Peau de Meau Revisited

On to my main interest for wanting to be in this area at this time of year: the Peau de Meau.

As an amateur odonatologist, the Peau de Meau is irresistible. It is a part of the larger area known as Le Plain de la Crau. It is pan flat and, at first sight at least, looks like a baked, desolate landscape with little in the way of life. When it comes to dragonflies, however, nothing could be further from the truth. It is one of the premier dragonfly sites in Europe. A fellow enthusiast claims to have seen close to 50 species there. To put that in context, there are 40-odd species in the whole of the UK. We have visited once in September (and not got anywhere near 50) but I was keen to see what a spring visit would add. Today looked like good conditions, sunny and with little wind, so we packed lunch and called in to St-Martin-de-Crau to buy our €3 permits to visit.

P1030379Here’s the view that greets you as you drive in through the entrance of the Peau de Meau, the car park being on the immediate right. Dragonflies, here? Nah, surely not!

J14_1139 Booted Eagle maybeActually, the first thing we saw was a large raptor, yet to be identified [who forgot to pack the bird book, then?] so something else thought there was life here to be hunted, too. It may be a Booted Eagle; they tend to eat snakes and lizards which would probably be in this sort of environment.

P1030380 blogThe dragonfly habitat is a small stream that runs along the northern border of the area and that you cross as you drive in. One might easily miss it. Assuming that you don’t, here you quickly see fluttering Demoiselles, both the more mundane Banded demoiselles but also the captivating Copper Demoiselles that you have to come this far south to see.

J14_1175 Blue-eyed HooktailOn this visit, one good addition was this Blue-eyed Hooktail (Onychogomphus uncatus) with the fearsome looking anal appendages. Just imagine a sexual encounter involving those.

_MG_4674Our most interesting addition to the location’s list, though, was our completely inappropriately named Norfolk Hawker (Aeshna isosceles). Here were several Norfolk Hawkers patrolling up and down a small stream in Provence. The Dijkstra suggested European name of Green-eyed hawker seems so much more appropriate. The critter isn’t even limited in range to Norfolk in the UK, now. More curious is the fact that in the UK, this creature is tightly bound to one specific aquatic plant on which it oviposits, Water Soldier. Here in mainland Europe, no such association exists; there wasn’t a single Water Soldier plant in sight.

An interesting day, for those of us that care about such things, anyway. 😉

Posted in 2014 France

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