Niortaise which flows out to sea on the west coast of France in the bay just above La Rochelle. This is a delightfully rural part of France which we are fond of for three main reasons:
- it’s interesting for Odonata and other insects;
- it’s flat with good cycling routes;
- we have some good friends living there.
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When we stay there, we now stay at a small, basic but perfectly adequate campsite in Arçais, Camping de la Taillée, but there is a good alternative a few kilometres west at Damvix, which we used to use before our friends moved into Arçais full time. We spent a week there this trip which followed the year’s pattern by being uncharacteristically disturbed on the meteorological front. In common with there being fewer Odos at Fanjeaux this year, there seemed to be noticeably fewer here. I’m sure some of the reduction was generic and down to the appalling northern European spring weather.
A determined day trip away on the Île d’Oléron, I had been told of colonies of the rare Dark Spreadwing (Lestes macrostigma). Given half a chance, hunting for them was an irresistible draw so, on the one very good day we had, when temperatures hit 34°C/93°F, that’s where we headed. The information I’d been sent proved both accurate and reliable and we found them with no trouble and what a great sight they were. It’s always special to see a new species but, when that species is rather rare, it’s particularly exciting. As an unexpected bonus, we spotted our first Scarce Emeralds/Robust Spreadwings (Lestes dryas), too. Excellent!
Here’s a small spreadsheet of the species we found while based at Arçais.