This is part one of a report on a holiday to the Loire Valley, France from 7th June to 18th June 2010. I've decided to split the posts by butterfly family and there will be a few, followed by moths and then other creatures. It wasn't a specific butterfly holiday but my girlfriend and I were due a nice break!
We stayed at a campsite called L'Etang de la Breche (http://www.etang-breche.com
) about 5k either way from Varenne sur Loire and Saumur and within the Parc Naturel Regional Loire Anjou Touraine. At the site you can stay in a tent, your caravan/motorhome or stay in a fully contained static caravan, which is what we did. Quite reasonable too really. The nearby sleepy villages of Varenne, Allones, Montsoreau and Fontevraud l'Abbaye were all lovely too.
The site was situated in 50 acres of meadows and woods but was a little too neat for butterflying. There were wild areas within though and they did seem very nature minded. There was still lots to see within the site with Meadow Browns, Marbled Whites, Small Heaths, Large Whites and the occasional Red Admiral daily sightings. The birds were great too, with Swallows swooping at head height between the caravans. More on them later.
Nearby though, the river was 10 minutes walk away with grassy banks either side of a road first and in the other direction there was farmland with grassy wild edges and some woodland.
I have also used the wonderful websites of Guy Padfield and Matt Rowlings for advice and guidance and I'm reasonably sure of my ID's but do please comment if I'm wrong!
Part 1 - Nymphalidae
Walks along La Loire yielded my first Painted Ladies of the year:
Also seen in the woodland near the campsite were Red Admirals and summer brood Commas.
The grassy bank along the edge of the site contained what I think is a Meadow Fritillary:
The only one I saw, unless you count this one which had met some grisly end (this was a few days later so may even have been the same one...)
The nearby woodland surrounding the farmland also contained a species not on my itinery, the beautiful Marbled Fritillary, which Tolman didn't have as far north in Europe. I actually saw quite a few, in nearly all visits to the nearby woodland edges and on a trip further afield to a larger forest, where I saw 3 at once at one point!
I also saw just one Lesser Marbled Fritillary, which is supposed to occur in Northern Europe:
One afternoon I took a trip a little further afield visiting the Foret La Breille-les-Pins, a big forest surrounding the even sleepier village of the same name. There were some very tempting looking woodland rides on the drive to the village but I parked in the centre and there were paths leading in all directions. I picked one that bordered an area of meadow before leading off into the wood and was glad I did as still in the meadow and just into the wood I came across my first ever Heath Fritillaries. I thought the Meadow Fritillary may have been a Heath at first but these were very noticably darker and different, the first thought that came into my head at the time was that they looked like little tomatoes.....they seemed so reddish in colour. I also saw a courting couple, with the male fanning the wings of a female. The Heaths also shared an area of bramble scrub with the 3 Marbled Fritillaries. Both the Heath and Marbled Frits were stunning and I spent ages watching them.
To butterfly meadows, to chalk downlands and to leafy glades; to summers eternal.