Fanjeaux Area, Jun 2014

A.k.a. France 2014, Part 3.

Inevitably, like addicts, we were bound once again for our favourite campsite on a dairy sheep farm, Les Brugues, at Fanjeaux. Actually, suffering from Tramontane tiredness, we were quite keen to leave French Catalonia and get there. I can take only a few days of battering by a fierce wind. We hitched up and went cross country to avoid the ever so windy A9 autoroute. We stayed with our favourite campsite owners and their ewes from 16th June to 3rd July when it was time to start heading back home. Blast!

The campsite at Fanjeaux has become a bit of a personal project for me. The campsite itself is quite literally the best (for us) that we know … anywhere. Aside from its being a rural camping a la ferme, the pitches are large and situated beside a dammed lake, the water of which is used for irrigation. The lake used to be a haven for Odonata, with 17 species personally noted and, in the case of several of the damselfly species, in very large numbers. You will note my use of the phrase “used to be”. Several years ago the entire ecology of the lake changed dramatically with the introduction of large numbers of fish. All floating vegetation disappeared and the lake, in my words, began to die – except for the farmed Koi Carp, that is. I was keen to see what another two years (we missed 2013 for medical reasons) had done.

Despite the ruination of my favourite dragonfly habitat, Fanjeaux is still the finest campsite bar non and there are other Odonata sites in the vicinity that we also like to keep an eye on. There has to be something to keep one amused for two weeks, after all. 🙂 Just to give forewarning of my punch line, the brightest star in this particular Fanjeaux-area firmament is now  definitely the Lac de Lenclas [#6 in the map below]. Read on …

Les Brugues, Fanjeaux [#1]

To a very large extent, my fears for the lake at Les Brugues were realized. Actually, in one respect, the situation was worse than I had expected. I had expected very little in the way of Odos. However, in the past we had always seen a reasonable amount of bird life on and around the lake. On our previous visit we had seen three Grey Herons concurrently, feeding around the edge of the lake. Now there were none. Neither were there any Coots, ducks or Little Grebes chattering away. Oddly, the fish seemed to have disappeared, too, but, despite that, the lake now looked essentially sterile.

Having said that, there still were a few Odos. Actually, to my great surprise, during our 2-week stay, I racked up 12 species. One, a suspected Onychogomphus forcipatus (Small Pincertail), though not 100% identified, was actually new to this site for my observations. However, all these species were present only in ones and twos, no swarms and I really had to look hard to find them. Perhaps, here, we were in a classic Jurassic Park situation of, “nature will find a way”. Whereas, in previous years, I could have amused myself almost exclusively on this farm, now I really did have to go looking further afield for entertainment.

However, on a brighter note, farmer Luc and his wife Nadine seemed to realize that the lake was now in a bad way ecologically speaking. If the ecology can be restored, given that there still seem to be several species hanging on by the skin of the teeth in their Odonata jaws, this previously blissful place could recover to its former glory. Nature will find a way. I hope.

J14_1489 Calopteryx xanthostomaHere’s what we did see, albeit in very small numbers and including this reasonably cooperatively posed female Western Demoiselle (Calopteryx xanthostoma).

  • Calopteryx xanthostoma (Western Demoiselle)
  • Lestes viridis (Willow Emerald Damselfly)
  • Ischnura elegans (Blue-tailed Damselfly)
  • Enallagma cyathigerum (Common Blue Damselfly)
  • Coenagrion scitulum (Dainty Damselfly)
  • Erythromma lindenii (Goblet-marked Damselfly)
  • Platycnemis pennipes (White-legged Damselfly)
  • Platycnemis acutipennis (Orange Featherleg)
  • Anax imperator (Emperor Dragonfly)
  • Onychogomphus forcipatus (Small Pincertail) ?
  • Libellula depressa (Broad-bodied Chaser)
  • Orthetrum cancellatum (Black-tailed Skimmer)

Lac de Montréal [#2]

This particular Montréal (there are several) lies just a few miles east of Fanjeaux and is a place we drive through on the way to Carcassonne. It’s a pleasant enough, though unexciting place with a modest lake created by a dam/dyke. We logged it first in 2012. It isn’t the most scintillating of sites but it sported 10 species, including the Dainty Damselfly (Coenagrion scitulum), when we’d first spotted it so it was worth keeping an eye on.

J14_1362 Erythromma lindeniiNot as good this time around and no Dainty Damselflies. There was a half-way decent shot of a Goblet-marked Damselfly (Erythromma lindenii), though.

  • Calopteryx xanthostoma (Western Demoiselle)
  • Ischnura elegans (Blue-tailed Damselfly)
  • Enallagma cyathigerum (Common Blue Damselfly)
  • Erythromma lindenii (Goblet-marked Damselfly)
  • Platycnemis pennipes (White-legged Damselfly)
  • Platycnemis acutipennis (Orange Featherleg)
  • Anax imperator (Emperor Dragonfly)
  • Orthetrum cancellatum (Black-tailed Skimmer)

Lac de Montbel [#3]

At first sight, the Lac de Montbel looks very unpromising, being a very large (570 hectares) leisure lake – not the usual description of good Odo habitat. However, at the south-eastern end of the main lake is a dam, below and beyond which is a much smaller body of water with trees, grasses and emergent vegetation – a different prospect altogether. It took us a couple of visits to discover this south-eastern end and now it’s on our list to check out whenever we are there.

J14_1393 Scarce SwallowtailWe made one visit last about two hours this time around. It was not a great trip photographically, my only decent shot being of this Scarce Swallowtail butterfly [a quick break with normality] but here’s our Odo tally.

  • Calopteryx xanthostoma (Western Demoiselle)
  • Lestes viridis (Willow Emerald Damselfly)
  • Ischnura elegans (Blue-tailed Damselfly)
  • Enallagma cyathigerum (Common Blue Damselfly)
  • Erythromma lindenii (Goblet-marked Damselfly)
  • Platycnemis pennipes (White-legged Damselfly)
  • Anax imperator (Emperor Dragonfly)
  • Anax parthenope (Lesser Emperor)
  • Orthetrum cancellatum (Black-tailed Skimmer)
  • Sympetrum striolatum (Common Darter)
  • Sympetrum sanguineum (Ruddy Darter)
  • Crocothemis erythraea (Scarlet Darter)

Mirepoix [#4]

Mirepoix might be something of a tourist trap but it is justifiably so; It’s a very interesting mediaeval bastide town that really has to be seen to be believed. The market is exceptional.

J14_1422 Platycnemis latipesfrom an Odo point of view, the river hers flows reasonably swiftly through but can produce some interesting habitat and species , though it failed to do so on this occasion. There was previously also a drainage pipe nearby which had created a kind of man-made flush which was home to Keeled Skimmers (Orthetrum coerulescens) and Southern Damselflies (Coenagrion mercuriale)l; the drainage pipe was still there but the erstwhile flush this time was dry and very overgrown. We did discover a stream new to us flowing through the edge of town which produced a handful of species. There was another, a Gomphid, but it steadfastly remained unidentified. Most interesting of this time small clutch was probably a White Featherleg (Platycnemis latipes).

  • Calopteryx xanthostoma (Western Demoiselle)
  • Ischnura elegans (Blue-tailed Damselfly)
  • Coenagrion puella (Azure Damselfly)
  • Platycnemis pennipes (White-legged Damselfly)
  • Platycnemis latipes (White Featherleg)

La Rigole de la Montaqne [#5]

La Rigole, itself a small canal, is the amazing engineering project that feeds water into the Canal du Midi. La Rigole flows through varied landscapes. Its source, at the so-called Prise d’Eau d’Alzeau, lies in the Massif de la Montagne-Noire, where it flows gently down along calm, tree-shaded hillsides. This is where we first encountered the enchanting Beautiful Demoiselle (Calopteryx virgo) in good numbers. It’s now another of our regular haunts in this neck of the woods and is the site of our only encounter with a Sombre Goldenring (Cordulegaster bidentata).

J14_1517 Onychogomphus uncatusMost notable of our haul here this time was a female Large Pincertail (Onychogomphus uncatus).

  • Calopteryx virgo (Beautiful Demoiselle)
  • Pyrrhosoma nymphula (Large Red Damselfly)
  • Anax imparator (Emperor Dragonfly)
  • Cordulegaster boltonii (Common Goldenring)
  • Onychogomphus uncatus (Large Pincertail)
  • Orthetrum cancellatum (Black-tailed Skimmer)

Lac de Lenclas [#6]

J14_1460 Trithemis annulataThe Lac de Lenclas is a fishing lake (with a restaurant beside it) created by yet another French dam – they do love ‘em. By itrself it’s a decent habitat supporting the utterly captivating, though increasingly common in the south, Violet Dropwing (Trithemis annulata). Indeed, this produced our first decent encounter with them. However, in addition to the lake, there is another section of La Rigole, now out of the mountains, winding its way into the Canal du Midi. This being a gently flowing man-made stream over a shingly bottom, the site is effectively two habitats in one. This mixed habitat may go some way to explaining the reasonably rich diversity of 18 species which we found on two visits during this trip. Most notable this time was a collection of four Gomphids (three Clubtails and one Pincertail) together with the stunning Copper Demoiselle (Calopteryx haemorrhoidalis).Calopteryx xanthostoma (Western Demoiselle), which was new for me at this site.

  • Calopteryx haemorrhoidalis (Copper Demoiselle)
  • Ischnura elegans (Blue-tailed Damselfly)
  • Enallagma cyathigerum (Common Blue Damselfly)
  • Erythromma lindenii (Goblet-marked Damselfly)
  • Platycnemis pennipes (White-legged Damselfly)
  • Platycnemis acutipennis (Orange Featherleg)
  • Anax imperator (Emperor Dragonfly)
  • Gomphus vulgatissimus (Common Clubtail)
  • Gomphus pulchellus (Western Clubtail)
  • Gomphus simillimus (Yellow Clubtail)
  • Onychogomphus forcipatus (Small Pincertail)
  • Libellula depressa (Broad-bodied Chaser)
  • Orthetrum cancellatum (Black-tailed Skimmer)
  • Orthetrum albistylum (White-tailed Skimmer)
  • Orthetrum brunneum (Southern Skimmer)
  • Crocothemis erythraea (Scarlet Darter)
  • Trithemis annulata (Violet Dropwing)

I love this spot!

Lac de Balestié [#7]

This is a lake in the grounds of an auberge and restaurant but it is accessible from the opposite side down a farm track. Along said track, there is a habitat of low scrubby bushes basking in sun and some decent sized trees, as well as a crop field (crop subject to change, of course) and these provide interest not only for Odos but for butterflies as well. Depending upon how overgrown the strip of woodland surrounding the lake happens to be, access can be difficult and/or painful with thorns being abundant.

This time around, it was overgrown and access was difficult. 😀 I managed to notch up 10 species, despite the thorns.

  • Calopteryx xanthostoma (Western Demoiselle)
  • Enallagma cyathigerum (Common Blue Damselfly)
  • Erythromma viridulum (Small Red-eyed Damselfly)
  • Platycnemis acutipennis (Orange Featherleg)
  • Anax imperator (Emperor Dragonfly)
  • Orthetrum cancellatum (Black-tailed Skimmer)
  • Orthetrum albistylum (White-tailed Skimmer)
  • Sympetrum sanguineum (Ruddy Darter)
  • Sympetrum meridionale (Southern Darter)
  • Crocothemis erythraea (Scarlet Darter)

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Posted in 2014, France, Trip reports

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