What a difference a day of sunshine makes, not just to we humans but to the whole of nature, it seems. The Marais Poitevin is something of a wildlife haven. With its intricate network of canals, one might reasonably assume that it would be the perfect habitat for odonata (dragonflies and damselflies) but, with the weather we’d been experiencing since our arrival, we’d seen none.
Today was wall to wall sunshine and very warm. As well as a sudden burst of human activity enjoying the serenity of this rural setting, there was a definite sudden burst of wildlife putting itself on display for those bothered to look. As usual, our activity took the form of cycling around some of the lanes and woodland tracks, criss-crossing a few canals keeping our eyes peeled for nature in all its glory.
We were not disappointed. First, we were treated to a slightly distant but very welcomed view of one of natures weirdest creations, a Hoopoe. This is one of those onomatopoeic names suppose to invoke the bird’s call. It should be called a Hoohoohoo, if that’s the case. It was feeding on someone’s manicured lawn but eventually got fed up with the radio playing in the adjacent house and flew off. The picture, handheld and manually focussed with the extender, isn’t great but it just had to be reproduced.
Next up hawk-eyed Francine spotted a fabulous dragonfly specimen whose hunting ground seemed to be a couple of water butts at the edge of a farmer’s field. It buzzed around while a camera could be pressed into action and patience paid off; it eventually adopted the perfect pose. ‘T was a magnificent (and new to me) Broad-bodied Chaser and was captured full-frame in all its glory.
An occasional Banded Demoiselle graced us with an appearance. Canals were lined with swarms of blue damselflies, identity uncertain as yet. When we returned to our campsite our local canal was similarly teeming with damselflies of various colours. Suddenly, all the dragonflies and damselflies that had been absent over the last few days were flitting about eating and mating. Those, after all, are the main purposes of zoological organisms: to eat and have sex. Sounds perfect – learn from nature!
And nature provided us with one last, late evening piece of colourful theatre. A butterfly had alighted, unseen, on the privet hedge bordering our pitch. It sat with wings folded, showing only its relatively unremarkable underside markings which were reminiscent of a blue. It looked a little bigger than a blue, though. Eventually it took to the air and flitted along the hedge, dazzling us with the most vivid orange wings I’ve ever seen. Fabulous and, then, a complete mystery. Yet more patience paid off and a shot or two of mostly open wings at rest proved it to be a male Large Copper, extinct in Britain since about 1850 when the Cambridgeshire fens were drained effectively destroying it last English habitat. Mankind does such a bad job with ecosystems. The Large Copper lives in marshes and we are now in one of Europe’s best.
Mercifully, the magnificent Large Copper is now protected here in France. I feel privileged to have enjoyed something I can no longer enjoy at home.