Rarely do I use such long titles but in this case it’s pretty much enforced since that is the glorious full title of this, our first main stop.
The tail end of our first week has been advertising bad weather for quite some time. In fact, the whole of this week didn’t look good so we’d been toying with the idea of force-dragging south as swiftly as possible. Consequently, in our search for a suitable stopping point, we embarked on a relatively long first stage from Neufchâtel-en-Bray, almost 300 miles, to near Châteauroux. A mere 20kms west of Châteauroux lies the grandly named parc of the title. It is said to contain over 2000 étangs [lakes] which, presumably, explains the nearby autoroute rest area called “aire des mille étangs”. Go figure! Anyway, we visited this area about seven years ago in the company of a now late, lamented friend. On that occasion we came in July to see the local population of Purple Herons (Ardea purpurea) and, on a wander round one of the étangs I snapped my first and, I have to say, very poor picture of a dragonfly. That dragon turned was just about recognisable as a White-tailed Skimmer (Orthetrum albistylum), though I didn’t know it at the time. That earlier trip predated my current fascination with Odonata by several years.
Curiously, this rather grandly named park does not rate a mention in The Rough Guide (poor show!) so, working from memory, I believe the lakes are a result of ancient fish-farming by monks but don’t quote me. Since wildlife holidays come here dragonfly-spotting, it seemed like a useful stopping point for a couple of odo-nutters on their journey south.
We chose to stay at the base de loisir de Bellebouche. Normally, a campsite that is part of a base de loisir [leisure centre] beside a lake with a so-called “beach” would make me run a mile; such places are usually far too frenetic for my tastes. However, we are now entering low season and this area doesn’t seem to attract huge numbers of tourists anyway, maybe because it doesn’t feature in The Rough Guide. Additionally, this particular campsite seems exceptionally enlightened in that it does not allow dogs. Brilliant!
The weather turned out to be much better than we expected. After we arrived, the sun remained out and we had time for an initial exploration with cameras slung across our shoulders. I was particularly pleased immediately to notch up ½ new species. “What!”, I hear you cry, “half a species?” Yes, though I’d snagged a female Southern Darter (Sympetrum meridionale) two years earlier further south, I’d not wittingly seen a male – until now. Here is the splendid chap perched on some Bell Heather (Erica cinerea), or so Francine tells me.
One of the more significant features about Southern Darters is that they are particularly susceptible to infestation by mites. Just to complete the picture, though, perhaps, a single mite does not exactly constitute an infestation, here is a female with a mite on her left hind-wing – the mite is that small, spherical red blob towards her wing root. Sometimes they might [Ed: no pun intended] carry a dozen or more mites.
Better weather than expected, no dogs and a new specimen for the collection already – happy camper. Now, if we can just do something about the rugrats … 😀