Yesterday’s planned itinerary to the mediæval town of St. Céré turned into a slight disappointment. Admittedly, being the Ascension public holiday, St. Céré was basically closed along with the rest of France, though in typically Gallic fashion several locals were drinking and eating at street cafés. A river flowed through town but it seemed unable to realize its potential in the shadow of several unattractively designed and built minor bridges. A suspected Sand Martin (Riparia riparia) seemed to be less than concerned about the inelegant designs, though, as it swooped along the river occasionally zooming up to the undersides of the bridges.
Francine’s stomach was beginning to demand sustenance in the form of a pique-nique we had packed. We knew the perfect place to enjoy it. On a swift visit to the Tourist Information yesterday we had collected a leaflet about the Marais de Bonnefont, with a 2km pathway over boardwalks through a variety of marsh and wildlife habitats. Another marsh! All this and picnic tables, too – irresistible. 🙂 We set off without further ado.
We weren’t expecting too much but it turned out to be a real gem; thoughtfully created, beautifully managed and well maintained. The boards said the walk was 2kms/2hrs so they were clearly expecting us to be well distracted and they were absolutely right. In the first steep bank of grass we spotted a new damselfly for our collection, a Small Red Damselfly (Ceriagrion tenellum). I saw only one and it was a bear to photograph in the long grass but we got something recognisable.
Further round a boardwalk section in grasses 2m/7ft tall, I was concentrating on another damselfly high up in an un-photogenic location when Francine almost shrieked, “Jesus, there’s a Golden-ringed beside you!”. “Yeah, yeah”, I thought. She’s been well taught – sure enough, ~1m/3ft away and ~1m/3ft above ground level, hanging on the reeds sat an utterly magnificent Golden-ringed Dragonfly (Cordulegaster boltonii) with its wings trembling strangely. This was a female and they are huge.
Problem. I’d got my close-focus ring on for small damsels. It’ll focus down to about 1.25m/4ft at max telephoto (400mm) but this 747 of dragonflies overflows the viewfinder at that distance/magnification. I can’t reduce zoom below about 300mm ‘cos then the combination of lens and ring won’t focus at all! I was reticent to move for fear of scaring off the Golden-ringed. Fortunately, while I was muttering about the photographers curse – a camera always being set wrong for the next subject – and trying to reconfigure my camera, Francine stepped in with her macro lens to bag a shot of this strangely cooperative individual. Bravo – second new species! I did manage to back off and get a shot myself and shortly afterwards it stopped trembling its wings, flapped them powerfully and zoomed off. It can be very handy having two cameras equipped differently in such situations.
There was more to come. At a patch of blue damselflies I spotted a white butterfly that might easily have gone overlooked. Whites are not normally exciting but this looked different and, indeed, it was. I’d never yet seen a Wood White (Leptidia sinapsis) but I suspected I was looking at one now. It was a wonderfully delicate creature, unconcerned enough to let Francine’s macro lens in close yet again. Third new species!
Insects aside, Francine was also well provided for by orchids. She snagged one of these intriguing Lizard Orchids (Himantoglossum hircinum) together with another as yet unidentified orchid for her collection so there was something new for everyone. She’ll try and identify the new orchid back at home where the heavier elements of her flora library remain. We were two very happy visitors to a well planned and constructed, modest local nature facility.
Not so well constructed was our Rocamadour campsite. We returned to an even more crowded site swamped mainly with camper vans. At about 10:00 PM, up went the disturbing territorial call of Homo sapiens subsp. tourista, “what the f***’s happened to the electricity?”. A main contact breaker had flipped, taking out an entire file of pitches. Even if one pitch was drawing too much power, the remainder should be isolated from them. Un Monsieur reset the supply and promised to check it again at midnight. We retired for the night.
I checked the electricity again at 4:30AM (don’t ask, guess): we were powerless once more. We awoke to the now regular surrounding chorus of, “what the f***’s happened to the electricity?” Enough is enough; an unimaginative, crowded campsite full of squealing rugrats and yapping dogs together with an unreliable electricity supply – time to move. Just to add insult to injury, one nasty little canine creation saw fit to cock its leg up my electricity cable reel. Shame it was well insulated! 👿
We’ve moved a mere 28 miles/40 kms to Figeac and found a very pleasant site that feels a world apart. The pitches are neatly hedged and twice the size of the Rocamadour site. It isn’t crowded, it is calm and appears very civilized with (hopefully) a reliable power supply. We’ve swapped rugrats for a collection of what I can best describe as senior French cyclists, who appear to be here in force – more power to them. Once again we feel like relaxing and dining outside Guillaume en plein air. No contest!
How variable these things can be.