Last year, whilst trawling a few fellow dragonfly enthusiasts’ websites, I discovered an interesting looking nature reserve in France called La Réserve Naturelle du Pinail or the Pinail Trail for Anglophones. Of the 90+ species of Odonata in France, this site boasts 48 of them. One of my goals this year was to visit the place and investigate.
The reserve lies about 130kms/80mls ENE of Arçais, where we would be visiting our friends early on in the trip so first prize would have been to visit it on the way to Arçais. That would have been a little early in the dragonfly season, though, so our plan was to go there after Arçais and before heading further south. Regrettably the weather did not look good for Odos the day we left Arçais so we abandoned plan B as well and headed south anyway.
We did, however, manage to tear ourselves away from our favoured dairy sheep farm and called in for a day on the way back north. After 500kms/315mls we found that the campsite at Bonneuil-Matours left a little to be desired but, since we were there for a specific purpose, it was OK. It was even beside a river with its own set of damselflies. 🙂
The weather wasn’t great now, either, but at least this would serve as an orientation visit. We popped of relatively early in the morning to see what we could learn. The Pinail is a fascinating landscape of hundreds, maybe thousands, of small ponds. Following the development of the windmill, a lot of mills needed a lot of millstones and they were hewn from the land that now constitutes the Pinail Trail. The ponds that supposedly support all the dragonflies are the depressions left behind by the excavating of the millstones.
The first thing we noticed on entering the trail was that the water levels were disturbingly low. Some of the smallest ponds were actually dry. The Pinail was certainly suffering from the spring sécheresse [drought]. As we made our way around the shorter of two trails (~1.7kms) though, the larger ponds still had water and did show signs of life, though nothing like the number I would have expected from such a rich environment.
Our first Odo spot made the entire trip worthwhile, though. At first I though I was focussing on another Clubtail (Gomphus) but it didn’t look quite right. as usual, I tracked it as it moved from perch to perch in the vegetation, snapped away and worried about identification later. This turned out to be a Green-eyed Hooktail (Onychogomphus forcipatus). [Ed: if that’s not a mouthful, I don’t know what is!] Though not uncommon, it was a new species for us and that’s always a thrill. Fabulous looking character, no? Just look at the vicious looking appendages at the end of the abdomen designed for grasping his mate. Talk about rough sex – ouch!
We returned in the afternoon for a second spin round to see if we could find one of its rarer inhabitants, the Dainty White-faced Darter (Leucorrhinia caudalis). Though Francine fancied that she spotted one, it scarpered as she raised her camera. We never found it or another one again.
In the words of a famous governor of California, “I’ll be back”.