More of our Odos are Missing

After Cap [not much] Fun, we wanted to continue our run away from the storms plaguing the west coast. Francine had spotted an interesting sound aire de camping car down near Marciac, which holds an annual jazz festival (not that it would be on now). However, Francine then spotted a forecast mentioning winds gusting to 90 kph and the possibility of grêle [hail]. We didn’t fancy subjecting ourselves and Frodo to hail stones potentially driven by 90 kph wind. So, scratch that idea and put it in for the future, if we ever get anything resembling settled weather patterns again. Plan B would push us further east and we might as well call into our French dairy sheep farm site at Fanjeaux and say hello to old friends.

Frodo lake viewWe duly arrived and chose one of the more level pitches rather than anything right beside the lake – those pitches are quite sloping – to help with getting Frodo on an evenish keel. It also put us further away from other campers and the view isn’t half bad.

Snake in the GrassWe arrived on a beautifully sunny day. Since then, as can be the case, the weather has become “changeable”, as we Brits are fond of saying – we’ve had cloud and showers with occasional bright spells. On one of our walks Francine nearly trod on a snake curled up in the grass beside a bench. Happily she spotted it before she stepped on it. [I haven’t identified it.]

Monitoring this lake’s odonata population became something of a hobby over the many years we’ve been coming here. I’ll summarize a now well worn story.

Fanjeaux lakeThe lake used to support a thriving population of dragonfly and damselfly species; I think I got to 18 or more species and in good numbers. There used to be clouds of damselflies ovipositing on the floating vegetation in the lake. The sides of the lake were alive with hunting and mating dragonflies and this despite the hundreds of frogs trying to predate them.

A fish farmer breeding Koi Carp was let in to use the lake and that spelled disaster. Koi are voracious and will consume most things including odonata eggs and larvae. Grass Carp were introduced and the floating vegetation was eradicated. The odonata population collapsed dramatically.

Quite a few years ago the Koi breeder [bleeder?] left. I was hopeful that the lake would recover in that the odonata population might build up again. My monitoring was interrupted for several years due both to owning a house in Spain [now sold] and the Covid-19 pandemic curtailing travel but now we are back.

Tirthemis annulata, FanjeauxThe picture is very depressing and my hopes for recovery are dashed. This is June, pretty much the height of odonata season and I have seen but five species and those, in very low numbers. Our first return visit after the hiatus was last year in September which was depressing but now the picture is even worse. One of the later arrivals is one of the few still clinging on, the Violet Dropwing (Trithemis annulata).

I know what is going on. The Koi breeder has been gone for several years but his legacy lives on. Inevitably some smaller Koi were left in the lake – you can’t catch ‘em all – and those have now grown. The lake is now full of large Koi measuring in excess of 30cms. There are still Grass Carp and still no floating vegetation. Given the collective appetite of the lake’s fish population, there really is no way for the odonata population to recover.

The lake serves as irrigation for farmer Luc and the lack of vegetation helps with his pumping water to his fields. I can’t help to be sad at the demise of what used to be a wildlife haven, though.

Posted in 2023-06 France

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