“First impressions?”, I hear you say. “You’ve been here lots, haven’t you?”
Well, yes, you’re quite right, we have. What I mean is first impressions this year. Last year, what I thought of as a dark cloud was hanging over the lake at Fanjeaux. The dark cloud in question was fish; the lake was stocked with enormous Grass Carp to eat the weed and was also being used for intensive farming of Koi Carp, present in their thousands. The effect of the fish appeared to add up to very bad news for what had previously been an extremely rich Odonata habitat. We have personally counted 17 species here and some of the damselflies were present in very large numbers. In September last year, the richness of the Odo population seemed to have been badly effected with numbers down, both of species and of individuals. I was keen to see what the situation would be like this year.
Following a 6½-hour journey from Bellebouche, nearly all of which was on easy going autoroute, we arrived yesterday in time to get set up and grill one of those splendid French magret de canard [duck breast] jobs for dinner. I think I could almost live on those.
After a partial night of digestion and rest, Francine crawled out of Guillaume before sunrise armed with camera and tripod intent on capturing what she hoped would be clear first light on the neighbouring village of Fenouillet-du-Razès. Franco sensibly remained au lit [in bed].
Once the morning had actually dawned bright and sunny and with the necessary quota of caffeine coursing through my veins, I was ready to meet the world and go and scan the lake for wildlife and my first impressions.
To cut a long story short, Odo-wise, things are actually better than I feared they might be. I counted nine species:
- Broad-bodied Chaser (Libellula depressa)
- Black-tailed Skimmer (Orthetrum cancellatum)
- White-tailed Skimmer (Orthetrum albistylum)
- Western Clubtail (Gomphus pulchellus)
- Emperor Dragonfly (1) (Anax imperator)
- Red-veined Darter (Sympetrum fonscolombii)
- Common Blue Damselfly (Enallagma cyathigerum)
- Blue-tailed Damselfly (Ischnura elegans)
- Western Demoiselle (1 probable) (Calopteryx xanthosotoma)
Nine species is more or less half of what we have previously seen here two things must be remembered. Firstly, we are here several weeks earlier than ever before and not far into the flight season, particularly this year which got off to an appalling start courtesy of a dreadful spell of weather during the whole of April for both the UK and France. Secondly, several of the historically present species have not yet begun their flight season.
I’m not completely comforted, however. The three damselfly species above were, I believe, present in noticeably reduced numbers. Damsels generally are fond of ovipositing on floating vegetation, which has pretty much been eradicated by the nuclear-submarine-sized Grass Carp. I haven’t yet seen a single Dainty Damselfly (Coenagrion scitulum), which has formerly been prolific here but which is said to favour:
Sunny, still, sometimes slow-flowing waters with rich aquatic vegetation …
Nor have I seen a Small Red-eyed Damselfly which;
Favours eutrophic, standing water clogged with aquatic vegetation …
We should be in the flight season of both these species but there simply isn’t much/any vegetation left.
We are certainly ahead of the flight seasons of a few other suspects, one or two of which may emerge during our stay assuming the weather remains favourable. If it doesn’t, we may not emerge, either. 🙂