Grasping the Nettle

For a bit of variety, we began by visiting our third high altitude Auvergne lake in three days, this one Lac Montcineyre at an altitude approaching 1200m/3900ft. If nothing else we’d be on more roads showing us more of the scenery in the area.


J18_1393 Lestes dryas femaleJ18_1403 Silver-washed FritillaryWe got to a suitable parking area just off the road at the end of a track leaving us a 1km walk up to the lake itself. Frankly, the walk up the track proved to be more interesting than the lake itself; or, at least, at first it did. On our way up we saw another female Scarce Emerald/Robust Spreadwing (Lestes dryas), which was proving to be anything but scarce in these parts. [It’s a female, BTW.] A handsome Silver-washed Fritillary butterfly kept us entertained for a while, too. Once we got to the lake itself, we scoured the accessible edge of the lake without much of great interest.

A bunch of French walkers arrived and peered at us muttering, wondering what we were scrutinizing the lakeside vegetation for, “Libelules”, we replied, jauntily. “Ah …” – further muttering

Interest picked up as we were preparing to leave. Beside some trees and above a patch of stinging nettles, a cluster of emerald dragonflies was coursing back and forth hunting. Dragonflies don’t actually swarm, as such, but they will gather together at a good food source. Here, there must’ve been in excess of 20 individuals. We’d seen a few on the way in but given the background of a confusion of branches together with the fact that these guys don’t settle very much, we’d left them to their feeding. Now, we did pause to watch and admire their aerial display. It’s difficult in flight with a fast moving critter but we thought we could see yellow markings on them so guessed these were more Yellow-spotted Emeralds (Somatochlora flavomaculata).

_18C4780 Somatochlora flavomaculataThen one settled in the nettle patch a few feet from us. A shadow was cast across part of the abdomen but I was happy to get any settled shot. To my amazement, more individuals followed suit and began settling also in the nettles and not just briefly, sometimes for a minute or two at a time. We both clicked away furiously getting shots without irritating shadows as individual continued to land. You just can’t have too many shots of settled Yellow-spotted Emeralds. 🙂

These dragonflies didn’t appear to be eating when they settled. It’s possible they were pausing to rest but given their habitual tireless flight, I doubted that. I have heard of a sort of time-sharing that goes on with at least one species in the UK, given several individuals in one patch; one or two will patrol for food then appear to make way for others. Given the concentration of individuals here, I wonder if something similar was going on.

J18_1506 Purple-edged CopperOnce we tore ourselves away from the Emeralds, another addition to our butterfly catalogue presented itself as we approached the car; a Purple-edged Copper (Lycaena hippothoe) was feeding in one the very rich flower meadows that abound here in spring. June is definitely the time to visit the Auvergne.

I couldn’t resist one last try at Lac (de l’)Estivadoux on the way back to Guillaume, just to see if I could find an Irish Damselfly/Crescent Bluet (Coenagrion lunulatum) but, despite wading in the lake for a third time, the only different life forms I found consisted of a gang of school kids in the company of a couple of teachers armed with a net. Fearing for our sanity, we stayed at the opposite end of the lake.

That concluded what I considered to be a very successful visit to the Auvergne, albeit without my primary quarry, in astonishingly good weather. Tomorrow we begin our journey back north and home.

Posted in 2018 France
2 comments on “Grasping the Nettle
  1. BlasR says:

    All goes to show the value of nettles!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.